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Bond 50: Celebrating Five Decades of Bond 007 (Blu-ray Review)

10 Oct, 2012 By: John Latchem

$199.99 22-DVD set, $299.99 23-disc Blu-ray set
Not rated.
Stars Sean Connery, Roger Moore, George Lazenby, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan, Daniel Craig.

While James Bond would make his debut in a series of moderately influential spy novels in the 1950s, it was the films those books inspired starting in 1962 that really made the character an icon, essentially inventing the action genre in the process. That makes this new 50th anniversary boxed set of the official film series (those produced by Cubby Broccoli’s Eon Productions) an essential collector’s piece, not only for Bond fans but film enthusiasts in general.

Granted, the Bond films may be an acquired taste, having developed a certain style and formula that allows them to get away with outrageous plot developments that would be laughed at in other films. But that’s all part of the fun. Regardless of who plays him, the cocksure secret agent’s unique mix of sophistication, promiscuity, wit and ruthlessness have made him an ideal fantasy figure for men and women alike, though Sean Connery continues to set the standard to which all his successors are compared.

The films look great on Blu-ray, the result of a pristine high-definition transfer that preserves the charm of the rough-and-ready filmmaking techniques employed on the earlier movies. Colors are sharp, explosions are loud, and Bond is as suave as ever.

The Blu-ray collection is housed in a spiffy outer box containing two long booklets of 12 disc-slots apiece: 22 for the films, one for the bonus disc, and an empty slot for the eventual disc of the latest film, Skyfall.

Of those films previously released on Blu-ray, the discs in the set are identical to what’s already available, other than a new design for the label. This includes 2008’s Quantum of Solace, which is the only film in the collection that doesn’t offer an audio commentary.

The only exception is 2006’s Casino Royale, which has twice before been released on Blu-ray. The version in the set is a hybrid of the previous releases and no longer includes a video commentary and a Bond Girls Are Forever documentary.

The discs for the individual films are unto themselves a vast treasure trove of bonus material, with commentaries, featurettes and trailers, and even deleted scenes and vintage TV tie-ins. One of the treats of the Live and Let Die disc, for example, is a 1964 clip of Roger Moore playing Bond on a sketch-comedy series nine years before he would make the role his own.

The bonus disc offered with the Blu-ray set is something of a disappointment. It includes a new “Being Bond” featurette in which the six actors who have played Bond discuss their experience with the role, which could make for fascinating viewing. However, with a running time of only three minutes, the piece barely has time for any real insights, and most of the footage is drawn from archival interviews.

Companion to this are a series of “The World of Bond” montages devoted to specific topics, such as Bond girls, villains, gadgets, vehicles and locations. These are just a few minutes worth of clips, paired with an optional on-screen guide to let viewers know which films they are from. They play more like YouTube trailers than anything a Bond fan would care is on the boxed set or not. There’s also a gallery of the elaborate title sequences that have become a trademark of the series. They’re fun to watch, but without context or supplemental material there doesn’t seem to be much point to offering them as standalones.

Much of the bonus disc seems devoted to a series of video blogs from the set of Skyfall as a means of promoting the new film.

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