The Living Daylights: Special Edition (1987)

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Released 3-May-2001

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Bond Booklet
Main Menu Introduction
Main Menu Audio & Animation
Featurette-Inside The Living Daylights
Featurette-Ian Fleming-007's Creator
Audio Commentary-John Glen (Director) et al
Music Video-The Living Daylights
Featurette-The Making Of The Living Daylights Music Video
Deleted Scenes-1
Trailer-3
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1987
Running Time 125:15
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (107:25) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By John Glen
Studio
Distributor

Twentieth Century Fox
Starring Timothy Dalton
Maryam d'Abo
Joe Don Baker
Art Malik
Jeroen Krabbe
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $39.95 Music John Barry


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (256Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
Dutch
Swedish
Finnish
Norwegian
Danish
Portuguese
Polish
Greek
Hebrew
Turkish
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement Yes, well, it is a Bond movie after all
Action In or After Credits Yes, end titles over exterior of concert hall

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    When Roger Moore finally decided to quit making Bond films (partly, I suspect, because he was starting to look too old for the part), the producers searched high and low before settling on Timothy Dalton. A decision was also taken to turn away from the increasingly campy portrayal of Bond and outrageous plots featuring world domination or destruction back to the grittier, nastier Bond of Ian Fleming's novels and more realistic storylines. The end result is The Living Daylights. Unfortunately, I don't think the film's initial audience (weaned on a generation of Roger Moore Bond films) were quite prepared for the change and I think the film would probably have been more successful if it was remade now.

    The film starts with a training mission parachuting into the British radar station set against the rock of Gibraltar. A baddie tries to take the opportunity to infiltrate the station during the operation and kills off at least one "00" agent. Fortunately, the new James Bond (Timothy Dalton) manages to defuse the situation. As he radios back the base to say he will return in an hour he notices a girl smiling at him and he says, with a smirk, "Better make that 2 hours."

    Now that's a clue as to why women flock all over James - he's obviously a stud in bed. Your average typical male (and my apologies to all you typical males reading this right now) is more likely to say "Better make that 1 hour and 5 minutes." :-)

    Then, in the grand tradition of Bond films, we are whisked away to the opening titles. After that, we settle into the story proper. Bond is helping a rather stuck-up and pretentious agent engineer a defection of a key Soviet spy, General Georgi Koskov (Jeroen Krabbé). Bond notices a sniper trying to kill General Koskov to prevent him from escaping - a cellist by the name of Kara Milovy (Maryam d'Abo).

    Incidentally, if you play the cello or know a bit about how a cello is played, don't bother inspecting Maryam's fingering too closely or you'll be offended.

    Bond deliberately avoids killing the sniper, much to the annoyance of the fellow agent, but instead reveals to the other agent that there is an alternative plan for enabling General Koskov to leave the country that only Bond knows about.

    General Koskov, on British soil and savouring the luxuries of Western civilization (it's hard to believe that the Cold War was still on when this film was made), discloses a secret Soviet plan to kill "00" agents - of which the incident at Gibraltar was part of. Then Koskov gets kidnapped by Necros (Andreas Wisniewski), and Bond is ordered to kill the alleged instigator of the secret plan - General Leonid Pushkin (John Rhys-Davies). Bond suspects everything is not quite what it seems, and decides to track down the cellist to get more information.

    What follows is a typical Bond film full of action, a beautiful girl, high-tech gadgetry, an Aston Martin with some "optional extras", a plot twist or two, exotic locations, and a megalomaniac. I quite like this film, but not as much as the next Dalton Bond film - Licence to Kill - where the producers decided to break even more rules with the result that from a plot perspective it is probably one of the most daring and original of the Bond films.

    As it is, this film features yet another Felix Leiter (John Terry) and a different Miss Moneypenny (Caroline Bliss). Incidentally, Joe Don Baker (playing the arms dealer Brad Whitaker) returns in the Brosnan Bond films to play CIA agent Jack Wade.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    I remember being impressed by the quality of the video transfers for the Region 1 Bond special edition discs included in the first box set. However, this transfer in 2.35:1 with 16x9 enhancement disappointed me, especially given that the film is quite recent compared to the Connery and Moore Bond films.

    The transfer is on the soft side, and the colours a bit on the off side. At least shadow detail appears to be reasonable for a film of its age.

    There are a number of film to video artefacts present that leads me to suspect that the transfer may have been upconverted from NTSC to PAL. For example, there are a lot of moire patterns around the window blinds around 11:09-11:17 and also 16:50-16:55. There is also some shimmering, noticeably around 36:50 and 48:52. There is also some Gibb's effect ringing around 66:28 onwards.

    The film source appears rather clean and free of grain.

    The film is accompanied by a large collection of subtitle tracks. I turned on the English and the English for the Hearing Impaired tracks briefly. The two tracks are very similar except that the latter provides hints for some of the non-dialogue auditory cues in the film.

