The Criterion Collection has a reputation among film fans for releasing films on DVD and blu-ray that are accompanied by special features that take a deeper and more critical look at the film in question than the usual “Making Of” featurettes normally found on discs. And it has been that way even back in the early 1990s when laserdiscs were the format of choice for cinephiles.
But sometimes that hard analysis leads to an honesty that some might not be ready for. At least that’s the thinking behind the withdrawal of a trio James Bond Criterion laserdiscs released in 1991. Shortly after Criterion released the first three Bond films – Dr. No, From Russia With Love and Goldfinger – the company was asked by Bond franchise producer Eon Productions to withdraw the discs from the market. Needless to say, that move caused the discs to become much sought after collectors items.
No official reason was ever given for the recall, but fan speculation zeroed in on the commentary tracks featuring directors Terence Young and Guy Hamilton, editor Peter Hunt, designer Ken Adam, screenwriter Richard Maibaum, critic Bruce Eder and movie historian and The James Bond Films author Steven Jay Rubin being a bit more honest than maybe others, i.e. the Eon Productions folks, were comfortable with. The smoking gun? The fact that subsequent releases of the video never carried over the tracks. (The HMSS Weblog has a run down of some of the more salacious comments.)
And what was so bad about the tracks? Well, it turns out that you can judge for yourselves. The folks at Bond franchise fansite 007Dossier have managed to rip the rare tracks off the laserdiscs and have posted them for your listening pleasure. Additionally, they have also posted the Criterion Discs’ “Music and effects only” isolated audio tracks from Dr. No and Goldfinger.
So if you’re interested in hearing what was said in those commentary tracks but don’t have a laserdisc player and the money to pick up the discs off of ebay, head over and download the tracks. As they’re MP3s, you could listen to them as podcasts or synching them up to play on your computer while screening the films, a la RiffTrax.