From Russia with Love (1963) [Blu-ray]
|Genre(s): Action / Adventure / Drama / Thriller|
|MGM || PG - 111 minutes - $34.98 || October 21, 2008|
|Reviewer: Brian Oliver || Posted On: 2008-10-30|
Writer(s): Ian Fleming (novel); Richard Maibaum (screenplay), Johanna Harwood (adaptation)
Cast: Sean Connery, Pedro Armendariz, Lotte Lenya, Robert Shaw, Bernard Lee, Daniela Bianchi
Theatrical Release Date: May 27, 1964
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After the modest success of 1962’s Dr. No which introduced James Bond to the big screen with the novels already vastly popular, From Russia with Love catapulted the James Bond film brand into the stratosphere.
Sean Connery returns as Agent 007, James Bond. He’s assigned by MI6 to escort a Russian defector who can give them a decoding machine that would be invaluable to the Brits. Thing is, it’s a trap by evil organization SPECTRE (or “Special Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion”) to grab the machine, to sell back to the Russians, and lure the man who killed Dr. Julius No, the one and only James Bond. Of course, being the ladies man, Bond cannot resist the beautiful Tatiana Romanova (Bianchi) who has been unwittingly recruited as part of SPECTRE’s plan.
This second entry into the James Bond franchise is easily one of the best and also surpasses the original, which in its own right was pretty good. Although From Russia with Love doesn’t have many major action sequences -- this was still a time when the franchise was stabilized with some reality --, it’s very much a top-notch spy thriller and one of my favorites in the genre.
Not much can be said about Connery in his iconic, though not overshadowing, role as Commander James Bond. He encompasses everything we know about Bond on screen and no matter who they get to play the part; he will always be compared to Connery. As much as I appreciated Pierce Brosnan and now Daniel Craig in only one movie (as of this writing), Connery is still the best.
All features have been carried over from the 2006 “Ultimate Edition” release.
Audio Commentary – Aided by a James Bond historian, this commentary track features interview excerpts from the cast and crew including director Terrence Young and John Barry amongst many, many others. I’m actually not that fond of these types of tracks, but for Bond enthusiasts, you might find it more significant.
Inside From Russia with Love (33:44) – This fascinating featurette details the filming of the second Bond film from Pedro Armendariz’s illness that he fought through to the accidents that seemed to plague production. If nothing else, this is the one feature that is a must watch (if you haven’t already).
Ian Fleming: The CBC Interview (7:42), Ian Fleming & Raymond Chandler (5:10) and Ian Fleming and Desert Island Discs (5:10) – Three featurettes that contain discussions/interviews with Bond creator Ian Fleming and each is actually fairly interesting, this coming from an average fan.
Harry Saltzman: Showman (26:44) – Interesting profile of one of the Bond franchises’ early producers. Saltzman co-produced 9 of the first Bond movies along with Albert Broccoli. It gives a glimpse at a man who had, to say the least, a quirky personality.
There’s also an Animated Storyboard Sequence (1:27) for “The Boat Chase”, an Image Database with posters and production stills and some promotional material (trailers, TV & radio spots).
.::AUDIO & VIDEO::.
From Russia with Love debuts on Blu-ray in 1080p high-def, a 50GB dual-layered disc (AVC encoding) and in its OAR of 1.66. I was actually quite impressed with the video quality considering the film is now 45 years old. Does it look perfect? No because as with any older film, it’s always going to look dated, but it looks like Fox did a good job cleaning it up.
Although Fox provides a DTS HD 5.1 track that produces the movie nicely, it was also limited by the film’s age (there’s only so much you can do). I found some dialogue and even the occasional music cues to be flat and when it’s pumped up, it’s not so pleasing to the ears. The disc also has the film’s original Mono tracks in English and Spanish and Dolby Digital 5.1 in French. But as I said, rating it with the age of the film in mind, it’s not bad. Not great, but not bad either.
From Russian with Love is a solid Blu-ray, though I find it hard to recommend if you already own the “Ultimate Edition” already released a couple years back. The upgrade in video is, however, great and although I wasn’t wowed by the audio, it’s still pretty good given its age.