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HTF BLU-RAY REVIEW: Thunderball



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#1 of 47 OFFLINE   Cameron Yee

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Posted October 31 2008 - 04:14 PM

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Release Date: Available now (original release date October 21, 2008)
Studio: MGM Home Entertainment
Packaging/Materials: Single-disc Blu-Ray case with cardstock slipcover
Year: 1965
Rating: PG
Running Time: 2h10m
MSRP: $34.98

MAIN FEATURE
Video1080p high definition 16x9 2.35:1
AudioDTS HD Master Audio: English 5.1 / Dolby Digital: English Mono, Spanish Mono, French 5.1
SubtitlesEnglish, Spanish


The Feature: 4/5
James Bond (Sean Connery) goes on the hunt for two atomic missiles stolen by SPECTRE, who is using them to extort 100 million pounds from the British and American governments. Fans of "Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery" will have fun spotting a few inspirational scenes.


Video Quality: 4.5/5
The film is correctly framed at 2.35:1 (with the exception of the window boxed title sequence), encoded in AVC and generally free of blemishes (there are occasional, faint vertical lines in the image). Grain reduction is on par with "From Russia with Love," making for a very clean image but one still filled with detail - grass and gravel and skin and cloth textures all stand out in their clarity. Black levels are very good, deep and inky with fine shadow detail and delineation. Colors also have excellent depth and richness, from the primary colors of the title sequence to the deep blues of the underwater scenes.

For those bothered by the title sequence window boxing, the textless version in "007 Mission Control" is presented at the full 2.35:1 framing with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio.


Audio Quality: 4/5
Presented in 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio, the surround channels provide a nice immersive effect in support of the film score and for a few modest directional and environmental effects. Center channel dialogue is clear and intelligible, though sound effects levels can be mixed a bit high in comparison, making things a bit painful on the ears at times. Bass activity is surprisingly healthy, explosions and the deep roar of jet engines creating some nice tremors in the listening space. Overall it's a detailed and dynamic track that goes well with the impressive visuals.

Also included is the original mono track in a lossy encode. The track is not unpleasant, but is definitely edgier and less detailed than the lossless option.


Special Features: 4.5/5

All the special features from the "Ultimate Edition" DVD release have been ported over and some have been upgraded to high definition video! Though the "007 Mission Control" random access piece is merely grabbing in and out points from the feature, subsequent documentaries are now in high definition - a nice touch.

Audio Commentary by Director Terence Young and Others: John Cork of the Ian Fleming Foundation returns, following the same scripted format as the other Bond commentaries, combining pre-recorded audio interviews with bits of movie history and trivia, giving listeners plenty to take in.

Audio Commentary by Editor Peter Hunt, Screenwriter John Hopkins and Others: Cork returns as primary commentator and sometime interviewer of the primary participants, making for another focused and informative track. The commentary also includes the entirety of the alternate title song, "Mr. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang" sung by Dionne Warwick.

The Incredible World of James Bond - Original 1965 NBC Television Special (50m54s): Retrospective television program hits the highlights of the three films leading up to "Thunderball" and examines the history of the character and worldwide fervor over the franchise. We've certainly seen a lot of these kinds of promotional pieces before, but it's interesting to see one that only has three films to cover. Imagine having to do one of these now!

A Child's Guide to Blowing Up A Motor Car - 1965 Ford Promotional Film (17m09s): A man takes his nephew to visit the set of "Thunderball," where they're filming a car chase scene. The framing device is kind of hokey (and the finale pretty un-PC) but it's a nice archival look behind the scenes.

On Location with Ken Adam (13m06s): Production Designer Adam comments on his location scouting footage.

Bill Suitor: The Rocket Man Movies (3m54s): Suitor talks about how he became a jet pack pilot and what it was like to fly for the film.

Thunderball Boat Show Reel (2m51s): Footage of the underwater battle re-edited (and toned down) for a boat show screening.

Selling Bonds - Original 1965 Television Commercials (2m05s): Raincoats, slacks and toy spy paraphernalia for sale at a retailer near you. Or at least they used to be.

Credits (1m15s): Production credits for the "MI6 Vault."

007 Mission Control: An interesting feature, giving random access to scenes around a particular character or theme, all in 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio and 1080p high definition 16x9 2.35:1 video. Better than skipping through the feature disc? It depends. For fans of the opening title sequence (which has a textless option at a full 2.35:1 with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio), this is an easy way to access it. And obviously users aren't meant to watch all the clips, but only access their favorites; otherwise, why not just watch the feature disc? The one departure from simple clips from the film is the "Exotic Locations" item, which is a montage of film locales with narration by Maude Adams, presented in high definition with stereo audio.

