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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
    Hebrew, Hungarian, Dutch, Portuguese, English - Hearing Impaired, Swedish, Norwegian, Finnish
  Extras
  • 2 Theatrical trailer
  • 2 Audio commentary - Director and actors, producer and crew
  • 2 Featurette - Production, Kenworth truck stunt
  • Photo gallery
  • 2 Music video - Licence to Kill - Gladys Knight, If You Asked Me To - Patti LaBelle
  • Behind the scenes footage - stunts
  • Booklet
  • Documentaries - Inside Licence to Kill

Licence to Kill - Special Edition

MGM/20th Century Fox . R4 . COLOR . 127 mins . M15+ . PAL

  Feature
Contract

I say, that Roger Moore guy is looking a mite past it chaps, pop down to the 007 cupboard and bring us a replacement wonít you? Jolly good, spiffing and all that, what?

Whilst that may possibly have been a half reasonable intro to a review of The Living Daylights, featuring 'new' Bond of the time Timothy Dalton, I got pipped for the review of that (I pout, as it is one of the only Bond films I haven't seen), and at a loss for a better intro to this one, the second film to feature Timbo, I thought to myself, "bugger it, I'll use it anyway!"

OK, Bond review construction kit time comes once again...

James Bond: The one who survived only one more episode than the Aussie guy.

Main love interest: Pam Bouvier (Carey Lowell), who is actually more than capable of looking after herself thankyouverymuch, which I must say is a pleasant change. Oh, and could she be Marge, Patty and Selma's long-lost sister perhaps?

Ancillary love interest to raise the scantily clad helpless girlie factor: Lupe Lamora (Talisa Soto).

Evil baddie hell bent on world domination: Billionaire drug-overlord Franz Sanchez.

Baddie's henchmen: Dario (a young and very sinister Benicio Del Toro), Milton Krest (Anthony Zerbe, who looks remarkably like a cross between Tom Skerritt and that Magnum PI bloke), Truman Lodge (Anthony Starke), Professor Joe Butcher (the fabulously slimy Las Vegas stalwart Wayne Newton, who is rather innocuous as far as the evil-o-meter is concerned, but excellent value for a few hearty giggles), a couple of ninjas (one who has delusions that's he's Spiderman) plus the usual array of generic, utterly dispensable riff-raff.

Theme: Licence to Kill by Gladys Knight.

Exotic locations: Florida (including THAT incredibly long bridge as seen in True Lies and a myriad of other films) and Isthmus City. Yes, that's it, which is a tad disappointing actually. We do see a glimpse of London, but 007 doesnít venture anywhere near the place so I guess it doesn't count.

Modes of transportation: Various Rolls Royces, Coast Guard helicopter, parachute, hook'n'harness, many indistinguishable (and rather ugly) American cars, rubber dinghy, manta ray (yes, really!), remote control mini-sub thing (which is more like a kiddie kickboard on steroids), seaplane, speedboats, slow boats, little yellow submarine, conveyor belt, golf cart, Cessna, BIG semi-trailer trucks.

Blatant product placement: PanAm (am I the only person who finds it odd that this airline got SO much promotion in SO many big movies, yet still went completely belly-up?), Bollinger (of course, darling!), Kenworth (deservedly) and various other alcoholic beverages thanks to a convenient bar scene.

Plot summary: James' buddies Felix (introduced way back in the first Bond adventure, Dr No, and mysteriously most always looking like a completely different person whenever he pops up...) and Della are about to tie the knot. However evil drug baron Sanchez decides to make a rare public appearance whilst the boys are on the way to the chapel, necessitating a quick detour with help from the Coast Guard in hopes of catching him. He is caught, escapes, exacts revenge and leaves Bond itching for his own. Yes, this time it's personal...

Concerned at the sheer alacrity with which 007 is pursuing Sanchez, and the fact that he is neglecting his other assignments, M revokes James' licence to kill (so we discover that 'M' obviously stands for 'Meanie'), leaving our hero to fend for himself. Discovering Felix's secret records he tracks down his last surviving informant (Ms Bouvier), and they join forces in hopes of bringing Sanchez down.

