Blu-ray Watch: Pick a James Bond film, any James Bond film
Luscious Luciana Paluzzi, seen here as the evil Fiona with Sean Connery as James Bond, was honored that Thunderball director Terence Young schlepped from Rome to give her away at her second wedding.
And the answer is: Thunderball (1965). Okay, there are 22 other Bond films you could have picked. I'm just telling you that the answer is Thunderball.
You probably saw that Amazon Gold Box offer last week: all 23 Bond films on Blu-ray for $100. Once I pressed the "order" button on that, I had to man up to the fact that now I had to buy a Blu-ray player. The Bond box arrived Monday. (Amazon can be awfully speedy.) The Blu-ray player arrived yesterday. I took it home with the intention of watching as much of Thunderball as I had time for in time to write it for my 6pm PT post last night. That plan got rejiggered when I had to use that post to take note of the passing of Nelson Mandela.
Okay, there was a technical issue. The plastic bag that contained the manual, the remote, and the batteries for the remote, which I knew had been in the box (because I had found it on my desk after taking it out of the box), had disappeared when I was trying to yank the player itself out ASAP for quickest-possible plug-in, and the near-pocket-size compactness of the player was due in part to the fact that all the controls were operated from the remote! Fate intervened when I realized that in that time slot attention had to be paid to the passing of Nelson Mandela.
Eventually the missing bag turned up and installation turned out to be as straightforwardly plug-and-play as with any piece of equipment I've ever installed. I was up and running as a genuine Blu-ray user.
Ironically, it was just a couple of months ago that I was whining, in a "TV Watch" piece ("As of now, the message from "Breaking Bad" to non-Blu-ray fans seems to be: Drop dead!, September 30)," about the plan to issue the big Breaking Bad complete-series set -- the big, thrill-packed compendium packed in a miniature oil drum which everyone from series creator-producer-writer Vince Gilligan down had been talking up on the Talking Bad aftershow following the final eight episodes -- in Blu-ray form only. Now here I was, crossing over to the Blu-ray side. Even more ironically, the Breaking Bad set seems already to have come and gone. I saw one seller offering it for $430. That was a "no sale" for me.
So now my Blu-ray player is installed, and I can watch anything available in the format provided it's a James Bond movie. I cranked Thunderball up, and I have to say, it looked okay! I realized pretty quickly that even on my new 50-inch LED TV, it was nowhere near big enough for an actual James Bond epic experience (and Thunderball was the first visually epic Bond film), but the picture was, sure enough, watchable! Fear of unwatchability was why I'd never acquired any of the Bond films in home-video format.
I started watching the superabundance of special features on the Thunderball disc, an embarrassment of riches, which affords a staggering array of insights into the making of the picture from many of the people who had been instrumental in its making, talking about both their own work and that of many of their colleagues. I understand now from the staggering array of special features included that Terence Young, who directed the first, second, and fourth Bond films (the third, Goldfinger, was directed by Guy Hamilton), had an enormous role in setting the tone for the films, not least in collaborating with Sean Connery (they seem to have had a close working relationship) on the cinematic re-creation of the character.
Young himself says in a 1974 interview that when he was first contacted about his possible interest in directing a film version of one of Ian Fleming's James Bond books, and replied that he indeed would, provided that it was one of these three: Thunderball, From Russia with Love, or Dr. No -- amazingly, the three he actually wound up directing, though in the opposite order. And that order, he says, was correct. He had, he tells us, $1 million to make Dr. No, $2 million to make From Russia with Love, and $9 to make Thunderball, and Thunderball indeed proved far more expensive to make than the earlier ones. If he had tried to do it on the $1 million budget, he says, it would have been a mess, and the Bond franchise would have died in its tracks.
I can't begin to describe all the stuff I learned about the making of the picture, or how richly it's going to my next viewing of it. For anyone who values a creative collaborative process that brings together the talents and skills of a large number of highly accomplished people, it's an inspiration as well as an education. I can hardly wait to see what's to be found among the special features accompanying the 22 other films, not to mention the entire bonus disc of special features included in the set.
Since I was about to head out of town for the weekend, I worked -- or rather played -- through the night, and out of curiosity popped in the most recent of the Bond films, Skyfall (2012), which it happens I've never seen. It looks even better. No, still not visually impactful enough to take the place of proper theatrical screening, but again enough to get a sense of the film, which unfortunately I didn't have enough time to finish. Somewhere in the midst of my Blu-ray action I'd managed to get enough laundry done to have clean clothes for the weekend, and eventually the time came when I simply had to stop the film if I was going to have a shot at making my bus. I'll be spending the weekend anticipating the continuation and completion of the film.
The trick now is going to be restraining the impulse to start buying slews of Blu-ray discs. I remind myself that even after I finish Skyfall, and the special features for it (and for that matter the special features for Thunderball), I've still got 21 Bond films to go.
And as soon as the Breaking Bad folks come out with a "regular" Blu-ray edition, I'll be ready to pull the trigger.
The special complete Breaking Bad edition packed in its own mini-oil drum, offered only in Blu-ray format, seems to have gone as quickly as it came. When a "regular" Blu-ray edition shows up, I'll be ready to pull the trigger. (Click to enlarge -- it gets really big!)
UPDATE: AND SO IT BEGINS
I just ordered today's Amazon Gold Box Special of Seasons 1-3 of Downton Abbey on Blu-ray. (Just to be clear, the deal was offered on either DVD or Blu-ray.)
Labels: TV Watch