JAMES BOND - THE ULTIMATE EDITION COLLECTION

SOME COMMENTS ON THE 2006 EDITIONS

Latest additions in yellow!

Region 2 (UK) Edition

Directors:  Terence Young, Guy Hamilton, Lewis Gilbert, John Glenn, etc

Starring: Sean Connery, George Lazenby, Roger Moore, Pierce Brosnan, etc

All the films are offered with a choice of Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 audio tracks. All the Sean Connery films except Diamonds Are Forever were made with mono soundtracks - and these mono tracks aren't available on the new discs.

The two-disc format offers much more space for the film, because most of the bonus features have been moved to disc two. This means more data can be allocated to picture information, and a higher bit-rate should mean a more accurate presentation of the original master tape. Some of the new discs can't be read by a bit-rate analyser, but here are some average bit-rate readings from a few that could...

Live and Let Die

Region 2 Ultimate Edition - 7.81Mb/sec

Region 1 Special Edition - 5.15Mb/sec

Moonraker

Region 2 Ultimate Edition - 6.83Mb/sec

Region 1 Special Edition - 3.97Mb/sec

You Only Live Twice

Region 2 Ultimate Edition - 7.11Mb/sec

Region 1 Special Edition - 5.56Mb/sec

As you can see, the new editions offer much higher average bit-rates.

For the first time the first three films are offered in something closely approximating their original theatrical aspect ratio (of 1.66:1). The 2000 editions were cropped to 1.78:1 format. The new versions are windowboxed (i.e.: they have thin black bands at the sides of the image, to allow for anamorphic enhancement).

The 2000 discs featured a number of edited transfers - or, at least, were versions that did not include footage that was contained in other versions.

The UK versions of several of the 80s and 90s Bond movies have suffered at the hands of the BBFC (Licence To Kill, Goldeneye and Tomorrow Never Dies especially). Several shots of graphic violence from Licence To Kill were removed by the BBFC, and the BBFC have routinely toned-down impact sound effects (punches, etc) and sounds of human suffering (screams, etc) in subsequent films (sometimes to ensure that the films get a certificate that is agreeable to the distributor).

However, in some cases of missing footage it was simply a case of MGM not using the optimum print. Indeed, several Bond films are known to exist in several slightly different versions, notably Thunderball (see the featurette on the DVD).

The new Ultimate Edition DVD versions rectify some of the problems.

On Her Majesty's Secret Service

Three instances of missing footage have been fixed:

[Times in brackets refer to the Ultimate Edition discs - these will be different to any NTSC transfer]

A shot of the shadow of a passing cable car has been reinstated to the sequence where Bond's backup, Campbell (Bernard Horsfall), is trying to gain access to Blofeld's lair (it's just after the line "Perhaps you'd like to teach me?")  [72'19"]

As Bond and Tracy leave the race-track, the line "I told you that crowd would discourage them" is now delivered over an interior shot of Bond and Tracy in the car. The previous version had it delivered over an exterior shot of the car.  [103'58"]

Blofeld's line "Tracy, don't be so proud. Your father's own business is not entirely within the law. His brotherhood also have exotic ways of keeping a closed shop"  is no longer truncated after "the law."  [116'36"]

Licence To Kill  (SPOILERS!)

Licence To Kill was quite heavily cut by the BBFC for its theatrical release, and it was this version that was released on DVD in 2000, even in the US, where it should have been released uncut, like their theatrical release.

A number of cuts have been re-instated:

An underwater shot showing Felix Leitner's (David Hedison) bloody stump has been reinstated to the end of the sequence where Sanchez lowers Bond's friend into the jaws of a shark.  [21'05"]

Believing that Milton Krest (Anthony Zerbe) has betrayed him, Sanchez locks Krest into a decompression chamber, pressurises it, and then severs a feed pipe with an axe. A shot of Krest's head swelling up, and then exploding (or, at least, a shot of the inside of the porthole suddenly being showered with blood), has been reinstated.  [94'18"]

Several shots of Dario (Benecio Del Toro) falling into the grinding machine, and literally being minced alive, have been reinstated.  [109'15"]

A lingering shot of Sanchez on fire, falling to his knees, has been reinstated to his final confrontation in the desert with Bond.  [122'06"]

From Russia With Love

Unfortunately, a cut in From Russia With Love has not been fixed. There is a jump-cut at the end of the scene where Bond and Tatiana Romanova are riding in a gondola. Bond examines Grant's blackmail film. There is an awkward cut after Bond says "He's right you know". Bond's position changes (he's no longer obviously holding the film), and there's a jump in the theme song.  A subsequent line, "What a performance!" is missing from all known prints. An article about this can be found here.

