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  Directed by
    None Listed
  Starring
  Specs
  • Widescreen 2.35:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  • Dual Layer (RSDL )
  Languages
  • English: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  Subtitles
    English, Hebrew, Greek, Polish, Hungarian, Portuguese, English - Hearing Impaired, Turkish, Danish, Swedish, Norwegian
  Extras
  • 1 Deleted scenes
  • 2 Teaser trailer
  • 1 Theatrical trailer
  • Audio commentary
  • Featurette
  • 1 Music video - A-Ha
  • Booklet
  • 2 Documentaries

The Living Daylights - Special Edition

MGM/20th Century Fox . R4 . COLOR . 125 mins . PG . PAL

  Feature
Contract

By 1987, the long-running James Bond franchise was starting to look and feel a bit tired and outdated. While the popularity of the series of films based on Ian Fleming’s spy character remained at an all time high, the version of the character that Roger Moore had created seemed at odds with the more ruthless ‘80s, and with the public demanding more visceral excitement from their action movies, Moore’s cheesy, tongue-in-cheek version of Bond appeared to be ill-equipped to take the series to its next stage of development. But Moore was also dissatisfied with his role as James Bond, and after threatening to abandon the character before shooting on several of the previous films had begun, he finally made good on his promise and announced that he would no longer be playing the secret agent on the big screen

This, of course, left the Bond production team with something of a dilemma - a replacement Bond had to be found, and he had to be capable of bringing back some of the harder edge to the character that people remembered so fondly from Sean Connery’s portrayal. Various actors were screen-tested for the role - including Sam Neill, who was the choice of all but Albert “Cubby” Broccoli himself - before the producers settled on Pierce Brosnan, the actor very much in the right circumstances after achieving fame and success with his role of TV’s Remington Steele. But the producers of that TV show were having none of it - just before shooting was to begin, they suddenly decided to shoot more episodes of the series that they knew their star was abandoning. Trapped in his contract to the show, Brosnan would be unable to play James Bond - at least for now.

The actor chosen to fill the gap was Timothy Dalton, who had been considered before as a possible Bond. Dalton took to the role with a vengeance, bringing an instant hard edge to the character that made him arguably more believable than even Connery at his peak. The script was re-written to suit both Dalton and the changing morals of society, with this new Bond no longer a playboy spy chasing and bedding multiple women in the course of the film; this time, Bond was to be a one-woman man.

In The Living Daylights, Bond finds himself in the midst of what’s almost a private cold war, with an apparent KGB plan to assassinate British agents turning out to be a lot more complex, and of course more dangerous. Dealing with a defected Russian General, a slightly bonkers arms dealer and various cold-blooded assassins, Bond tries to unravel an increasingly convoluted world-domination plot whilst trying to protect Kara Milovy (Maryam d’Abo), a woman who he has been sent to eliminate. Such a global conspiracy, of course, involves plenty of frequent flier points, and Bond takes in the sights of countries ranging from the snows of Austria and the genteel pleasantries of the English countryside to the deserts of Morocco, all the way being shot at, blown up, punched, kicked and inflicted with bad puns by good and evil persons alike. The wide variety of locations and the large-scale plot make perfect fodder for a new-generation Bond, and Dalton takes to the role with enthusiasm, his seriousness tempered by some lighter moments that reveal the original intentions of the script (the next - and last - Dalton Bond film Licence To Kill would strive for an even harder-edged Bond).

Curiously, veteran Bond director John Glen tackles this heavily-overhauled Bond with a curiously old-fashioned directorial approach, and many of the techniques used here recall the ‘60s Bond films strongly. While the stunts and special effects are taken to new levels here, the drama that links them suffers slightly from muddled scripting and almost half-hearted direction. But it’s the action that fans really pay their hard-earned for, and there’s plenty of that in The Living Daylights - with a particularly impressive aerial fight (done, as always, for real by a skilled stunt team) the showpiece.

Looking at The Living Daylights now, 14 years after it was released, this “new-generation” Bond seems more than a little bit dated - but to be fair, the series was in a transitional stage at the time, and the political climate, too, has changed markedly since The Living Daylights went before the cameras. Still, there’s plenty of action and a suitably large dose of intrigue to be found here, and Dalton offers a very different take on James Bond that’s an important contribution to a series that’s quite literally become its own genre.

  Video
Contract

While mostly sourced from fairly pristine film materials, MGM’s Bond DVD releases have often suffered from sub-standard MPEG compression, and The Living Daylights is no exception. But here, the telecine transfer also seems a little bit lacking, especially in terms of contrast, saturation and shadow detail. The 2.35:1 image (16:9 enhanced as usual) is clean enough, but it’s hard to shake the impression that you’re watching an old movie - and this is odd, considering that many of the earlier films have been graced with excellent transfers on DVD. In brightly lit scenes here, everything looks as it should; it’s in the many more sparsely lit sequences that the transfer’s lack of finesse shows through. Nevertheless, compared to the previously available VHS versions of this film, it’s a substantial improvement.

The image on DVD suffers from very frequent aliasing on hard edges - implying the over-use of edge enhancement, this is far less of a problem on progressive displays - and some very noticeable instability in finely detailed backgrounds on many occasions. This may have more than a little to do with the fact that the 125-minute film is encoded at a fairly low average bitrate to accommodate the 90-odd minutes of bonus material on the DVD, the movie only getting the equivalent of a single-layer disc to itself.

