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.
on 23 January 2009
Despite the fact that I knew of the major restoration of the Bond catalogue for the Ultimate Edition DVD releases, I avoided buying them since I knew that HD was around the corner in one form or another.
Now that they're here on BD, I can honestly say that this represents the best clean-up of an 'old' title that I've seen. It simply comes alive with rich, vibrant colour, rock-steady image stabilisation and not a single blemish. Details that were not apparent before, such as the cut of Bond's suits or the make-up of his leading lady, are now revealed in stunning clarity. As has been remarked elsewhere, it does indeed look like a period spy thriller filmed in 2009.
The sound has also had a makeover, and although a new mix of DTS HD Master Audio from the original mono makes you think that surround effects will be introduced for their own sake, they're not. Instead are subtle improvements that provide a crystal clear dialogue track and leave the wider soundstage for the musical score.
The special features are copious, with (as far as I'm aware) all the featurettes and documentaries from the previous releases being ported over.
Although it's still early days for my Blu-ray collection, if this is the standard for all the 007 films in the format, then I am in for a treat!
This is the Bond film that gets the balance right between being a proper spy thriller and a few nice girls and one 'gadget'. The opening pre-credits sequence is one of the best ever made. Robert Shaw plays Red Grant a psychotic killer who is put to the test and kills Bond before the film starts.
If the film doesn't quite maintain this standard for the rest of the film it never falls far short. When Grant and Bond do meet for real nearer the end of the film its one of the best climaxes to any Bond film. Contrary to a previous reviewer I believe the sequence in the boat with Bond examining the 8mm film is included in this release.
The Bourne films forced Bond filmmakers to go back to making tougher more realistic spy thrillers. If the contempary filmmakers had watched this they would known where they were going wrong much earlier.
Amazingly, baring in mind this film was made in 1963, there is a directors commentary. Its a shame that Sean Connery hasn't contributed but you can't have everything. Overall a very good release now available at a good price.
on 8 June 2010
From Russia With Love is my favorite of all the Bond films. While I could delve into explaining that I will mostly focus on this Blu-Ray edition.
I own most of the Bond, single disc DVD edition. As such I made a side-by-side comparison between them. The difference is huge. To start with the picture is clearer, with a crisp definition and lively colour. Overall it feels more alive and natural. The sound is also improved, especially the music has a larger dynamic range.
The extras are the same, but as I mentioned in my review of Dr. No I don't wish anything more. They are of such high standard that it doesn't matter to me. This is also the only one where Connery makes and appearance in there.
Overall it is a great step-up from the DVD when it comes to audio/visuals and as such I highly recommend to every Bond-fan!
on 21 November 2002
From Russia With Love remains one of the greatest of all Bond movies, in my view eclipsed only by Goldfinger. We are only second in what would prove to be an enduring series (recently added to by the twentieth and latest offering, Die Another Day) so the movie remains relatively true to Ian Fleming's original vision. Fleming died suddenly in 1964, the year after FRWL, and thereafter the film Bond diverged more and more widely from the quite brilliant novels, but here we have a comparatively faithful rendition of the book. You don't have to be a Bond purist to be one of the millions who regard Sean Connery, with his brooding undercurrent of genuine strength and menace not to say brutality, as the definitive Bond, and the late lamented Robert Shaw (here muscle-bound and peroxide blond of hair) makes a splendidly evil villain in the shape of Donovan 'Red' Grant (marvellously malevolent but still toned-down from the homicidal Northern Irish psychopath depicted in the book). As other reviewers have observed, the luscious Daniela Bianchi was surely one of the sexiest in a long line of Bond girls, so, in short, magnificent characters brilliantly played all round in magnificent sets, Istanbul in particular. Add on a tuneful title song from the velvet-voiced Matt Monro and the greatest fight sequence ever filmed (Connery and Shaw hurl themselves at each other on the train with jaw-droppingly realistic savagery) and you have Bond (almost---see above) at his very best. Buy film in format of your choice: watch: repeat regularly.
on 13 February 2009
In my opinion, the quality of the image for From Russia With Love is not quite as good as Dr.No, but then again what is? This film's image quality is still top drawer though, and makes a lot of more modern releases look flat and bland. Even the titles are a treat, with their beautiful vibrant colours, and the shadowy dancers are now clearly defined with some startling detail revealed occasionally by the lighting.
The soundtrack is also a little off par with Dr.No, without that films weight and punch. It still has superb clarity, and subtle effects steering and surround use, which is in keeping with it's mono roots. Generally, it still sounds like an old film though, whereas Dr.No could have been made yesterday. Still, as I have already said, the first film set the bar extremely high, and maybe one of the best Blu-Ray transfers out there.
I believe the extras are identical to the Ultimate Edition DVD, which is fine as they are very exhaustive. A lot of the docs have been bumped to HD as well which is nice. I only have one note of concern, and that is with the length of time it takes to load the disk (at least, with my Sony player), it always looks like it's going to fail and spit it out, you just have to have patience, it does get there in the end (although I've read elsewhere that some early players have genuine problems).
on 26 December 2012
Very much a period piece now (showing many scenes of the 60s), this is classic James Bond action film. Sean Connery is established in his role of OO7 after the strong entrance of Dr.No, and plays it cool once more with the ladies. The film is not overly violent or sexist but does introduce some 'new' gadgets to the screen. Of all the 'old Bonds', and personally I rate this as one of the best. It captures the mood (both politically and internationally) at the time and sits well amongst my top 5 favourite Bond movies up to now. It's appropriate for all ages (unlike some of the newer productions) but does show show clear signs of a more leisurely way of life and gentlemanly code of behaviour, even from 'the baddies'. It is good value for money and comes with some entertaining and many informative extras. Certainly worth a score of 8/10 in my opinion.