The films have been given new transfers, and extensive restoration work has been undertaken by DTS Images (formerly Lowry Digital Images). I've had a look at Dr. No, Goldfinger, Thunderball and Live and Let Die. There's no doubt that the Connery films look much better than previous editions. Colour fidelity is improved, and there is more detail to the pictures. Grain is reduced (not necessarily a good thing, but it seems fine here), and dirt and film damage has been almost completely eliminated, (and if you don't think that this was a problem with the old discs, I suggest you take another look at them!) Some of the films I looked at - Live and Let Die, especially - had lots of flecks of dirt and film sparkle, which is no longer present.

Some of the new transfers - Live and Let Die, especially - don't seem quite as sharp as before, but this is probably attributable to artificial edge-enhancement on the old transfers. The improvements to Live and Let Die weren't as immediately obvious, compared to the Connery discs, and they seemed to be more variable from shot-to-shot. Some shots were immeasurably better, others, if anything, seemed worse. I stress that this was based on a random sampling of scenes. Since the new transfers and grading were not supervised by the film's original cinematographers, there's no guarantee that the new versions faithfully reflect their original intentions.

Some screengrabs from Dr. No, Goldfinger, Thunderball and Live and Let Die can be found here.

More notes on the James Bond Ultimate Edition DVDs.

Dr. No

That's a Smith and Wesson... and you've had your six!

In the original cut of the film Bond shot the traitorous Professor Dent six times. Director Terence Young decided that this was a little excessive, so trimmed the scene. In all extant versions of the film, including the new Ultimate Edition version, Bond only shoots twice ([56'09"]

From Russia With Love

There's a sequence where Tatiana Romanova leaves Istambul's Russian Consulate General with two colleagues [13'35"]. She chats to them briefly. Shortly afterwards, on her way to a meeting with Rosa Klebb, she asks a policeman directions [14'00"]. Both of these scenes have foreign dialogue, but no English subtitles. Apparently some prints (possibly only theatrical / TV prints) have English subtitles for these scenes. The new Ultimate Edition version is the same as the 2000 R1 version: no subtitles.

On Her Majesty's Secret Service

The MichaelDVD review mentions a shot where one of the helicopters attacking Blofeld's mountaintop lair apparently vanishes into thin air. This is at 120'51"-120'54" in the Ultimate Edition version. This is the same as the 2000 R1 edition [125'13"-125'16"], and seems to be the result of a lap dissolve between two takes.

Live and Let Die

The disc features the film's original burnt-in theatrical captions. It's possible that the textless version of these scenes may no longer exist. If they did, it would have been relatively simple to stabilise the rather shaky opening shot of the UN building. Perhaps doing this, which would mean re-creating the original caption, or replacing it with a player-generated one, went beyond DTS Images' restoration remit?

The Man With The Golden Gun

Some of the new additional features on the Ultimate Edition DVDs have been somewhat awkwardly edited, perhaps to avoid licensing complications, or music clearance issues. None, though, is more ham-fistedly handled than the interview with Roger Moore and Herve Villechaize from The Russell Harty Show, which has been re-edited to completely remove the show's host (some shots seem to have been zoomed-in, apparently to crop him out!) The result is a disjointed mess. This footage was licensed from ITN.

Octopussy

During the chase through the streets of Dehli, Bond dispatches a villain by throwing him onto a bed of nails, much to the disgust of its owner, a fakir, who says (in Indian) "Get off my bed." In the theatrical version, this was accompanied by an English subtitle. This is present in the new UE version, but as a player-generated subtitle. [35'38"] This subtitle was missing entirely from the 2000 R1 edition [37'04"], so in this respect the new Ultimate Edition version is an improvement, even if it isn't the original burnt-in caption.

