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James Bond Ultimate Edition (V4)
DVD disk
01.23.2007 By: Scott Weinberg
James Bond Ultimate Edition (V4) order

Sean Connery
Roger Moore
Pierce Brosnan


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It's about the world's most unkillable super-spy kicking all sorts of butt in all sorts of adventures all over the globe -- over more than five decades!
Well, of the five movies included in this, the fourth "Ultimate Edition" 007 collection, I'd call two of 'em "damn good," one of 'em "definitely watchable," and the remaining pair "almost terrible." But as a lifelong James Bond booster, I can still sit through pretty much any of 'em.

DR. NO (1962) -- Why MGM decided to place the very first Bond movie on Ultimate Edition Volume #4 is anybody's guess, but here it is: Sean Connery's debut! The introduction of M, Q and Moneypenny! Those raised on only the newest 007 adventures will be surprised to see the differences in the agent's earliest exploits, but there's little denying that DR. NO is (still) one of the very best Bond-flicks. In this one the unstoppable agent heads down to Jamaica to see what's interfering with American missles and what-not, only to discover nefarious villains, horrible henchmen, and a whole bunch of crazy chaos.

YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE (1967) -- Sean Connery's fifth go-round as James Bond might have been the weakest one up to that point -- but I actually like this one a lot. The danger this time around has to do with a stolen American space capsule, and how close it brings the U.S. and Russia to a big nasty war. Plus it's got Bond teaming up with NINJAS for cryin' out loud. How can you beat James Bond and ninjas??

MOONRAKER (1979) -- My distaste for the later Pierce Brosnan entries is pretty well-documented, but this one might just be the low point of the whole entire series. With a wandering plot that (kinda) has something to do with a missing space shuttle, the flick dabbles in silly stunts, aimless plotting, and a very sad affection for ... slapstick comedy. Kitschy for a few minutes, but then it just gets annoying.

OCTOPUSSY (1983) -- When a fellow agent turns up dead (and clutching a priceless egg), James Bond jumps into service and ... joins the circus?? Well that's only one of the stops in Roger Moore's next-to-final turn as 007. A lot of it is broad and non-sensical, but there's some pretty stellar action sequences in this one.

TOMORROW NEVER DIES (1997) -- I remember being a little bit disappointed in Pierce Brosnan's second Bond movie, but after sitting through stuff like DIE ANOTHER DAY, this entry sure starts to look a little better. This time around 007 has to thwart an evil ... media mogul? Like Rupert Murdoch?? Ah well, still action aplenty -- plus let's not forget about Teri Hatcher and Michelle Yeoh!

I know the 007 movies have been released and re-released on DVD, but considering that EVERY movie now comes with an audio commentary and a second supplemental disc, it seems pretty obvious that the "Ultimate Editions" are the end-all be-all for the 007 enthusiasts.

DR. NO -- John Cork of the Ian Fleming foundation moderates a previously-released audio commentary with director Terence Young and a whole bunch of other (relatively minor) cast & crew members. From a historical perspective, the track is packed with all sorts of fascinating info, but don't go in expecting a laugh riot. This track (indeed most of 'em) are a little on the dry side.

Disc 2 starts off with the goodies under the "Declassified" heading: License to Restore, a great little 11-minute featurette that (kinda) explains the digital restoration processes over at Lowry Digital. (I'll admit I didn't understand half of what they were talking about, but it was pretty interesting anyway.)

The Guns of James Bond is a very interesting 5-minute archival piece in which a Bond fan / gun enthusiast shares his insights on the spy's weaponry.

Opening Nights is a great 13-minute trip down memory lane. Enjoy footage from all 20 of the James Bond movie world premieres!

Click on into "Mission Control" and you'll find a whole bunch of slick DR. NO info. Headings include 007, Women, Allies, Villains, Mission Combat Manual, Q Branch, and Exotic Locations. This section focuses on each of the above components as they relate specifically to DR. NO -- and if they did this gimmick for each movie, that's pretty darn cool.

Inside the "Mission Dossier" section we get the meaty documentaries and archival featurettes. Inside DR. NO runs about 42 minutes and could logically be considered the "centerpiece" of the supplemental disc. The 20-minute Terence Young: Bond Vivant covers the input of director Young, who helmed three Bond flicks over the course of his career. There's also an old-school 1963 promotional featurette that'll please the completists.

Check out the "Ministry of Propaganda" section for a whole bunch of theatrical trailers, TV spots, and radio commericals -- and then feel free to finish up in the "Image Database," which is where you'll find a rather slick photo gallery.

YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE -- The commentary is very similar to the DR. NO track, only the director here is Lewis Gilbert. A bunch of anecdotes and insights have been collected by a variety of cast & crew members, and then spliced into a pretty packed chat-track. Again, Bond enthusiasts should eat this stuff up with a spoon.

Disc 2 might not be as packed as DR. NO's is, but hey, it came first and it deserves a little extra attention. What we do have here is pretty damn impressive, though...

"Declassified"-- Welcome to Japan Mr. Bond is a 1967 promotional piece, one of the better examples you'll find. Using clips from this and all the previous Bond flicks, it was produced to get the fans hyped up for the newest adventure. And it works rather well.

Whicker's World Highlight is a 5-minute talk show clip featuring Sean Connery and series producer Cubby Broccoli.

On Location with Ken Adam is a bit of interesting insight from the production designer.

