The third of the MGM James Bond Blu-ray boxed sets compiles an interesting selection of three films from one of the most recognizable movie franchises of all time. Here's a look at the films before we move on to the technical specifications and massive amount of supplements that have been compiled for this release:
The third James Bond film, Goldfinger remains a fan favorite and for good reason. This film really does represent everything great about the series - hot girls, cool cars, smart dialogue, fun gadgets, a hiss-worthy villain and some great action set pieces. It's as cool as they come and time has been very kind to the picture more than four decades after it was made.
When the movie begins, James Bond (Sean Connery) is hanging out in Florida where he's watching an international gold dealer named Auric Goldfinger (Gert Frobe) cheat at cards. He calls him on it, with the help of Goldfinger's assistant, and after a bedroom encounter between Bond and the girl, he finds her dead - her body painted in gold leaving no question as to who was behind her murder.
Through some clever investigative work, Bond soon uncovers the details of Goldfinger's 'Operation Grand Slam' in which he plans to contaminate all of the gold in Fort Knox with the help of some sinister Chinese soldiers. The point of all this? It'll allow the Chinese to take advantage of the weakened American economy and make Goldfinger's personal stash worth infinitely more than it already is. Bond winds up captured by Goldfinger and his deadly bodyguard, Oddjob (Harold Sakata). His life in danger, he has no one to rely on but himself, unable to trust even a sultry pilot named Pussy Galore (Honor Blackman). But will Bond be able to free himself from Goldfinger's prison before it's too late?
This is one of those films where it all comes together. Directed with pitch perfect pacing by Guy Hamilton (who would later helm Diamonds Are Forever, Live And Let Die and The Man With The Golden Gun before essentially committing career suicide with the enjoyable flop that was 1985's Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins), the film has gone on to become less a 'movie' and more a pop culture institution. Connery, the very epitome of cool in this film, carries the movie with style and charm, somehow even remaining a bad ass while wearing a blue terrycloth jumpsuit. His classic back and forth with Frobe unusually sinister Goldfinger has gone on to instantly recognizable and quote worthy while sexual tension between Bond and Ms. Galore culminates in one of the best endings in the series.
The elaborate action set pieces, highlighted by the finale in which Goldfinger and his forces invade Fort Knox and engage in a shoot out with American troops while Bond dukes it out with the maniacal Oddjob a few stories below, are well shot and plenty exciting. A great chase scene in which Bond drives his tricked out Aston Martin through a compound chased by Goldfinger's henchmen shows off some fun gadget design as well. While the effects show their age, the film is otherwise a completely fun, entertaining and enjoyable entry that remains one of the best that the series has to offer.
1979's Moonraker has a pretty bad reputation among Bond fans. There's no doubt at all that the movie was meant to cash in on the science fiction craze that was sweeping the world in the wake of Star Wars mania and the Bond producers obviously wanted a piece of that potentially lucrative pie. The results are pretty mixed, but as hokey as the film is, it isn't completely without merit or its own off-key charm.
When the movie begins, Bond (Roger Moore) and is fighting with his archenemy Jaws (Richard Kiel) on an airplane high above the ground. They topple, but Bond has a parachute, which he opens in time to watch his foe fall to the ground below where he lands on a circus tent. While Bond is of fighting Jaws, someone sinister is up to no good, stealing Moonraker model spaceships while they're in transit by blowing up the airplanes being used to transport them.
M (Bernard Lee) has Bond brought to London for his briefing and off he goes to try and sort out who is behind these thefts in hopes of keeping the technology out of the wrong hands and preventing more deaths. M points him in the direction of one Hugo Drax, a wealthy businessman in California who operates the company responsible for helping to construct the units. When Bond arrives in California, one of Drax's cronies, Chang (Toshiro Suga), makes an attempt on his life but of course, Bond prevails and soon he's teaming up with a sexy C.I.A. agent named Holly Goodhead (Lois Chiles) to try and right the many wrongs that Drax has put into play. The two head off to Venice to do more snooping and witness a biological disaster, which finds them soon en route to Rio where Jaws is waiting. If James can make it out of Rio alive, there's only the final frontier awaiting him, and his mission will lead him to the very reaches of outer space before its' finished.
