007 on TCM: Uncut but not unaltered

James Bond made his TCM debut on Friday, May 1. In the case of From Russia With Love, it may have been uncut but it was also altered — albeit in small ways.

That’s because TCM is using the digitally revamped versions of the films that are sold as the “Ultimate” Bond DVDs. TCM even showed the credits for the digital restoring crew after the end of Dr. No and From Russia With Love. Digital technology has made the colors brighter than previous DVD releases.

But the digital crew apparently couldn’t help but play around at some points. Case in point: In the end titles of From Russia Love, the words “THE END” appear a few seconds earlier than the do in the original film. Earlier enough, they appear in one shot before they’re supposed to. Also, the digital crew changed the color of the titles from the original white to blue. In another “Ultimate” DVD, Thunderball, the music in the scene where Bond first encounters Domino is changed from the original.

We’d like to know more, we always thought the idea of these digitally remastered versions was to preserve, not to monkey around with the original. It also poses the question: If you’re going to make all those changes, should you correct errors like From Russia’s end titles misspelling the name of James Bond Theme composer Monty Norman? (Spelled Monte in the end titles.)

Bond isn’t unique is having these sorts of changes. Starting with the 2001 DVD release of Lawrence of Arabia, that film’s writing credit was changed to add the name of Michael Wilson (no relation to Eon Productions Ltd.’s bossman, Michael G. Wilson). Wilson had been blacklisted and he began his work on Lawrence while the blacklist was still in effect. This has been part of an effort by Hollywood to give blacklisted writers the credit they should have received all along.

The Bond changes, though, aren’t part of that admirable goal. The changes in From Russia With Love (and possibly other of the “Ultimate” DVDs) look like change for change’s sake.