Bond 50 - Celebrating Five Decades of Bond 007 Blu-ray Review

by Simon Crust
Movies & TV Review

Bond 50 - Celebrating Five Decades of Bond 007 Blu-ray Review
SRP: £119.99

Picture

Each film is presented below with a short snippet of the picture write ups afforded in the fuller versions clickable from the film’s title.



Dr No

An AVC encode and a 1.66:1 image, one of the Lowry restorations, was the hi-def upgrade that simply wowed almost everyone who laid eyes on it back when the first slew of Bond BD’s were released. Naturally, with it being the oldest of the series there was an assumption that it could have looked the worst. But with the care and attention that it has received, the image is vibrant, detailed, clean and sharp without too much in the way of egregious digital manipulation spoiling things. Edges aren't enhanced, and there's no aliasing taking place.

DNR has been used … and necessarily so. But not to any level of detriment to the original texture of the print. Grain remains but is taken down to an even layer that remains steadfastly unobtrusive. Fine detail remains throughout. Shadows may not be as exactingly refined as those in newer transfers, but they are certainly rewarding enough for me, offering up some fine mystery and menace, and helping to deliver a good sense of visual depth. Fidelity is bright and smartly saturated. The primaries are thick and deep and thrust from the image without any hint of smearing or banding. The greens and blues of the island setting are often gorgeous to behold. The blue skies look more uniform and the foliage has more life and vigour to it. Skin-tones? Well, just look at Honey Ryder’s glistening body. No complaints here. And, of course, we can see the snug little bathing costume that she is wearing during the radiation-cleansing process a touch more clearly now, too. Curses!



From Russia With Love

Okay, well taking the previous Lowry-restored transfer from the Ultimate Edition and giving it further revitalisation with an AVC 1080p encode produces a 1.66:1 image that is very obviously better than any version of FRWL you've seen on home video before. Damage is virtually non-existent, contrast is impeccable throughout and DNR, which has surely been applied to some degree, is not a problem at all. Finite detail is very definitely there - just look at how bad Connery's skin is as he leans down to confront Bianchi in the bed, for example - and figures, landmarks and vehicles etc in the far-off background are all so much clearer and richer than ever before.

Colours are tremendous. They are not realistic - they never were - more of an enhanced, ruddy take on skin-tones and some flamboyant primaries, but this is totally of the era's style of filmmaking. Blacks are superbly deep and strong and I don't that there is a problem with detail loss as a result. Even though some edge enhancement is still apparent, this hi-def Bond is a clear winner.



Goldfinger

Goldfinger looks astonishing, it's 1.66:1 aspect intact and MPEG-4 encode keeping rogue DNR levels down to a minimum, Connery's third outing bursts with colour and detail. Auric tells us how much he loves the colour of gold - and, with this transfer, it is very easy to agree with him. The image feels warm and its burnished commodity, on show often, positively gleams. Detail is excellent. Faces have a greater degree of texture than before, as does the material of clothing and close-up views of gadgets, dashboards, metal tables with red-lasers burning through them. Colours are rich and bold and Black levels are fine, too.

The print is good shape with a thin veil of grain being ever-present, and visual depth is great, albeit compromised in certain scenes by the over-abundance of matte-shots and edge enhancement, although still there, is less of an issue than it once was.



Thunderball

Thunderball looks spectacular, folks, the Lowry restoration allows for plentiful depth and texture, and the element of DNR that creeps into the transfer is not at all worrying, or even detracting. It makes the image look cleaner and brighter, although I do believe that one or two shots may have lost a little of their more finite information. This said, there are close-ups here that are staggeringly crisp and detailed. Colours are bold and striking - the orange of 007's scuba-suit, or the pink of his holiday-shirt for instance, are so much more vivid than ever before, and this new level of robustness gives the image a very refreshing quality that does literally "pop" from the screen. Black levels are also greater than before, although there could be some element of lost detail in the deeper recesses of the shadows - especially during Bond's night-time assault on Largo's estate. But, either way, there is more of a consistent anchor to the picture as a result of this new depth.



You Only Live Twice

Another Lowry restoration and this time it helps to show off the sublime and evocative cinematography of Oscar-winning Freddie Young with an AVC hi-def sheen. The 2.35:1 image looks fantastic. The print is in fine shape. The picture retains its grain, and although it has been lessened in intensity the process has not robbed the image of any of its original texture or detail. It is a colourful, bright and warm and brings out the richness of the exotic locations without seeming boosted or primary-soaked.

Contrast is consistent and the blacks are, once again, very good indeed. You will have seen deeper, but the shadow-play here is perfectly fine. The colour-coded attire of Blofeld’s men in the base pop quite reassuringly and the plentiful explosions that ensure during the mass-assault are decently, though not quite proudly reproduced with thick orange fireballs that don’t possess the intensity that I expected. In fact, much of the final battle looks a little “dry” to me, losing some of the vibrancy that the image had been promoting throughout.

Detail, on the whole, is terrific. Those close-ups of Connery’s face are amazingly textured. Computer readouts are sharp and clear. The foliage on the island and the gardens around Dicko Henderson’s place, the pebbles on the beach and the striations in the rock, and the assorted faces and costumes seen around the sumo wrestling championships are all good examples of both the finite attention to detail, and to the clarity of crowded shots and deep-focus reveals.

Finally, there is no issue with edge enhancing, and no aliasing to spoil the action. Banding and other digital anomalies don’t rear their ugly heads. In short, this looks amazing.



