Case Number 10533


Dr. No
MGM // 1962 // 110 Minutes // Rated PG
You Only Live Twice
MGM // 1967 // 117 Minutes // Rated PG
MGM // 1979 // 121 Minutes // Rated PG
MGM // 1983 // 131 Minutes // Rated PG
Tomorrow Never Dies
MGM // 1997 // 119 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Chief Counsel Rob Lineberger (Retired) // January 1st, 2007

The Charge

NOW meet the most extraordinary gentleman spy in all fiction!...JAMES BOND, Agent 007!

Opening Statement

James Bond multimedia is as old as the franchise. There have always been the books, then the movies and Playboy short stories. There have been Tarot cards, posters, TV featurettes, martini name it, it was probably done. And now we have the James Bond Ultimate Edition, which is the final word on James Bond in standard definition DVD. With frame-by-frame remasters of each transfer, new DTS tracks, new features, and old features "declassified," the James Bond Ultimate Edition plants a bold stake as the definitive set to own.

The question on every Bond fan's mind is this: are the new features, new DTS mixes, and new restorations worth plunking down hundreds more dollars on this venerable franchise?

Facts of the Case

James Bond travels to exotic locations, beds lots of beautiful women, and blows lots of stuff up. He confronts five evil masterminds and foils five plots for world domination. Along the way, he makes friends, plays cards, goes into outer space, gets served sheep eyes on a platter, and generally acts like a wisecracking badass.

The Evidence

There comes a time in ever reviewer's life when he must drop all pretense of objectivity, cradle the DVDs jealously in his hands, and cackle madly with insane glee. That time has come for me, and if you have to suffer through it that's cool. It isn't just that the James Bond Ultimate Edition has come out on DVD, but that I finally get to say my peace on the Bond films, without argument, in front of a semi-captive audience. (Herr Stamper, you did remember to disable their back buttons, didn't you?) See, James Bond is why I became a reviewer in the first place. I noticed that DVD Verdict had reviewed every extant Bond film except for You Only Live Twice. That became my first review for the site; four years and four hundred reviews later, I get a chance to revisit it.

Enough about me...what have we here? This review will take a detailed look at the technical restorations of each film. This will be followed by a review of each film and its new supplemental features (the previous special features have been reviewed under the links in the sidebar.) If you don't care about film restoration or sound quality, best skip down to the individual reviews below.

The first thing you'll notice about Volume Four of the James Bond Ultimate Edition is its sleek, sexy, foil-stamped exterior. I can take or leave foil-stamped cardboard sleeves, but this one feels nice and looks better. The sleeve contains five double-disc thinpak cases with cover art that roughly matches the previous Special Edition releases for each film.

To get a sense for the visual and audio baseline, I popped in the 2002 release of the Dr. No special edition. I'd forgotten how annoying it is to have to "activate my navigation system," a challenge typically met by fumbling around with the buttons until something makes the main menu show up. The DVD menus for the Special Editions are great, by the way. Anywho, Dr. No's gun barrel sequence and funky colored dots kicked things off. Right away the gun barrel sequence presents a healthy scattering of dust, scratches, and grain. At the time these Special Edition transfers were favorably regarded, but they were by no means free of problems. Dr. No jitters in the frame, and though the contrast and detail are good for the time, they are still somewhat murky. The Dolby Digital 5.1 track (an impurity, because Dr. No was originally heard in glorious mono) was full and rich.

As giddy as the proverbial boys with toys, I turned to this spiffy new transfer of Dr. No. Steeled for disappointment, I popped in the disc (hey, no navigation activation required!) and went straight for the classic gun barrel sequence.

Oh my.

It looks fantastic. The grain is still there. You can tell it came from a film at some point. But the jitter, the graininess, the dust and specks and scratches are gone. I mean really gone. All that is left is a rock stable, water clear image. This stability is almost disconcerting in its confidence and serenity. Don't get me wrong, flaws are still there, such as the warbling ring at the end of the gun barrel. This is an artifact of the special effect itself. As for the clarity...If you know where a speck used to be and look at that spot, you can intuitively tell that a computer extrapolated the image details that were put back in. The transfer has a ghostly whisper of having been tampered with, like spectres of dead dust bunnies trampling over their graves. But this is completely consumed in the overwhelming experience of seeing Dr. No anew. Other fanatical cleanup attempts have taken the souls out of films, making them plasticine and overprocessed. This transfer strikes the balance I would choose if I were at the helm. It is neither too processed nor too hands-off, but just right.

After the gun barrel sequence come the funky polka dots, which present another wonderful surprise. The 2002 edition had rather teal, yellowish, spots. Those have now somehow become brilliant jewel tones. Not like the oversaturated hues that made Star Wars thermonuclear; these have a rightness about them that suggest the true colors have been put back in. This feeling is borne out in the actual footage of Jamaica. People look healthy, while flora and sky seem lush and natural.

Seeing these two transfers back-to-back leaves no doubt in my mind: the Ultimate Edition is superior. The difference is not even subtle; it is stark. Even the DTS mix is sharper and louder than the Dolby 5.1 mix, though I'm a fan of the mono track. But Dr. No is not the most challenging restoration in the set...what happens with the '70s era Moonraker?

The 2002 release of Moonraker had an anemic 5.1 surround mix, which suffered particularly during dialogue. Its dingy, yellowish transfer and poor contrast was supplemented by more dirt and dust than was present in most of the other Special Editions. Moonraker had great sets and better locations going for it, but time has not been kind to the film stock.

