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PHOTOGRAPHY

JAMES BOND Ultimate Edition Volume 4

DVD Review by David Blackwell

DETAILS: 5 James Bond films on 10 discs, audio commentaries, featurettes, documentaries, trailers, deleted scenes, and more.

STUDIO: MGM. United Artists, SPHE, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

RELEASE DATE: 12-12-2006

James Bond has always been one of my favorite characters. He has been played by no less than six actors in the official Bond movie series. DR.NO started it all while YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE present some great set pieces and a fantastic climax. MOONRAKER continues to be one of my favorites of the series while TOMORROW NEVER DIES has the fantastic Michelle Yoeh. OCTOPUSSY is one of the worst of the series despite the beautiful Maud Adams being in it (I guess James Bond as a clown doesn't work).

MOONRAKER remains one of my favorite movies of the James Bond series. Bond gets to go to outer space, the sets are impressive (on the same level of Blofeld's hideout in YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE), and the action contains some over-the-top humor. I never get tired of watching it. On one side, it seems like a remake of THE SPY WHO LOVED ME while you can also see elements of YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE. Space shuttles, bio weapons on a mass scale, and a megalomaniac who wants to remake the world add up to one hell of a Bond film.

The only fault of YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE is when they try turn Bond Japanese. However, the score is some of the best work John Barry composed for the series (in addition tot he music for MOONRAKER). Donald Pleasance isn't too bad as Blofeld (but Telly Savalas is better). S.P.E.C.T.R.E tries to start World War III between Russia and the United States by stealing manned space capsules in orbit and only the British have a good clue of what is going on. Bond's death is faked and he goes to Japan to investigate. YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE captures some beautiful sights in Japan while providing a good aerial battle too.

OCTOPUSSY features a couple of things originally considered for MONRAKER (the opening sequence microjet and using India as a location). The big problem is the script. OCTOPUSSY is very bloated. Maud Adams is the only person to play two Bond girls (she was the hit man's girlfriend in THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN), but she is equally attractive as Octopussy. OCTOPUSSY is another plot where someone wants to start a war. TOMORROW NEVER DIES resolves around an insane media baron trying to start a war between China and the United Kingdom for the coverage on his new cable news network. Carver isn't one of the best villains, but the action sequences are some of the best and Michelle Yoeh is up to the challenge (too bad they didn't spin-off her character into a series of her own). The Sheryl Crow theme song is weak (they should have used the end credits song by K.D. Lang instead. It is much stronger).

VIDEO: 2.35:1 (Anamorphic Widescrren) for all except DR.NO which is 1.66:1 (Anamorphic Widescreen)

The transfer for each film is amazing. Lowry Digital Images did a fantastic job in cleaning up the older Bond films.

AUDIO: English 5.1 Dolby Digital, English 5.1 DTS, French 5.1 DD, original English Mono (DR. NO, YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE), original English 2.0 Dolby Surround (MOONRAKER, OCTOPUSSY)

Subtitles: English, French, Spanish, Mandarin Chinese, Korean, Thai

(Japanese and Portoguese subtitles are available in addition to the above on disc 2 of each film)

Some of the 5.1 tracks are more subtle than others where more modern ones like TOMORROW NEVER DIES are more dynamic. Dialogue is always crystal clear.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

Given the size of the box set and the amount of extras, I will cover the highlights and mention most if not all of the extras from the previous James Bond Special Editions are carried over to the Ultimate Editions. A few new extras do pop up. The only extra that is mostly worthless is the Interactive Guide to 007 except for teh Exotic Locations pieces narrated by Maud Adams.

DR. NO's best extra is the restoration featurete that looks at Lowry (Digital Images)'s digital restoration of the James Bond films. You take a look at what they do to clean up the films and their facility.

YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE has a TV special called WELCOME TO JAPAN, MR. BOND (52 minute clip heavy piece with new scenes starring Q and Miss Montepenny filmed for this), the WHICKER'S WORLD segment shows 5 1/2 minutes of behind-the-scenes footage from YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE, and the ON LOCATION WITH KEN ADAM featurette is worth a look (narrated by Ken).

For old features, INSIDE YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE (previously seen on the SE of this film) is a fantastic behind-the-scenes documentary on the film. YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE is an under pressure production with a set release date (with Sean Connery's contract running out) that echoes the same thing that happens to later Bond films and big budget films being made today. SILHOUETTES: THE JAMES BOND TITLES explores the person who created some of the best James Bond title sequences, Maurice Binder, and a little bit on how the guy who did the titles for at least three of the current movies pays homage to Binder.

MOONRAKER has vintage interviews, behind-the-scens production footage, test footage for the stunts, but the old INSIDE MOONRAKER documentary (from the previous SE) is the best extra of the lot. The documentary goes into the production of the film from the various sets and how they did the special effects for the space sequences, and the stunt work. The Roger Moore audio commentary on disc 1 has too much dead space.

OCTOPUSSY has the honor of showing three screen tests James Brolin did as Bond (one where he and Maud Adams play out a scene of FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE, the other is the Vijay screen test, and a fight scene) in addition to a short featurette of Brolin talking about the experience (he introduces each screen test also). The INSIDE OCTOPUSSY documentary details the pre-production and production troubles of the film (one stunt person got hurt and an actor broke some bones). The movie trailers show how overused the Bond theme is overused (but the "I am Octopussy. Let me tease you." is a good bit).

TOMORROW NEVER DIES has few interesting deleted scenes, multi-angle option of different camera angles for two sequences in the film, and you even get the Sheryl Crow music video.

MENUS: I wish they did something else inside of walking women with guns and a gun firing for the menus. The use of music isn't bad.

CASE ART: I wonder what is so wrong about using the original poster art instead of the bad photoshop artwork job they do for these covers.

BOOKLETS: They provide loads of interesting info and photos (including poster art) for each film in the set.

FINAL ANALYSIS: The fourth Volume of the JAMES BOND ULTIMATE EDITION highlights great new transfers, new improved sound, and some interesting extras (in addition to some new ones never seen before). The fourth volume also has two of my five favorite Bond films in addition to a good Pierce Brosnan one.

this review is (c)12-16-2006 David Blackwell and cannot be reprinted without permission (except for excerpts and a link to the review). Look for additional content at http://enterlinemedia.livejournal.com and send all comments to lord_pragmagtic@hotmail.com