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Senior Shackster
792 Posts
Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Originally available only in box sets in 2006, the "Ultimate Edition" Sean Connery
James Bond films are now being sold individually in Wal-mart discount stores with
new lenticular 3-D DVD jacket covers so I thought I'd review them.

I purchased one of the box sets which also contained some of the non-Connery
007 features and then bought the rest individually since I have no interest in
movies that didn't star this actor in the character including and especially the
latest ones.

I really enjoyed the spy films and TV shows of the era. I read all of the
Fleming books (including his sole children's entry "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang")
and enjoyed the spin offs like "Our Man Flint" and "The Ipcress File" on screen
and "I Spy", "Secret Agent Man", "The Prisoner" and "Get Smart" on television.
I had the soundtrack albums, posters, toys and other related nonsense associated
with the genre.

As I've stated in other reviews, for actors to be fondly remembered or to have
a cult following they need a 'defining role'. Sometimes more than one. Connery
is a fine actor but he will always be associated with the character that made him
a super star which is Ian Fleming's James Bond. The author was alive for the first
two features and he originally didn't want him for the role. He envisioned David Niven
who fit the suave and elitist part of the character but certainly not the action hero
aspect. Besides, Niven was too old and he was associated with his defining
role of Philleas Fogg in "Around the World in 80 Days". It was director Terrence Young that persuaded Fleming to reconsider. Connery grew up in a tough blue collar family and was somewhat of a brute himself with an ugly tattoo on his arm and bushy eyebrows. Young taught him how to play the sophisticate and put make up on the tattoo to cover it and trimmed the eyebrows. The 'act' worked and Connery was able to depict the ultra slick, well educated character but kept the brutal and sadistic side from his own background. One thing Connery persuaded the producers not to do was shave off his ample body hair. At the time, all leading men 'matinee heroes' had their chest hair shaved off. It looked absurd and many performers resented it (i.e. William Holden) but that was the style back then. Connery refused and became the first 'hairy' movie star followed by others like Burt Reynold. A bit of bizzarre trivia I thought I'd throw in for your amusement. Unfortunately, the actor began to go bald after "From Russia with Love" and had to wear a series of toupees for all of the later films although they were well fitted and you wouldn't know it if I hadn't mentioned it. The first movie he appeared in without it was "The Anderson Tapes" in 1971 which was a shock for many viewers. It was also his first starring feature where he played a criminal rather than a 'good guy'. Unfortunately it's only
available on a PAL DVD and hasn't been released domestically.

In terms of the features themselves, they are all very stylish, entertaining and
'politically incorrect'. Those who subscribe to PC will hate them and those who despise
PC (as I do) or ignore it will find them amusing in that regard. The Bond character is a womanizer,
heavy drinker, chain smoker, elitist, anti-communist, a killer without remose and
a British Imperialist. That's the way Fleming wrote him which reflected his world view.
All of the later actors who played the role toned down these elements to the point where
it's hard to claim they are actually playing Fleming's 007.

While lots of fun to watch, they are clearly part of the sixties' culture including the last
one made in 1971. They were made by three directors including Terrence Young, Guy
Hamilton and Lewis Gilbert. Each brought a unique take on the character and books
but I would say that Young was the one that created the formula. The others did variations
on a theme.

