Live and Let Die appears in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 on this single-sided, dual-layered disc. The movie has been enhanced for 16x9 TVs. While perfectly watchable, this was one of the weaker Bond “Ultimate Edition” transfers.
Sharpness was the main concern. While the movie usually boasted adequate to good definition, more than a few shots looked rather soft. This permeated close-ups as well as wide shots and created a mix of distractions. Some of this resulted from light edge haloes, though I noticed no shimmering or jagged edges. Source flaws were delightfully absent, as the movie presented clean visuals at all times.
Colors usually fared well, but they also could be a bit erratic. The movie featured many settings with broad, vibrant tones, and for the most part, these came across well. I thought a few scenes were a little flat, however, and the colors didn’t always appear as dynamic as expected. Blacks were fine, and shadows mostly seemed good. Some low-light shots appeared slightly muddy, but the majority demonstrated good delineation. Perhaps I’ve been spoiled by the high quality of the other Bond UEs, but this one only mustered a lackluster “B-“ for picture.
For this “Ultimate Edition” of Live and Let Die, the film received two new multi-channel remixes. The DVD includes Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 soundtracks. Surprisingly, the movie’s original mono audio fails to appear here. This was disappointing, to say the least.
Don’t interpret that as a criticism of the 5.1 tracks, however, as both work very well. The two sounded very similar to me. The DTS mix was noticeably louder than the Dolby track, but once I compensated for volume, the differences vanished.
While the tracks failed to reinvent the wheel, they expanded the monaural material well. Music fared best, as the score demonstrated excellent stereo imaging. I particularly liked the 5.1 remix of McCartney’s terrific title tune. This used all five channels in a fun way and created a very interesting rendition of the song.
Dialogue usually stayed focused in the center. Indeed, while the occasional line was localized to the sides, the remixers showed less ambition in that regard compared to some of the other UE soundtracks. The effects also broadened well but were less forceful than with other Bond remixes. They spread reasonably well to the sides and rears but never came across as particularly lively. Still, the soundfields offered a good sense of setting and action.
Despite the age of the material, sound quality was solid. Speech seemed concise and crisp, with no edginess or other worries. Effects were clear and fairly dynamic. A few action sequences demonstrated lackluster dimensionality, but most showed positive breadth and punch. Music remained the best part of the package, as the score and songs sounded vivid and full. Overall, the audio seemed pleasing and earned a “B+”.
How did the picture and audio of this “Ultimate Edition” compare to those of the original 1999 special edition? Both demonstrated improvements, though in terms of the visuals, I saw less growth than I’d hoped. The 1999 DVD was a mess, as it suffered from a mix of problems. The UE boasted much greater cleanliness, but its colors were less satisfying, and both showed some problems with definition.
As for the audio, the 5.1 mixes certainly provided greater depth and power than the 1999 DVD’s mono track. It remains unfortunate that the UE fails to offer a cleaned-up version of the original one-channel audio, though. As much as I enjoy the remixes, I always like to be able to listen to the theatrical audio as well.
The UE offers all the same extras as the prior release along with some new ones. I’ll mark this package’s exclusives with an asterisk, so if you fail to see a star, the component also appeared on the original set.
On DVD One, we start with three separate audio commentaries. The first features a mixture of comments from director Guy Hamilton, actors Yaphet Kotto, Jane Seymour, Julius Harris, Madeline Smith, Clifton James, David Hedison, Lois Maxwell, and Gloria Hendry, supervising art director Syd Cain, co-art director Peter Lamont, and special effects supervisor Derek Meddings. All of their remarks are taken from separate interviews and they are melded together with the assistance of a narrator John Cork.
This commentary looks at the film’s opening sequence, the titles and theme song, locations and stunts, effects and other visual elements, stunts and action, characters and performances, cast and crew information, and a mix of anecdotes related to the movie. Plenty of good information appears, but some problems come along the way. There’s a lot of dead air, and that slows the progress. Though there’s more than enough good content to sustain us, the flaws mean this isn’t one of the best commentaries.
The second track offers a running, screen-specific chat with writer Tom Mankiewicz. Unfortunately, this track contains even more dead air than does the first commentary, as Mankiewicz falls silent too often. However, he’s fairly interesting when he talks. Mankiewicz covers a mix of production topics, with an obvious emphasis on the script. He discusses differences writing for Sean Connery and Roger Moore, and he also gets into racial sensitivity in regard to Die. Were it not for the copious amounts of dead air, this would be a good commentary. As it stands, the results are decent at best.
For the third commentary, we hear from *actor Roger Moore. He provides a running, screen-specific chat. As with other Moore tracks, this one uses the movie itself as a moderately loose framework for his remarks. He discusses how he became Bond, his relationship with Paul McCartney in the Sixties, thoughts about cast and crew and their interactions on the set, his work for UNICEF, locations, shoot specifics and other reflections on his work.
As usual, Moore’s remarks tend toward the anecdotal, and that’s what makes them interesting. He tells stories well and spices up the commentary with plenty of amusing and intriguing little tales. My only complaint comes from the amount of dead air we find; Moore goes silent too often, especially in the movie’s second half. Despite that negative, though, this is another charming and entertaining commentary from the actor.
