The Living Daylights 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. A smattering of problems cropped up here, but the movie usually looked okay.
Sharpness was a little lackluster at times. Most of the movie seemed acceptably distinctive and concise, but wide shots tended to be a smidgen ill-defined. Some of that stemmed from a bit of mild edge enhancement. No issues with shimmering or jagged edges occurred, though. Print flaws displayed occasional speckles, marks and a few nicks. These were more substantial than I’d like given the movie’s age, but they were never a major distraction.
Colors always remained solid and clear, with tones that looked accurate and rich. The best examples arrived during the carnival sequence in chapter 18, which showed off the varied and bright palette through cartoony colors. Even in more subtle scenes, however, the hues stayed very fine.
Black levels largely appeared deep and dark with positive contrast. Shadow detail tended to be somewhat flat, though, especially during interiors. Those were somewhat dense. Overall, this was a fairly good image, but it suffered from too many flaws for a grade over a “B-“.
Not all is happy here, however, as MGM's one-time Achilles' heel snaps once again. As with initial review DVDs of their release of This Is Spinal Tap and (apparently) all copies of The Delta Force, The Living Daylights lacks some of the film's original "burned-in" English subtitles. During chapter seven, Rubavitch (Virginia Hey), a Russian who helps Bond smuggle out an apparent defector, distracts her boss with her ample...uh...affections. Once the coast is clear, she abruptly stops the nookie and makes an indignant comment to her chief before she leaves.
From what I've heard, the subtitles should say something such as, "I'm not that kind of girl!" However, since no text appears, you won't know this unless you remember it from prior releases of the film. Why MGM have so much trouble keeping movies' original subtitles intact is a mystery. Granted, this example isn't nearly as problematic as the case of The Delta Force, which loses a large amount of untranslated dialogue, especially since we can figure out what Rubavitch says due to the context. However, the omission is annoying.
With the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of The Living Daylights, we find a strong piece of work. The forward soundfield dominated the proceedings with some very broad and lively audio. We're treated to a lot of great discrete sound from the front three speakers that created a nice environment throughout the film. The audio blended well and provided a very engaging presence that increased the intensity of the action. Surround usage seemed more incidental and less active, but the rears contribute some useful effects during the bigger action scenes. The surrounds appeared monaural but they integrated well with the rest of the track.
Audio quality seemed a little "hard" at times but generally was fine. Dialogue betrayed mild edginess at times but usually appeared natural and distinct, with no problems related to intelligibility. Music sounded clear and smooth without any harshness, and it also displayed some solid low end at times.
Effects occasionally came across as slightly distorted, particularly during some of the louder scenes. However, many of these segments were clean and accurate and showed no signs of roughness; for example, the "milkman" attack scene seemed nicely crisp and without problems. Overall the effects appeared reasonably realistic and concise, and they presented nice bass on many occasions. The soundtrack doesn't quite compete with more modern affairs, but even with some minor flaws, I thought it worked well.
The Living Daylights features a complement of extras that will seem happily familiar to Bond fans. We start with an audio commentary culled from a collection of interviews with cast and crew members. Hosted by Bond historian David Naylor, this track features remarks from director John Glen, actors Maryam d'Abo, Jeroen Krabbe, Andreas Wisniewski, and Joe Don Baker, director of photography Alec Mills, publicist Jerry Juroe, production supervisor Anthony Waye, effects supervisor John Richardson, co-producer/co-writer Michael Wilson, and still unit photographer Keith Hamshere.
As usual with these tracks, we get a good overview of the creation of the film. Glen dominates the proceedings, but many of the other participants contribute lots of information. The emphasis is on anecdotes about the production, and through these we learn a lot of information about the movie. The participants cover bringing in a new Bond, locations, sets and production design, stunts, action and effects, cinematography and performances, the theme song, and updating Bond. The commentary fits in well with other similar offerings in this line as it covers various topics smoothly and concisely.
We also get the usual pair of video programs. First is the standard documentary about the film. Called Inside The Living Daylights, this 33-minute and 30-second show combines a mix of film clips, interview segments, and behind the scenes footage. Most of the interviews are contemporary, but some of them - mainly those with Dalton - come from the era in which the film was produced.
The program provides a terrific look at the making of the movie, starting with an examination of the search for a new Bond after the departure of Roger Moore following the release of A View to a Kill. Best part? We get to see some of Sam Neill's test footage. We also find d'Abo's early screentests plus cool shots of Prince Charles and Princess Diana on the set. The discussions of the movie tend toward anecdotal coverage, and we learn a variety of nice details. It's another solid documentary.
The second program takes a biographical look at the man behind Bond. Called Ian Fleming - 007's Creator, this 42-minute and 55-second show gives us a solid view of his life. We hear contemporary comments from various historians, relatives and colleagues. These include folks like actors Christopher Lee and Patrick Macnee (who both knew Fleming, so they're connected to him above and beyond their Bond film roles), and Hugh Hefner (who helped promote the Bond books through their serialization in Playboy). We also witness archival (1969) interviews with Fleming's brother, some friends (including Noel Coward), and Fleming himself. Interspersed with these snippets are film clips and some historical photos and footage.
I thought the show worked well because it offered a "warts and all" look at Fleming's life. The guy sounds like he was something of a cad, and the documentary doesn't hide that fact while it also provides a fitting tribute to the work he created. Ultimately, these two factors balance nicely and make a program that is quite watchable and compelling.
A few other extras round out the DVD. We get one deleted scene. Called
The Magic Carpet Ride, this one-minute and 35-second snippet actually is a very fun little action bit that one is mildly sad to learn didn't make the cut. However, I understood perfectly well while they deleted the scene; it's very light and comic and seems more in keeping with the tone of the Moore years. I think it might have worked, since it was the exception, not the rule, but I can't quibble strongly with its omission.
Eighties pop has-beens a-ha created the film's so-so title tune, and we find its music video here. Though the clip follows the usual lip-synch/movie snippet format, it integrates them in a mildly interesting way that makes the video more compelling than most. Not much more compelling, but it's a watchable piece; it's not as good as the semi-fun bit for Duran Duran's "A View to a Kill", but it sure beats Rita Coolidge's atrocity "All Time High" from Octopussy.
If you just can't get enough of a-ha, then you'll be happy to learn we also get The Making of the Music Video. This three-minute and 50-second puff piece provides a superficial look at the creation of the clip. It's worth a look because it features some comments from composer John Barry, but otherwise it's not terribly fascinating.
Finally, the DVD finishes with three trailers. We get the North American teaser, the UK teaser, and the actual release trailer. The package includes the usual solid eight-page booklet. This piece features a mix of production text about the movie and the series plus some photos. I've always liked MGM's booklets, and this is another good one.
Timothy Dalton didn't last long as Bond, but his two films stand as some of the best of the series. The Living Daylights isn't quite as good as follow-up Licence to Kill, but it's a very solid effort that provides a gritty, exciting story. The DVD offers acceptable to good picture and sound plus some consistently strong extras. The Living Daylights is a "must have" for Bond fans and should be given definite consideration from any fans of action fare.
To rate this film visit the Ultimate Edition review of THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS