Live and Let Die - Bond 50 Box Set Blu-ray Review
Live and Let Die hit Blu-ray as one of the single releases a while back and appears to be in the same shape here, as part of the new Bond 50 collection. Having undergone a 4K digital restoration conducted by Lowry Digital – and one of the better ones I might add – I doubt many would consider that this film has ever looked better than this. The 1080p High Definition presentation in the movie’s original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 widescreen looks superb.
Detail is excellent, not just on the surface either, with extremely impressive fine object detail, helping create an image which seldom betrays the film’s near 40-year old print. Certainly there’s no significant damage that’s visible in this restoration, but also, there’s no sign of any overzealous digital manipulation; no overt edge enhancement, haloing, banding or blocking. There’s a nice level of grain – just what you would expect from an early 70s flick – and noise never becomes an issue.
The colour scheme is rich and vibrant, with strong tones that stand out irrespective of some of the less than colourful locations, and contrast levels are excellent throughout, leading up to some strong, deep blacks and impressive shadow detail. Fans of the film who picked this up first time around will no doubt be familiar with just how good this video presentation looks, but those watching it in HD for the first time here as part of the collection will certainly be in for a treat.
On the aural front this Live and Let Die release is unfortunately far from as impressive, slinking in with little more than an above-average rating, which is a shame considering that it’s a fairly noisy, boisterous outing with an engagingly persistent score to accompany the action. Indeed it’s probably the score that gets the best treatment, zinging in your ears and reverberating around the room with its insistent, frenetic tones; getting faster and faster to further the tension across many of the key set-pieces.
Pretty-much all of the rest of the track goes by the wayside, with only a few elements – like Bond’s unorthodox Magnum .44 hand-cannon – putting a dent in the overpowering soundtrack. Dialogue too suffers, but not so much as to be incoherent, coming across clearly through the frontal array, but not quite to the level you would expect considering the balance with regard to the rest of the track’s elements.
Without enough dynamic spread across the surrounds, and with a rather unruly amount of indistinct LFE input (which does not actually apply to any of the more thunderous effects – where you might expect it), although this is a remixed DTS HD 5.1 offering, it doesn’t really do a great deal more than the original mono. Perhaps that’s a tiny bit harsh – I’m certain that fans will not find their experience diminished by watching the film with this accompaniment – but it’s just a shame that they put quite so much effort into the video presentation and then let the audio presentation slide.
This new Bond 50 Box Set comes complete with all of the old Ultimate Edition DVD extras ported over (as well as some new material on a further disc in the set). Far from bad news, the old UE releases pretty-much offered up definitive background material for each title, and Live and Let Die was arguably one of the chapters that was particularly well endowed.
Sporting no less than three separate Commentaries – one by the Cast and Crew, one by the Screenwriter, and one by Bond star Sir. Roger Moore himself – we also had a number of informative background Featurettes and Documentaries, as well as a hefty amount of promotional material (which, with the majority of these older releases, was the only place you could spot the Deleted Scenes). Fans of the film will no doubt know all about these offerings; newcomers couldn’t want for more.
Commentary by Sir Roger Moore – Probably your first port of call, one of the many Commentary tracks recorded by Moore, this is a welcome listen, perhaps not packed with trivia, but still delivered by a man who clearly had a great deal of respect for the character and the iconic role he was taking up.
Commentary by Director Guy Hamilton – Mislabelled, this is actually a compilation track crafted by mixing audio interviews from a number of different cast and crew members. Still worth a listen.
Commentary by Screenwriter Tom Mankiewicz – More informative than Moore’s track, but with a less charismatic delivery, Mankiewicz looks at the changes needed to reboot the franchise, and what they sought to do with Moore’s introduction to the role.
Declassified: MI6 Vault
Bond 1973: The Lost Documentary is a 22-minute vintage piece which works more as a classic EPK Featurette, promoting Roger Moore as the new Bond.
Roger Moore as James Bond, Circa 1964 is a rather unusual little addition, running at 8 minutes long and showcasing Moore playing the character of James Bond in a comedy sketch almost a decade before he took up the role proper. It’s strange to say the least seeing Moore being Bond (albeit almost a spoof version) during the Connery years, and worth checking out just for curiosity’s sake.
Live and Let Die Conceptual Art is a brief 2-minute addition hosted by Producer Michael Wilson, who showcases some of the early poster designs for the movie.
007 Mission Control
Offering up the usual trivia, we have the standard sub-sections prevalent on all the Bond titles: 007, Women, Allies, Villains, Mission Combat Manual, Q Branch, and Exotic Locations.
Inside Live and Let Die is a half-hour retrospective documentary narrated by Patrick MacNee, long-time close friend of Roger Moore himself. It’s interesting hearing him discuss the casting choices for Bond, the changing times which saw the script go in a different direction, the Blaxploitation elements, the locations chosen and the shift in tone for a new lead actor. There are some nice glimpses of behind the scenes footage interjected too, with the best part coming from a look at the real crocodile farm-owner, Kananga, and his daredevil crocodile-jumping (he did several takes too!).
On Set with Roger Moore: The Funeral Parade is just a 2-minute vintage clip, with Moore discussing his friend’s cameo in this scene.
On Set with Roger Moore: Hang Gliding Lessons follows suit, clocking in at 4 minutes, with Moore taking a crash course from hang gliding expert Bill Bennett in preparation for the stunt.
Ministry of Propaganda
Here we get a Theatrical Archive of Trailers, as well as separate TV Broadcasts and a Radio Communication section for Radio Spots.
Here we get some classic stills shots from the publicity run as well as taken behind-the-scenes, together with the poster designs.
“This case isn’t ripe yet. Until it is, our policy with Mr. Big is ‘live and let live’.”
“In my job, when I come up against a man like this one, I have another motto. It’s ‘live and let die’.”
Live and Let Die was a brave new direction for Bond to go in, marking the first successful reboot of the franchise and introducing the world to the longest-serving Bond actor, the unflappable Roger Moore. Whilst it took a while for him to find his rhythm, this debut was still an engaging shift in dynamic from the Connery days of old, in many ways adopting the back-to-basics approach that hadn’t been seen since Connery’s early years (notwithstanding OHMSS), and carrying Bond into a new era in terms of style and attitude. The popularity of his effortlessly cool and distinctively witty take on the character ensured that the super-spy would live on for a further 12 years, and it all started here, with Live and Let Die.
As part of the Bond 50 set, Live and Let Die comes with the same excellent 4K restored video presentation and the same disappointingly average audio presentation that adorned the individual Blu-ray release some time back, as well as the same comprehensive extras that fans have been privy to since the days of the Ultimate Edition DVDs.
Bond has been served well by a phenomenal boxset timed to coincide with the arrival of Skyfall and the 50th Anniversary of the franchise. Live and Let Die forms part of the set along with the other twenty-two films in the series, the majority of which look and sound terrific, and contain a wealth of extra material as well as a separate and new disc full of extra features further examining our favourite super-spy. It comes with the highest recommendation.
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