The Ultimate Edition is an improvement over the older release, but the difference is not as striking. The new DTS track is brighter, punchier, and more dynamic than the Dolby Digital 5.1 mix, but even it cannot mask the flaws inherent in the audio. The dialogue is simply washed out in many scenes. The same is true of the video restoration, which cannot save the scenes that suffer from poor contrast. The shadow detail has definitely been improved and the color balance has been shifted bluish-white; this tandem improves contrast in some of the darker scenes and gives the footage a new look. There is definite, though often subtle, improvement in detail. Much of the dust and grain has been removed. It isn't that the restoration is lacking, it's that Moonraker doesn't give Lowry Digital as much to work with as did Dr. No.

Skipping to the most recent film in the set, how does the newish Tomorrow Never Dies stand up? The difference is less clear. The transfer on the previous release is pretty darn good. There are infinitesimal bouts of twitter along high-contrast diagonal lines. Otherwise, the transfer is outstanding in terms of detail, contrast, and color definition. This Ultimate Edition transfer also looks great. The twitter is gone. Beyond that, I get the impression that the new transfer has been handled similarly to the others in that a frame-by-frame, massive-resolution scan has been done on the source. The difference is hard to definitively pin down because both the old and new transfers are rendered in standard definition, but I'd say there is a slight increase in detail. Yet I also noticed some oddities in the color balance. A periodic red push makes Pierce Brosnan's face seem overly flushed, but in the next cut this effect is gone. It keeps coming back throughout the arms bazaar sequence, making him seem out of breath one moment and fine the next. Perhaps the new transfer is picking up very subtle shifts in light, or maybe there is a non-consistent color balance shift. It's hard to say for sure, but it doesn't matter much; both the old and new transfers are very high quality. I did notice one large stutter in the film during a closeup on Brosnan, like the old days when they'd plunk a layer change down anywhere the space ran out, whether or not it was a good place to hide a layer change.

As expected, You Only Live Twice's restoration is in line with Dr. No's. The difference is striking in terms of grain reduction, cleanup, stability, detail, and contrast. The previous release featured a lot of gray-on-gray, such as in the ship interiors, ninjas against stone walls, the volcano set, and other middle-key sets. The new version improves the detail and contrast enough to relieve some of this visual tedium. As in Moonraker and Dr. No, blue-white is the color of choice; there is a noticeable shift from yellowish to blue. This may be a faithful rendition of the colors from the film, or it could be a visual trick to boost perceived clarity. In either case, I like the change.

Yet You Only Live Twice benefits even more from sonic improvements. Nancy Sinatra's theme song sounds reedy and flat in the Special Edition. In fact, I've always found the song dull, even lifeless. The Ultimate Edition boosts the clarity of the audio and gives it more dynamic range. The result is a livelier, more impressive theme song that has nuance I've never heard before. The older release also suffered from a faint, rhythmic muffling in the soundtrack with a steady dose of sub-harmonic gaps in the sound. This track (the native mono track) is full, stable, and lacks this distortion.

Finally, let's peek at a little Octopussy. Perhaps the four years between it and Moonraker were enough to breeze past the infamous 1970s yellowing film stock, or maybe the Octopussy negative was just in better shape, but the transfer looks much better. Where Moonraker was dingy and lacked contrast, Octopussy is rendered in brilliant jewel tones with plenty of contrast. Even in the new transfer, saturated reds, ultramarines, and yellows threaten to weep into each other. But the detail is sharp with some minor bouts of softness here and there.

The bottom line is that Dr. No and You Only Live Twice benefit from dramatic visual improvement; Moonraker and Octopussy are definitely -- but less dramatically -- improved; and Tomorrow Never Dies is the same or arguably worse because of color balance games. The DTS tracks are welcome additions to the arsenal in each case, though the upgraded surround mix only purely applies to Tomorrow Never Dies, which already had a native, effective surround mix.

Then there's the final consideration: the Fox angle means that these new Lowry Digital restorations were undoubtedly contracted for with BluRay in mind. If the Standard Definition transfers show such marked improvement, it means that the High Definition treatment will blow this Ultimate Edition away. If you are a few years away from owning a BluRay player and you want the best image quality, this is the set to own. If you have the Special Editions and can hold out for the inevitable High Definition releases, you have to ask yourself how patient you are.

That does it for the technical discussion. The heart of this set is, of course, the movies and bonus features. I rarely pimp the DVD Verdict Jury Room forum, but this is a special occasion. Dimitris Kiminas of Athens popped into the Jury Room to request a review of the James Bond Ultimate Edition sets. To help things along, he compiled an incredible breakdown of the special features. In fact, I used his list to describe the special features listed for each film in the sidebar. If you want a straightforward look at the list, visit the link way down there at the bottom of the sidebar. Thanks, Dimitris; it was a big help. Now without further ado, lets move on to the movies.

Dr. No
Dr. No is the only pure James Bond film. It was the first major effort to transfer a Fleming story to the big screen, and thus is untainted by any of the press, the hoopla, or expectation surrounding each subsequent film. They had nothing to top or outdo. Dr. No reveals decisions that would forever color the franchise. This purity lends Dr. No an aura of reverence each time I watch it. The very first gun barrel, the funky polka dot credits, and the ensuing spy-coolness are like a shrine. Its rhythms set the tone for all other Bond films.

Who was the first Bond Girl? Ursula Andress springs to mind. Her much ballyhooed "Birth of Venus" scene is worth all the fuss. But the first Bond Girl was Sylvia Trench, and they spared nothing to make her as desirable as possible. Out smoking, drinking, and gambling hard into the wee hours of the morning, Ms. Trench had no pesky attachments or impediments. Yet her classy red dress and cool demeanor as she asked for "another thousand" let us know that Sylvia was no easy mark. She made a go at Bond with everything she had, regarding him quizzically like a mantis would a bug.

