Diamonds Are Forever appears in an aspect ratio of approximately
2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Diamonds mixes ups and downs to create an erratic but generally satisfactory transfer.
Sharpness usually seemed pretty crisp and clear during most of the film, though I detected some mild softness at times. This fuzziness mainly affected a few interior scenes and also some wider shots. Moiré effects and jagged edges caused no problems, and no edge enhancement seemed to appear. Print flaws also caused no distractions. If any defects occurred, I missed them; this presentation looked smooth and clean.
Colors appeared bright and accurate for the most part. The Las Vegas shots took best advantage of this. Some others were slightly pale, but I usually felt the tones were lively. Black levels were deep and solid, and shadow detail usually seemed appropriately opaque but not excessively heavy. Some "day for night" shots came across as too dark, but these weren't as problematic as I'd expect. Other than a little softness at times, this was an excellent presentation that just narrowly fell short of “A” level standards.
For this “Ultimate Edition” of Diamonds Are Forever, the movie received audio remixes. In addition to the flick’s original monaural elements, we got Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 tracks. These both seemed similar, as I detected no differences between the two.
This meant the two mixes offered similarly terrific audio. They broadened matters well and opened up the spectrum. Music showed excellent stereo imaging, and effects also presented good breadth. The spread across the front channels and used the surrounds to bolster the material. Some localized speech also materialized. The track didn’t dazzle, but it provided a nice sense of atmosphere and action.
Audio quality was also solid. Music fared best, as the score and songs always seemed bright and lively. Effects and speech showed their age but were more than acceptable. The lines were acceptably intelligible and concise, while effects showed good distinctiveness. Low-end response seemed especially impressive, as louder elements demonstrated nice rumble and punch. Overall, these remixes were strong.
How did the picture and audio of this 2006 “Ultimate Edition” compare with the original 2000 release? The UE presented significantly improved visuals, largely because it eliminated the mix of specks and marks that marred its predecessor. Audio also offered a noticeable step up in quality. In addition to the added breadth of the 5.1 soundfields, audio improved. This DVD offered cleaner, more dynamic sound.
The “Ultimate Edition” includes many of the same extras from the 2000 DVD and adds some new ones. I’ll mark the new features with an asterisk, so if you fail to see a star, the element already showed up on the prior set.
DVD One includes an audio commentary from various members of the cast and crew. Hosted by David Naylor, this piece edits together interviews with director Guy Hamilton, co-screenwriter Tom Mankiewicz, composer John Barry, actors Jill St. John, Joe Robinson, Marc Lawrence, Lana Wood, Bruce Glover, Shane Rimmer, Trina Parks, Jimmy Dean and Putter Smith, production designer Ken Adam, set decorator Peter Lamont, continuity supervisor Elaine Schreyeck, stuntman George Leech and lyricist Don Black.
The commentary provides a solid look at the movie. We hear about a variety of different topics. The discussion covers basic biographies of a few of the participants and we also get a nice combination of nuts and bolts details about the production. Other aspects cover fact about various plot points - both used and discarded - and some fun anecdotes. Some folks don't care for this type of edited commentary, but I enjoy them because they usually are much tighter and more coherent than "screen-specific" examples. The track for Diamonds works very well and provides a lot of interesting and compelling information about the movie and its creators.
Over on DVD Two, we get seven elements under the banner of Declassified: MI6 Vault. *Sean Connery 1971: The BBC Interview fills five minutes, 13 seconds. The actor discusses how he’d changed since he started to play Bond, and also looks at why he returned to the series. He also reflects on other aspects of his life and career. This piece is moderately interesting for historical reasons but it doesn’t tell us much.
For some stunt info, we get the four-minute and 36-second *Lesson #007: Close Quarter Combat. Narrated by Guy Hamilton, this looks at the movie’s elevator fight sequence. Another archival piece, this one proves more informative. We see fight rehearsals and other behind the scenes elements used to create the scene. It’s good little featurette.
More violence shows up in *Oil Rig Attack. The two-minute and 22-second featurette offers narration from series producer Michael Wilson. He tells us about an abandoned sequence as we watch clips shot for it. Though too raw to qualify as deleted scenes, these unused tidbits are quite interesting to see.
