From Russia With Love appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.66:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This was a terrific little transfer.
Only a smidgen of softness occasionally marred the presentation. Wide shots showed some delineation that could be just a bit iffy. Nonetheless, the vast majority of the flick demonstrated solid definition. I noticed no issues connected to shimmering or jagged edges, and source flaws remained completely absent. This was a consistently fresh presentation free from defects.
Colors looked good. Compared to predecessor Dr. No, Russia lacked a surfeit of scenes with vivid hues, but the tones we got seemed strong. The gypsy camp worked best, and the rest of the movie featured colors that featured nice accuracy and clarity. Blacks were deep and dense, while shadows showed nice definition. Inevitably, some “day for night” photography appeared too dim, but that was an inescapable drawback of the format. I liked this transfer quite a lot.
Taken from the original monaural audio – which also appeared on the disc – the DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack opened up the spectrum in a moderate manner. Music showed decent spread across the front, and some environmental elements also cropped up from the sides. Some of these proved useful and the effects showed reasonable delineation and placement. Localization could be a little mushy at times, but the elements usually popped up in logical and accurate spots. Surround usage was minor and added basic reinforcement to the set.
Audio quality was pretty positive. Speech could be a little thin but the lines usually remained reasonably natural, and they always seemed perfectly intelligible. Music fell into the same range. The score and songs occasionally appeared a bit trebly, but they offered generally good clarity and dynamics. Effects sounded fairly lively and bold, and low-end presented nice oomph when necessary. The track showed its age and wasn’t among the best Bond remixes, but they it reasonably good.
How did the picture and audio of this Blu-ray compare to those of the 2006 Ultimate Edition? In terms of audio, I thought it was a draw. After all, there’s only so much that can be done with the source stems from 1963; the multichannel mix was satisfactory, but the presentation here didn’t seem any stronger than what I heard on the DVD.
Visuals boasted decent improvements. Both the DVD and the Blu-ray worked from the same transfer, so the step up in quality came from the basic increase in resolution we get from Blu-ray. The DVD remains more than satisfactory, but the Blu-ray really sparkles.
The Blu-ray includes all the same extras found on the UE. First up is an audio commentary. Hosted by John Cork of the Ian Fleming Foundation, this track uses the same format common to most of the other Bond commentaries. Instead of the scene-specific method used in many other tracks, most of the Bonds take a series of interviews with various film participants and edit them together into a coherent whole that discusses a number of
topics related to the movie.
The commentary features director Terence Young, actors Walter Gotell, Aliza Gur, Martine Beswick, and Lois Maxwell, editor Peter Hunt, composer John Barry, dubbing editor Norman Wanstall, special effects supervisor John Stears, production designer Syd Cain, and producer's wife Dana Broccoli. As usual, the track provides a nice overall look at the film. It covers the development of the pre-credit sequence and the opening titles, music, cast and crew notes, sets and production design, shooting in Istanbul, adapting the novel and challenges related to the series’ second effort, story and characters, editing, stunts, fight and effects.
As with other Bond commentaries, this one offers a good overview. It emphasizes anecdotal elements and throws out many of nice stories. We learn a lot about the production in this warm and informative discussion.
The Declassified: MI6 Vault presents four elements. Ian Fleming: The CBC Interview runs seven minutes, 42 seconds. This aired after his death in 1964 and features the author at his Jamaican estate. Fleming discusses racy aspects of his work, the roots of his material, why his stories appeal to mass audiences, and how aspects of the Bond character reflect their creator’s preferences. The interviewer asks some pretty dopey questions, and these mar the discussion. Still, it’s nice to hear a little from Fleming.
During the five-minute and 12-second featurette Ian Fleming and Raymond Chandler, we find a chat between the two legendary authors. They discuss aspects of their work with each other as they fill us in on their methods and challenges they face. Although we don’t find a lot of scintillating material, the remarks are usually interesting, and this is a fun historical piece that took place right after Fleming finished writing Goldfinger.
We get more from the author in Ian Fleming on Desert Island Discs. This five-minute and 11-second clip offers another radio interview. Fleming chats about his early career, the development of the Bond books, aspects of writing them and their adaptation as films. Of the three archival Fleming interviews, this is probably the most informative and concise.
Finally, an Animated Storyboard Sequence: The Boat Chase goes for 88 seconds. This shows the panels drawn to set up that exciting segment of the movie. This piece displays the boards as a running video and includes some film footage as well. I'm not a huge fan of storyboards, but these make for an interesting addition, especially since they're in color and are higher quality than most boards we usually see.