On Her Majesty’s Secret Service

Encoded with AVC, this sumptuous 2.35:1 image is alive with vitality, colour and depth. It is highly detailed and suffused with a rich and authentic texture that preserves the grain without elements that become either too noisy or swept clean with any excessive DNR. There is not a trace of smearing, banding or aliasing and any haloes that you see are a product of the source photography and lighting, and not a consequence of any artificial sharpening.

You can’t fault the level of detail here. In a word – WOW! OHMSS presents us with an acutely vivid picture that manages the minute – the flowers and garlands at Bond’s wedding – and the immense – the mountain ranges, the twilight horizon across the sea and the aerial shots of Piz Gloria – with equally pleasing and consistent level of definition.

Colours are thick and radiant, beautifully saturated and committed to providing the sort of “pop” that you know you wanted from this transfer but didn’t dare to expect. It is not exactly naturalistic – but then it isn’t meant to be. It’s James Bond, and his snowbound mission has never looked this visually arresting. It is oozing with comic-book zest. Made in 1969, OHMSS definitely goes for that late sixties glitz and glamour, yet it also retains that harsh, unyielding “proper” range of midnight blues for the lengthy night-time sequence that smothers Bond’s epic escape from Piz Gloria. Deeply drawn shadows come courtesy of strong and consistent blacks that never compromise. Once again, the lengthy night-time escape-and-evasion is heavy with intense blacks and soothing deep blues, and the transfer doesn’t drop the ball. Nor do these weighty shadows crush down any detail beneath them.

Damage is almost completely eradicated from the print, with only some occasional and practically infinitesimal pops to speak of. OHMSS looks spectacular on Blu, and earns itself a very strong 8 out of 10!



Diamonds Are Forever

The 2.35:1 image has been meticulously cleaned-up and restored by Lowry and looks clean and damage-free. Grain is not intrusive, but it has certainly been retained and the image has that essential film-like texture.

Contrast is good and allows the image to retain its vitality. Shadows don’t hold back on depth or stability, and they provide some plenty of atmosphere for the night-time car chase and for Bond’s high-rise infiltration of Willard Whyte’s penthouse. I never thought that any detail was lost within these darker elements.

The film looks a little darker and muddier. But the transfer still sizzles when required to. Skin-tones are ruddy and brazen, which fits right in with the tanned roster of characters, and that burnished look that the Connery Bond outings seemed to favour.

Although some shots can look soft, there are many times when close-ups are fabulously crisp and detailed. Connery’s face is always a good benchmark, with lots of crags and fissures and bushy eyebrow foliage to bedeck the frame. The original photography leaves some elements slightly blurred – the front, lower portion of the image, and occasional peripheral areas – but this is only to be expected. Overall, this is very detailed and sharp, without having been unnecessarily tampered-with. A strong 8 out of 10.



Live And Let Die

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.



The Man With The Golden Gun

Complete with a 1080p/MPEG-4 AVC High Definition video encode in the movie’s original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 widescreen The Man with the Golden Gun offers up decent detail, fluctuating somewhere between impressively excellent close-up shots and some softer wider shots which, whilst forgivable, don’t always do the movie’s stunning locations justice. There is a decent sheen of suitably cinematic grain, which leaves you believing that any DNR application on the part of Lowry has been minimalised, but there are still a few brief moments where edge enhancement is visible. Defects and print damage are basically non-existent.

The colour scheme is strong and vibrant, with generally much warmer, more vivid tones on offer, the locations no doubt helped, as well as the more ‘colourful’ plot. Skin tones are rich and healthy and everything from the deep blue sea to the lush green island plant-life looks gorgeous. Black levels are strong, and there’s no sign of any crush, with the darker sequences retaining a satisfying amount of shadow detail.



The Spy Who Loved Me

Presented in High Defintion 1080p, the AVC-encode is framed in the movie’s original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.39:1 widescreen Although there is almost no way that this release could be awarded a perfect 10 in terms of video presentation it does still stand as clear demo-quality material, easily the best this movie has ever looked and a strong contender for one of the best-looking titles in the set.

Detail is impressive throughout and you will find this image almost completely devoid of damage and almost completely untainted by digital manipulation: no edge enhancement, blocking, banding; and no noticeable DNR. I’m sure DNR has been applied, but with such a light touch that the end result retains the movie’s original grain structure, affording it both some superior fine object detail and also that wonderful filmic look that often escapes once a picture is over-scrubbed using these cleaning tools.

The colour scheme is broad and well-represented throughout; the palette is bolstered by some very specific colour design, juxtaposing warm rich browns, pristine whites and bright and vivid yellows and reds just during the pre-credits sequence – it was a movie made back in the day where this kind of colour stylisation was still a pride of work. Black levels are strong and allow for decent darker sequences, particularly in the Pyramids sequence.



Moonraker

The Lowry Digital restorations done for these Bond titles can be somewhat hit and miss, but the 4K restoration done for Moonraker is up there with the absolute best, presenting the movie in 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 in the original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.4:1.

Cleaned up but far from scrubbed of its detail, Moonraker looks extremely impressive – arguably the best-looking of the Moore entries – with decent fine object detail, texturing and setting observations. DNR has been used, but never glaringly so and there are no digital artefacts plaguing the presentation – no edge enhancement, crush, ringing or blocking. The colour scheme is lavishly rendered, from the interiors of Drax’s chateau to the steely futuristic designs of the space stations; from the healthy flesh tones to the gorgeous Rio vistas. Blacks are strong, with largely good contrast and a suitably filmic layer of grain rounding out the piece. It’s up there with the best of the Bond restorations and better than this movie has ever looked before.