But her spirited challenge could not mask a palpable lust. When Bond opened the door to his flat, on one knee with gun in hand, what did he find? Sylvia Trench putting golf, wearing nothing but his dress shirt. With the residue of the casino still on her -- the cigarette smoke, the ruby red lipstick, the pheromones of sexual attraction and the buzz of the game -- Sylvia Trench presents as enticing a package as any in the franchise. To this day I have a thing for women clad in nothing but dress shirts. Is it an archetypal fantasy, or did Sylvia Trench forge it?

In any case, I'd say they got the Bond Girl thing right from the word "go." When James Bond cruelly uses Miss Taro later for information and sex, it is a darker -- but no less potent -- male fantasy. It stirs me in a way I'm not comfortable admitting when Bond casually forces his way into Miss Taro's pants, sneaking a peek at his watch behind her back. Honeychile Ryder combines these two with just the right mixture of innocence and challenge.
Dr. No also got the rest of the formula right. Jack Lord is the coolest Leiter in the series. Quarrel is someone we actually mourn when he gets engulfed in flames. Julius No himself is memorable not for hammy overacting, but for the character's remarkable unseen presence throughout the film.

Dr. No deviates from the novel in several key ways. For example Professor Dent is not shot in cold blood. This scene outraged Bond purists at the time, and the scene is questionable to this day (not only for its blatant misjudgment of the gun, which actually had eight bullets.) The decision to show James Bond killing in cold blood was a way to visually reinforce what was on the line and what he was capable of. Yet it is a sharp contrast to Fleming's Bond, who loathed killing non-professionals. We also have no way to understand the rationale behind some of the scenes; Bond has a lengthy internal dialogue during his "escape" in the air vents that explains how Dr. No is trying to test Bond's endurance. In the movie, we aren't privy to Bond's mental toughness, the way he reframes the torturous pain as minor second-degree burns. Even so, Dr. No gets most of its power from its faithful adaptation of Fleming, who was casually racist, casually womanizing, and concerned with worldly things of all sorts.

Dr. No's most enduring legacy is its lack of gadgetry or flash over substance. Bond uses his wits, physical presence, and curiosity as weapons. Reeds and towels pack more punch in Dr. No than would the laser beams from outer space in latter films. It is retro in the best way, and pure in a way that no other Bond film would ever be again.

New Special Features
* "007 License To Restore"
This featurette highlights the restoration efforts of Lowry Digital. They have clean rooms. They have hundreds of G5 Macs in huge server farms, tied to terabytes of storage via gigabit Ethernet. In short, Lowry Digital is serious about film restoration. DVD geeks like me will probably love this featurette. The people who handled the restorations describe their philosophies about restoring footage; it is a joy to see passionate people at work. When the lead tech described how he was the first person on the planet to see Dr. No at this level of detail, it gave me chills. Considering the techie nature of this featurette, it is remarkably moving.

On the other hand, the trailer that plays if you forget to pull up the main menu is anything but moving. This gee-whiz promotion of the Ultimate Edition restorations boldly exclaims that the Ultimate Editions are the pinnacle of DVD video quality. Why, then, is this "Ultimate" footage shown non-anamorphically in letterboxed format? Hello, 1997.

* "The Guns of James Bond"
"Major" Boothroyd couldn't stay quiet; he piped up to let Ian Fleming know just what was wrong with James Bond's Beretta. The rest is firearm history. This archival featurette shows this colorful gun enthusiast at work. It is quirky and fun.

* "Premiere Bond"
This star-studded overview of James Bond premieres brings home just how major a worldwide phenomenon James Bond is. For some of the archival paparazzi footage alone it is worth watching, but the overall impression it leaves makes James Bond seem even bigger than he did before. This is yet another worthwhile featurette.

* "Exotic Locations"
The Ultimate Edition bonus discs have been reorganized somewhat. The archival featurettes have been listed under the subheading "Declassified." Another subheading details the guns, girls, villains, gadgets, etc. in each film. Part of that et cetera is Exotic Locations, and these featurettes are new. They basically detail which locales were used to shoot each film. This will probably interest geography buffs, but these encyclopedic breakdowns get lost in all the pomp and circumstance for me. There is one for each disc, and they are all similar to this one.

You Only Live Twice
When I wrote my first review for DVD Verdict, it was to defend You Only Live Twice:
"I am here to prove that this film provided for the longevity of the franchise. The great Bond girls, impressive sets, charismatic characters, and envelope-pushing action don't hurt." Now, finally, I have the chance to retract this overzealous apology of a review. There are no great Bond Girls in this movie. There are few charismatic characters, including our man Sean Connery. Like its cinematography, You Only Live Twice is often a gray, formless mass. In short, it is boring.

Don't get me wrong. I've watched You Only Live Twice at least a dozen times, and it has its moments. The rooftop chase, ninja training sequence, and final battle between the ninja commandos and Blofeld's army are neat-o. Akiko Wakabayashi, Mie Hama, and Karin Dor are pleasant ways to pass the time.

The problem with You Only Live Twice is how eagerly it strives to up the ante at the expense of plot. I'm as impressed as the next guy with the massive volcano set and the spacecraft-swallowing spacecraft. I applaud when Bond takes Little Nellie out of her suitcases and dutifully blows up one helicopter per weapon. But I'm more impressed when Bond gets himself into a real mess and has to use his wits and/or male equipment to get himself out of it. I like the death-tinged innuendo that permeates the books and the character. I like strong villains, terse chases, failure, and victory. You Only Live Twice offers instead a trapdoor sidewalk, scads of objectified women, and zany action sequences. There is no unifying thrust, no gravity, and no meaningful characterization.

