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Category:    Home > Reviews > Spy > Action > Thriller > Blaxploitation > Supernatural > Cold War > James Bond Ultimate Edition – Volume Three (From Russia With Love/On Her Majesty's Secret Service/Live & Let Die/For Your Eyes Only/GoldenEye)

James Bond Ultimate Edition – Volume Three (Red Silver/MGM DVD)





From Russia With Love (1963)               B/B-/B/B

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969) B-/B-/B/B

Live & Let Die (1973)                             B-/B-/B/B

For Your Eyes Only (1981)                     B/B/B+/B+

GoldenEye (1995)                                  B-/B+/B/B-



From Russia With Love


The second James Bond film remains a big favorite of the series, one of the most imitated action films ever made and a film that itself took as much from Alfred Hitchcock as it could to bring it above any other action B-movie at a time when only Hitchcock made the A-level action films.  From chases inspired by The 39 Steps and North By Northwest to the landmark Orient Express Fight between Bond and Robert Shaw’s assassin Donovan “Red” Grant edited to express the violence of the Shower Murder in Psycho, the film did not miss a trick.


Fortunately, Johanna Harwood/Richard Maibaum screenplay is one of the most direct adaptations of an Ian Fleming novel ever made and that will ever get made.  After a memorable pre-titles sequence showing how deadly Grant is, followed by another classic title sequence and one of the few instrumental music pieces to ever grace a Bond film, a plot is in place to lure Bond into a trap to discredit the British Secret Service.  Though it is going to look like it is from the “death to spies” East Bloc organization SMERSH, it is really the doings of international terrorist group SPECTRE, who wants revenge for eliminating Dr. No and his operation.  They will use a sex scandal to embarrass them, but since it is with the beautiful Tatiana Romanova (Daniela Bianchi) seducing Bond, it would not be as much of a scandal today.


She thinks she is doing it for SMERSH, but is being manipulated by SMERSH traitor Rosa Klebb (Lotte Lenya in a classic performance) who is now a top SPECTRE agent and it is she who hand-picks Grant for this operation.  In one of the best dark gags in the film (and series for that matter), Grant has to keep secretly protecting Bond so they can set him up for the scandal, so he even kills some people to get them out of the way as not to threaten the operation.  This was the second of three Bond’s directed by Terence Young and many feel his best, while the melding of Fleming and Hitchcock is a homerun.  Desmond Llewellyn debuted here as gadget-expert Q, Vladek Sheybal is unforgettable as brilliant chess player/SPECTRE plotter Kronsteen and Pedro Armendariz is also excellent as Bond’s powerful contact Ali Kerim Bey.


Then there is Connery at his most physical and witty, but the humor has much better balance with the action than later films and every action scene works.  Gadget fans will love Bond’s classic briefcase and like all good action films, the best sequences are in the conclusion.


The anamorphically enhanced 1.66 X 1 aspect ratio has been restored at 4,000-line per frame and is one of the most issued of all Bond titles.  Criterion did two editions on the old 12” LaserDisc format, one of which is a huge collector’s item because producer Albert R. “Cubby” Broccoli was unhappy with some extras, then MGM did a few 12” platters, then it was one of the first five Bonds to hit DVD before being discontinues for the older special edition.  The new transfer is mostly quite impressive, with more of the original film frame and clean up that often impresses.  The only issues I have with it are that the colors were originally in vibrant three-strip dye-transfer Technicolor and along with some shots looking darker than they should, might cost the presentation here some depth & detail and have color that is not always as vibrant.  The older edition was the best transfer of the first three on the previous DVDs, Criterion releases and they still retain slight advantages at times.  Shot by the great Ted Moore, B.S.C., this is still impressive and we have yet to see if this is a DVD problem or the restoration work, which we’ll know more about when the Blu-ray version is issued.


