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James Bond Blu-ray Collection: Volume 1 & 2(1962-2002)
No synopsis for James Bond Blu-ray Collection: Volume 1 & 2.
For more about James Bond Blu-ray Collection: Volume 1 & 2 and the James Bond Blu-ray Collection: Volume 1 & 2 Blu-ray release, see James Bond Blu-ray Collection: Volume 1 & 2 Blu-ray Review published by Ben Williams on March 16, 2009 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Directors: Terence Young, Lee Tamahori, Guy Hamilton, John Glen
Writers: Ian Fleming, Richard Maibaum, Johanna Harwood, Neal Purvis, Tom Mankiewicz, Robert Wade
Starring: Lois Maxwell, Bernard Lee, Sean Connery, Anthony Dawson, Desmond Llewelyn, Martine Beswick
This Blu-ray bundle includes the following titles, see individual titles for specs and details:
James Bond Blu-ray Collection: Volume 1 & 2 Blu-ray Review
Bond fans have hit the mother lode.
Reviewed by Ben Williams, March 16, 2009
Does a more iconic film character than James Bond exist? The well dressed, well mannered womanizing martini drinker has spawned more sequels than an other film franchise in history; his popularity is greater today than it was in the early 1960s when Dr. No signaled Bond's arrival into popular film culture. 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 statistic that would have most corporations salivating in envy. Considering the character's humble origins as the subject of a series of pulp novels from English writer Sir Ian Fleming, Bond seems to appeal to men, regardless of nationality, and women, in spite of his philandering ways. As Britain's most famous export, Bond serves as the United Kingdom's ambassador to film. On the eve of the Blu-ray release of Quantum of Solace as well as the second wave of Bond classics, there's no time like the present to review Bond's initial releases on Blu-ray. Featuring Dr. No, Live and Let Die, Die Another Day, For Your Eyes Only, From Russia with Love and Thunderball this collection serves as the perfect introduction to the world's most famous spy, while giving Bond fans an amazing opportunity to see 007 in the unprecedented beauty of Blu-ray.
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.
For Your Eyes Only
For Your Eyes Only begins by quickly cutting ties with past Bond adventures and moving the character into a new direction. Notorious SPECTRE mastermind, Blofeld (John Hollis), makes an ill-fated attempt on Bond's (Roger Moore) life, only to find himself at the bottom of a smokestack. This short prologue sets into motion a very different Bond tale; one of international espionage and revenge, that focuses more on personal vendettas against the backdrop of nuclear calamity. Bond is tasked with locating a missing piece of British naval hardware called the Automatic Targeting Attack Communicator, known as ATAC. It's been pilfered by a rival nation and can be used to launch the Royal Navy's submarine-based nuclear missiles. Bond encounters a young woman called Melina Havelock (Carole Bouquet) on his quest to recover the missing system; her father having been killed while helping retrieve the ATAC, she has vowed to hunt down and kill those responsible for his death. Together, Melina and Bond will scour the globe, landing in Greece, Italy and the Bahamas, before coming face to face with the men responsible for stealing ATAC and killing Melina's father.
There's no doubt that For Your Eyes Only has a much different tone than Roger Moore's previous Bond films. He's less campy and much more serious in this go-round; there are fewer one-liners, the film remains serious and decidedly dark. Unfortunately, Mr. Moore's less physical presence in the role keeps him from maintaining a convincingly menacing presence; he doesn't seem capable of being a foreboding, scary Bond. Melina's story is compelling; her quest to find revenge is a rewarding counterpoint to Bond's more dutiful role. She breathes a much-needed sympathetic element into the plot. Just about everything in the film works, with the exception of Moore. One can't fault the guy for trying, though.
For Your Eyes Only is one of those films that is easy to enjoy, while managing to disappoint. There are quite a few impressive scenes, to be sure. Many of the underwater sequences are expertly filmed and effective, there are several exciting car chases, a nifty snowmobile chase is always entertaining and Bond drives a kick-ass Lotus. Most of the performances are passable and the film moves in the right direction by showing a more brutal Bond who is unafraid to get his hands dirty. If the film's producers had continued this course, the Bond franchise might have avoided some of the later, unfortunate Moore films, the dark and boring Timothy Dalton years and, perhaps, might have made a faster recovery. As it stands, For Your Eyes Only serves as an example as a move in the right direction that wasn't quite executed as well as it could have been.
