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Terrence Young
Sean Connery, Daniela Bianchi, Pedro Armendariz, Lotte Lenya, Robert Shaw, Bernard Lee, Lois Maxwell
Writing Credits:
Richard Maibaum, Johanna Harwood, based on the novel by Ian Fleming

James Bond is Back!

The evil SPECTRE plots to use spy James Bond to acquire a Russian decoder by seducing him with beautiful women and getting him to steal the decoder. When SPECTRE agents try to kill him, Bond discovers what's going on.

Rated PG.

Widescreen 1.66:1/16x9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English DTS 5.1
English Monaural
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Mandarin Chinese

Runtime: 115 min.
Price: $89.98
Release Date: 12/12/2006

• Audio Commentary with Director Terence Young, Actors Walter Gotell, Aliza Gur, Martine Beswick, and Lois Maxwell, Editor Peter Hunt, Composer John Barry, Dubbing Editor Norman Wanstall, Special Effects Supervisor John Stears, Production Designer Syd Cain, and Producer's Wife Dana Broccoli
• “Ian Fleming: TheCBC Interview”
• “Ian Fleming and Raymond Chandler” Featurette
• “Ian Fleming on Desert Island Discs” Featurette
• Animated Storyboard Sequence
• 007 Mission Control Interactive Guide
• "Inside From Russia With Love" Documentary
• "Harry Saltzman: Showman" Documentary
• Three Trailers
• Three TV Spots
• Three Radio Spots
• Photo Gallery
• Booklet

Available Only as Part of “The Ultimate James Bond Collection Volume Three”


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From Russia With Love: Ultimate Edition (1963)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (December 12, 2006)

For reasons that seem absolutely mystifying to me now, I used to dislike 1963’s From Russia With Love, the second James Bond film. I always liked its predecessor, 1962's Dr. No, and I absolutely adored the follow-up, 1964's Goldfinger, but for reasons unknown, I just couldn't get into Russia. I vaguely recall an impression that it was dull and slow moving, but now that I've seen it again, I think I must have watched it on Opposite Day, for the truth of the matter is quite different from my old perception.

In fact, I now feel that Russia is clearly one of the best Bond films. It surpasses Dr. No and definitely rivals Goldfinger and 1965's Thunderball. Man, what was I thinking when I disliked this movie? I guess I'm not infallible after all!

In any case, I found Russia to offer a thoroughly entertaining and exciting experience. Actually, I must admit that the movie lacks a great deal of action for its first 85 minutes or so; there are a couple of minor bang-bang pieces, but for the most part, the first two acts of Russia relate mainly to the spy-game intrigue.

Perhaps that's why I was put off by the film during earlier viewings, though I'm still unclear because I can't figure out why I'd be bored by the events that occupy the movie's initial two-thirds or so, since I currently thought the material unfolded at a crisp and brisk pace. Yes, the movement is unusual, since most Bond flicks toss in a lot more action right up front, but the progress seems intelligent and logical, and the tension it creates works quite nicely.

Of course, it's not as though there's no action prior to the end of the movie, but the unusual aspect stems from the fact that Bond (Sean Connery) doesn't play that large a role in the scuffles until the last third of the film. I suppose I found this frustrating during earlier viewings of Russia, but now I think it makes perfect sense.

When Bond finally does become an "action hero", I found the results well worth the wait. The final half-hour or so of the movie provides almost non-stop thrills and spills, with some of the best action ever presented in a Bond movie. The picture lacks the goofiness that tainted some of the later entries in the series and simply delivers raw drama. The fight between Bond and Red Grant (Robert Shaw) remains one of the best ever seen, and all of the climactic sections work tremendously well.

Add to that one of the prettiest Bond girls in Daniela Bianchi who plays Tatiana Romanova, the pawn in the spy games involving Bond. Although Ursula Andress and Honor Blackman, the female stars of the films that bookend Russia, have received much more attention over the years, Bianchi is unquestionably the loveliest of the bunch. Actually, were it not for the stunning double-bill of Claudine Auger and Luciana Paluzzi in Thunderball, Bianchi would be the best Bond girl of the Sixties and arguably ever. Unfortunately, the character isn't terribly strong, so she's left to her looks and little else.

Despite the relatively weak Bond heroine, the villains are some of the best ever. Credit the strength of Shaw's performance as Grant that though he spends little time on screen, his presence is felt throughout the film. Lotte Lenya also added one of the most unusual and powerful Bond baddies as Rosa Klebb, the very obvious inspiration for Frau Farbissina in the Austin Powers films. Lenya packed a lotta punch into her small frame and comes across as quite foreboding and nasty.

We also get a terrific "sidekick" in Kerim Bey, portrayed by Pedro Armendariz. Bey fills the usual "helper" role played by Felix Leiter but he does so with much more flair and pizzazz. Armendariz makes Bey a more exciting and compelling presence than he has any right to do, for two reasons. First, the character has a fairly small role and is limited in his actions. More significant, however, is the fact Armendariz was dying as he filmed Russia. The actor became seriously ill during the shoot and would be dead before its release. How such a sick man conveyed so much life and vitality is a mystery, but Armendariz capped his career with an excellent performance in what would become his signature role.

