BOND 50 showcases fifty years of Bond neatly packaged into one cool, sleek collectable box-set featuring all six iconic James Bond actors. Produced using the highest possible picture quality and audio presentation, the collection includes all 22 James Bond feature films from Dr. No to Quantum of Solace and more than 130 hours of bonus features including some new and exclusive content.
"Shaken, not stirred."
His name is Bond, James Bond. He's a legend. He's an icon. He's unstoppable and unkillable. He can defeat any villain and charm the pants off any lady, sometimes simultaneously. Originally the creation of novelist Ian Fleming, the world's greatest secret agent made the transition to the movies in 1962. His adventures on the silver screen proved even more popular than their source material, and have long since outlived their creator. The James Bond series is one of cinema's longest-running and most enduring franchises.
Not counting its endless imitators and a couple of unofficial knock-offs, the 007 franchise has so far extended across five decades, comprised of 22 official movies (a 23rd is scheduled for theatrical release this November) and six different actors in the leading role. To celebrate James Bond's first 50 years on screen, MGM Home Entertainment has compiled the entire series to date into one handsome Blu-ray box set under the title 'Bond 50'.
Because the contents of this package are far too extensive to detail in just one review (and because most of the discs in it can also be purchased individually if you'd prefer), we at High-Def Digest have made the decision to break out our coverage into separate reviews for each movie title.
This article that you're reading now will serve as a central hub and index to all of those reviews. Supplemental features exclusive to the box set will also be covered here in the "HD Bonus Conent" section below.
We'll update the following list of titles with the appropriate links as each article is completed:
In addition to the above, the 1967 'Casino Royale' parody and the 1983 'Never Say Never Again' were also licensed from author Ian Fleming's writings and both legally use the James Bond name. However, because these movies were made without the involvement of EON Productions (gatekeepers of the Bond film franchise), they're not part of the official canon and are not included in this box set, even though they're also already available on Blu-ray from MGM.
MGM Home Entertainment (via distributor 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment) previously released the majority of the James Bond films on Blu-ray back in 2008, both in individual editions and three smaller box set compilations. Unfortunately, MGM's financial crisis halted production of further discs with nine titles still left to go. Fans have eagerly awaited completion of the series for the past four years.
With its affairs back in order (at least temporarily), the studio has chosen to waste no further time by relaunching its 007 Blu-ray line with this comprehensive box set that contains 22 films, a bonus disc of exclusive extras, and a placeholder slot for next year's Blu-ray release of 'Skyfall'. Of course, further James Bond films will no doubt be produced in the future, but this makes a very appealing collection for the first 50 years worth of movies.
Within the sturdy slipcover box are two book-like containers that hold two discs per page. They divide the series between movies produced from 1962-1981 and 1983-2012. The movies are arranged chronologically and numbered by year of production. The pages are attractively illustrated with images from the movies in question, with an amusing focus on the famous Bond Girls, photos of whom stand next to each disc as if to present the films.
Shoppers who pre-ordered the box set from Amazon.com may have also received a 71-page excerpted edition of the hardcover book 'James Bond: 50 Years of Movie Posters'. The full 304-page version of the book can be purchased separately if one desires. The book does not fit inside the box set.
Aside from 'Casino Royale', which was previously released by Sony but has now been re-authored by Fox, 12 of the 13 titles that already had prior Blu-ray editions are the exact same discs from before – same menus, same audio and subtitle options, same everything. Only the physical labeling and artwork have changed. Fans who'd already collected those earlier editions should not fear. MGM will also release the remaining nine titles individually as retailer exclusives. Best Buy will carry 'On Her Majesty's Secret Service', 'The Spy Who Loved Me' and 'You Only Live Twice'. Target will carry 'The Living Daylights', 'Tomorrow Never Dies' and 'A View to a Kill'. Walmart will carry 'Diamonds Are Forever', 'GoldenEye' and 'Octopussy'.
Any scores you find on this page are composite ratings. Please take them with a grain of salt. Obviously, with 22 distinct films, the quality of any particular title will vary by the specific circumstances of its production and restoration. Some will rate at the high end of our scale, and others lower. Overall, MGM has done a great job with the franchise.
As mentioned above, 12 of the discs are identical to Blu-ray copies released in 2008. The bulk of the restoration work dates back to high-def masters struck for the 2006 Ultimate Edition DVD releases, for which MGM contracted Lowry Digital to clean-up and repair as much of the films' age-related damage as possible. (Some of the Blu-rays had further touch-ups beyond what was done for DVD.) On a number of the titles, Lowry scanned the original camera negatives at 4k resolution. These typically look the best. On some of the titles, unfortunately, the firm was limited to working with existing video masters, and those tend to be more problematic.
For specific comments on each film, see our individual reviews as they're published.
All 22 of the movies in the box set are encoded with DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtracks. On movies that were produced before the 5.1 era (i.e. anything before 'GoldenEye'), the original mono or stereo sound mixes have also been included, though sadly only in lossy Dolby Digital format. My feelings about the 5.1 remixes vary by title. On some of the movies, I find the 5.1 pretty effective. On others, especially the oldest Sean Connery features, I feel that the redirection of sounds is gimmicky and unnatural. In those cases, I usually prefer the monaural option, even if it means forsaking the lossless compression format.
Needless to say, the movies from 1995 forward that were natively mixed in 5.1 have the most slam-bang soundtracks that take best advantage of the discrete channel encoding and dynamic range that Blu-ray has to offer.
Because the James Bond franchise is its crown jewel, MGM went all-out to load up the 2006 Ultimate Edition DVDs with multiple audio commentaries, documentaries, vintage footage and more. The studio not only ported all of that content to Blu-ray, but in many cases added even more. Wading through these many hours of extras will be the most time-consuming portion of this review process.
The copy of 'Casino Royale' in this box set appears to have most of the content from the 2-disc Collector's Edition Blu-ray consolidated onto a single disc. A few items may have been dropped. I'll dig into that more thoroughly in my review of that specific disc.
HD Bonus Content: Any Exclusive Goodies in There?
The 'Bond 50' box set also includes an exclusive bonus disc not available separately. I wish that the content on it was a little more substantial.
James Bond has long been one of my all-time favorite movie franchises, and I eagerly look forward to the many hours of entertainment that revisiting the entire series will bring me. This excellent 50th anniversary box set collects all 22 of the existing films, including the nine never before available on Blu-ray, and even has an extra placeholder for the future release of 'Skyfall'. It's a fantastic collection.
Fans who'd already collected the previous 13 Blu-rays will find a lot of duplication here. Twelve of those titles are literally the same discs as before (and the 13th only has cosmetic changes to the menu structure). If the appeal of packaging all of the discs together in a handsome box set isn't motivation enough to sell the old copies, individual editions of the remaining nine movies will be made available shortly. Disappointingly, the new bonus disc exclusive to the 'Bond 50' set contains mostly fluff, and probably isn't significant enough to deserve to factor into your purchasing decision.