Called *Satellite Test Reel, a one-minute and 55-second clip shows just that. Along with more info from Wilson, we examine the development of the related effects. This involves storyboards, test footage and final film. Similar material appears in the one-minute and 53-second collection of *Explosion Tests. Wilson talks about the blasts created for the flick as we watch the various elements. Both segments provide a fine examination of effects circa 1971.
*Alternate and Expanded Angles allow us different views of five scenes. We can inspect “Elevator Fight” (2:47, 4 options), “Vegas Car Chase” (4:41, 3 options), “Moonbuggy Chase” (3:15, 1 option), “Bambi & Thumper” (3:26, 1 option), and “Bond Arrives on the Oil Rig” (1:54, 1 option). All offer fun material as they let us check out various portions of the shoot.
Six *Deleted Scenes finish this area. These include “Sammy Davis Jr.” (1:07), “Killing Shady Tree” (0:50), “Dinner With Plenty” (1:17), “Plenty Returns…” (0:50), “Through the Alley… Again” 0:59), and “Mr. and Mrs. Jones …In the Bridal Suite” (2:33). “Davis” is the most interesting since it includes the performer as himself, but the other five are reasonably entertaining as well. None of them stand out as lost treasure, but they’re good to examine.
With that we head to the *007 Mission Control Interactive Guide. This splits into components under seven different headings: “007”, “Women”, “Allies”, “Villains”, “Mission Combat Manual”, “Q Branch”, and “Exotic Locations”. An odd form of “greatest hits”, this simply presents a few selected scenes that match the topics.
One of the only interesting elements comes from the presentation of the opening credits without text (2:52). “Locations” (4:24) also gives us a narrated set of clips. Maud Adams chats over the scenes and tells us about the locations. That makes it more useful than the others since they just show snippets from the final film. The rest of the set is a waste of time.
Heading to Mission Dossier, we begin with Inside Diamonds Are Forever. Hosted by Patrick Macnee, this 30-minute and 39-second feature follows the usual format of these Bonds pieces. We find mid-Nineties interviews with most of the same participants we heard from in the commentary - plus 1971 snippets from Connery - combined with a variety of film clips, production photos and outtakes. The latter are somewhat unusual for these programs but they add a lot of information, especially in the way they help illustrate an interesting continuity problem.
Some of the subjects covered in the commentary are touched upon here as well, but the viewpoints and details are different enough to make the documentary stand on its own. For example, we learn new facts about Connery's involvement and the attitudes taken by the producers to get the series back on track after the relative failure of 1969's On Her Majesty's Secret Service. It's a very solid and compelling program.
A second video segment pays tribute to one of the longtime Bond producers. Cubby Broccoli: The Man Behind Bond runs for 41 minutes, 20 seconds, and it provides a decent biography of the series' main supporter. Through the program, we find a nice mix of personal photos, publicity materials, and interviews with those who knew Broccoli. The show focuses mainly on comments from Broccoli's family, including wife Dana, son Michael Wilson, and daughter Barbara. Some others appear as well - including friend Robert Wagner – but the relatives dominate. This adds a nice personal component though I think it may have made the program less frank than it could have been. Still, it's an interesting documentary, and I really enjoyed the parts with Barbara - what a babe!
In the Ministry of Propaganda, we find some promotional materials. There are two trailers: a "Christmas" teaser and the theatrical ad. The latter was interesting if just because it featured a line about Plenty's name that was cut from the final film. In addition, the DVD provides five TV spots, none of which is especially fascinating, and three radio ads. These are also nothing special, but I appreciate their inclusion.
Within the Image Database we find a set of *photo galleries. This area breaks down into 12 subheadings, each with between 2 and 16 shots for a total of 86 pictures. This makes the collection less substantial than those of most Bonds, but it still offers some nice images. Lastly, Diamonds features a good booklet with photos and facts.
Diamonds Are Forever isn't top-notch Bond, but it's a largely interesting effort that merits a viewing. The DVD offers very strong picture and audio plus a complement of solid extras. Diamonds Are Forever will fit in nicely with your other Bond titles.
How about those aficionados who already own the original Diamonds DVD – should they snag the “Ultimate Edition”? I’d recommend it. The UE offers improved visuals and audio plus a smattering of useful new extras. It’s a good upgrade.
Note that this “Ultimate Edition” of Diamonds Are Forever can be purchased only as part of “The Ultimate James Bond Collection Volume One”. This five-movie set also includes The World Is Not Enough, The Man With the Golden Gun, The Living Daylights, and Goldfinger.