"From Russia with Love" is an engaging spy thriller that rarely shies away from awesome intrigue and thick spy lore. With shades of Hitchcock woven into the narrative and a great cast of character, this is everything you want from a Bond film, and more.
James Bond 02 - From Russia with Love (1963, Blu-ray)
Directors: Terrence Young
Producers: Albert Broccoli, Harry Saltzman
Writers: Ian Fleming (novel) Johanna Harwood (adaptation) Richard Maibaum (screenplay)
Features: * Commentaries * Declassified: MI6 Vault * Mission Dossier * Mission Control * Image Database * Ministry of Propaganda
Sean Connery ... James Bond
Daniela Bianchi ... Tatiana Romanova
Pedro ArmendŠriz ... Ali Kerim Bey (as Pedro Armendariz)
Lotte Lenya ... Rosa Klebb
Robert Shaw ... Red Grant
Bernard Lee ... M
Eunice Gayson ... Sylvia Trench
Walter Gotell ... Morzeny
Lois Maxwell ... Miss Moneypenny
??? ... Ernst Stavro Blofeld
From Russia with Love Blu-ray Review
After uncovering the deadly secret organization S.P.E.C.T.R.E. in "Dr. No," James Bond must now attempt to retrieve a stolen Russian decoder, the Lektor, before S.P.E.C.T.R.E. manages to track it down. Hot on Bondís tail are two highly-trained S.P.E.C.T.R.E. assassins, the diabolically strong Donald ĎRedí Grant (played by the brutish Robert Shaw) and the conniving Rosa Kleb (played with snappy zest by Lotte Lenya). But, desperately hanging in the balance is Tatiana Romanova (the eloquent Daniela Bianchi), a Russian cipher clerk whoís keeping the deadly decoding device and seeks Bondís protection, and his companionship.
"From Russia with Love" isnít quite as smooth as some other Bond adventures, and the iconic pop beat of the picture isnít quite in tune with the Bond many newer fans may know and love, but make no mistake, this is one of Bondís finest, most compelling adventures yet. Even the opening moments, following the pre-credit sequence, is grandly epic with S.P.E.C.T.R.E.ís top agent, a chess grandmaster, fiendishly plotting to steal the Lektor with his #1, the yet unseen, mysterious Ernst Blofeld. Itís a chilling scene, ridded with deception and intrigue, as well as a welcome metaphor for things to come.
Connery is fitting nicely in the ĎJames Bondí mold. The S.P.E.C.T.R.E. agents prove to be great foes, matching Bond in both strength and wits. The story is engaging and lively, driven by poignant character moments and blisteringly fun action (though certainly not as intense as todayís action pictures).
An early 60s pace is the only element bogging down this top-notch adventure as Bond enters his usually rough and overly talky middle act. But, director Terrence Young does a fantastic job setting up this adventure and slowly tearing it down, bit by bit, with audience in tow--feeling the excitement of the thrills and the danger of the mission.
Certain staples of the franchise are also introduced, like Q (named Major Boothroyd in this entry) who delivers Bondís very first high-tech gadgets, the most memorable of which is a lethal briefcase loaded with booby-traps. Their exchange isnít quite as breezy and sarcastic as later in the series, but itís a token introduction not to be missed. Did the late Desmon Llewelyn always look old?
"From Russia with Love" isnít a tightly paced adventure, but itís an engaging, top notch spy thriller that rarely shies away from awesome intrigue and thick spy lore. With shades of Hitchcock woven into the narrative, a great cast of characters and wonderful mystique, this is everything you want from a Bond film, and so much more.
Film Report Card:
Entertainment Value: A-
Film Value: A
MGM finally gets Blu-ray right! "From Russia with Love" is presented in a matted 1.66:1 widescreen presentation at 1080p/AVC video on a BD50 disc. This print is rather great, topping the 2006 DVD, which featured intrusive edge haloes, artifacting and some ghosting. Here, those flaws are brushed aside, along with other elements like dust and dirt (and even grain--DNR has been applied in some spots). Some intrusive specks of dust damage this otherwise flawless frame-by-frame restoration, but they are hardly invading on the overall experience. That said, this presentation is probably the second weakest of the Bond films on Blu-ray (after "Thunderball," but only because age and stock quality isnít on this printís side).
The encode itself is sharp, with near perfect black levels and great contrast, though the palette is somewhat drab here. While some flaws remain on the print, this is easily the best this film has looked on home video.
MGM provides a DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track for fans to enjoy. I wasnít really expecting much in terms of an enveloping experience with the older Bond titles, but MGM aims to please, presenting a moderately enveloping high-res 5.1 mix for Connery-era Bond titles. Discrete effects flow back and forth between the front and rear surrounds while the score is evenly balanced between each channel.
Bass isnít quite as aggressive as newer Bond titles, but it still pops up every now and then. Discrete effects are still well balanced, but a little hollow. Dialogue is also a touch too low at times. The track does sound more like a revitalized mono mix this time around, which may disappoint some. Compared to the last DVD release though, this is far more realized and significantly better track in almost every way. Great job, MGM!
MGM ports over the special features from the original two-disc DVD set released back in 2006. Iíll lightly skim over most of these since fans have likely indulged in these goodies before. The only thing missing from this release is the collectible booklet.
ē Commentary -- Just one track is offered on this disc. It features director Terrence Young with other cast and crew members. Like several of the tracks on these discs, this one is edited together and not very scene-specific. It would have been great to hear a Sean Connery commentary. Alas, itís not here.
ē Declassified: MI6 Vault (SD) -- In this segment, youíll be treated to a hodgepodge of archival featurettes, interviews and an animated storyboard sequence.
ē Mission Dossier (HD) -- Here, youíll be treated to two fascinating documentaries. Thereís some fairly interesting insight here about the film and the producer of the early Bond adventures.
ē Mission Control (HD) -- Basically a clip reel with footage from the film helping introduce newcomers to the characters.
ē Ministry of Propaganda -- Cute name. This was missing from "Die Another Day," but itís packed into this set. Basically, this is a promo section with trailers, teasers, TV spots and radio spots.
ē Image Database (HD) -- Finally, thereís an extensive image gallery of all things Bond.
Bond doesnít get any new HD gadgets with this release, other than an updated A/V presentation and a sleek menu. But, methinks this isnít the last weíve seen of Bond on Blu-ray. Expect PiP tracks on the next release when Daniel Craigís third Bond outing reaches theaters in 2010.
MGM knocks this one out of the park in terms of presentation, and the design of the packaging is no different. MGM mixes things up, presenting a quality look to a quality release thatís fresher than any Fox/MGM Blu-ray release yet.
"From Russia with Love" is an awesome film, loaded with memorable characters, awesome stunts and an intriguing formal introduction to one of the most mysterious villainous organizations in film history, S.P.E.C.T.R.E. This is a must-see Bond adventure. The Blu-ray disc sports a near reference A/V presentation and several great bonus features, though this setís a bit thinner than some other discs in this collection. Donít be surprised when MGM returns to this franchise for a more high-def exclusive double dip. For now, this is Bond at his best.
Blu-ray Report Card:
HD Content: N/A
Recommendation: Worth owning.
On Blu-ray Disc: October 21, 2008.
Follow DVDFuture on TWITTER for the latest in Blu-ray and DVD news and reviews!
* Add me as a friend on Myspace
* Email Me with Comments, Concerns, Questions and Complaints regarding this review, but please, be nice.
----R. L. Shaffer