For Your Eyes Only

For Your Eyes Only is included as part of the Bond 50 Box Set in much the same shape it was in on its earlier standalone release, presented in the movie’s original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1 widescreen, courtesy of a Lowry-restored transfer in 1080p High Definition. Although perhaps not one of the absolute standout best efforts from Lowry, the thirty-year old movie still looks remarkably good, boasting strong detail, vibrant colour, mostly decent low-lighting sequences and almost no damage whatsoever. Certainly DNR has been applied – the faces often look softer than you would have hoped for, and grain has been largely removed in the process too – but, for the most part, it still looks impressive, lacking that painful edge enhancement that plagued the earlier DVD releases and cleaning up fairly nicely.

The colour scheme is perhaps the most easily noticeable aspect of this upgrade; tones are rich and vivid and simply pop out of the screen, an irrepressibly bold offering that blasts you with bright blues and red parkas which play wonderfully off the crisp bright snow white slopes, glistening in the sun. Overall it’s a good presentation that, whilst nowhere near as impressive as some of the preceding titles, is certainly the best that the movie has ever looked.


Octopussy

Presented in the movie’s original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.39:1 widescreen, the 1080p High Definition rendition is both impressive and respectful of the source material and should please fans of the film no end.

Detail is top notch, with resounding fine object detail and welcome clarity on both facial close-ups and clothing and setting textures, sweeping out and including even the broader panoramic establishing shots. Devoid of almost any print damage and digital defects and edge enhancement never rears its head; there’s no noticeable scratches and source anomalies – it offers up Octopussy in clean and clear fashion, with a healthy level of naturally filmic grain pervading the piece and reminding you that any DNR work done was done sparingly.

The colour scheme is well-represented, offering up the broad exotic flavours of India in rich and vibrant fashion, whilst black levels are strong allowing for impressive night time sequences and healthy shadow detail. Skin tones are reasonably natural and overall there is very little to complain about here.



A View To A Kill

Presented in the movie’s original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.39:1 widescreen, the 1080p High Definition video rendition is really quite impressive, boasting strong clarity, authentic colours, decent blacks and a largely intact grain structure.

Detail has been vastly improved with noteworthy fine object detail; skin textures and clothing weaves becoming infinitely more discernible; and background nuances coming to light. The image boasts grain in the form of the aforementioned original grain structure, and consequently does not reveal any significant adverse DNR application; no overt edge enhancement and also no print damage or other digital defects.

The colour scheme is of a more realistic nature, nominally because of the more subdued sets and down-to-earth plot. There are still some vibrant reds and deep blues on offer but this is definitely not a more classically-stylised entry in the Bond canon, with the colour scheme consequently reflecting this constraint. Black levels are strong and allows for decent shadowing and impressive night sequences and, overall, this is a pretty decent job from Lowry restoration – not demo quality, but very good nonetheless.



The Living Daylights

The disc presents a theatrically correct widescreen 2.35:1 1080p, AVC MPEG4 encode, transfer and is Region free.

Detail is, for the most part, strong, skin texture is good, backgrounds have plenty to pick out, while most other surfaces maintain a reasonable quality. Indeed the ‘Afghanistan’ filming is some of the best of the film with stark contrast between the blue sky and red desert terrain.

Colour is pretty good, the primaries coming across with a decent sense of fervour; the first half of the film is slightly weaker in terms of colour boldness, but that might be a conscious choice to reflect the ‘cold war’ climate. Skin colour in this section is slightly thinner, though natural looking while the skies are somewhat pale. Once the action moves to Afghanistan thing really improve with some much needed boldness to the pallet, reds and blues have a vibrancy to really show off the heat of the desert.

Brightness and contrast are set to give deep and true blacks that really add a punch to the picture at times, with plenty of shadow detail going on.

Digitally there are no compression problems, though there was the faintest whiff of edge enhancement present, no banding or posterization problems though. Grain has been retained to give a terrific filmic sheen without ever becoming intrusive.



Licence To Kill

Licence To Kill may see Bond going it alone from MI6, but its transfer keeps the British end up with an AVC encode that delivers a crisp, detailed and beautifully coloured 2.35:1 image.

This is a colourful movie, and one that has lots of flames, lots of sunshine, and lots of cool blue ocean vistas. The underwater photography throws up no problems, with the yellows and pale blues of the submersibles and the sun-filtered sea never getting smoky or murky. Skin-tones are very good, their overall fidelity and saturation consistent. Licence To Kill is certainly the bloodiest of the Bonds, and there are many spots and splashes of gore to be seen, which look bright and lurid. The stump left behind after the shark takes a chomp from Felix is plainly visible. Background detail is also very good. This enables trees and buildings, the people gathered in the crowd at the Leiter’s doomed wedding and those around the casino, and later during the pell-mell rush from Isthmus City, to retain clarity and definition. Given the anamorphic photography, there is some softness during certain shots.

Contrast is excellent throughout, and the presentation of black levels is tremendously deep and offers thoroughly fantastic and altogether quite engrossing shadow-play. Depth is, therefore, very rewarding, even allowing for a great three-dimensional feel during this night-time sequences.

On the digital front, I had no major issues at all. The transfer exhibits nothing in the way of terrible edge enhancement or aliasing. Panning shots betray no shimmering on patterns or small details. There is no smearing or banding going on. Some vague unpleasantness can be caused by fragmentary DNR rearing its ugly head – although the image retains its grain and its film-like texture, there are occasions when faces can betray the hint of digital smoothing.