Although I suppose this wasn't too difficult to do since it was only the second Bond film, it should be noted that Russia featured a couple of new components that would become staples of the series. It presented the first pre-title sequence as we see the apparent death of Bond. It also offered the first appearance of Desmond Llewelyn as "Q". Actually, he's unnamed in the film and is only called the "equipment officer" from "Q" Branch, though the credits refer to him as "Major Boothroyd". A different actor played Boothroyd in Dr. No, but Llewelyn would ride out the role until his death last year and he'd always be called "Q" for the remainder of the films.

I hate to admit that I was wrong, but I clearly was way off base when I used to think that From Russia With Love made for a boring Bond film. In reality, it's one of the best the series has to offer as it packs in an excellent plot and some well-executed action. I thoroughly enjoyed the time I spent with Russia.

The DVD Grades: Picture A-/ Audio B/ Bonus B+

From Russia With Love appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.66:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. This was a terrific little transfer.

Only a smidgen of softness occasionally marred the presentation. Wide shots showed some light edge haloes that made their delineation just a bit iffy. Nonetheless, the vast majority of the flick demonstrated solid definition. I noticed no issues connected to shimmering or jagged edges, and source flaws remained completely absent. This was a consistently fresh presentation free from defects.

Colors looked good. Compared to predecessor Dr. No, Russia lacked a surfeit of scenes with vivid hues, but the tones we got seemed strong. The gypsy camp worked best, and the rest of the movie featured colors that featured nice accuracy and clarity. Blacks were deep and dense, while shadows showed nice definition. Inevitably, some “day for night” photography appeared too dim, but that was an inescapable drawback of the format. I liked this transfer quite a lot.

All 20 Bond “Ultimate Edition” releases come with two separate multichannel tracks, and Russia followed that trend. It featured Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 remixes. As with the other Bonds I’ve screened to date, I discerned no differences between the two. I thought they seemed virtually identical.

Taken from the original monaural audio – which also appeared on the DVD – these tracks opened up the spectrum in a moderate manner. Music showed decent spread across the front, and some environmental elements also cropped up from the sides. Some of these proved useful and the effects showed reasonable delineation and placement. Localization could be a little mushy at times, but the elements usually popped up in logical and accurate spots. Surround usage was minor and added basic reinforcement to the set.

Audio quality was pretty positive. Speech could be a little thin but the lines usually remained reasonably natural, and they always seemed perfectly intelligible. Music fell into the same range. The score and songs occasionally appeared a bit trebly, but they offered generally good clarity and dynamics. Effects sounded fairly lively and bold, and low-end presented nice oomph when necessary. The tracks showed their age and weren’t among the best Bond remixes, but they seemed reasonably good.

How did the picture and audio of this “Ultimate Edition” compare to those of the original 2000 special edition? Both demonstrated improvements. The audio wasn’t radically superior to the prior mono mix, but it seemed a bit better defined and clearer. On the other hand, the new visual transfer was a revelation. It looked much crisper, cleaner and livelier. The old picture was a mess, but this one looked great.

This “Ultimate Edition” includes all the elements from the prior DVD and adds a mix of new ones. I’ll note pieces exclusive to the UE with an asterisk, so if you fail to see a star, that means the component also appears on the old disc.

First up on DVD One is an audio commentary. Hosted by John Cork of the Ian Fleming Foundation, this track uses the same format common to most of the other Bond commentaries. Instead of the scene-specific method used in many other tracks, most of the Bonds take a series of interviews with various film participants and edit them together into a coherent whole that discusses a number of topics related to the movie.

The commentary features director Terence Young, actors Walter Gotell, Aliza Gur, Martine Beswick, and Lois Maxwell, editor Peter Hunt, composer John Barry, dubbing editor Norman Wanstall, special effects supervisor John Stears, production designer Syd Cain, and producer's wife Dana Broccoli. As usual, the track provides a nice overall look at the film. It covers the development of the pre-credit sequence and the opening titles, music, cast and crew notes, sets and production design, shooting in Istanbul, adapting the novel and challenges related to the series’ second effort, story and characters, editing, stunts, fight and effects.

As with other Bond commentaries, this one offers a good overview. It emphasizes anecdotal elements and throws out many of nice stories. We learn a lot about the production in this warm and informative discussion.

On DVD Two, the Declassified: MI6 Vault presents four elements. *Ian Fleming: The CBC Interview runs seven minutes, 42 seconds. This aired after his death in 1964 and features the author at his Jamaican estate. Fleming discusses racy aspects of his work, the roots of his material, why his stories appeal to mass audiences, and how aspects of the Bond character reflect their creator’s preferences. The interviewer asks some pretty dopey questions, and these mar the discussion. Still, it’s nice to hear a little from Fleming.

During the five-minute and 12-second featurette *Ian Fleming and Raymond Chandler, we find a chat between the two legendary authors. They discuss aspects of their work with each other as they fill us in on their methods and challenges they face. Although we don’t find a lot of scintillating material, the remarks are usually interesting, and this is a fun historical piece that took place right after Fleming finished writing Goldfinger.

