DVD Review: 'James Bond Ultimate Edition: Vol. 3 & 4'

Climb into your comfy pajamas, mix up a pitcher of martinis and have the neighbor boy ready to deliver groceries to your home. The third and fourth volumes of the "James Bond Ultimate Edition" DVDs are every bit as long and perhaps even more fascinating than the previous two sets.

The digitally restored films and clean navigation menus provide a thoroughly eye-pleasing experience, while the wealth of bonus features give depth to the total Bond experience, providing historical context to the spy series that has spanned five decades.

As before, each disc comprises audio commentaries, which work remarkably well when narrated by the Ian Fleming Foundation representative to introduce director, actor or crew comments that were previously recorded and then edited for maximum effect. Roger Moore also provides newly recorded commentaries for his films. The remainder of the discs are broken up into archival footage, interactive guides to the films, featurettes and advertising spots.

What's notable about the third volume is that three of the five films -- "On Her Majesty's Secret Service," "Live and Let Die" and "Goldeneye" -- introduce new actors into the iconic role, with varying receptions. Just like the latest 007, Daniel Craig in "Casino Royale," George Lazenby got a raw deal when his casting was criticized before his first scene was even shot. "George Lazenby: In His Own Words" follows the Australian model and non-actor before, during and after the production. His evolutio is evident, especially by the end when he philosophically accepts his brief notoriety, if not popularity, as a one-time Bond. Moore and Pierce Brosnan had much smoother transitions when it came to stepping into the signature tux since both had been wanted for the role before, but had previous television commitments with "The Saint" and "Remington Steele," respectively.

Some highlights from the third volume include the featurette "Inside Q's Lab" ("On Her Majesty's Secret Service," Disc Two), which is a loving tribute to Desmond Llewelyn's recurring role as gadget guru Major Boothroyd, aka Q, before John Cleese stepped into the role. Interesting tidbits include the fact that Llewelyn was actually the second Q, having only started on "From Russia With Love," and that Moore often played practical jokes on him.

"Roger Moore as James Bond, Circa 1964" ("Live and Let Die," Disc Two) is a hilarious look at the actor playing Bond on television, far before he took the film role in 1973. On the show "Mainly Millicent," Bond and a fellow Russian spy both find themselves at the same resort on holiday, only neither of them believes the other and continues to make attempts on his/her life. This cheesy and fluffy send up should not be missed.

One must get the final volume to get the film that started it all, "Dr. No," starring Sean Connery. Spend as much time with this film and all its bonus features as possible because it truly began the trends for all the Bond films to follow. "Inside Dr. No" and "Terence Young: Bond Vivant" both credit director Young for what we know as James Bond's dapper style and love of nice things. It was he who taught Connery, a bit of a blue collar-type, how to act as gentleman with all the flamboyant touches such as tossing his hat onto the hatrack. Plenty of coverage is also given to Ursula Andress and her famous emergence from the water in that first film.

"The Guns of James Bond" is an archival documentary about the real-life Q, Scotsman Geoffrey Boothroyd, who had read and enjoyed "Casino Royale," and promptly wrote to Ian Fleming criticizing Bond's gun choice (more suited to ladies) and holster (the shoulder holster didn't offer as quick a draw as the belt holster). He also demonstrates how Bond's favorite gun, the Walther PPK, wasn't quite as powerful as his personal favorite, the .44 Magnum.

Other highlights of the fourth volume include a featurette on the famous silhouettes making up the title sequences ("You Only Live Twice," Disc Two) and James Brolin's screentests for "Octopussy" (Disc Two). At the time, Moore didn't wish to commit to a long-term contract, and producers still didn't have a Bond lined up for their next film. Brolin, an American, was one of the frontrunners for the role, and provides three high-quality screentests, which includes a love scene with Maud Adams, seen on the disc. Brolin isn't unconvincing as a romantic or action lead, but maybe it's just an expectation that Bond be British that makes the performances feel wrong.

Just one of these volumes is well worth the money as a gift for a loved one or oneself this holiday season because of the variety of films and extras contained within.

Vol. 3 - "From Russia With Love," "On Her Majesty's Secret Service," "Live and Let Die," "For Your Eyes Only," "Goldeneye"
Extras: Audio commentaries; Declassified: MI6 Vault - featuettes; 007 Mission Control - interactive guide to films; Mission Dossier - inside looks, videos, archival footage, screen tests; Ministry of Propaganda - original trailers, TV spots and radio communications
Price: $89.98

Vol. 4 - "Dr. No," "You Only Live Twice," "Moonraker," "Octopussy," "Tomorrow Never Dies"
Extras: Audio commentaries; Declassified: MI6 Vault - featuettes; 007 Mission Control - interactive guide to films; Mission Dossier - inside looks, videos, archival footage, screen tests; Ministry of Propaganda - original trailers, TV spots and radio communications
Price: $89.98

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