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MGM Studios DVD presents
"You're trapped, Mr. Bond! You cannot escape!"
DVD ReviewFrom Russia With Love is a bona fide James Bond classic and certainly a candidate for the single best movie in the entire series. The story is strong with an intricate and engaging plot surrounding a plan by Spectre to trick the KGB's office in Istanbul to participate in a plot to trap and kill 007, to avenge his destruction of their agent Dr. No. This is a slight departure from the novel, in which it is the Russians themselves who conceive and execute the plan, but the change was deemed necessary to avoid political difficulties—only six months prior to filming, the US and USSR had engaged in the real-life Cuban Missile Crisis. I wondered at some points which would upset the Russians more: being directly implicated in the evil plan or being portrayed as brutal, ignorant pawns of Spectre.
Sean Connery as James Bond is in top form, which he maintained throughout the first four Bond films. From Russia With Love was the second in the series after Dr. No and was followed by two more excellent Connery performances in Goldfinger and Thunderball. His unique mixture of humor, charm and brutality is one of the singular factors in the enduring success of these movies and the series as a whole.
Daniela Bianchi (Tatiana Romanova) adds a unique and exotic beauty to her character of the Russian intelligence clerk who is duped by Spectre into luring Bond into their trap. She professes to have fallen in love with him from a picture and promises to deliver herself and a Top Secret cipher device into his hands. Bianchi's performance is fine in the role but she never made another major motion picture after this. She did, however, make several films that attempted to recapture her success: in 1965, she starred in Agente 077 missione Bloody Mary (a.k.a. Agent 077—Mission Bloody Mary) and in 1967, she appeared in two films, Requiem for a Secret Agent with Stewart Granger and an Italian film called Operation Kid Brother, in which she co-starred with Neil Connery—Sean's younger brother!—with Lois Maxwell and Bernard Lee as well!
The supporting cast is uniformly excellent. Pedro Armendariz plays Ali Karim Bey, the head of Station T (Turkey), with great charm and intelligence. This was the well-know Mexican actor's last film, as he struggled to complete his role when he found he was dying of cancer. The story is told with sad remembrance by cast and crew in Inside From Russia With Love, an extra included on this disc.
Robert Shaw is sturdy as "Red" Grant, the Spectre assassin who is given the responsibility of executing their subtle web of betrayal and ultimately kill 007. Lotte Lenya adds distinction to the cast and turns in a fine, evil performance as KGB defector Rosa Klebb.
The sets are, as always, colorful and exciting, like Bond's adventure in a gypsy camp where two girls in love with the same man must fight each other before one is chosen. The fight is interrupted by an attack on the camp by Bulgarians in the employ of the Russians and the gun battle that ensues is great action. Another interesting location is the reservoir underneath Istanbul dating back to the Roman Emperor Constantine's time where Bond and Bey go to spy on the Russian embassy. Later, Bond and Tatiana escape Istanbul on the famed Orient Express, trying to make their way back to England alive, with the cipher device. The scenes on the train stand up with any train scenes ever filmed for suspense and excitement.
Random Notes: This film marks the debut of MI6 special weapons expert "Q" and he provides Bond with a very clever briefcase that is the source of great suspense throughout the film. The novel From Russia With Love was listed by President John Kennedy as one of his 10 favorite books. Star Daniela Bianchi and one of the gypsy girls, Alicia Gur were both finalists in the 1961 Miss Universe Pageant. The other antagonist in the gypsy fight was a beauty contest winner in Jamaica named Martine Beswick, who had been up for a role in Dr. No.
Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A
Image Transfer Review: From Russia With Love in 1:66.1 widescreen theatrical aspect ratio, with a very good anamorphic transfer. The source print has some slight weaknesses, but the digital transfer looks remarkably good overall. The style of director Terence Young translates excellently into the richness of the digital environment. There is a consistency of quality in the cinematography that is very appealing in repeated viewing.
Image Transfer Grade: B+
Audio Transfer Review: From Russia With Love features a Dolby Digital 2.0 monophonic soundtrack that, although it occasionally suffers from sound effect overload, is a good listen. The dialogue is especially crisp in this film and the sound transfer displays it to good advantage.
Audio Transfer Grade: B
Disc ExtrasFull Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 32 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in French, Spanish with remote access
2 Other Trailer(s) featuring Dr. No/From Russia With Love double bill, From Russian With Love/Thunderball double bill
3 TV Spots/Teasers
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Terence Young and members of cast and crew
The extensive From Russia With Love Gallery is very enjoyable with excellent, candid production photos of the cast, crew, producers and Ian Fleming, including some great 60s cheesecake shots of Daniela Bianchi. A highlight is the inclusion of a selection of movie posters for From Russia With Love from around the world.
A biography of producer Harry Saltzman is very interesting in its description of the showman who originally optioned the James Bond books for the movies. Saltzman had actually worked for the OSS (precursor to the American CIA) during World War II. In the 50s he formed Woodfolk Productions with director Tony Richardson and playwright John Osbourne and brought Osbourne's Look Back in Anger to the screen, starring Richard Burton. Among Saltzman's other producing credits include The Entertainer with Laurence Olivier and the spy films Funeral in Berlin and The Ipcress File with Michael Caine. Great stuff.
The Storyboard sequence adds more information to the tale of the travails of getting the boat escape scene on film. See the Inside documentary for more.
The Radio Spots, as well as two of the trailers, promote the re-release of From Russia With Love in double features with Thunderball and Dr. No. Now, there is a concept from the past - the double-feature at the movies! For you kidsÔthat's when they used to show two movies for the price of one and back then it cost somewhere around two dollars!
The trailer also includes the delicious line: "Bond goes up against the Iron Curtain and its velvet women." Too much!
All in all, a great group of extras that make it a pleasure to say: Buy this DVD for the extras and get the movie tossed in!
Extras Grade: A
Final CommentsThis is what DVD is all about. You get an classic film with an excellent transfer to digital format that enables you to enjoy the film as you never had before, combined with a wonderful selection of interesting and amusing extras. I highly recommend this disc to anyone with a DVD player and any inclination whatsoever to cinematic action and adventure.
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