(Note:  All timings quoted refer to the PAL releases, unless otherwise stated)

DR. NO - 1962

Until the recent release of the Ultimate Edition DVD, Dr. No has never looked particularly wonderful, in any of its home video incarnations.

Before its DVD debut, Dr. No was released in a variety of different formats, including a full-frame VHS release (which opened up the mattes at the top and bottom of the frame, but chopped a little information off at the sides), and a widescreen VHS, which was correctly framed at approximately 1.66:1.

The most notable of these early home video releases was the 1991 Criterion laserdisc release. Although the print used for this disc wasn’t especially attractive, (and, although almost correctly matted to around 1.65:1, was apparently cropped on all four sides, according to the ever reliable Video Watchdog), the disc has become a collector’s item for its commentary track, which featured contributions from Terence Young, Richard Maibaum and Peter Hunt, all of whom were, to say the least, candid in their recollections. Shortly after the disc was released, it was withdrawn from sale, and re-issued, somewhat sheepishly, without the commentary.

A few years later, the film made its debut on DVD, first as an American barebones release in the Autumn of 1997, then as a Special Edition (from here on in, referred to as SE). All regions contained a version matted to approximately 1.78:1 (a home video ratio, but close enough to the 1.85:1 ratio it would have been projected at in American theatres), losing a significant amount of information at top and bottom, when compared with the widescreen VHS.

All releases of the film up to this point retained the film’s original mono soundtrack.

July 2006 saw the UK release of the Ultimate Edition collection (from here on in, referred to as the UE). Most of the film damage seen on all previous editions was removed, resulting in an image that leant a new sense of immediacy to the proceedings. Sadly, despite rumours to the contrary before release, it turned out that the original mono track was not included on the disc. Instead consumers were offered two new surround mixes – one in Dolby, one in DTS.

The film itself has always suffered from what is perhaps one of the most famous censorship-imposed cuts ever. In the scene in which Bond is forced to kill Professor Dent, all known prints show Bond shooting Dent twice. In the original cut, Bond sadistically shoots him a total of six times (this can be seen at 56’ 09” on the UE). It is unlikely that the missing footage still exists. It’s never been included on any home video release, even as a DVD extra.


Comparative Dr. No screen-grab

TOP: Region 1 Special Editions  (2000)         BOTTOM: Region 2 Ultimate Editions  (2006)

Note: the Ultimate edition screengrabs have been re-sized to match the width of the SE grabs, but they are all in their original aspect ratios.



Another film which has never looked particularly wonderful on home video. It’s also another film that suffers from a maddening number of edits and jump cuts, due to censorship restrictions at the time of its initial release.

Among the cuts that had to be made, are the following (this list was taken from Glenn Erickson’s DVD Savant column over at DVDtalk):

1) - References to "lovers" and "physical enjoyment" have been cut. There's no indication of exactly where these references appear.

2) - The dance in the Gypsy Camp has been shortened to remove wriggling and shots of the women bending over backwards, as a small amount of pubic hair is on show.

3) - The fight that follows between the Gypsies and the Bulgars has been considerably reduced.

4) - Tania walking nude towards the Bridal Suite bed was cut for the cinema release, but reinstated into video and DVD editions. In all editions I've seen, the actress or her double is actually wearing a body stocking and is veiled by some curtains.

5) - Bonds reference to searching Tania is missing, and the kissing is reduced.

6) - Tania's remark, "I hope I came up to expectations" is cut.

7) - The scene of the two of them in bed has been darkened and shortened.

8 ) - The use of "Was I" in "Was I as exciting as all those Western girls?" has been changed to "Am I?" The past tense implies that the couple have had sex, while the present tense implies that Bond just finds her attractive.

9) - Bond's line "two hours should straighten this out" as he lowers the blind on the Orient Express is cut.

10) - Killer Red Grant (Robert Shaw) gets the drop on Bond in his compartment on the Orient Express. Grant's remark "What a performance!" when he throws the compromising 8mm film reel at Bond is removed.

11) - The subsequent Bond-Grant fight is shorter than it was originally.

12) - When Bond shoots SMERSH assassin Rosa Kleb (Lotte Lenya) in the Venice hotel room, shots of her dying have been trimmed and removed, and her death cries have been muted on the soundtrack.

13) - Bond's repeat of Red Grant's quip, "What a performance!" as he examines the film reel in the Gondola, has been cut.

It was this edited version which was to be circulated throughout the world.

From Russia With Love was, like Dr. No, also released on laserdisc as part of the Criterion Collection in 1991. Presented at 1.68:1, and once again cropped on all four sides, the release also featured a controversial commentary track, which meant that the disc was withdrawn soon after going on sale, and re-released without a commentary.

Released on VHS in both full frame (as with Dr. No, gaining at the top and bottom, but losing information at the sides), and then widescreen versions (where the reverse was true), this film’s first DVD release was as a Region 1 disc in 1997, at a (compromised) ratio of 1:78:1. As with the first film, it retained its original mono audio mix. It wasn’t bad looking for an early DVD release, but as the years progressed, it was clear that there was much room for improvement.