Goldeneye

The disc presents a theatrically correct widescreen 2.35:1 1080p transfer using the AVC MPEG4 codec and is Region free.

What a shame, after such wonderful restorations have been applied to most of the films in this set, GoldenEye suffers from one of the most disappointing, and it's immediately apparent right from the very first scene and can be summed up in two phrases: contrast boosting and DNR. However, it's not a total loss and there is plenty that is praiseworthy. For a start there is a tremendous amount of detail on show from the brickwork of the dam to foliage in the jungle. Skin texture is well seen, especially in close up where facial hair, pores and watery eyes are well defined, the DNR rarely ‘waxing’ skin features as it has a wont to do at its most heavy handed.

Colours are well realised and fittingly bold with all the primaries being strong with no wash or bleed. Brightness is well maintained, but contrast has had a slight push, meaning that blacks are ‘artificially’ darker then they ought which, while it does not crush and maintains a deal of shadow detail, is certainly ‘crisper’ than previous incarnations. But it is the white that is the most noticeable with the occasional area becoming clipped and robbing the picture of some finite detail. Check out the very first shot of the plane flying over the dam, see what a white blob it looks like.

So most of the time the picture looks pretty good, but there is no denying the digital manipulation that it has suffered, while the picture is well detailed but there is finite detail that is missing, the grain structure has been all but removed and to push the detail forward there are hints of edge enhancement, certainly not over used, but nevertheless visible in places. Digitally there are no compression problems, smearing is all but absent, there are no banding issues and jaggies are held in check ok. So whilst the picture is good, because the rest of the set is far better, Goldeneye just stands out and as such my mark reflects this.



Tomorrow Never Dies

The disc presents a theatrically correct widescreen 2.35:1 1080p transfer, using the AVC MPEG4 codec and is Region free.

Detail is very good from close up skin texture to far distant landscapes. Clothing has clear weaves while computer displays are easily identifiable and buildings, be they the brickwork of Germany or the ramshackle wood of ‘Saigon’, are clear and defined; indeed the crowded streets in the latter location showcases some excellent detail between the people, object, roads and foliage.

Colours are well realised with the primaries coming off very well, reds are bold, blues are clean and greens are lush, without any fade of bleed. Even the rather drab colours scheme in Germany shows some bold choices, but it is in the various labs, be it MI6, or Carvers headquarters where the colours really shine.

Contrast and brightness are set to give well meaning blacks that still contain shadow detail, look to the stealth ship raid to see the best examples, while maintaining good depth into the picture.

Digitally there is little to complain about, no compression problems, no edge enhancement and only very slight banding in some of darker scenes. Grain is kept to a slight minimum meaning there is still an organic nature to the film that has not been wiped away with excessive DNR.



The World Is Not Enough

The World is Not Enough joins the Bond Blu-ray ranks with another one of the studio's 1080p High Definition presentations, in the movie's original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1 widescreen. Detail is very good indeed, perhaps not on par with the latest Hollywood blockbusters but good nonetheless, largely eschewing softness and grain in favour of a very pleasant if not perfect image. The colour scheme is quite limited for a Bond adventure, but is nevertheless well rendered, from the London locales to the few exotic backdrops, all the tones - including the commonly tanned skin tones - looking vivid and authentic. Explosions and firefights offer plenty of screen-flash and - conversely - the black levels are fairly solid and deep, allowing for decent shadowing and night sequences. Overall it marks a distinct improvement over previous incarnations, but is not quite of the same re-mastering quality as - oddly - some of the earlier Bond instalments in this set.



Die Another Day

The disc presents a theatrically correct widescreen 2.35:1 1080p AVC MPEG4 encoded transfer and is Region free.

Detail on the whole is pretty good, there is plenty of texture to objects, skin has pores, hair and looks very natural indeed and backgrounds hold edges well, from distant shore lines, to the jungles tree lines. However it’s not absolutely pristine, the image suffers from the occasional bout of softness, but over and above that DNR has robbed it of that finite detail that really brings a picture to life.

Colours are, for the most part, quite rich. The opening scene has been digitally de-saturated and very muted compared to the rest of the picture, this was intentional, but it has also compromised the integrity in that the picture looks like it’s been digitally manipulated. Once we’re into the film proper the colours really begin to shine – reds are bright and vibrant, blues are deep and greens are lush, all without wash or bleed. Skin tones are suitable healthy too.

Brightness and contrast are set to give decent enough blacks that add some nice depth to the picture whilst maintaining enough shadow detail to compliment the image.

Digitally there are no compression problems, but the DNR has all but scrubbed the grain away which leaves its own problems; many occasions the background can been seen to ‘shimmer’ or fluctuate in brightness, this is especially true in bright blue skies or mist, and to compensate for detail loss the sharpening tool has been used to bring out details, but has left its mark in the form of edge enhancement which, while not overtly obvious, is clearly visible in certain scenes.

Casino Royale

Sony's top Blu-ray title is presented here on a BD-50 in full 1080p MPEG4 video, and it looks absolutely stunning. With a pristine source print that the transfer keeps very filmic, the 2.40:1 image is alive with colour and vibrancy. Colours, which if I'm honest, do look artificially bright and vivid, are incredibly rich and strong. Blacks are sumptuously deep and incredibly strong. Night-time scenes and the interiors of the dinner-jacket-rife Casino Royale bathe the image in shadow, allowing the lit portions and the colours of the screen to shine through with a visual coherence that is especially embracing. Detail is thoroughly excellent throughout most of the film. Depth of field is impressive and provides that all-important three-dimensionality.



