Supery spy entree

Mar 8, 2000 at 12:00 am

Open your eyes and read this classic phrase: "Bond. James Bond." Undeniably, these are the words of Ian Fleming’s vintage super spy, a symbol of the suave, impulsive and suit-clad masculinity that every woman leans toward. Now, after 19 feature films, billions of tickets sold and more films emerging from the boilerplate at this very moment, Bond finally arrives on DVD in style.

MGM spared no expense in remastering the first of three waves of Fleming’s contemporary gems. Goldeneye, Goldfinger, License to Kill, Live and Let Die, Thunderball and Tomorrow Never Dies fit snugly into a keepsake box, plastered with images of the British secret agent – but that’s only the opening credits.

Pulling its previously released, bare-bones discs from the market in early 1999, the studio set the stage for an incredible array of supplements to be comfortably ingrained onto each DVD. So keep in mind that the $199.95 retail price tag ($34.98 individually) on the collection is compensating for probably 50 hours of extra features. Audio commentaries, feature-length documentaries, behind-the-scenes stills, music videos, theatrical trailers, exclusive stunt footage and even original radio spots bear out the "special edition" label on each disc. Without any hesitation, it’s easy to say that the quintessential Bond collection has finally reached store shelves – and at a relatively affordable price.

Imagine being able to zoom, pause and completely experience each film for the awesome spectacle that it is (not to mention the Bond girls). Although none of series’ films are truly Academy Award-caliber, keep in mind that these movies were made purely as escapism vehicles. And with the clarity that DVD provides, in addition to each movie’s original widescreen presentation, it’s easy to become absorbed by scantily clad girls and grossly entertaining villains while relaxing in your private screening chair.

For instance, the underwater photography of Thunderball has never been so phenomenal. Every air bubble, every mannerism and every tiny wave can be viewed in full form. Then there’s Live and Let Die’s opening credits – the visual intensity of fire raging and skulls rattling has never been so effective. But ultimately, Tomorrow Never Dies offers the most complex and utterly astonishing quality. Aside from its amazing sound and picture merit, Pierce Brosnan’s sophomore film provides some of the wildest stunts of the entire series. A brush with death might not seem that far from reality after you finish watching the two-hour action-fest gone digital.

But for those who like to delve into the making-of aspects of movies, don’t change the channel yet. Examine Goldeneye, for example, packed to the brim with supplements. Most impressive is the commentary from director Martin Campbell, a feature-length audio track that translates the difficulties and satisfaction that come from commanding the helm of a Bond film. Then relax with The World of 007, a documentary exploring the many years that the suave agent has graced the silver screen and why moviegoers are ignited by the exploits of the famous Brit.

Wait, there’s still more! A production featurette, The Goldeneye Video Journal, should probably be of some interest to fans; the title song’s music video by Tina Turner might make men beg for more of the singer’s perfect legs; a behind-the-scenes featurette unveils the off-screen preparation and concentration that power the Bond series; and a handful of theatrical trailers and TV spots top off this cake o’ supplements.

Now for the truly exciting part: Each DVD features an animated fireworks display ... of graphics. Upon inserting Tomorrow Never Dies, you’ll notice that a computer-generated mechanism will appear on the screen requesting a retinal scan. By pressing "enter" on your remote control, you are transported into a chrome-plated world of buttons and amazingly entertaining images – it’s like being in the cockpit of the Batmobile. Navigating all of the various menus is quite a thrill by itself, considering that the transitions engineered for each Bond DVD are probably the most original on the market today.

Without a doubt, what many Bond fans anticipate are the opening credits of each film, generally an eclectic montage of beautiful, naked women, guns and the vocals of a celebrity musician in full stereo. On all seven of these DVDs, the unforgettable experience of being plastered to the movie screen can be relived. The spectacular power of each Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround audio track impeccably highlights the vocals of theme song artists such as Sheryl Crow, Paul McCartney and Patti LaBelle. And, again, Tomorrow Never Dies is an ornament of excellence, seeing as how the CGI effects incorporated into the credits montage are extremely stunning to the DVDphile’s eyes. Not to mention the spectacle of the entire film (all of them, for that matter) – an experience that your home theater system will never outlive.

So when edging toward the box-set wall at your local retailer, you should have Bond indelibly printed on the inside of your eyelids. Clint Eastwood westerns can linger on, but the Bond series is, simply stated, an event on DVD.