Bond 50

by David Foucher
EDGE Publisher
Monday Oct 8, 2012
Bond 50

If you're not the biggest James Bond fan, it's helpful to understand that the "50" in "Bond 50" doesn't imply fifty films - rather, it reflects 50 years of the second most lucrative film franchise ever invented (bonus points if you know the leader of the pack). That's good, actually; working one's way through fifty films would seem insurmountable to the uninitiated compared to the scant twenty-two available as part of this megapack. In fact, if you're going to adequately explore this monolithic series of Blu-ray discs, you'll need to set aside 200+ hours, which, I'm happy to say, is largely worth the effort.

Shy of a few duds ("Moonraker" anyone?), the nearly two dozen Bond films represent not just the very best in spy suspense over the years, but also a respectable statement on the evolution of the medium itself. It's hugely entertaining to go back to "Dr. No" - gloriously restored in the highest-end digital format - and recall that we used to watch movies for their characters, not their CGI effects, and to a degree even cared little for the plot, which in this case was thin and uninteresting compared to later sequels. Back then it was all about Sean Connery's devil-may-care attitude, charm with the women, and reliance on all the latest toys... even if it meant a ladies' handgun.

Some of that whimsy survived even through Pierce Brosnan's reign as 007; but Daniel Craig's turn as the character, while as verbally witty as ever, suggests a new sensibility regarding womanizing ("Skyfall" might teach us otherwise, of course). But if Connery's suave demeanor has yet to be matched by a subsequent Bond, the films more than make up for that shortcoming by escalating the action, pyrotechnics and stunts over the decades.

It's an exhausting procession, I must say, especially if one takes in the special features, most of which have been released on DVD and in large part are somewhat lackluster. A few gems - including a documentary about the digital conversion process - are worth pursuing, but frustratingly, the special features are not well documented. Their cute Bond-esque naming schemes mask their content, so to delve into the features on any of the 22 discs is a crap shoot: you might get a truly interesting documentary, or you might get a two minute clip lifted directly from the film you just watched with nary an explanation as to why that qualifies as a "special feature."

But then, movie studios still haven't realized that these days the average viewer doesn't have the time or inclination to watch every bit of content on a disc, and that it's not amusing to us to have to hunt out extra content that's buried contextually - or worse, literally - in the menus of a disc.

However, it's all here: premieres, deleted scenes, documentaries, interviews, and video blogs of "Skyfall" - although the latter can be seen online for free.

Physically, it's a stunner of a set. Fox and MGM produced beautiful hard-bound books into which the discs slide, with well-imagined graphics throughout. The only issue I had is that sliding the discs out - and worse, back in - is a difficult proposition, and ultimately I have no doubt that constant watching will slowly destroy the fragile cardboard of the pages. And at $170 (Amazon, which means more just about everywhere else), that will likely result in buyer frustration over the long term.

David Foucher is the CEO of the EDGE Media Network and Pride Labs LLC, is a member of the National Lesbian & Gay Journalist Association, and is accredited with the Online Society of Film Critics. David lives with his daughter in Dedham MA.


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