What was the formula? First and foremost was Connery's depiction of the role as
previously mentioned. Add to that the ultra-sleek cinematography by Ted Moore
who created the unique visual style of saturated colors and vivid fleshtones in
"Glorious Technicolor". Freddie ("Lawrence of Arabia") Young did the camerawork
on "You Only Live Twice" and pretty much replicated Moore's look although he added
his famous sunrise and sunsets. The brassy music scores were by John Barry with
the exception of the first film, "Dr. No". Barry had a jazz band and used it to good
effect to compose the 'spy music' style that became the template for
other movies in this genre. There appears to be some controversy as to who actually
wrote the James Bond theme. It's credited to Monty Norman but others believe Barry
actually wrote it but they had to contractually give the other composer credit. In
any event, Barry's scores are a vital part of the series. I collected all of the soundtrack
albums in the sixties and used to play them over and over. The credit sequences created
by Maurice Binder are also very memorable with their nude silhouettes. Then there were
the series regulars Bernard Lee as "M" (code name for MI-6 or Milliary Intelligence branch
6), Desmond Llewellyn as "Q" (the inventor of the wacky weapons and Aston Martin car)
and Lois Maxwell as "Moneypenny" (M's secretary who has the hots for Bond but
never gets to sleep with him). The other reoccuring character is CIA agent Felix Leiter
who is played by a different actor in each movie. This was the first series where the
action hero cracked a joke or one liner after killing someone. It's become a cliche now
but was an original concept here. In fact now you almost expect it these types of films.
Ken Adams sets are among the most imaginative and spectacular ever devised for feature
films. No one will forget the production designs on these pictures which are very unique.
Beginning with the second film, they added an amusing pre-credit sequence that usually
contained a gag. The series was shot in exotic locations around the world with breaktaking
camerawork which was also a major asset. The poster art work was
also notable with Connery standing with his legs crossed holding some
kind of weapon in the air and sexy woman hanging all over him. I learned
how to draw and illustrate by tracing this artwork when I was a kid. The
tag line was "Sean Connery IS James Bond" which infuriated the actor but
sure made me want to see those pictures. Reissue double bill ads exclaimed
"Bond is Back with Twice the Excitement". There were among the few
features that my entire family went to see more than once.

All of the six Connery Bond films were released in numerous previous editions in the various
formats (VHS, laserdisc, DVD) and all are horrible compared to these 'Ultimate Edition' copies.
What is the difference? They digitally scanned in the original 35mm camera negatives at
4K onto high definition videotape and cleaned up the image so it's brand new. Now there
are some provisos here. They look considerably sharper, finer grain and more detailed
to the first generation dye transfer Technicolor prints shown in theaters. These DVDs are
not first generation. They are the actual generation of the negative exposed in the camera.
What does this mean? You will see a lot of detail than the Technicolor prints softened up
and flattened out. For the first time you'll see the pock marks and even zits on Connery's
face in close up which is a bit disorienting. If you look carefully at his arms you'll see
where the make up was appied to remove his tattoo. When a stunt double is used, that
will be very obvious too, especially in the underwater scenes. Below are the detailed reviews of
the series.

"Dr. No" (1962) was the first released feature directed by Terrence Young. They're still
working out the style and characters. Q hasn't made an appearance yet. Some critics
felt 007 is too ruthless in this picture. He shoots Anthony Dawson at point blank range
even though his antagonist was out of bullets. Ursula Andress is the female lead who
wears a skimpy bikini to show off her form and is dubbed. Many of the female leads were
cast for their looks and dubbed by professional actresses after the fact. Joseph Wiseman
played the villain in this piece. Although an inexpensive film, it looks sensational and
Ken Adams created very imaginative sets within the limited budget. I enjoy the bank vault
doors of the underground lair. What's missing from this first entry is the John Barry music.
They basically just play the same 007 theme throughout the movie with little variation.
It's a good flick but missing some of the later elements. The plot is rather implausible and
fantastic compared to the following film. Bond is given a great 'star making' introduction
smoking a cigarette at a gambling table with his signature line, "My name is Bond, James
Bond". The transfer is excellent and Connery looks very young here. A bit of grain in the
first scene when he goes to M's office which might have been a result of some negative fading. Otherwise, it looks great. The re-mixed 5.1 sound is fine.