So, can I recommend For Your Eyes Only? Sure, why not; it's easily one of the best of Roger Moore's films in the series. Is is a great Bond movie in the tradition of Goldfinger and Casino Royale? Not a chance. Either way, For Your Eyes Only serves as an interesting diversion in an otherwise sad time for the franchise.
From Russia with Love
The second James Bond filmed adventure finds everyone's favorite gentleman spy on a mission to retrieve a top-secret Soviet decoding machine known as the LEKTOR. Bond (Sean Connery) travels to Istanbul to intercept a defecting Soviet agent who possesses the device. Little does Bond know that SPECTRE, the menacing terrorist organization hinted at in Dr. No, has set a trap for him; they intend to exact their revenge for Bond's involvement with the death of their comrade in arms, Dr. No. Bond will dodge SPECTRE's assassination attempts at every turn while outwitting Russian agents, seducing the ladies and meeting new foes with some devilishly dangerous footwear. By boat, train and plane, Bond will take on the forces of destruction and chaos in a race across Europe, keeping the LEKTOR out of the hands of SPECTRE.
After the relatively confined Caribbean locale of Dr. No, From Russia With Love serves as more of a travel-log, jet-set Bond adventure. The film feels more exotic and dangerous; Bond visits locations that must have been seldom seen in films from the 60s, giving the film a more thrilling and mysterious flavor. It's the perfect paranoid adventure for the height of the Cold War, while still delivering Soviet characters who manage to come across as sympathetic compared to the diabolical craziness of SPECTRE's cadre of baddies. In From Russia With Love, we are finally introduced to the SPECTRE organization; their leader Blofeld (Anthony Dawson), assassin Rosa Klebb (Lotte Lenya) and the ruthless Red Grant (Robert Shaw) all amp up the villainy with their dreams of world domination. By contrast, Bond's major love interest in the film is Russian; Daniela Bianci's Tatiana Romanova proves to be a first rate Bond girl.
There are many notable firsts in From Russia With Love. Desmond Llewelyn makes his first appearance as "Q" - - he'd appear in every subsequent Bond film until his death in 1999. Along with "Q" came a ton of new gadgets, including a pager, bug detector and a car phone. Bernard Lee returns as "M", Bond's boss and the head of MI6, while the ever- present Lois Maxwell reprises her role as Miss Moneypenny; a role she'd continue well into the next decade. Of course, the real draw still lies with Sean Connery; he's a little more confident as James Bond in his second outing, while still exuding a fresh excitement for the role. From Russia With Love is his movie and he enjoys every second of it.
Perhaps the best reason to enjoy From Russia With Love all over again, aside from Connery's great performance, comes from the inclusion of one of the series' best villains. The amazing Robert Shaw steals every scene he occupies as Red Grant. He's Bond's first real nemesis to appear in the films and he serves as an excellent, evil counterpoint to the witty British agent. While From Russia With Love isn't my absolute favorite of the Bond films, it comes pretty darn close. It's a must buy addition to any Bond fan's collection, as well as a film that every budding Bond fan should own. From Russia With Love is a true classic that is highly recommended.
When Emilo Largo (Adolfo Celi), a nefarious agent of SPECTRE, hatches a diabolical plan to steal a British bomber loaded with nuclear weapons and ransom NATO for $100 million dollars in diamonds, MI6 dispatches its entire array of 00-agents to find Largo and put a stop to his plans. James Bond (Sean Connery), always one step ahead, locates the missing bomber in the Bahamas. There, he encounters the beautiful Domino (Claudine Auger) who will prove to be invaluable in his eventual confrontation with Largo. Can Bond get to Largo before SPECTRE detonates the nukes?
