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James Bond Blu-ray Collection Three-Pack, Vol. 2 [Blu-ray]

(From Russia with Love / Thunderball / For Your Eyes Only)

 

(Terence Young, 1962 - Terence Young, 1963 - John Glen, 1981)

 

 

Review by Leonard Norwitz

 

Theatrical: EON Productions

Blu-ray: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

 

Review by Leonard Norwitz

 

Disc:

Region: A

Custom Book-style Case

Release Date: October 21st, 2008

 

 

Overview:

The James Bond and Star Wars films are 20th Century Fox's most profitable franchises – the Bond movies being the second highest grossing franchise worldwide after Harry Potter.

 

The Good, the Bad, but never Ugly James Bond movies, from 1962 to infinity and beyond: The fabulous Bond Girls; the exotic international locales; the great gadgets, often based on the latest technological development; the remarkable lack of investigation needed to find or bring to justice some of the nuttiest criminals and most grasping of corporate entities; the awesome stunts that beg topping in each succeeding Bond movie; James' dinner jackets that rarely get ruffled – like his belief in the righteousness of the British Empire; the rampant, but comical sexism and racism.  It was pretty much all there from the first, regardless of the actor playing the part.

 

Beginning late 2006, Fox began releasing the first of its "Ultimate" series on DVD: Resmastered in 4K HD, restored in many cases, from Dr. No through Pierce Brosnan's Die Another Day: a total of 21 titles when you add in Daniel Craig's Casino Royale, which is a bonus volume when you order the entire collection from Amazon. (Neither David Niven & Woody Allen's Casino Royale spoof nor Sean Connery's Never Say Never Again is included.)

 

The Ultimate DVD series were organized into four volumes of 5 titles, later released separately. Each title had its own bonus disc, chock full of extras. The new Blu-ray series source the same masters as the Ultimate DVDs and are organized into 3-title, 50 GB dual-layer, single-disc volumes that also include the bonus features and, like the DVDs, are taken out of chronological order to make them more attractive to early collectors.  This way, no one set is likely to have the best or worst of the lot.

 

The bonus features are presently in much the same way as we saw on the Ultimates, only cooler.  They include one or more commentaries, often pieced together from contributors sitting separately; segments titled "Interactive Guide into the World of . . . " or "Mission Control Interactive Guide" which are bookmarked scenes that fans are likely to want to return to; trailers, radio &TV spots, some of considerable length (one of my favorites being Roger Moore as 007 on a sketch British TV series back in 1964 called Mainly Millicent, found on the Live and Let Die disc); and making-of documentaries and featurettes of various lengths.

 

"BLU-RAY WAS MADE FOR BOND!"

 

We have to grant that the Ultimate DVDs not only represent a great improvement over previous incarnations, they were often outstanding in their own right.  With the Blu-rays, we expect benefits of a high definition image and uncompressed audio mix (with the choice of the original audio mix, whether mono or stereo), but are there extra bonus features, some of which have origins back to laserdisc?  The simple answer is "No."  Not so far, and probably not likely in the future – although there is the occasional bonus feature that is bumped up to HD.  So, should we bother to upgrade or buy Blu-ray outright, especially now that you can find Ultimate DVDs at bargain prices?

 

The answer, not surprisingly, depends on your commitment to the genre: If you're an aficionado or held off when the Ultimate Series were introduced, you should buy the Blu-ray, taking advantage of special sales such as the promotional that Amazon is running with the release of Volumes 1 & 2.  If you bought the Ultimate DVDs, all or in part, you could wait until the titles you want most are released separately, which we can expect eventually.  Conversely, if you purchased only the Ultimate titles most important to you, then I'd like to urge you consider these Blu-ray sets.  Even the weaker Bond movies will come to life in ways that a more leisurely revisit may surprise you.

 

If your experience in the theatre has been anything like mine, then you will never have seen these movies as sharp and clear as they are presented here.  Biiger and louder, yes, but not nearly as clearly.  Lazy projectionists and poor or worn out film gates are often responsible for an aggravating theatre experience.  Half our brain activity is expended on trying to maintain dramatic continuity in spite of mechanical and human efforts determined to prevent it.  Not so on high-definition video.  The picture is always sharp – frame-to-frame and edge-to-edge.  We enjoy sharpness, resolution, luminance, contrast, color and audio in a way that, except for size, only the rare visit to the theatre can begin to approach.

 

As the slogan on the box says: "BLU-RAY WAS MADE FOR BOND!" - especially true in these awesome restorations made from 4K high-def masters.

 


 

• From Russia With Love

Directed by Terence Young

1963

 

Aspect ratio: 1.66:1

Codec: AVC @ 29 MBPS

Capacity: 50 GB

Audio: English DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio + Original English Mono. Spanish mono, French 5.1 DD.

Subtitles: English & Spanish

Duration: 110 minutes

Chapters: 32

 

Extras:

• Feature Commentary by Director Terence Young and members of the cast & crew.

