Nobody did it better - a closer look at Bob Peak's "The Spy Who Loved Me" poster...

Nobody Did It Better - TSWLM Poster
18th June 2004

For various reasons "The Spy Who Loved Me" was a landmark film in the history of the James Bond franchise. Arguably regarded as Roger Moore's finest performance in the role of James Bond, the 10th production is one of the highlights from the twenty films to have been produced by EON since 1962. However, before its original release back in 1977, industry speculation regarded "The Spy Who Loved Me" as a potential gamble, especially for Albert R. Broccoli who was now for the first time the sole producer of the Bond movies.

After the relative disappointment of "The Man With the Golden Gun" (1974) both critically and (by Bond standards) financially it was commonly felt that the 'spy genre' had finally run its box-office course and that the worldwide audience were becoming jaded by the adventures of Bond. Having released nine films over twelve years, the classic Bond formula needed revitalisation and for the first time in their history a gap of nearly three years would occur before the latest Bond adventure would be unveiled in cinemas.

Back With A Bang

Using a then staggering budget of nearly $14 million, United Artists and Albert R. Broccoli were determined to bring James Bond back in style. With the last two films compelled to imitate popular themes and styles inspired by other movies (i.e. Shaft & Enter the Dragon), it was time to once again set the cinematic standard by which others would follow and Broccoli in particular ensured that every dollar would be seen on the big-screen.

Director Lewis Gilbert and Production Designer Ken Adam both returned after several years giving the movie a confidence and visual assurance not seen in several years. Composer Marvin Hamlisch replaced John Barry and offered a contemporary soundtrack that reflected the mood of the time. Overall the film contained all the elements that they'd had at their peak during the mid sixties but also successfully added moments that would typify Roger Moore's tenure in the role and finally established him as James Bond.


Above: Original 1977 US One Sheet from The Spy Who Loved Me
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Sell It To Me Mr Bond..

Outside of the actual production, the most important aspect of the making of "The Spy Who Loved Me" was the marketing and advertising. After such a long gap between releases it was important to remind the world that James Bond would return bigger and better than before, the advertising strap line was even bold enough to say just that, but to indicate the new direction the film was taking a subtle change was made regarding the image.

The spearhead of any campaign is the main film poster that aims to tease and capture the imagination of its potential audience, and those that were created for the previous Bond movies are some of the finest ever produced. After the initial formula was established regarding the content of the films, the posters reflected the audience expectation in that they contained a healthy dose of action, gadgets and girls. The two main artists responsible for several of these were Robert McGinnis and Frank McCarthy whose particular styles perfectly captured the early period of Bond, but this was a period of change and a new artist was introduced.

One of the finest and most prolific artists of his generation, Bob Peak (1927 - 1992) developed a style that made strong use of light and shadow, highlighted by flashes of vibrant colour that helped concentrate the attention of the viewer to particular details. When he came to designing film posters his style was particularly unique and he became highly sought after during the mid seventies and early eighties working on key images for "Rollerbal"l, "Apocalypse Now" and "Superman the Movie".

He approached "The Spy Who Loved Me" with his usual technique and sensibly included all the elements that were expected by eager Bond fans, what was important, was that they were now portrayed in a style that indicated a fresh approach like the film it was trying to sell. It now stands as one of the most unique poster images from all of the past movies and was so successful at the time that it was used almost all around the world with little or no change for the foreign markets.

Above: Close up showing the hidden face
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Something Original

One of the curiosities of the Bond advertising campaigns is the infrequent use of one of the major selling points of each movie - and that is the various villains that Bond must face. Until the last several years, few of them have featured in the artworks alongside Bond; notable in their absence have been Auric Goldfinger, Mr Big and Emilio Largo. Added to that list you might like to add Karl Stromberg… but then again, perhaps we should take a closer look.

On first viewing "The Spy Who Loved Me" design contains many of the major elements of the film, James Bond stands back to back with agent Triple-X, the Sphinx stands proudly at the top of the composition alongside the requisite camels. Bond rides along on a wetbike as the Lotus Espirit glides gracefully through the ocean, while at the base of the poster enemy soldiers carry out their deadly work within sight of Atlantis.

Hidden Face

Dominating the central section is the interior of the Liparus that contains the captured nuclear submarines and staring from out of the shadows is Stromberg. Although not initially apparent, the inclusion of Stromberg is a very subtle, almost subconsciously placed image. By no means an accurate rendering of the actor Curt Jurgens, what we do have is a menacing portrait that will give the viewer a feeling of being watched from within the poster that once found will always be seen. To grasp the full impact of this image, look at the area of artwork beneath the feet of Bond & Anya. The central submarine is the focal point and forms the basis of the face; the conning tower represents Stromberg's nose and brow. Either side of the tower the two rectangles of light at the rear of the Liparus are his eyes, the bow of the submarine forms the chin and the shafts of white light above this is his hair.

While some might say that this is just a fluke of perspective and colour, I would also like to draw your attention to a small detail on the pattern of Anya's dress just by her thigh. If you look closely at the black shapes against the white area, it is possible to make out the most iconic of James Bond poses - the now standard shot of crossed arms and gun across the chest. Overall the effect is a perfect representation of what draws us all towards each new Bond movie - action, beauty, escapism… and a little touch of class.

Many thanks to Paul B. Harris - Cine Art Gallery (London). Images courtesy Cine Art Gallery

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