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October 27, 2008
From Russia With Love Blu-Ray Movie Review
Cinema Release Blu-Ray Release Distributor Director
196212/11/2008FoxTerence Young
Video Codec Sound Format OFLC Rating Star(s)
AVC MPEG-4DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1PGSean Connery

THE MOVIE
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Sean Connery as Bond in From Russia With Love.

Before the first James Bond movie had even opened work on this second movie had well and truly commenced. Convinced the original, and the series, would be a hit the producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman were keen to release a new movie based on Ian Fleming's books every year. This second movie saw the production budget double to $US2 million, as well as the return of Sean Connery as James Bond.

In From Russia With Love James Bond squares off against the evil SPECTRE organisation in a pulse-pounding race to seize the Soviet Lektor decoding machine.

Compared to the first James Bond movie, Dr. No, this movie is a lot more action packed, has bigger sets, and a much stronger storyline. Indeed despite James Bond being the ultimate spy it's fair to say that in this movie, he actually acts as more of a spy then in possibly in any other James Bond movie. Looking at the highlights one should certainly remember the fight in the gypsy camp, the fight between James Bond and Red Grant on the train, a delightful boat chase, and of course Krilenko trying to escape through the billboard on the side of the building.

Sean Connery did a great job in the first movie, Dr. No but he really cements himself in the role with his performance here. Suave and sophisticated he is the perfect spy. Not to be outdone Robert Shaw is superb as his nemesis Red Grant. Desmond Llewelyn makes his first appearance as Q, a role which he would hold for the next three decades, while the gorgeous (she was runner up in the 1960 Miss World!) Daniela Bianchi plays as Tatiana Romanova.

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All Bond movies need gorgeous women!
From Russia With Love is widely regarded as one of the best James Bond movies, and I can't disagree. The locations, sets and action sequences are bigger and better then the first movie, and there is a real sense that James Bond is a spy in this movie, rather then action hero. Sean Connery is brilliant, and even today this movie is still very entertaining.

VIDEO
From Russia With Love comes to Blu-Ray in the original aspect ratio of 1.66:1 (which put small borders on a widescreen TV to the left and right of the image) and has been encoded at 1080p using the AVC MPEG-4 codec. As with all the new James Bond releases From Russia With Love's original negatives have been scanned in using a 4K process at Lowry's Labs and then digitally cleaned for encoding to Blu-Ray.

While this process often removes detail and grain leaving an unnatural and sterile look that isn't the case here. The film still exhibits a natural, and fairly consistent, amount of grain while the finer details have been preserved. Much of this movie takes place at night or in interior locations, but there is never any major issues. All-in-all movie fans will discover that this is probably as good as From Russia With Love has ever looked.

AUDIO
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The opening chess match.

From Russia With Love was released with mono sound but this Blu-Ray release is graced with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track. As you can imagine the sound field is still rather limited however the audio on this disc certainly comes up a lot better then expected with clear dialogue, great effects and superb music. There is some use of surround sound channels, but given the source material this isn't as impactful as newer movies. Still, this is a solid mix overall.

As with Dr. No one disappointments I have is that this disc doesn't include the original English Mono soundtrack isn't included for completists sake. I would love to hear how this disc sounded in its original theatrical release. Surely a 1 channel soundtrack couldn’t have taken up too much space on this 50GB Dual layer disc - by our count perhaps 200MB or so.

Other languages on this disc include German and French DTS tracks encoded at 768kbps, and Spanish, Portuguese and Czech Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks encoded at 448kbps. Naturally as you go down in bitrate the quality seems to decrease slightly, however this isn't too noticeable on this disc due to the original source material.

Subtitles are provided in over 20 different languages on this disc including English for the Hearing Impaired. Sampling the English track demonstrated good pacing and accuracy to the dialogue on screen. Subtitles are also available for the commentary.

EXTRAS
All the extras on this disc have been seen on the Ultimate Edition DVD's however some of the extras here, including the main featurettes, have been upgraded to High Definition/.

Audio Commentary with Director Terence Young and Cast and Crew: As with Dr. No this commentary features director Terence Young and includes John Cork of the Ian Fleming Foundation who introduces the person talking, and the topic they are discussing.. Besides those two people numerous other people offer comments about the film. Well structured, and detailed this is a fascinating commentary which is well structured and a great listen.

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Robert Shaw is superb as Red Grant.
Ian Fleming: The CBC Interview (7:42): A black and white interview filmed with Ian Fleming, creator of James Bond and writer of the novels. A wonderful archival piece in which Ian Fleming discusses the adult nature of the books and the motivations.

Ian Fleming & Raymond Chandler (5:11): A discussion with Ian Fleming about where he gets inspiration for his material. This feature displays still images during the audio interview.

Ian Fleming on Desert Island Discs (5:12): Another audio interview with images playing in the background this interview focuses on Ian Fleming's military background, and how this influenced the books.

Animated Storyboard Sequence (1:28): The storyboards for the Boat Chase sequence, with some pretty wonderful artwork.

007 Mission Control (HD): This interesting featurette allows you to pick a topic such as the women, locations or villains, and then a key word or scene and jump directly to that part of the movie to have a look.

Mission Dossier: Inside From Russia With Love (33:46/HD): This is a rather detailed documentary which looks at the making of From Russia With Love. From the casting to the filming this documentary, while not overly long, this documentary covers quite a lot and includes recent interviews with the actors and filmmakers. Covered in this documentary is the very sad story of actor Pedro Armendáriz who plays Ali. He was gravely ill during filming but rather then pull out of the picture the filmmakers brought his scenes forward so he could complete filming his scenes, and providing dialogue before passing away. The documentary also covers the near tragic helicopter crash near the end of filming in which director Terence Young, Art Director Michael White and a cameraman narrowly escaped.

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Sean Connery in From Russia With Love.
Mission Dossier: Harry Saltzman - Showman (17:57/HD): Interviews with numerous industry persons about James Bond Producer Harry Saltzman and in particular his relationship with fellow Producer Albert R. Broccoli.

Ministry of Propaganda (10:46/HD): Three different theatrical promotions for Dr. No (the main one being presented in HD), a series of TV advertisements (understandable average quality) and three radio commercials.

Image Database: The name says it all really with dozens of still images and promotional posters from the production and promotion of From Russia With Love. This is split up into sixteen different categories. No audio or text to detail what you're seeing disappoints as does the fact that they aren't in HD.

OVERALL
From Russia With Love remains one of the strongest movies in the James Bond franchise. The movie has a great script, never gets over the top in terms of action or gadgets, sees James Bond actually do some spying, and includes some great villains. The transfer to Blu-Ray is quite superb, and there are some great extras to check out as well. Wonderful.

Review By: Dave Warner

THE MOVIE
8.5/10
THE VIDEO
8/10
THE AUDIO
7/10
THE EXTRAS
7.5/10
OVERALL
8/10

Note: All images in this article are Copyright© Fox. They are only indicative of the movie and not sourced from the vastly superior Blu-Ray disc format.