Big Picture Big Sound

From Russia with Love on Blu-ray Disc Review

By Brandon A. DuHamel
The Film

From Russia with Love is truly classic James Bond.  Hopping from one location to the next, From Russia with Love plays like an action/adventure travelogue of beautiful locales such as Istanbul, Venice, and the Scottish moorlands. In From Russia with Love, 007 (Sean Connery) is sent to Istanbul to steal a highly classified decoding machine from the Russian embassy. British intelligence, however, is aware that he is being sent into a trap and the lure is, who else? The beautiful Russian cipher clerk Tatiana Romanova (Daniela Bianchi) who believes she is working for the KGB, but is really working for SPECTRE, an international crime syndicate.

Over the course of the film, Bond is attacked from the air by a helicopter, has a high-speed boat chase in which he blows up several tanks of gasoline to make his escape and has a brutal hand-to-hand fight to the death on the Orient Express. What more could one ask for from a James Bond film?

Being the second film in the franchise, From Russia with Love went into production with a much larger budget than its predecessor Dr. No, on the strengths of that film's success. The larger budget shows in the more robust use of special effects and the relentless action that has become a hallmark of the 007 franchise.  Regarded by many as the best film in the franchise's history, From Russia with Love is lacking only what we today have come to associate most with James Bond -- the gadgetry, which would not appear full-force until 1965's Thunderball.

For anyone wanting to see a glimpse of the film that secured the 007 franchise's place and solidified Sean Connery in many people's minds as the only 007, From Russia with Love is the film to see. It's more plot heavy than usual for a James Bond film and at times feels like it may have gone on a bit too long, but still remains one of the strongest 007 outings to date -- 45 years on.  

The Picture

From Russia with Love arrives on Blu-ray in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.66:1 with an AVC/MPEG-4 1080p/24 encoding from MGM. The film was the beneficiary of a recent painstaking frame by frame restoration by Lowry Digital Images where they cleaned up the original negative and scanned each frame in at 4K resolution (4000X3000 pixels).  Showing no signs of any compression artifacts whatsoever, nor any sorts of processing misdeeds like edge enhancement the Blu-ray transfer perfectly captures the newly restored source for From Russia with Love.

The grain structure is natural and consistent throughout brighter and darker scenes showing good amounts of shadow details with deep blacks and good contrast levels as well. Detail softens ever so slightly on backgrounds, but it is hardly worth a demerit. This is a fine transfer of this 45-year-old film. It doesn't look like it was made yesterday, which means it hasn't been over processed, but detrimental evidence of its age have all been wiped away leaving an unsullied image with wonderful film-like qualities.

The Sound

From Russia with Love has had its soundtrack remixed into 5.1 and is offered on this disc in a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 lossless option. Purists can breathe a sigh of relief, however, as the original English Mono (Dolby 2.0) is offered as well as French Dolby Digital 5.1 and Spanish Mono dubbed versions.

Truth be told, the 5.1 mix is certainly nowhere near as discrete and encompassing as mixes of material today, but it does expand the soundfield allowing dialogue and sound effects to breathe lending a sense of depth and clarity that is not quite apparent in the English Mono mix. The surround channels are used mainly for ambient effects, but there are some occasional discrete sounds that "escape" to the rear channels. The mix works well for the material, offering clear dialogue and solid mid to lower range frequencies aided by the subtle use of the LFE. I don't think these classic 007 films have ever sounded as good as they do now and From Russia with Love offers a perfect example of that.

The Extras

For this Blu-ray Disc release, MGM offers a heavy dose of background information and archival footage relating to the film and the history of James Bond and creator/author Ian Flemming. Some of the information overlaps from one feature to the next, but it is still a boon for fans of James Bond. Much of the information offered in the documentary-style audio commentaries - which are really cobbled together interviews of the parties involved - can be gleaned from the disc's video supplements, so viewers who do not want the distraction of listening to an audio commentaries whilst watching the film can just skip the commentaries and watch the extras instead.

