The James Bond Ultimate Edition— MGM

Five-Star 007
A new Bond benchmark has been set.

James Bond has saved the world time and again, but where has the appreciation gone? True, MGM Home Entertainment released those three comprehensive boxed sets a few years ago. They worked from the best possible masters available at the time and added a host of special features. But even those discs went on moratorium, relegated to big price hikes on eBay. But, now, as the culmination of two-and-a-half years of audio and video restoration by DTS, the 20 Bond films from 1962 to 2002 are available again as part of The James Bond Ultimate Edition. The four volumes include Goldfinger, Diamonds Are Forever, The Man with the Golden Gun, The Living Daylights, The World Is Not Enough, Thunderball, The Spy Who Loved Me, A View to a Kill, Licence to Kill (sic), Die Another Day, GoldenEye, Live and Let Die, From Russia with Love, For Your Eyes Only, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Tomorrow Never Dies, You Only Live Twice, Dr. No, Octopussy, and Moonraker. Working from the original camera negatives, John Lowry’s process has reduced the grain and generally removed dirt, in addition to digitally repairing scratches and other incidents of damage. The color has also been retimed under expert supervision. The goal was to remain authentic while making the films as visually appealing as possible to the modern eye. The discs include new DTS tracks, along with Dolby Digital 5.1, plus the original audio in most cases, although Spy is missing its theatrical mix.

The results are nothing short of stunning across all of the titles in the set. Colors pop without being distracting, and an unprecedented level of detail shines through, despite perhaps a little too much edge enhancement on Spy. All of the movies are presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic, except Golden Gun (1.78:1) and Goldfinger, which is pillarboxed for a correct widescreen 1.66:1. The rear-projection shots, which do not always reproduce well, are greatly improved, although keen eyes might notice some shot-to-shot inconsistency, as when a sky might shift color.

The new 5.1-channel mixes represent many creative decisions, and some new sound effects have definitely been added here and there. The new Diamonds Are Forever offers lots of offscreen directional dialogue, as in the pre-title sequence when Blofeld’s double speaks from the right surround speaker. During Duran Duran’s View to a Kill title song, I can best describe the new mix’s seemingly enhanced bass as a wall of sound, although the helicopter crash moments earlier still displays mild distortion. Even the mono track on an older title like Goldfinger has a very enjoyable dimensionality beyond the center channel, with a pleasing prominence to John Barry’s musical score.

All of the previous DVD bonus materials have been ported over and are bolstered with some impressive new ones. Most notable are the audio commentary tracks from Sir Roger Moore for all seven of his Bond outings; most of the films now feature multiple commentaries. Also new is the “Declassified: MI6 Vault,” a hodgepodge of previously unseen vintage bits, plus the fluffy “Mission Control,” which allows access to themed clips from the movies. Bond endures as one of the most beloved franchises in cinema history. The films look and sound better than ever here and come with their most extensive array of supplements. With this collection, MGM has once again saved the world from substandard DVDs.