James Bond

Daniel Craig stars in Quantum of Solace (MGM)

When Skyfall, the 23rd official screen adventure of Ian Fleming's 007, opens everywhere this November, James Bond will have been a movie star for half a century. Good show, old chap.

This being a home-video column, we're naturally more concerned with the representation of Mr. Bond on disc - and, more specifically, on Blu-ray. High-def enthusiasts have been hoping to complete their collection for four years now; MGM started releasing the Bond films in 2008, when Quantum of Solace was on its way to theatres, but stopped after just three cycles of three films each, exclusively sampling the filmographies of Sean Connery (Dr. No, From Russia with Love, Goldfinger and Thunderball), Roger Moore (Live and Let Die, Moonraker and Octopussy) and Pierce Brosnan (The World Is Not Enough, Die Another Day).

Add in the Daniel Craig vehicles Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace, released by Sony, and that's 11 Bond films available in HD; precisely half the catalogue. George Lazenby and Timothy Dalton may as well never have existed. This wasn't an intentional slight; their films were obviously being saved for later volumes, but MGM's financial troubles put the brakes on a great deal of the label's restoration work. (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment owns the home-video distributions rights to MGM's library, but even Fox had to wait out MGM's bankruptcy proceedings and sale of assets.)

Well, it's three and a half years later and MGM's affairs are settled, and the 007 high-definition collection is now complete. This week, MGM and Fox gave us Bond 50, a deluxe boxed set that assembles all 22 of the "official" 007 features in one very snazzy package. (1967's Casino Royale and 1983's Never Say Never Again were produced outside the aegis of Albert R. Broccoli's Eon Productions; MGM has released both films on Blu-ray, but they're not included in this collection.)

The box holds two handsome coffee-table books, each holding a dozen discs in their pages. The first set runs from Dr. No to For Your Eyes Only; the second, from Octopussy to Quantum of Solace, with a final page offering a bonus disc and an empty space for next year's Skyfall BD.

In addition to the 11 titles listed above, Bond 50 features the first high-def releases of Connery's last two Bonds, You Only Live Twice and Diamonds Are Forever; Lazenby's sole outing, the perpetually underrated On Her Majesty's Secret Service; most of Moore's run (The Man with the Golden Gun, The Spy Who Loved Me, For Your Eyes Only and A View to a Kill), both Dalton adventures (The Living Daylights and Licence to Kill) and Brosnan's first two films, Goldeneye and Tomorrow Never Dies. If you just want to complete your collection, those discs will be released in individual editions next week.

Both the previously released and new Bond BDs include the vast majority of the special features produced for MGM's definitive Bond DVDs - over 120 hours of content in all, counting commentaries, featurettes and archives - married to splendid new 1080p/24 transfers. The only glaring omission I could find was that some of the featurettes produced for Sony's 2008 two-disc special edition of Casino Royale didn't make it onto the single disc included here. (But if you're big enough Bond fan to be considering buying this set, you probably already own that, don't you?)

And then there's that bonus disc, which offers some very nifty brand-new content. There's Being Bond, composed of interviews with all six of the actors who've played 007 on the big screen; World of Bond, a multipart documentary exploring specific elements of the Bond series (title sequences, gadgets, villains, Bond girls and so forth) and Designing 007: Fifty Years of Bond Style, which looks at the 50th anniversary exhibit just mounted at the Barbican in London - and on its way to the TIFF Bell Lightbox in Toronto. You also get a selection of Skyfall videoblogs, which constitute one fairly epic teaser for Bond 23.

The Blu-ray edition of Bond 50 is available in two different versions - one packaged with a deluxe hardcover book, James Bond: 50 Years of Movie Posters, and one that's just the movies. And you can also bring it home as a standard-definition DVD set, but really, what's the point? If you have the earlier Bond DVDs, you're basically buying this for the bonus disc. No, it's the Blu-ray aspect that makes this collection a must-buy. And you won't be disappointed.

E-mail Norman Wilner at houselightsup@hotmail.com