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Category:    Home > Reviews > Spy > Action > Thriller > Cold War > Science Fiction > James Bond Ultimate Edition – Volume Four (Dr. No/You Only Live Twice/Moonraker/Octopussy/Tomorrow Never Dies)

James Bond Ultimate Collection – Volume Four (White Silver/MGM DVD)





Dr. No (1962)                          B/B/B/B

You Only Live Twice (1967)    B/B/B+/B+

Moonraker (1979)                   B/B/B/B

Octopussy (1983)                   B-/B/B/B-

Tomorrow Never Dies (1997) B-/B+/B/B-



Dr. No


The first James Bond film is a high-class, post-Noir B-movie that has unintended hoots throughout, but is also filled with good performances.  Sean Connery makes one of the greatest debuts in the history of cinema as agent 007, even though the film was issued as part of a double feature.  Though it caught on later, there was no guarantee it ever would, but holds up on its own thanks to the script by Richard Maibaum, Johanna Hardwood & Berkley Mather, as well as Terence Young’s directing.


Dr. No and SPECTRE want to start WWIII by sabotaging a U.S. space missile launch and will do it from their advanced base in Crab Key.  Of course, that does not sound impressive, but it works very well for this film and was impressive enough for its time to catch on.  It also follows the Fleming book more closely than many later productions would and is always fun to see again.


I saw this in 35mm a good few years ago and the audience loved it, celebrating what did work and laughing at what didn’t for its charm and boldness.  Fight scenes hold up nicely, as does the production design by a young Ken Adam, who went on to design some of the greatest sets of all time for the series and for Stanley Kubrick, who could not believe producers Harry Saltzman and Albert R. “Cubby” Broccoli got the film made for only $1 Million and had such great looking sets.


For that reason and the experience the two producers brought to the film, a new series was launched at a time when TV had killed both Saturday Morning Serials and B-movie series.  All would take it to the next level and the most successful version of what we now know all too well as a franchise was launched.


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 was shot by the great Ted Moore, B.S.C. in the first of many Bond’s he would set the classic look of.


The image is clean, clear and detailed, with the color looking very much like a good three-strip dye-transfer Technicolor print for the most part.  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.  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.  The Monty Norman music was also monophonic, but MiCasa Multimedia and the Lowry Digital team have created one of their best multi-channel upgrades for a theatrical mono Bond release and combined with the fine transfer, is more like what fans are expecting.  There is also the occasional new sound effect by Lunatek Music which is not bad here.


Extras include the never-long-enough License to Restore featurette detailing the technology and work that went into restoring the Bonds for these new DVD (and eventually Blu-ray) editions, 007 MISSION CONTROL Interactive Guide Into the World of Dr. No, The Guns of James Bond and Premiere Bond showing a history of world premieres in the series.  Extras carried over form the previous special edition include a feature length audio commentary by Terence Young, the cast and crew of the film, Inside Dr. No narrated by Patrick Macnee, Terence Young: Bond Vivant, Dr. No 1963 Featurette, original trailers, TV spots, stills and radio ads.




You Only Live Twice


With Thunderball a worldwide monster hit beyond belief, the producers went all out for You Only Live Twice, including the first appearance of Blofeld (Donald Pleasence in one of his classic performances) face to face with Bond and on camera for the first time, a screenplay by no less than Roald Dahl, cinematography by no less that Lawrence Of Arabia’s Freddie Young and a massive production like no one had ever seen before.  By this time, so many spy spoofs and rival productions had arrived, but the series was still way ahead of everyone as the film was another huge hit.


Bond participates in an elaborate hoax when a U.S. space capsule disappears and taken away by a mysterious ship of unknown origin.  The U.S. accuses the U.S.S.R., while the U.K. suspects differently and when a Russian capsule befalls the same fate, Bond teams up with Japanese intelligence to find out the truth as they rush to stop WWIII and a plot that turns out to have SPECTRE behind it.  When ‘M’ (Bernard Lee) tells Bond that his is the big one, he was most correct.


This is a grand production of the finest nature, as much Science Fiction at the time as action, adventure or a spy piece.  Dahl’s script may have deviated from Fleming’s often chilling book, but it has some darkness of its own and its satire of mass media is so ahead of its time, it is not even funny even when the jokes are.  Other dialogue is witty and Harold Jack Bloom wrote some additional pieces that fit well into the film.