  Video
Contract

Eww. Having had the opportunity to view quite a few Bond DVDs of late, I boggle at just how films of such importance to so many appear to have been languishing in somebody's back shed. Not only that, but out of their cans, un-spooled and with big signs sticky-taped to them saying, "please destroy me". Well, that's how it looks at any rate.

Yet another speckle-fest, admittedly more noticeable at certain points than others, I just donít get it. Add to this the Bond DVD staple of noticeable edge enhancement on many occasions, and incredible amounts of aliasing (look at that seaplane flare!) you just have to wonder who was left in charge of preserving these classics.

To be fair it is still obvious that a lot has been done to dress Licence To Kill in its Sunday best and present it in the best light possible. Black levels are essentially spot-on, and unlike earlier episodes the colour is quite rich and vibrant in most instances. Some scenes set in the dark tend to suffer from extreme dinginess, although this is more from the way it was filmed than any by-product of the transfer to DVD it would seem. Whatís that saying about you canít polish a something or other? Well, it would appear that you can at least give it the odd glint if the sun hits it the right way.

The layer change occurs mid-scene around the 92-minute mark and is another absolute shocker. I may as well give up complaining about such things for now as whoever is authoring these discs obviously doesnít give a flying bonk about it, which is most, most, most disappointing. Oh, whilst Iím having a good old whine, there are seemingly a million copyright notices after the end of the film, which are completely unskippable save for ejecting the disc and starting again. This is just bloody-minded and downright rude. Disc authors, don't do it again (be warned, I have dangerously long fingernails...)

Mind you regardless of the many problems visually, it is still utterly fabulous seeing the exploits of James in 2.35:1, anamorphically enhanced widescreen. I just wish I could ignore the persistent snowflakes, which do seem rather unusual in a place like Florida...

  Audio
Contract

YAY! Once again the sound boffins save the day. This sounds WONDERFUL! Easily the most immersive Bond DVD experience I have had the pleasure to curl up with so far, this is the type of movie that justifies buying those extra speakers to dot around the room. When a soundtrack can make you duck you know it's doing something right, the only disappointments for me (and there were few) were a couple of the explosions in the Meditation Centre which sort of went "pop" rather than "KABLOOEY!" Otherwise dialogue levels are all clear and balanced nicely with the many booms and bangs, and you canít ask for much more than that.

The score this time comes from Michael Kamen. He's no John Barry, but he's also no Bill Conti (For Your Eyes Only), which is an absolute blessing. Sticking fairly closely to Barry's much-loved blueprint of muted brass and subtle strings (except when subtlety actually requires tossing out the window), this does what every good soundtrack does, carries the film fabulously without getting in your face and going "nyahh!"

Gladys Knight's theme is so-so. She's a gifted singer, but wasn't exactly given the most inspiring theme to lend her tonsils to, considering some of the past Bond theme masterpieces. You must also question the producers choosing her when my understanding was that popular artists of their day were intended to provide the themes, something they got ever so right with classics from those such as Wings, Duran Duran and most recently Garbage.

  Extras
Contract

Animated menus: Adhering to the style of previous 007 Special Editions, this is another fine example of what can be done with menus when a little effort is put in.

Documentary Ė Inside Licence to Kill: Narrated once again by the one and only Patrick 'Steed' MacNee, this excellent feature runs for around half an hour and features interviews with most everybody who had anything to do with the film. Itís presented full frame, as is usual for this type of fare, however video quality is quite good, and it is essential viewing for any Bond fan. Itís also quite cool to hear a human being utter the word 'discombobulated'.

Commentary Ė Director John Glen and various actors: Another 'commentary' (ahem) featuring glued together interview snippets offering various actors' recollections and opinions on the film, given some semblance of cohesion by presenter John Cork from the Ian Fleming Foundation. Whilst rarely scene specific (when it is it's due more to some natty editing), this nonetheless has much information that should have Bond aficionados listening with rapt attention.

Commentary Ė Producer Michael G. Wilson and various crew: My blurb for the first commentary pretty much sums this one up as well.

Production featurette: A sub five minute affair, there are a few brief interview segments, and we learn than Mr Dalton performed most of his own stunts, not always to Cubby Broccoli's pleasure. The highlight for me was the fact that the song used within is by the Alan Parsons Project, which other lovers of Austin Powers should at least raise a smile from too...