Thunderball pretty much has it all. Bond with a jetpack, Bond scuba diving, Bond dodging sharks, Bond sexually harassing every woman in sight, Bond blowing things up, great Bond one-liners and one of the best Bond girls of them all. Even the villains are some of the best in the history of the franchise. Take for example a scene near the beginning of the film where the members of SPECTRE meet in a secret layer in Paris. Everything about this scene is just perfect. From Blofeld's (Anthony Dawson) booming voice to the stark, modern look of their meeting space, this is the stuff that bore a thousand Bond parodies. It's interesting to look back at the older Bond flicks now that the Austin Powers movies are so well ingrained into the public consciousness. It's easy to blur the line between the events of the parody and how the scenes originally played out. Thunderball is routinely parodied in these movies, and scenes like the aforementioned SPECTRE layer had me mistaking the events that were to transpire with the events of the Austin Powers movies. I'm glad I've had the opportunity to correct those mistakes in my memory as the original is vastly superior and more deliciously fun. Regardless, it's hard to argue with the influence that these early Bond movies have had on popular filmmaking.
No discussion of Thunderball would be complete without mentioning how perfectly Sean Connery owns the James Bond character in this film. For me, Thunderball represents the pinnacle of his depiction of the suave spy. He was exceptional in the previous three Bond films, but there's something about his portrayal in Thunderball that comes across as more natural - - as though Connery has embodied the role. A lot of this probably comes from Thunderball's perfect casting across the board. Everyone just seems in the zone and the film is infinitely better for it. The fact that we can now enjoy the great performances, amazing set design and startling underwater photography of Thunderball on Blu-ray is a real treat for Bond fans across the globe.
James Bond Blu-ray Collection: Volume 1 & 2 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.
For Your Eyes Only
Generally speaking, films of the early 1980s aren't revered for their fantastic image quality. Perhaps a series of uninspiring film stocks are to blame; perhaps it's just the aesthetic of the time that seems uninspired in retrospect. Whatever the reason, For Your Eyes Only suffers from that same boring and bland early 80s filming stye that manages to neither inspire nor impress. One certainly can't blame the folks at MGM; they've delivered the film in an uncompromising manner using the AVC Mpeg-4 compression codec at full 1080p, while retaining the film's original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1.
For Your Eyes Only looks pretty darn boring; colors are flat and washed out, black levels and contrast are weak and detail isn't particularly impressive. There's a certain pastel quality to the entire film that comes across as amateurish and stylistically dated. However, it's safe to say that the film looks exactly like it should; artifacts are not an issue and the film's grain remains intact and appropriate. What's left, is an image that while accurate, fails to impress. Chalk this one up to style, folks.
From Russia with Love
Encoded with the AVC Mpeg-4 compression codec, framed at the film's original aspect ratio of 1.66:1 and presented in full 1080p, From Russia With Love makes its high definition debut in a stunning Blu-ray package of incredible quality. For a 46 year old film, the folks over at MGM and Lowry Digital Images have done a remarkable job cleaning up the film and removing any annoying print damage. The film looks fresh and ready for action.
Some might notice a few slight instances of edge enhancement on From Russia With Love; fortunately, this occurs rarely and is barely noticeable. Otherwise, the transfer features black levels and contrast fitting a picture of 60s origin, a remarkable level of detail, vivid, if slightly dated, color reproduction and an absolute absence of additional digital artifacts and anomalies. I've never seen From Russia With Love look anywhere near this good; Bond fans are going to be in heaven with this excellent Blu-ray release. Highly recommended.
MGM has given Thunderball the royal treatment on Blu-ray. The film was restored using the Lowry grain reduction / restoration process and looks truly fantastic. Thunderball is presented in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and it's worth noting that this is the first of the Bond films to be filmed in this widescreen format. Unsurprisingly, MGM has opted for a Mpeg-4 / AVC high bitrate encode in full 1080p as well. For a 43 year old film, Thunderball looks spectacular. I was amazed at the level of detail and contrast the image displayed. There are a few flaws that are apparent from the source, but the encoding is virtually flawless.
Thunderball displays a few anomalies befitting a film of its age. There is an occasional amount of flicker present that comes across the lower left quarter of the picture. In addition, there are also a few instances of lessened contrast and color density probably resulting from damaged film elements. Make no mistake, these are very slight issues and don't detract from the enjoyment of this 43 year old film in any way. The source is also amazingly clean and free of any distracting compression artifacts. Ultimately, Thunderball has probably never looked this good and it has certainly never been presented for home viewing in anything approaching the quality of this set. Highly recommended!