Completely ridiculous even by Bond standards, Moonraker suffers from horrible jokes, bad puns, and some hammy acting from Moore in the lead. There are obvious nods not only to Bond films of the past but also to some of the science fiction movies that were popular in theaters at the time, and much of the story seems to be recycled from these two sources. With that said, it's hard not to enjoy the film. There's so much going on and so much of it is completely over the top that you can't help but get a kick out of the whole thing, particularly during the stunt scenes and the space scenes. Sure, you can't take a lick of it very seriously at all but that's half the fun and if at times the movie feels like a self-parody, well, maybe that's not such a bad thing.
The opening credits sequence for the movie is nicely done and Shirley Bassey, back for her second Bond theme, does a nice job on the vocals. Lois Chiles makes for a great partner for Moore and stands out as an exceptionally foxy leading lady for the series while lesser Bond girls Corinne Clery, Emily Bolton and Irka Bochenko are almost as easy on the eyes as she is. If you can handle the groan inducing humor and look past the ridiculous concept, Moonraker proves to be an interesting and entertaining film throughout, even if it isn't ever likely to be anyone's favorite of the series.
The World Is Not Enough (1999):
Directed by Michael Apted, a man who made quite a name for himself with more serious efforts like Gorky Park and Nell after cutting his teeth on various television productions in the sixties, The World Is Not Enough was Pierce Brosnan's third Bond film and it falls somewhere in between Goldfinger and Moonraker in that it's a decidedly average effort.
When the film begins James Bond has rushed off to a Swiss Bank in Spain where a scuffle breaks out over the princely sum of three million pounds. Bond makes it out before the local cops make the scene, leaving them without much of a clue as to why the shoot out took place. The next day, back in London, Bond flirts with Miss Moneypenny (Samantha Bond) and heads in to talk to Q (Desmond Llewelyn in his final appearance) who introduces him to a wealthy oil man named Sir Robert King (David Calder). Things seem to be in pretty decent order until that stash Bond made it back with explodes and kills the man he just met.
Soon Bond is asked by M (Judy Dench) to meet King's daughter, Elektra (Sophie Marceau), who he has been asked to protect and who has inherited her father's business and vast fortune. Her ties to a man named Renard (Robert Carlyle), a known terrorist unable to feel any pain whatsoever, make her rather suspect and Bond soon uncovers their plot to screw with the world's oil supply and launch a nuclear attack on continental Europe. Thankfully Bond's got some help in the form of a sexy scientist named Christmas Jones (Denise Richards), and the two soon find themselves the only ones able to stop Elektra and Renard from setting their horrifying plan into motion. Complicating matters further is the presence of a mysterious Russian named Valentin Zukovsky (Robbie Coltrane).
The opening sequence of The World Is Not Enough is one of the best of the series but from there, the film flip flops a bit. Brosnan does a decent enough job here even if he isn't as naturally charming as Connery is in the role but casting Denise Richards as a scientist hurts the film and is a rather odd choice that comes perilously close to ruining much of the film's later half. The soundtrack, featuring a great title track from Garbage that really lets Shirley Manson strut her vocal stuff, works well but the pacing of the film is hit and miss. There's plenty of globe trotting and some nice photography of some fun exotic locales that ensure the film looks good and Robert Carlyle, while not given quite enough screen time, makes for a great bad guy. We see a leaner, meaner Bond here than we have in previous entries, and Brosnan handles the physicality required for this entry well and at times he's even a little intimidating.
