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James Bond Gadgets
There's the old adage, "there are only two certainties in life: death and taxes." Now, having been a collector of DVDs since the beginning of the format, I think a strong case could be made for adding a third certainty to that iconic phrase: when a new movie comes out count on History to re-release an old program as a cash grab. Originally airing in 2002 and 2004 respectively, Modern Marvels has devoted at least two 40-odd minute programs to the "tech" of the James Bond series. With the release of this year's "Spectre," a film which may be Daniel Craig's last at-bat in the shoes of the iconic superspy, History saw fit, yet again to slap these two, very-dated specials on a DVD, vaguely titled "James Bond Gadgets." Obviously, given their decade-plus old origins, they will have very little to do with not just "Spectre" but the world of Daniel Craig's Bond. Does that make them relics of a simpler time, best kept with Roger Moore's entry into the Bond catalog?
Say what you will about History's more recent, sensationalistic output, but even in the early 2000s, they still had a little bit of magic up their sleeve, as these entries from Modern Marvels shows quite well. With a focus heavily on some classic Bond moments, "James Bond Gadgets" gives viewers a look at the very real tech behind some iconic Bond moments including, but not limited to: "Thunderball's" thrilling jet pack opening and underwater finale, "From Russia With Love's" Little Nellie, and "The Man With the Golden Gun's" breathtaking 360-degree automobile barrell roll over a bridge, that was nearly ruined by an idiotic production choice of a slide-whistle sound effect. With a scant 40-minutes per episode, these two programs do a tremendous job of highlighting the effort and engineering that went into some truly beyond belief vehicles. What really makes the episodes work is having the people who not only built these iconic creations, but were responsible for their usage in the films.
Apart from the behind-the-scenes looks at Bond's real-life vehicle marvel's, the second episode wraps up with an extended look at a real-life spy museum and some real-life spy gadgets. There's a level of disconnect between the movie magic aspect of the programs and this shift in tone, ultimately leaving the viewer wishing the producers had devoted an extra 15-minutes to one or two more of Bond's iconic scenes. Ultimately, neither episode is spectacular nor awful in its own right; both bring back that feeling of killing an hour watching History on a Sunday afternoon, only this time without commercials. Still, to most Bond fans, this information is old hat and compared to the special features section of a DVD/Blu-Ray of an entire Bond film, the overall depth of the content is lacking, rending this DVD little more than what it really is: a cheap cash grab aimed at unsuspecting Bond fans.
The 1.33:1 original aspect ratio transfer looks decidedly like a 2000s era, pre-HD cable broadcast. Source material runs the gamut of decades, dating back to home movies shot on the sets of the original films. Overall, the color levels are washed out and plagued with mild to moderate artifacting and edge-enhancement. Detail is below average, making clips from the films incredibly cheap and sloppy looking. This is an old, cheap looking show that has not aged well and that fact is accurately replicated on this release.
The English Dolby Digital 5.1 surround audio track is incredibly lacking. This is at best a stereo level presentation; dialogue and music are incredibly flat, while narration is the only hint of tonal warmth to be spotted. This is an early 2000s era cable TV "educational" program and its firmly rooted in its place in time. English subtitles are included.
History is guilty without question of cashing in on the release of "Spectre" to trot out two affable, but now irrelevant TV specials of years past under the vague banner of "James Bond Gadgets." Add to that, A/V quality that is firmly rooted in a very pre-HD era and this is a no brainer. Skip It.