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Category:    Home > Reviews > Spy > Action > Thriller > Cold War > Terrorism > James Bond Ultimate Edition – Volume One (Goldfinger/Diamonds Are Forever/Man With The Golden Gun/Living Daylights/World Is Not Enough)

James Bond Ultimate Collection – Volume One (Bronze Box/MGM DVD)

 

Picture/Sound/Extras/Films:

 

 

Diamonds Are Forever (1971) B+/B-/B/B+

Goldfinger (1964) B/B-/B+/B+

The Man With The Golden Gun (1974) B/B-/B/B-

The Living Daylights (1987) B-/B-/B/C+

The World Is Not Enough (1999) B-/B-/B-/D

 

 

Diamonds Are Forever

 

Originally set to shoot with John Gavin playing James Bond, United Artists decided they did not want an unknown and eventually went after Sean Connery to bring him back.  Of course, he returned for this last film he would do within the series and it relaunched the series into a new direction of more comedy, as well as a more knowing wit that finally acknowledged the counterculture in a very witty way.  Part of it realized that Bond was one of the sources of it and this film capitalizes on that.

 

To recover from the box office disappointment of the now-classic Bond On Her Majesty’s Secret Service two years before, persons linked to Goldfinger were brought back, including director Guy Hamilton (his second Bond here, he would direct three more in a row), singer Shirley Bassey and Connery.  With a groundbreaking screenplay by Richard Maibaum and Tom Mankiewicz, the film was loaded with exceptionally witty humor, al kinds of interesting sexual situations, the first major gay characters (albeit psycho killers) in Mr. Wint & Mr. Kidd (from the novel), some of Connery’s best one-liners and a plot that starts out as a smuggling thriller before becoming entertainingly fantastic.  It is also not the most politically correct film, loaded with other surprises.

 

A huge hit in its time, the shifting of gears saved the series and the cast that joined Connery was top-rate.  A pre-Rocky Horror Picture Show Charles Gray (who had already had a smaller part in You Only Live Twice) became the third face-visible Blofeld, Jill St. John’s Tiffany Case still ranks as one of the sexiest lead Bond Girls ever with outfits by Donfeld that are some of the sexiest in cinema history, Lana Wood as Plenty O’Toole is another winner, Jimmy Dean as the Howard Hughes-like Willard Whyte is a hoot, Putter Smith & Bruce Glover play the killers, Bruce Cabot is Blofeld’s no-good right-hand man, Norman Burton is one of the least pretentious actors to play Felix Leiter, Joseph Furst is the amusingly (and easily) frustrated Dr. Metz, Leonard Barr is the amusing Shady Tree and Mark Laurence as a gangster who surfaces again in The Man With The Golden Gun.  Sid Haig and Valerie Perrine also show up in cameos, so the cast is exceptional.

 

Also, the money is on the screen and the film holds up exceptionally well for its age and time.  It is one of my favorites because it goes all out like no other bond before or since.  The adult humor would never be as adult or clever, though the series would still reach these high levels to a lesser extent.  Connery fell right back into the role and so much went right and worked here.  Taken as intended as a reaction to the counterculture, the film is a heavyweight Bond classic.

 

For the anamorphically enhanced 2.35 X 1 image, Cinematographer Ted Moore, B.S.C., shot the film in the classic Bond style and it would be the last Bond ever released in three-strip dye-transfer Technicolor.  It would also be the last time he shot a scope-framed Bond in the series.  The original DVD used a very dye-transfer-like IB (imbibition) print until the last reel and it was one of the best looking in that older group of DVD editions.  At first I had to do a double take, but the improvements here are nothing short of stunning.  This film looks just incredible and though it is not always as dye-transfer looking, the detail and range of color actually tops the older print and is demo quality for any home theater system.  It is the best looking disc in this set and even better than anything in the third and fourth sets!

 

For the 5.1 sound mixes, the film was a monophonic film, but has a great music score by John Barry recorded originally in 1” eight-track masters.  They were recently used for an expanded and remastered CD and more recently, 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.  Lukas Kendall from Film Score Monthly Magazine (www.filmscoremonthly.com) was involved when the EMI CD upgrades were being made and a fine CD release resulted.  It is unknown whether Lowry and company used this master for their mixes here, but this is a decent mix despite some limits.