    This is a single sided dual layered disc (RSDL). The layer change occurs at 107:25 between Chapters 26 and 27. The pause is rather noticeable as we are in the middle of a suspenseful scene.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    There are two audio tracks on this disc: an English audio track in Dolby Digital 5.1 encoded at the higher bitrate of 448 Kb/s and an English Audio Commentary track in Dolby Digital 2.0 encoded at 256 Kb/s. I listened to both tracks.

    This film was originally released with a Dolby Stereo audio track and some effort has been undertaken to remix the soundtrack into Dolby Digital 5.1. The mix features rather aggressive split surround effects and panning across all main speakers. Actions sequences featuring explosions are enhanced by a fairly active LFE track.

    All in all I am reasonably satisfied with the quality of the audio track, given the age of the film. There are no dialogue or audio synchronisation issues and the music score (composed by John Barry) is your typical Bond film background music. The opening titles are sung by the once-famous Norwegian (or is it Swedish) pop group A-Ha and the end titles are sung by the Pretenders.



Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    As is usual with all the other Bond Special Edition DVDs, this disc is sardine-packed with extras.

Booklet

    This is a full-colour 8-page booklet featuring a cast list, an article about the film, and chapter titles, together with colour stills from the film.

Main Menu Introduction, Audio & Animation

    The menus are all 16x9 enhanced and feature extensive video animation and audio on the introduction and main menu. All sub menus are static and do not come with audio.

Featurette-Inside The Living Daylights (33:37)

    This is one of those retrospective documentaries (narrated by Patrick Macnee) featuring interviews with a plethora of cast and crew members, together with excerpts from the film and some behind-the-scenes glimpses.

    The list of people interviewed include:

    This featurette is presented in full frame (1.33:1) with excerpts from the film presented in 2.35:1 letterboxed. Curiously, parts of the interview with Timothy Dalton seems to be presented in 1.78:1 letterboxed. The quality of the video transfer varies from very good to poor, with certain scenes full of aliasing and pixelization (almost as if they used the digital zoom too much). Some scenes are VHS quality and have been taken from a poor quality source.

    I was particularly intrigued by the video clip of a screen test of Sam Neill as a possible James Bond (everyone liked him except for dear old Cubby) and stills of the screen test of Pierce Brosnan.

Featurette-Ian Fleming-007's Creator (43:04)

    This is a documentary on the life of Ian Fleming, also narrated by Patrick Macnee. It features interviews with:

    The featurette is presented in full frame (1.33:1) and Dolby Digital 2.0. The quality of the video is mediocre to poor, featuring lots of grain in places. This rather long featurette is broken into chapters on the DVD for easy access. Parts of the featurette appear to have been lifted from an earlier BBC documentary.

    I found this featurette to be quite fascinating, as I never realized Ian's personal life was so ... well ... complicated, or that he knew or met so many famous people. One new thing I learnt was that the name "James Bond" was taken from the author of a book on birds that Ian Fleming happened to have lying around. I also liked the stills at the end showing Ian meeting the "real" James Bond (the author, that is) and his wife.

Audio Commentary-John Glen (Director) et al

    This is a typical Bond DVD audio commentary, featuring a set of interviews with John Glen (director) plus various members of cast and crew, edited together into a single track and introduced by David Naylor.

    Besides John Glen, the commentary also features:

    In the past, I must admit to being somewhat bored by these kind of commentaries on some of the other Bond DVDs, as they can sound somewhat sterile and stilted, with the commentary not really matching the action on the screen. I was pleasantly surprised that this one was moderately interesting to listen to, and the editing is quite tight as the characters are usually talking about something related to what's on-screen. Most of the commentary is provided by John, but the other participants add in a useful tidbit every now and then.

Music Video-The Living Daylights (4:30)

    This is presented in full frame and Dolby Digital 2.0 and the video transfer is not much better than VHS quality and features quite a bit of colour smearing. We get to see A-Ha performing (actually, miming) to the song spliced with various excerpts from the film and original photography.

Featurette-The Making Of The Living Daylights Music Video (3:53)

    This is a short documentary on the music video, featuring interviews with A-Ha, presented in full frame and Dolby Digital 2.0.

Deleted Scenes-1 (1:35)

    This is presented in 2.35:1 letterboxed with no 16x9 enhancement and with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. It features a rather funny scene where James Bond buys a carpet, then puts it on top of some telephone wires on a roof and takes a "carpet ride" to escape his pursuers.

Trailer-3

    This features the following three trailers:

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    As far as I can tell, both Region 1 and Region 4 versions of this title have identical content apart from trifling details such as foreign language audio tracks and subtitle tracks. Therefore I would say both versions are about equal, apart from NTSC/PAL formatting and PAL speedup.

Summary

    The Living Daylights I think is an underrated Bond film featuring the first time that Timothy Dalton plays the role of James Bond. It is packaged in a Special Edition DVD crammed with extras and a remastered Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track. Unfortunately, the video transfer is somewhat disappointing.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Christine Tham (read my biography)
Friday, July 06, 2001
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-626D, using Component output
DisplaySony VPL-VW10HT LCD Projector, ScreenTechnics 16x9 matte white screen (254cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationDenon AVR-3300
SpeakersFront and rears: B&W CDM7NT; centre: B&W CDMCNT; subwoofer: B&W ASW2500

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