You Only Live Twice did provide for the longevity of the franchise. But its real legacy is complete freedom from Fleming's source novels. The writers and directors no longer had any constraints, but carte blanche to do anything as long as it included gadgets, hot women, and explosions. These things are at the heart of the Bond franchise, and real reasons for its endurance and popularity. However, Bond is its heart, and Fleming is the final authority on Bond. On Her Majesty's Secret Service was a welcome course correction. Afterward, it wouldn't be until Dalton came to the scene that anyone made a real effort to reflect Fleming's Bond on the screen.

We got instead several recycled plots where modified vessels capture other vessels in order to cause a war for personal gain. This idea was mildly amusing in You Only Live Twice, tired in The Spy Who Loved Me, and self parody by the time Tomorrow Never Dies rolled around. And people rag Kevin McClory for wanting to remake Thunderball?

New Special Features
* "Ken Adam's Production Films"
Ken talks us through location scouting. Unlike the similar featurette on Moonraker, this one has some drama as they fly over active volcanoes. It is a somewhat dull but also somewhat entertaining peek into the production.

* "Welcome To Japan Mr. Bond"
This extensive feature is basically a lame clip gallery. It might be the earliest attempt at the James Bond "cars, women, enemies, gadgets encyclopedia" that has been with the franchise in one form or another almost continuously (including on these very discs). Unrestored, full-frame clips from each of the first five movies are glued together with a corny shtick between Moneypenny, a new secretary, and Q. The only reason to watch this is for its expanded footage of the underappreciated Lois Maxwell, though the featurette is not kind to her character.

* "Whicker's World"
This might be the most potent five-minute special feature in all of James Bond-om. Noted journalist Alan Whicker was given unprecedented access behind-the-scenes of You Only Live Twice. His telling footage is an honest, poignant distillation of what it means to create a Bond film. A harried Cubby Broccoli argues with Japanese journalists. Lewis Gilbert is shown jubilant and pensive. Sean Connery is shown interacting with other actors, and he isn't always nice. The whole while, Whicker delivers succinct analysis of the James bond phenomenon. This is real, effective journalism that pierces the studious veil that surrounds James Bond.

* "Photo Gallery"
This awkward-to-navigate photo gallery is stock fare, except for the Glamour subsection. This montage of high fashion (mostly involving slinky clothes) caps with a deeply disturbing cheesecake photo of a woman I'm pretty sure is Lois Maxwell. Maxwell is attractive to be sure, but I never pictured the demure Moneypenny in such a getup.

* "Exotic Locations"

This is a true, unexaggerated statement: I have never seen Moonraker all the way through. Not even this time, with the Ultimate Edition in hand. Believe me, I've tried. Yet I invariably fall asleep during the space shuttle launch and laser battle. Morning, afternoon, or night makes no difference. Yes, Broccoli and company managed to make a laser battle in space the most narcolepsy-inducing footage the world has known.

Moonraker's ponderous and somnolent plot is accentuated by some of the dumbest sight gags in the history of cinema. Yes, that pigeon does a double take, and it's even stupider than it sounds. Yes, Jaws flaps his arms like a bird to break his free fall. All this and more is inflicted on us by this wretchedly paced film.

At least the wooden acting, tepid villain, forgettable henchmen (or in the case of Jaws, unforgettable), and pompous evil plan fit in well.

So is Moonraker a wash? Not if you adore Corinne Clery as I do. Despite her studiously haughty air and underplayed chemistry with Moore, Lois Chiles is extremely attractive. (Wish fulfillment alert: watch Bliss.) Moonraker also boasts some impressive action scenes, notably a tense fight scene at a glass manufacturing plant in Venice. The image of a man being thrown through a spectacular round stained glass window is shocking. Bond's showdown with Jaws atop a cable car is also impressive.

Women and action are mainstays of the series, but Moonraker has something else going for it. Though its vibe of fantastic splendor goes too far, it often hits a sweet spot. Jaws pursuing a lovely Bond Girl through the streets of Rio is but one example of the surreal mood that sets Moonraker apart. Barry's score is a major reason for the successful vibe. It isn't enough to launch Moonraker into the stratosphere, but such touches keep it out of the cellar.

New Special Features
* Audio Commentary by Roger Moore
The commentaries made for the Special Editions were basically audio montages of remembrances by the cast, crew, producers, notable fans, celebrities, and anyone else with something to say about the Bond franchise. This new commentary is blissfully free of such interruption. Roger Moore talks us through his recollections of the era and what it meant to play Bond. His commentary sometimes lapses into silence and play-by-play, but it is a treat to hear an inside take directly from one of the Bonds. Moore is a gentleman throughout, which some may find boring. This isn't the most riveting commentary track I've ever heard, but it is a welcome addition to this disc.

* "Ken Adam's Production Films"
Like its You Only Live Twice counterpart, this retro reel basically shows the camera crew scouting locations. It will probably mean more to people who are interested in the camera crew than it did to me; I glazed over pretty quickly.

* "Circus Footage"
Michael Wilson talks us through an extended scene of the circus tent where Jaws would land after the infamous free fall. He discusses the lost footage of Jaws emerging from the tent. A brief, moderately interesting trifle.

* "Sky Diving Test Footage"
This four-minute test for the previously unattempted free-fall fight scene between Bond, the pilot, and Jaws is fascinating. From the challenges inherent in filming such a scene, through the creative solutions, and wrapping with the people who made it work, this featurette does what good bonus materials should do: it makes you appreciate the movie more.

