Bond Pretitle Sequences: The Spy Who Loved Me
Simon Pitt |
Wednesday 31st July
I’m watching all of the Bond pre-credit teasers one after another.
The Spy Who Loved Me
There’s a problem with writing about James Bond opening sequences. When you try to talk about The Spy Who Loved Me, you end up sounding like Alan Partridge.
Alan: Stop getting Bond wrong! I’ll tell you about “The Spy Who Loved Me”. All do that [holds finger in a circle shape over one eye] with your fingers round your eye. I’m Roger Moore. Bang! Blood dribbles down. We’re on a submarine. Two sailors sit down and have a game of chess. And the cups start wobbling. And then a man that used to be in “The Onedin Line” come in and goes, “Why are all the cups wobbling, what’s going on?” [Michael indicates if he can take his hand away from his eye] Yeah, you can stop doing that now. Then he pulls down the periscope and he looks through it and goes “Oh, my god. The submarine’s being eaten by a giant tanker”. Then we cut to Moscow. There’s a man there, he’s Russian – he’s got eyebrows, you know. He’s on the phone going “What? A whole submarine? You’re joking?. I’m gonna have to tell some other Russians, see ya!”. Then it cuts to James – Roger Moore – and yes, he’s with a lady. He’s necking with her. And he goes “I’ve got to go, love. Something’s come up!”…
Michael: Aye! He means his cock!
Funnily enough, Tim Morrison in Time magazine wrote a brief overview of all the Bond pre-credit sequences but doesn’t seem to have watched Alan Partridge. He ends up sounding a bit like Alan himself:
Then his arms extend. And finally, a red-white-and-blue flower blossoms from his back. It’s a parachute, emblazoned with the Union Jack. Screw you, Commies!
All of this distracts from the fact that The Spy Who Loved Me is a really good pre credit sequence. Interestingly, the structure is the same as Moonraker. When you watch them immediately after each other, it’s actually a bit embarrassing how similar they are.
In The Spy Who Loved Me we begin with the submarine that disappears. In Moonraker a spaceship disappears. In both sequences we see M being told that stuff is disappearing. Each time he goes to Moneymoney, asks where Bond is and makes a gratuitous pun. In The Spy Who Loved Me, M says, “Tell him to pull out,” and we see Bond having sex. In Moonraker, Moneypenny says, “he’s on his last leg,” and we see Bond with his hand on a leg.
The similarities don’t end there. In both, Bond is with a woman who turns out to be a villain. And each time Bond eventually gets away after a long free-fall and finally pulls a parachute. Separately, they’re both great sequences, but when you watch them one after another it feels like someone has been lazy.
The Spy Who Loved Me is the first Roger Moore Bond film to be shot in 2.35:1, which means the gun barrel opening sequence was shot in the wider aspect ratio. It’s the first time we see this sequence with the flared trousers. We’ll see it a lot more over the next four films, making it one of the most used sequences.
The film starts on a nuclear submarine. Normal submarine stuff is happening, which seems to involve lots of people saying "500ft" and sitting around yawning. Bad things happen after the captain looks worried we cut to M, via some Russians.
This time someone else has a red phone, and M gets his news second hand on a grey phone. It seems either M buys a pot of paint between these two films or gets a promotion. By Moonraker he gets his news straight away on the scarlet phone. I guess all that political wrangling that we see in Tomorrow Never Dies and The Living Daylights pays off.
Incidentally, the man who answers the first red phone is unbelievably calm, “yes, it looks very much like it,” he says, almost absently. What is he referring to? The fact that Russia have destroyed or captured a nuclear submarine! This is World War III, end of the world type stuff, and he reacts as if he’s heard that Tesco is going to put up the price of jam.
There’s also a rather sarcastic Russian. “Disappeared without trace?” he says, in mock incredulity. This is followed by a nice sequence with Agent XXX. We cut to a man and a woman in bed. The man looks rather like George Lazenby, and talks about his mission. But in a nice inversion, it turns out the woman is Russia’s best agent, XXX.
I find it a bit bizarre actually that The Spy Who Loved Me came before Moonraker. It parodies and undercuts things that Moonraker took seriously. It’s like they got them the wrong way around.
In Austria, Bond, similarly receives a message. Bizarrely, Q Branch have worked out how to build a Dymo embossing machine into his digital watch, but not how to display digital text on the screen. The music is some typical late seventies disco nonsense. John Barry apparently, was taking a break from the UK for tax reasons (probably easier than Hotblack Desiato’s tax avoidance strategy). But this sadly means he wasn't able to write the score for it.
As the theme progresses, it begins to sound like Jeff Wayne's Musical Version of The War of the Worlds, released a year later. This is okay with me, because I regard this as pretty much the peak of human artistic achievement. Funnily enough, this isn’t the only similarly to War of the Worlds; later in the film, Stromberg's hideout, Atlantis, has more than a passing similarity to a Martian walker.
A group of men in black jumpsuits, meanwhile, are pursuing Bond. He manages to kill one of them, and there’s a strange gratuitous zoom into his face, just to confirm he really is dead.
Bond skis towards the edge of a cliff, and in a silent, shocking sequence flies off the edge. The silence and length of time he’s falling is done really well; it’s a trick that’s repeated in Goldeneye.
Eventually, Bond pulls a rip cord and his parachute is released with a Union flag on it. Quite scarily, one of the skies hits the parachute as it deploys. This was a close call for stunt man Rick Sylvester. The ski could have easily torn the parachute or prevented from deploying properly.
Michael G. Wilson got the idea for a skier jumping from the mountains from an advert for Canadian Club Whiskey. Sylvester, the same stunt man performed that stunt. George Lazenby, had suggested using a Union Jack parachute in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, but the equipment needed to film it hadn’t been available then, so the producers kept it for a later film.
Name Rank and Number
I think he got the Point
- M asks Moneypenny where 007 is. He also refers to Bond as their “best man”.
- The woman on board the plane calls him James.
Do all those vodka martinis silence the screams of all the men you've killed?
- “Tell him to pull out!” M demands. We cut Bond in bed. It’s on the bad side of smut this line. Dear, oh dear, M.
- “Let me expand your vocabulary,” Bond says, before kissing the woman again. No, he’s not going to get her a thesaurus.
- “Something came up,” Bond says. To quote Michael, “He means his cock!”
- “I need you, James,” the woman says. “So does England!” Bond replies. A little arrogant.
Listen Carefully 007
- Bond shoots one of the men chasing him. He’s definitely dead. For some reason, the directors want us to really know that for sure.
Perfect for relaxing after a hard day at the office
- M seems to get promoted between films; in this film he doesn’t have a red phone and gets his news second hand.
SP will return…
- Bond has a Dymo tape printer in his watch. It’s hard to believe now that at the time, this would have been shockingly modern; almost futuristic. I remember using these things as a child to put name labels in my shoes. What a fate. From Bond gadget to schoolboy shoe-labeller in twenty years.
- Bond has a gun in his ski pole. Unfortunately I didn’t have one of these as a child.
- Finally, Bond’s tiny parachute has a Union flag emblazoned on it. Something of a needless expense really.