Considered some of the most comprehensive collections ever to be released on DVD, the James Bond Volumes released in fall/winter of 2006 were must-own for anyone who had ever taken it upon themselves to whistle the theme, introduce themselves last name first or wish they could own a PP7. With a two-disc release for each film, packed with commentaries, documentaries and whatever Fox and MGM could dig up from the archives, the “Ultimate James Bond” volumes were truly that—ultimate editions of these classic films. Now with the advent of Blu-ray, Fox is revisiting the Ultimate editions and giving them the 1080p treatment—complete with lossless audio!
Recently restored and re-mastered for the highest quality picture and sound quality via the state-of-the-art Lowry process digital frame-by-frame restoration and featuring special features galore, Bond is primed for Blu-ray Disc with a selection of 007 adventures spanning the storied career of cinema’s most recognizable spy. Bond titles arriving on Blu-ray Disc, timed to the highly anticipated worldwide home video release of the 22nd James Bond mission Quantum of Solace this November include The World is Not Enough, Goldfinger, and Moonraker.
For the third volume of Blu-ray titles we get an equal smattering of “great,” “meh,” and “boring.” Not necessarily in that order, mind you, and I’m sure there are plenty of Bond fans out there who have enjoyed Moonraker, but I’m certainly not one of them. And to be honest the second Brosnan effort to see the Blu-ray release, The World is Not Enough, really wasn’t all that spectacular, but it did house perhaps one of the dirtiest pieces of sexual innuendo I’ve ever heard out of a Bond flick. Still, the third volume is definitely a mixed release, but almost all of them are as there’s bound to be some stinkers in that group of twenty-two films. So let’s dig into this set further.
I’m sure I’m going to shock all of you by saying that yes, I have in fact seen all of the Bond movies previously. I’ve become so accustomed to writing “no I haven’t seen these” in my reviews for these older classics (I had to type it for The Godfather for cryin’ out loud…how embarrassing), but last Christmas season, Circuit City had all of the Bond sets up for incredibly cheap ($14.99 each or some such nonsense) and I sprung on the deal. Once the four volumes arrived, I tackled the films one by one (in chronological order, not the weird ass collections that each of the volumes contained). Previously I’d only seen a few of the Brosnan efforts, so I knew only him as Bond but after watching the twenty-one films in a row, I’ve decided that…yes, Connery is the man. Anyone who says otherwise is quite delusional.
Of course that isn’t to knock the other Bond’s; while I definitely leave Connery at the top, I can get similar enjoyment from the others, although I honestly became rather bored with Moore’s Bond after awhile, simply because he seemed to repeatedly do the same things with him in every film (by the time I came up on Octopussy, I started to tune him out). Daniel Craig is promising and may eclipse Brosnan for me, but I also enjoyed Dalton. Hell, even as entirely strange as it was, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service was very entertaining for me.
So enough prattle about my experience watching the films for the first time, how did the experience go with these specific three? Well even on DVD I thought the films looked good (especially for their age), but if Blu-ray has taught me anything, older films look fantastic on the format and the Bond films are no different. Goldfinger is the eldest of the three and it looks nothing short of fantastic and it truly is one of the more classic of the Bond tales and probably one of Connery’s most famous. It’s always been the favorite of my mom’s, but I did find it to be a bit overly hokey with the whole Fort Knox angle, but still—it’s hard to deny the classic that is Goldfinger.
Next up we have Moonraker which was honestly the first Bond I ever shut off. I finished it later, of course, but by that point I’d gotten so burnt out on Roger Moore that watching him blast off into space was incredibly boring. Of course the film did have a few moments, but there just isn’t much about Moore’s bond that I liked and as a result I really had very little to get wrapped up when it came to this film. The space elements were entertaining for the most part, but everything that led up to it was just very dull, old-hat and uninteresting. Hands down Moonraker is one of my least favorite Bond films.
And finally we have The World is Not Enough. This is actually one of the more stand-out films for me for some reason, as I always really enjoyed the setting as well as the interaction between Bond and the cast. Brosnan always managed to have a simultaneous ability to really ham it up at one moment and the next be completely serious. The World is Not Enough is another clear example of this as pretty much any scene he shares with Denise Richards is incredibly hammy (and the aforementioned final piece of dialogue in the film? I choked on the liquid I was drinking at the time. I’m used to innuendo in Bond films, but that one was really quite extreme). At the other end of the spectrum, I also really enjoyed the opening credits, performed by Garbage. Really one of the more underrated and least talked about of the Brosnan films, I think. Very corny, but a lot of fun.