James Bond Blu-ray Collection: Volume 1 & 2 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!
For Your Eyes Only
By the time For Your Eyes Only was released in 1981, film soundtracks had changed a great deal from the predominantly mono affairs of the 1970s. Surround sound had found wider use through the popularity of Star Wars, but someone apparently forgot to notify the powers that be at EON productions. Having seen For Your Eyes Only on DVD, Laserdisc and VHS, it was clear to me that the film needed some serious work to sound even remotely up- to-date for this Blu-ray release. Thankfully, MGM has breathed new life into the film by completely remixing the film's archaic soundtrack and presenting it in glorious 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. The results are nothing less than astounding.
The most immediately noticeable change comes in the form of increased surround activity and directional effects. There's a palpable sense of atmosphere in For Your Eyes Only that hasn't been present on any previous home video release. Dialogue also benefits from this remixing job; voices, while rooted in the center channel, manage to sound more cohesive and free from distortion. The film's score is also presented in a manner that balances the music more effectively with the film's many action sequences. Now, I don't think anyone is going to mistake what is presented on this Blu-ray with a contemporary action soundtrack, but the results are so massively improved, that I doubt anyone will complain. Highly recommended!
From Russia with Love
Much like the other classic Bond releases from MGM, From Russia With Love has been given a spruced-up surround sound mix in lossless 5.1 DTS-Master Audio. It's an involving track with plenty of surround activity and excellent use of rear directional effects, but does often show the limits of the sound recording equipment used in the 1960. Viewers will often hear a slight hissing sound during the film's quieter moments, while many of the action effects have a slightly metallic and clunky sound to them.
I wouldn't classify any of these issues as problems, however. From Russia With Love is a 46 year old film at this point; there are going to be limitations to any material of such an advanced age. I am, however, impressed with how much mileage the sound designers were able to squeeze out of these antiquated tracks. Dialogue is mostly intelligible, with very few passages that sound less than ideal. The film's score is also well represented and sounds as though it could have been recorded yesterday. While From Russia With Love isn't going to challenge the likes of Transformers or Black Hawk Down in the sound department, it is a remarkable remaster that provides a well-updated surround experience. Recommended.
In an effort to pump up the audio for Thunderball to a level worthy of the film's video restoration, MGM has graced the film with a superlative DTS HD-Master Audio lossless 5.1 soundtrack. Again, they've done a masterful job of making a 43 year old film feel fresh and new. As with the video, there are times during the audio presentation where the technology of 1965 imparts its limitations on this modern mix, but for the most part, the experience is involving and spectacular.
Thunderball has been carefully remixed for 5.1 and the results are often remarkable. The film's score sounds as crisp and clear as one recorded yesterday while directional effects and surround usage is tastefully employed. Dialogue is crisp and clear, but occasionally has a tinny and slightly muffled sound. This issue is relatively minor with only a few passages in the film affected. Despite this one flaw, Thunderball has been brought to Blu-ray with a teriffic sound mix that does an excellent job of updating the film for the modern home theater. Highly recommended!
James Bond Blu-ray Collection: Volume 1 & 2 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.
For Your Eyes Only
Here's what's included:
- Audio Commentary with Director John Glen
- Audio commentary with Screenwriter Michael G. Wilson
- Audio commentary with Sir Roger Moore
- Deleted Scenes
- "Bond in Greece"
- "Bond in Cortina"
- "Neptune's Journey"
- 007 Mission Control
- Mission Combat Manual
- Q Branch
- Exotic locations
- Inside For Your Eyes Only
- Animated Storyboard Sequences
- Music Video: Sheena Easton's "For Your Eyes Only"
- Theatrical archive
- TV Broadcasts
- Radio Communication
- Image Database
Despite any reservations I might have about the film itself, For Your Eyes Only features a nice array of extras that do a great job of filling in the details of the film's production. I enjoyed the commentaries and featurettes, but have now grown a little tired of the focus these special editions place on gadgets. Regardless, The animated storyboard presentations are well-done and vintage television and radio announcements prove to be an interesting aside to the style of the early 1980s. Beyond that, much of what's contained here will appeal to fans of the film, while not being of any particular interest to more casual viewers.
