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James Bond Blu-ray Collection: Volume 1(1962-2002)
Set includes : 'Live & Let Die' (Roger Moore as James Bond), 'Dr. No' (Sean Connery as James Bond) & 'Die Another Day' (Pierce Brosnan as James Bond) in a book styled case w/ clear slip cover
For more about James Bond Blu-ray Collection: Volume 1 and the James Bond Blu-ray Collection: Volume 1 Blu-ray release, see James Bond Blu-ray Collection: Volume 1 Blu-ray Review published by Ben Williams on December 21, 2008 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Bernard Lee, Lois Maxwell, Pierce Brosnan, Sean Connery, Roger Moore, Halle Berry
Directors: Lee Tamahori, Terence Young, Guy Hamilton
This Blu-ray bundle includes the following titles, see individual titles for specs and details:
James Bond Blu-ray Collection: Volume 1 Blu-ray Review
Bond, James Bond.
Reviewed by Ben Williams, December 21, 2008
When it comes to iconic film characters, you'd be hard-pressed to find one as well known and loved as James Bond. I recently read an article that mentioned that James Bond and his code name 007 have a 97% world-wide awareness among consumers. That's a pretty startling number that most corporations would kill for. It is also an amazing statistic considering the character's humble origins as the subject of a series of pulp novels from English writer Sir Ian Fleming. As Britain's most famous export, Bond has been revered for half a century around the world. Today, his popularity is at an all-time high. Now that "Quantum of Solace is in theaters, Fox and MGM felt that now would be a great occasion to release a new collection of Bond classics on Blu-ray. Featuring Dr. No, Live and Let Die and Die Another Day what follows is the first volume of what should prove to be a steady stream of Bond classics.
When a British MI6 signal station in Jamaica goes silent, Her Majesty's Secret Service deploys James Bond (Sean Connery) to investigate the problem. Bond arrives in Jamaica to discover a complete infiltration of English intelligence networks by a ring of unknown agents. He'll team up with American CIA agent Felix Leiter (Jack Lord) and a host of Jamaican operatives to investigate the problem and uncover the mysteries of Crab Key - - an island off the coast that is shrouded in secrecy. Crab Key is the home base of the evil Dr. No (Joseph Wiseman), a deranged scientist with a nefarious plan to crash US rockets. Once Bond infiltrates Crab Key, he'll encounter the beautiful Honey Ryder (Ursula Andress) who has her own score to settle with Dr. No.
Dr. No is a tremendously entertaining film. You can watch in it a variety of ways: as a throwback to the 60s spy genre, as the genesis for James Bond on film and as a cultural snapshot of the sexism and freewheeling attitude of the early 60s. Bond is the ultimate man's man. He kills the bad guys with suave efficiency, woos the ladies with ease and manages to redefine cool in just about every scene. The James Bond of the films is a bit of a different animal that that of the original books. It's in this sense that Sean Connery made his portrayal so iconic. Connery embodies the very essence of James Bond's cool character. His millionaire tastes in clothing, automobiles and food and drink defined the swinging sixties' ideal that matched the world written about in Playboy magazine each month. While some might find this attitude archaic, it still succeeds in fulfilling just about every male fantasy imaginable.
Those entering the world of Dr. No as first time Bond viewers should be forewarned that the action contained within is nothing like what we experience in modern day cinema. The film might even come across as a little cheesy. It's easy to chuckle at the projected backgrounds in all the driving scenes, the silly special effects featuring giant fish and the overly choreographed fight scenes. For me, it all just adds to the charm of the picture. Dr. No is all about style and character. Bond's witty one-liners are fantastic and his interactions with the women in the film are akin to him being their knight in shining armor. When he isn't killing them, of course. Dr. No is also the rare Bond entry in that the entire film is extremely playful. Even the inclusion of a reggae version of "Three Blind Mice" on the film's soundtrack adds to the cheerful tone. In watching Dr. No on Blu-ray, I was reminded that the film is pure cheeseball enjoyment. I don't think I stopped smiling during the entire movie. Bond fans rejoice!
Live and Let Die
When James Bond is dispatched to the United States to investigate the deaths of three MI6 agents, he encounters a shadowy underground figure by the name of Mr. Big (Yaphet Kotto). Big has a mysterious connection to Dr. Kananga, the dictator of a small Caribbean island and the subject of the dead MI6 agents' investigation. Bond will, again, work with his CIA counterpart, Felix Leiter (David Hedison) as he traverses the unfamiliar American landscape. A lucky encounter with psychic tarot card reader, Solitaire (Jane Seymour), emboldens Bond's quest to foil Kananga's diabolical scheme to distribute tons of Heroin around the world. Kananga's ruthless henchmen, Tee Hee Johnson (Julius Harris) and voodoo doctor Baron Samedi (Geoffrey Holder), on the other hand, have other plans for Bond.
