'The Man with the Golden Gun' comes to Blu-ray with a 1080p AVC/MPEG-4 transfer framed correctly at 1.85:1. In fact, this was the last Bond movie to be shot in this aspect ratio.
While this is another fine restoration from the Lowry stable, I have to admit to being slightly disappointed with the colour saturation as most Bond movies are traditionally colourful extravaganzas and this one just seems a bit pale by comparison to, say, 'Moonraker' which was released recently. The skin tones don't seem quite so rosy, the greens of the vegetation and the blues of the skies just appear to be lacking in 'oomph' that all the other Blu-ray Bonds (with the exception of 'Thunderball') delivered so strongly. The opening shot of the beach on Scaramanga's island has looked brighter and 'sunnier' (although there are clouds in the sky) on previous releases - but perhaps we're now looking at a more faithful representation of the source material.
Apart from this niggle, which could easily be overcome by winding up the colour on your display (if you really wanted to muck up your calibration), we have a very good image indeed. It's sharp in a filmic way - and by that I mean that it's not bitingly sharp like many newer films, but it looks natural to the eye with no tell tale signs of oversharpening. The blacks are very solid and contrast is consistently good throughout. There is some visible grain but I didn't find it distracting and we have to remind ourselves that this was released in 1974 when film grain wasn't as fine as it is now. It doesn't display the 3D 'pop' of some more recent movies either, but I'd rather have a transfer that doesn't try to force a movie to take on a false look. Overall though, nothing to really cause offence to the eyes.
Originally released with a mono soundtrack, 'The Man with the Golden Gun' has been remixed in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 for its Blu-ray release to cater for the sonic tastes of the digital generation. For the purists, this American disc (Region A locked) includes the original mono mix, which has been the saving grace of other titles like 'Goldfinger' where a classic piece of sound editing was 'rubbed out' of the new surround mix.
The lossless surround mix on '... Gun' breathes new life into the title song and adds ambience to most scenes with some gentle low rumble being fed to the subwoofer in quiet moments like when the Hit man enters Scaramanga's gym near the head of the movie.
In general, the spaciousness of John Barry's oriental feel score is amplified by the mix, while the surrounds come alive in the car chase with sounds of other cars on the busy road, putting the viewer in the thick of the action. The centre channel locked dialogue is clean and crisp avoiding being drowned out by music or effects. This is particularly noticeable when Sheriff J.W. Pepper shouts abuse at Thai motorists from the window of the AMC Hornet that Bond has just liberated from a showroom window.
Don't expect the same impact as a recent movie with an original DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix and you won't be disappointed. In fact you might just get a pleasant surprise. Overall, I'd say the new mix sounds better than the original.
- Audio Commentaries
We have a choice of two different commentary tracks. The first features director Guy Hamilton and members of the cast & crew while the other has Sir Roger Moore flying solo. Although the director's comm. track gives us more production oriented background detail, it's Sir Roger that provides the more interesting with his own brand of wit and humour.
- Inside 'The Man With the Golden Gun' (HD, 30mins)
This is the Patrick MacNee narrated doco that accompanied the Ultimate Edition DVD, which has now been ported to HD. It covers the development of the script, from the book to the actual production.
- Double-O Stuntmen (HD, 30mins)
This interesting featurette covers many stunts from the Bond series, opening with Pierce Brosnan's bungee jump scene in 'Goldeneye'. We hear from many of the stuntmen about the problems they faced and how the stunts were eventually made to work. Particularly shocking is the accident that occurred while Martin Grace hung from the side of a train in 'Octopussy' that resulted in him spending 6 months in hospital.
- The Russell Harty Show(SD, 3 mins)
Someone has raided the ITN archive and come up with this clip of Roger Moore and Herve Villechaize on Harty's talk show. A nice period piece that reminds us what actors have to endure while promoting a new movie.
- On Location with 'The Man With the Golden Gun' (SD, 1min)
Producer Michael G Wilson narrates what looks like Super 8 footage (complete with dust and dirt) shot during the filming outside the 'Bottoms Up' club in Kowloon.
- Girls Fighting( SD, 3 mins)
Michael G Wilson in 'Voice Over' mode again introduces some rushes, that appear to have lost their mag sound, of the scene where the two young Asian girls beat the snot out of hordes of Karate students. Although it's all carefully choreographed, in one shot you can see an accidental blow land on one of the girls.
- American Thrill Show Stunt Film (SD, 5mins)
This promo for the stunt team has been transferred from a ropey old 16mm print - complete with green emulsion scratches (tram lines) - but it explores the "astro-roll", an automotive barrel roll that is used in '... Gun' for the leap over the river in Thailand.
- The Road to Bond: Stunt Coordinator W.J. Milligan
This is an 8 minute long audio track featuring an interview with the legendary stunt coordinator, mainly focused on his work with cars.
- The Director Speaks
An 8 minute audio track laid over stills in which director Guy Hamilton explains how he learned his craft at the feet of the 'masters'.
- Stills Gallery
A collection of stills, some B/W and some colour taken at various locations during the production of '...Gun'.
A 2 minute teaser trailer in SD with the tag line 'Coming for Christmas' plus the final 2 minute release trailer in HD as well as some TV and radio spots provide us with a time portal back to 1974.
'The Man with the Golden Gun' glitters on Blu-ray with a very good 1080p AVC/MPEG-4 transfer framed at 1.85:1 that is bound to please Bond fans, the world over. The movie looks better than it has before with the slight caveat that the colour appears a little less saturated than others in the series currently available on Blu-ray.
The audio has been remixed from the original mono into a DTS-HD MA 5.1 surround track which adds presence to John Barry's atmospheric score, provides ambience and rumble that puts the viewer in the thick of the action. Not quite as good as a modern movie with a lossless track but very serviceable nonetheless.
The Extras provide a welcome insight into the making of the movie and the audio commentaries from director Guy Hamilton and Sir Roger Moore help fill in the gaps.
This may not be everyone's favourite Bond movie, but for completists it's a must purchase and the highpoint has to be seeing Bond's car spectacularly twist through the air as it leaps across the Thai river.
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