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.

5 Responses

  1. I beg to differ on the From Russia With Love alterations. The fact that THE END shows up a few seconds earlier because the Ultimate Editions were taken from the original print. They took the original print and scanned this print. This is a different print than was used with the special edition. So the fact that THE END appears a few seconds early is probably because that is how it was on the original print. I mean you know how many different versions that were made for Thunderball. The fact that the end credits are not white could indicate that the special edition had faded color. I would not be surprised that it was originally blue and faded to the white color that was found on the special edition. I don’t know what the problem with the Thunderball soundtrack on the Ultimate Edition because the original mono is available on that DVD. If you want the special edition 5.1 mix then just buy the Blu-Ray because I heard that they took the special edition 5.1 for the Blu-Ray version of Thunderball. The majority of the Ultimate Edition did improve the video quality for the better. The only issue I had was with You Only Live Twice and The Spy Who Loved Me. So far, the Blu-Ray releases have fixed any problems with the Ultimate Edition versions.

  2. One of our staffers has seen theatrical prints going back decades. The end titles in prints going back to the 1970s were always in white letters. The FRWL end titles in theatrical prints did not begin until the final long shot of Venice. On TCM, the end titles began with Connery’s hand waving good-bye after throwing the blackmail film overboard.

  3. I have no problem with the version played on TCM because I believe that the Lowry Digital who remaster the bond films did not alter THE END but it was how it was on the print they used. In fact, The Digital Bits received an email and said that any alterations had to be given the ok by MGM and MGM told Lowry to not change some of the errors from the original shoot. Some of these errors are the lights that can be seen at the beginning of Dr. No when the car passes the camera. If they were going to alter the end credits, then why did they not take out the production lights reflecting off the car in Dr. No. Why did they not take out the flash that occurs in Goldfinger when the Lincoln Continental turns toward the camera. It just does not make any sense why they would not alter these errors and then alter the END CREDITS. This is the first time I have heard complaints about From Russia With Love ultimate edition version. I frankly don’t care about THE END appearing a few seconds before it was on the special edition. To me the blue color seems natural to me and I could see that the Blue could of been a print that your staff may have never seen or could of been the intended color by the film makers. I mean does it really matter that it is a light blue color than white. I mean it is not like it is navy blue or green.

  4. I’d have to agree with Joe Bond on this one. Sure the HMSS staffers have seen varying theatrical prints of the film but these theatrical prints were not used for the Ultimate Edition DVD since they used the “original negative” which I assume none of your staffers have seen and unless you have seen the original negative there is no way to say for sure if the end did start early on the original negative to be changed on the theatrical prints like how the U.S. theatrical prints were cropped to the 1.85:1 aspect ratio that the Special Edition DVD’s have. The blue text could have been blue originally and started to fade to white as age took its toll, especially since a print from 1970 would more than likely would not look as good as a print from 1962 would have, and I read the email that Joe Bond refers too where MGM has said that they tried to keep the imperfections as much as possible from previous versions. Unless you have seen the original negative then you can’t say for sure if the titles were not blue or where The End actually started on them and in fact I saw From Russia with Love on AMC in 2005 during their wide screen marathon and guess what The End came up at the same time as the Ultimate Edition before those DVD’s even came out and personally I just don’t care since I never noticed the color change when I first saw the Ultimate Edition which shows that the change is really minor and the color is a really light blue and i could defiantly see it fading to white. The music that you mentioned in Thunderball is indeed different but since the original mono is included on the disc why does it matter just look at the 5.1 track as a bonus alternative track but the Blu-ray apparently has a much more faithful DTS track and has the original mono so why complain if the original audio is included. I think the UE of the first three Bond films look so much better than the Special Edition DVD’s which had some faded colors and I think if you have to complain about something as minor as the ending title text color than I think it might be a little nit picking because From Russia with Love looks better than its ever had before and like I said before unless you have seen the original negative then could it be possible that the differences were just changes made to the original negative when the theatrical prints were made. If this is the case then its not the restoration technician’s fault plus whenever someone does not like something about a transfer its so easy to blame the restorers behind it but I really like the UE versions of the films maybe its because I am just not that picky.

  5. […] On TCM, movies are shown uncut, although in 2009 some Bond films had minor changes. […]

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