Previously only issued in monophonic sound (PCM for the LaserDiscs, Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono for the DVDs in all cases), the sound has been upgraded for Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 sound, though MGM has included the original mono as a Dolby Digital 2.0 mix.  John Barry did the amazing score and though this is mostly better than the previous mono discs going back to the original theatrical monophonic sound, there are a few instances where the bass sound and sound effects overwhelm the bells, strings and more subtle aspects of Barry’s score.  You can compare to the mono whenever you notice this if you have a 5.1 system.  Despite the reissues of the Bond soundtracks on CD, this film’s score was not one of totally upgraded when reissued because the master tapes’ location is unknown.  However, the music still sounds good here when it is not drowned out and the two-track stereo album master is likely derived from three-track magnetic stereo.  This was upgraded to 5.1 by MiCasa Multimedia, which they did for all the Bond’s to The Man With The Golden Gun.  They used the Bryston SP 1.7 multi-channel preamplifirer/processors for use in the James Bond remastering upgrades, as well as SADiE PCM-H64 multichannel systems, though Lowry Digital also was involved.  There is also the occasional new sound effect by Lunatek Music which is not bad here.


Extras include a great feature length audio commentary by director Terence Young, the cast and crew on DVD 1, while DVD 2 includes featurettes from the previous special edition narrated by Patrick Macnee including Harry Saltzman: Showman & Inside From Russia With Love, original theatrical trailers, TV spots, photo gallery & radio pieces from the original special edition.  New additions include Ian Fleming: The CBC Interview, an Ian Fleming/Raymond Chandler piece, Ian Fleming On Desert Island Discs, animated storyboard sequence and an interactive guide into the world of From Russia With Love.




On Her Majesty’s Secret Service


This is the only previous special edition we covered from the re-release of the old special editions.  You can read that review at:





Once written off by too many who simply could not get past George Lazenby as Bond, the film was the last all-out big-budget production until The Spy Who Loved Me and is not just a Bond classic, but an all-time British cinema and Action genre classic.  Peter Hunt had edited the first three bonds, supervised the editing on the following two (the first five Connery films) and was given the assignment to direct.  He had also edited Sidney J. Furie’s adaptation of Len Deighton’s The Ipcress File (1965) and all build up to being perfect for this spectacular.


The casting of Telly Savalas as the most physical of all Blofelds become more interesting for some when he became a sensation as Kojak, but as that show’s popularity has receded more than it should, it becomes more obvious just how good he is here.  Of course, all of us who loved Diana Rigg as Mrs. Emma Peel on The Avengers (reviewed elsewhere on this site) remains one of the great and undeniable Bond women.  Future Avengers star and comedy icon Joanna Lumley plays Blofeld’s English lady guest and would later play Purdey on The New Avengers.


Lazenby’s acting may be awkward, especially in some lines poorly delivered, but he does deliver in the physicality and action.  During production, though keeping all of his promotion commitments, a friend convinced him that Bond was going to be a conservative dinosaur and he should quit.  Remarkably in one of the all-time blunders, cinematic or otherwise, he did!


However, he knows what a mistake that was, only played a Bond-like character in a brief scene from the interesting TV movie Return Of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and the rest is history.  The first DVD of this film was a special edition and this new Ultimate Edition version expands and improves on that release, even with some reservations.


For the anamorphically enhanced 2.35 X 1 image, Ted Moore stepped aside for Michael Reed to lens the film, but the producers still used widescreen anamorphic Panavision and released the film in three-strip dye-transfer Technicolor prints.  Though that was very much the kind of print used in the previous DVD, the new 4,000p digital High Definition frame-by-frame restoration odes an often amazing job of recapturing the deep, wide and varied range of the more complex color printing system here.  Optical visuals made with layers of film (including the usual rear projection) actually improves those shots.  The only problem is that there are one too many scenes that are softer than they should be, like Bond walking down the steps at the hotel early on.  The color is great, but it should be sharper.  With all this picture information, maybe the DVD just could not always handle the definition, detail and color.  The Blu-ray may likely confirm this.


Reed had previous worked on The Saint with Roger Moore, several Hammer Studios films and later revisited the Spy genre with work on The New Avengers, reuniting him with Lumley.  Though not as remembered as Ted Moore, Reed knew how to shoot a film for the big screen and Bond films (or any other action films for that matter) do not get any bigger or better than this.  His work holds up extraordinarily well and was a perfect match with Hunt.  That is a primary reason this works so well.


