From Russia with Love (US - BD RA)
Gabe likes the original film title: 'From Omaha With a Discreet Sense of Amity'
Bond’s second official outing is often considered a favourite by fans and the best by critics. The film stands out in my mind as the most well balanced mix of the raw nerve espionage of the original novels, and the cool mod theatricality of director Terence Young. Everything fits tighter and moves more gracefully in From Russia with Love. The additional pre-production period and larger budget obviously helps matters, but most of the quality initiative appears to have come out of lessons learned the first time around.
There isn’t a moment of wasted film, and the plot moves at possibly the most palatable pace of any of the films in the entire collection. Young, his DP, and his editor don’t go over-the-top, but they push their new styles further than the slightly creatively stilted practice session that was Dr. No. From Russia with Love doesn’t only mark a more comfortable production for the filmmakers, and of course Connery, who officially had control over the character within only two films, but it marks the inclusion of many series trademarks that were missing from episode one. The movie opens with a pre-credit action scene, and good old Q makes his first appearance to give Bond his beloved gadgets—though in this early case the gadgets are a little less flowery than invisible BMWs.
From Russia with Love also features a better conveyance of Bond’s location hopping. The hyper-realistic authenticity of the various sets and countries 007 finds himself spying in and on recalls Hitchcock’s spy productions (Terence Young was the logical extension of Hitchcock in a certain sense), and likely marks the most realistic atmosphere the hero ever found himself in, up to this latest reboot. Young also ratchets the suspense of the film with special thanks to Bond’s first truly worthy ‘heavy’, and an overall palpable threat of grievous bodily harm. Red Grant (as played by Robert Shaw—who’s performance nearly rivals Connery’s) and James Bond’s frank and brutal Orient Express fist fight—is one of filmdom’s most famous and celebrated smash ups with good cause. Perhaps most importantly the fight is an important lynch pin for the plot, and by no means gratuitous.
From Russia with Love is mostly more of the same, though the entire print has a slightly more natural look, specifically in its colours. The effect is a slightly flatter look, but this is by no means bad news. Dr. No’s super saturated red t-shirts, and post card perfect seashores, are replaced by more moody blacks and shadows. There is a slight increase in low level noise during the more rough and tumble, low lit action scenes, but again, compression and print artefacts are quite minimal. The overall fine details are slightly sharper than those of the first film, especially in the many close-up gadget shots, but the overall texture of the print remains relatively smooth. Check out the sweat on the hot fighting belly dancers, and some previously missed details in that darkened Orient Express car where Shaw and Connery beat the snot out of each other. My only genuinely negative marks on this transfer are some thick white contrast around the edges of some of the film’s longer shots. And again, the framing of From Russia with Love is a ‘thing’. Like Dr. No it was originally displayed differently in Europe (1.66) and the States (1.85). This release is 1.66:1.
Like Dr. No, Thunderball, and Live and Let Die, From Russia with Love is presented in original mono (two channel), and new super awesome DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. This DTS-HD track is comparably graceful and impressive, overall very similar to the Dr. No track. There’s no obvious distortion, even during the kinds of high volume moments, and the aged audio is lively. Again, there’s little loss of sound due to a busy audio pallet, but the overall presentation is still natural, rather than canned or flat. The surround effects are minimal and subtle, but there are a few clever directional placements, some effective background noise, and even a few vocal placement adjustments. The bass track is punchy with action, and comes warmly to life with John Barry’s classic themes.
The almost entirely previously catalogued extras start with another edited group commentary track. This one is no less informative overall, and features many more personal anecdotes from more minor contributors, which acts as a nice contrast to the mile a minute factoid party that encompasses the rest of the track. Once again, the experience of the track is like that of reading a behind the scenes novel while watching the feature. This is also a good comparison for those of us that have never read the original novel, which is different from the final film.
Under the MIG Vault is an eight minute CBC interview with Ian Fleming taken during the filming of Goldfinger, a five minute audio chat between Fleming and Raymond Chandler set to stills, ‘Ian Fleming on Desert Island Discs’, another five minute audio interview with Fleming set to stills, and a storyboard collection.
Under the Mission Dossier are two more port documentaries from the original special edition releases of the films, again presented in HD. ‘Inside From Russia with Love’ is the thirty five minute big gun, and just as good as it was the first time around. Again, as in the case of the previous disc there’s a bit of repeated information between the doc and the group commentary, but there’s a little less overlap this time. A shorter HD featurette entitled ‘Harry Saltzman: Showman’ concerning the exploits of original co-producer Saltzman follows suit, and completes the meatier extras. Again, we’re finished with a series of trailers, TV and radio spots, and image archives.
From Russia with Love sells itself really. It’s like the Godfather 2 of Bond films. Even a Bond layman like myself wants this Blu-ray disc in his collection, right next to Stewart Gordon’s From Beyond. All I’m really here to do is verify that Fox has done their job in bringing the film gracefully into the hi-def arena. They have. The disc looks fantastic, and the film sounds better than it ever has in lossless audio. The extras are more or less nothing new.
* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page.
Review by Gabriel Powers
Some material may not be suitable for children
Release Date: 21st October 2008
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English, Dolby Digital Mono English, Dolby Digital Mono Spanish, Dolby Digital Mono French
Subtitles: English HoH, French, and Spanish
Extras: Cast and Crew Commentary, Inside 'From Russia With Love', Harry Saltzman: Showman, Terence Young Interviews, Trailers, TV and Radio Spots, Image Galleries
Easter Egg: No
Director: Terence Young
Cast: Sean Connery, Robert Shaw, Daniela Bianchi
Genre: Action and Adventure
Length: 111 minutes
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