The Living Daylights appears in an aspect ratio of approximately
2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. This was the eighth Bond “Ultimate Edition” I watched, and its strengths and weaknesses resembled those of its siblings.
Sharpness was slightly erratic. Most of the movie seemed distinctive and concise, but wide shots tended to be a smidgen ill-defined. Some of that stemmed from a bit of mild edge enhancement. No issues with shimmering or jagged edges occurred, though, and print flaws were absent. If any source defects cropped up, I didn’t see them.
Colors always remained solid and clear, with tones that looked accurate and rich. The best examples arrived during the carnival sequence in chapter 15, which showed off the varied and bright palette through cartoony colors. Even in more subtle scenes, however, the hues stayed fine.
Black levels largely appeared deep and dark with positive contrast. Shadow detail tended to be clear and smooth as well. Overall, this was a solid transfer, though the minor softness knocked my grade down to a “B+”.
As with other Bond Ultimate Editions, The Living Daylights boasted both Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 soundtracks. (It also offered the original Dolby Surround 2.0 audio.) As with other Bond UEs, I thought the two 5.1 mixes sounded virtually identical. I noticed nothing to differentiate between the two.
The forward soundfields dominated the proceedings with some broad and lively audio. We're treated to a lot of great discrete sound from the front three speakers that created a nice environment throughout the film. The audio blended well and provided a very engaging presence that increased the intensity of the action. Surround usage seemed more incidental and less active, but the rears contribute some useful effects during the bigger action scenes. The surrounds appeared monaural but they integrated well with the rest of the track.
Audio quality seemed a little "hard" at times but generally was fine. Dialogue betrayed mild edginess at times but usually appeared natural and distinct, with no problems related to intelligibility. Music sounded clear and smooth without any harshness, and it also displayed some solid low end at times.
Effects occasionally came across as slightly distorted, particularly during some of the louder scenes. However, many of these segments were clean and accurate and showed no signs of roughness; for example, the "milkman" attack scene seemed nicely crisp and without problems. Overall the effects appeared reasonably realistic and concise, and they presented nice bass on many occasions. The soundtrack doesn't quite compete with more modern affairs, but even with some minor flaws, I thought it worked well.
How did the picture and audio of this 2006 “Ultimate Edition” compare with the original release? Audio appeared identical for both releases, but the UE offered superior visuals. It presented greater definition and cleaned up some mild source flaws. This wasn't a night and day improvement, but it served as a step up anyway.
The UE also corrects an omission from the 2000 DVD. During chapter five, Rubavitch (Virginia Hey), a Russian who helps Bond smuggle out an apparent defector, distracts her boss with her ample...uh...affections. Once the coast is clear, she abruptly stops the nookie and makes an indignant comment to her chief before she leaves. She says "What kind of girl do you think I am!” in Russian, and burned-in subtitles translate this for us. The 2000 disc presented no text at that time, but the UE offers the original subtitles. Yay!
The “Ultimate Edition” includes many of the same extras from the prior DVD and adds some new ones. I’ll mark the new features with an asterisk, so if you fail to see a star, the element already showed up on the prior set.
DVD One starts with an audio commentary culled from a collection of interviews with cast and crew members. Hosted by Bond historian David Naylor, this track features remarks from director John Glen, actors Maryam d'Abo, Jeroen Krabbe, Andreas Wisnewski, and Joe Don Baker, director of photography Alec Mills, publicist Jerry Juroe, production supervisor Anthony Waye, effects supervisor John Richardson, co-producer/co-writer Michael Wilson, and still unit photographer Keith Hamshere.
As usual with these tracks, we get a good overview of the creation of the film. Glen dominates the proceedings, but many of the other participants contribute lots of information. The emphasis is on anecdotes about the production, and through these we learn a lot of information about the movie. The participants cover bringing in a new Bond, locations, sets and production design, stunts, action and effects, cinematography and performances, the theme song, and updating Bond. The commentary fits in well with other similar offerings in this line as it covers various topics smoothly and concisely.
Shifting to DVD Two, the package splits into a few subdomains. Under Declassified: MI6 Vault, we get five components. Two *deleted scenes appear. “Magic Carpet Ride” also appeared on the prior DVD. This one-minute and 39-second snippet actually is a very fun little action bit that one is mildly sad to learn didn't make the cut. However, I understood perfectly well while they deleted the scene; it's very light and comic and seems more in keeping with the tone of the Moore years. I think it might have worked, since it was the exception, not the rule, but I can't quibble strongly with its omission.
For the other clip, we get “Q’s Lab – Extended Scene”. It goes for 50 seconds and shows an alternate take of the piece in the final flick. Though nothing remarkable, it’s amusing and good to see.
Director Glen provides brief intros to both scenes. He throws out some decent notes and lets us know why he cut the segments.
The next few elements commemorate a movie milestone. *Happy Anniversary 007 goes for 48 minutes, 28 seconds and exists to publicize the series and the new Bond. Hosted by Roger Moore, it focuses on movie clips. Moore offers wry introductions to various aspects of the Bond series and we see many examples of these trends. This makes “Anniversary” little more than a greatest hits reel. You won’t learn anything about the creation of any of the films, though it ends with a short preview for Daylights that includes some remarks from Timothy Dalton. Moore’s involvement makes it a little more fun than expected, but it’s still just a montage of film clips.