For the 5.1 sound mix, surrounds like in the scene when Bond is kidnapped and brought to Draco’s place, the fight does not have the expansive surrounds it has or needs.  I have actually bounced the monophonic sound in previous editions to better effect in part because the sound in general is pulled a bit too much towards the front channels.  The Gumbold sequence where he breaks into the man’s office to Xerox documents confirming where Blofeld is good until the climax, where the sound effects and bass overwhelm the final subtle minutes of John Barry’s score there is another example of this problem.  As compared to the new PCM 2.0 Stereo CD of the same music piece, a bonus track with exceptional fidelity, you can hear what is missing.


The harsh and problematic, previous Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono also shows this in such scenes, but the new Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 mixes are definite improvements, despite that sonic limit popping up here and there.  It is enough to lower the rating a bit, but in fairness, the bonus tracks sound even better on the CD than the original tracks.  Also, the work Mi Casa Multimedia and Lowry Digital did to clean up the original optical dialogue and sound effects audio stems is as vital as the optical visual effects film footage.


The original music audio master of the film was recorded in four-track stereo and it turns out that Barry and producer-on-the-rise Phil Ramone (whose work includes Billy Joel’s masterworks The Stranger and 52nd Street) produced the Louis Armstrong classic We Have All The Time In The World (written by Hal David no less) that is Bond and Tracy’s love theme.  The film and album also include Nena’s Do You Know How Christmas Trees Are Grown?, which is a classic in its own right.


The remaster was done a few years ago for those Capitol/EMI reissues with the original master tapes at Abbey Road Studios, involving engineer Michael McDonald and the help of writer/music scholar/Film Score Monthly.com’s editor Lukas Kendall, as covered in Volume 8, Nos. 4 and 5 of their print magazine (go to www.filmscoremonthly.com for more details); its music master tapes noted above were transferred to a hard drive (Macintosh) at 24-bit/44.1kHz for the CD reissue and future uses.  We expect it was those tracks used here, but it is sometimes hard to tell.


The final thing I can say is that the sound effects that were added including enhancements pay off here more than on most of the films in this new series and fans will really want to see this on a deluxe home theater system.  This was upgraded to 5.1 by MiCasa Multimedia, which they did for all the Bond’s to The Man With The Golden Gun.  They used the Bryston SP 1.7 multi-channel preamplifirer/processors for use in the James Bond remastering upgrades, as well as SADiE PCM-H64 multichannel systems, though Lowry Digital also was involved.  The occasional new sound effect by Lunatek Music also adds to the mix.


Extras include the previous audio commentary track featuring Director Peter Hunt and Members of the Cast and Crew, previous special edition featurettes narrated by Patrick Macnee including Inside On Her Majesty's Secret Service, Inside Q's Lab, stills, theatrical trailers, TV spots, radio ads and Above It All - Original 1969 featurette.  All but the commentary are on DVD 2, which includes new goodies like Casting On Her Majesty's Secret Service, Press Day in Portugal, George Lazenby: In His Own Words featuring four chronological clips with the one-time Bond showing his growth and loss, Shot on Ice - Original 1969 Ford Motor Company Promo Film, Swiss Movement - Original 1969 on location featurette and 007 MISSION CONTROL: Interactive Guide Into the World of On Her Majesty's Secret Service.




Live & Let Die


Many people site the Blaxploitation trend as the sole reason Roger Moore would debut as Bond in Guy Hamilton’s Live & Let Die, but what many miss is that the supernatural/voodoo/Horror angle is just as prevalent not long after hits like Rosemary’s Baby, Night Of The Living Dead and The Exorcist.  The combination (only surfacing during the Blaxploitation cycle with the amusing Blacula films and the great Ganja & Hess (reviewed elsewhere on this site) threw out the racism of the book and was actually ahead of its time in theme and cleverness over the counterculture, civil rights and influenced future trends within the genres.


