Six James Bond movies, all six in High Definition — how could that go wrong? The only thing that could possibly see going wrong is if they didn’t pick the six best James Bond films for the HD transfer. And while the selection wasn’t terrible, it certainly wasn’t perfect. But while I would have loved a little bit of Goldfinger in HD, I will take what I can get. And when they look as good as these six released do, I will be the last reviewer to complain.
So break out your Martinis — shaken, not stirred — and lets take a walk through these six releases, six Blu-ray Bond adventures…
Dr. No (1962)
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The first time that Bond was seen on film he was portrayed by the incomparable Sean Connery. In Dr. No, he faces off with a madman with an island, some nuclear technology and a penchant for messing up the space program. And while I don’t want to go on too long about the movie itself — as you should know by now that it is a good one — it must be said that this is one of the quintessential Bond adventures. I’m a big fan of originals, and this one is part of the argument as to why.
As for the Blu-ray release — which is why we are here — Dr. No seems to be the most impressive of this six-movie group. And the most impressive thing about this release is the visual presentation. As one of the awesome behind the scenes featurettes explains, it was taken not from an aged print of the film, but from the original negatives from the 1960s. The result is an unbelievable crisp picture and vibrant color — a look that is enough to almost have you convinced that Dr. No was made yesterday. Along with that there is an awesome commentary track, a featurette about Bond’s guns and an Interactive Guide to the World of Dr. No. And that is all just scratching the surface — if there were any one of these six titles that is my favorite, it is Dr. No by far.
From Russia With Love (1963)
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Next up is Bond’s second adventure From Russia With Love, a film that is heralded by many fans as one of Bond’s best. And I would tend to agree, though I just clearly expressed my deepest affection for Dr. No above. Either way, Sean Connery is back as the glamorous, sexy super spy and this time he’s hot on the trail of Spectre, the evil super organization that always seems to be a thorn in his side.
Just like we saw with Dr. No, taking the film from the original negative pays off beautifully with From Russia with Love. As well, this thing is loaded with special features. Director Terrence Young provides commentary, there are a few solid behind the scenes features (where did they get all of this archival footage?) and there is a really awesome CBC Interview with Bond creator Ian Fleming. Another great film, another buffet of awesome special features – there is no wrong way with this set.
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Connery comes back for a perfect three-for-three with Thunderball on Blu-ray. In this one, as you might recall, Bond goes under water to stop Spectre’s #2 man Emilio Largo from turning the world upside down in a nuclear holocaust. And in doing so Sean Connery cements himself, at least in my opinion, as the greatest Bond ever. Sure, Roger Moore had charisma and Daniel Craig has the badass moves, but none of them will ever be Connery, will they?
Thunderball is the title that is going to make me feel like a broken record, because it falls right in line with the previous two that I talk about above – a vibrant transfer thanks to the amazing technology and care that went into bringing these films to HD, a ridiculous amount of special features and two, count ‘em, two commentary tracks. As well, this one is leaps and bounds above the rest when it comes to extra featurettes. There is a Ford promotional film called ‘A Child’s Guide to Blowing Up a Motor Car’ which was made in 1961 – that is a lot of fun. As well, there is an entire feature dedicated to ‘Rocket Man’ Bill Suitor, the guy who created Bond’s coolest mode of transportation; and there are two separate features that dive deep into Thunderball: ‘The Secret History of Thunderball’ and ‘The Thunderball Phenomenon.’ To say the least, this is the sort of Blu-ray release that deserves the label of comprehensive.
Live and Let Die (1973)
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Not one of my favorite Bond movies, but certainly not bad either, Live and Let Die was Roger Moore’s first roll in the hay as 007. It is filled with all sorts of gangstas, voodoo and yes, even some slick gadgetry – and might I add that Jane Seymour was smokin’ hot back in 1973. While Roger Moore might not be Connery, he wasn’t all bad either – I certainly prefer him over another chap that we will talk about further down in this piece.
Now it is time for the broken record again, because Live and Let Die sports another almost stupid amount of special features. This one has two commentary tracks, one with director Guy Hamilton and one with Sir Roger Moore. There is also an in-depth featurette called ‘Roger Moore as James Bond, Circa 1964’. In fact, most of the presentation of this film on Blu-ray plays out like a love letter to Moore as Bond. And why not, it was his big step into the world of 007 – why not give the guy a little cred for a job well done. All in all, another winner from this six-pack of 007 goodness.
For Your Eyes Only (1981)
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Moving along, we skip ahead eight years to find Roger Moore still in the driver seat as James Bond. This time he is off to Greece to thwart a plot to use a stolen device to control a fleet of nuclear submarines. Often regarded – and rightly so – as the darkest of all the Bond movies, this one doesn’t even feel like a distant cousin to the other Moore-driven flicks in the series, but that doesn’t stop it from being a well-crafted film. The major draws of the Bond legacy aren’t there – it lacks gadgets and the presence of true Bond girls, but it is still a very interesting bit of character work on the part of Moore, who was probably a lot better than I am willing to give him credit for.
And sure, while For Your Eyes Only isn’t one of my favorites, the Blu-ray presentation is well worth the money. Three audio commentary tracks, three on-location featurettes and two additional behind the scenes featurettes – to tell you the truth, it is all a bit overwhelming. But hey, who isn’t down to be overwhelmed by the epic franchise that is James Bond?
Die Another Day (2002)
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Thank my lucky stars that they only decided to include one film from the Pierce Brosnan era in this run of six. But of course, it had to be my least favorite of that era, leading me to believe that someone out there wanted to punish me for watching these things in chronological order. Just like I would have swapped Goldfinger in for Live and Let Die, I would have gladly traded Die Another Day and one of my lesser-needed internal organs to get Goldeneye on Blu-ray. But even through the torturous acting of Rick Yune, the not-so-hot performance of Pierce Brosnan and that really ridiculous ice fortress scene, there is still Halle Berry’s recreation of Ursula Andress’ iconic walking out of the water scene from Dr. No. What can I say, I’m a sucker for a good homage that includes a bikini-clad Bond gal.
In the way of special features, this one is right there with all the rest – in fact, by the time I got to Die Another Day I was pretty much cashed out. I completely ignored the two audio commentary tracks and went briskly through the six full-length featurettes. As well, I played around a bit with the ‘MI6 Datastream Trivia Track’, a feature that would have been much cooler on some of the older titles. Again, if you are a glutton for punishment or you are just that into James Bond, this one is another winner.
Six movies and a mountain of special features later and what did I learn? Well, I learned spending a few days going through this set inch-by-inch is a true test of will. Going into my date with these six titles I thought I was a major Bond fan. In fact, I was pleased by the fact that there was only one of these titles (For Your Eyes Only) that I had not seen previously. But after sifting through these beautifully remastered films and their epic array of extras, I will say that while I am still a Bond fan, I do need a break. Never have I seen a set of DVDs, HD-DVDs or Blu-ray titles that test the human spirit quite like this set of releases. So needless to say these are must-haves for any true die hard Bond fans. And for the rest of us – lets just say that they make a great diversion – if you are looking to be diverted for an entire week.
Stay with us all week as we present 7 Days of 007 — our look at the best and worst of the Bond franchise. It all leads up to opening weekend for Bond’s 22nd adventure, Quantum of Solace, which hits theaters on Friday, November 14th.