Had the pacing problems not been there, this would have been one of the better recent entries in the series and even with a few scenes that go on a bit too long the picture is still a pretty good one. It delivers everything you'd expect from the series in terms of action and sex appeal and it throws in a great car chase and some good one liners. If it isn't the classic that it could have been, it's still a solid entry and a very entertaining one at that.Video:
Each of the three movies in this collection are treated to 1080p AVC encoded high definition transfers in their original aspect ratios. Goldfinger, for a film fast approaching its fiftieth birthday, looks remarkably good shown here in 1.66.1 anamorphic widescreen, even if at times, the added resolution makes some of the effects some more obvious. Moonraker is in 2.40.1 widescreen and it looks excellent as well. You'll notice right from the beginning of the movie that there's a lot to take in here, and there's a ton of detail that you miss out on in the standard definition release in addition to fantastic color reproduction. Skin tones look dead on and black levels are inky and consistent without ever mucking up fine detail levels in the darker scenes. The World Is Not Enough is framed at 2.35.1, as it should be, and it took looks quite good but the contrast looks just a little bit off when compared to the other two films in the set. Aside from that one minor complaint, however, the image is uniformly strong with nice detail and pretty lifelike color reproduction. Thankfully the scene that takes place outside in the snow looks pretty good, without ever blooming or feeling too hot. There aren't any problems with print damage, mpeg compression or heavy edge enhancement anywhere with any of the three films and overall, the image quality here is very strong.Sound:
Each film in the set gets the DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio treatment this time around. Goldfinger sounds nice and clear though it's soundscape isn't as active or intense as it could have been, which is perfectly understandable given the film's age and there are times where the levels feel a little off. Purists will take delight in the fact that the original Mono track is also included. Moonraker has a fair bit more surround activity going on, which makes the sound a bit more fun, though the lower end could have had more punch to it. Again, the original stereo mix is here for those who want it. The World Is Not Enough sounds okay, but lacks the surround activity you'd probably hope for from the more recent offerings in the series. Like the other films, dialogue is consistently clean, clear and easy to understand and there aren't any real problems with it, but it doesn't carry the impact or the punch of, say, Quantum Of Solace or Casino Royale. As a whole, however, each of the three films really does sound just fine. French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound tracks are included and subtitles are provided in English, Spanish, Cantonese, Korean and Mandarin.Extras:
Extras are spread across the three 50gb Blu-ray in this set. Fox/MGM have essentially carried over the supplemental material from the recent standard definition Ultimate Edition DVDs, and there really isn't anything new here, but what is included is good stuff, and there is quite a lot of it and many of them appear here in high definition.
The extras kick off with an audio commentary track from director Guy Hamilton. This is a decent enough talk about the making of the film as Hamilton shares his memories of making the film, working with Connery and the other cast members, and what it was like working on the franchise in the early days. The second commentary track is a bit more active as it brings together a few cast and crew members, including Sean Connery, by using various pre-recorded bits and pieces and splicing them together. This is an interesting scene specific talk that explores the various participants involvement in the film and gives us some insight into the making of the film from those who worked both in front of and behind the camera.
From there we move on to the various featurettes that have been included, starting with Sean Connery From The Set Of Goldfinger which is an interesting bit recorded on the set of the film while it was in production in which the actor talks about his role and the character. More substantial is the half hour The Making Of Goldfinger in which Hamilton, Connery, Blackman and a few others talk about the making of the film. The clips and discussions cover some interesting aspects of the production including the fairly remarkable set design, the effects that were used in the film, and some of the pressure that they were under due to the increasing popularity of the character. The commentary tracks cover some of the same information but it's enjoyable enough to revisit it here and the visuals add something to it.
The twelve minutes On Tour With The Aston Martin DB5 is a fun segment that explores the history of what many fans consider to be the coolest car that Bond ever drove. This segment uses some vintage promotional footage and bits about its status with car collectors to explain its importance in pop culture and it's only real flaw is that it should have been longer. The Gold Finger Phenomenon is a solid half hour of exploring the film's impact, cultural significance and importance, and its box office success. Blackman shows up here and tells a few amusing stories about her interaction with the press and there's some interesting bits here about the merchandising that attempted to cash in on the film's success. Speaking of Blackman, the vintage Honor Blackman Open-Ended Interview that was used to promote the film on television around the time of its theatrical release is included here as well.
Closing out the extras are pair of old screen tests (for Theodore Bikel and Tito Vandis), the old 1963 promotional piece that has been seen a few times by now, a theatrical trailer, a pair of television spots, a couple of radio spots, and a still gallery. The 007 Mission Control feature is an 'Interactive Guide' to the film that allows you to access some information about the picture via some nicely designed menu interfaces.
First off, in terms of the extras for this film, is the commentary that was recorded for the older DVD release which features director Lewis Gilbert, producers Michael G. Wilson and William P. Cartlidge and screenwriter Christopher Wood. It's a decent track, even if it could have been more. Wilson carries the discussion and seems to have the sharpest memory when it comes to talking about how the project came together while the other participants fill in the blanks when and where they can with Wood lending some insight into why the story is the way that it is in the finished version of the movie.
Also included is a second commentary track this time with the star of the film, Sir Roger Moore. While it's a shame that Moore doesn't bring more to this talk in terms of what was required of him on set, he does tell some amusing stories about the director and some of his co-stars and he gets some good background information into the mix more than once. A lot of the track is observational, with Moore sort of commenting on what is happening in the film fairly randomly but he's got a great sense of humor about the whole deal and comes across as likeable here as he always does.