Quantum of Solace

Presented with a 1080p HD rendition in the movie's original theatrical aspect ratio of widescreen 2.4:1 the movie looks spectacular. Detail is stunning throughout, the picture simply popping with three dimensional quality, despite the grainy edge that the visual style adopts. From the opening close-ups of the roaring DBS to the cold-war-ish Bourne Supremacy-styled bookend, every nuance is keenly observed and represented, skin detail, cuts, bruises and even beads of sweat apparent in all the right places. Intentional grain still takes the edge off the detail being perfect, but it is worth the price as we are left with an extremely gritty, dark vision perfectly suited to the material that it is depicting. The palette looks largely good as well, giving us the multi-continental locations in all their glory, from the sun-baked blistering desert to the bronzed Haitian landscapes and the luscious green Tuscan locales, colours come across vividly, even if not always authentically . Black levels are solid and allow for solid night sequences, although the majority of the shadowing has a sheen of that aforementioned intentional grain.


Bond 50 - Celebrating Five Decades of Bond 007

Sound

As with the picture, each film is presented below with a short snippet of the sound write ups afforded in the fuller versions clickable from the film’s title.

Dr No

Well, as far as I am concerned, Dr. No was never going to sound amazing despite the clean-up job on the audio and the mix being presented in DTS-HD MA 5.1. Although the film was audacious and inventive in terms of its sound design the audio is understandably restricted by its mono elements. Now, whilst some discrete effects have been reasonably stretched out to reach the surrounds, this is a respectful mix that doesn’t over-embellish things needlessly.

Gunshots don’t have all that much bite. Some attempt has been made to add some surround to this, but I wouldn’t say that it was particularly effective. The sudden electric shock that Bond gets from the grill in his cell is quite good, though, but the resulting clangs when Bond is able to punch or kick these grills away from their moorings sound lacklustre. The big “blaster-beam” like effect that rips through the shaft Bond is climbing along comes with appropriate depth and a finely rendered SF snap.

What I will say though is that I found several instances when dialogue seemed to drop, I found that I had to crank the volume up a fair bit more than is usual the case to reach a comfortable level. There is an odd little moment of dislocation and reverb to some speech from Professor Dent but dialogue, on the whole though, is nicely presented and even if it sounds a little tinny and hollow offers a welcome degree of character and nuance.

By far the best element of the mix is the score. The James Bond Theme really sizzles with energy and width, energetically arranged and delightfully upfront and bold. The many source cues have vibrancy and warmth, but the overall sense of ambience in the more crowded locations is only vaguely developed.

This edition does not contain the original mono mix that was present on the previous standalone release, which may cause some consternation.

From Russia With Love

And pleasing fans still further is a lossless DTS 5.1 audio track that ticks all the right boxes and refuses to make a big, bogus hash of things. Things are certainly louder and clearer, and dialogue is crisp and well presented. There is plenty of rear activity, too, though much of it is ambient bleed-through that tends to support environmental colour - with most of the special stuff reserved for the frantic two chases at the end. All these set-pieces are aided by a nice, firm level of bass presence. Whilst gunshots have a more polished and emphatic bark than the tinny pockets of sound we are familiar with, explosions and crashes are now given a lot more weight to play with.



Goldfinger

Goldfinger comes equipped with the DTS-HD MA 5.1 track that is now fitted as standard which sounds clean and sharp and detailed. Gunshots echo and have a gut-punching power to them that is certainly still unmistakably “of-the-period” but enhanced with greater presence. Separation is fine across the front and there is a degree of spatial depth to the mix, but this still isn't a design that places much demand on wraparound immersion other than in a couple of the more elaborate sequences. But what the lossless 5.1 mix does manage to do is inject vitality and aggression into the film. John Barry's score naturally benefits from the greater volume, orchestral and vocal timbres and the sheer warmth of its instrumentation. Dialogue is never drowned-out, sunken, lost or overly brightened. The audio levels are consistent throughout, with no hiss or damage.



Thunderball

MGM have provided their hi-def Bond with hi-def DTS-HD MA 5.1 sound and Thunderball provides some real treats. The surrounds play only a sporadic part in the overall proceedings as, once again and perfectly accurately, the film is predominantly based around the frontal array. But, having said this, Thunderball is still very atmospheric and benefited by plenty of ambient detail. Machine-gunfire is startlingly powerful and there is a great whistle and thud as Bond's spear-gun impales Vargas to the tree. Whilst much of the film is frontal-based, there is a fine, wide spread across it that makes for a fair bit of dimensionality. Dialogue can suffer a little, however, as some speech sounds slightly submerged by the overall design. Some of the occasionally badly dubbed moments also seem slightly more apparent this time out, though Barry's score is well-treated and definitely rocks the film with great moody swirls denoting the underwater majesty, top action ostinato from the 007 theme and delicious rising crescendos aplenty.



You Only Live Twice

Once again, the remix comes courtesy of a DTS-HD MA 5.1 track, but happily the original mono track is also included. What we find here is a reasonably active and detailed mix that employs the rear speakers for some action-bleed in terms of gunfire and explosions, and widens the soundfield quite effectively. The stereo spread across the front is quite wide, and there is some degree of depth afforded the track.

