MSRP: $21.95
RUNNING TIME: 111 minutes
• Ian Fleming: CBC Interview
• “Ian Flemming on desert island discs” featurette
• Director commentary
• Animated storyboards, Image Database
• 007 Mission Control interactive Guide
• “Harry Saltzman: Showman” Featurette
• Trailer/TV


The Pitch

The North by Northwest of Bond movies goes Blu-Ray.   

One of Q’s awesomest breakthroughs: perfecting
DSL technology decades before the internet.

The Humans

Cast: Sean Connery, Daniela Bianchi, Robert Shaw, Lotte Lenye

Director: Terence Young

The Nutshell

From Russia With Love, Terence Young’s spectacular follow-up to Dr. No, follows James Bond as he travels through Istanbul, Venice, and the Orient Express in an attempt to snag a nebulous plot widget (the Lektor cryptographical device) from the hands of a beautiful Russian Double agent (Bianchi).  Aware that his bid for the Lektor is an obvious trap, Bond engages Gypsy murderers, blade-footed SPECTRE assassins, grenade-lobbing helicopters, and the most deadly foe of all: Love.  Oh, and there’s Robert Shaw’s assassin psychopath.  He’s deadly, too. 

Produced by Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman and featuring Sean Connery in his most famous role, From Russia With Love kicks every kind of ass.  There’s really no other way to put it.

For additional publicity, Albert R. Broccoli pressured Daniela Bianchi to legally change her name to
“From Russia With Love”.  Debates still rage over who has the better name.

The Lowdown

Fall is Bond season.  With Quantum of Solace infiltrating theaters in November, fans of the unstoppable espionage franchise are getting treated to a Blu-Ray Cornucopia of classics, including the much lauded second entry in the series, Terrence Young’s From Russia With Love.  It’s a classic Bond film amongst Bond films, and is easily a classic standalone film it its own right; perhaps only Goldfinger has a more recognizable title.  While it doesn’t share the giddy playfulness of its famous descendant, it’s a much better film, and this Blu-Ray release highlights everything that’s great about both the movie and the Bond series as a whole.  While they’re both fun and stylish, Goldfinger feels like Bond for beginners, while From Russia With Love is a faithful, tempered, and mature adaptation of Fleming’s book.  From Russia with Love is Chimay to Goldfinger‘s Corona.

In Russia, Connery’s Bond is self assured, smart, deadly, and subtle.  He’s still as quick with an innuendo as ever, but here, he’s more concerned with getting the job done than showing off gadgets or whipping out one-liners.  In this way, he’s a clear progenitor of Craig’s no-nonsense bond in Casino Royale.  Paired with the beautiful Daniela Bianchi, Connery’s interplay between SPECTRE assassins and his love interest never feels cartoonish.

He had really pretty eyes.  One might even say they resembled doll’s eyes.

The rest of the cast shows plenty of talent, especially Robert Shaw in a turn as the venomous Red Grant.  Cool, emotionless, and effective, Shaw’s Grant is a complex and interesting villain.  Audiences must have been shocked at the opening scene, which shows Shaw garrotting the living daylights out of Connery in what turns out to be a training sequence.  He’s bad!  Along with Shaw, Lotte Lenye’s turn as Red Grant’s feisty handler adds a dimension of vicious femininity to the dual villain roles.

While the structure of Russia’s story is rather basic – Bond travels around the world in pursuit of a device – the plotting and characters are interwoven rather intricately.  The film doesn’t really care about the Lektor device at all; what it does care about are the cat-and-mouse setups between Bond and his adversaries, and how they bounce from locale to locale in interesting ways.  Unlike some other recent entries in the series, viewers won’t be able to glaze over the dialogue in Russia if they want to get the most out of the film.

Years before he joined MI6, Bond ran a two-bit day cruise outfit called
“The Bang Boat.”

Russia really comes together in the thrilling Orient Express showdown between Bond and Grant.  It’s one of the best sequences in any Bond film, and still feels masterfully suspenseful.  Arriving in theaters four years after Hitchcock’s North by Northwest, there are plenty of similarities between the two films, including the pivotal train sequence and a climactic aerial assault.  It’s as if Russia‘s collected, take-charge Bond is somewhat of a referendum on Roger Thornhill.  Why run from airborne attackers when you can just blow them up? 

Aside from the beautiful 1080p visuals on display, Russia’s famous score has never sounded better.  Again, it might be the second most widely-recognized Bond cue behind Goldfinger, and it really pops in lossless DTS HD.

From Russia With Love brings together vintage Sean Connery, mature craftsmanship, careful plotting, and a healthy dose of Bond-ian adventure that sets a high bar for spy films even 40 years after its release.  It strikes a great balance between spectacular action and intricate story.  It’s no wonder that Connery counts it as his favorite Bond film.

The Package

There are a ton of features here, including a wonderful CBC interview with Ian Fleming where he decries the use of profanity in writing.  Shit!  I mean darn.  Included along with the slick and seemingly flawless audio is a director/cast commentary track.  The 1080p visuals are stunning.  They’re almost flawless on my Sony SXRD.

An in-depth making-of documentary showcases the production of the film.  We’re also given TV spots and trailers, as well as an obligatory image gallery.

The box art isn’t that distinctive, but it does the job.

“Double entendres aside, I really wish somebody woulda told me
that my ass looked that bad from behind.  Does everybody have lie to me all of the time?”

9.5 out of 10