Bond. James Bond. Synonymous with pop corn and over the top, ridiculous, mucho suave fun. We’ve come to know him through six iconic suave masters (some more than others) in Sean Connery, George Lazenby, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan, and Daniel Craig. Fifty years and twenty two films later, Bond is still alive and kicking, currently with a little more grit and a lot more blond. To celebrate MGM’s cash cow golden boy’s big 50 and the upcoming release of Skyfall, they have put together not only the most comprehensive Bond release to date, but one of the biggest home release packages ever released. All twenty two films, many of which have received thorough restorations and some of which are completely new to Blu-ray, are housed within a gorgeous shelf ready box set that contains an absolutely ludicrous amount of extra features. Bond fans rejoice! There is more Bond for your buck than ever before!
Back when Bond was but a budding super spy, Sean Connery was solidifying the signature Bond iconography into the public consciousness with charming, effortless one liners, a relentlessly blunderous sex drive and a seemingly endless host of nerd worthy gadgets that paired perfectly with the larger than life set pieces, the inventive opening credits and the matching ear worm title songs. Oh! And the girls, so many gorgeous, scantily clad girls. Though he masterfully filled the roll for a total of six films, beginning with Dr. No and ending with Diamonds Are Forever, no film shaped the future of Bond like the 1964 franchise hand-off to director Guy Hamilton in Goldfinger. Pussy Galore (Honor Blackman) brought the memorability of the Bond girl to new heights, Bond himself received his first gadget filled Aston Martin, met his match in a world class super villain with a gold obsessed mastermind and his almost invincible right hand man Oddjob and still managed to save the world from an economic take over, all while screwing up at every turn and winning over both ladies and gents along the way.
After a one off with George Lazenby in the lead of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Connery continued into the 70s until he gave the reins to Roger Moore, who’s time as Bond was marked with lovable campiness (never more than in Moonraker) and a distinct, unnatural stiffness. Moore, who also maintained the roll for a successful six film run, found his stride with his third film, 1977′s The Spy Who Loved Me. Facing off against one of the most iconic of 007 villains in the mountainous iron-clad Jaws (Richard Kiel) and scientist/shipping tycoon/madman Karl Stromberg (Curd Jürgens), Moore battled among the Egyptian ruins and inside of a massive sea bound hideout to ultimately off his enemies and escape with the girl once again. Moore’s cheese layered portrayal came to an end in 1985 with A View To A Kill.
In response to the camp of Moore’s tenure, Timothy Dalton’s turn as 007 was the most raw and realistic up to that point, with only a pair of films, The Living Daylights and Licence To Kill, that split critics with their dark aesthetic, occasional gory violence, and a plot heavy edifice to actually forced people to pay attention to happenings outside of one liners and gunshots. While some missed the lighthearted nature of the recent Bond films and the formulaic 007 structure they’ve come to love, the infusion of a new, more intuitive face and an air of seriousness reinvigorated the series, albeit, briefly. Bond’s twisty, turny skirmish with the drug lord Franz Sanchez, with valiant assistance from Q (Desmond Llewelyn) and a lovely Pam Bouvier (Carey Lowell) is a favorite for some (even with its horribly exaggerated sound effects). Dalton’s term as Bond was much too short, but his successor, Pierce Brosnan, turned out to be an admirable replacement.
The 1990s were, if not the highlight of 007′s long career, quite a successful run for the world’s favorite spy. Brosnan turned out to be an appropriately balanced Bond – mighty keen on the ladies, a fan of ballistics, and stylishly adept with both, working somewhere between Connery’s genial charm, Moore’s silliness and Dalton’s action oriented naturalism. His first film as Bond was 1995′s Goldeneye, a throwback to Soviet tensions and classic iconography that still managed to revamp the series, bringing it to a new generation of younger viewers through Martin Campbell’s super slick, ultra commercial direction. Brosnan stayed on as 007 into the new millennium, giving the role over to Daniel Craig for the 2006 reboot, Casino Royale, a film that if not for nostalgia and icon adoration, might be the best Bond flick to date. Taking the series down an edgier, bigger and badder path, Craig’s icy 007 dabbles in actual emotion and responses with much more violence than ever before. His third film, Skyfall, will be released on the 25th of this month and looks to be quite an action epic to say the least.
My god, there is an insane amount of material packed into this set. Housed in a sturdy box highlighted with all six Bonds against gold lettering, two highly stylized book-like packages hold two sets of discs (23 in total including the extras bonus disc), one labeled 1962-1981, the other 1983-2012. These are very similar in feel to the highly regarded Alien box set that was released last year, with thick padded pages that hold two discs per page in slots labeled for each film. There is even an empty slot for when the Skyfall disc drops early next year. Overall, its a very classy package.
The films themselves look outstanding on the HD format, with many, as mentioned, receiving digital restorations that bring them up to silver screen quality, removing dirt and damage while fixing color fading and other defects. They also received audio cleanups that fatten up the sound a bit for DTS-HD 5.1 tracks that never stretch the original source material too thin. With many of the older films you give very little rounding out to the satellite speakers (a good example is the pool scene in Goldfinger) for a bit more immersion, but its never distracting. One instance where surround extention sounds a bit goofy is in the 80s films, in which poor sound effects high in the mix plague the cleaned up audio tracks. The newest films, as expected, look and sound nothing short of outstanding. Detail and color are brilliantly naturalistic, with deep blacks and appropriate skin tones. As for extras, which we’d normally list here, are just too numerous to list in total here. All of the discs contain hours of special features that include full length commentaries, vintage television and advertisement spots, retrospective featurettes, making of documentaries, direct links to each film’s classic moments, and much, much more. In total, there is over 120 hours of additional material here, enough to make almost an entire week of solid Bond viewing without actually watching a single 007 film. Craziness.
For Bond fans this is a no brainer. Go buy this right now. There is more spy action than you could ever imagine packed into this thing. For casual Bond fans and those looking to delve into the 007 catalog for the first time, this is still the cheapest, best looking, best sounding and most extensive collection available to date. That said, if you can justify spending $149 on the Bond 50 box, the gorgeously presented discs will surely be available through your favorite rental outlet (much cheaper than buying) or your local library (completely free!) for some excellent popcorn munching fun for your home theater.
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