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Bond, James Bond...From The Beginning Redux

Discussion in 'Movie Lounge' started by Steve Tannehill, May 30, 2007.

  1. Steve Tannehill

    Steve Tannehill New Member War Zone Member

    I started this thread on HTT with the intent of re-viewing all the James Bond movies in order. Then my TV died, now HTT is about to go away, so I am copying my original posts over here and starting back with the Bond watching.

    --

    In early March, Amazon had a one-day sale on the 20-movie Ultimate Edition bundle of the James Bond movies. They were $125 - $6.25 a movie. These are all 2-disc editions, with 4K Lowry Digital restorations, and tons of new supplemental material.

    A thorough review at James Bond 007 Magazine shows that the releases are a bit of a mixed bag--the initial Region 2 versions had some errors that were corrected in the later Region 1 versions. Even then, there are some cropping, framing, and color balance issues which are worth noting. But by and large, these Ultimate Editions are the best the movies have ever looked since they were released.

    I've not seen all the movies in years. So I thought I would start them from the beginning. Is anyone else interested in doing the same? Then shake up a dry vodka martini and join in!

    --

    First, some general comments about the packaging. Before single-disc versions of these remasters were made available in the U.S., the 2-disc Ultimate Editions were packaged in four separate box sets, in no particular order. Thus, one box would contain a Sean Connery movie or two, one from Roger Moore, one from Timothy Dalton, and one from Pierce Brosnan. This makes it difficult to buy only the movies you are interested in, but at the bundle price, that was not an issue.

    The movie is on one disc, the supplements are on another. A booket accompanies each movie, but since double-disc thin cases are used, the booklet will not fit inside. Sound has been remastered in 5.1 DD and DTS, and the original soundtracks have also been included (apparently, there are a couple of exceptions--see the review article linked above for the details).

    The picture quality so far has been astonishingly good--upscaled to 1080i, and viewed on a 1080p display, the picture pops quite nicely. While not high definition, many of these titles will certainly suffice--and in many cases, I will not even consider upgrading them again, especially considering what the Blu-ray versions are likely to cost.

    The menus are a little annoying after the first time--it would be nice to be able to skip through the gee-whiz navigation. It appears that each disc has an ad for the Ultimate Editions--again, overkill after you've seen it once.

    But the movies... ah, the movies!

    --

    First up: Dr. No.

    It's hard to criticize the first of the series. For every later movie that was tired and old, this was vital and new. We get our first meeting with M, the first flirtation with Moneypenny, our first Maurice Binder title sequence, those amazing Ken Adam sets, the exotic location of Jamaica, and the first of the Bond Girls--one of whom even goes on to be a steady in From Russia with Love! Ursula Andress' leaving the water has become an iconic Bond image.

    There were no real gadgets--Bond gets his gun, drinks his martini, sports around in a nice convertible, uses his license to kill liberally, and plays that funky card game with the shoe.

    This Bond showed promise--20 movies and 45 years later, it is still good.

    On a scale of 001 to 007, I'd give Dr. No a 005.

    --

    Next up: From Russia With Love.

    Bond is back, SPECTRE is ticked, and they want Bond to pay for eliminating their operative, Dr. No. To this end, the first real henchman of the series, played by Robert Shaw, is employed.

    We get our first glimpse of Blofeld and his white Persian cat. We see the man who goes on later in the series to play Gogol. We meet Q who provides a handy briefcase. We have an honest-to-goodness gypsy cat fight. Meow!

    We have the standard flirtation with Moneypenny, a few more zingers ("Horrible...woman." "Yes, she's had her kicks.") The climactic boat chase is explosive, to say the least.

    From Russia With Love continues to establish the formula that was followed for years to come. I liked it a little better than Dr. No, so it gets a 006 out of 007 rating on my subjective scale.

    And yes, while it is tempting to hold off for the Blu-ray editions of these films, these DVD's look great. Yes, I'm sure the HD versions will look better, but for as many times as I will watch these films in the coming years, I am definitely getting my money's worth.

    To the penny. :)

    --

    Goldfinger is perhaps the best of the Connery Bond movies, with some of the most memorable lines of the series ("Do you expect me to talk?' "No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to DIE!")

    Q Branch finally provides something more than a briefcase (although it gets a humorous mention). That Aston Martin DB5 had some cool accessories, didn't it? That's a bad-ass Mustang convertible getting the Ben Hur chariot-race treatment. We get lasers and atomic bombs, oh my. And between Pussy Galore and the hat-wielding Oddjob, we get some of the best supporting characters in a Bond film--ever.

    This was my introduction to the Bond series--it was the first of the movies to air on network television, and I watched it then, some 35 years ago. I've been a fan ever since.

    James Bond will return in... Thunderball!

    --

    And he STRIKES! Like THUNDER...BAAAAAAAAAAALLLLLLLLLL!!!!

    So sang Tom Jones in this high-action follow-up to Goldfinger. This time, Bond attempts to thwart SPECTRE's attempt to nuke a major city. We've got a few more gadgets, the usual mix of lethal and lucious Bond girls, and some of the best underwater action sequences set to film.

    The Disco Volante is one cool yacht. The Aston Martin proves useful again. We see Number One with the Cat again (well, sort of). We have our third Felix (whose dialogue seems to be dubbed). We get more of the amazing Ken Adam design (he really makes this series memorable). And the jet pack used in the opening sequence is just downright fun. And real!

    I was always a fan of the Bond soundtrack music, and this movie does not disappoint.

    This was the first of the series to be shot in Panavision widescreen. Sadly, there are a few glaring artifacts in the final underwater sequences. I might just have to upgrade to HD when that version is released.

    Like Goldfinger, Thunderball scores a perfect 007 on my subjective scale.

    --

    You Only Live Twice is the worst of the Connery Bonds, and probably one of the worst of the series. Bond goes off-the-radar by faking his death, so he can get to the bottom of disappearing space ships. The U.S. blames the Russians, the Russians blame the U.S., and the Cold War is about to escalate to a shooting match. Will Bond save the day? Will Japanese culture ever be the same?

    The hollow volcano set is impressive, but even the set design can't save this turkey. Bond undergoes hair removal to masquerade as a Japanese fisherman? Did they not think to shorten his legs?

    Other burning questions... do Japanese commandos actually carry samurai swords? Would a NASA employee mispronounce "Houston" as "Who-stun"?

    Donald Pleasence has an acceptable turn as Blofeld. Charles Gray, who has no f*cking neck, makes his first apperance in the series as a British contact in Japan. He plays Blofeld in the next Connery Bond film, but most people remember him as the Criminologist from Rocky Horror.

    There are gadgets, like a cool mini-helicopter. There is plenty of mindless action in the climactic attack on the volcano. But why did they have to blow up the roof from the inside? Would the explosives not be equally effective from the outside?

    Ah well, I am thinking too much.

    On the subective scale to 007, You Only Live Twice rates 002.
     
  2. Marty Milton

    Marty Milton New Member

    IMO, Goldfinger is the best Bond movie, and the best in the spy genre. This movie came out before other studios tried to get on the spy genre "bandwagon". After Goldfinger, the Bond producers had to introduce more and more gimmicks.
     

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