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Category:    Home > Reviews > Spy > Action > Thriller > Cold War > Terrorism > Aquatic > British > James Bond Blu-ray Wave One: Dr. No/From Russia With Love/Thunderball/Live & Let Die/For Your Eyes Only/Die Another Day (MGM/Fox/United Artists)

James Bond Blu-ray Wave One: Dr. No/From Russia With Love/Thunderball/Live & Let Die/For Your Eyes Only/Die Another Day (MGM/Fox/United Artists)

 

Picture/Sound/Extras/Film:

 

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

 

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

 

Thunderball (1965) B/B/B+/B

 

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

 

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

 

Die Another Day (2002) B/B+/C+/D

 

 

We have previously covered all of the Bond Film restoration DVD sets and here are the links to our previous coverage of these titles now on Blu-ray we are covering in this review, including advanced technical information, origins on the films, their stories and other details:

 

Dr. No

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

 

From Russia With Love/Live & Let Die/For Your Eyes Only

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

 

Thunderball/Die Another Day

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

 

 

All the extras are the same on these Blu-rays as those DVD sets and that is very extensive.  All are on a single Blu-ray disc, have AVC high definition transfers, have similar art & menus and all are superior to their DVD counterparts.

 

For starters, this is an interesting selection to start with, with only half of the films being in the scope aspect ration, while the others are flat.  You also get the Sean Connery and Roger Moore debuts, as well as the first five being some of the most imitated films of their kind ever made.  They looked good on DVD, but as compared to what Blu-ray can deliver, the upgrades were looking a little limited despite the great improvement in 99% of the cases the new DTS DVD sets offered.  So now, we look at how much more improved the Blu-ray versions really are.

 

We will list the title, aspect ratio, bitrate of the picture and then explain and relay what we experienced:

 

 

Dr. No (1.66 X 1/AVC @ 29 MBPS) - Some shots on the DVD looked too dark, no matter how we readjusted the image (on our well-calibrated equipment) and also wanted the color to be a bit more vibrant; something Blu-ray could deliver.  Was it a limit of the DVD format?  Yes.  It turns out the darkness was not an issue here and the color actually improved, all to the point that this is one of the two best looking Blus in the whole wave.  Though grain can be an issue since this is a camera-negative-to-4K-digital transfer, color and definition are truly the best the film has looked in a very long time and despite some minor motion blur, the image had many film-like demonstration quality moments.  However, the color would have been even better and grain less prominent had this been a three-strip dye-transfer Technicolor print from these materials, so this (like the recent upgrades of the first two Godfather films) will have to be close calls in the image quality department, though like those Coppola classics very close at times.

 

This is the first and oldest of the Bond films, released at a time when so few older films have been issued in the 2+ year history of Blu-ray, the fact that it looks better than so many new films and as good as most of the best back catalog titles should give you an idea of how good this looks.  Only a few large-frame format films look better (Sleeping Beauty for instance) and is proof that classic films can look great.

 

As for the sound, the DTS 5.1 mix has been upgraded here for DTS HD MA (Master Audio lossless) and the Dolby Digital 5.1 mix dropped altogether.  The results are equal to the DVD, with a tad more clarity from a fine remix to begin with, though the original monophonic sound is here for purists.

 

 

From Russia With Love (1.66 X 1/AVC @ 26.5 MBPS) - The color was underwhelming on even the restored DVD, so we were hoping this problem was fixed for Blu-ray and some of the obvious rear projection was also fixed so it would not look more shot and old than it needed to.  The color is better, the rear projection the same, but a bit less problematic, but there is a new problem here with Video Black that was not as prominent on the DVD that the DVD’s lack of definition minimalized.  This starts with the pre-title and continues in spots throughout the film.  Though better than the Blu-ray, it is by a slimmer margin as color improvements, clarity and definition win out, but it is sadly not as good as Dr. No.  Again, too bad this does not look more like a three-strip dye-transfer Technicolor print.

 

As for the sound, the DTS 5.1 mix has been upgraded here for DTS HD MA (Master Audio lossless) and the Dolby Digital 5.1 mix dropped altogether.  The results are slight improvements in playback, but instead of getting the stereophonic tracks to the film and reintroducing them with more clarity, the mixers solution is to slightly pump up the bass.  That does not work, but the original monophonic sound is here for purists, who will get mixed results when comparing the John Barry score with the recently remastered CD soundtrack.

 

 

Thunderball (2.35 X 1/AVC @ 23 MBPS) -  The biggest problem with the previous upgrade is that the restoration persons forgot to restore the (literally) “Technicolor Blue” look of the underwater sequences, rendering the opening gun barrel piece pale and underwater sequences “water tank” exciting.  Well, they still look grey when they should look blue, but the color, definition and overall picture are better throughout, except for the same Video Black problem on From Russia With Love that was not as prominent on the DVD that the DVD’s lack of definition minimalized.  This too was a film originally issued in three-strip dye-transfer Technicolor prints, which sometimes shows in some scenes from previous restoration work, but it is too uneven in the Video Black, plus transition scenes look sloppier as it is more obvious here with improved definition that the negative could use more work and too much of the material is either second generation or may only survive as such.

