FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE (SE)
Reviewed February 18th, 2001 by Brian White
From Russia with Love, the follow-up to the very successful Dr. No, is the favorite Bond film to many fans of the series. Certainly, the film does not conform to the typical Bond formula, which would be coined in the next installment: Goldfinger. At no point does Bond go to his arch foe’s secret layer to foil his diabolical plot to rule the world. Instead, we get some real espionage. Producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman decided to film From Russia with Love as the next Bond film due to the novel’s huge popularity. President Kennedy had included the book on his list of ten favorite novels. As a result of the book’s fame, the producers were forced to follow the story closely. This is a refreshing, and very strong, change from the 007 norm that would be established in later films. Having said that, it is necessary to add that this film is everything that is good about Bond.
The evil, cat-stroking Bloefeld arranges a trap for Bond. MI-6 receives a message that a Russian operative will seek asylum, with a much-desired translation machine, if Bond goes to collect her. Of course, the operative is a stunningly gorgeous woman. M and Bond both realize that this is a trap, but they decide that the endeavor is worth the risk for the machine.
Of particular note is the first appearance by the late, great Desmond Llewelyn, called “Boothroyod” in the booklet. He represents the “Equipment Branch,” and gives Bond a briefcase full of lethal goodies and cash. Terrence Young returns to the director’s seat and suffice it to say the Connery is his excellent self. Much should be made of Pedro Armenariz’s performance as Karim Bey, Bond’s accomplice in Turkey . The actor discovered that he was sick during production, and in many scenes, stagehands are holding him up (off camera). Armenariz would die before the film was released.
The video on the DVD is quite good, considering the source. When shown on TBS, the colors are quite inconsistent in this film. Also, the laserdisc from Connery Collection 1 shows a weak transfer. While this is an old film (1963), the DVD is certainly the best this film has looked in a very long time, if not ever. One should expect the typical blemishes of a film of From Russia with Love’s age. The transfer is anamorphic, and 2.35:1.
In keeping with other reviews of the early movies on DVD, the soundtrack should have been remixed in 5.1. It might only be digital mono, but it does sound head and shoulders above the sound on the laserdisc. Plenty of extra noise has been stripped off of the audio mix.
MGM continues to spoil us with extras. The documentary here is quite interesting, because it documents several near misses with the safety of the crew. I won’t spoil any surprises, but the behind the scenes featurette is very good. Again, we get the edited-together interviews that act as a commentary track. There is a documentary on Harry Saltzman, the typical promotional stuff and an Animated Storyboard Sequence.
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