Live and Let Die was the first of the Bond films that focused on more common criminals and less on world domination. It's a throwaway episode that remains enjoyable in its execution, but never achieves the grandeur of Mr. Connery's previous efforts. 1973 was the height of the Blaxploitation era and Live and Let Die revels, from beginning to end, in its nuances. Bond has always been a symbol of the times -- a sexist alpha male during the Connery era, a rouge who was at odds with political correctness during the Pierce Brosnan years and an unaffected and brutal killing machine in the series' latest incarnation with Daniel Craig. Unfortunately for Moore, he's the Bond who wore leisure suits, battled killer pimps and fought off voodoo attacks. It's all pretty silly, of course, and Moore tackles the roll with a smirk and a sly sense of absurdity. His sense of the Bond character seems to reside in an overwhelming devil may care attitude. Moore's Bond has always struck me as being lighthearted with a reluctant propensity for violence, whereas Connery's Bond was a serious man with a quick wit who had no qualms about killing. There are as many opinions as to what makes the best Bond as there are Bond fans. I was raised on the Roger Moore films, so I do have fond memories of seeing them whilst growing up. However, in the shadow of what Connery and Craig have achieved, Live and Let Die is just a little on the soft side.
Live and Let Die does have its positives, however. Paul McCartney's exceptional title song is one of the best in the history of the franchise. George "The Fifth Beatle" Martin builds on themes from McCartney's opener and crafts a suspenseful and rollicking score. It's a fantastic 1 - 2 punch and is amongst the best Bond musical experiences in the series. Jane Seymour's Solitaire ranks as one of the most beautiful and sympathetic Bond girls of all time while Geoffrey Holder's Baron Samedi is effectively creepy. Live and Let Die has a lot of excellent parts that just happen to add up to a mediocre Bond adventure. Live and Let Die will, no doubt, be enjoyed as a throwback by Bond fans. It's the newcomers to the series that will be left wondering.
Die Another Day
Die Another Day begins with James Bond (Pierce Brosnan) being held captive by the North Korean army after a "spectacular" hovercraft chase. It seems Bond was captured investigating a diabolical Korean terrorist organization. Once Bond is conveniently freed, he goes on yet another revenge mission as he attempts to find a link between the aforementioned terrorists and the smuggling of African "Conflict Diamonds." He'll eventually cross paths with American operative Jinx (Halle Berry) and find comfort in the arms of British agent Miranda Frost (Rosamund Pike). Bond can't get too comfortable, however, as evil terrorist and puppy hater Colonel Moon (Will Yun Lee) has disguised himself as British billionaire Gustav Graves (Toby Stephens) and threatens to destroy the world with a horrific space weapon. Yes, Folks, giant frinkin' space lasers.
This movie makes me mad. James Bond has been morphed from a suave secret agent into some sort of Arnold Schwarzenegger nightmare-machine who exists to exact revenge and kill everything in site. The action sequences are ludicrous: Bond races hovercraft, races his Aston Martin on a sheet of ice, dodges laser fire from a satellite, the list goes on. The gadgets are unbelievably idiotic. Invisible Aston Martin? Really? Are we really making James Bond into science fiction now? Is that what the audience craves? Moonraker was bad enough, do we really need this? To add insult to injury, Halle Berry is downright terrible in the film. She plays an action scene as though she is mimicking someone in the distance who is trying to help her move more effectively. She looks extremely awkward as she stumbles her way through action choreography and generally has a confused look on her face throughout the film.
Don't try to find any semblance of a plot in Die Another Day because you'll exhaust yourself looking for it. The film exists as a framework for the many, many action sequences. The climax of the film, which takes place on a military transport plane that is caught in a laser blast from space, ranks as one of the most elaborate and ridiculous Bond set pieces in the history of the franchise. The one casualty of this idiotic movie turned out to be Pierce Brosnan. He did nothing wrong other than starring in a bad movie and he was rewarded by Eon productions by firing him from the role and launching a search for his eventual replacement. It was a classless thing to do and Brosnan didn't deserve it. It's a shame that the last Bond film he'll be remembered for is this mess of a movie. Brosnan was well on his way to becoming the definitive James Bond. Fortunately, there are several other films that came before Die Another Day that are a much more fitting testament to his great work as James Bond.
James Bond Blu-ray Collection: Volume 1 Blu-ray, Video Quality
Dr. No arrives on Blu-ray in full 1080p looking pretty darn stunning. MGM has given the movie the full AVC Mpeg-4 treatment and has preserved the film's original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.66:1. It should be noted that the black bars on the sides of the picture are normal and represent the correct "pillarbox" configuration for films that are presented in this aspect ratio. So, there's no need to adjust your set. Dr. No is, at this point, a 46 year old film, so I wasn't expecting its visual presentation to resemble anything even close to some of Bond's more recent screen adventures. Surprisingly, the film has held up quite well and, despite its age, Dr. No looks refreshingly clean and pristine. MGM utilized the Lowry process to restore the film and the results speak for themselves.
