|From Russia With Love|
|Written by Bill Warren & AVRev.com|
|Thursday, 30 October 2008|
This is the most serious film in the James Bond series, one reason why some cite it as the best. 007 seems to be in more actual danger than in later films, partly because Connery is less insouciant and flippant, partly because the situation seems more real. However, this is also the entry that introduced the vast criminal organization SPECTRE and its leader, Blofeld, who would dog Bond's heels for the next several films. (And would still be doing so, no doubt, had not legalities intervened.)
Rosa Klebb (Lotte Lenya) secretly defects from the USSR and joins SPECTRE; the plan, devised by a smug chess expert (Vladek Sheybal), is complicated. Klebb recruits Tatiana Romanova (Daniela Bianchi), who thinks she's working for Mother Russia, to pretend to have fallen in love with James Bond, offering to hand over to him a top-secret Russian decoding/encoding machine. Klebb, Blofeld and the others want M (Bernard Lee) and Bond to suspect a trap, but still want the decoder badly enough for Bond to meet Tatiana in Istanbul. Then, while the two are en route back to England, skilled, cold-blooded killer Red Grant (Robert Shaw) will kill both of them, making it look like Bond killed Tatiana, then committed suicide. Not only will this discredit the British Secret Service, but SPECTRE will have the decoder.
Somehow, this involves a visit to a gypsy camp, a fight between two gypsy women, a gunfight at the camp, an explosion at the Soviet embassy in Istanbul, and so forth and so on. These, however colorful, are window dressing for the spectacular, but surprisingly realistic, climax. Grant, disguised as a British agent, joins Tatiana and Bond on the Orient Express, where he and Bond have one of the most exciting fights in movie history, confined entirely to two tiny railway compartments. The choreography, the use of sound, the tight camera angles and the expert stunt work make this sequence (seen in Chapter 16 on the Laserdisc) one of the most exciting sequences in any Bond movie. The fight between Bond and a helicopter, then a chase by motorboats, are anti-climactic after this sweaty, intense workout. On the other hand, it must be admitted that the final quick battle between Bond and Tatiana on one side, and Klebb with a knife in her shoe on the other, is brief but a humdinger.
[Written by AVRev] [START]
Sadly the video quality of "From Russia With Love" on Blu-ray is not up to par. This transfer appears to be the same transfer used in the Ultimate Edition DVD. Film grain aside, of which there is more than its predecessor, "Dr. No", there are numerous instances of dust and scratches inflicting the visual presentation. Thankfully, there are no readily apparent appearances of edge enhancement. This is one film though that I wouldn't mind seeing a bit of noise reduction. Details are fair, but not the best. With the budget that this film was given, I would have expected more in terms of video quality. Still, it far exceeds the previous DVD presentations.
Once again MGM has given us the original mono audio track as well as a remixed DTS-HD 5.1 audio track. And once again, the original mono track is much preferred over the DTS-HD track. While the 5.1 remix provides some discrete left and right sound effects, there is only minor presence in the surround channels. But worse, the dialogue quality is sacrificed in the 5.1 mix. It is far too low in volume. You will be playing couch volume commando all movie long to balance the sound effects and dialogue on your own. The mono audio track is much more well balanced. The dialogue is clean and crisp.
The bonus materials on this Blu-ray release are much the same as those present on the Ultimate DVD edition. Some of the features have been upgraded to high definition. This disc includes an audio commentary with director Terence Young and members of the crew. It is an interesting listening. "Ian Fleming: The CBC Interview" is a short interview with Ian. "Ian Fleming & Raymond Chandler" is another short featurette involving a conversation between the title two. "Ian Fleming on Desert Island Discs" is a featurette that discusses the locations. Animated Storyboard Sequence shows some of the storyboards behind a couple of the sequences in the film. Once again there is a 007 Mission Control section that contains jumps to specific sequences in the film. "Inside Russia With Love" is a look at the second Bond film. "Harry Saltzman: Showman" looks at part of the producing team of the film. Lastly there is a photo gallery and some trailers, TV and Radio Spots.
"From Russia With Love" is a slightly better movie than its predecessor "Dr. No." However, it does not surpass the video and audio quality of its predecessor. You may only want to add this to your Blu-ray collection if you are a diehard Bond fan. [END]