A View To A Kill

There's an awkward jump-cut in the scene where Bond pulls back the bed covers, when May Day climbs into bed with him (presumably to remove some accidental nudity). This is still present in the Ultimate Edition version.  [41'50"]

The Living Daylights

The establishing caption ("BRATISLAVIA, CZECHOSLOVAKIA"), which should appear after the main titles is missing entirely: no burnt-in caption, and no player-generated subtitle [9'54"]. It's missing from the 2000 R1 edition, too.

In the scene where Kusov is smuggled out in the pipeline, Bond's colleague, Rosika Miklos (The Life and Loves of a She Devil's Julie T. Wallace), seduces the security supervisor, to distract him form his control panel. Her job done, she rebukes him: (in Russian). There's supposed to be an English subtitle here ("What sort of girl do you think I am?" ), but it's missing: the line doesn't even appear in the regular English subtitles. [18'40"] It wasn't there in the 2000 R1 edition, either [19'29"].

The Inside The Living Daylights featurette still contains the Sam Neill screen test footage (which was - probably erroneously - blamed for the 2000 disc becoming briefly unavailable).

Goldeneye

There's an establishing caption ("Arkangel Chemical Weapons Facility - USSR") at the beginning of the film, which appears just after Bond's bungee dive from the dam [2'20"]. In the theatrical version of the film, the caption was - appropriately - in a nice gold colour. The Ultimate Edition has replaced this with a hideous white player-generated subtitle, which doesn't even appear in precisely the same part of the frame, or at exactly the time the original version did. It's also in upper case, when the original was in mixed case. The original caption was present 2000 R1 edition, as you can see...

Above: the original theatrical version's caption, as seen in the 2000 R1 DVD

Below: the player-generated caption, as seen in the 2006 Ultimate Edition DVD

(Note that these are not the same frame - the Ultimate Edition version caption wasn't on-screen for long enough to grab an identical frame!

This is a problem that regularly blights MGM's UK DVDs. Obviously virtually no effort was made to match the new player-generated caption with how it looked originally. (For another example, see the Silence of the Lambs review)

Tomorrow Never Dies

In the case of Tomorrow Never Dies, the first Bond film to be released on DVD in the wake of its theatrical release, player-generated caption ugliness affects the original 1998 Region 1 version, the 1999 re-packaged re-issue, and the new R2 Ultimate Edition (even if they can't even agree whether the captions should be in upper or mixed case!) Behold, the opening scene...

Above: player-generated caption, as seen in the 1998/1999 R1 DVDs  [0'39"]

Below: player-generated caption, as seen in the 2006 R2 Ultimate Edition DVD  [0'42"]

(Note that these two grabs are not of the same frame)

The World Is Not Enough

The establishing caption at the beginning of the film ("BILBAO, SPAIN") [0'37"], the "MI6 HEADQUARTERS SCOTLAND" caption [17'00"], the "AZERBAIJAN" caption [27'21"] and the "JAMES BOND WILL RETURN" [119'07"] are all the original theatrical versions, just as they were in the 2000 R1 edition (hooray!)

Die Another Day

A return to player-generated captions (e.g.: "PUKCH'ONG COAST, NORTH KOREA", at 0'31", the ungainly "Colonel Tan-Sun Moon's HQ De-Militarised Zone, North Korea", at 3'33", and "14 months later", at 16'06"). The "JAMES BOND WILL RETURN" caption - this time at the very end of the credits - is per the theatrical presentation. The 2003 UK R2 DVD also had the player-generated captions.

A substantial amount of the bonus material that was on the original R2 DVD, released in 2003, is missing from this so-called "Ultimate" edition, including the seventy-five minute documentary Inside Die Another Day; several other short featurettes; Madonna's Die Another Day video (and its Making of... featurette); and the theatrical trailers - all gone. The new material: Just Another Day (23m), A British Touch - Bond Returns To London (4m) and Location Scouting With Peter Lamont (14m), don't nearly make up for the omissions.

 

 

With thanks to the ever-vigilant Richard Crowther

Additional assistance from www.MI6.co.uk

Site content copyright J.A.Knott - 2002-2006