 

Previously only issued in monophonic sound (PCM for the LaserDiscs, Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono for the DVDs) in all home video 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 another 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.  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, though replacing the cat’s meow before the Shirley Bassey theme is a disaster.

 

Instead of sounding ominous and foreboding in its suggestion of life and death, the 5.1 version has a cat meow that sounds like one is being strangled by a crack-addict!  You can hear the difference when comparing it to the original mono track.  This version of the Bassey theme song is not bad (the song is an all-time classic in the series), though the recording in the original 1971 release differ from the hit record version a bit, but we’ll investigate that another time.  Otherwise, they should have just left the cat alone!

 

Extras carried over from the first Special Edition include a full length audio commentary with Director Guy Hamilton and members of the Cast and Crew, Inside Diamonds Are Forever Documentary narrated by Patrick Macnee, “Cubby” Broccoli - The Man Behind Bond Documentary, terrific deleted scenes, television and radio spots.  The new edition adds Sean Connery 1971: The BBC Interview, Lesson # 007: Close Quarter Combat, deleted footage from the climactic Oil Rig Attack, Satellite & Explosions Test Reel, alternate & expanded Angles and Interactive Guide Into The World Of Diamonds Are Forever.

 

 

 

Goldfinger

 

After doing a great B action film (Dr. No) and doing everything Hitchcock possible in a smart thriller they could at the time (From Russia With Love), the Bond producers came up with a formula they thought would work and the result was the landmark smash hit Goldfinger in 1964.  To start with, they decided to up the ante in pace and action after the Orient Express sequence in From Russia With Love with a swifter-paced pre-credit sequence like nothing that had ever been seen before.  Of course, the title villain wants to rule the world by monopolizing the precious metal contained in his name.

 

Arriving in Miami, Bond crosses Auric Goldfinger when he discovers that he has an assistant using a telescope and earpiece disguised as a hearing aid to help him win at cards.  She suffers one of the most famous murders in cinema history and then Bond becomes more engrossed in what turns out to be illegal dealings Bond will be sent in to contend with. 

 

For the anamorphically enhanced 1.66 X 1 image, this is the first new work on the film since the highly overrated 30th Anniversary print was struck.  Prior to that, the best transfer was a color rich (almost looking like an original three-strip dye-transfer Technicolor print like the ones the film came out in to begin with) was the version on the 12” Criterion Collection LaserDisc, which had two versions.  You could see the money on the screen in that case vs. the 30th Anniversary print that had pale gold by comparison and other issues.  This included weak green in shots with grass, definition issues, unfixed damage to the negative and other issues that made it a big disappointment.  Now, so much has been fixed that almost everything is improved, but there is one aspect I am still stuck on and that is the gold.

 

Watch the scene where Bond and Goldfinger are playing golf.  Yes, the grass is finally green like it should be.  However, the “gold standard” is when bond throws the bar of Nazi gold on the ground.  Look at both the color and texture of the bar, as well as how realistic the bar looks form the depth and shadow of the Nazi stamp in the corner of the bar.  Does it look like you would mistake it for a heavy bar you could actually pick up?  Video Red is a slight issue here and I think the transfer just misses the mark, but I bet the Blu-ray will not.  We’ll see.  Otherwise, this transfer does justice to the classic camerawork of Ted Moore, A.S.C., even when looking like Michael Powell’s 1960 classic thriller Peeping Tom.  That was shot by the great Otto Heller, whose work on the 1965 Spy classic The Ipcress File influenced films as vital as Bernardo Bertolucci’s The Conformist.

 

For the 5.1 sound mixes, this was originally a monophonic film, but John Barry recorded the score in stereo.  The masters of the music are either misplaced or lost for good, but other stereo sources still exist and that was the material used for the CD reissue.  MiCasa Multimedia (see Diamonds Are Forever’s audio specs above) said they were going to use the original music masters for this upgrade, but if Capitol could not find them, did MiCasa and Lowry?  I don’t know, but this mix is better than the endless monophonic versions on LaserDisc (again including two PCM 2.0 Mono issues from The Criterion Collection, who took extra care in their audio transfers) and DVD, but it still has some limits.

 

John Barry did one of his best known scores here, though 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.  The music still sounds good here when it is not drowned out and the two-track stereo album master likely used here is likely derived from three-track magnetic stereo.