Japan looks great as we see an early look at the new Japan.  Toho Films co-produced this epic as they were making a classic series of samurai films and the Godzilla films were becoming a hugely successful series.  This is some of their best work, including the helicopter sequence that involves Bond’s armed helicopter-like autogyro, Little Nellie.  Dahl must have liked The Shadow if he was responsible for this, but even Lamont Cranston (The Shadow’s secret identity) never built an autogyro like this.


Connery is in top form and director Lewis Gilbert (the first of his three Bonds) makes an expansive big screen epic that has all kinds of memorable moments and is one of the most imitated films the series ever produced.  Too bad it took Austin Powers to make that so apparent for the current generation lucky enough to see this film.  The introduction of modern ninjas was a few years ahead of the Martial Arts cycle and Bruce Lee (then Kato on The Green Hornet TV series) and Ken Adam’s SPECTRE Volcano set is one of the all-time great pieces of production design in film history.


The design of the spacecraft is of the “tin can” variety with was still the thing at the time, with some special visual effects involving fairly good models and optical composite work.  Good thing this was a year before Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, because these effects would have never held up to that.  The restoration cleans the opticals, making them look much better and the lack of any digital tweaking or lack of new digital animation or graphics is even better.


Additional cast includes Akiko Wakabayashi as Aki, Mie Hama as an unnamed Kissy Suzuki, Karin Dor as assassin Helga Brant, Teru Shimada particularly memorable as Mr. Osato, Tetsuro Tamba as Japanese secret service spymaster Tiger Tanaka, Charles Gray (who would be Blofeld in a few films) as the Bond/Tiger contact Mr. Henderson, Burt Kwouk as SPECTRE #3 and Ronald Rich as Blofeld’s bodyguard/henchman Hans.  Other roles of interest include future second-unit director/stunt director Vic Armstrong playing a ninja, Edward Mulhare as a British diplomat, Shame Rimmer as the radio operator in Hawaii at the beginning of the film and William Sylvester (who would soon star in 2001) as a Pentagon official.


The anamorphically enhanced 2.35 X 1 image was shot by Freddie Young, B.S.C., and issued in three-strip dye-transfer Technicolor and the previous DVD and other letterboxed editions used a yellowish analog master that just did not cut it.  It made the film unwatchable, so this upgrade was going to be an improvement anyhow.  However, this has been restored at 4,000-line per frame in digital High Definition and is one of the best, most accurate upgrades we have seen to date.  Video Black is solid, color is wide-ranging and beautiful and even Maurice Binder’s titles have benefited.


For the 5.1 sound mixes, As compared to the previous Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono mix, the new Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 mixes might have come from three-track masters at Abbey Road Studios.  This was the first audio restoration of a Bond film back in 2003 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.


A remaster was done of John Barry’s 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.


After playing the film back, the only flaws include poorly remixing the Nancy Sinatra title song written by Leslie Bricusse and the occasional new sound effect by Lunatek Music and company that does not work, like adding metal clanging to the SPECTRE ship at the beginning of the film in the pre-title when the U.S. spacecraft is stolen.  Guys, there is no sound in space!


Extras include the great Welcome to Japan, Mr. Bond TV special including key clips from the films and new materials shot in character by Lois Maxwell as Miss Moneypenny and Desmond Llewellyn as ‘Q”, 007 MISSION CONTROL Interactive Guide Into the World of You Only Live Twice, Whicker's World - Highlights From 1967 BBC Documentary and On Location with Ken Adam featurette.  Previous extras include radio ads, original theatrical trailers, stills, a TV Spot, Inside You Only Live Twice hosted by Patrick Macnee, Silhouettes: The James Bond Titles celebrating the work of Maurice Binder, Plane Crash: Animated Storyboard Sequence and the great feature length audio commentary with cast, crew and Lewis Gilbert that includes the funniest story about being on the Volcano set with the cat you may ever hear.


Connery had had enough and left the series, though he would be back in a few films, including a few films later.  You Only Live Twice is a spectacular classic that holds up very well for so many reasons, the best in this set and one of the best the series will ever produce.






