Customer Review

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "You may know the right wines, but you're the one on your knees.", 12 Dec 2007
This review is from: James Bond - From Russia With Love (Ultimate Edition 2 Disc Set) [DVD] [1963] (DVD)
With an embryonic and not entirely successful Robert Brownjohn title sequence of credits projected onto body of belly dancer (some great spelling mistakes here, as `Monte' Norman and `Martin' Beswicke's agents probably pointed out!), Barry's first official Bond score and Blofeld's first (off-screen) appearance, the formula is clearly beginning to fall into place. This was also the first of the series to have a pre-title sequence, one of the few that relates directly to the film's plot, and it is still by far the most successful of any of them.

The gadgets that were to eventually get so out of hand make first appearance in form of Bond's ingenious attaché case, but at least here they are still entirely credible - nothing more extravagant than a well kitted-out briefcase and a breakaway sniper's rifle. Series regular Walter Gotell also makes his first appearance, though not as General Gogol but as the head of a S.P.E.C.T.R.E. training school. Unlike the cute and lovable old Russian bear at SMERSH in the Moore films, here he is cheerfully ruthless and businesslike, using live targets in training courses.

Bond's snobbery is much to the fore here. "Red wine with fish, that should have told me something," he tells Robert Shaw's working class homicidal paranoiac, the best and most genuinely threatening of the Bond heavies ("You may know the right wines, but you're the one on your knees."). It also establishes the sexual deviancy of the villains in Rosa Klebb's lesbian tendencies (very apparent as her hand wanders onto Daniella Bianchi's knee). With Bond such an amoral figure, the villains had to be even more immoral and perverse: always bastions of authority, usually millionaires they get their kicks planning global crimes, so depravity is simply foreplay to them. Even Vladek Sheybal's chess master Kronstein, looking for all the world like Vladimir Putin with mild indigestion, seems at a remove from mere mortal pleasures.

It's still the best of the series and most convincingly plotted, an excellent crane shot of the chequered setting for a chess tournament sets the scene for the chess-like nature of the plot as factions co-existing in uneasy truces are set off against each other. Indeed, directorially this is considerably more ambitious and assured than its predecessor, evident in the skilfully handled church scene and a beautifully blocked scene as Bond is followed along a train platform by Shaw inside the train.

Sadly, while pitched as the `Ultimate Edition,' the transfer is still problematic. The picture quality is certainly improved, but rather than the original British 1.66:1 ratio, it's presented in the cropped 1.85:1, but worse still, the ending is still missing footage of Bond examining the reel of compromising 8mm film in the gondola before the end title. As with Dr No there's not a huge amount of new extra material over the extras from previous release, all of which are carried over here, but it's pretty good - extracts from Ian Fleming on radio show Desert Island Discs, a TV interview with the author and a featurette on Fleming and Raymond Chandler.
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Review Details

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4.6 out of 5 stars (94 customer reviews)
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Trevor Willsmer
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Location: London, England

Top Reviewer Ranking: 63