Recently I purchased something that reignited an interest in all things Bond. I’ll save the story of what it is for another time (spoiler – it’s not an Aston Martin), but it encouraged me to start watching or rewatching some of the more recent entries in the series. Yes, even Die Another Day. Soon after, I saw an opportunity to do things properly with the BOND 50 box set, going cheap in as-new condition on eBay.
Now that BOND 50 has arrived, my plan is to watch every film in chronological order, and review each one. As well as how entertaining and well-made the film is, I’ll be looking into whether it still works well today. Do much-loved titles like GoldenEye still cut it, or is it the case that what we really loved was the legendary Nintendo 64 game of the same name, and the film isn’t as good as we remember?
Stay tuned for the reviews, and if you have anything you want me to focus on, please let me know in the comments below. If you’re interested in the box set itself, a short review follows…
BOND 50 Box Set review
The BOND 50 box set was launched in 2012, aiming to deliver a complete collection of every film since the first in 1962, but there are a few complications. Firstly, the set released in September, a month before the theatrical release of Skyfall, and well before its release on media for home viewing. This is dealt with nicely though – there’s an extra space in the box for a Skyfall disc, but you do have to buy it yourself.
Secondly, two films are missing, and MGM were actually sued over this because their marketing material failed to make this clear. Missing are the first adaptation of Casino Royale (1967), and Never Say Never Again (1983). These films were made outside of the official Eon Productions series of Bond films, so couldn’t be included for legal reasons. Arguably, they wouldn’t feel right being included in the set either, especially Casino Royale which doesn’t look appealing and has poor reviews. The trailer suggests it is poor-quality oddball spoof starring David Niven, and nowhere near as funny as Austin Powers.
As an aside, the other missing film – Never Say Never Again – does look a bit more interesting. It sees the return of Sean Connery to a role that Roger Moore had been playing for a decade. Curiously, it re-uses the plot from Thunderball (1965), which Connery also starred in, and even features some of the same filming locations. Viewers get the chance to see how Kim Basinger plays out as a Bond girl. There’s also the story of Steven Seagal being involved in the film – but off-camera as a fight choreographer who accidentally broke Sean Connery’s wrist!
Anyway, back to the box set. It consists of two very solid books wrapped in a protective cardboard sleeve. Each page of the book holds two discs in a thick piece of artwork-covered cardboard. Arguably, the disc surfaces aren’t as well protected as they would be from sitting suspended in a plastic jewel case, but it’s a long time since I had a problem with a scratched disc of any type, and it makes the box set extremely compact. It also reduces plastics usage significantly.
The page artwork is nicely done – each page opens out to a montage of images of Bond on the left, and on the right are a pair of discs, with each one surrounded by an image of the Bond girl that starred in the film.
I’m not a heavy viewer of additional features such as commentaries and documentaries, but people who do like them look very well catered for with a claimed 120 hours of material. I suspect much of that is taken up by commentaries, but there’s still features on the legendary title sequences, gadgets, bad guys, girls, locations and even Bond’s cars.
Of the films I’ve watched so far, picture and sound quality has been great. There’s film grain but most of the time it looks appealing, and there’s bags of detail in the image. From a bit of checking around, there are some criticisms of authenticity of the sound tracks, but that doesn’t bother me personally. Technical aspects aside, from a history perspective it’s a real treat to see on-location footage of places like Istanbul in the 1960s. It’s a time capsule of how cities looked, what people were wearing, and the cars were on the roads at the time. Fascinating stuff.
The downside of movie box sets is when they become outdated after new film is released, which is of course a regular occurrence with 007. The BOND 50 set does sidestep that issue nicely though – it is intended as a record of the first 50 years, which has a fixed end point. For me, this works better than trying to be a “complete collection” that will inevitably soon become incomplete.
Speaking of a more complete box set, if you are thinking about buying BOND 50, there is now a Bond 1-24 box set which is worthy of consideration. It’s currently much cheaper than BOND 50 on Amazon (£46 vs £63), and does include both Skyfall and Spectre. The presentation doesn’t look as nice, consisting of a plain white sleeve and plastic cases for the discs. My copy of BOND 50 was £30 from eBay, and it was still shrink-wrapped, with no signs of usage. At that price, it feels like an absolute bargain.