The clatter of those leather shoes across polished floors or metal gantries is like candy for my ears. And the score sounds fantastic. So often the main focus of these transfers, and certainly the most overt test of their clarity, range and power, John Barry’s expansive and sweeping music is warm and detailed, swirling and drifting across the soundscape with typical finesse. A fine job



On Her Majesty’s Secret Service

The disc carries both a tremendous DTS-HD MA 5.1 track and a DD mono alternative. This was always a profoundly exhilarating movie that the sound-design and, especially, John Barry’s phenomenal score played a huge part in enhancing, and with the lossless surround mix, the film now takes on an entirely new dimension that I find extremely rewarding.

The soundstage is wide and involving, the channel steerage smooth and well-prioritised, the resulting effect sublime and immersive. OHMSS now carries a thicker, chunkier and more active bass than many modern action movies.

No problem whatsoever with the dialogue. Some of it is dubbed, as you know, but there is never any issue with clarity, pitch or positioning.

The rear speakers are delightfully utilised, and in such a way that their presence is never gimmicky or unwelcome. Score bleed drifts through them, often carrying the more melancholy or wistful refrains of Barry’s romantic elements.

This is an amazing mix that fully incorporates the full set-up, delivers astonishing depth and viewer immersion from what was originally just a mono track. And you can certainly experience that mono track if you so desire.



Diamonds Are Forever

Well, to be honest, I can’t help but be disappointed by Diamonds Are Forever sounds. The transfer is just fine but the film simply doesn’t have much audio excitement about it. Other than the score, the sound-design is not as gloriously nuanced or as involving as those for most of the rest of the films in the series.

The surrounds are brought into play, for sure, but I found that they delivered absolutely nothing of noted worth to report upon here. Nothing. There is even a marvellous opportunity for showing off the mix’s steerage when Bond walks around the honeymoon suite and, off camera and behind us, he replies to the seductively attentive Tiffany and her eyes follow his unseen movements all around the room. But the track doesn’t do anything with this at all.

I found the bass to be a bit lacking too. This said, the track still manages to provide plenty of detail, and dialogue is always finely delivered.

Although I am vaguely disappointed by how Diamonds sounds, it is not something caused by the audio transfer. The film is surprisingly laidback and, barring one or two strenuous, action-stuffed moments, the sound design sort of follows suit.



Live And Let Die

On the aural front this Live and Let Die release is unfortunately far from as impressive 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 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; 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.



The Man With The Golden Gun

On the aural front, the accompanying DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 re-mix is also decent but also unexceptional. Dialogue comes across clearly and coherently, largely dominating the frontal array whenever necessary, and never getting overwhelmed by either the score or the effects. The surrounds get a reasonable workout from some of the set-pieces, but this is a slightly less action-packed Bond outing, and so there isn’t quite as much material to play with.

Certainly we could have done with more rear support, even just channelling a portion of the frontal array’s output, and separation across the channels is often non-existent, indicative of an underwhelming aural remix, as the original mono offering would, of course, have had no distinct channel separation and soundscape imaging. The LFE input is and the score, which is used basically throughout the piece in one form or another, gets arguably the most prominence on the track.



The Spy Who Loved Me

Although not a six-channel film by design, this new DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix has worked wonders with the stereo elements to bring us a very good expanded six-speaker offering that enhances rather than distorts the original material. Dialogue is still largely restricted to the frontal spectrum but comes across clearly and coherently throughout. Effects are remarkably well-observed, from the fantastic scream of the Lotus Esprit to the chugging clunks of the battered utility van. Gunshots are fairly commonplace, ringing out in Egypt, echoing violently in the steel-drum tanker assault and thundering with finality in the closing confrontation. The score is integrated so well into the proceedings that you could almost describe it as contributing to the effects, and, whilst it’s obviously pure 70s disco it sounds fantastic and perfectly matches up to the material, scene for scene, shot for shot.



Moonraker

On the aural front the accompanying 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio remix is almost as impressive as the video presentation, and – considering that this is one of the best Bond scores getting the Bond theme / scoring just right for the movie – it’s a welcome blessing that Moonraker sound so damn good on Blu-ray. Dialogue gets clear and coherent presentation, largely dominating the frontal array where appropriate. The effects are given decent coverage, from the breaking of glass to the straining of lift cables, to the blasting of space shuttle rockets and the twangy buzz of lasers. Although the action scenes certainly fare best – the boat chase, the sky-diving pre-credits sequence, and the space battles – there’s also some welcome atmosphere generated during the crowd sequences, from Venice to Rio. The score, of course, gets the most prominence – and rightly so for such a brilliant accompaniment – and with a nice level of LFE input this is a very good audio presentation, impressive and certainly the best that this movie has ever sounded.



For Your Eyes Only

Presented with a decent DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track, For Your Eyes Only has also never sounded as impressive as this before. Dialogue comes across clearly and coherently largely from the frontal array and, where appropriate, dominates the rest of the track. Effects are balanced across the surrounds, with some nice directional flourishes and echoing gunshots that carry far more punch thanks to that aforementioned enhanced bass element. From the air-ripping whip of helicopter blades to the subdued underwater whirr of submersibles, it all sounds authentic, delivering a sound package that will impress far more than disappoint. The score – whether you like it or hate it – gains prominence in several key set-pieces, wonderfully championing on the extended ski chase, whilst diminishing a couple of other sequences. It’s a shame because, when it’s more subdued, it works quite well, but the more aggressive moments only occasionally hit the right note. Indeed there have been several complaints about the score being just too damn loud, but I seldom found this a serious issue, it just felt more dominant in certain sequences. Far more impressive than any previous audio presentations, For Your Eyes Only’s active score – for the most part – does a stand-up job.


