This weekend was a James Bond weekend for me as I just received all six of the upcoming James Bond Blu-ray titles releasing tomorrow, October 21. They include, as you can see from the pic above, Dr. No, From Russia with Love, Thunderball, Live and Let Die, For Your Eyes Only and Die Another Day. I have no idea how they came up with this order since they don’t match up with any one of the Ultimate DVD sets released one year ago and outside of having three of Connery’s first four turns as Bond (minus Goldfinger) there doesn’t appear to be any real logic to it all.
You can buy each title separately, which wasn’t an immediate option with the Ultimate DVD releases, which is a nice bonus or you can save money if you plan on buying the whole lot in two separate volumes. Volume One contains Dr. No, Die Another Day and Live and Let Die and you can buy it at Amazon for $58.95 and Volume Two is actually a little more expensive and contains From Russia With Love along with For Your Eyes Only and Thunderball. Volume Two is available at Amazon for $61.95. Retail on individual titles ranges from $21.95 to $23.95. I have included “Buy Now” links with all the summaries listed below.
If you already own any of the recently released Ultimate DVD collections or the individually released Ultimate DVD Editions I will tell you right now you aren’t going to be seeing any overwhelming differences in picture, audio or features. However, there are a few things to consider.
In terms of picture, the Ultimate DVD releases were already digitally remastered and looked fantastic. There was not a lot of room for improvement as those editions were released on two-disc DVD sets and MGM did the best they could by keeping the features on a second disc allowing for as much space on the DVDs for the movie and audio tracks in an effort to improve on compression and video quality. The result was quite remarkable. As for the Blu-ray picture you may see a slight improvement in clarity and the colors do pop off the screen a little bit more. Fine details are improved and your reds will be slightly redder and your greens slightly greener, but to say it is an overwhelming improvement would be a lie.
In terms of audio quality I would say there is a relatively similar improvement. Both the Blu-ray and DVD editions utilize DTS sound, the Blu-ray, however is boasting the lossless DTS-HD audio, but I did find a few issues with it. On Thunderball and Live and Let Die I noticed a drastic loss in dialogue volume. The contrast between the score track and the dialogue track was so evident that it had me lowering and raising the volume throughout the film, not exactly a pleasant experience. It sounded good when I could hear it, but there should never be that large of a difference.
In terms of special features everything from the Ultimate DVDs has been carried over but anywhere from one to three of the making of featurettes on each disc have been remastered in high-definition. Other than that, there is no visible difference.
There are a couple of questions to ask: Should you but the Blu-ray versions? Should you upgrade?
Should you but the Blu-ray versions?
If you don’t already own your favorite James Bond films on DVD and you are dying to own them then you should definitely buy the Blu-ray versions. As of right now there is no better way to watch these classic films and I don’t expect there to be a better way for some time to come. Each transfer looks fantastic and outside of the sound issue I mention on a couple of these titles I was extremely impressed with each release. If you are considering buying piece meal or in volumes that is up to you, but as I detail each release on the following pages you should get an idea of which ones are right for you.
Should you upgrade?
The short answer to this question is No. However, the long more drawn out answer begins with It Depends.
If you already own the Ultimate DVD release versions from last year, then no, don’t upgrade. It’s not worth the price. The only reason you would be upgrading is for a very slight upgrade in picture and audio quality and an improved menu system. Honestly, I would say the only real benefit to upgrading from the Ultimate Editions would be the slick menu system, which is hardly worth an additional $20 a title.
If you have any edition of these Bond titles prior to the Ultimate Edition releases then you should definitely upgrade if you are considering it. These are the best these films have looked and in terms of picture and audio (exceptions noted) are the best you are going to get.
Now, let’s take a look at each title and I will give you my opinion on a case-by-case basis. As I give you my quick summaries I should probably tell you my favorite original Bond films are The Man with the Golden Gun, The Living Daylights, Dr. No, From Russia With Love and Tomorrow Never Dies. Hopefully that gives you an idea of what kind of opinion you are getting.