Before Hollywood went bonkers trying to do the next blockbuster that usually bombed and no one remembered after a few months, it was the Bond series that was always trying to top itself or trying something new and different all the time in a way that most of those blockbusters (especially since the 1990s) have nowhere near the ambition to do.  After a tease about it in You Only Live Twice and thanks to the original Star Wars, Cubby Broccoli put For Your Eyes Only on hold and decided to do his answer to the Lucas hit.  It was a commercially smart move that paid off big time contributing to the biggest year in United Artists history.


Roger Moore returned as Bond for the fourth time, now firmly established as Bond returns and he is still dealing with Richard Kiel’s Jaws from the previous film, The Spy Who Loved Me.  However, the new villain is Sir Hugo Drax, played with stuffy finesse by the great French Actor Michel Lonsdale (The Bride Wore Black, Ronin, Munich) and he becomes the perfect stuff opposite to the Roger Moore Bond, making their exchanges of a stuffy inflated nature Bond always deflates to the irritation of Drax.


Christopher Wood wrote the script (and the paperback novel adaptation himself, dumping almost all of the original Fleming book to the disappointment of fans of the original.  Some elements of that book already surfaced in the series and there are still some items there unused, but this was all new.  However, the fun romp intended, sometimes too similar to The Pink Panther franchise for its own good.  However, it is also the peak of the counterculture attitude that fueled the Bonds of the 1970s and except for The Man With The Golden Gun (which still became a hugely popular cult hit later) made all of them big hits in their time.


The action pieces are as elaborates as the sets and situations, Moore’s as witty as ever and Lois Chiles is pretty good as Holly Goodhead, Emily Bolton is also good as Emily, Corrine Cleary is memorable as helicopter pilot  and the film marks Bernard Lee’s last appearance as ‘M’.  The worldwide shooting in France and Rio alone are elaborate and in keeping with the idea of technology of the future, the now permanently grounded Concorde supersonic plane gets its close-up in a great arrival scene. 


The space sequences owed as much to the hard science of Kubrick’s 2001 as Star Wars, looking better than ever now that we have been subjected to endless tired all-digital versions of outer space since the mid-1990s that are more like bad videogames or trips to a shopping mall.  Ironically, it is one of the last modernist ideas of space and the future before Ridley Scott’s Alien (the same year) and Blade Runner (1982) brought on the post-modern look.  This version of the future, even if it takes place in 1979, is more like the 1976 feature Logan’s Run.


However, this is ultimately a broad action romp, the broadest and grandest the series will likely ever produce.  I just love how they essentially take Star Wars, The Pink Panther, references to major cinema classics few would catch, a few film hits (like The Spy Who Loved Me did) and run it through the Bond formula.  Moonraker may not be the greatest Bond ever made, but it is one of the better outright productions and comparisons to the last two Pierce Brosnan Bonds and overdigitized Star Wars reissues speak volumes about how well this was actually done to begin with.


The anamorphically enhanced 2.35 X 1 image looks great with solid colors and detail not seen since the 1979 film release.  The cinematography by Jean Tournier (John Frankenheimer’s The Train, Costa-Gavras’ The Sleeping Car Murder & Shock Troops, Start The Revolution Without Me, Fred Zinnemann’s original The Day Of The Jackal, The Fiendish Plot Of Fu Manchu) was a very experienced cameraman and though this is not the stylized shoot of Bonds past, it is a solid, amazing new transfer that reminds us that this was meant to be seen on the largest screen possible to the point it was the first film within the series to get a 70mm blow up after all those years of hits.  Except for The Madness Of King George, this is the last huge feature film production the brilliant Production Designer Ken Adam has worked on to date.


For the new 5.1 sound mixes, the film was originally issued as a Dolby A-type analog theatrical release in 35mm and non-Dolby encoded 4.1 70mm magnetic stereo for blow-up presentations, but the older Dolby Digital 5.1 mix for the first DVD was compressed throughout (like the Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo track with Pro Logic surround included here) and the sound did not kick in when it should have.  Here, Lowry and MGM have come up with one of the better remixes.  Some of the audio is compressed because that is the way it was recorded and nothing can be done about it, but sound effects for the pre-title, centrifuge, fight sequences, chase sequences and outer space sequences are impressive.  Even the John Barry fine music score sounds good and more balanced with the dialogue and sound effects than most of the new Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1 mixes in these upgraded versions, the Barry score is better than people give it credit for.  As for the CD reissue, the master tapes seem to be lost for now, so that new CD is from a second-generation album master at best and it is unknown if the music here came from that CD or other sources, but they did a good job.  Of course, the title theme song sung by Shirley Bassey and written by Hal David is one of the most underrated in the series.