 

Extras repeated from the Special Edition DVD and 12” LaserDisc box set include two full length audio commentary tracks: one with director Guy Hamilton, the other with cast and crew, The Making Of Goldfinger narrated by Patrick Macnee, The Goldfinger Phenomenon, original publicity featurette, original theatrical trailers, TV Spots, stills and radio spots.  Newly added extras include Sean Connery from the Set of Goldfinger, Screen Tests (Theodore Bikel included), On Tour With The Aston Martin DB-5, Honor Blackman Open-Ended Interview where anyone could pretend to interview the actress to promote the film and an Interactive Guide Into The World Of Goldfinger.

 

 

 

The Man With The Golden Gun

 

The second Roger Moore Bond would be co-producer Harry Saltzman’s last.  After Live & Let Die, “Cubby” Broccoli agreed to let Harry go for the same style and form thinking they would have another hit.  They landed Christopher Lee (Ian Fleming’s cousin) in the title role of the hitman, Francisco “Pistols” Scaramanga, plus leading ladies Britt Ekland (a big sex symbol at the time) and rising star Maud Adams were all appealing choices.  Even future TV star Herve Villechaize would play the hitman of the piece named Nick Nack, looking like a miniature version of Oddjob from Goldfinger at times.  It may sound ridiculous, but that was the kind of wacky counterculture sense Saltzman was pushing, thinking people would want to see the series go even more comic than the classic Connery Bonds.

 

It made sense as the first two such Bonds, the previous two (Diamonds Are Forever, Live & Let Die) were big hits.  The problem was, the film took too many liberties with Bond and from the resurfacing of Sheriff Pepper in Thailand (!?!) to another boat chase to Bond’s awkward ability not to be able to defend himself.  Tom Mankiewicz’s screenplay goes for broke in the comedy (some thought it played at times like a Pink Panther film) and castration politics department as even Bond’s closest allies have some contempt (cartoonish at that) for him in at least one or two scenes.  However, the beautiful locations, cast, jokes that do work, great music, attempts to do something different, interesting attempt to absorb the martial arts film cycle of the time, general sense of the 1970s and possibilities (not all realized) of the showdown between bond and Scaramanga have turned this box office failure into a cult favorite.  It also remains the highest-rated Bond film in network TV history and with cable, satellite and other such media alternatives, will likely hold that crown for good.

 

Lee is particularly good as Scaramanga and you can tell all are having fun making this film, even when it is rough and even gets rough.  This was made at a time when Lee was in rare form as when he made the original Wicker Man.  More of a legend than ever before, this Bond will remain a one-of-a-kind favorite for a long time to come and is far from the worst film in the series.

 

For the anamorphically enhanced 1.85 X 1 image, shot by cinematographers Ted Moore and Oswald Morris (who finished for Moore due to health reasons) was always a standout in previous optical disc home video releases.  It was the last Bond to be released letterboxed in the old 12” LaserDisc format and was one of the best in that format.  The previous Special Edition DVD was also a winner, using the same then-impressive source material.  Now, a painstaking restoration done frame-by-frame at 4,000 progressive digital High Definition video lines each is the new master and in just about all cases, surpasses the original transfer, as good as it could be.

 

The only issues are as follows.  Daylight sometimes seems a tad less bright than previous versions, the opening shot of Nick Nack bringing champagne to Scaramanga has lost some of its immediate impressiveness for whatever reason despite still looking good, the color in the title sequences is slightly less vivid than it should be versus the great work DeLuxe processed and looks even pale by comparison to the original footage and a few other color instances have similar issues.  Then there is the opening, where the optical was cleaned nicely, but the rest of the scene might have been made to match to its slight detriment.  However, a Blu-ray version may prove much of all that is the limitation of standard DVD.  Also, there are so many amazing shots that look great here that it made me remember how good they looked when I saw the film back in 1974!

 

For the 5.1 sound mixes, they are both a bit more bass heavy at times than they should be, especially with the title song and similar end theme sung by Lulu where her singing is too low and the mix lacks depth and soundstage to an annoying extent.  This sounded better on CD and LP without the phony compression, plus the original score was recorded in 16-track magnetic stereo, so there is no excuse for the sound to be anything less than stunning but those tracks were likely not used since EMI never got around to upgrading them for the CD reissue.  The big highlight here is the score by John Barry, which was later licensed (it seems) a hundred times for low-grade martial arts films that did not want to pay for new music.  Were all these uses actually licensed?  Nevertheless, it is one of his most underrated works and it sounds good here as it did when the previous DVD offered a Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo mix with Pro Logic surrounds.  We get a Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono mix here, but it is a shame the Pro Logic mix was not carried over to this version.