Fans had to wait for nearly a decade for an improved version, which appeared in July 2006, with the release of the UE. Now framed at 1.66:1, revealing extra information at the top and bottom, as well as the sides, From Russia With Love looks simply wonderful throughout. However, once again, we find the original mono mix has been replaced by two surround mixes.

Interestingly, a sequence early on in the film, where Tatiana Romanova leaves Istanbul's Russian Consulate General with two colleagues [13'35"] and, shortly afterwards, makes her way to a meeting with Rosa Klebb, asking a policeman for directions as she goes[14'00"], sometimes includes subtitle translations for the Russian dialogue (I’ve seen a theatrical print which included them). The new UE is the same as the previous home video releases, however: no subtitles.


Goldfinger was also cut by the BBFC before its theatrical debut, with the removal of a shot of Bonita getting out of the bath at the start of the film, the shortening of the sequence in which a thug is electrocuted in that same bath, and the shortening of the scene of Bond and Jill Masterson on a bed.

Goldfinger was also the third and final film given the Criterion laserdisc treatment in 1991 (complete with another of those controversial commentaries). It's also been available as a variety of full-frame and widescreen releases on VHS (the latter of which preserving the original 1.66:1 framing). The original DVD release of this ever-popular entry was framed at 1.78:1. Interestingly, whilst the majority of the film is in mono, the title song is actually presented in stereo on many of the later VHS, laserdisc and DVD releases. In fact, I understand the mono mix hasn’t been heard since about 1992.

The UE once more reverts back to the intended 1.66:1 framing, and looks simply wonderful. However, it also jettisons the mono mix in favour of a revised surround mix. Also, it should be noted that there is a reported minor encoding glitch during the establishing shot of Goldfinger's stud in Baltimore, which manifests itself differently depending on the player.


Comparative Goldfinger screen-grabs

TOP: Region 1 Special Editions  (2000)         BOTTOM: Region 2 Ultimate Editions  (2006)

Note: the Ultimate edition screengrabs have been re-sized to match the width of the SE grabs, but they are all in their original aspect ratios.



Now here’s an interesting one! Thunderball has usually been presented with a surround audio mix since the late nineties. However, the UE mix would appear to be different to previous 5.1 mixes, with sound effects having been added or changed, much to the distress of purists.

This is also the film with perhaps the most number of variant cuts floating around over the years, with numerous changes in sound effects, dialogue and music depending upon which version you happen to be watching. Some of these changes are illustrated in a featurette on the DVD itself, but many more are detailed in an article published in a back issue of John Cork’s Goldeneye magazine.

Surprisingly, given the quite shocking violence seen towards the end of the film, the only sequence that the BBFC asked to be altered for theatrical exhibition was the scene in which Bond can be seen stroking Patricia with a mink glove. Since these brief sequences are retained in the DVD and VHS versions, I can only assume that the shots in question were either added back in at some point after the initial release, or that the shots as they stand were originally much longer. The two sequences can be seen on the SE at 17’38” and again at 21’ 56”.

One of the most troublesome problems with all recent releases of Thunderball concerns the end credits, which originally contained the phrase “James Bond Will Return In On Her Majesty’s Secret Service”. However, plans changed, and when it became clear that the next film was, in fact, to be You Only Live Twice, the very end of the credits sequence was crudely chopped off by means of a swift fade-to-black (which didn’t allow the end credits to fully scroll up the screen before being somewhat unceremoniously curtailed. Monty Norman very nearly doesn’t receive a credit in the film as it stands now!) The music John Barry had composed for the end sequence was also removed, and replaced with the familiar recording of the Bond theme, as used in several of the early films. Unfortunately, whilst the UE has removed most of the print damage visible on all previous versions, it does not rectify this glaring error.

It would appear that the colour is a little “off” in places, with the scene involving a man being fed to a shark (56’ 26” on the SE), being particularly noticeable, since the water into which the man bleeds now turns a blue-purple, as opposed to blood-red, as originally seen (see below). A point in the UE’s favour, however, is that the image itself is (colour issues aside) wonderful to behold, and the framing allows the visuals a little more room to breathe than previously.

Also included on the UE is the documentary The Incredible World of James Bond, missing from the previous DVD issue, but present on MGM’s lavish multi-disc laserdisc box set. This documentary is invaluable, not least because it contains a short sequence, deleted from the final film, involving Martine Beswick’s character, Paula, who is barely given any screen time at all in the theatrical cut.


Comparative Thunderball screen-grabs

TOP: Region 1 Special Editions  (2000)         BOTTOM: Region 2 Ultimate Editions  (2006)

Note: the Ultimate edition screengrabs have been re-sized to match the width of the SE grabs, but they are all in their original aspect ratios.



A favourite of many fans, You Only Live Twice has never looked appalling on previous releases, but the Ultimate Edition somehow manages to make the film feel colder, with muted colours, and an image which reveals slightly more at the bottom, whilst cropping the image at the sides. Again, there is no mono mix on the UE.

