I was only 5 years old when "Dr. No" hit the theaters, and saw none of the Connery films in the theater. However, I've seen virtually every Bond film beginning with "Live and Let Die" in the theater. I saw all the early films many times on broadcast TV, and have seen ALL the films at various times on cable in normal resolution, and in HD where available. I saw many of the films on VHS, and have viewed them all on DVD ... excepting the Craig films which were available on Blu ray and which I purchased in that format. In short, I have far more than an above average familiarity with all of these films in most of the ways a person could possibly have viewed them. There are more die hard Bond fans than me, but I haven't missed many opportunities to see these films, and have seen each one many times, my favorites probably dozens of times.
I've sampled several of the films in this set with an emphasis on the earlier films, and those that were highly criticized in what is (at this time) the top spotlight review. I'll have to say that these films look great. As I watch them, I'll keep this review updated film by film to provide details of my reaction to each. I'm watching these Blu rays on an LG 7600 55" LCD ... a set which always delivers sharp images and stunningly beautiful colors to begin with.
The case holding all the Blu rays is beautifully designed. It is essentially a book of Blu rays with two discs presented per page.
There is some criticism that the discs are difficult to get out of the cover, with some Chicken Little talk that you probably can't do it without scratching the media. You'd have to be pretty ham-fisted for that to be even a remote possibility. You'll quickly learn the little trick that gets them out easily. First, hold the "page" elevated slightly ... don't leave it flat down on top of the book of discs. That gives the page itself some flexibility. Then use the finger hole provided to elevate the disc from the page, and roll it out of the sleeve.
Sadly, the United Artists intro screen with their distinctive musical fanfare (which was present in the Special Edition DVDs) has been replaced with the MGM Lion and its roar. Don't get me wrong, I've always liked the MGM Lion, but that UA fanfare was always a nice psychological symbol for me that a Bond film was starting. It doesn't seem the same, somehow.
*** Dr. No ***
Of course, I first watched "Dr. No". The colors were rendered superbly, however they are "warm" enough that non-tanned faces seem a bit red. A couple of short sections of dialogue seem rushed, and are hard to make out as a result. The very short section of ending music is badly distorted. Those are the only flaws I noticed. Overall the film looks and sounds great. The special feature on this disc is a short documentary about the company contracted for the restoration, with discussions of their process and philosophy. For "Dr. No", they were able to scan the original negatives as filmed. In particular, the scenes on Crab Key during the day before Bond and Honey are captured are absolutely stunning.
Direct Comparison: I have the Special Edition DVD of this film, and compared it directly to the Blu ray in this set. Much of the DVD looks like you are viewing it through a screen door. Do you really want to be watching Ursula Andress walking up to the beach through a screen door? (That's exactly what it looks like on the DVD). I thought not. It might not be so noticeable unless you had just watched the Blu ray, which is very sharp and clear. The DVD also has numerous defects (dirt and film damage) which show up as random white and black spots appearing in most frames. Virtually all of those are eliminated in the Blu ray.
*** Diamonds are Forever ***
From the other reviewers criticisms of some of these films, it seems that he disliked the restoration of "Diamonds are Forever" the most, so I tried it second. The other reviewer called it "brown". I don't see it. Some of the scenes are dark, and in those scenes dark colored suits tend to blend into the background. However, the colors are vibrant. Skin tones tend towards tanned. Browns appear where the color should be brown, such as wood paneling and desert backgrounds. I watched this film "out of order" to see if I agreed with his knocks on it, and I did not agree. If this is the "worst" rendering in the set, this set is great. The special features for this movie are interesting. There is an interview with Connery from shortly after filming. There are a few short features showing the filming of some of the action sequences. My favorite was the Deleted Scenes, including an extended version of the Honeymoon Suite opening with Connery and St. John. It ends with a bit of dialogue not kept for the film that made me chuckle aloud.
Direct Comparison: Once again, I sampled the Special Edition DVD right after viewing this Blu ray. The colors in the Blu ray are a close match to the colors in the DVD, except that they are more vibrant and pleasing to the eye. Skins tones are very similar. Jill St. John and Lana Wood are presented in both formats with very fair skin tones. Connery's skin tone is somewhat more red in the indoor scenes of the DVD, and more tan in the outdoor scenes. In the Blu ray, his skin tones are uniformly tan in both settings. As in "Dr. No", virtually constant film damage/dirt is present in the DVD presentation, and virtually none of those artifacts remain in the restoration used for this Blu ray.
There is absolutely nothing satisfactory about either of the DVDs of the above two films once you've see the Blu rays. You simply cannot go back to the muddied colors, damage/dirt flashes, or annoying grain (which in my complaint is not true film grain but film AGE).
*** Goldeneye ***
I skipped forward (again) to this film, because I read a lot of criticism of the picture. Specifically critical reviewers claim that excessive DNR (digital noise reduction) causes the Blu ray to be a terrible viewing experience. While it may not be the sharpest Blu ray I've ever seen, these criticisms are completely off base. Some dark interior shots and sky backgrounds look a little grainy, but that is the case in a lot of Blu rays I watch (DVDs too). Many outdoor backgrounds in this film are very blurred. However, that was a "depth of field" lens decision made by the cinematographer, not something in the Blu ray transfer. That artistic choice is, I believe, rare in Bond films. It may have confused some reviewers who expect all foregrounds and backgrounds to both show full detail.
There was nothing about this presentation of the film that made me cringe, and much that I was very pleased by.
Direct Comparison: As soon as I popped this movie out of my player, in went the Special Edition DVD. The picture in the Blu ray is MUCH more detailed. Colors are good in both. Since this is a more recent film, there wasn't nearly as much film damage evident in the DVD as for the two movies described above, yet there were occasional flashes from dirt and damage. ALL of that is cleaned up in the Blu ray. The sound in the DVD is a little muddy, especially if you listen to it after just having viewed the Blu ray. The sound in the Blu ray is crisp, and special effects sounds are convincing. The DVD has a lot of color streaking that I did not notice when watching the Blu ray. Edges in the DVD are more ragged than in the Blu ray, as you might expect. Additionally, the image in the DVD seems to sort of flicker in the details, and that flaw is not present in the Blu ray either.
So while it is possible that this is towards the bottom of the barrel as far as the Blu ray transfers in this set are concerned (and I'm not totally convinced this is true), it is a MAJOR step up from the DVD.
*** Goldfinger ***
This Blu ray doesn't look as spectacular as "Dr. No", but the there aren't nearly as many spectacular outdoor scenes. However, all the damage specs from previous releases have been cleaned up. The criticism that the colors from the gold painted body are muted are fair. Compared to the DVD, the colors in the Blu ray are not pushed as much, particularly in that scene. However, the body DOES look gold, it's just not as bright. One reference for this is the red wall behind the bed. It isn't as red either. Again, the sound on the Blu ray is better than the DVD. The United Artist fanfare is present on both this Blu ray and "Golden Eye", I had worried that only the MGM opening would be on the releases for this set. The bottom line is that "Goldfinger" isn't a spectacular Blu ray, but it IS a BIG improvement from the DVD. Strangely, I didn't notice the film damage as much when I only had the DVDs to watch. But viewing them after these Blu rays makes the DVDs almost unwatchable. The difference is that great.
I highly recommend the "Bond 50" Blu ray set. If you are a big-time Bond fan ... this set is essential to your continued happy existence. LOL