The Making of Thunderball (27m34s): Documentary covers the requisite points of "Thunderball" development, production and theatrical release. In high definition with stereo audio.

The Thunderball Phenomenon (31m04s): A closer look at the film's worldwide popluarity, merchandising and life after its theatrical release. In high definition with stereo audio.

The Secret History of Thunderball (3m56s): A quick look at the varying versions of dialogue and scenes to pop up over the years. In high definition with stereo audio.

Theatrical Trailers (8m26s): Three trailers.

TV Broadcasts (3m31s): Five television spots.

Radio Communication (5m03s): Ten promotional radio spots with an introduction.

Image Database: Large image gallery with the usual mix of promotional stills, on-set shots, and advertising materials.

"Quantum of Solace" Movie Cash: In promotion of the upcoming Bond film starring Daniel Craig, a cover sticker has a code to access an online coupon worth up to $10.50 toward the purchase of a ticket for the movie. The sticker left a fair amount of adhesive on the cardstock cover, though it was easily removed with duct tape.


Title Recap

The Feature: 4/5
Video Quality: 4.5/5
Audio Quality: 4/5
Special Features: 4.5/5
Overall Score (not an average): 4.5/5

For those who have never owned "Thunderball," the Blu-Ray release is an obvious choice, having very good audio and video to go along with a plentiful set of insightful extras, several of which are now in high definition. For previous owners of the DVD, the decision to re-purchase the title on Blu-Ray will ultimately come down to how much they enjoy the film. My personal strategy with the release of the Blu-Ray Bond films, before I knew I'd be getting them to review, was to purchase only those titles I really enjoyed, this film being one of them. I suspect, however, that hardcore fans will be looking at a wholesale upgrade for all the films if the rest of the titles are as fine as this one.
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#2 of 47 OFFLINE   Jace_A

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Posted November 01 2008 - 08:53 AM

I actually thought the picture quality of Thunderball was noticeably poorer than both Dr. No and From Russia With Love. Long shots looked somewhat soft and almost out of focus and the picture just didn't have the pop of the first two films, which looked like they could have been made this year.

#3 of 47 OFFLINE   Largo

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Posted November 01 2008 - 09:33 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jace_A
I actually thought the picture quality of Thunderball was noticeably poorer than both Dr. No and From Russia With Love. Long shots looked somewhat soft and almost out of focus and the picture just didn't have the pop of the first two films, which looked like they could have been made this year.
Are you suggesting that this first 2.35:1 Panavision widescreen Bond film wasn't lensed as expertly as the previous 1.66:1 widescreen Bond films? I sure hope what you've observed on this particular disc isn't due to some technical glitch in the transfer process. Maybe we should wait until You Only Live Twice is released on Blu-ray to see how this second 2.35:1 Panavision Bond compares in image quality. But I dunno .... Posted Image

#4 of 47 OFFLINE   Paul_Scott

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Posted November 01 2008 - 11:33 PM

I've only sampled it, but from the various scenes I've looked at, I'm very happy with how this turned out. To my eyes, it looks much more nuanced then the already improved UE dvd. While the image there had been a nice step up from the previous SE, it still seemed a little 'clipped' to me. Not so with the Bd- colors looked more subtle and expansive and shadow detail seems improved. Compared to FYEO which really only offers a mild res boost over the UE, this one strikes me as a good upgrade.A/V-wise, I'm very satisfied with this release.

#5 of 47 OFFLINE   Douglas Monce

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Posted November 02 2008 - 03:01 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Largo
Are you suggesting that this first 2.35:1 Panavision widescreen Bond film wasn't lensed as expertly as the previous 1.66:1 widescreen Bond films? I sure hope what you've observed on this particular disc isn't due to some technical glitch in the transfer process. Maybe we should wait until You Only Live Twice is released on Blu-ray to see how this second 2.35:1 Panavision Bond compares in image quality. But I dunno .... Posted Image


Thunderball is likely to be less sharp because of the nature of the anamorphic lenses used to photograph it. In 1965 anamorphic lenses, even from Panavision, weren't as sharp as the standard lenses used to photograph the previous 3 films. In fact even today Anamorphic lenses aren't as sharp, however they are much closer in quality to spherical lenses now.

Having said this, the blu-ray of Thunderball is stunning, and I'm seeing detail in it that I have never seen before.

