Sep 26, 2012

New Spy DVDs Out This Week: Bond, Special Branch and S.H.I.E.L.D.

This week sees the biggest, most anticipated spy Blu-ray release of the year: the massive Bond 50: The Complete 22 Film Collection from MGM and Fox Home Entertainment. This 23-disc collection collects all 22 official EON James Bond films (rogue productions Never Say Never Again and Casino Royale '67 are already separately available on the format) in two attractive hardcover book-style disc holders, both of which slide inside a larger, durable slipcase. Nine of those Bond movies are making their high-def debut, never having been available individually on Blu-ray.  On top of all that, there's an extra slot reserved for the Skyfall Blu-ray, when that comes out, and another containing an exclusive bonus disc. If you don't already own all these movies and you read this blog, then this set is an obvious must-get. But if you are reading this blog (and there's really no question; you are), then chances are you do already own most of these movies. Then things become a bit stickier. If you've bought all the 007 movies on DVD multiple times over the years and you already own half th contents of this set on Blu-ray, do you really want to shell out yet again to get the rest? Well... why not, exactly? While the list price is a not insignificant $299.99, the set is currently listed on Amazon for half that: $149.99. Assuming you do already own 11 of the films in the collection, that means you're still getting ten brand new Blu-ray discs (including the bonus disc, which is something most Bond fans would likely pay for on its own) for just $14.99 apiece. And were they released individually, that would be a bargain! Individual titles would probably retail for closer to twenty bucks. And that logic ignores the lavish new packaging, and the other eleven movies. Counting all 22 titles, that works out to just $6.81 per top-notch spy movie. And that's unbeatable! So go ahead and treat yourself: buy the new set. (And, better still, use this link to do so and support the Double O Section!) You can then sell off your old Blu-rays (unless you're dangerous completists like me who can't ever give up anything with a 007 logo on it), and offset the cost even more. And for your troubles, you end up with the best Bond movie ever, On Her Majesty's Secret Service, on breathtaking Blu-ray for the first time ever, along with other fantastic, previously-unreleased high-def essentials like The Spy Who Loved Me, The Living Daylights, GoldenEye and You Only Live Twice! And you want those, don't you? I know I do. In fact, I've just talked myself into pulling the trigger on this pricey purchase. I can't wait for Christmas to see that stock car chase in HD! Bond 50 is also available on DVD (SRP $199.98; currently $99.99 on Amazon), but surely everybody in the world already owns all of these movies on DVD, right?

But as major a release as it is, Bond 50 is not the only spy title out this week. From Acorn Media comes the gritty Seventies UK cop/spy show Special Branch: Set 1, marking the Thames Television series' Region 1 DVD debut. It may be called Set 1, but rather confusingly, it's not the show's first season. Acorn are following the same strategy they did with Callan: they're beginning with the first color season from the Seventies, which is actually the show's third season. However, that decision works a little better for Special Branch than it did for Callan because whereas that show plunged viewers confusingly into the middle of an ongoing, serial plotline, Special Branch was completely rebooted when it switched to color. Even the stars are different. Derren Nesbitt led the cast of the black and white series; the color episodes star George Sewell and Callan's Patrick Mower. I actually prefer the monochrome episodes (though they have a rap for being "slow" compared with the more action-packed color seasons), but hopefully Acorn will get around to releasing them eventually. Despite the very conspicuous "Classic British SPY Drama" tag on the packaging (which I certainly think looks cool), I'd say that Special Branch leans more toward a cop show overall. (The first episode won't give you any hint of espionage.) But there are plenty of spy-oriented episodes down the line, and while nothing could be the equal of CallanCallan fans will be attracted to the similar gritty tone, as well as the presence of Mower.

And finally, you might have heard of a little movie that made some money this summer called Marvel's The Avengers. Now, obviously it's not the Avengers that spy fans think of first, but this relentlessly enjoyable superhero hullabaloo is still noteworthy for espionage aficionados. In addition to costumed adventurers like Captain America, Thor and Iron Man, some Marvel's The Avengers puts the spotlight on the comic book spy agency S.H.I.E.L.D. and its agents. Readers of Steranko's classic 1960s Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. comic will thrill to see the impossible S.H.I.E.L.D. helicarrier brilliantly realized in live action, not to mention Fury himself (in his Ultimate guise of Sam Jackson) and Marvel's Number 2 secret agent, Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson). Other popular S.H.I.E.L.D. agents like Maria Hill and Phil Coulson also play significant parts. Marvel's The Avengers is available in a wide array of configurations, including a single-disc DVD, a 2-Disc Blu-ray/DVD combo, a 4-disc Blu-ray/Blu-ray 3D/DVD/Digital Copy combo (that also includes a free download of the soundtrack album), and an exclusive 5-disc combo at Target that includes all that stuff plus a new 90-minute documentary about building the cinematic Marvel Universe. (The 2-disc version at Target also comes with that bonus disc, offering a 3-disc variation just to cover the spread.)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Lucky you - all we got in the UK was a single disc DVD - pretty much the same on blu-ray and a 3d/bd combo - hardly any extras - very poor showing over here