* Storyboards
Benefiting from a warm and fuzzy hangover from the "Sky Diving Test Footage" featurette, these storyboards seem daring and ambitious. It is easy to draw Bond being shoved out of an airplane, but an entirely different matter to film it. Compared to the interminable "animatic" featurettes I sat through during many an anime review, these storyboards are invigorating.

* "Bond 79"
This archival collection of interviews with Cubby, Moore, and others seems dated and cheesy today. It is good for a laugh or two, but I don't see myself watching it again.

* "007 In Rio"
Much like "Bond 79" in its retro tone and poor aging, "007 In Rio" highlights the carnival atmosphere of Rio de Janeiro. Unlike "Bond 79," "007 In Rio" has going for it lots of attractive women in skimpy bikinis.

* "Exotic Locations"

I'm never quick to defend Moonraker, but when people impugn Octopussy it gets my dander up. This is a blatant hypocrisy because the humor in Octopussy is as stupid, if not stupider, than that in Moonraker. Roger Moore does a Tarzan yell and tells a tiger to sit. Whoever was responsible for this "humor" needs to find a new job.

The snub of choice is to make a snide comment involving the words "Roger Moore," "finally," and "clown makeup." Yes, Octopussy is the circus movie. It has clowns, sword swallowers, and carnies of every description. Moore even wears a gorilla suit. They couldn't have been more obvious with the sense of fun. Yet at the same time, the darkness and seediness of the circus are brilliantly exploited. The sequence where 009 flees knife-wielding brothers while dressed as a clown is thrilling precisely because of this juxtaposition. A balloon pops and betrays his location. With a knife in his back, 009 drags himself to the British Embassy, falls through the glass door, and drops a Faberge egg on the carpet. A balloon wafts ironically from his dead arm.

This image takes full advantage of the double-edged emotions associated with clowns and street performers: funny but disturbing. When 007 is later dressed as a clown and desperately trying to prevent an atomic catastrophe, the bookend is heightened dramatically because we've already seen one 00 clown killed. In fact, Octopussy is one of the few Bond films that actually have any tension in the finale. Most of them are predictable formula exercises: capture, escape, save the girl, kill the villain, blow up the stainless steel compound, then bed the girl while making a witty quip. Octopussy throws off that yoke in favor of a complex story of betrayal.

Kamal Khan is memorable precisely because he is not an impossibly skilled megalomaniac hell-bent on world domination. He is a conceited, flawed exile who wants to make a quick buck. His attempts to contain Bond are tragic in their ineptitude. His bumbling and early embarrassment make Khan's later retribution more bitter. The escalation of conflict between Khan and Bond is classic, and one of the best emotional entanglements in the series.

I must also spare some words for Kristina Wayborn and Maud Adams, who are two of the strongest Bond Girls in the series. Neither forces her independence as do the women in Goldeneye, nor are they placid. Wayborn is an Olympic athlete from Sweden rather than a studio-raised actress. This gives her a diffident air that works well. Adams is a perfect fit for the Bond series: beautiful, sensual, and spirited.

Though it is easy to condemn the gags in Octopussy, in truth it is a very funny film. " might need this to play with your asp," Bond says as he hands Vijay a large flute. Moore is at his lightest, most fun self in this movie. I'm not overly fond of the "jokey" Bond movies, but this is the pinnacle of that genre.

So Octopussy is funny, has a non-standard plot arc, memorable women, and memorable villains. Its threat of atomic annihilation is more tense and real than any of the fantastic "stainless steel compound" threats in other films. And its smuggling circus angle gives it a classic juxtaposition of thematic elements. But that's not the main reason I love Octopussy. I love it for the action. From its thrilling opening with the mini-jet to the extended fight scene atop the train, Octopussy is rife with strong action scenes. There's even a plane-top fight scene! Action is what James Bond does best, and nobody does it better than this.

New Special Features
This disc is a treasure trove of new extras features to supplement those from the Special Edition release:

* Audio Commentary with Roger Moore
This companion to his Moonraker commentary is light, funny, and inoffensive. Moore is engaging and charismatic, which helps mask the fluff and play-by-play that characterize this track.

* "James Bond In India"
Like "007 in Rio," this featurette is an extended -- and rather outdated -- look at India and the production of Octopussy. It has its moments, but mostly feels like an elementary-school filmstrip about geography.

* James Brolin footage
This series of screen tests and interviews with James Brolin is a fascinating "what if." What if they'd cast an American Bond in Octopussy? Would Great Britain have rioted? Probably, so it wasn't meant to be. Nonetheless, Brolin's fond recollections of the two weeks when he was the heir apparent are some of the most memorable footnotes in this set.

* "Ken Burns On Set Movies"
You might recognize Ken Burns as one of the greatest documentarians ever. Did you know he was an extra on Octopussy and shot several minutes of Super 8 footage while on set? His footage and narration speak kindly of the Bond mystique and his presence classes up this set considerably.

* "Location Scouting With Peter Lamont"
Another gem for behind-the-scenes junkies, "Location Scouting With Peter Lamont" struck me as unmemorable.

* "Shooting Stunts" Parts 1 and 2
Now this is behind-the-scenes footage I can get behind. The stuntmen are the craziest, most daring people on any set. Watching them jump off a moving jeep time and time again for 4 seconds worth of footage brings home what goes into an action film. There was something poetic about watching an unmanned plane full of explosives glide serenely to its fiery death.