After a classic pre-title sequence (a rare one without Bond) where three agents are eliminated going into the brilliant title song by Paul & Linda McCartney that this critic refers to as the greatest post-Beatles Rock song of his career, ‘M’ (Bernard Lee) visits him with the bad new and explains the mission.  Bond is quickly on it globetrotting to New York, New Orleans and the Caribbean.  The great Yaphet Kotto is his nemesis Kananga, Geoffrey Holder is Baron Samedi – The Man Who Cannot Die, Jane Seymore debuted with this film as fortuneteller (and puppet of Kananga) Solitaire, Julius W. Harris is hook-armed henchman Tee Hee, David Hedison is Felix Leiter, Gloria Hendry is Rosie Carver and Clifton James is Sheriff Pepper.  A memorable cast with great chemistry in a Bond that holds up very well.


Besides Bond’s terrific magnetic watch & a few traps he has to get out of, there is the cab ride deep into Harlem and the brilliant boat chase sequence that is one of the true triumphs of the series that has never been equaled.  Moore did most of his own stunts (writing a diary book that was published and is highly recommended if you can get it) and though he has some minor transition issues here, he is very good and the series had another hit on its hands.


The pace is terrific and this was sadly the last film to be edited by Bert Bates, who co-edited with Raymond Poulton and John Shirley.  His previous work included A Shot In The Dark, The Battle Of Britain and Diamonds Are Forever, the latter of which ushered in a new editing style for the series that worked.  Sped-up action footage was one of the casualties, but he made that work.


For the anamorphically enhanced 1.85 X 1 image, the new 4,000-line per frame restoration does away with the grain from the previous DVD (and 12” LaserDisc) transfer; the film was shot by Ted Moore, B.S.C., and processed in Rank Color.  The colors are incredible, the outside shooting is amazing and this new transfer pretty good on color, but just a bit too soft too often versus how great this looked in 35mm.  Again, this could be the limits of the DVD format and a Blu-ray would really shine, but there are fewer optical effects here that needed fixed and it is superior to the old versions.


The film was originally issued in optical monophonic sound, which some people find hard to believe with a Paul McCartney theme song and terrific score by former Beatles’ producer George Martin.  A mono option is missing, in part because of the commentary tracks and also because the Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono on the older special edition has dropout issues.  The new 5.1 mix here in Dolby Digital and DTS is a good upgrade, but it has new problems.  Like On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, there are moments where the bass and sound effects too overwhelm the music score.  The Paul McCartney theme song is almost missing high end information like strings, while the Beatlesque piece just before it could be clearer.  When the boat chase climaxes in an explosion, Martin’s score is not as dynamic as it should be because the sound again in general is pulled a bit too much towards the front channels.  This was upgraded to 5.1 by MiCasa Multimedia, which they did for all the Bond’s to The Man With The Golden Gun.  They used the Bryston SP 1.7 multi-channel preamplifirer/processors for use in the James Bond remastering upgrades, as well as SADiE PCM-H64 multichannel systems, though Lowry Digital also was involved and the occasional new sound effect was added by Lunatek Music.


The original music audio master of the film was recorded in sixteen-track stereo and Martin shows his mastery of music genres again.  A remaster was done of this score a few years ago for those Capitol/EMI reissues with the original master tapes at Abbey Road Studios, involving engineer Michael McDonald and the help of writer/music scholar/Film Score Monthly.com’s editor Lukas Kendall, as covered in Volume 8, Nos. 4 and 5 of their print magazine (go to www.filmscoremonthly.com for more details); its music master tapes noted above were transferred to a hard drive (Macintosh) at 24-bit/44.1kHz for the CD reissue and future uses.  We expect it was those tracks used here, but it is sometimes hard to tell.  Compared to the DTS here, the PCM 2.0 Stereo sound on the great CD offers detail and fidelity missing here.  The DTS is still better than the Dolby and the sound effects & dialogue have been cleaned up nicely.


Extras include a terrific newly recorded feature length audio commentary with now Sir Roger Moore and retains the previously released audio commentary with director Guy Hamilton, writer Tom Mankiewicz, cast and crew.  New extras on DVD 2 include Bond 1973: The Lost Documentary, a hilarious old TV piece of Roger Moore as James Bond, Circa 1964, a beautiful piece on Live & Let Die Conceptual Art and 007 MISSION CONTROL: Interactive Guide Into the World of Live & Let Die.  Extras from the previous special edition include Inside Live & Let Die narrated by Patrick Macnee, On Set with Roger Moore, stills, theatrical & TV trailers and radio ads.