This isn't only to my mind the best Bond film, but also a superb British sixties thriller in its own right. Let's face it, the 60s were a generally dire decade for British cinema - Norman Wisdom, Carry Ons, The Knack! - but this shines out like a beacon amid so much dross.
It's got the lot: Sean as 007, the most natural, sexy, witty and intriguing 'Bond girl' in Daniela Bianchi, Pedro Armendariz as a very friendly Turkish contact with a seemingly unlimited supply of sons, the silent malevolence of blond psychopathic killer Robert Shaw, the legendary Lotte Lenya as Rosa Klebb (who's more blatantly lesbian in the novel) as well as Bernard Lee's dry, definitive 'M' and lovely Lois Maxwell, proving she was a too often neglected actress in her own right, as Miss Moneypenny, always the bridesmaid...
The pre-credits sequence was heart-stopping when I first saw it, and in fact each successive scene in this model Bond film has something memorable about it. The long train sequence towards the end joins an illustrious list of iconic 'train scenes' from Strangers on a Train to North By North-West.
For me, FRWL just beats Goldfinger as the best Bond. For one thing Daniela Bianchi is more interesting and credible than Honor Blackman. Dr No? No, because the series had yet to find its feet, there was no theme song - FRWL has one of the very best, as sung by Matt Monro - and I've always found Andress rather wooden, especially compared with brilliant Bianchi.
Back then, the films stayed reasonably close to Fleming's wonderful, underrated books, and Connery was near-perfect as a youngish Bond, who should be a lone wolf with a dash of the vicious lout about him - which is why Daniel Craig is such a good choice, and why Moore and Brosnan were too smarmily facetious, too old, or just too slick, and Dalton a little too serious and uncharismatic (though the two films he made as 007 aren't bad as thrillers).
I envy anyone watching this for the first time. It's as exciting in its way as any other Bond film, and on a much smaller budget.
As the lady later said, nobody does it better.
A lot of people think that `Dr No' is the best Bond film. Yes, it was the first and therefore the most original. But I found that it was really just the `opening bracket' for what was to come. In `From Russia With Love' I felt that the (Connery-era) Bond was actually starting to get going.
It has double the budget of Dr No and therefore feels like a much more grandiose. We have more action, more gadgets, more baddies and, of course, more women. Plus Connery himself seems more at ease with the character he's playing.
Dr No felt distinctly low budget, whereas From Russia With Love feels a lot like the Bond that we're used to, i.e. big budget, explosive (and deliciously over-the-top) stunts and action. We're finally introduced to SPECTRE - a criminal organisation hell bent on causing trouble between the superpowers - who come up with a plan to pit the British against the Russians, involving a stolen coding machine and a beautiful Russian spy. Just as well Bond is on hand to sort it all out.
This is one of the rare Bonds that is pretty much liked by everyone. It's got a great plot which weaves and twines nicely, but stays understandable at all times. The villains are not just wonderfully evil, but also memorable and there is enough action to put it up there with the best of them.
But, best of all, it doesn't take itself that seriously, making it the Saturday afternoon film which the current (Daniel Craig) Bond films just will never be.
From Russia With Love is directed by Terence Young and adapted to screenplay by Richard Maibaum & Johanna Harwood from the Ian Fleming novel of the same name. It stars Sean Connery, Daniela Bianchi, Lotte Lenya, Robert Shaw & Pedro Armendáriz. Music is by John Barry and cinematography by Ted Moore.
James Bond's second cinematic outing has 007 sent on a mission to Istanbul to try and acquire a Russian cypher machine known as Lektor. It's a trap set up by SPECTRE, who formulate a plan to upset the world order whilst murdering Bond in revenge for his killing of their agent Dr. No.
Spy Hard! A certain JFK had announced From Russia With Love as being one of his favourite books, thus making the minds up of producers Broccoli & Saltzman to make Fleming's Cold War thriller the follow up to Dr. No. It's a favourite of many a Bond aficionado because it represents one of the few occasions where Bond was still down to earth as a person, a hard working spy forced to do detective work. The adaptation is very literate as well, with a high fidelity to the source material a major bonus to Fleming's fans. The story is tautly told, often with dark tints the deeper Bond gets into things, and a number of excellently constructed set pieces fill out the latter half of the picture. It's not hard to understand why Connery cites this as his favourite Bond film.
Though it is mostly free of the gadget excess that would become a trademark of the franchise, it's still very much a quintessential Bond movie. Exotic locations and exotic foes, eye poppingly gorgeous ladies (Bianchi smouldering like few others can), pre-credits sequence, the snazzy title credits (here on a dancing lady), title song crooned by a big name (Matt Munro), Barry's blending of the Bond theme into the score, Blofeld (a faceless Anthony Dawson) and an impressive cast list. One of the film's big strengths is the cast assembled, Connery (firmly moving into iconic realm) is aided considerably by the presence of Lenya, Shaw and Armendáriz, while the first appearance of Desmond Llewelyn as Boothroyd (latterly to be known as Q) is a telling point in the series.
With a $2 million budget in the coffers, the makers were able to really push the boat out technically, and they were rewarded as the film went on to gross nearly $79 million Worldwide. Crucially it became apparent that James Bond was popular outside of Britain, the template had been set, what would they do with the next Bond outing we all wondered? 8/10