* "Testing The Limits-The Aerial Team"
If you think the stunt guys are tough, how about the stunt guys who perform thousands of feet in the air? You can accuse the James Bond franchise of one-upsmanship, but times like this reveal just how much they put on the line. This featurette shows the camaraderie and pure craziness of the team that made some of Bond's most adrenaline-charged action pieces work.

* "Exotic Locations"

* Photo Gallery

Tomorrow Never Dies
James Bond meets Office Space in this modern take on corporate espionage. The general consensus is that Goldeneye is the pinnacle of the Brosnan era. That's accurate, but Tomorrow Never Dies is a worthwhile entry in the Bond franchise that gets overlooked.

It is criminally easy to list the shortcomings in Tomorrow Never Dies, from the bloated histrionics of Jonathan Pryce, Ricky Jay, and Götz Otto to gems like this from Teri Hatcher's doomed Paris Carver: "This job of yours...[dramatic head toss] it's murder on relationships." At least the overwritten script is a good match for the most inane cadre of villains this side of Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd.

Yet all is not lost. For starters, Tomorrow Never Dies opens with one of the most thrilling pre-credits sequences in the series. Bond single-handedly takes out a terrorist bazaar in an orgy of bullets, hand-to-hand combat, and explosions. Humorous touches (like Bond driving a fighter jet with his knees) link Tomorrow Never Dies to the franchise's tongue-in-cheek past without crossing the line of stupidity. Other action interludes (including the escape from Carver's secret lab and the parking-deck chase) are stellar as well. The helicopter chase is over-the-top; would a non-suicidal pilot really tilt the helicopter forward and use its blades as a weapon? But even this implausible sequence gets the blood pumping.

Moving on to the women, James Bond's stud reputation remains intact. His "little Danish" is red hot. Teri Hatcher is alternately perfect and tone-deaf as the jaded socialite from Bond's past. The show is nearly stolen by Michelle Yeoh, who gracefully achieves a long-term goal of the producers: to give Bond a female equal without raising an army of Political Correctness red flags. Granted, I cringe when Agent Lin utters a dramatic kiai before shooting a bank of computers; you really have to pump yourself up for that -- no telling when the computers will fight back. Otherwise, she and Bond have an easy chemistry that works throughout this film.

The window dressing that goes along with every Bond film is pretty appealing in Tomorrow Never Dies. Joe Don Baker is in the film, but his scenes are mercifully brief. On the plus side, the credits sequence is a worthy sequel to Maurice Binder's fantastic work over the years. There's also a great theme song by K.D. Lang, which somehow got relegated to the closing credits.

Two scenes make the movie. The first is a subtle apology for the foray into political correctness that characterized the Dalton era (well, maybe era is a little generous.) While Bond waits for Carver's representative to show up, he puts the silencer on his gun and loads up with a bottle of vodka. This scene is a reference to a similar scene in Dr. No, a welcome parallelism that links Brosnan's Bond to the ones that came before. A second scene establishes a similar link to From Russia With Love. In that film, Bond gets out of a jam by displaying just the right hint of eagerness when reaching for his briefcase. Red Grant opens it instead and gets a face full of knockout gas. In Tomorrow Never Dies, the wonderful Dr. Kaufman (Vincent Schiavelli) sets a neat trap for James. For the first time in years, Bond seems to be in real mortal peril. He is saved by the same subterfuge that worked on Red Grant all those years ago.

It has gaudy, ineffective bad guys and its fair share of cheese, but Tomorrow Never Dies is peppered with great James Bond moments. Brosnan carries the character with ease and gives us some of the best action sequences in the series. It is too bad that his films were tethered by bad writing and conservative plots.

New Special Features
* "Highly Classified: The World Of 007"
Desmond Llewelyn is among the most beloved members of the James Bond family. Unfortunately, this glorified behind-the-scenes does for him what "Welcome To Japan Mr. Bond" did for Lois Maxwell: makes him seem cheesy. With the exception of the painfully long Q scenes, this behind-the-scenes featurette is much better than most.

* "The James Bond Theme (Moby's Re-Version)" Music Video
This song quite simply kicks ass. Moby gets Bond better than the producers do, it seems, because his remix of the Bond theme is the best incarnation since Monty Norman's. The video is forgettable, but the song is worth it.

* Deleted and Extended Scenes
Believe it or not, these deleted scenes are actually interesting, and Roger Spottiswoode comes up with more to say than "we trimmed this for time."

* Expanded Angles
A triple threat of split screen, movie version, and alternate version gives you three ways to view a couple of the action scenes. I found this featurette very difficult to navigate, but it is a neat idea.

* Photo Gallery
* "Exotic Locations"

The Rebuttal Witnesses

James Bond Ultimate Edition (Vol. 4) is not without faults. I won't bore you with an obsessive breakdown, but video flaws still exist. Sean Connery's head skips a beat or two at a couple of points in Dr. No. There is some artificially induced twitter around people in Moonraker, probably a result of extensive digital cleanup of bad grain and/or dirt. There are the aforementioned blue-white shift in Moonraker and pink push in Tomorrow Never Dies. Even Tomorrow Never Dies has a major stutter. In other words, these restorations are not perfect. But they are 99.9% likely to be the best standard definition transfer you'll ever see of these films, collectively.

Closing Statement

Some say that the Casino Royale reboot has rendered the previous Bond films moot. I'll admit that my own Special Edition DVDs have been gathering dust for years, and I haven't felt any compulsion to watch them. I'm glad this Ultimate Edition came by when it did; these James Bond stories were like old friends reminiscing about good times. Just because Casino Royale finally wrested the Bond franchise back to its source doesn't invalidate the decades worth of outstanding action, humor, and beautiful women that 007 has introduced to us.

