Considered some of the most comprehensive 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 this May include The Man with the Golden Gun and Licence to Kill.
Despite release volume releases for the first nine Bond films (well, I shouldn’t say “first”—they were released in no particular order), it seems Fox has abandoned that idea and instead moved onto individual releases, if this latest Bond wave is any indication. There aren’t even three films this time around; instead we’re limited only to a Moore and Dalton outing, although before you run away screaming these were two of the better efforts of the two. Some Bond die-hards will probably scoff at the idea that any Moore or Dalton film would be good, but I assure you—there is entertainment to be had in these films.
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 awhile back 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 two go? 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. The Man with the Golden Gun can be an incredibly cheesy outing at times, but I really enjoyed it for what it is. And that’s saying a lot, considering Moore is my least favorite Bond to come down the pike, but there’s a lot to get into with Golden Gun, whether it’s the various Bond girls or just the awesome villain of Franciso Scaramanga, played by the always brilliant Christopher Lee, that helped ham the film up to levels that I cannot even begin to describe. Over the top, sure…but this is a hard Bond film to deny.
And Timothy Dalton? For some reason I’d heard nothing but bad things about this actor in the Bond role and I wasn’t looking forward to tackling his films but…I was genuinely surprised. He was certainly a major change from Moore, who was almost always cracking jokes and campy, whereas Dalton was as serious as they come. You can actually use Dalton as a great descriptor for Brosnan’s take on Bond as well, as Brosnan was like a half and half mixture of Moore and Dalton…but I suppose I should save that for a Brosnan flick down the line. Licence to Kill, besides having a strange spelling of license (Word insists on correcting it everytime I type it), was really a fantastic film for me. I’d already warmed up to him in The Living Daylights and his “rogue” Bond in Licence was just a fantastic and entertaining film to watch. Bond going off the grid has been done before (and most recently in Quantum of Solace) but I genuinely thought that Dalton did a terrific job. I’m sad we didn’t get to see him do more with the role.
Overall fans know what to expect from the Bond films and picking up these films is going to go without saying. With Bond, you know you’re going to have to take the bad with the good and these paired releases are a perfect example of this. I just wish there were more movies per wave this time around (especially since we seem to have done away with volume releases). 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 who knows how many waves. 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.
These two releases match the previous individual title releases, with reflective foil slipcases and a standard Elite Blu-ray case (the economical variant, with a bunch of holes through the casing). Disc art is the usual plain black/grey spiral art that we’ve come to expect and menus follow a similar pattern as previous releases as well.
With both of these films sitting at a mixture of older and slightly newer Bond, one can’t expect them to have the silver sheen of modern day Bond outings, but the AVC encoded transfers, balancing between 25 to 27.15mb, 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 perfect for the series and bring Bond to life like never before.
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 and French DD5.1 tracks are offered for all three. Subtitles are in Spanish, Cantonese, Korean, Mandarin Chinese, and English SDH.
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. For The Man with the Golden Gun we get:
• Audio commentary featuring Sir Roger Moore
• Audio commentary featuring director Guy Hamilton and members of the cast and crew
• Vignettes, Documentaries and Featurettes
• Image Database Gallery
And for Licence to Kill:
• Audio commentary featuring director John Glen and members of the cast
• Audio commentary featuring Michael G. Wilson and members of the crew
• Declassified: MI6 Vault – deleted scenes with introductions by director John Gleno
• Vignettes, Documentaries and Featurettes
• Image Database Gallery
Both films contain a “007 Mission Control” interactive guide that allows you to explore more into the films back-story and characters, as well as 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 both releases are a mix of high and standard definition.
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 releases. 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. 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.
The Man with the Golden Gun and Licence to Kill are now available on Blu-ray.