From Russia with Love
Here's what's included:
- Feature Audio commentary Hosted by Producer John Cork, featuring Director Terence Young and various cast and crew members
- Ian Fleming: The CBC Interview
- Ian Fleming and Raymond Chandler
- Ian Fleming on Desert Island Discs
- "Inside From Russia With Love"
- "Harry Salzman: Showman"
- Animated Storyboard Sequence
- 007 Mission Control
- Mission Combat Manual: Action Sequences
- Q branch: Gadgets
- Exotic Locations
- TV Broadcasts
- Image Database
As one of the better special features sets among the first six classic Bond films released by MGM, From Russia With Love does an exceptional job of positioning the film within the historical and cultural climate of the 60s. My favorite feature is a thorough commentary track hosted by DVD producer John Cork. He's assembled a series of sound-bites and audio clips from various members of the cast and crew, including Director Terence Young. Great stuff! I was also particularly fond of the vintage radio and television interviews with Bond creator Ian Fleming. Mr. Fleming was an opinionated man, never at a loss for words and never afraid to speak his mind. The set's animated storyboard sequence is interesting, and I found several of the more gadget and gear related features to be entertaining. Finally, the "Inside From Russia With Love" featurette does an exceptional job of outlining the film's production, while featuring a ton of great vintage clips and behind the scenes exclusives. It's an informative and well-conceived documentary that is a must-watch for any Bond fan. All told, I'm very impressed with what's been included with From Russia With Love; MGM should be commended for their excellent work.
MGM has ported over all of the extras from the most recent DVD release of Thunderball to this new Blu-ray package. Those of you who are intimately familiar with those extras will find nothing new with this release, but for those unfamiliar with previous releases, there is a lot of nice material present here.
Here's what's included:
-"The Complete Special Features Library: Mission Dossier" - Audio Commentary Featuring Terence Young and Others
-Audio Commentary Featuring Peter Hunt, John Hopkins and Others "Declassified: M16 Vault"
-The Incredible World of James Bond - Original 1965 NBC Television Special
-A Child's Guide to Blowing Up a Motor Car - 1965 Ford Promotional Film
-On Location With Ken Adam
-Bill Suitor: The Rocket Man Movies
-Thunderball Boat Show Reel
-Selling Bonds - Original 1965 Television Advertisements
-"007 Mission Control" Interactive Guide Into the World of Thunderball
-The Making of Thunderball
-The Thunderball Phenomenon
-The Secret History of Thunderball
-"Ministry of Propaganda" - Original Trailers, TV Spots, Photo Gallery and Radio Communication
While this is a very complete set of Bond-related extras, I was immediately drawn to the original 1965 material. A Child's Guide to Blowing Up a Motorcar is just the kind of subversive thing that was easily gotten away with back in the sixties and would be banned immediately in this day and age. I also really enjoyed the original 1965 Thunderball TV advertisements and Bond TV special. Aside from these great vintage pieces, we've got a couple of slightly boring commentaries and enough info in the "Ministry of Propaganda" and assorted featurettes to keep a Bond fanatic busy for days.
James Bond Blu-ray Collection: Volume 1 & 2 Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
So, there you have it; MGM's initial foray in bringing James Bond to Blu-ray is a massive success. Partnering with Lowry Digital for the set's extensive restoration, MGM has updated these legendary films to a standard that can only be appreciated on Blu-ray disc. Dr. No, Live and Let Die, Die Another Day, For Your Eyes Only, From Russia With Love and Thunderball have been given the royal treatment; none of these films have ever looked or sounded remotely as amazing as they do here. In addition, the supplements provided go into great depth, giving the Bond franchise a much-need reveal, allowing fans to see the tireless efforts that have made these remarkable films possible. I can't recommend this collection highly enough. If you're a Bond fan, then you certainly don't need convincing. However, if you are new to the world of 007, then this is the perfect opportunity to delve into one of the greatest film franchises in history. Highly recommended!
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