That said, most people won’t be hugely bothered by most of the video problems here - it’s still the best this film has looked on home video so far. However, the fussy should be aware that this disc sits at the lower end of the picture quality scale compared to the other Bond DVD titles.

  Audio
Contract

As usual, the audio transfer on The Living Daylights is just about flawless, with the Dolby Digital 5.1 mix (very likely the same multi-channel mix used on 70mm prints of the film) equipped with plenty of dynamic range and a very enveloping surround stage. John Barry’s terrific orchestral score (which at times recalls the score he would do a few years later for Dances With Wolves) is reproduced with warmth and clarity, and the myriad sound effects happily fly around the room during action sequences to place the viewer right in the midst of the action. Only the dialogue seems to be lacking in quality, sounding somewhat muffled for most of the film - though this isn’t severe enough to cause any problems understanding what’s being said, it does sound curiously flat when paired with the much brighter-sounding music and effects. That’s a minor complaint, though; surround equipped 007 fans are going to have a great time with this soundtrack.

  Extras
Contract

The usual complement of lavish extra features on this Special Edition Bond disc is once again reached from the equally lavish menu system, with all screens 16:9 enhanced. The main menu and transitions to other menus make extensive use of 3D animation and audio, and once again it all gives the disc the look and feel of genuine quality, as well as putting the viewer in the right frame of mind for the film from the time they press the “play” button. The extras on The Living Daylights are once again dominated by newly produced documentaries; there are two on this disc.

Inside The Living Daylights: The “making-of” documentaries on the Bond DVDs have been uniformly excellent, offering genuine insights into the production of each film; this one is no exception. Narrated once again by Patrick Macnee and chronicling the film’s production from start to finish, it makes extensive use of outtake footage and archival interviews as well as present-day interviews from many of those involved (notably, Dalton’s interview excerpts are all archival). Running to nearly 34 minutes, this documentary offers some fascinating insights into the making of The Living Daylights, and even includes footage of Sam Neill’s screen test for the role of James Bond, as well as footage of Prince Charles and Princess Diana on the film’s set (Charles is even recruited as a temporary effects technician). A superb effort, this documentary (presented full-frame with letterboxed film excerpts, and handily chapter-encoded) once again is almost worth the price of the disc on its own. But wait, there’s more…

Ian Fleming - 007’s Creator: A 43-minute documentary, this is a comprehensive overview of the life of Bond creator Ian Fleming, featuring interviews with many who knew the man as well as ancient interview footage of the man himself - from his family to luminaries ranging from Noel Coward to Hugh Hefner. Meticulously researched, it’s a fascinating look at an intriguing man, and though by necessity a little bit on the talky side, it’s a documentary that true Bond fans will absorb with relish.

Audio Commentary: Unlike some of the previous discs, the commentary offered for The Living Daylights is very much a group effort, with one David Naylor introducing various cast and crew as well as director John Glen, pointing out at the start that the commentary track has been assembled from various sources that have been edited to suit the on-screen action. While perfectly interesting, this verges on frustrating at times, particularly since Glen, who obviously recorded a complete scene-specific commentary while watching the film, tends to disappear when we most want to hear from him. Still, this is a well-managed effort considering what’s being attempted, and there’s fascinating information to be found here.

The Living Daylights Music Video: ‘80s teen-pop stars A-Ha were chosen to do the theme for The Living Daylights, and their effort (co-written with John Barry) is arguably one of the best of the recent Bond themes, genuinely capturing the film’s excitement and glamour. The video clip for the song - directed by renowned ‘80s music video helmsman Steve Barron - is somewhat lacklustre despite its use of the huge 007 sound stage at Pinewood Studios, and the video and audio quality leaves a lot to be desired, as has been the norm for the music videos on the Bond DVDs. At the very least, the audio - which is presented in slightly flat-sounding stereo with loads of tape hiss - could easily have been remastered from a modern CD source.

The Making Of The Living Daylights Music Video: A promotional fluff piece about the making of the music video, produced back in 1987 and featuring brief interviews with the boys from A-Ha themselves, all of who seem a bit mystified by the whole Bond-theme process. Something of a curio, this is nevertheless a great inclusion despite its low-quality full-frame picture and general fluffiness.

Deleted Scene: A scene removed from the final version of the film during editing, this comical sequence is included here from a work-print source and is of dubious visual quality, even though it is letterboxed (it’s not 16:9 enhanced).

Trailers: Three are provided here: teaser trailers from both the UK and the US (which highlight the different marketing approaches used for Bond films on different sides of the Atlantic) and the international release trailer. The UK teaser is not 16:9 enhanced, but the other two admirably are; picture quality is excellent on all three.

  Overall  
Contract

The first instalment in what was to become an entirely new way of dealing with the character of James Bond, The Living Daylights is a fast-paced, hugely entertaining episode that is nevertheless showing its age more than you'd expect. Far more in tune with Fleming’s creation than he had been in previous films, Bond is played to perfection by Timothy Dalton, but played in a style that many first-time Bond viewers will find unusual. The action sequences, though, reach new levels of technical skill and are almost all genuinely exciting.

MGM’s DVD is somewhat disappointing in terms of image and sound quality in the main feature, but comes loaded with a superb set of bonus material that’s well produced and genuinely worth the time it takes to explore.


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      And I quote...
    "...a fast-paced, hugely entertaining episode that is nevertheless showing its age..."
    - Anthony Horan
      Review Equipment
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    • Speakers:
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    • Surrounds:
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    • Audio Cables:
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    • Video Cables:
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