Up next is a forty-two minute Inside Moonraker featurette which is an extensive behind the scenes documentary that shows us how much of the effects work was done and which details the origins of the film in quite a bit of detail. Interviews with the cast and crew are mixed in with photos and clips from various sources to really paint a big picture of the experience that was making Moonraker and it actually proves to be very interesting stuff. Also quite interesting (and carried over) is the nineteen-minute Men Behind The Mayhem featurette which explores a documentary that is specific to the stunts and effects set pieces that this and other Bond films contain. There are plenty of clips and some nice narration to keep it all in context along with interviews and behind the scenes clips.
From there, move on Ken Adam's Production Films which, at twelve-minutes, give us a look at narrated footage that Adams shot while building some of the sets to be used in the movie. These are pretty keen in that we get a look at the sets as they're being built in addition to little bits and pieces of general behind the scenes information. Also new to this release is an eleven-minute collection of interviews with the cast and crew entitled Bond '79 where we get a chance to enjoy little talks with Broccoli and a few other cast and crew members as organized by Michael Wilson. None of these are deep or meaningful but they're interesting enough and it's always nice to see vintage material included whenever possible.
Another featurette is 007 In Rio which is a thirteen-minute look at the crew doing their thing in Rio for the scenes that take place there in the feature. It's interesting enough to see and some of the location footage is quite impressive. Also new to this release are two test footage clips - Circus Footage, Skydiving Test Footage - and two storyboard collections, both specifically for the cable car scene.
Rounding out the extra features are the theatrical trailer, a generous still gallery, animated menus, chapter stops, and the seemingly obligatory 007 Mission Control interactive bit.
The World Is Not Enough:
Like the other two films in this set, the extras kick off with a pair of audio commentary tracks, the first of which comes from director Michael Apted. While this is a fairly highbrow talk, Apted does deliver a lot of good information about his work on this picture as he takes us through the film and tells us some interesting stories about the cast and crew he worked with on the film and shares memories of helming the picture. He talks about some of the more action intense sequences and s refreshingly honest about some of the film's flaws.
The second commentary with brings together Peter Lamont, David Arnold and Vic Armstrong and it delivers a scene specific talk that explores their work on the picture. Again, there's some good information in here that isn't covered in the featurettes, but the delivery is dry and honestly it's a little dull when it really shouldn't have been. You don't get much of a sense of enthusiasm here, rather, everyone feels like they're simply going through the motions.
Apted also introduces the Deleted, Extended And Alternate Scenes that have been included. The best part about this section is the alternate footage from the boat chase sequence. Apted introduces the clips and explains why they weren't used, basically setting them up and putting them into context. Similar in context is the The Secrets of 007: Alternate Video Options section which is a collection of re-edited scenes from the film that shows off some alternate angle footage for nine different scenes, unfortunately presented without much regard to context.
Moving on to the featurettes, we find James Bond Down River, a twenty-five piece that was originally made in 1999 to document the making of the film and promote it prior to its theatrical release. The focus is on the how the chase scene that takes place on the Thames was shot and it's fairly in-depth, covering storyboards, training, stunts and the like. Less interesting is the four minute Creating An Icon: Making the Teaser Trailer, which is more or less just a piece where MGM marketing head honcho Tom Kennedy talks about how the fairly infamous image of the comely young lady was used in the trailer to market the film.
The Hong Kong Press Conference is a fairly dry ten minute segment in which Bronson talks to the press about his work on the film and about how much he enjoyed working with everyone on the film while the twenty-two minute Bond Cocktail segment is a fairly generic piece that talks about the essential elements of a Bond movie, and how they all play an important part in the character's mythos. The three minute Tribute to Desmond Llewelyn is a brief but touching look at that actor's work as Q by way of a montage of clips set to Nobody Does It Better.
Closing out the extras for The World Is Not Enough: are the film's original theatrical trailer, a decent sized still gallery, a video from Garbage for the title track and, once again, the obligatory 007 Mission Control.Final Thoughts:
Fox has done a very nice job with this third collection of Blu-ray Bond discs. The transfers are strong across the board as is the audio, and the extras are plentiful and interesting. Highly recommended.