Next come four *Silver Anniversary featurettes. These include “Cubby Broccoli” (1:29), “Maryam D’Abo” (1:17), “Around the World with James Bond” (1:32) and “The New Bond Car” (2:00). These exist to promote Daylights and don’t tell us much. As with the “Happy Anniversary” show, they’re nice to have for Bond completists, but they don’t add anything substantial.
Called *Timothy Dalton: The New James Bond, the next featurette fills four minutes, 34 seconds. It shows a press conference in Vienna at which Dalton, D’Abo, Glen, Broccoli and actor Jeroen Krabbe discussed the newest chapter in the Bond saga. Again, this is moderately interesting but not particularly insightful.
More from the actor shows up in the next programs. *Timothy Dalton on Acting goes for seven minutes, 12 seconds. Here Dalton chats about why he got into the profession, past experiences, and his approach to Bond. Unlike the prior pieces, this one proves engaging and informative. Dalton gives us a serious look at his work.
*Dalton and D’Abo Interviews last five minutes, 45 seconds. The Dalton part presents more from the session in “On Acting”; he focuses more on the Bond side of things. D’Abo discusses her thoughts about the Bond series as well. Both are decent but not fascinating.
The “Vault” ends with *Ice Chase Outtakes. This eight-minute and five-second package of deleted footage comes with an intro from Glen, and he narrates the shots as well. These give us an extensive look at the creation of the ice chase, and Glen’s comments add good details about connected issues.
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.
One of the only interesting elements comes from the presentation of the opening credits without text (2:47). “Locations” (4:01) also gives us a narrated set of clips. Samantha Bond 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 Inside The Living Daylights, this 33-minute and 29-second show combines a mix of film clips, interview segments, and behind the scenes footage. Most of the interviews are contemporary, but some of them - mainly those with Dalton - come from the era in which the film was produced. We hear from Glen, D’Abo, Wilson, Waye, Richardson, Krabbe, Juroe, Mills, Wisnewski, Baker, Hamshere, Cubby Broccoli’s wife Dana, stuntman Simon Crane, stunt coordinator Vic Armstrong, production designer Peter Lamont, aerial stuntman Jake Lombard, aerial stunts arranger BJ Worth, 2nd unit director Arthur Wooster, stunt supervisor Paul Weston, editor John Grover on-set surgeon Dr. James D’Orta, and special effects technician Chris Corbould.
The program provides a terrific look at the making of the movie, starting with an examination of the search for a new Bond after the departure of Roger Moore following the release of A View to a Kill. Best part? We get to see some of Sam Neill's test footage. We also find d'Abo's early screentests plus cool shots of Prince Charles and Princess Diana on the set. The discussions of the movie tend toward anecdotal coverage, and we learn a variety of nice details. It's another solid documentary.
The second program takes a biographical look at the man behind Bond. Called Ian Fleming - 007's Creator, this 43-minute and four-second show gives us a solid view of his life. We hear contemporary comments from various historians, relatives and colleagues. These include folks like actors Christopher Lee and Patrick Macnee; both knew Fleming, so they're connected to him above and beyond their Bond film roles. We also hear from Hugh Hefner, who helped promote the Bond books through their serialization in Playboy. We witness archival (1969) interviews with Fleming's brother, some friends (including Noel Coward), and Fleming himself. Interspersed with these snippets are film clips and some historical photos and footage.
I thought the show worked well because it offered a "warts and all" look at Fleming's life. The guy sounds like he was something of a cad, and the documentary doesn't hide that fact while it also provides a fitting tribute to the work he created. Ultimately, these two factors balance nicely and make a program that is quite watchable and compelling.
Eighties pop has-beens a-ha created the film's so-so title tune, and we find its music video here. Though the clip follows the usual lip-synch/movie snippet format, it integrates them in a mildly interesting way that makes the video more compelling than most. Not much more compelling, but it's a watchable piece; it's not as good as the semi-fun bit for Duran Duran's "A View to a Kill", but it sure beats Rita Coolidge's atrocity "All Time High" from Octopussy.
If you just can't get enough of a-ha, then you'll be happy to learn we also get The Making of the Music Video. This three-minute and 54-second puff piece provides a superficial look at the creation of the clip. It's worth a look because it features some comments from composer John Barry, but otherwise it's not terribly fascinating.
In the Image , we find a series of photo galleries. These cover 13 subheadings and feature between two and 13 shots for a total of 75 pictures. These are decent but no better than that.
Finally, the DVD finishes with three trailers. We get the North American teaser, the UK teaser, and the actual release trailer. The package includes the usual solid eight-page booklet. This piece features a mix of production text about the movie and the series plus some photos.
Timothy Dalton didn't last long as Bond, but his two films stand as some of the best of the series. The Living Daylights isn't quite as good as follow-up Licence to Kill, but it's a very solid effort that provides a gritty, exciting story. The DVD offers acceptable to good picture and sound plus some consistently strong extras. The Living Daylights is a "must have" for Bond fans and should be given definite consideration from any fans of action fare.
Should folks who already own the prior release pursue this Ultimate Edition? Probably, as it offers the superior rendition. However, it doesn’t serve as a tremendous upgrade. It provides improved picture and a few nice new extras but it doesn’t give us a stunning increase in quality.
Note that this “Ultimate Edition” of The Living Daylights can be purchased only as part of “The Ultimate James Bond Collection Volume One”. This five-movie set also includes The World Is Not Enough, The Man With the Golden Gun, Diamonds Are Forever, and Goldfinger.