This remarkable Blu-ray presentation is satisfyingly free of any annoying digital picture anomalies like edge enhancement, macroblocking or noise. There is a slight amount of natural film grain present, but it is consistent with what should be present in films from the same era. Black levels and contrast are also surprisingly strong if not quite as deep and refined as those of newer films. Detail is also better than expected with individual grains of sand visible in the film's many beach shots. Perhaps the best part of Dr. No's video presentation lies in the disc's amazing color reproduction. This is a much more colorful film that I remembered and the wide color palette of the Jamaican locations just about leaps off of the screen. All told, I'm thrilled with Dr. No on Blu-ray. I can't imagine the film looking any better!
Live and Let Die
Live and Let Die comes to Blu-ray looking better than ever. The film was restored using the Lowry digital restoration process and has made the transition to 1080p , by way of AVC Mpeg-4 encoding, in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1. It's amazing to see a 35 year old film look so completely fresh and detailed. Contrast is excellent throughout the presentation with ample shadow details and deep blacks. Fine detail is impeccably preserved and gives Live and Let Die a look that belies the film's actual age. Colors are also richly saturated, with vibrant reds and blues that give the film a strikingly flamboyant color palette. Pervious versions of the film on home video have not done justice to the excellent photography on display in Live and Let Die.
Grain is present in levels appropriate to a film of this age. Noise never interferes nor do the effects of any kind of noise reduction. Live and Let Die simply looks as it should. Digital nasties don't rear their heads her either. I didn't detect a hint of edge enhancement, haloes, macroblocking or banding. All told, this is a spectacular transfer that shows how older films can fare well in the high definition arena if restored properly. Highly recommended!
Die Another Day
Die Another Day makes its Blu-ray debut from MGM featuring a nice 1080p transfer utilizing the AVC Mpeg-4 compression codec. The film's original aspect ratio of 2.40:1 has been perfectly preserved and the Blu-ray edition is a vast improvement over the seriously flawed DVD versions of the film that had been previously released. Previously releases had been rife with macroblocking and abundant edge enhancement. Those issues are gone, for the most part, on Blu-ray, but the results still leave a little to be desired.
First, the good: Die Another Day looks sharp, detailed and has excellent contrast and black levels. As a matter of fact, the film, as a whole, is very pleasing from a visual standpoint. Black levels were particularly impressive and color fidelity was always vivid and accurate. Unfortunately, there is still a hint of edge enhancement that is noticeable throughout the film. It's only occasionally distracting. This begs the question: was it intentional? Many filmmakers are sharpening films in post-production these days. Could Die Another Day be one of those films? I'll leave that for you to decide, but rest assured that despite this potential flaw, Die Another Day looks pretty darn good on Blu-ray.
James Bond Blu-ray Collection: Volume 1 Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Much like the video portion of the film, Dr. No has been given a major overhaul in the audio department as well. Presented in 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio, the movie sounds amazing while simultaneously showing the limits of early sixties sound recording techniques. Much of the dialogue in Dr. No has a decidedly tinny sound to it. In fact, much of the movie has that same effect. Conversely, the film's musical score sounds like it might have been recorded yesterday and often leaps out of the speakers with a fidelity far outpacing that of what was recorded on location.
The sound remix on this Blu-ray edition does a fine job of working with the movie's limited source material. There is a surprisingly large amount of directional surround activity in the mix and the aforementioned musical score is well placed. Dialogue is also well presented while still retaining the tinny nature of its original format. In the end, the craftsmen who have created this high definition surround mix have done a masterful job of taking extremely limited source material and breathing new life into it. Even the most surround-happy sound fanatic will doubtlessly be pleased.
Live and Let Die:
Unfortunately, no level of lossless encoding can help a soundtrack that is poorly recorded. Live and Let Die suffers from an an abundance of audio issues that this 5.1 DTS HD-Master Audio track just can't correct. Dialogue is poorly recorded, leaving scenes sounding muted and incomprehensible and sound effects suffer by like the were recoded inside a tin shack. It's clear that those involved in remixing this track were hampered by bad source material that just couldn't be improved upon. About the only bright spot in this mix is the music. It was obviously recorded with a lot more care and attention to proper fidelity - - exactly what one would expect from Paul McCartney and George Martin. Live and Let Die also includes the original mono soundtrack that was featured during the film's theatrical exhibition. It suffers from the same problems as the DTS track, but neuters the musical score. You're probably better off sticking with the lossless track, but don't expect for the folks at MGM to have magically turned older material that was recorded poorly into anything even close to a modern surround track.