Apparently, the Japanese theatrical release of this film included a stereo mix. It would perhaps be an idea, on any future release, to have this represented on disc, alongside the mono track, for historical interest if nothing else. Given the fact that You Only Live Twice is possibly the most violent of the sixties Bond pictures, it is interesting to note that this is the only entry from that decade left untouched by the BBFC.


Sean Connery’s (rather lacklustre) return to the role that made him famous saw the BBFC request some cuts to the lift fight sequence between Peter Franks and Bond, notably a reduction of the amount of footage showing Bond using a fire extinguisher to kill Franks. Also edited were shots of Bond wielding a brandy bottle as a weapon, and a reduction of the footage showing Kidd jumping over the ship’s rail, whilst on fire at the end of the film. Looking at the film as it is distributed today, it seems clear that some, if not all, of this footage has long since been reinserted back into the film.

This film really wasn’t well served by previous releases, with the widescreen VHS being cropped on all four sides, and the SE DVD, whilst being more generously framed, being riddled with print damage. The first shot of Chapter 23 is a good example of this (79’ 39”) (see screengrabs, below).

The UE on the other hand, alters the framing slightly, when compared with the SE, with more vertical, but slightly less horizontal information being visible. There is also a slight alteration in the colour timing, with a generally slightly colder look to the film. The film nevertheless looks and sounds wonderful, once the lack of a mono mix is taken into account.


Comparative Diamonds Are Forever screen-grabs, showing cleanup of chemical stains

TOP: Region 1 Special Editions  (2000)         BOTTOM: Region 2 Ultimate Editions  (2006)

Note: the Ultimate edition screengrabs have been re-sized to match the width of the SE grabs, but they are all in their original aspect ratios.



To understand how this picture came into being, we must travel back in time back to the 1960s and look at the genesis of the novel Thunderball.

Thunderball actually started out as a screenplay, written by Ian Fleming, Jack Whittingham and one Kevin McClory. McClory was set to produce the screenplay, but his latest film, The Boy and The Bridge, was something of a financial failure, which led to him being unable find enough financial backing for Thunderball.

Because of the failure to get Thunderball into production, Fleming elected to salvage the project by adapting the script into a novel. However, McClory and Whittingham took exception to the fact that the novel was only to be credited to Fleming. They took their grievances to court. Ill health prompted Fleming to settle out of court, and it was decreed that all future publications of the novel would state ”based on a screen treatment by Kevin McClory, Jack Whittingham, and Ian Fleming” on the copyright page inside the book, though Fleming still retains the outright authorship credit on the cover to this day. McClory also secured the right to make a film of the novel, as well as control of the characters and situations therein (including Ernst Stavro Blofeld and the concept of SPECTRE).

After another attempt to make his own adaptation failed, McClory eventually went to Saltzman and Broccoli, and together they made the Eon version of Thunderball we all know and enjoy today. As part of the agreement with Eon, McClory would not be allowed to make another version of Thunderball for ten years.

After the ten-year embargo was up, Kevin McClory made several attempts to get a Bond film off the ground. However, it would be another few years before he finally managed, after many legal battles, to get his own adaptation of Thunderball into production, this time via Warner Brothers. The director was to be Irvin Kershner (The Empire Strikes Back, Robocop 2), and the producer was Jack Schwartzman, with McClory taking an Executive Producer credit.

Despite the worthiness of the finished product, the production itself was, by all accounts, a disorganized disaster, with Sean Connery later going on record as saying that he and (first assistant director) David Tomblin had basically been forced to produce the picture by themselves.

The second of the so-called “unofficial” films (a term I’ve always found to be a somewhat dismissive towards a film that, let’s face it, is totally legal and above board, has a perfect right to exist, and stars the actor that many believe to be the definitive Bond), there is little to report regarding this lengthy but enjoyable film’s history on home video. Like Casino Royale, this film has never really been given the treatment it deserves, never having a widescreen VHS release, and only being given the most perfunctory of DVD releases. The Region 1 cover doesn’t even mention that this is a James Bond film, except almost as an afterthought in the blurb on the back, and doesn’t carry an MGM logo, even though MGM was the distributor at that time. Likewise, there are no logos on the beginning of the disc, instead, we are led straight to the menu. Indeed, the package as a whole is copyrighted to the “NSNA Company”, which sounds even more suspect. But for the booklet (designed similarly to the SE booklets) that came with the Region 1 release (though not the Region 2) you could almost be forgiven for thinking that it was some kind of public domain release or bootleg.

The only extra was a trailer, but the film itself was presented in a correctly framed, if slightly muddy-looking and horizontally squeezed, transfer. Given the fascinating behind-the-scenes story surrounding the making of this film, and the masses of deleted footage that allegedly still exists for it, it is to be hoped that, some day, it will receive its own Special Edition, but for now, this will have to suffice. The original R1 pressing omitted a four-minute section of the film, just after Bond arrives at the casino in chapter 19, around the 66’ mark, but this was reinserted for subsequent pressings. The Region 2, on the other hand, has suffered an eight second edit to the shot of a horse, after having been ridden over a high wall (via an effects shot), entering the water below on its back (achieved using a real horse). This shot in retained in the Region 1 release. I understand that the Australian release was of the UK edited version.


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