Over on DVD Two, the Declassified: MI6 Vault presents three elements. *Bond 1973: The Lost Documentary runs 21 minutes, 39 seconds as it displays the standard mix of behind the scenes footage and interviews. We hear from Hamilton, Moore, Kotto, stuntman Eddie Smith, and producer Cubby Broccoli. The program looks at Moore’s casting and preparation for the role, basic processes behind the Bonds, cast and crew notes, dance choreography, locations and specifics of the shoot.
Don’t expect to learn a ton from the program’s details, as they stay rather superficial. I do like Smith’s comments about challenges faced by black stuntmen, though. In addition, the material from the set offers a lot of great shots. We find many nice elements that flesh out our view of the production, and they make this a winner.
*Roger Moore as James Bond, Circa 1964 goes for seven minutes, 44 seconds. Introduced by producer Michael Wilson, this offers a glimpse of Moore’s brief turn as Bond in an old series called Mainly Millicent. It’s a ridiculously overacted and unfunny attempt at comedy, but it’s very cool to see as a historical curiosity.
The “Vault” finishes with some *Live and Let Die Conceptual Art. Narrated by Michael Wilson, this 99-second clip displays unused ideas for the movie’s poster art. These are usually pretty rough, but they offer an interesting look at potential ads.
With that we head to the *007 Mission Control Interactive Guide. This splits into components under seven different headings: “007”, “Women”, “Allies”, “Villains”, “Mission Combat Manual”, “Q Branch”, and “Exotic Locations”. An odd form of “greatest hits”, this simply presents a few selected scenes that match the topics.
“Locations” (4:29) gives us a narrated set of clips. Maud Adams chats over the scenes and tells us about the locations. That makes it more useful than the others since they just show snippets from the final film. The rest of the set is a waste of time.
Heading to Mission Dossier, we begin with the 29-minute and 45-second Inside Live and Let Die. This includes comments from Hamilton, Mankiewicz, Moore, Kotto, Seymour, Lamont, Hendry, Harris, James, former UA executive David Picker, and bus stunt driver Maurice Patchett. It covers the casting of a new Bond, story issues, stunts, locations, casting, and other general production topics.
Die seems to have been a difficult production, and this program relates the experience well. It's not tremendously thorough, but it covers the necessary topics efficiently and elegantly. To be honest, I liked this documentary more than I liked the film itself! It's a very entertaining piece of work.
Additional "behind the scenes" footage can be seen in the two segments under the heading On the Set With Roger Moore. One of these shows the "Funeral Parade" sequence that comes at the start of the film. Moore offers some comments about the actor used in that scene, and the segment lasts 102 seconds. The other clip details the "Hang Gliding" scene, and it shows us Moore as he's about to take flight; this piece fills three minutes, 58 seconds. I don't know if these were part of a larger program, but they're both decent and interesting.
Under Ministry of Propaganda, Die teems with promotional materials. Two trailers - one theatrical, one "teaser" - appear. The shorter one is essentially an abbreviated version of the longer ad. Unlike some "teasers" - like the classic Terminator 2 clip which shows the T-100 assembly line - this one does not feature anything unique.
In addition to the trailers, two television spots and two radio ads are included. In both cases, the first one lasts one minute and other is 30 seconds. Also, as with the trailers, the shorter one in each category is just an abbreviated version of the other.
One interesting advertisement featured here is a clip done for the UK "Milk Board”. No milk mustaches here: instead we see clips from the boat chase interspersed with behind the scenes footage of that segment. Of course, to keep up their strength, Moore and other crewmembers make sure to down some milk in between shots! Pretty funny stuff.
I'm not a huge fan of production photos, but those who like them will be happy with the more than 170 presented here. These span nine different subdomains. The vast majority of the photos can be found in the “Filmmakers” section. The other eight areas contain far fewer pictures; some of them only have two or three photos per heading! It's a good idea but poorly executed here. Still, if you like these kinds of photos, you'll probably find it to be worth the effort.
Finally, the Die DVD includes a nice booklet. It offers some fun facts about the production. You'll hear some of them elsewhere, but most aren't repeated in other areas.
Live and Let Die remains a pretty mediocre Bond movie. It offers some decent action but I’d rank it among the franchise’s least compelling efforts. As I’ve always said, even problematic Bond still boasts entertainment, but this one just doesn’t deliver the goods in a consistent manner. The DVD comes with acceptably good picture, solid audio and a long, interesting roster of extras. It’s not a very good movie, but the DVD is usually satisfying.
Should folks who already own the prior release pursue this Ultimate Edition? Yes, though this isn’t the “slam dunk” I’d hoped it would be. The new supplements provide some very nice elements, and both audio and visuals demonstrate improvements. However, the picture still suffers from some problems, and the disc lacks the movie’s original monaural soundtrack. This is definitely the best Live and Let Die on the market, but the DVD’s a bit of a disappointment due to a few flaws.
Note that this “Ultimate Edition” of Live and Let Die can be purchased only as part of “The Ultimate James Bond Collection Volume Three”. This five-movie set also includes On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, From Russia With Love, For Your Eyes Only, and GoldenEye.
To rate this film visit the original review of LIVE AND LET DIE