The extras available on this release are:

  • Commentary by director Terence Young and members of the cast and crew.
  • Declassified: MI6 Vault:
    • Ian Flemming: The CBC Interview (4:3/standard definition)
    • Ian Flemming & Raymond Chandler -- radio interview
    • Ian Flemming on Desert Island Discs -- In this radio interview, Flemming discusses how he came to develop the James Bond character in an effort to calm his nerves on the eve of his first marriage at the age of 44.
    • Animated Storyboard Sequence (4:3/standard definition) -- This is a montage of the original storyboard sketches for the Bond & Tatiana boat chase scene from the film, which was originally planned as a night scene as these sketches reveal.
    • Credits -- Credits for the Declassified: MI6 Vault supplemental materials.
  • 007 Mission Control (1.66:1/high definition) -- This offers a selection of scenes that spotlight the film's various characters and it is divided into these categories: 007, Women, Allies, and Villains.
  • Mission Combat Manual -- A selection of the film's action sequences
  • Q Branch -- This offers a selection of scenes that highlight 007's gadgets
  • Exotic Locations (1.66:1/high definition) -- Bond girl Maud Adams narrates this sequence that highlights the exotic locales featured in From Russia with Love. Playing like a travelogue, she offers some interesting trivia on the various locations and anecdotes on how they relate to the film.
  • Mission Dossier:
    • Inside From Russia with Love (1.78:1/high definition) -- This is a making of featurette that is narrated and plays like a documentary and is actually quite interesting and informative. One fact that is revealed, which some Bond aficionados may already be aware of, is that actor Pedro Armendariz who played Bond's ally Ali Kerim Bey developed inoperable cancer during the film's production. Work on his sequences was prioritized so that he could finish the film before the cancer took his life. Sadly, shortly after his work on From Russia with Love was completed, Armendariz took his own life rather than suffer through the slow, painful death that he was facing.
    • Harry Saltzman: Showman -- This is a bio on 007 co-producer Harry Saltzman.
  • Ministry of Propaganda:
    • Theatrical Archive (4:3/standard definition) -- Original theatrical trailers for From Russia with Love:
      • Original Theatrical Trailer -- S.P.E.C.T.R.E.  
      • Bond: Back to Back
      • The Biggest Bond Sale Ever
      • TV Broadcasts (4:3/standard definition) -- Original TV spots
      • Sean Connery is Bond
      • Bond All Over
      • More Thrills Per Minute
    • Radio Communication -- The original radio spots for From Russia with Love
      • Fantastic Bond Sale
      • Famous Named Villains
      • Sean Connery Is…
    • Image Database --  Dozens of stills from the production and promotion of From Russia with Love
      • The Filmmakers
      • Ian Flemming
      • Portraits
      • Pinewood
      • Dressed to Kill
      • Lovely…Lovely
      • Tatiana Meets Rosa Klebb
      • Istanbul
      • The Gypsy Camp
      • The Orient Express
      • Scotland
      • Rats!
      • Back Projection
      • Smoke on the Water
      • The Lost Scene
      • Around the World with 007

Final Thoughts

Classic Bond all the way, for many the 007 franchise begins and ends with From Russia with Love. See Sean Connery in his finest performance as the secret agent right here on this splendidly rendered Blu-ray Disc release, you won't regret it. 

Diehard Bond fans will want to get the full six-pack on - it's the best way (and the best value) to bring home a bevy of Bond on Blu-ray.

Where to Buy

Also available in the following boxed sets:

Compatibility Issues:

Some people are reporting playback problems with certain Bond titles on Blu-ray.  Specifically the Samsung BDP-1500 player and LG BH200 players have problems playing some of these new Bond Discs.  Please check the Bond Blu-ray Player Compatibility thread in our forum for more details and to report your results.

Product Details
  • Actors: Sean Connery, Daniela Bianchi
  • Director: Terence Young
  • Audio/Languages: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, English Original Mono, French Dolby Digital 5.1, Spanish Mono
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish
  • Region: A
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rating: PG
  • Studio: Fox/MGM
  • Blu-ray Disc Release Date: October 21, 2008
  • Run Time: 111 minutes
  • List Price: $34.98
  • Extras:
    • Audio Commentary with Director Terrence Young and members of the Cast and Crew
    • Ian Flemming: The CBC Interview
    • Ian Flemming and Raymond Chandler Featurette
    • Ian Flemming on Desert Island Discs Featurette
    • Animated Storyboard Sequence
    • 007 Mission Control Interactive Guide into the World of From Russia with Love
    • Inside From Russia with Love
    • Harry Saltzman: Showman Featurette
    • Image Database
    • Theatrical Trailers, TV, and Radio Spots

What did you think?

View all articles by Brandon A. DuHamel
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