Die Another Day:
On the sonic front, Die Another Day is a powerhouse. The film's DTS HD Master Audio 5.1 track is active, alive and absolutely rocking. For a film that places such an emphasis on over-the-top action sequences, nothing but the finest sound design could have even begun to sell this movie. Fortuantely, it delivers in spades.
Surround activity is insanely active in Die Another Day with explosions and weapons fire ricocheting around the listening room. Low bass is also abundant with frequent subwoofer action that will shake your entire room. Dialogue is well presented and intelligible. Ultimately, this is a top tier audio experience that the film is totally unworthy of!
James Bond Blu-ray Collection: Volume 1 Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
MGM has re-issued the supplemental package from their previous DVD release of Dr. No on this Blu-ray edition. Features are presented in 480i standard definition.
Here's what's included:
-"The Complete Special Features Library: Mission Dossier" - Audio Commentary -Featuring Director Terence Young and Members of the Cast and Crew
-"Top Level Access 007: License to Restore" – Featurette Detailing the Bond Ultimate Edition Film Restoration Process
-"Declassified: M16 Vault" - The Guns of James Bond -Premiere Bond
-"007 Mission Control" Interactive Guide Into the World of Dr. No
-Inside Dr. No
-Terence Young: Bond Vivant
-Dr. No 1963 Featurette
-"Ministry of Propaganda" - Original Trailers, TV Spots, Photo Gallery and Radio Communications
Having seen the majority of these special features on DVD, there weren't any real surprises on this Blu-ray release. I particularly enjoyed the Terence Young featurette that focuses on the director's work within the Bond franchise as well as the fun and informative the Guns of James Bond feature. My favorite feature, however, was the "License to Restore" featurette that documents the painstaking Lowry restoration process that was applied to the film.
Live and Let Die:
Here's what's included:
- MI6 Commentaries with John Cork, Tom Mankiewicz and Sir Roger Moore
- Inside Live and Let Die
- Bond 1973: The Lost Documentary
- Roger Moore as James Bond, Circa 1964
- Live and Let Die Conceptual Art
- On Set with Roger Moore: The Funeral Parade
- On Set with Roger Moore: Hang Gliding Lessons
- 007 Mission Control
- Theatrical Archive
- TV Broadcasts
- Radio Communication
- Image Database
While hardly breaking any new ground, Live and Let Die does feature a number of compelling supplements that add a nice dose of period scope to the making of the film. I was most taken by the throwback features. Listening to old Bond radio ads, seeing how the film was advertised on TV as well as the on-set films really helps to reset one's expectations for just what the prevailing attitudes and culture were like in the early 70s. There's also a strange supplement, "Roger Moore as James Bond, 1964", that stands as, frankly, an eerie bit of comedy from a low-rent British chat show. It's a strange thing to see Roger Moore doing his best Bond at the height of Connery's popularity in the role. All three commentary tracks are a worthwhile listen for fans of the film and, as always, I'm happy to see the original theatrical trailers included with the set.
Die Another Day
Here's what's included:
-"The Complete Special Features Library: Mission Dossier" - Audio Commentary Featuring Director Lee Tamahori and Producer Michael G. Wilson
-Audio Commentary Featuring Pierce Brosnan and Rosamund Pike
-"Declassified: M16 Vault" - From Script to Screen
-Shaken and Stirred on Ice
-Just Another Day
-The British Touch: Bond Arrives in London
-On Location With Peter Lamont
-007 Mission Control - Interactive Guide Into the World of Die Another Day
-"Ministry of Propaganda" Photo gallery
In attempt to discover whether there was a single redeeming quality to Die Another Day, I poured through the extras included for the Blu-ray release. Unfortunately, it's rather difficult to listen to commentaries about a film that, in my opinion, shouldn't have ever been made. Regardless, fans of the film will likely find the Pierce Brosnan and Rosamund Pike commentary to be the most interesting aspect of this collection. Both are candid and often admit to some of the mistakes being made on screen. As is usually the case with me, I was most interested in the historical features that frame Die Another Day into the larger James Bond lexicon. Look no further than "From Script to Screen" and "Shaken and Stirred on Ice" to whet your appetite for such features.
James Bond Blu-ray Collection: Volume 1 Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
MGM has put together an interesting pairing of films for their first James Bond box set on Blu-ray. Clearly, Dr. No is a far superior film to either Die Another Day or Live and Let Die. By putting these three vastly different approaches to Bond in a single box, one can use this set as a quick primer on the strengths and weaknesses of the various actors who have embodied the roll. Audio and Video quality vary between releases, but, on the whole is exceptional. Supplements are also detailed and port over most of the existing extras from previous DVD additions. James Bond on Blu-ray is a must have title for fans of the series as well as those who are curious about this iconic franchise and its one of a kind hero. Highly recommended!
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