The second in the Bond movie canon, and a satisfying balance is achieved in this, Sean Connery's favourite of the series. The plot is satisfyingly spy-like, with decoding machines, double crosses and foreign venues...
Cold war politics are not emphasised here, but instead Spectre, a fictional terrorist and extortion organisation, is invented for 1960 political correctness sake. However, with Terence Young once again in the director's chair we get a real cold war style spy thriller, as well as an element of the exotic we associate with Bond.
So what do you get for twice the money as Dr. No..? A then stellar cast, including the famous German cabaret star Lotte Lenya, playing Rosa Klebb, the villain who inspires the Connery quip `She's had her kicks', Daniella Bianchi who had just come runner up in Miss Universe, as well as two more beauty pageant contestants, who play the fighting gypsy girls. Robert Shaw plays one of the more convincing and genually menacing villains, and of course Q makes his debut.
The action scenes are varied, and satisfyingly interspersed with a real story, not so far removed from Fleming's original. Most famously of course, is the 6 minute fist fight between Connery and Shaw on the Orient Express, a scene which some producers at the time were worried was just too violent. Mostly, it is Peter Hunt's fantastic editing that makes the scene, and indeed adds a sense of style to the entire movie. Train fight aside, there are also set pieces including a gunfight in a gypsy camp, and a `money-shot' with exploding petrol canisters in a boat chase in a loch.
As for the remastering, the film is now spotless, although there is no one place one can say the restoration has made a startling impact. Indeed, in some places the improved colour correction has made a night scene darker than before, albeit with improved contrast. The sound has become clearer, but without obvious tricksy surround effects on the dts or dolby digital soundtrack.
The extras include all that the special edition had, plus one or two new items. Specifically, some archive material of Ian Fleming. The radio conversation between Raymond Chandler and Fleming is fascinating, while the other CBS interview and desert island disc appearance are of moderate interest but contain nothing surprising. However, even the original extras are worth revisiting, especially the documentary `Inside From Russia with Love', as the trouble shoot of this movie does have some fascinating stories behind it.
All in all, this was not yet quite the Bond movie that would emerge in its full overblown form in Goldfinger, but a terrifically good thriller, especially given its age, and more of a genuine spy movie than the movies to follow.