"From Russia with Love" (1963). This is the most realistic and believable of the series.
The same applied to the novel which stood out from the rest of them. It's an excellent
Cold War story of Bond trying to retrieve a decoding machine from the Soviet embassy.
Robert Shaw makes a great villain. He's a very intense actor and looks like he's about
to explode any minute. This film has some of the most graphic sexual content and
they restored a quick nude shot of the female lead walking across the bedroom which
was cut from many US prints. Unfortunately, there are still some censor cuts that
haven't been restored including a final tag line of Connery holding up the 8mm film
and saying "What a performance". There's a jump cut before that line and it appears
to be lost. Some of Robert Shaws lines were also cut in the final confrontation.
The transfer here is very good with the exception of the night time scene at
the end which is much too dark. The Technicolor prints were brighter and you could
see more detail. Q is introduced in this movie and the complete score is by John Barry
and it's one of his best. Pedro Armendarez is excellent as Bond's contact man in Istanbul.
You would never know that the actor was dying of cancer at the time and committed suicide
before the film was released. This established the pre-credit title sequence where it appears
that Bond has been assasinated. The re-mixed 5.1 sound is fine and shows off his score
to good advantage. This was also directed by Terrence Young.

"Goldfinger" (1964). This was the film that created the phenomemon. It was directed
by Guy Hamilton. He changed some of Young's format to include more extensive
gimmickry for the action scenes and made the movie more comic bookish. Some felt he went to far compared to Young who tried
to make his features more plausible. He sets the tone in the pre-credit
sequence when Bond gets out of the water in a scuba suit and reveals
he's wearing a dry tuxedo underneath. It always gets a big laugh but
you also realize the series is going in a different direction. This movie is completely off the wall in terms of it's
plot, especially compared to the realistic "From Russia with Love" but it was such a smash
hit, they altered the formula to try and top the previous movie for subsequent releases. Barry's theme song was the first be sung by Shirley Bassy and
became a hit single on the radio. This film also started the merchandise
tie ins when the Gilbert toy company licensed an exclusive to make the
tin Aston Martin battery operated car (complete with revolving license plates,
an ejector seat and machine guns) along with Bond and Oddjob action figures
with spring loaded arms. Unfortunately it turned out to be the undoing of
this company which was known for their erector sets. They also created
an elaborate slot car racing kit that was rushed into production before the
kinks had been worked out. It was very expensive to purchase and the returns
were so extensive that they folded. This movie stretched the Production
Code to the limit with it's raunchy sexual innuendos and the name of the
female lead. In fact the Bond series in general was one of the factors
for reforming the Code in that era. You can't argue with success and it
appeared that audiences were willing to accept more risque content.
Ken Adam's imaginary set for Fort Knox will stay in your memory. We
were still on the Gold Standard at the time (Nixon took us off it later)
so blowing up our reserves would've tanked the economy worse than
the costs of Johnson's 'Great Society' fiasco. One of the more droll
twists in the story has Pussy Galore switching alliances after a literal
'roll in the hay' with Bond. In the book it's even more outlandish.
She's a lesbian in the novel and Bond 'sets her straight' after making
love to her. In Fleming's world, 007 can change a woman's orientation.
There's no question these are male sexual fantasies that the author

"Thunderball" (1965). Terrence Young is back in the director's chair
for this film which has a lot of the gimmicks of "Goldfinger" but is much
more realistic. Unfortunately, it was his last feature in the series. This
movie had a very troubled production history. Fleming wrote the novel
based on a screenplay concept he created with Kevin McClory. McClory
ended up suing him and they came up a compromise. Fleming would own
the novel rights and McClory the screenplay rights. He later remade the
movie as "Never Say Never Again" which was a very dismal copy. McClory
didn't want to lose the elements that made the series a success at that
point in time so he made a deal with Salztman and Broccoli to co-produce
it with them. Since this was the first Bond movie with a big budget, they
intended to make it a "Roadshow" film with an intermission and exit music.
At the last minute they changed their mind and cut the movie to it's current
length leaving some plot holes and unexplained events. It still works but
is a bit confusing at times when characters just disappear. Some of the
original theatrical prints retained the exit music but it's not in this version.
The transfer is superb and really shows off the budget. The 5.1 re-mix
is more impressive than the first three pictures although they added
some new music cues that were not in the theatrical release. I would say
this was the last of the features to be grounded in reality. The theme
song was sung by Australian pop singer, "Tom Jones", and he really belts
it out making it the second top single on the radio. If you want to get a
real laugh, track down Jone's live performance of this tune on the Ed
Sullivan show. He does an outrageous sexually suggestive leg wiggle
everytime he says the word "Thundberball".