Extras include the complete version of the 007 in Rio featurette, which was sampled on the basic THX DVD of the film, but is here in its entirety on DVD 2, so it is not entirely new to DVD.  However, the excellent feature length audio commentary by Sir Roger Moore is and it is once again worth every minute of your time.  The fine previous feature length audio commentary by Director Lewis Gilbert, the Cast & Crew is retained.  Other features from the previous special edition include the Original Trailer, stills, Inside Moonraker featurette narrated by Patrick Macnee and special visual effects documentary covering the whole series entitles The Men Behind The Mayhem.  Additional new and unearthed extras include the Original 1979 Production featurette, Ken Adam's Production Films, Bond '79, Learning to Freefall - Skydiving Test Footage, Skydiving Storyboards, Circus Footage, Cable Car Alternative Storyboards and an Interactive Guide Into The World of Moonraker.


This was a huge production, more than many realize and despite being not being the best-scripted film in the series, is fun when taken for what it is.






With one of the most hilarious titles in the series like nothing until Mike Myers start sending up Bond, Octopussy brought Roger Moore back in the story of Bond fighting a crazy plot to set of a bomb to confuse the U.S.S.R. to launch nuclear warheads so WWIII will break out and The Cold War could finally be settled has obviously dated a bit, but the overly comic nature of the film after For Your Eyes Only (reviewed elsewhere on this site) was so great is a mistaken shift in the series that would throw it off course for years to come commercially and critically.


Maud Adams returns after playing a different character in The Man With The Golden Gun to play the title character, the head of an all-female group (in the Pussy Galore’s Flying Circus mode) who are into smuggling and other items.  However, she is involved with Kamal Khan (Louis Jordan) who is unknowingly involved with the mad Soviet General Orloff (Steven Berkoff) up to killing millions of innocent people for money and power.  Except for some serious scenes, this film is more comedy than serious action, especially at the point where Bond is dressed as a clown.  Post 9/11, this is all the more apparent.


Kristina Wayborn as Octopussy’s assistant Magda is also very good, including her in her amusing exchanges with Moore.  I wish the script had more of this and even made Jordan’s Khan stronger and wittier.  He is not the best Bond villain, but nothing in the casting or characters is exceptional, unfortunately and that is why the film has only aged so well.  Vijay Amritraj is Bond’s contact in India, Kabir Bedi is the henchman Gobinda, Michaela Clavell is Penelope Smallbone, Walter Gotell is back as General Anatol Gogol and Jeremy Bulloch is back as Q’s assistant Smithers.


For the anamorphically enhanced 2.35 X 1 image, a new digital HD transfer was made, but this is lacking more detail in most scenes than expected.  The Maurice Binder titles are good, but the transfer even limits them a bit.  Cinematographer Alan Hume, B.S.C., was back and still made a good looking film, but the look is plainer than the previous Broccoli productions.  This will make for an interesting comparison to the Blu-ray version.


For the 5.1 sound mixes, this was the only Bond film within the series to be issued in 70mm Dolby magnetic stereo 4.1 theatrical sound.  Moonraker was a non-Dolby 70mm, Tomorrow Never Dies came with DTS only and the 1967 Casino Royale (older magnetic 70mm) & Never Say Never Again (4.1 Dolby magnetic) were outside of the series.  Rykodisc issued the soundtrack in an expanded edition a few years ago, but it is hard to tell what the music source was.


A Dolby Digital 5.1 mix was planned for an aborted basic 12” LaserDisc edition and fans were very unhappy when the previous DVD version only featured Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo with Pro Logic surrounds included again here.  However, this new Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1 upgrade mix is much better, showing how good the sound design was on the 70mm prints that can now finally be enjoyed at home.  John Barry’s score is interesting in its laidback character and the theme song All Time High by Rita Coolidge is better than many of the theme songs that would follows, if not the best itself.