Is Volume Four of the James Bond Ultimate Edition worth buying? Many of these new extra features were lame. But several of them were pure joy. The visuals and sound quality have definitely been improved. You'll also gain a little shelf space. I loathe double dips, but this is a clearly improved boxed set over the original releases. If you aren't hopping on the BluRay bandwagon, this is the set to own.

The Verdict

And they say communists don't know how to have fun.

Review content copyright © 2007 Rob Lineberger; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2016 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice, Dr. No
Video: 100
Audio: 100
Extras: 95
Acting: 95
Story: 90
Judgment: 96

Perp Profile, Dr. No
Video Formats:
* 1.66:1 Anamorphic

Audio Formats:
* DTS 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)

* English
* Chinese
* French
* Korean
* Spanish
* Thai

Running Time: 110 Minutes
Release Year: 1962
MPAA Rating: Rated PG

Distinguishing Marks, Dr. No
* Audio Commentary-Terence Young (Director) et al - Hosted by John Clark
* Featurette-Inside Dr. No–42:07
* Featurette-Terence Young: Bond Vivant–17:55
* Featurette-Dr. No 1963 Featurette–8:19
* Theatrical Trailers: Theatrical Trailer (3:12), Introducing Mr. Bond (3:07), James Bond is Back to Back in Dr. No and From Russia With Love (1:55), James Bond Face to Face with Dr. No and Goldfinger (2:12)
* TV Spots (2): Miss Honey and Miss Galore Have James Bond Back for More (0:59), Miss Honey and Miss Galore (0:20)
* Radio Spots (6): "Beautiful Nature Girl" (1:04), "Dr. No, A Madman with a Fantastic Secret" (1:07), "James Bond, the Indestructible Ace Undercover Agent" (1:00), "Meet James Bond, Ace Undercover Agent" (0:52), "On the Edge of your Seat" (1:10), "Come On Out, We Know You're There" (1:00)
* Photo Gallery: The Filmmakers, Portraits, Jamaica, Pinewood, The Lost Scene, Ian Fleming–Jamaica, Ian Fleming–Pinewood, Around the World with 007
* Featurette-007 License To Restore–11:25
* Featurette-The Guns of James Bond–4:53
* Featurette-Premiere Bond–12:36
* Featurette-Exotic Locations–2:34

Scales of Justice, You Only Live Twice
Video: 100
Audio: 100
Extras: 90
Acting: 78
Story: 77
Judgment: 84

Perp Profile, You Only Live Twice
Video Formats:
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic

Audio Formats:
* DTS 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)

* English
* Chinese
* French
* Korean
* Spanish
* Thai

Running Time: 117 Minutes
Release Year: 1967
MPAA Rating: Rated PG

Distinguishing Marks, You Only Live Twice
* Audio Commentary-Lewis Gilbert (Director) et al - Hosted by John Cork
* Featurette-Inside You Only Live Twice–30:22
* Featurette-Silhouettes: The James Bond Titles–23:21
* Plane Crash: Animated Storyboard Sequence–1:36
* Theatrical Trailers (3): International Trailer (3:06), North American Trailer (3:06), You Only Live Twice / Thunderball Double Bill (2:20)
* TV Trailer: You Only Live Twice / Thunderball Double Bill (0:55)
* Radio Spots (7): Above a Japanese Volcano (0:54), Surrounded (0:54), From All Sides (0:54), Above the Earth (0:56), Can One Motion Picture? (0:54), No One Picture (0:24), Sean Connery is James Bond (0:09)
* Featurette-Ken Adam's Production Films–13:57
* Featurette-Whicker's World–5:20
* Featurette-Welcome To Japan Mr. Bond–50:03
* Featurette-Exotic Locations–4:03
* Photo Gallery: Introduction, Sean Connery, Donald Pleasance, Akiko Wakabayashi, Mie Hama, Karin Dor, Tetsuro Tamba, Under the Volcano, Glamour, A Drop in the Ocean, A Civilised Bath, Piranha Pool, Ama Island Behind the Scenes, Little Nellie, Behind the Scenes

Scales of Justice, Moonraker
Video: 88
Audio: 85
Extras: 85
Acting: 80
Story: 74
Judgment: 77

Perp Profile, Moonraker
Video Formats:
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic

Audio Formats:
* DTS 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)

* English
* Chinese
* French
* Korean
* Spanish
* Thai

Running Time: 121 Minutes
Release Year: 1979
MPAA Rating: Rated PG

Distinguishing Marks, Moonraker
* Audio Commentary-Lewis Gilbert (Director), Michael G Wilson (Producer), William P Cartlidge (Associate Producer) and Christopher Wood (Screenwriter)
* Featurette-Inside Moonraker-An Original Documentary–42:03
* Featurette-"The Men Behind The Mayhem" Special Effects Documentary–18:12
* Theatrical Trailer–3:47
* Photo Gallery: The Filmmakers, Portraits, Pinewood, The Great Chamber, The Control Room, Chateau Vaux-Le-Vicomte, Monastery of St Nicolo, Venice, Rio, Meanwhile–Back in France..., Front Projection, Zero G, Michael Wilson's Cameo, Around the World with 007
* Audio Commentary-Roger Moore (Actor)
* Featurette-Ken Adam's Production Films–11:33
* Extended Scene with Narration by Producer Michael Wilson: Circus Footage–1:15
* Featurette-Sky Diving Test Footage–3:55
* Featurette-Bond 79–11:47
* Featurette-007 In Rio–12:13
* Storyboards (3): Sky Diving Storyboards (1:17), Cable Car Alternative Storyboard 1 (1:19), Cable Car Alternative Storyboard 2 ( 2:04)
* Featurette-Exotic Locations–4:27