We get more from the author in *Ian Fleming on Desert Island Discs. This five-minute and 11-second clip offers another radio interview. Fleming chats about his early career, the development of the Bond books, aspects of writing them and their adaptation as films. Of the three archival Fleming interviews, this is probably the most informative and concise.

Finally, an Animated Storyboard Sequence: The Boat Chase goes for 88 seconds. This shows the panels drawn to set up that exciting segment of the movie. This piece displays the boards as a running video and includes some film footage as well. I'm not a huge fan of storyboards, but these make for an interesting addition, especially since they're in color and are higher quality than most boards we usually see.

With that we head to the *007 Mission Control Interactive Guide. This splits into components under seven different headings: “007”, “Women”, “Allies”, “Villains”, “Mission Combat Manual”, “Q Branch”, and “Exotic Locations”. An odd form of “greatest hits”, this simply presents a few selected scenes that match the topics.

“Locations” (3:13) gives us a narrated set of clips. Maud Adams chats over the scenes and tells us about the locations. That makes it more useful than the others since they just show snippets from the final film. The rest of the set is a waste of time.

Heading to Mission Dossier, we begin with Inside From Russia With Love, a 33-minute and 43-second documentary hosted by Patrick Macnee. If you've seen the other Bond DVDs, you'll know this format, as it's duplicated on almost all of them. The program combines a variety of interviews with cast and crew plus production shots and film clips. We hear from Hunt, Gur, Beswick, Bianchi, Cain, Dana Broccoli, Stears, Wanstall, Gotell, Barry, Dr. No production designer Ken Adam, stuntman Richard Graydon, actors Sean Connery and Desmond Llewelyn, and optical effects artist Cliff Culley.

"Inside Russia" covers the making of the film in an interesting and efficient manner, especially as it discusses the variety of challenges that affected the production. Some of these were already mentioned in the audio commentary - such as actor Pedro Armendariz' illness - but others are exclusive to the documentary. For example, more details of the fight choreography are explained, and we also learn of mishaps on the set. Most compelling to me were the discussions of how editor Peter Hunt dealt with some problems caused by the fact the film ran over-budget and they couldn't afford to reshoot some material. It's another solid Bond documentary that added to my enjoyment of the movie.

The second program is called Harry Saltzman: Showman. This piece about the co-producer of the first nine Bond films runs for 26 minutes, 42 seconds and provides a nice biography of Saltzman. We hear from a variety of Bond participants, including his children, the first three actors to play the role (Connery, George Lazenby, and Roger Moore) plus Hunt, Dana Broccoli, Stears, Adam, Barry, writers Tom Mankiewicz and Simon Raven, production designer Peter Murton, former UA executive David Picker, Cubby Broccoli, Cubby’s stepson Michael G. Wilson, Eon Productions former VP marketing Charles “Jerry” Juroe, production buyer Ron Quelch, assistant Sue St. John, continuity supervisor Elaine Schreyeck, biographer Donald Zec, and actors Honor Blackman, Gloria Hendry, Chaim Topol and Ursula Andress.

Various photos and even some home movies complement these interviews. The portrait painted of Saltzman is somewhat sentimental but apparently fairly honest - frankly, he sounds like he was kind of obnoxious - and it gives us a solid look at the man. (In case you're wondering, co-producer Cubby Broccoli - the much-more-famous half of the team - receives his video tribute on the Diamonds Are Forever DVD.)

A slew of advertising materials appear in the Ministry of Propaganda. We get three trailers. These include the original theatrical clip plus one for a double-bill of Dr. No and Russia and another for a double-bill of Russia and Thunderball. Three TV spots and three radio ads can be found as well; all six of these cover the aforementioned Russia/ double-feature.

Within the Image Database we find a slew of stillframe pictures. This domain includes 16 subsections. Each of these presents some text to introduce the area and then displays various production photos, publicity stills, and promotional art. Each subsection varies from a low of two frames ("Smoke On the Water") to a high of 22 ("Around the World With 007") for a total of 138 pictures, not including the text frames. This was a bit sparser than some of the other Bond stillframe areas, but it features some good shots. I was especially interested to see how attractive Lenya looked off-camera; no, she wasn't a babe at that point in her life, but the photos make it clear that her ugliness as Klebb came largely from acting.

Finally, Russia includes a nice booklet with more details about the film. It finished off the set on a quality note.

I remain perplexed over my prior negative impressions of From Russia With Love, as I now recognize what an excellent piece of work it is. It may not be the best Bond ever, but it's certainly in the running. The DVD features excellent picture plus more than acceptable sound and a fine complement of extras. A great disc for a terrific movie, this is DVD that all fans should get.

Should folks who already own the prior release pursue this Ultimate Edition? Yes, because it presents improvements in terms of picture and audio quality. Only a few new extras appear here, and they don’t add much. The superior visuals and sound make this a must have, though.

Note that this “Ultimate Edition” of From Russia With Love can be purchased only as part of “The Ultimate James Bond Collection Volume Three”. This five-movie set also includes On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Live and Let Die, For Your Eyes Only, and GoldenEye.

To rate this film visit the original review of FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE

Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main