The Spy Who Loved Me appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. While not the best-looking of the Bond DVDs, Spy offers a generally satisfactory picture.
The film usually appeared pretty crisp and accurate. A bit of softness crept into some of the wider shots, but those instances weren’t substantial. The majority of the flick came across as reasonably concise and distinctive. No problems with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and only a little light edge enhancement was present.
Source flaws were a bigger distraction. The movie often looked somewhat grainy, and I noticed a moderate amount of specks, marks, and other defects. Though these weren’t heavy, they created more than a few messy spots.
Colors were more subdued than in most Bond films. Some instances of bright and vivid hues occurred, but for the most part, the film used gunship gray or brown as the primary tone. This rendered the movie with a somewhat bland and flat tone. Still, the colors we saw did look fairly accurate and true, so I didn't have any major complaints about them. The black levels are fine, with deep and dark tones, and shadow detail appeared adequate but unexceptional. The print flaws were the biggest problem, and those meant that I couldn’t give the transfer a grade above a “B-“.
As for the Dolby Digital 5.1 audio of Spy, the track offered a pretty decent little soundfield given the age of the material. Unsurprisingly, the center channel bore much of the audio burden, but the imaging often spread to the front right and left speakers and did so effectively. The transitions could seem a little harsh and the image wasn't incredibly well-blended, but the localization appeared decent and the effect spread out the sound adequately.
The mix used the surrounds sporadically but well. For the most part, they kicked in only during the action scenes but some other appearances occurred as well, such as during the "Pyramids" scene when the rears nicely reinforced the echo effect. For an old movie, the activity level of the various channels seemed more than adequate.
The quality of the audio was a bit iffier, however. Like many Bond flicks, dialogue seemed heavily dubbed, but not always effectively. I found the tone of the speech to vary quite a lot throughout the movie; much of it seemed relatively stiff and cold, but at times it could appear decently warm and natural. Barbara Bach's lines were the worst-sounding overall. I got the impression someone else's voice was dubbed over hers, though I found no evidence this was the case.
The music worked fairly well. Marvin Hamlisch’s score appeared acceptably smooth and lush, and the famous pseudo-title song "Nobody Does It Better" came across nicely. Effects were also generally clear and realistic, though these could be erratic as well. For example, look at the chase scene when Bond drove the Lotus; its engine seemed thin and wan, but the motorcycle behind it appeared full-bodied and taut.
Some distortion negatively affected the explosions and other loud effects, though not to an unacceptable degree, as a bit of harshness from these elements is typical for an older film. I noticed slightly distorted dialogue during the scene in which Bond met his MI6 crew in the Pyramid. A light layer of tape hiss could be heard on occasion. All of this added up to flawed but more than acceptable audio given the vintage of the source material.
Less relative is my praise for the supplemental features on Spy. As usual for the Bond DVDs, there's some good stuff here, starting with an audio commentary. For the "catalog Bonds", the majority of these tracks have been cobbled together from separate interviews, but Spy is an exception; it's actually a true scene-specific number. The entire commentary features director Lewis Gilbert, set designer Ken Adam and special assistant to the producer Michael Wilson; screenwriter Christopher Wood joins them after 33 minutes. They discuss locations and set design, characters and story issues, stunts and effects, cast members and general production subjects.
While it's a nice break to have a traditional scene-specific track, I must admit I prefer the edited packages found on most of the Bonds. This commentary offers a decent look at the movie, but it featured too many "that was good!" moments. I found lots of interesting information, but those other moments of reflection weigh down the piece to a degree, whereas they're rarely heard in the assembled commentaries. Still, I enjoyed the track and think it's worth a listen.
This commentary suffers from a few brief gaps without any statements but also includes one major one that goes on for a few minutes. Happily, MGM have provided a subtitle option that lets you know how long the wait will be until the track restarts. This break occurs at 47 and a half minutes; the track remains silent for about six minutes, as noted on the screen (and updated every minute). This subtitle option is not advertised anywhere in the menus but is automatically activated when you select the commentary from the "Special Features" menu. (It can also be switched manually in the usual ways.)
Another standard feature of the catalog Bonds is a good documentary, and Spy is no exception. Actually, its 40 minute and 30 second
program - Inside The Spy Who Loved Me - is one of the best of the series. It follows the usual format, with a fine combination of contemporary interviews with principals like Gilbert, Moore, Adam, art director Peter Lamont, actor Richard Kiel, and editor John Glen plus lots of great archival interviews and other behind the scenes footage. In the latter category we find such great stuff as raw shots of the stunts and Barbara Bach's test scene plus a plethora of other wonderful material, such as details about how Stanley Kubrick (!) became involved in the film. All in all, it's a genuinely entertaining and informative program.
A second video program appears as well. Called Ken Adam: Designing Bond, this 21-minute and 40-second piece provides a nice biography of production designer Adam, who worked on seven Bond films. Adam deserves a lot of credit for the success of Bond, since his elaborate sets helped create the atmosphere for the movies, and this documentary does a nice job of relating his successes to us. We get a basic biography of Adam but the main focus is on his work for the Bond films, of course, and we discover a lot of good information about this area through interviews with Adam and his cohorts plus a variety of behind-the-scenes materials. It's yet another fine documentary that is very enjoyable and interesting.
The usual batch of promotional materials appears on the DVD. We find three trailers. Two of those are very good teasers - the first one, which has a fun introduction from Moore, is the best - and the other is a standard theatrical piece. Six TV spots can be found, all variations on the trailers except for the sixth, which features intermittent narration from a bevy of beauties. Twelve mildly interesting radio ads complete this area.
Most of the Bonds include photo galleries, and Spy is no exception. However, this one's more abbreviated than the others; it only features about 70 stills scattered through nine sections. With the exception of some nice bikini photos (ooh - Caroline Munro!), the shots are pretty bland as well. Although it's not a great gallery, it's short enough to merit a look.
Finally, the DVD includes a fine booklet. As is the case with all the Bond releases, it provides a nice amount of information and photos and makes for a good extra.
The Spy Who Loved Me stands as possibly the best of Roger Moore's Bond films, and although that may seem faint praise, it shouldn't diminish the fact that this is a very good film. The DVD provides acceptable picture and sound plus a pretty good array of supplemental features. Spy makes a good purchase for Bond fans and for those who think they might find it interesting as well; it's a fun movie and a decent DVD package.