Scales of Justice, Octopussy
Video: 92
Audio: 95
Extras: 100
Acting: 88
Story: 90
Judgment: 91

Perp Profile, Octopussy
Video Formats:
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic ()

Audio Formats:
* DTS 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)

* English
* Chinese
* French
* Korean
* Spanish
* Thai

Running Time: 131 Minutes
Release Year: 1983
MPAA Rating: Rated PG

Distinguishing Marks, Octopussy
* Audio Commentary-John Glen (Director)
* Featurette-Inside Octopussy-An Original Documentary–33:06
* Featurette-Designing Bond-Peter Lamont–20:58
* Storyboard Sequences (2): The Taxi Chase (3:33), Bond Rescues Octopussy (3:21)
* "All Time High" Music Video–3:04
* Theatrical Trailers (4): I'm Octopussy (1:40), Let Me Tease You (1:30), Nobody Does Him Better (1:22), Bond Hits An All Time High (3:22)
* Audio Commentary-Roger Moore (Actor)
* Featurette-James Bond In India–28:14
* Featurette-James Brolin And Maud Adams Screentest–2:51
* Featurette-James Brolin Intro–4:15
* Featurette-James Brolin Intro: Vijay–1:40
* Featurette-Ken Burns On Set Movies–6:40
* Featurette-James Brolin Screentest-Stuntman–1:34
* Featurette-Location Scouting With Peter Lamont–4:32
* Featurette-Shooting Stunts Part 1: Crashing Jeeps–3:47
* Featurette-Shooting Stunts Part 2: The Airplane Crash–3:26
* Featurette-Testing The Limits-The Aerial Team–4:31
* Featurette-Exotic Locations–4:37
* Photo Gallery: Introduction, Roger Moore, Maud Adams, Louis Jourdan, Kristina Wayborn, Vijay Armitraj, Steven Berkoff–Kabir Bedi–David & Anthony Meyer, Lois Maxwell–Desmond Llewelyn, Acrostatr, Octopussy's Circus, The Most Dangerous Games, Q's Tricks, Russian War Room, India, The Train, At the Circus, Final Battle, The Producer, Marketing

Scales of Justice, Tomorrow Never Dies
Video: 100
Audio: 100
Extras: 94
Acting: 85
Story: 80
Judgment: 92

Perp Profile, Tomorrow Never Dies
Video Formats:
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic

Audio Formats:
* DTS 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)

* English
* Chinese
* French
* Korean
* Spanish
* Thai

Running Time: 119 Minutes
Release Year: 1997
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13

Distinguishing Marks, Tomorrow Never Dies
* Audio Commentary-Vic Armstrong (2nd Unit Director) and Michael Wilson (Producer)
* Audio Commentary-Roger Spottiswoode (Director) - interviewed by Dan Petrie, Jr
* Isolated Musical Score
* Featurette: The Secrets Of 007–42:44
* Featurette: Special FX Reel–2:51
* Interview With Composer David Arnold - 2:30
* "Tomorrow Never Dies" Music Video by Sheryl Crow - 4:16
* Storyboard Presentations: 9–Opening Sequence (1:22), One-Man Task Force (2:22), Back Seat Driver (2:42), HMS Devonshire (1:03), Attack of the Sea-Vac (3:07), Beamer Screamer (4:07), Underwater Rendezvous (4:52), A Banner Fall (1:14), Back Seat Driver II (6:22)
* Theatrical Trailers (2): In the Hands of One Man (0:56), The Brink of War (2:16)
* Gadgets (3): Sea Vac (0:29), BMW (0:35), Phone (0:23)
* Featurette-Highly Classified: The World Of 007–57:43
* Featurette-Exotic Locations–4:21
* Music Video-"The James Bond Theme" (Moby's Re-Version) - 3:24
* Deleted and Extended Scenes Introduced By Director Rodger Spottiswoode (9)–Introduction (0:22), Gupta in Office with Cards (1:12), Moving Assignment-Extended Scene (3:13), Bond Gets a Jag (0:48), Full Sir Angus Black Story (1:39), "Get to know him better" (1:16), Rental Car (1:06), Gupta Throws a Card at Guard (0:41), "What the hell do I pay you for?" (1:34), "Let's stay undercover" (1:31)
* Expanded Angles Introduced By Director Rodger Spottiswoode (2)–Introduction (0:54), The Car Chase (3:51), White Knight (7:06)
* Photo Gallery: Introduction, Pierce Brosnan, Jonathan Pryce, Michelle Yeoh, Teri Hatcher, Gotz Otto, Ricky Jay and Vincent Schiavelli, Bond's Team, The Production Team, Behind the Scenes–Arms Bazaar, Behind the Scenes–Hamburg Garage, Behind the Scenes–The Halo Jump, Behind the Scenes–The Motorcycle Chase, Behind the Scenes–Stealth Boat, Music, Marketing.

* IMDb: Dr. No

* IMDb: You Only Live Twice

* IMDb: Moonraker

* IMDb: Octopussy

* IMDb: Tomorrow Never Dies

* DVD Verdict Review of Dr. No

* DVD Verdict Review of You Only Live Twice

* DVD Verdict Review of Moonraker

* DVD Verdict Review of Octopussy

* DVD Verdict Review of Tomorrow Never Dies

* Comprehensive DVD Feature breakdown by Dimitris Kiminas

* DVD Verdict Podcast 007