His name is Bond. 007. Mr. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang to others. Regardless of what you call him, Bond is THE ultimate icon. And everyone knows icons cannot be killed. For 50 years, James Bond has been a part of our culture and - with his 23rd adventure, Sam Mendes’ Skyfall, nearing its 2012 release date - he will continue to do so. Now, thanks to a frame-by-frame superb remastering effort from Lowry Digital and MGM Home Entertainment, fans can celebrate the franchise’s awesome history with a massive box set on blu-ray that collects all 22 of the films and even has an extra placeholder for the future release of Skyfall.
Ladies and gentleman, allow me to introduce you to Bond 50, a stunning collection of exciting adventures housed in two elegant books complete with its own decorative sleeve. Fifty years of franchise history is here, complete with 120-odd hours of bonus material.
Originally the creation of the writer behind Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Ian Fleming’s Bond began as homage to the style and grace of actor Cary Grant. He has survived, thankfully, many incarnations in film throughout the years with Daniel Craig, the latest Bond, as arguably the best actor the series has ever had. Although American actor Barry Nelson first presented him to television audiences as Jimmy Bond, it is Sean Connery who made the role popular with moviegoers way back in 1962.
Dr. No, combining a slick visual style with the popularity of Jamaican sounds, was on the forefront of pop culture and it sizzled with audiences so much so that From Russia With Love, a more intelligent version of the debut, was rushed into production less than a year later. Yet, it was Goldfinger followed by the one, two punch of Thunderball that sealed the deal. The character, especially because of the popularity of the movies, eventually became more popular than the novels and now - having outlived the novel titles and their adventures - continue on by swiping their titles from Fleming’s short stories.
By 1963, though, the audience’s love affair with Bond, James Bond was cemented and now all the adventures can be yours to own. Housed in two separate hardback books with slots for two discs per page and the opposing pages filled with images from the films, the individual films of the Bond franchise have never looked or sounded better. For diehards, this is a collection worth owning.
Although the older films might feel dated from time to time, they are still a blast and look marvelous. Most noticeably improved on the blu-ray format are Connery’s original outings: Dr. No, From Russia With Love, Goldfinger, Thunderball, and You Only Live Twice. The best surprises, though, are Craig’s Casino Royale (which comes fully loaded with mouthwatering supplementals) and Lazenby’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service which has simply never looked this crisp and exciting before. Even Quantum of Solace appears to glimmer with a new sheen, although - to my knowledge - no one has touched the version released only a few years back. While nothing much can improve the look to the final few outings Moore had (maybe one View to a Kill too many?), the remastering job does deepen some of those silly effects that bloated them. Moore handing on the back of a fire truck that has obviously been stunted over with a more fit person and studio close-ups of Moore's face being blown by wind machines? Nothing to improve here except to darken the colors.
Of course, nothing – not even the blu-ray format – can save Moore’s Moonraker from its laser-brained self and Brosnan’s awful and, thankfully, final outing as the spy in Die Another Day. Some films were born to be duds. Even Bond is not excluded from that sad fact. Yet, the franchise survives and, as this set illustrates, is best enjoyed by its loyal fans.
Unfortunately, Bond 50 does not come with your own individual license to kill. After five decades, six different actors in the title role, and only a few duds, I’ll take it without complaint. And you should, too.
MPAA Rating: Various.
Runtime: 2748 mins.
Film List: Dr. No; From Russia With Love; Goldfinger; Thunderball; You Only Live Twice ; On Her Majesty's Secret Service; Diamonds Are Forever; Live And Let Die ; The Man With The Golden Gun; The Spy Who Loved Me; Moonraker; For Your Eyes Only; Octopussy; Never Say Never Again; A View To A Kill; The Living Daylights; Licence To Kill; GoldenEye; Tomorrow Never Dies; The World Is Not Enough; Die Another Day; Casino Royale ; Quantum of Solace
Directors: Terence Young; Guy Hamilton; Lewis Gilbert; Peter R. Hunt; John Glen; Martin Campbell; Roger Spottiswoode; Michael Apted; Lee Tamahori; Marc Forster; Sam MendesWriter: Various
Cast: Sean Connery; Roger Moore; George Lazenby; Timothy Dalton; Pierce Brosnan; Daniel Craig
Genre: Drama | Thriller
Tagline: Bond 50: The Complete 22 Film Collection
Distributor: Metro-Goldwyn Mayer
Release Date: various
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date: September 25, 2012
English SDH, French, Spanish (less)
English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese, German SDH (less)
Available on Blu-ray - September 25, 2012
Screen Formats: 1.67:1; 1.85:1; 2.39:1; 2.35:1
Subtitles: English SDH
Audio: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Discs: 50GB Blu-ray Disc; Twenty three-disc set (23 BDs)
Derived from a 4k scan and digital frame-by-frame restoration performed by Lowry Digital, the 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 transfers, while the overall quality varies from title to title, the 22 distinct films, look amazingly sharp. Even the previously released titles look improved. Clarity and resolution have both improved from previous DVD releases and so has the grain structure. The colors pop with accuracy, and there are no encode issues. Unfortunately, DNR compression is noticeable in Goldeneye and, while not a complete distraction, it is noticeable for its fans. Again, most of these transfers stem from the stalled out 2008 campaign to get the high-def masters on HD. The Connery’Lazenby era gets the best upgrade ever. The Moore/Dalton era gets a little soft around the edges and some of the blacks are a bit inky as Moore’s series grows in its illogical trivialities.
All 22 of the movies in the box set are encoded with DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtracks. On movies that were produced before the 5.1 era, the original mono or stereo sound mixes have also been included, though only Dolby Digital format. The sound, once again, is going to vary from title to title, but beginning with Goldeneye, it really gives your speakers a well-deserved ass-kicking.
Nearly all of the bonus content and commentaries from the previously released DVDs and Blu-ray releases have been ported over for Bond 50. What didn’t make the cut wasn’t worth keeping; call it a trimming of the fat because this release is lean and mean and substantial in its supplemental department. Her Majesty really wants to keep you informed. This amounts to over 120 hours of audio commentary, behind-the-scenes featurettes, retrospective documentaries, and in-depth interviews housed on each disc for that specific title. Casino Royale appears to have most of the content from the 2-disc Collector's Edition Blu-ray consolidated onto a single disc. Die Another Day has lost one of its commentaries and gone are the Mission Control informationals. No real big loss.
Unfortunately, for fans who have already collected the thirteen previously released Bond titles, there will be duplications in this set. There are cosmetic changes to some of the menus to make them uniform to the new design. More disappointingly is the new bonus disc exclusive to the Bond 50 set. The Skyfall behind-the-scenes content excluded, the bonus disc contains mostly fluff. It assembles vintage interviews with the actors who have played Bond over the years and puffs its chest out, but it’s largely without depth. Even the Designing 007 featurette is nothing but an overrated promo piece for its Facebook page. Fifty years crammed into 4 min featurettes? Please. While it is neat to have all the title sequences loaded into one extended feature it seems more repetitive than it actually is. It’s pretty cool. Essentially, the Bonus Disc crams the world of Bond – including his gadgets and villains and women and world trips – into three minute promo pieces that merely provide a glossy overview of what fans already know.
- Being Bond (3 min)
- Designing 007: Fifty Years of Bond Style (4 min)
- Skyfall Videoblogs (11 min)
- Title Sequences (62 min)
- Gadgets (3 min)
- Villains (2 min)
- Bond Girls (2 min)
- Locations (2 min)
- Bond in Motion (3 min)