• Featurette: Ian Fleming: The CBS Interview (7:42)

• Featurette: Ian Fleming & Raymond Chandler (5:12)

• An Interactive Guide into the World of From Russia With Love

• Featurette: Inside From Russia With Love (33:43)

• Featurette: Harry Saltzman: Showman (26:42)

 

The Movie: 8

 

(cf Gary's comparison HERE)

 

 

• Thunderball

Directed by Terence Young

1965

 

Aspect ratio: 2.35:1

Codec: AVC @ 23 MBPS

Capacity: 50 GB

Audio: English DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio + Original English Mono. Spanish Mono, French 5.1 DD.

Subtitles: English & Spanish

Duration: 125 minutes

Chapters:

 

Extras:

• Feature Commentary by Director Terence Young and others.

• Feature Commentary by Editor Peter Hunt, Co-Screenwriter John Hopkins and others.

• Featurette from NBC 1965: The Incredible World of James Bond (50:50)

• Featurette: The Making of Thunderball (27:31)

• Featurette: The Thunderball Phenomenon (31:00)

• Featurette: The Secret History of Thunderball (3:47)

 

The Movie: 7

 

(cf Gary's comparison HERE)

 

According to Wikipedia, Thunderball had the highest box office receipts (adjusted for the 2008 Consumer Price Index)

 

 

• For Your Eyes Only

Directed by John Glen

1981

 

Aspect ratio: 2.35:1

Codec: AVC @ 26 MBPS

Capacity: 50 GB

Audio: English DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio + Original English 2.1 DD. Spanish Mono, French 5.1 DD.

Subtitles: English & Spanish

Duration: 128 minutes

Chapters:

 

Extras:

• Feature Commentary by Director John Glen, Actors Lynn-Holly Johnson and Topol, and Publicity Director Jerry Juroe.

• Feature Commentary by Producer/Co-Screenwriter Michael G. Wilson and crew.

• Feature Commentary by Actor Roger Moore.

• An Interactive Guide into the World of For Your Eyes Only

 

The Movie: 7

 

[from Wikipedia HERE]

 For Your Eyes Only marked a creative change of direction for the Bond film series. John Glen was promoted from his duties as a film editor to director, a position he would occupy throughout the 1980s. A result of this was a harder-edged directorial style, with less emphasis on gadgetry and large action sequences in huge arenas (as was favoured by Lewis Gilbert). More emphasis on tension, plot, and character was also added in addition to a return to Bond's more serious roots.

 

Many of the principal Bond female leads have or had an international reputation, but may not have been all that well known to American audiences. For Your Eyes Only was Carole Bouquet's fifth film, but she had already starred in Luis Bunel's That Obscure Object of Desire. After For Your Eyes Only she made mostly non-Anglo films for the next twenty years.  The one I know best is Wasabi with Jean Reno. 

 

 

 

Bouquet plays Melina, whose parents are killed by Cuban hit man Hector Gonzales.  She and Bond cross paths since Melina seeks revenge and Bond wants information about the disappearance of naval communicating device, known as ATAC. Gonzales seems to be the focal point.  In fact, he is only a lead to Aris Kristatos (Julian Glover).  Milos Columbo (Topol) is Kristatos' former smuggling partner, now enlisted by Bond to nail the bad guy.  Moore, for his part, is starting to show his age.

 

Image: 8/9 NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were ripped directly from the Blu-ray disc.

For a while there, the aspect ratio would get wider ever few Bond movies.  Dr. No and From Russia with Love were 1.66:1. Live And Let Live was 1.85:1. For Your Eyes Only is 2.35 as were Moonraker and The Spy Who Loved Me before it, and where it has settled till this day.  I found the image to have a more natural prentation than the Connery films on these volumes.  It's blemish-free, with good shadow information and detail in the highlights when asked for.

 

CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audio: 6.5

Compared to earlier Bond films, the music track is more sumptuous, less raucous.  For all practical purposes it is the only thing that the surround channels have going for them –which makes sense when you consider that the original mix, included as an option, is not surround.  As in earlier Bond films in Fox's Blu-ray Volumes 1 and 2, the music track gets pumped up during the action sequences, especially near the climax of a chase.  I find it a bit much, though I do prefer the uncompressed audio to the original 2.1 mix.

 

 

 

Extras: 6

The commentaries are good, but not great, probably because the contributors are not recorded at the same sitting.  Still, they are informative about all the things you'd want to know about the production.  Roger Moore's commentary has lots of gaps, but he's charming and entertaining and, now and then, informative.  The other bits are just that: bits.  OK, but never rise to the occasion.

 

 

 

Recommendation (Vol. 2) : 9

As a group, the titles in Volume 2 are higher quality than Volume 1, but both must-haves for the Bond aficianado.  The earlier films benefit most from their restorations, already evident in the Ultimate DVDs, but the extra vivid dimensionality – that reach out and touch it feeling we get with a high definition image is worth the investment.  It's also nice that all the titles come with their original audio tracks for the purists among us, though I found myself preferring to the uncompressed audio, despite its being exaggerated in moments of excitement.  Thumbs Up.

Leonard Norwitz
October 18th, 2008

 

 





 

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