Octopussy

On the aural front the accompanying DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is also fairly impressive, ranking in as a very good offering in amidst the other Bond accompaniments, and keenly balancing dialogue, effects and music with welcome results. The dialogue comes across clearly and coherently, largely dominating the frontal array where necessary. Effects are well represented – from the explosive opening aerial pre-credits sequence to the Tuk-Tuk chase; the safari hunt; the train set-piece; the palace assault and the aerial finale. There’s some nice separation evident during the two plane-based sequences, with the surrounds taking you to new heights; and gunshots have a reasonably penetrative punch to them, whilst animal roars and jungle ambience is pushed to give a nice atmosphere in some of the more heady moments. The score, bolstered by the opening title track, takes precedence wherever required, and is given decent treatment across the array, without outweighing the rest of the components. LFE input is also welcome, although not necessarily resounding.

View To A Kill

On the aural front, the remixed DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track also marks a welcome upgrade, providing an engaging accompaniment right from the action-dominated pre-credits sequence and the superb title track through to the intense, climactic finale. Dialogue comes across clearly and coherently throughout, well-balanced across the frontal array. Effects range from the whirring engines of the airship to the percussive thunder of galloping horses, with a few nice explosions and one blazing inferno to further spice things up. Gunshots ring out convincingly across the array, street and traffic noises help craft some keen atmospherics, and several sequences prove warmly immersive with both the surrounds and the rears coming into play. The score enhances but never engulfs the rest of the elements and the LFE channel also provides a welcome accompaniment, undercutting the mix with some sporadically potent bass.


The Living Daylights

I concentrate on the English dts-HD Master Audio 5.1 track. Just like the picture the sound has undergone a thorough clean up has also been remixed with great care and attention. First and foremost is how opened up the sound field now seems, there is plenty of separation across the frontal array for both music and effects. Surround speakers are used to give plenty of ambience, such as in busy streets, the opera, funfair or shootouts, and add much to the surround field without becoming noticeable. Dialogue is clear, coherent, sounds perfectly natural throughout and is never in any danger of being lost within the mix. The score provides plenty of opportunity to place you in the centre of the action with Barry’s update on the James Bond Theme being of particular delight. Bass is well managed, grounding everything in reality, but never overbearing, as such there is not the thunderous under current that many modern blockbusters go for, LF effects are frequent and prove the sub with plenty to do, but it seldom reaches down to the depths that seem to be a pre-requisite of the modern action film. On the whole this is a very engaging track.



Licence To Kill

Once again, we get to hear Bond’s exploits in DTS-HD MA 5.1, as per the rest of the twenty-two titles that join Licence To Kill in this lavish box set.

Surround use is frequently of the most minimal of bleed-through, but it is pretty well handled and adds a pleasing, if slight, immersive quality to the track. There’s nothing bogus added to what was initially a Dolby Surround mix, and the few wraparound elements come across as being fairly natural without sounding unnecessarily boosted or stretched. The spread across the front is appreciably wide, and the main thrust is understandably driven primarily at you.

The centre keeps dialogue crisp and clear at all times, and there is no dislocating of voices when it comes to movement of the speakers around, or off the frame. The late Michael Kamen’s jangling, percussive score has some room to breathe.

There is some heft to the track, which I like. We benefit from some good solid explosions – trucks go up in flames and the Isthmus City complex suffers a few shuddering crunches. Bond’s explosive charges pack a wallop, and Heller’s tank supplies a few timber-rattling jolts when it unloads upon the captured 007 and the Hong Kong agents. Gunfire is reasonably solid, and although hardly air-punching across the soundscape, shots don’t sound tinny or hollow. There is some clout to them.

It’s not the most challenging or detailed of mixes, but some nuances are present.



Goldeneye

I concentrate on the English dts-HD Master Audio 5.1 track. Thankfully there are no such issues with the surround track which is typically bombastic and full of the stuff that makes an action track sing. Surround steerage is very well realised and you really are in the centre of the action, simple effects such as plane flybys, car drivebys or other actions that appear just off camera have their sound dominating the corresponding speaker. Surrounds are used to add to the ambience of a scene as well as fill out action scenes, gun shots ring out and explosions fill the room, while the debris for said explosions fall all around. Bass is well handled adding much weight to gun shots and explosions, though it seldom plumbs the depths that the very best do and while LF effects are commonplace there are rarely any deep rumbles that will rock the foundations. High treble is also well mixed, listen to the tinkle of spent shell casings or ricocheting sparks. Dialogue is crisp and clear, sound perfectly natural, given directionality when needed and is never in any danger of being drowned out in the mix. The score makes full use of the dynamic range and again utilises all the speakers to provide a sumptuous surround experience. Missing reference by a whisker, the track gets a very high eight from me.



Tomorrow Never Dies

I concentrate in the English dts-HD Master Audio 5.1track. Much like the picture there is little to complain about with this offering being as it is well engineered, steered and contains plenty of bass. The surround ‘envelope’ is well maintained with all speakers contributing, this is especially true of effects, the car park car chase is a prime example with numerous engine, tire, gun and explosion effects being pushed around the room to place you very centrally in the action; though quieter moments are still chock full of ambience; the launch party of Cavers satellite of the bustling streets of Saigon for example. Dialogue is always clear and precise and mainly contained within the frontal array. Bass is well realised and used to fill out the score, effects and the numerous gun shots and explosions with some very satisfying LF effects to keep the neighbours awake. The score, itself, utilises all the speakers to, again, place you in the centre of the action. Plenty to give your system a good work out but remaining just this side of reference.