 

A problem as annoying as the Lulu mix (like she’s singing through a pillow sort of) is added sound effects in two scenes that seem slightly out of sync.  One is Scaramanga shooting off his gun just before the title sequence that you can tell is different gunshots because the new version has an unintentionally funny whine of last bullet flying away, while the original theatrical sound here (in Dolby 2.0 Mono) reminds us that the gunshots were more serious in tone and delivery, alerting the audience that Scaramanga was a serious mortal threat to Bond.  Now, it sounds like he will have him over for laughs so they can have a slap-happy time and watch bad sitcoms!

 

The other Bond throwing some karate blows before jumping out a bamboo window, which throws off the amusing moment of escape.  They just do not work, but will hopefully be fixed (with the theme song and some minor picture issues) on the Blu-ray version, no matter what sound format (Dolby, DTS, PCM) is finally included.  See more about the restoration of this film in the Diamonds Are Forever section at the top.

 

Extras from the previous DVD Special Edition include audio commentary track by Director Guy Hamilton, the Cast & Crew, Inside The Man With The Golden Gun Documentary narrated by Patrick Macnee, Double-0 Stuntmen Documentary, stills, original TV Ads & Radio Spots.  New extras include another brand-new audio commentary with Roger Moore, original theatrical trailer with a sound mix that has the music mistakenly drowning out the dialogue though it was not that way before, Roger Moore and Hervé Villechaize on TV’s The Russell Harty Show, On Location With The Man With The Golden Gun, Guy Hamilton: The Director Speaks, Girls Fighting, vintage American Thrill Show Stunt Film (with optional commentary), The Road to Bond: Stunt Coordinator W.J. Milligan Jr. and Interactive Guide Into the World of The Man With The Golden Gun.

 

 

 

The Living Daylights

 

The debut of Timothy Dalton has its moments and the Broccoli Touch, but has become one of the most dated films in the series as Bond essentially becomes Lawrence Of Arabia to help Muslim insurgents destroy Soviet Union forces in Afghanistan.  After 9/11, this obviously does not hold up any better than after the USSR collapsed, but there are some good moments outside of that part of the plot that are the purest Cold War storytelling since For Your Eyes Only and this would be (unbeknownst to fans, the studio and the producers) the last Cold War Bond ever made.  Considering its connection to the next global war with Islamo-Fascism, it sadly plays like a dark victory, yet the film is a classy entry thanks to first-time Bond Timothy Dalton really trying to being a new sense of bulk and physicality to the role.

 

After a deadly training exercise leaves a clue reviving a Soviet spy hunting operation, Bond must investigate who is starting a new hit list and a defector (Jerone Krabbe) might be the key to discovering the truth.  Is a Russian higher up (John Rhys-Davies) responsible or could a mad old school General Whittaker (Joe Don Baker in the first of two roles he would play in the series) be behind a disturbing plot to severely damage British Intelligence?  It is one of the better films and “Cubby” Broccoli’s attempt to go back to a smarter Bond without so much overt humor.  Unfortunately, Dalton was not too good comically.

 

For the anamorphically enhanced 2.35 X 1 image, it is not too much of an improvement from the older DVD, but is still preferred over that first issue.  Offering many beautiful visual moments from cinematographer Alec Mills, this looked much better in the several 35mm prints I saw of it at the time and hopefully that will be more fully realized in the inevitable Blu-ray edition.

 

For the 5.1 sound mixes, the film was originally issued in Dolby’s old analog A-type noise reduction format, but even the new Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 mixes will not allow you to hear the title theme sung by A-Ha.  Rykodisc upgraded the soundtrack in an exceptional CD a few years ago and that material carried over to the new EMI CD, so it is no surprise that the music here sounds good since the recording is relatively recent and has been in circulation more than most Bond scores.  Also featuring two Chrissie Hynde songs credited to The Pretenders (Where Has Everybody Gone?, If There Was A Man), this would sadly be John Barry’s last score for the series and the music has never totally recovered since.