Extras for this edition include another brand new feature length audio commentary track with Sir Roger Moore and previous feature length audio commentary track with Director John Glen.  New extras include 007 MISSION CONTROL Interactive Guide Into The World of Octopussy, Shooting Stunts: Crashing Jeeps & The Airplane Crash, Ken Burns On-Set Movies which are amateur films from a fan who is not the PBS Documentarian, On Location with Peter Lamont, Testing the Limits - The Aerial Team, James Brolin Original Screentests (three plus new interviews) and James Bond in India - Original 1983 Featurette on DVD 2.  Other extras from the previous special edition DVD include Inside Octopussy narrated by Patrick Macnee, Designing Bond - Peter Lamont, the original promotional Music Video for Rita Coolidge’s All Time High, storyboard sequences, stills and original trailers.


These extras and the sound performance are the primary reasons to revisit Octopussy.




Tomorrow Never Dies


After the success of GoldenEye, the Bond producers got back to business with Tomorrow Never Dies, a big hit Bond that would have been even bigger if it had not opened against James Cameron’s Titanic.  That most-expensive film ever made was not expected to be the biggest hit of all time, but to everyone’s amazement, it was.  This time, Bond has to battle the sinister media mogul Elliott Carver (Johnathan Pryce darkly amusing) when the films still had the guts to go after anyone with money and power.  Bond used to be involved with his wife (Terry Hatcher) and will use that to investigate Carver when disturbing events occur that could cause war between the U.K. and China.


The Chinese send one of their best agents, a beautiful spy named Wai Lyn (Michele Yeoh) to also investigate and she and Bond eventually have to team up to find out what is really going on.  Involving deception, nuclear arms, the launch of a worldwide news network, media manipulation, an attempt to cause WWIII and gain more money and power.  Though not the all-out epic some past Bonds were, it has some of Cubby Broccoli’s touch, but would be the last one as he passed away during production.


However, the technology dates the film as much as the budget and though many fans still think GoldenEye is Brosnan’s best, I would argue that Brosnan gives his best performance here more assured and now it shows hint of what he could have done if he had not settled for two overblown follow-ups and made a darker Bond thriller somewhat in the mode of John Boorman’s The Tailor Of Panama that he would star in.  He has his moments, including in a great scene with expert hitman Dr. Kaufman, played memorably by the late, great character actor Vincent Schiavelli.  Ricky Jay is amusing as devil-may-care arms dealer and tech expert Henry Gupta while Joe Don Baker returns as Bond’s CIA contact Jack Wade.  The series was on its way to a new glory, but something went wrong and it would not recover for about a decade, despite the money it was making.


The anamorphically enhanced 2.35 X 1 image was shot by the amazing cinematographer Robert Elswit, who had lensed Paul Thomas Anderson’s Boogie Nights and after this, went on to shoot Joel Schumacher’s 8mm, Anderson’s Magnolia, Stephen Gaghan’s Syriana and the amusing American Dreamz.  Shot in real anamorphic Panavision and blown up to 70mm for some impressive major screenings, it was made to be seen on a big screen and this transfer is a little lacking with that considered.  It is a little detail and color soft throughout, but is watchable otherwise.


Originally issued in digital theatrical release in Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1 mixes, it is one of the best mixes in the history of the series and it would not be matched until Casino Royale in 2006.  Though it does not have the LFE bass foundation of GoldenEye, it is an impressive mix with character and depth meant for the best possible playback.  When it was issued as a 12” DTS-only LaserDisc, it was one of the best releases in that short-lived series and has been a constant sound demo since.  The Danny Arnold score is very good, as is the title song by Sheryl Crow and Moby’s classic version of the Bond theme has become a classic.  Even with the picture quality an issue, something that it should not be when this comes out in the Blu-ray format, the sound is amazing with the DTS mix much preferred.


Extras include the previous audio commentary with Vic Armstrong & Michael G. Wilson, second commentary by Roger Spottiswoode & Dan Petrie Jr., original theatrical trailers, stills, The Secrets of 007 featurette, storyboards, gadgets and Music Video for Sheryl Crow’s Tomorrow Never Dies' title song.  New extras include deleted and extended scenes introduced by Director Roger Spottiswoode that often probably should have stayed in the film, expanded angles also introduced by Spottiswoode,  Highly Classified: The World of 007 and the Music Video for "The James Bond Theme" (Moby's Remix) staring Moby himself.



This may be the best sounding set in this series of reissue box sets, but showing their beginning of Bond and what are among the largest productions of three of the principal Bond actors is an interesting grouping.



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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