"You Only Live Twice" (1967). We're into live action comic book land
here. It's still a very entertaining and amusing movie but there are
so many preposterous continuity errors and plot holes you end up laughing
at the movie at times rather than with it. Connery is starting to show
his age here and this is the picture that shows the heavy creases, pock
marks and zits on his face in razor sharp detail in the 4K transfer. This
movie does have a catchy theme song sung by Nancy Sinatra and a very
innovative score by Barry utilizing Japanese motifs. It also features one
of the best action scenes with Q's helicopter in a suitcase. The volcano
set by Ken Adams was the largest ever built for a feature film and it sat
there for many decades until it burnt down under mysterious circumstances
(insurance claim?). The Bond character is at his most sexist here in Japan
which will either amuse you or infuriate you. The final action scene has
director Lewis Gilbert's stuntmen flying through the air which he
used in other pictures like "The Adventurers". Freddie Young's location
filming in Japan is as breathtaking as his photography in the desert.
Those are the plus sides. The downside is the worst script
in a Bond movie. The first four films followed the novels fairly closely.
This picture just borrowed the title and created a completely different
plot. Creepy, twitchy, weirdo Donald Pleasance camps
it up as Blofeld. He's developed a space ship that swallows up
US and Russian spacecrafts in an attempt to start a nuclear war with
the two super powers and in the aftermath, he will dominate the globe.
How he will accomplish this after the world becomes a nuclear wasteland
is never explained. To infiltrate a Japanese fishing village, Bond is put
into make up so that he supposedly will pass as a Japanese man. This
is so assinine it will have you laughing out loud. I have no idea why
they included it in the film. Equally as rediculous is when Bond climbs
up the volcano mountain and suddenly reveals he was wearing a suction
cup outfit underneath his shirt and pants. It comes out of no where and
makes no sense. Finally, the climax is so exagerated with rows of good
and bad guys getting mowed down with machine guns and bombs,
you never find out if the captured astronauts or head of the Japanese
secret service survive. You only see Bond and the female lead
climb into the raft. The special effects for the lava flow are terrible.
Incredibly sloppy story telling which hurts the film. Fortunately,
there is enough left of the style and humor that it's
still a very enjoyable movie even though severely flawed. The sub
woofer is used effectively in this movie, less for the explosions than in
Barry's music score. The image is excellent although for unknown reasons,
there are a few shots that still have some scratches on them in the
fishing village sequence. Why didn't they digitally remove them? Hopefully
they will be corrected before the picture is released on blu ray.