For Your Eyes Only


My favorite Roger Moore Bond film and one of the greatest Bonds we will ever see, For Your Eyes Only saw the debut of John Glen as director after years of working behind the scenes.  After Moonraker went bonkers and became Moore’s biggest Bond, producer “Cubby” Broccoli and writers Richard Maibaum & Michael G. Wilson came up with an outline and eventually a screenplay that mixed the humor of the Moore era, classiness of The Avengers, Thin Man & Hart To Hart and darkness of Fleming’s novels in a brilliant concoction that led to Broccoli receiving the Irving Thalberg Award for life achievement.


In it, after Bond disposes of an old enemy, an unfortunate relic of WWII sinks a spy boat that has an A.T.A.C. nuclear missile launcher.  Especially being that this is still The Cold War, the U.S.S.R. is very interested in obtaining it and the race is on to retrieve it and that includes hiring others to get the job done.  When a married couple (The Havelocks) are assassinated by a hitman, Bond investigates, but little does he expect that their daughter Melina (Carole Bouquet, one of the greatest Bond women ever) is also hunting down the hitman with a crossbow!


Bond’s investigation lead shim to Ari Kristatos (Julian Glover), his skating protégée Bibi Dahl (Lynn-Holly Johnson), her trainer and possible double agent Jacoba Brink (Jill Bennett), Kristatos’ rival Milos Columbo (Topol), the mysterious Emile Leopold Locque, sharpshooter/skier athlete Erich Kriegler (John Wyman) and another quiet assassin named Claus (Charles Dance).  Great cast, script, directing and action.  The film moves swiftly and smartly from scene to scene, ever impressive with one great moment after another, including a hilarious car chase, classic underwater and classic skiing/chase sequence that hold up incredibly well.  However, the story is solid and is the touch of Albert R. “Cubby” Broccoli here is at its peak, alone without Harry Saltzman, pulling off what amounts to the greatest extravagant gesture in action cinema history with its adult maturity and range.


All future Bonds that would get this serious would have less humor and emotional depth (up to the impressive 2006 Casino Royale relaunch of the series) while For Your Eyes Only has become a favorite for fans all the way to those who do not like the series usually or are not even fans of Roger Moore!  No imitators ever came close.


The anamorphically enhanced 2.35 X 1 image is the best scope transfer in this set, was shot by cinematographer Alun Hume, B.S.C. in real anamorphic Panavision and the new transfer work does a fine job of upgrading the classic-style cinematography that was mixed with some contemporary work and remarkable use of color for this genre and for an early 1980s film.  I have seen this one several times in 35mm and can tell you this is impressive.  This was also shot for a big screen, something even the Bonds would do a bit less of as the 1980s went on.  Cheers too to editor John Grover, who helped to establish a new look for Bond when Cubby took over on The Spy Who Loved Me as an assistant and assembly editor on Moonraker.  He took over on this film and really delivers a new look and feel for the series.  This transfer also surpasses the previous DVD for color and detail with ease.


This film was originally issued only in Dolby analog A-type theatrical sound and a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix was planned for a cancelled 12” LaserDisc, but that mix (or a rough equivalent) showed up on the previous special edition DVD.  Unfortunately, it was too harsh at times, though it had the right idea about which scenes should have sound with punch.  The score by Bill Conti is classic, with its influence from Henry Mancini’s classic score for Stanley Donen’s great comic thriller Charade (1963) and clever use of the Bond theme.  This also includes the Oscar-nominated title song sung by Sheena Easton and the new DTS and Dolby Digital 5.1 mixes are some of the best we have heard in this series for the older films.  Rykodisc had reissued the soundtrack (originally issued by Liberty Records in 1981) on an audiophile CD and those tracks are used here as they were in the older mix.