Kenworth truck stunt featurette: Almost ten minutes of full frame, reasonable video quality action, showing what went on to bring us the incredible truck chase climax of the film. There are interviews aplenty here, mainly with stunt people and also the chief engineer from Kenworth. A must watch to discover the stories behind Pamelas 1, 2 and 3, and mercifully nobody goes anywhere near uttering anything like "10-4 good buddy" or "rubber duck".

Music video Ė For Your Eyes Only, Gladys Knight: Sans Pips, Gladys suits up (Annie Lennox beat you by a few years honey, then there was Marlene Dietrich way before her...) and does her soul thang, in a slightly fuzzy faux widescreen clip filled with smoking guns, and tight skimpy dresses. Itís tres Bond, so I guess the desired effect was achieved. Itís a shame that the song is so average though.

Music video Ė If You Asked Me To, Patti LaBelle: A chunky slice of '80s cheese (kill the DX7!), worth a view simply to marvel at how utterly GIGANTIC Patti's hair is. I believe that literally thousands of Grenadier Guards laid down their lives for this 'do, so watch it respectfully...

Teaser trailer: Widescreen and brief (about 1:15), this is sensational simply as it features the voice of THAT guy who does trailers. Accept no substitutes!

Release trailer: A little longer (1:49), and also widescreen, this features action and dialogue from the film. This and the aforementioned trailer have standard Dolby soundtracks.

Licence to Kill gallery: In total 106 pictures, divided into eleven different categories, and for some peculiar reason mostly postage stamp sized. Each section has a welcome explanatory introduction, one of the most interesting parts for me being the international poster campaign. It was also interesting to learn that the film went under the rather less snappy working title of Licence Revoked (not being based on an Ian Fleming novel as most previous efforts were).

Eight-page collectorís booklet: Keeping with the snazziness we are used to from prior Bond DVD releases, there are lots of yummy glossy pictures and factoids about the film to be had here.

  Overall  
Contract

Never neglecting almost all the hallmarks of a great Bond adventure, you know the stuff - the cheesy lines, the incredibly nefarious bad dude (hey, why just run drugs when you can get into the missile business?), lavish locations (even if there are less this time), the thicker than planks henchmen (most of which are cleaned up by their boss by the end), the questionable technology (a computer laser disc drive?!), the sign posted instruments of death (ooh, look - electric eels, gee I bet they'll come in handy somewhere!), and giving a much greater (and deserved) role to the utterly adorable boffin Q, this is rather more serious than most previous Bond efforts, however in such a way that for this little black duck works in a way that For Your Eyes Only, which also attempted as much, didn't. Perhaps the fact that Bond doesn't look about 80 not out helps, as Mr Timothy is quite the debonair little spunk. Oops, sorry guys, I did forget to mention back there that the Bond babes are here too, how remiss of me.

This was the last of the John Glen directed 007 episodes, and a mighty fine one to go out on at that. The truck chase finale is glorious and rivetting (spot the Bond theme played with ricocheting bullets!), and carries a real stinger in the tail (sorry, I just couldn't resist!) I did take exception to the giant anti-smoking message in the end credits though, which I found more than a tad hypocritical when Mr Bond puffs his lungs out throughout the entire film (and don't try telling me it was a plot device used simply as he was given a lighter as an important gift), and even Ms Bouvier lights up at one point completely unnecessarily. So where are the alcohol warnings?, it is by far a more dangerous and insidious drug. However, I digress...

To sum up, I have great reservations about the quality of the print used, however as an entire package this is most definitely a winner. With easily over seven hours of stuff to wade through (I know, I did it), this disc offers exceptional value for money, and of course is essential buying for any Bond fan Ė and is also simply brilliant fun for anybody who possesses a pulse.

Just one thing though, whereís the Aston Martin?


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      And I quote...
    "Simply brilliant fun for anybody who possesses a pulse..."
    - Amy Flower
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Pioneer DV-535
    • TV:
          Sony 68cm
    • Speakers:
          Home Built
    • Surrounds:
          No Name
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard RCA
    • Video Cables:
          Standard Component RCA
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