Feb 12, 2013

New Spy DVDs Out Today: James Bond and Beyond!

Today is a huge day for spy DVD and Blu-ray releases! The celestial body around which all of these releases are orbiting is, of course, Skyfall (review here). The 23rd official James Bond movie is available on DVD and Blu-ray from MGM and Fox. Special features include two audio commentaries (perhaps to make up for none on Quantum of Solace?), one featuring director Sam Mendes, the other with producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson and Production Designer Dennis Gassner, an hour-long making-of documentary called "Shooting Bond," a featurette on the premiere, a 1-minute spot advertising the soundtrack, and the film's theatrical trailer. The film is presented in a 2.40:1 widescreen aspect ratio, which is somewhat controversial because it could be seen in two different aspect ratios theatrically. Personally, I preferred the taller 1.9:1 presentation seen in IMAX theaters. Mendes and cinematographer extraordinaire Roger Deakins shot with both formats in mind, but claimed not to have framed specifically for one or the other. The 1.9:1 version cut off some information on the sides of the frame, but the 2.40:1 version cut off some information at the top and bottom. To my eye, the IMAX image looked more natural. But the difference is really negligible enough that it's not worth dwelling on this much; I just wanted to let people know which one is on the disc. Had they provided both options, I might well end up so paralyzed with Hamlet-like indecision every time I put the movie on that I would never end up actually watching it, and that would be a tragedy! Skyfall is a wonderful Bond movie, and it really goes without saying that it belongs in every Bond fan's library. Retail is listed as $39.99 for the Blu-ray and $29.98 for the DVD, though both are already significantly discounted this week on Amazon and at other retailers. Amazon also has the Bond 50 Blu-ray collection on sale this week for just $129.99, and that's even got an empty slot reserved for Skyfall. So if you held off buying it last year, pick it up now and you'll have all 23 official 007 movies to date in one convenient, attractive package!

Also out today (though pre-orders have been shipping early), and making its high-def debut, is Twilight Time's Blu-ray of In Like Flint. Last month the specialty label released its predecessor, Our Man Flint on Blu-ray, and the sequel comes just as loaded with special features as that one was! And like on the first release, I'm on some of them (under my actual name, Matthew Bradford, and billed as a "Spy Film Historian," which is certainly accurate), discussing the impact of the Flint movies and their star, James Coburn. I'm in these ones a lot more, in fact, than I was on Our Man, so if you're among the millions and millions of fans buying these for me rather than Coburn, you're in luck! Bonus material on In Like Flint includes an audio track featuring Jerry Goldsmith's complete isolated score, an audio commentary with Cinema Retro's Lee Pfeiffer and film historian Eddy Friedfeld, trailers, a rare screen test, and the featurettes "Derek Flint: The Secret Files," "James Coburn: The Man Beyond the Spy," "Designing Flint," "Flint vs Zanuck: The Missing 3 Minutes," "Puerto Rico Premiere," "Future Perfect," "Feminine Wiles," "Spy School," "Musician's Magician," "Spy Vogue," and "Take It Off." That last one is a vintage featurette that seems to be promoting the movie to women(?) while at the same time insulting them (?), and doing it via a weight-loss advertisement. If you manage to make it all the way through its interminable running time, I sincerely doubt you'll ever revisit that one, but it's still nice to have, of course, as a weird, unwatchable time capsule. Fortunately, the rest are all fascinating! Some of these are retained from the previous DVD edition, but some are brand-new documentaries created exclusively for the Blu-ray release by John Cork, co-producer of those wonderful documentaries on the James Bond Special Editions. Sadly what's missing from this release that was on the DVD edition is the attempted Seventies TV revival of the character, Our Man Flint: Dead On Target, starring Eurospy leading man Ray Danton as the irrepressible Derek Flint. It's true that the TV movie is far from essential (in fact it bears little resemblance to the Sixties films, and Flint himself is a mere private eye, not an international playboy superspy) and that poor Danton (who was excellent in some of his Eurospy work) struggles to fill Coburn's large shoes... but as a spy completist I still want to own it. That means I'll have to hang onto my DVD set despite buying these new Blu-rays. Oh well. The new special features on Twilight Time's edition certainly make this Blu-ray a must-buy for Sixties spy fans even without the TV movie! Seriously, this is sure to be one of the major spy releases of the year. The region-free Blu-ray is a limited edition of just 3,000 units, and retails for $29.95 exclusively through Screen Archives Entertainment. These limited editions do sell out, so be sure to order soon!

Also timed to piggyback on Skyfall's release is BBC's DVD of the Top Gear special 50 Years of Bond Cars. The special, presented by Richard Hammond last fall to tie in with the theatrical release of Skyfall, is one of the best James Bond TV specials I've ever seen. It's a must-see for fans of Bond cars especially, and I'm so glad that it's getting a DVD release because it's one I definitely want to own for posterity. Not only does Hammond interview a number of 007 production personnel (including Guy Hamilton, Roger Moore and Daniel Craig) and test drive some original Bondmobiles, but he also pilots an actual working Lotus submarine car! Top Gear's version is based on an Excel rather than an Esprit, but unlike the production version(s) used in The Spy Who Loved Me, this one actually functions as both a street car and a submarine! Seriously, this is one you want in your Bond collection. Best of all, it's a real steal with a bargain SRP of just $9.95... and it's even less than that on Amazon.

What's this doing on here? Avengers fans, take note! Six years after the first two seasons of The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries came out from Universal, Shout! Factory is releasing the third Hardy Boys season, sans Nancy this time, on DVD today. Why is this of particular interest to spy fans? Well, the show does sometimes deal in espionage, and in this season the Hardy men have graduated college and are official government agents themselves. In one two-parter, they even help a Soviet defector wishing to relocate to Hawaii... but that's not why I'm mentioning it. Not specifically, anyway. No, I'm mentioning it because Patrick Macnee (who celebrated his 91st birthday last week) turns up as a guest star in the episode "Assault on the Tower" playing a debonair, bowler hat-wearing British agent identified only as S. This was just a year after The New Avengers went off the air, so fans of John Steed will probably want to add the DVD to their library. (Well, completists, anyway, like myself.) The 3-disc set retails for $24.97, though it can be ordered through Amazon for significantly less.

I know I've been remiss on my weekly spy DVD alerts lately. So later this week I'll do a post rounding up all the spy releases so far this year. Stay tuned!

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