Extras include a terrific newly recorded feature length audio commentary with now Sir Roger Moore, retains the previously released audio commentary with John Glen & the cast and a third with Michael G Wilson & the crew.  DVD 2 offers more new extras including 007 MISSION CONTROL: Interactive Guide Into the World of For Your Eyes Only, Deleted Scenes & Expanded Angles, Bond in Greece, Bond in Cortina and Neptune's Journey featurettes.  Neptune was the underwater submarine used in by Bond and Melina as they go after the A.T.A.C. unit.  Extras carried over from the previous special edition include Inside For Your Eyes Only narrated by Patrick Macnee, clever Animated Storyboard Sequences, the Sheena Easton “For Your Eyes Only” Music Video, stills, theatrical & TV trailers and radio ads.






After a hiatus that is too complicated to go into, the Bond producers decided to try to revive the series one more time with GoldenEye.  The biggest obstacle was the end of The Cold War, something James Cameron more than dodged with True Lies in 1994, becoming a huge hit.  Cubby Broccoli and MGM settled their differences, hired Pierce Brosnan, who missed the role in 1987 and get a screenplay by Michael France that cleverly puts bond in the middle of the post-Cold War era and makes it work.


The film has dated due to its low budget and rough Brosnan performance, but it has a strong cast with Judi Dench taking over a ‘M’, Sean Bean as a fellow 00, Izabella Scorupco as Natalya, Robbie Coltrane as an old East Bloc gangster, Joe Don Baker as Bond’s CIA buddy Jack Wade (who he did not play when he showed up in The Living Daylights), Alan Cummings as computer brain Boris and Famke Janssen in her career-making performance as Xenia Onatopp.  It was amazing that the heart and soul of Bond was yet again revived by Cubby, but they did it ands the series made a comeback.


Martin Campbell took over as the first new director since 1981 and pulled it off in his best work until he was tapped to revive the series again with Casino Royale.  The film is fun in ways that make up for its shortcomings and it is a key Bond because it saved the franchise.  Many consider it Brosnan’s best Bond and give or take Tomorrow Never Dies, that is understandable.  There are some great action sequences from the “here comes the gloriously crazy and annoying” school of Bond that the later films began to loose.  If you rewatch it, you will be surprised.


The anamorphically enhanced 2.35 X 1 image was shot in real anamorphic Panavision by cinematographer Phil Meheux, B.S.C., and is was a pleasant change from the many action films that were going to lesser Super 35mm shooting at the time.  Though a bit of an improvement from the previous DVD versions, the picture is weaker than it should be for a more recent Bond, with color and details an issue.  However, it has its good moments and will hopefully look better in Blu-ray.


For the 5.1 sound mixes, the film was a digital theatrical release in DTS and Dolby Digital 5.1, with a reputation for a bass-heavy mix that sold the film that was a fan favorite and home theater favorite.  This was especially true with the DTS-only 12” LaserDisc that was very state of the art at the time and holds up well with great character in the mix.  The Tina Turner title song is not bad, though the Eric Serra score is mixed.  Overall, this is a fine sound demo and it makes up for the picture issues.


Extras include the original audio commentary with Martin Campbell and Michael G. Wilson from the previous DVDs, while DVD 2 offers new goodies including deleted scenes with introductions by Campbell, 007 MISSION CONTROL Interactive Guide Into the World of GoldenEye, Directing Bond: The Martin Chronicles, Building A Better Bond: Pre-Production Featurette, The Return of Bond - The Start of Production Press Event, Driven to Bond: Remy Julienne, Anatomy of a Stunt: Tank Versus Perrier, Making it in Small Pictures: Derek Meddings, On Location with Peter Lamont, GoldenEye: The Secret Files and Pre-Title Storyboard Sequence with Campbell.  Extras carried over from the previous DVD include The World of 007 - Original 1995 Television Special Hosted by Elizabeth Hurley, The GoldenEye Video Journal Promotional Featurette, Tina Turner 'GoldenEye' Music Video, theatrical trailers, TV spots, stills & radio ads.



With three of six Bond actor debuts and three of the favorite thrillers closer to the Fleming books, this might just be the strongest box of the four five-film, 10-DVD Ultimate Edition sets as far as content is concerned.  So good are these that despite some reservations, you can see why good word of mouth for the most part is making these sets fly off of the shelves, cyber and otherwise.



For coverage of the other three Ultimate Edition sets and the first Blu-ray wave, try these review links:















-   Nicholas Sheffo


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