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-
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
extras and the sound performance are the primary reasons to revisit Octopussy.
Tomorrow Never Dies
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
coverage of the other three Ultimate
Edition sets and the first Blu-ray wave, try these review links:
- Nicholas Sheffo