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Following quickly on the successful heels of DR. NO, producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman unleashed the second James Bond adventure, FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE ($35). To many, FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE is considered the best James Bond film ever, and it is certainly amongst my personal favorites of the long running film series. The strength of FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE lies in the fact that the film is very much a character driven action movie. Plus, FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE isn’t overloaded with the gadgetry one finds in the later films in the series.

In FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE, Sean Connery makes his second appearance in the role of James Bond. The second time around Connery comes off as even cooler, and more in control of every situation, adding greatly to the James Bond mystique. FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE is also a significant part of the film series since it introduces audiences to James Bond’s arch nemesis Ernst Stavros Blofeld who is the head of the terrorist organization SPECTRE.

The plot concerns SPECTRE’s plan to acquire a Russian decoding device, which will also serve as a means to discredit Agent 007. SPECTRE’s plan uses Bond’s penchant for the ladies against him. A beautiful Russian cryptographer is unknowingly duped by a SPECTRE operative into accepting an assignment where she must feign being in love with Bond to win his confidence, and then help him steal the decoding device. Daniela Bianchi is Tatiana Romanova, the exquisitely beautiful Russian whom 007 finds quite easy to love. Robert Shaw portrays Red Grant, the SPECTRE assassin assigned to oversee the mission and keep Bond alive until he gets the decoder. As far as Bond villains go, Shaw was one of the most memorable. Equally memorable is Lotte Lenya as Rosa Klebb, a former KGB agent who has joined SPECTRE and helped orchestrate the elaborate plan. The cast of FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE also includes Pedro Armendáriz, Bernard Lee, Eunice Gayson and Lois Maxwell.

MGM Home Entertainment through 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment has made FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE available on Blu-ray Disc in a 1.66:1 aspect ratio presentation that has been encoded onto the disc with the AVC codec. Thanks to the restorative work provided by Lowry Digital Images, the 1080p presentation is another stunning achievement certain to tickle Bond fans. Sharpness and fine image detail are truly terrific- the texturing of fabrics and irregularities in the actors’ skin are all plainly visible. Colors are warm and fully saturated, while flesh tones scream the name Max Factor. Blacks are true; whites are crisp, while the picture is rendered with excellent contrast. Shadow detail is very good, although the film stocks available in the early sixties are not up to modern standards. The elements from which FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE have been mastered, have been given a thorough digital scrubbing being rendered virtually blemish free. Grain is incredibly minimal, without any sacrifice of fine detail or a film like appearance.

FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE is presented on Blu-ray Disc with a 5.1 channel DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. Despite age and the movie soundtrack’s monaural origins, the new mix is a wonderful re-purposing of the existing materials. For the most part, the mix is front-loaded. Directional effects are present, but work within the limitations of the materials. The musical component has been reworked and given a nice spread. Fidelity is better than it’s been in the past, but even the lossless encoding cannot hide the age of the recordings. Still, the score and the theme song sound quite pleasant. Dialogue is cleanly reproduced and is always easy to understand. French 5.1 channel track is also encoded onto the disc, as are English and Spanish monaural tracks. Subtitles are available in English and Spanish.

Full motion video, animation and sound serve to enhance the disc's interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to standard scene selection and set up features, as well as a nice complement of supplements. Starting things off is a running Audio Commentary with director Terence Young and members of the cast and crew. Next is the thirty-four minute program Inside From Russia With Love. Other Featurettes include: Harry Saltzman: Showman (twenty-seven minutes), Ian Fleming: The CBC Interview (eight minutes), Ian Fleming And Raymond Chandler Featurette (five minutes), Ian Fleming On Desert Island Discs (five minutes) and Animated Storyboard Sequence (one and a half minutes). Theatrical Trailers, TV Spots, Radio Spots and a large Image Database of stills and promotional materials close out the supplements.

For my money, FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE remains one of the absolute best James Bond adventures of all time. The Blu-ray presentation is just fantastic for a film of this vintage. If you are a Bond fan, you there is no question this disc will be part of your high definition film library. Absolutely, positively recommended.



From Russia with Love (James Bond) [Blu-ray] (1964)


DVD & Blu-rayDisc reviews are Copyright © 2008 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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