Doug
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#6 of 47 OFFLINE   Gary Murrell

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Posted November 02 2008 - 11:57 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Douglas Monce
Thunderball is likely to be less sharp because of the nature of the anamorphic lenses used to photograph it. In 1965 anamorphic lenses, even from Panavision, weren't as sharp as the standard lenses used to photograph the previous 3 films. In fact even today Anamorphic lenses aren't as sharp, however they are much closer in quality to spherical lenses now.

Having said this, the blu-ray of Thunderball is stunning, and I'm seeing detail in it that I have never seen before.

Doug

I don't agree at all

true Scope Anamorphic films always have way better detail than Super-35 crap, BD's of Eraser, Dirty Harry, Blade Runner, Memento, Getaway (1972), Unforgiven, Batman Begins, Prestige (to name a few) smoke everything else when it comes to pure detail and resolution

Anamorphic Scope delivers worlds more resolution than the Super-35 4:3 frame and it shows time and time again in regards to the best BD titles IMHO, while Anamorphic Scope is said to be softer it always shows way more detail in a natural pleasant way

-Gary

#7 of 47 OFFLINE   Douglas Monce

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Posted November 02 2008 - 12:35 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Gary Murrell
I don't agree at all

true Scope Anamorphic films always have way better detail than Super-35 crap, BD's of Eraser, Dirty Harry, Blade Runner, Memento, Getaway (1972), Unforgiven, Batman Begins, Prestige (to name a few) smoke everything else when it comes to pure detail and resolution

Anamorphic Scope delivers worlds more resolution than the Super-35 4:3 frame and it shows time and time again in regards to the best BD titles IMHO, while Anamorphic Scope is said to be softer it always shows way more detail in a natural pleasant way

-Gary

The only thing shooting Anamorphic will do is add image area over Super 35, giving it more potential detail, and finer grain. However the lenses themselves don't have the same resolving power that the best spherical lenses do. The inherent distortion of the anamorphic squeeze makes this almost impossible. Also we are talking about relatively early Panavision scope lenses. They are MUCH sharper today, but still can't match the best Panavision spherical lenses.

Also the first 3 Bond films were not Super 35, they are academy aperture cropped to 1.66:1 which theoretically has more image area than Super 35 because they didn't go clear down to 1.85:1, though not as much image area as a scope film.

The upshot of this is that while the first 3 Bond films probably exhibit more grain than Thunderball, the image is likely somewhat sharper on the first 3.

Also scope films tend to appear to be very sharply focused on the subject, because of their very shallow depth of field. The sharpness is somewhat of an illusion. Scope lenses also loose sharpness at the edges when opened up to a very low f stop. Close Encounters is a perfect example of this.

Doug
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#8 of 47 OFFLINE   ScottR

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Posted November 02 2008 - 01:57 PM

So is the title sequence actually cropped or just windowboxed?

#9 of 47 OFFLINE   Will_B

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Posted November 02 2008 - 02:24 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by ScottR
So is the title sequence actually cropped or just windowboxed?

Per the earlier thread discussing it, the title sequence is actually horizontally squeezed. I.e., if one of the women is 6' tall in real life, when she lies down she becomes about 5' tall in this title sequence. Or to put it another way, if there's a circle in the title sequence it will appear as an egg shape. Slightly. Just enough to make you wonder what the heck the remastering team was thinking.
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#10 of 47 OFFLINE   Largo

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Posted November 04 2008 - 01:26 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Cameron Yee
For those bothered by the title sequence window boxing, the textless version in "007 Mission Control" is presented at the full 2.35:1 framing with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio.
I simply don't understand why the title sequences are window boxed on the BR editions and squeezed on the UE DVDs when they could be presented at the full 2.35:1 in the first place. If the opening gun barrel and the pre-credits sequence are correctly framed in the digital transfer, why can't the titles themselves be shown unaltered? Posted Image

#11 of 47 OFFLINE   Ed St. Clair

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Posted November 05 2008 - 03:05 AM

Sure glad I didn't open this last night. Back too Target it goes...
thanks everyone!
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#12 of 47 OFFLINE   Craig_Ehr

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Posted November 05 2008 - 03:45 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Largo
I simply don't understand why the title sequences are window boxed on the BR editions and squeezed on the UE DVDs when they could be presented at the full 2.35:1 in the first place. If the opening gun barrel and the pre-credits sequence are correctly framed in the digital transfer, why can't the titles themselves be shown unaltered? Posted Image

Apparently the disc producers were concerned about monitor overscan obscuring part of the opening credits. If you'll notice, on this film in particular, the credits are abnormally close to the sides of the screen.