Overall fans know what to expect from the Bond films and picking up these volumes is going to go without saying. With Bond, you know you’re going to have to take the bad with the good and these volumes are a perfect example of this. I just wish there were more movies per volume this time around (three per set versus the five per set prior). Yeah it’s a big upgrade in the A/V department, but everything is contained on one disc each, so even a fourth film per set seems like it’d be plausible to me. But, costs are high for Blu-ray still, so to keep it in the same price bracket we’ll have to split these films up into seven volumes rather than four. Bit of a bummer, but hopefully Fox keeps the releases coming at a steady pace so we don’t have to wait to have the greatest action hero in high-definition. Recommended.
One nice thing about these new releases is that rather than picking up all of the films in their special edition incarnations, you’re given the option to pick up the individual releases as well. This means that while fans will no doubt pick up the tri-volume sets, those who only want the best of Bond can get that easily as well. For the previous two volumes I received the individual releases for review, but this time around I got the actual tri-disc volume set and I gotta say…kind of disappointing. The packaging is incredibly bloated (both in height and depth) and while it’s nice and “deluxe,” the discs are all held in by sponges and it’s just a very, very cheap presentation for the film. There’s nothing remotely fascinating about this package once you crack it open (on the outside, yes, it’s visually appealing).
With all three of these films sitting at the older end of the Bond spectrum, one can’t expect them to have the silver sheen of modern day Bond outings, but the AVC encoded transfers, balancing between 23 to 26.5mb, look fantastic. While there is a bit of grain and haze on the transfers, as a whole these films have never looked better, with ample detail being drawn out from every frame of the film. I wouldn’t imagine it any other way—after all the DVD transfers were immaculate and these are merely higher-definition versions of the same restored prints that the DVD used, so we’re basically just getting even stronger versions of those here. Overall these transfers are going to astound anyone that films from the 60s and 70s could look this brilliant.
Also included for our listening pleasure is a DTS-HD 5.1 Master Lossless Audio track. Before you even begin to ponder…yes, these are amazing. If you were astounded by the DTS mixes that the DVD releases boasted, then you’ll be even more impressed by the clarity and room spread that these tracks give off. Aside from some dated deco, these films don’t look and sound as old as they are and the restoration and new sound mixes offered for these films is simply fantastic. Alternate Mono English (original audio), Spanish Mono and French 5.1 tracks are offered for all three. Subtitles are in Spanish.
The extras for all three of these releases are, to the best of my knowledge (and recollection—I passed off the DVD sets awhile back in anticipation for these releases), identical to the original Ultimate collection extras. The World is Not Enough comes with an audio commentary featuring Peter Lamon, David Arnold and Vic Armstrong, an original 1999 Featurette, Deleted, Extended and Alternate Scenes, Creating an Icon: Making the Teaser Trailer, Alternate Angle/Expanded Angle Scene, Bond Cocktail, Hong Kong Press Conference, The Making Of, Tribute to Desmond Llewelyn, Music Video by Garbage, Secrets of 007, and Original Theatrical Trailer wrap up the extras for this Brosnan film.
For Goldfinger we get Audio Commentary featuring Director Guy Hamilton, Audio Commentary featuring Members of the Cast and Crew, Sean Connery from the set, Screen Tests, On Tour with the Aston Martin DB5, Honor Blackman Open-Ended Interview, The Making Of, Goldfinger Phenomenon, Original Publicity Featurette, and Original Theatrical Trailer, TV Spots and Radio Communications.
Finally on Moonraker a pair of Audio Commentaries start us off, one with Roger Moore and a second with Director Lewis Gilbert and Members of the Cast and Crew. Moving on we have Bond ‘79, Circus Footage, Cable Car Storyboards, 007 in Rio, Ken Adam’s Production Films, Learning to Freefall, Skydiving Storyboards, Original Theatrical Trailer, Inside Moonraker, and The Men Behind the Mayhem.
All three films contain a “007 Mission Control” interactive guide that allows you to explore more into the films back-story and characters. All three also contain “smart menu” technology, but quite honestly aside from slick new animation, the menus look nearly identical to the previous two-disc DVD releases. The extras across all three releases are a mix of high and standard definition and wrap up with an Image Gallery on each release.
Overall you’d be upgrading to these new releases for the video and audio and they do not disappoint. Although I’m hesitant to recommend such a pricey upgrade, especially when the original sets themselves weren’t so cheap when original hitting, but if you’re a fan of 007 then there’s really no choice but to pick up these sets. They’re put together well and the new transfers will immerse you in the films in a way that DVD just couldn’t—you’ll see all the little details on the screen and hear every bit of audio as it surrounds you. Perhaps just pick up your favorites for, but no matter which way you cut it the statement plastered across the back of each of these releases rings true: “Blu-ray was made for Bond!” Highly Recommended.
James Bond Blu-ray Collection Three-Pack, Vol.3 (The World is Not Enough, Goldfinger, Moonraker) is now available on Blu-ray.