 

Extras from the original Special Edition include full length audio commentary with Director John Glen joined by members of the cast and crew, Inside The Living Daylights featurette narrated by Patrick Macnee, Ian Fleming: 007's Creator featurette, “The Living Daylights” Music Video Performed by a-ha, The Making of 'The Living Daylights' Music Video, theatrical trailers, TV spots, stills & radio spots.  Newly added extras include deleted scenes with intros by Glen, Happy Anniversary 007 program, Silver Anniversary Featurettes, Timothy Dalton: The New James Bond/Vienna Press Conference, Timothy Dalton: On Acting, Dalton and d'Abo interviews, The Ice Chase Outtakes - deleted footage with Glen’s narration and Interactive Guide Into The World Of The Living Daylights.

 

 

 

The World Is Not Enough

 

One of the worst films in the series, this third Pierce Brosnan entry eventually led to his premature departure as the more technologized, ridiculous, overblown direction the series should have spiked after Tomorrow Never Dies made him less and less relevant.  It was successful cash out that Brosnan just never recovered from.  The plot involves a high-up government double cross with more double crosses to the point of being a mess.  Sophie Marceau is the daughter of a man who was killed in a plot involving an energy pipeline and nuclear arms.  Denise Richards is a nuclear scientist whose body and outfits will re-remind everyone that they call it a bikini because that’s where they dropped the early atom bombs, not unlike the way her performance bombs out here, and the solid actor Robert Carlyle is wasted in an underwritten role as a criminal mastermind impervious to pain.  That aspect is never seen though.

 

Coming off of Desperate Measures, director Michael Apted should have made this one a home run, but it is far more of an also-run that never picks up, never coheres, never has any joy, fun, edge and a subplot involving Judi Dench as “M” is one of the dumbest you will ever see.  Being a fan, every time someone asked me what I though, I told them I called it “The Bond Is Not Enough” since it was so vapid and unwatchable.  Too bad it did not at least help Carlyle go on to more fame.

 

For the anamorphically enhanced 2.35 X 1 image, this looks about the same as the previous DVDs, which means it is not so good looking at all.  This was the only Bond lensed by the late, great cinematographer Adrian Biddle (V For Vendetta, James Cameron’s Aliens, Event Horizon; all reviewed elsewhere on this site) and is one of the primary reasons this film was a hit.  That’s how good he was and this film deserves an even better picture upgrade, one the eventual Blu-ray version will hopefully deliver.

 

For the 5.1 sound mixes, this was an across-the-board digital theatrical release in Dolby EX, DTS ES and SDDS, has a very bad mix, very disappointing title song performed by the much savvier band Garbage who did not create it to begin with, so we cannot hold them responsible.  Danny Arnold and the usually savvy lyricist Don Black blew it with this throw-away song by a band that is far from it.  Arnold’s score reflects absolute boredom with the narrative, what there is of it, and this sound mix overall is not up to the previous Brosnan releases to begin with.  This actually has less surround design and character than GoldenEye or Tomorrow Never Dies, making it sound more like every other bad big budget action mix out there.  It has not aged well either to boot.

 

Extras from the older special edition include feature length audio commentary by Director Michael Apted, production designer Peter Lamont, second unit director Vic Armstrong & composer David Arnold, The Making Of The World Is Not Enough Documentary narrated by Patrick Macnee, The Secrets of 007: Featuring Alternate Video Options, stills, original theatrical trailer and “The World Is Not Enough” Music Video by the band Garbage.  New extras include deleted scenes/alternate angles with introductions by Apted, alternate angle/expanded angle scene: The Thames Boat Chase, James Bond Down River - Original 1999 Featurette, Creating An Icon: Making The Teaser Trailer, Hong Kong Press Conference and Interactive Guide Into the World of The World Is Not Enough.

 

 

 

All titles in all sets come with eight-page booklets devoted to each film.  For coverage of the Bond Blu-rays and other Bond DVD sets, you can check into the following links:

 

BLU-RAY WAVE ONE:

http://www.fulvuedrive-in.com/review/7716/James+Bond+Blu-ray+Wave+One

 

VOLUME TWO

http://www.fulvuedrive-in.com/review/5056/James+Bond+Ultimate+Edition

 

VOLUME THREE

http://www.fulvuedrive-in.com/review/4708/James+Bond+Ultimate+Edition+–+Vol

 

VOLUME FOUR

http://www.fulvuedrive-in.com/review/4709/James+Bond+Ultimate+Collection

 

 

-   Nicholas Sheffo


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