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Headsup: Boom, It’s Bond on Blu-Ray

Die Another Day Blu-Ray cover art
Dr. No Blu-Ray cover art

Well, I’ve mentioned that Bond is the last film you have to worry about, at least box office-wise, between now and the end of the year. In fact, I think we’ll be so goddamn ready for a serious hero that the present condition of the world might make Quantum of Solace go apeshit as far as ticket sales go. So we’ve got a new Bond movie coming out, the second chapter of a successful relaunch of the dead franchise–it only makes sense that MGM would try to capitalize on this. And give them credit: they’ve done it by throwing six pre-Craig Bond (hereafter known as PCB) flicks onto Blu-Ray.

I say “throwing” just because you’re pretty much looking at the previous Ultimate Collection releases ported to the Blu-Ray format. But that’s necessarily a bad thing. The Ultimate Collections were nothing to sneeze at. And while we see a lot of releases these days that might make you wonder whether or not they really need the hi-def treatment–just to pick the first one that springs to mind…Drillbit Taylor?–Bond is an action franchise with explodo to spare. So even the weaker installments of PCB at least look and sound a helluva lot better.

[ad#longpost]First out of the starting gate is the last PCB installment: Die Another Day with Pierce Brosnan, the Bond who should have been the perfect “cinema Bond” and made his best Bond films when he wasn’t making them. Thomas Crown Affair, anyone? That was like the ultimate Bond and Bruce Wayne movie all in one. But yes, you’ll notice that of the six Blu-Ray out of the starting gate–Brosnan’s only got the one. Still, this does come with two commentaries–one with Brosnan, the other with actress Rosamund Pike–and another with the director and the producer. You also get a trivia track–the “MI6 Datastream”–and an interactive guide. There’s also a “script to screen” featurette, plus four production featurettes, one with production designer Peter Lamont. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.

Dr. No kicked everything off–and of course starred Sean Connery–which means it’s pretty darn brilliant. I’m sad to report that the “Forbidden Criterion Commentary” does not appear on here–and probably will never appear again. Shame, because it was hilarious. Anyway, here you get the film in restored glory, video and audio (with a featurette taking you through it), ported to hi-def. Also there’s the commentary here edited together with director Terence Young, editor Peter Hunt, actress Ursula Andress and a slew of other members of the cast and crew. There’s also featurettes on the guns of Bond, Bond movie premieres, director Young and a making-of docu. There’s also a featurette from 1963 on the film. This also comes with a interactive guide. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.

For Your Eyes Only Blu-Ray cover art
From Russia With Love Blu-Ray cover art

Ah, Roger Moore. Moore is the Bond I grew up with, only finding Connery later and understanding what I had missed. Don’t get me wrong–I still think Moore is an excellent cinema Bond, although not as tough as Connery and not as smooth as Brosnan. Hell, I still count Moonraker as a major guilty pleasure pic. And so our first Moore Blu-Ray release is For Your Eyes Only. And this one makes me happy, because I’m a commentary junkie. One commentary here is with director John Glen with cast members (like Topol) and another is with scribe Michael G. Wilson and members of the crew (like the stunt experts and the skiing experts). A final commentary is with Sir Roger Moore himself. Nice. You also get four production featurettes, plus deleted scenes and different angles, storyboard sequences, and–! The Sheena Easton music video! Because I know that’s what will really sell you. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Next up, From Russia With Love. “Forbidden Criterion Commentary?” Wait, let me check. Nope. Sorry. You do get Sean as Bond, which is badass and almost redundant for me to even say so. You also get the array of features: commentary with director Young plus another parade of folks, including editor Hunt, composer John Barry and scads more. This time around Ian Fleming himself is in the house with an interview he gave for the CBC, plus an additional interview with him and a short convo between Fleming and Raymond Chandler. There’s a storyboard sequence, the interactive guide, a making-of docu, a long bit covering the career of producer Harry Saltzman (who did a crapload of Bond films as well as stuff like The Battle of Britain. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Live and Let Die Blu-Ray cover art
Thunderball Blu-Ray cover art

So we’re over to Live And Let Die, which not only has a badass theme song, but also Yaphet Kotto and the excellent Geoffrey Holder as crazy-creepy Baron Samedi. Remember you also had George Martin doing the score for this one. This time around you’ve got three commentaries, one with Sir Roger Moore, one with director Guy Hamilton plus members of the cast and crew and then scribe Tom Mankiewicz. You get bits from the Bond archives, including a docu from the making of the film in 1973, and an appearance by Moore as James Bond before he was James Bond, for a BBC show called Mainly Millicent in 1964. There’s concept art, the interactive guide, a making-of docu, behind the scenes footage, and more. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Finally, the film with the longest underwater fight sequence in film history with Thunderball. Or at least it feels that way. Before we had the Pod Race (PR) as a unit of long, drawn out supposedly action sequences, we had the TBUWB (ThunderBall UnderWater Brawl), which is just not as much fun to say and it’s always fun to pick on George Lucas. Anyway, another stacked title here, with two commentaries: one with director Terence Young plus cast and crew, such as composer Barry and actor Desmond Llewelyn–and a second with co-scribe John Hopkins and editor Peter Hunt. We get Bond-related television commercials from 1965, plus a Ford promotional film from the same year that’s a visit to set coupled with some explodo. Also there’s a TV special that’s nothing special but good to have for posterity, as it brings no really new information to the fray. Production Designer Ken Adam has a featurette of his own, as well as the guy who flew the rocket pack in That Sequence. There’s a making-of featurette, a featurette that looks at different versions of the film, a show reel that had been used at boat shows, and a Bond retrospective featurette as well. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

The question of whether or not you should buy these is pretty cut and dried. If you want them and want them in hi-def, then your task is clear. Seriously, the upgrade in image and audio is nice and there’s no shame in wanting to see some of these sequences on Blu-Ray. Most of these are priced at $23.95 as I write this as single Blu-Ray releases. You can mix and match them that way. Or you do save a few bucks if you only want half of them, by buying the three-film boxed sets. Volume 1 comes with Dr. No, Die Another Day and Live and Let Die. You save about $13 that way. You can buy that set here. Volume 2 comes with For Your Eyes Only, From Russia with Love and Thunderball. You save about $8 by buying those three together. You can buy that set here. And of course, Amazon will let you buy all six for $111.95, which is a little under $19 a title that way. You can buy that double-set here.