The official Connery series ends with "Diamonds are Forever" released in
1971. It was the first 007 film I saw and it's my favorite, probably for
that reason alone. I saw all of the early ones in double bill re-issues
after this movie. Connery demanded a million dollars to return in
the role which Salztman and Broccoli had to cough up because of the
poor response to Lazanby's attempt at the role in "On Her Majesty's
Secret Service". Guy Hamilton is back for this one and it's even more
outrageous than "Goldfinger" but not as implausible as "You Only Live
Twice". The story is no worse than "Dr. No" in terms of the basic
premise of Blofeld using space technology to threaten the world.
Connery is obviously a bit puffy and middle aged in this movie but he's
back in fine form and there are many things I liked about this picture. It has
the best chase scene in my opinion with 007 beging pursued by cops
in Las Vegas streets and in a parking lot. Going out of the alley sideways
was one of the best stunts in the series. There's also a good bit with
Connery escaping in a moon buggy. The entire movie is played for
laughs with the policially incorrect gay hitmen, Charles Gray's likeable
wisecracking 'Blofeld', Jimmy Deans funny Howard Hughes impersonation
and voluptuous Jill St. John as the airhead femme fatale. Natalie Wood's
gorgeous sister, Lana, makes an appearance as "Plenty O'Toole" and I won't
spoil Connery's one liner about it. You always knew there would be hot
women in these films, a far cry from contemporary releases like "Sex in the City".
I think it's one of Barry's best scores and for some reason I really enjoyed the track of 007 climbing up the side of the Whyte House. The Las Vegas setting is very colorful and atmospheric. The climax is a bit weak but the final confrontation with the hitmen entertaining. I also enjoyed the pre-credits sequence with the director keeping Connery off screen until he walks up on the beach
announcing he's "Bond, James Bond" which got a huge applause in the
audience when I saw it in Los Angeles in 1971. Ted Moore is back
as the cinematographer and it's one of the last movies to feature this
type of rich Technicolor photography. The 5.1 mix is excellent and really
enhances the movie. Like "You Only Live Twice", the screenwriters only
used the title of the novel and created their own story out of it. Shirley
Bassy's rendition of the theme song is my favorite in the series. I highly
recommend the extended edition CD soundtrack album if you're into those
things. The title sequence is also one of Binder's best.

What about the other James Bond movies? Well as I said earlier, they
are really just action pictures using the character's name but little else.
Roger Moore replaced Connery for a decade and was really portraying the
mild mannered "Saint" which he created for television. They're
entertaining but not really Bond movies and even more cartoonish than
"You Only Live Twice". The other actors who portrayed the character
are so far removed from the novel's description I have nothing to say
about them other than I suggest forgetting the source while screening them.
Otherwise, you'll be very disappointed. I don't like Daniel Craig at all in
the role although he's a good actor otherwise. There's absolutely nothing
left of the original style which is what carried the six Connery films.

McClory attempted to remake "Thunderball" in 1983 as "Never Say Never
Again" hiring Connery for his final appearance as the character. However,
since it was made without Broccoli's participation, he couldn't get any of the
other actors, composer or cameramen that worked on the original feature.
As a result, this picture bears no resemblance to the original much less a
007 film. Connery doesn't look too bad for his age here although his toupee
is pretty obvious. Without the other elements, it comes off like a typical
action film. Bond movies were all about style. Without that, they're nothing
special. In the interim, all of the other cast members have passed on but
Connery is still around in his late seventies making movies. He was still
playing leading man roles into his sixties. If you add up the number of
features that Connery and Moore played the Bond character, they each
add up to...007...which is a funny coincidence.

Here's a final sidebar to this review. Co-Producer, Harry Saltzman, left
the series in the seventies and used his equity to become a major
stockholder in the Technicolor corporation. He was one of the individuals
who persuaded the company to abandon their famous dye transfer
"Glorious Technicolor" process and switch to cheap Eastmancolor like
the other labs to save on labor costs. They did so in 1975 ending the
greatest motion picture color process of which the Bond movies were
excellent examples. Following the demise of Technicolor came the
'color fading crisis' when it was discovered that unlike dye transfer
copies, Eastmancolor prints and negatives faded. It wasn't until
1983 that Kodak introduced 'low fade' (as opposed to dye transfer
no fade) negative and print stock. This left all pre-1983 color negatives
in need of restoration. Fortunately, the Bond negatives had been carefully
processed and stored in England which accounts for their superior quality
in this DVD collection.

526 Posts
Well, I must congratulate you on such a complete and detailed review of these movies. I love all The Bond movies, the soundtracks, and of course the Aston Martin. I`m glad that Sean did get other good roles to play, and not be forever type cast as Bond. Not that being associated with 007 is bad, but a man has to still eat and feed his family.

Lets see what the Blu-Ray camp will do with these, if any.

Senior Shackster
792 Posts
Discussion Starter #3

"Thunderball", "From Russia with Love" and "Dr. No" are listed with blu-ray release
dates before 2009. They should look even more spectacular or at least as good but sharper due to the extra pixels.
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