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WinStar Home Entertainment presents
The James Bond Story (1999)

"You have a nasty habit of surviving."
- Kamal Khan (Louis Jordan)

Review By: Jesse Shanks   
Published: June 08, 2000

Stars: Sean Connery, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan, George Lazenby
Other Stars: Miranda Richardson (narrator), Noel Coward, Jane Seymour, Maude Adams, Desmond Llewelyn (interviewees)
Director: Chris Hunt

Manufacturer: WinStar Home Entertainment
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 00hr:52m:00s
Release Date: April 25, 2000
UPC: 720917308326
Genre: documentary

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
C- C-C+B- D

DVD Review

A glossy, montage-filled "exploration," the film features some interesting interviews, nice archival footage and some useful facts and insights, but ultimately is rather lightweight and barely follows the more interesting paths that it could take. This disc would certainly serve as an excellent "extra" for one of the movies.

There are interviews with each of the actors who have played James Bond. Sean Connery makes several interesting remarks about his perception of the James Bond character. Roger Moore talks about his approach to the role of Bond, especially in relation to the type of humor each actor brings to the part. George Lazenby's segments are interesting, especially because of his highly-criticized turn in the role for Her Majesty's Secret Service. Timothy Dalton is quite brief, and Pierce Brosnan is not terribly illuminating as he is forced to deal with the issue of the modernization of James Bond in the Nineties.

Much is made of the "sexism" and "politically incorrectness" of Bond, as if this had any context with the movies of the sixties, Bond or no. As escapist fare, the James bond series stood unmatched for two decades. The exotic women, exotic locales, exotic villains and totally exotic plots are the stuff of our culture. From battling the maniacal Dr. No with his steel clawed hands and his secret island populated with its half-black, half-Chinese workers accompanied by Ursula Andress as Honeychile Rider through foiling the attempt by Auric Goldfinger to rob Fort Knox with the help of Honor Blackman as Pussy Galore and onto stopping the criminal conspiracies of Mr. Big in Harlem and New Orleans with the assistance of Jane Seymour's lovely Solitaire, James Bond trod across social and cinema traditions heavily with a wink, a nod and a punch. It was a world outside and away from our own and where the rules as we know them do not apply.

A major factor in the series creating such a palpable world in which we wonder why the rules of our reality do not apply (as opposed to something like In Like Flint in which we quickly dispose of any misconception of reality) and having legs to last through 21 (22, 23? Motion pictures) when so many imitators and like-minded productions failed or, at least, failed to carry on, is the strength of the original stories from which the Bond character is drawn. There is an all too brief biographical study of Ian Fleming, the man who created James Bond. A military functionary in WWII, Fleming retired to Jamaica in order to write the Bond books. Noel Coward was a friend of Fleming's and made some interesting remarks about the character of the man and how it relates to the character he created. The quote from original Bond producer, Cubby Broccoli about the formula of the movies retaining the formula of the novels is very telling.

Very little attention is paid in this show to the Bond movies, especially since the two central locations for information about the character of James Bond is the books and the movies themselves. Their total number is discussed but the titles of some are never mentioned even though they show up in some of the montage sequences that are used to back up one point made or another. For example, the statement is made that Bond relied on gadgets. Then a short interview with Desmond Llewelyn about Q and Bond's relationship. Then we see a montage of Bond gadgets. This is the common pattern and makes for very superficial viewing, and certainly not very repeatable viewing.

That seems to be the substantial issue with this disc. As a puff piece on TV with nothing better to do, I might be inclined to sit down and pass an hour with a recollection of James Bond and the movies with bits by each of the actors, the co-stars, film clips of the producers, interviews with the writers. In fact, I would not be bothered by the fact that it didn't contain much in the way of substance. But, to own or even rent the DVD, this disc is not enough.

However, the fact remains that there are parts of this show that are useful and interesting. In particular, one segment that is memorable is a behind-the-scenes look at the escape Bond made from the crocodiles in Live and Let Die, where he ran across their backs from the island to the shore. There was some footage of the stuntman actually doing the trick and at the last crocodile, he stumbles and fell with his pant leg caught up the crocodile's mouth. It was a sequence worth playing several times.

I wanted more of everything. Longer interviews, more behind-the-scenes, more clips, more discussion, more about the gadgets, the cars, the games, the books—simply more. Where is my villain gallery or my heroine gallery? One way to define a fictional hero is by his opponents and his allies. At one point in the documentary, it is remarked that not much is known about the history of James Bond. After this documentary, that is still true.

Rating for Style: C-
Rating for Substance: C-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Rationo

Image Transfer Review: The documentary uses clips from various sources, including the Bond movies, newsreels, interviews and other low quality source material. After having watched MGM's lovely new transfers of the Bonds it seems these were not used here. The film footage used ranges from grainy, dirty and washed out or dark to clean, sharp and vivid—but at least they're in widescreen. The original documentary video is 4:3 and scan lines are evident, but the transfer of these sections are clean and the colors well-rendered. Overall, it is slightly disappointing but watchable.

Image Transfer Grade: C+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes

Audio Transfer Review: The Dolby Surround 2.0 stereo track contains the well-rendered dialogue (or Miranda Richardson's narration) through the center-channel, as one might expect, with incidental music piped through the front speakers. There is little rear activity. The sound is sufficient, but this is certainly not a disc that would require much more than sufficency.

Audio Transfer Grade: B-


Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 8 cues and remote access
Cast and Crew Filmographies
Packaging: Amaray
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Triva Quiz
  2. Web Link to WinStar's Website
  3. Production Credits
Extras Review: Filmographies of the actors, trivia quiz and a web link are just not enough for a disc of this type, expecially one that runs for 52 minutes. The laundry list of what should have been included is too long to include.

Extras Grade: D


Final Comments

More behind-the-scenes footage containing interviews with the participants and a better analysis of the fictional character that is James Bond (á la the MGM documentaries included with each new Bond special edition) would have made this a must-have for the Bond afficionado. As it is, The James Bond Story must be rated as "for completists only."


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