The 1985 Cold War spoof Spies Like Us doesn’t get a lot of love these days. The film united director John Landis with original Saturday Night Live stars Chevy Chase and Dan Aykroyd at the height of their box office powers, shortly after the huge success of Ghostbusters and National Lampoon’s Vacation.
Chase and Aykroyd play two low-level Pentagon employees that get sent to the USSR as unwitting decoys so a real team of spies has a better chance of surviving undetected. Wackiness ensues. It grossed $60 million, enough to make it the 10th biggest movie of the entire year, just a smudge behind Goonies, yet nowadays you rarely see it anywhere.
Much like Live and Let Die 12 years earlier, Paul McCartney was given the title of the movie, the basic premise and tasked with writing a theme song. The result doesn’t exactly match the majesty of the suite on side two of Abbey Road. “We get there by hook or by crook,” he sings. “We don’t do a thing by the book/ Never needed special clothes/ How we did it no one knows/ I guess we must have had what it took.”
John Landis directed the “Spies Like Us” video which features McCartney on every instrument until Chevy Chase rips off a mask and begins playing keyboards while Dan Aykroyd sits behind the mixing desk. By the end Donna Dixon and Vanessa Angel are on background vocals. Hard as it may be to believe, the song reached Number Seven on the Hot 100. It’s the last Top Ten song of McCartney’s career unless you count his 2015 Rihanna and Kanye West collaboration “FourFiveSeconds.”
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Vanessa Angel (best known for her later roles in Kingpin and the Weird Science TV series) was just 18 when she appeared in Spies Like Us. It launched her entire career, and had a big impact on Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert. Their back-and-forth about her is so amazing we’re going to run the whole thing right here:
Ebert: I want you to give me permission to be kind of human for a second, which would be a novelty.
Siskel: You took the words right out of my mouth.
Ebert: What did you think about Vanessa Angel?
Siskel: She’s the well-developed one at the end?
Ebert: She’s one of the Russians at the end of the movie. That face, that figure, I’m telling you, I don’t know who she is, but sometimes this is one of the reasons we go to the movies, not just to appreciate great cinematic art, but occasionally to…
Siskel: To leer.
Ebert: To feel great cinematic lust. She’s a very attractive woman.