The World Is Not Enough

To accompany this release we get a top range DTS-HD Master Lossless Audio track that tries to present the movie in the best possible way. Dialogue comes across clearly and coherently, dominating the frontal array wherever appropriate, but always happy to take a backseat when the action kicks in. From the noisy opening boat chase to the ski chase and later caviar house confrontation we get the lawnmower like buzzing of the engines and buzz-saws, the ricochets of loud gunfire and the climactic explosions that shake things up a little in your living room. Bass gets some decent presentation, and the surrounds come alive during all the key set pieces. Even the quieter, more atmospheric touches are observed reasonably well, although this is far from a subtle track. The score is perfectly Bond, and they've finally got it right adding just the right amount of thematic references into the well-crafted scoring of the scenes. Overall the audio mix is probably the best this movie has ever received, although nowhere near the kind of quality we have come to expect from the latest blockbuster releases.



Die Another Day

I concentrate on the English dts-HD Master Audio 5.1 track. Separation is excellent with plenty of stereo effects to widen the field, gun shots, car engines or other ambient effects adding much to the realism of the picture. Surrounds are used extensively to place you in the centre of the action, and it is in the action scenes where they are used to their fullest. The score makes full use of the speakers and dynamic range again putting you in the middle. Bass is well handled and quite tight, with LF effects aplenty, though it seldom plumbs the depths of the very best out there. Dialogue, for the most part is well levelled in the mix, clear and precise sounds perfectly natural and given directionality when needed. I say for the most part, because in the opening scene it does get a little lost in the mayhem on screen, though this is only brief.



Casino Royale

To put it quite simply, this is a pure reference track and may well be one of the best produced soundtracks that I've heard. Casino Royale has a literally faultless audio mix that seems to go further than the mix I heard at the THX cinema I kept seeing the film at originally. The bass levels are astonishingly deep and full-on, rooting every impact - big or small, from rampaging fuel trucks and whooshing jet engines to the clanging of a steel door and the rolling thuds of a spinning Aston Martin - with strength and a realistic reverb thrown at you. The high ends are well held and scintillatingly sharp and clear, and the mid-range is constantly warm and enveloping, leading to a track that is thorough and comprehensively detailed.

Steerage is impeccable, with bullets, cars, explosions and voices all channelled perfectly around the set-up. Panning is always seamless and the film features many sweeps back to front, front to back and from every which way but loose around the speakers.



Quantum of Solace

On the aural front, the Blu-ray offering is also outstanding, up there with the best of the best soundtracks available on the High Def format, with its DTS-HD Lossless Master Audio track. Although easily the least important aspect of the material, the dialogue -mostly mumbles from all those involved - is presented reasonably clearly and coherently from across the frontal array. The effects are arguably of biggest note, right from out of the gate as the Aston roars onto the screen in a ludicrously loud, stupidly enjoyable fashion. You cannot help but get swept along with the explosive constant chase proceedings, smashing and crashing his way across roofs, gunning a DC-3 like it were a spitfire and speeding around in a wooden motorboat as if it were a racing powerboat. Gunshots are powerful, explosions resound around your living room, and this movie will definitely leave you shaken, particularly in the bass department. If there was one thing that really struck it right about this as a Bond movie, it's the score, capped even with a reasonably good title duet by Alicia Keys and Jack White, and on this Blu-ray release it gets simply perfect presentation.


Bond 50 - Celebrating Five Decades of Bond 007

Extras

As with the picture and sound, each film is presented below with a short snippet of the extras write ups afforded in the fuller versions clickable from the film’s title. The set also contains an extra bonus disc with all new features and it is detailed in full at the bottom.



Dr No

  • Audio Commentary with director Terence Young and members of the cast and crew.
  • 007 Licence to Restore – Lowry Digital Images Rejuvenates James Bond (11.55 mins)
  • The Guns of James Bond (5.07 mins)
  • Premier Bond – Opening Night (5.07 mins)
  • Production Credits
  • Inside Dr. No (42.05 mins) Excellent stuff!
  • Terence Young – Bond Vivent (17.55 mins)
  • Dr. No 1963 featurette (8.40 mins)
  • TV Spots, Theatrical Trailers and Radio Spots
  • Stills Gallery Image Database


From Russia With Love

  • Audio Commentary
  • Ian Fleming: The CBC Interview
  • Ian Fleming and Raymond Chandler
  • Ian Fleming On Desert Island Discs
  • The Animated Storyboard Sequence

Under Mission Control - Women, Weapons, Locations, Code words, Combat and Having dinner

Mission Dossier

  • Inside From Russia With Love
  • Harry Saltzman: Showman

Ministry of Propaganda

  • Trailers

Image Database



Goldfinger

  • Audio Commentaries – Two: Guy Hamilton, solo, and Cast and Crew compilation
  • The Making Of Goldfinger
  • The Goldfinger Phenomenon
  • On Tour With The Aston Martin
  • Screen-tests
  • Bond promo from 1963
  • Honor Blackman Open-Ended Interview
  • Audio interview with Sean Connery

007 Mission Control

  • Trailers

Image Database



Scores

Movie

.
9

Picture Quality

.
.
8

Sound Quality

.
.
8

Extras

.
9

Overall

.
9
9
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

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