A far more elegant solution in my opinion would have been to include a full width version of the opening credit sequence incorporated via seamless branching; you could select it via the menu and then set it to default on your player if overscan is not an issue for your setup.

#13 of 47 OFFLINE   PaulDA

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Posted November 05 2008 - 08:10 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ed St. Clair
Sure glad I didn't open this last night. Back too Target it goes...
thanks everyone!
Because of the credits sequence? Are you serious?
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#14 of 47 OFFLINE   Will_B

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Posted November 05 2008 - 08:16 AM

Isn't it more likely that for the BluRay, they did not go back to the original celluloid film, but rather used whatever high-def master had been created however many years ago, and it was that old high-def master on which the squeeze had been applied, since at the time lcd tvs were rare? If they'd gone back to the actual film elements they'd have transferred the film correctly, imo.
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#15 of 47 OFFLINE   Douglas Monce

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Posted November 05 2008 - 11:29 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Will_B
Isn't it more likely that for the BluRay, they did not go back to the original celluloid film, but rather used whatever high-def master had been created however many years ago, and it was that old high-def master on which the squeeze had been applied, since at the time lcd tvs were rare? If they'd gone back to the actual film elements they'd have transferred the film correctly, imo.


This squeeze has been on every video version of this film that I have ever seen. It seems likely that it is on a film element somewhere.

Its also possible that if the original IN was used, as they claim, the producers asked Lowry to squeeze the title sequence because the titles go so far into the title safe area of the picture. There are many, even HDTVs, which would cut off some of the titles.

Its also been reported by someone who projected this film on release, that some theaters even had trouble with this title sequence.

Doug
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#16 of 47 OFFLINE   Gary Seven

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Posted November 06 2008 - 03:27 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ed St. Clair
Sure glad I didn't open this last night. Back too Target it goes...
thanks everyone!

The window boxing is hardly as bad as people are making it out to be. It is slight. It is an otherwise nice transfer with great sound. I'm very pleased with it.

#17 of 47 OFFLINE   Will_B

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Posted November 06 2008 - 12:28 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Douglas Monce
This squeeze has been on every video version of this film that I have ever seen. It seems likely that it is on a film element somewhere.

Now we're getting somewhere. If the original film is lost, and the copy they have is squeezed, that would explain a lot.

So... Sounds like to do it right they need to go back to the original film that exists sans-titles (i.e. just the women floating around), and recreate the titles (the words) -- placing them a tiny bit closer in while they're at it.

Bonus result is the film will be a generation better in quality.
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#18 of 47 OFFLINE   Douglas Monce

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Posted November 06 2008 - 03:22 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Will_B
Now we're getting somewhere. If the original film is lost, and the copy they have is squeezed, that would explain a lot.

So... Sounds like to do it right they need to go back to the original film that exists sans-titles (i.e. just the women floating around), and recreate the titles (the words) -- placing them a tiny bit closer in while they're at it.

Bonus result is the film will be a generation better in quality.

That would not be a bad solution. The titles could be reproduced quite easily today.

Doug
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#19 of 47 OFFLINE   Jason Adams

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Posted November 06 2008 - 04:32 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Will_B
Isn't it more likely that for the BluRay, they did not go back to the original celluloid film, but rather used whatever high-def master had been created however many years ago, and it was that old high-def master on which the squeeze had been applied, since at the time lcd tvs were rare? If they'd gone back to the actual film elements they'd have transferred the film correctly, imo.

From Dr. No to The Man With The Golden Gun, they had access to the original camera negatives. The very first editions of Bond on DVD had the titles unaltered and unsqueezed. It wasnt until the ultimate editions came out that they decided to squeeze the titles to fit most televisions. So there it is.

#20 of 47 OFFLINE   Douglas Monce

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Posted November 07 2008 - 02:32 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jason Adams
From Dr. No to The Man With The Golden Gun, they had access to the original camera negatives. The very first editions of Bond on DVD had the titles unaltered and unsqueezed. It wasnt until the ultimate editions came out that they decided to squeeze the titles to fit most televisions. So there it is.


I just looked at the first DVD release of Thunderball. The title sequence is in fact squeezed. In fact you can actually see the sides moving in as it transitions from the opening sequence to the titles. It does the exact same thing on the Ultimate Editions. The same is true of my old letterboxed laserdisc, which I also just checked. The blu-ray actually bumps to the squeezed effect in the live action shot just before the title sequence, so there is clearly an issue with the actual titles that requires the cropping.

I suspect that the titles on Thunderball were altered fairly early on because some theaters were having trouble projecting this sequence.

Also I believe they had access to the original camera negatives for all of the Connery films.

Doug
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