 

In one odd change, the title sequence has been windowboxed, which actually diminished its impact versus the DVD, then the shot of Largo (Adolfo Celi) parking his car in the wrong space looks bad, only to clear up dramatically when he arrives near the entrance of what turns out to be a SPECTRE front hiding their headquarters.  It is the epitome of the problem I speak of.

 

As for the sound, the DTS 5.1 mix has been upgraded here for DTS HD MA (Master Audio lossless) and the Dolby Digital 5.1 mix dropped altogether.  The results are slight improvements in playback, going back to the Dolby Pro Logic upgrade for the old 12” LaserDisc box set, making this sound like no other soundtrack we will get on these Blu-rays.  Dialogue can sound good, then compressed, while other times sound directional.  At least the correct music is still in place from the old box set.

 

 

Live & Let Die (1.85 X 1/AVC @ 29 MBPS) - This one was softer than I would have liked it for DVD, so we had hoped the Blu-ray would bring out how exceptionally good this film looks and though some color, textures, definition and depth have improved, the new clarity also brings new issues and problems that almost sabotage this overall.  It does look better than the DVD, but now you can see how color is often mismatched throughout the film, this time being the Rank Color process.  However, the DVD’s lack of definition was masking color mismatching issues.

 

INCLUDES SPOLIER:  In the scene when Bond goes to a Filet-O-Soul bar in Harlem, New York, the Video Red is not 100% correct for the whole scene, until it ends with the booth spinning 180-degrees and the red is correct and film like only in the final seconds; that is not an isolated case and Video Black is not accurate in more than a few spaces.  With a multi-racial cast, this is more prominent.  However, there are still too many good shots, but this needs some serious color timing work and makes us wonder the condition of the negative footage.

 

As for the sound, the DTS 5.1 mix has been upgraded here for DTS HD MA (Master Audio lossless) and the Dolby Digital 5.1 mix dropped altogether.  The results are slight improvements in playback, but instead of getting the stereophonic tracks to the film and reintroducing them with more clarity, the mixers solution is to slightly pump up the bass somewhat.  That does not work, but the original monophonic sound is here for purists, who will get mixed results when comparing the George Martin score and the classic Paul McCartney & Wings theme song with the recently remastered CD soundtrack.  Unlike the restored DVD, this actually includes the original monophonic sound.

 

 

For Your Eyes Only (2.35 X 1/AVC @ 26 MBPS) - One of the last great-looking all around Bonds before they tried new looks and started trying for grittiness, this was one of the best on DVD and we hoped it would be one of the best for Blu-ray.  Despite some minor blur troubles, this is only equaled by From Russia With Love as the best of this first 007 Blu-wave.  Color is impressive, depth better than before and detail surprising often.  Alan Hume did some amazing work here and this does a decent job of showing it.  One of my favorite Bonds, it has a look like no other and offers many demo-quality moments despite its limits.  It could look a little better, but will impress anyone who likes this film unless they are grain-cleansing, HD obsessees.

 

As for the sound, the DTS 5.1 mix has been upgraded here for DTS HD MA (Master Audio lossless) and the Dolby Digital 5.1 mix dropped altogether.  The results are equal to the DVD, with a tad more clarity and distortion from a mix plagued with some troubles from the original Dolby A-type analog noise reduction the film arrived with in theaters in its 35mm 1981 run to begin with.  The Bill Conti score sounds good here, but sounds so much better on CD since the Rykodisc upgrade (reissued by Capitol as part of those remasters) and those masters should have been reintroduced in this Blu’s mix as it still needs some more work.  Otherwise, the actual sound mix from the original film has not been tampered with, unlike some other Lowry upgrades.

 

 

Die Another Day (2.35 X 1/AVC @ 22 MBPS) - Still one of the least-memorable looking and worst of all the films in the series and in the action/spy genre, one of two poorest Bond films ever made and loaded with more bad jokes than Moonraker could ever hope to; this upgrade is barley better than the restored DVD and between the image degrading, the grain and Video Black is the worst of the six films here!  Add the awful-on-arrival digital effects that were awful in 2002 and a disaster now (save the title sequence) make this an embarrassment nothing could save.  Even the ice palace still looks bad versus the better stills we have seen of it.  This was a Dolby EX/DTS ES theatrical sound release and the DTS 5.1 mix has been upgraded here for DTS HD MA (Master Audio lossless), with the Dolby Digital 5.1 mix dropped altogether.  Too bad the mix is gimmicky, lame, lacks character, has a flat David Arnold score (but what could he do) and is not exactly a demo mix.  That the sound is barely better than the rest of the films here says something and you can see why the series went on hiatus for a few years.

 

 

 

For more on Bond, try this link to all 21 films on DVD from the Casino Royale remake to the original 20 films in the series as featured in all four of the first DTS DVD remastered box sets, in one giant set, at this link:

 

http://www.fulvuedrive-in.com/review/5930/James+Bond+–+Ultimate+Collector

 

 

-   Nicholas Sheffo


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