With that we head to the 007 Mission Control Interactive Guide. This splits into components under seven different headings: “007”, “Women”, “Allies”, “Villains”, “Mission Combat Manual”, “Q Branch”, and “Exotic Locations”. An odd form of “greatest hits”, this simply presents a few selected scenes that match the topics.
“Locations” (3:15) gives us a narrated set of clips. Maud Adams chats over the scenes and tells us about the locations. That makes it more useful than the others since they just show snippets from the final film. The rest of the set is a waste of time.
Heading to Mission Dossier, we begin with Inside From Russia With Love, a 33-minute and 43-second documentary hosted by Patrick Macnee. If you've seen the other Bond DVDs, you'll know this format, as it's duplicated on almost all of them. The program combines a variety of interviews with cast and crew plus production shots and film clips. We hear from Hunt, Gur, Beswick, Bianchi, Cain, Dana Broccoli, Stears, Wanstall, Gotell, Barry, Dr. No production designer Ken Adam, stuntman Richard Graydon, actors Sean Connery and Desmond Llewelyn, and optical effects artist Cliff Culley.
"Inside Russia" covers the making of the film in an interesting and efficient manner, especially as it discusses the variety of challenges that affected the production. Some of these were already mentioned in the audio commentary - such as actor Pedro Armendariz' illness - but others are exclusive to the documentary. For example, more details of the fight choreography are explained, and we also learn of mishaps on the set. Most compelling to me were the discussions of how editor Peter Hunt dealt with some problems caused by the fact the film ran over-budget and they couldn't afford to reshoot some material. It's another solid Bond documentary that added to my enjoyment of the movie.
The second program is called Harry Saltzman: Showman. This piece about the co-producer of the first nine Bond films runs for 26 minutes, 42 seconds and provides a nice biography of Saltzman. We hear from a variety of Bond participants, including his children, the first three actors to play the role (Connery, George Lazenby, and Roger Moore) plus Hunt, Dana Broccoli, Stears, Adam, Barry, writers Tom Mankiewicz and Simon Raven, production designer Peter Murton, former UA executive David Picker, Cubby Broccoli, Cubby’s stepson Michael G. Wilson, Eon Productions former VP marketing Charles “Jerry” Juroe, production buyer Ron Quelch, assistant Sue St. John, continuity supervisor Elaine Schreyeck, biographer Donald Zec, and actors Honor Blackman, Gloria Hendry, Chaim Topol and Ursula Andress.
Various photos and even some home movies complement these interviews. The portrait painted of Saltzman is somewhat sentimental but apparently fairly honest - frankly, he sounds like he was kind of obnoxious - and it gives us a solid look at the man. (In case you're wondering, co-producer Cubby Broccoli - the much-more-famous half of the team - receives his video tribute on the Diamonds Are Forever DVD.)
A slew of advertising materials appear in the Ministry of Propaganda. We get three trailers. These include the original theatrical clip plus one for a double-bill of Dr. No and Russia and another for a double-bill of Russia and Thunderball. Three TV spots and three radio ads can be found as well; all six of these cover the aforementioned Russia/ double-feature.
Within the Image Database we find a slew of stillframe pictures. This domain includes 16 subsections. Each of these presents some text to introduce the area and then displays various production photos, publicity stills, and promotional art. Each subsection varies from a low of two frames ("Smoke On the Water") to a high of 22 ("Around the World With 007") for a total of 138 pictures, not including the text frames. This was a bit sparser than some of the other Bond stillframe areas, but it features some good shots. I was especially interested to see how attractive Lenya looked off-camera; no, she wasn't a babe at that point in her life, but the photos make it clear that her ugliness as Klebb came largely from acting.
Finally, Russia includes a nice booklet with more details about the film. It finished off the set on a quality note.
I remain perplexed over my prior negative impressions of From Russia With Love, as I now recognize what an excellent piece of work it is. It may not be the best Bond ever, but it's certainly in the running. The Blu-ray features excellent picture plus more than acceptable sound and a fine complement of extras. A great disc for a terrific movie that belongs in all Bond collections.
Should folks who already own the prior Ultimate Edition pursue this Blu-ray? That’s a tough call, though I think big Bond buffs will want it. I like the old UE quite a lot, but the Blu-ray gives us tighter visuals and is a nice presentation.
To rate this film visit the original review of FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE