Once Roger Moore left the Bond franchise (some would say three or four films too late), quite a few things left with him. When Timothy Dalton, whose most well-known work before this was an excellent supporting turn in The Lion in Winter, was brought in, several things seemed to change. First and perhaps most notably, the return of a James Bond that smoked cigarettes was most startling. Second, supporting characters like Lois Maxwell (who played Miss Moneypenny) and Bernard Lee (M) were replaced with younger, fresher (?) perspectives. Was all this change in the perspective of “modernizing” Bond worth it? Well, Dalton’s role in The Living Daylights was the first of two Bond films, so easy come, easy go I guess.
In this installment, based on an Ian Fleming story that was adapted to a screenplay by current Bond producer Michael Wilson and Richard Maibaum (Diamonds are Forever), James helps a Russian general (played by Jeroen Krabbe, The Fugitive) defect to England from Russia, but he is unfortunately reacquired by the KGB and kidnapped. James is dispatched to Russia to kill the Russian general that was presumably behind it (played by John Rhys-Davies, The Lord of the Rings), and along the way encounters a beautiful musician named Kara Milovy (Maryam D’Abo, White Nights), who is also reaching out to the defecting general.
Directed by John Glen (The Living Daylights), Dalton’s impression of Bond is one of a darker, more stoic character, who also falls in love with a girl who may or may not be part of the overall target (sound familiar?), but he is also much more matter-of-fact when it comes to the events that transpire in the film. He doesn’t posses the humor of Roger Moore (which is good), but lacks the mix of charm and cold-blooded precision of Sean Connery (which isn’t so good).
The film perhaps has gotten a bit of a bad rap lately, I personally hadn’t seen it all the way from start to finish since it’s been out, but now that I have for this review, I’ve gotta say that I don’t understand what all the flak was about. It’s not the worst Bond film that I’ve seen (I’d say Octopussy and Moonraker are # 1 and 1A, as far as I’m concerned), but it could certainly have used a bit of polishing and some of Connery charisma to make Dalton a more serviceable movie icon.
Compared to the Special Edition, the restoration on this Ultimate Edition looks noticeably better, with more natural fleshtones and quite a bit of detail in the overall image. The landscaped shots (especially the one at the end) all look good, even if the overall film looks a little, I don’t know, glossy, for lack of a better word.
Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS soundtrack options, blah blah blah. To be honest, the DTS track isn’t too bad, providing ample surround panning effects when required and generating a score that sounds clear and crisp when playing. Overall, this one appears to suffer from the dilemma of “dialogue mutitis”, and the center channel dialogue is recorded a little too softly, but it’s not too bad a presentation.
The commentary from the Special Edition was replicated for this Ultimate Edition, featuring a bevy of participants. Glen is the main participant of the commentary and retains excellent memory of many of the scenes of the films he worked on. There are also a few other participants on the track, such as D’Abo, Krabbe and other members of the crew. And while he’s got a lot of information about the production, the track itself is quite Glen-centric. Either give him the whole track or let him go.
With Disc Two, the”Declassified: MI6 Vault” starts off with the new supplements. Kicking things off, there are two deleted scenes (one of which is really more extended than anything else). Glen provides introduction to each scene and to his credit he’s got good recollection of them. There’s a sequence where Dalton takes a “flying carpet ride” that almost borders on cringeworthy in terms of stereotyping, along with an extended sequence with Q. Next are some outtakes of the ice chase sequence, also with introduction and running commentary by Glen. These two groups of extra material total about 10 minutes in length.
“Happy Anniversary 007” is the first of several silver anniversary pieces on the disc that cover the actor and icon. This one appears to be an old TV special of sorts, with Moore as the host. Written by critic Richard Schickel, it appears to have little purpose than to serve as a clip show for all the movies up to the Dalton era, as villains, gadgets, girls, locations and stunts all get their chance to shine in the special.
Following that are some quick featurettes celebrating the quarter century of Bond, starting on Broccoli, then moving on to D’Abo, then going onto the locations and the ole’ Aston Martin. These are all about two or three minutes apiece. Next is a press conference with Dalton answering the requisite questions about being Bond, and other members of the cast and crew are filmed with their responses. Bond and D’Abo sit down for separate interview segments. It’s kind of cute to see them do the press before the public and reviewers got to it and they’re still jazzed by the production of it all.Â Dalton has yet another interview segment that discusses his feelings about acting and a lot of memories about his career to that point. He’s definitely an eloquent speaker and a commentary track with him would be interesting.
The “007 Mission Control” section is your interactive guide of girls, gadgets and other Bond miscellanea that can be found on all of the Ultimate Editions, and next is the “Mission Dossier” section has the old material. “Inside The Living Daylights” is the big making of look at this film that Patrick MacNee narrates, covering the usual bases on any Bond production. There’s some interesting screen test footage with aspiring Bonds, and Broccoli was the final vote that turned down Sam Neill (Jurassic Park) for Dalton, who Broccoli had been pursuing since approximately the On Her Majesty’s Secret Service years. The courtship of Brosnan is even discussed too. The participants of the film (save Dalton) are brought back for some retrospective time. Some of the action sequences are covered and recalled in detail, and there’s a few nice anecdotes about some other sequences, and a visit by the then-happily married Prince Charles and Princess Diana to Pinewood. It’s not too bad a creation.
Next is another MacNee narrated piece about Bond author Ian Fleming. I recall seeing some perfunctory footage about him in another title before, but this one appears much more detailed, with a lot of friends and family of Fleming discussing their recollections about him, and those who have contributed biographical works on the author provide their own details on him. At over 40 minutes, it’s quite extensive and much better than I was expecting, and definitely is a worthy look at the author. And on the flip side of worthwhile information, that bastion of ’80s pop music A-Ha contributes a video for their title song and even a making of look at it to boot. The “Ministry of Propaganda” contains 1 trailer and 2 teasers, and the “Image Database” has the stills galleries.
The Living Daylights should be seen by everyone at least once to get their thoughts and ideas about Timothy Dalton now that the dust has settled, but in the scale of Bond films, this one clearly runs in the middle of the pack. Worth a rental at most, or like I tell everyone, see it for a few minutes when the next marathon airs.