"Mission Control" -- Again, all sorts of clips related to 007, Women, Allies, Villains, Mission Combat Manual, Q Branch, and Exotic Locations. Not terribly deep stuff, but fun enough for the fans.

"Mission Dossier" -- Inside YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE is a half-hour retrospective piece that gives the fifth Bond flick its fair due. (Even if people didn't really love it back in the day.)

Silhouettes: The James Bond Titles centers on the always-creative opening montage.

There's also a Plane Crash Animated Storyboard Sequence included here.

Once again the "Ministry of Propaganda" delivers several theatrical trailers, TV spots, and radio commercials, while the "Image Gallery" gives up its regular goods.

MOONRAKER -- The commentary here includes director Lewis Gilbert, screenwriter Christopher Wood and producers Michael G. Wilson and William Cartlidge. Ah, but here's a bonus Bond commentary with Roger Moore himself! Expect the typically cool and collected Mr. Moore to chit chat somewhat aimlessly across the movie, but the guy does offer a few great stories and production recollections.

Disc 2 is laid out like all the rest:

"Declassified" -- 007 in Rio is a 15-minute piece of old-school promotional material that's fairly interesting.

Bond '79 is a 10-minute collection of cast & crew interviews from the set of MOONRAKER.

We also get some more of Ken Adam's Production Films, which he shot while building some of the flick's more elaborate sets.

Rounding out the section are Learning to Freefall: Sky Diving Test Footage, some Sky Diving Storyboards, some circus test footage, and two sets of cable car sequence storyboards.

"Mission Control" is all the 007, Women, Allies, Villains, Mission Combat Manual, Q Branch, and Exotic Locations stuff: categorized click-jumps and whatnot.

Under "Mission Dossier" you'll find the 41-minute Inside MOONRAKER: An Original Documentary, in which the flick is paid a lot of attention by cast and crew members. They seem to take this chapter a bit more seriously than they ought to, but it's a fun piece nonetheless.

The Men Behind the Mayhem is a 20-minute look at the FX technicians and stuntpeople who keep the series moving along so explosively.

...and the rest: The "Ministry of Propaganda" has only the theatrical trailer this time out, which is pretty weird considering MOONRAKER is a lot newer than the other two flicks, but oh well. (It's one of my least favorite Bond movies ever, so I couldn't care less, really.) And the "Image Database" is loaded with photos and such.

OCTOPUSSY -- Commentary participants include John Glen on track 1 and Roger Moore on track 2. If you want actual information on the production of the film, stick with the first one, although Moore's commentaries are proving to be quite enjoyable ... if more than a little rambly from time to time.

Back in the "Declassified" file we get a pair of featurettes called Shooting Stunts (one for the jeep crashes and another for the airplane destruction), an on-set movie from "border guard extra" Ken Burns, a five-minute piece called On Location in which production designer Peter LaMont talks about his contributions, a look at the aerial stunt team in Testing the Limits, some old James Brolin (!) screen tests, and a 28-minute piece of archival promotional stuff called James Bond in India.

"Mission Control" delivers, all together now, 007, Women, Allies, Villains, Mission Combat Manual, Q Branch, and Exotic Locations.

"Mission Dossier" is, once again, where the bigger treats lie. Inside OCTOPUSSY is a half-hour behind-the-scenes piece with all the requisite cast & crew interviews.

Designing Bond runs about 20 minutes and gives us another look at production designer Peter LaMont and his Bond-friendly talents.

Also tucked into this section are the "All Time High" music video, and some "taxi chase" and "Bond rescues Octopussy" storyboards.

Inside the "Ministry of Propaganda" you'll find four theatrical trailers, plus the "Image Gallery" is stocked and awaiting your perusal.

TOMORROW NEVER DIES -- Two separate audio commentaries again: One with producer Michael G. Wilson and second unit director Vic Armstrong, and another with director Roger Spottiswoode and filmmaker Dan Petrie Jr. I can't imagine that anyone but the most die-hard Bond fans will be able to make it through both of these tracks, but they're there if you want 'em.

For the last time we start off in the "Declassified" section (and I'll take this moment to applaud the really nifty menu screens on all these discs) and a healthy handful of deleted & extended scenes (as introduced by the director) and a pair of "expanded angles" sequences (aka multi-angle stuff).

Then we get the predictably entertaining hour-long Highly Classified: The World of 007 documentary; too bad the focus isn't a better film. Rounding out this section is a Moby Remix of the James Bond theme.

I don't really see the need to go through the "Mission Control" goodies again, do I? Same as before: categorized nerdy fun.

Inside the "Mission Dossier: we have The Secrets of 007, a promotional piece made to bring new fans up to speed in time for this movie's arrival. Not a bad little mini-doco, though.

You'll also be treated to a storyboard presentation, a special FX reel, an inside peek at the latest Bond gadgets, a brief interview with 007 composer David Arnold, and a Sheryl Crow music video for "Tomorrow Never Dies."

Check the "Ministry of Propaganda" for a pair of theatrical trailers before flicking through the final "Image Gallery."

Also of note is that each movie comes with its own little foldout booklet full of pics and production notes.

Well wow. And if THAT'S not enough James Bond for you, there are three more volumes to get your fingers on! All things considered, these sets seem to be the best Bond releases yet. So if you're tired of upgrading every few years, I say get these sets and be done with it.

Unless you really want to get the HD ones some time next year.

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