Plot: What’s it about?
A defecting Russian agent has possession of a cypher machine known as Lektor, which would unlock the secrets within even the most cryptic code sequences. This is of course a highly sought after item and as such, the British government wants to gain control of the device and then use it to aid their operatives in the field. The Russian agent with the Lektor device is to meet with a British special agent and during this time, exchange the device and then proceed with the defection process. But the Lektor device is just a baiting unit, with which an evil faction hopes to lure a certain British agent to his death. This team knows how bad the British want the device and as such, will send their best agent and that means high stakes. This trap seems flawless and whichever agent is sent will meet with certain death, except for one man that is. That’s right, Agent 007 himself, James Bond (Sean Connery) is on the clock and if anyone can survive this trial and emerge with the device, it would be him. But in the middle of this lethal game of revenge, can even James Bond come out alive and with the goods?
This one has all the elements we expect from Bond to be sure, action, adventure, near misses, escapes, evil men, beautiful women, and of course, Agent 007 himself in fine form. So this might seem like another one by the numbers for this series, but that is a mistake to think as this film turns out very well and stands as one of my favorites entries in the series. This movie sports Sean Connery as James Bond, which is always a plus and features some nice stunt sequences, but this one is far from the type of Bond adventure we’ve seen for some time now. This is due to the pacing of this film, which runs slower than you’d expect from a movie like this, but never becomes too dull or meandering. So yeah, some more modern fans might feel a little bored at times, but I don’t feel much time is wasted in this one at all. Some nice action sequences are wedged in of course, but I think this one focuses more on the storyline and characters, which works just fine in this case. The mix is good though, as more intense pieces appear just when they should to relieve the pressure and help the movie flow along. I recommend this film to all those interested and even if you find this one a little slow, give it another chance on this disc. I wish we would see more of this type of genre picture in the series, but I doubt it will happen again.
Back for his second spin as James Bond is Sean Connery, who turns in a superb performance and makes sure we never become bored. The lack of action allows Connery to bring out this character more and it shows, as he oozes charm and coolness throughout this movie. If you thought he was a smooth operator before and haven’t seen this film, you’re in for a real treat. I think this is his finest work in the series and I like his refinements within the character, which help to make the role more natural this time around. His performance is also helped by a tremendous supporting cast, which Connery is able to work with very well. I know I’ve listed them before, but other 007 films with Connery include Diamonds Are Forever, Thunderball, Goldfinger, Dr. No, and You Only Live Twice. This Bond flick doesn’t contain a central foe, but that doesn’t hinder the movie in the least. The rest of the cast is excellent and includes Robert Shaw (The Deep, Jaws), Eunice Gayson (Dr. No, One Just Man), Francis De Wolff (Jesus Of Nazareth, The Fixer), Pedro Armendariz (The Conqueror, Beyond All Limits), Bernard Lee (Percy’s Progress, The Man With The Golden Gun), Lotta Lenya (Semi-Tough, The Appointment), and Daniela Bianchi (Slalom). The director of From Russia With Love was Terence Young, who also helmed the Bond adventures Dr. No and Thunderball.
Video: How does it look?
From Russia With Love is presented in a 1.66:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. This is an older Bond and some flaws do surface, but this is still a sharp and impressive overall transfer. The main problems involve grain and debris on the source print, but these are minimal in the grand scheme and never impair the visuals much. The colors look a little faded at times, but still hold up well and retain natural, bright hues. No problems with flesh tones either, as they always seemed normal and warm. Though a little light, contrast looks good and detail is quite high at all times. I found no compression flaws with this transfer, another solid transfer for Agent 007.
Audio: How does it sound?
The original mono track is used and though a few scenes seem flat, the dialogue driven nature of this film is handled well in the end. As I mentioned above, this is a slower paced Bond film and as such, dynamic audio isn’t needed in most cases. The action scenes could use further range and such, but on the whole this sounds good. Not great by any means, but much better than you might from a mono track this old. The musical score by John Barry sounds terrific as always, though not as immersive as it deserves to be, due to mono format limits. No clarity or volume issues on the dialogue side either, an overall solid mix here. Also found on this is a Spanish mono track, English captions, and subtitles in French & Spanish.
Supplements: What are the extras?
Another Bond Collection disc brings another nice selection of extras, which is what we’ve all come to expect from the series. This disc includes a very cool and extensive selection of still photos, which cover it all, from crew to cast to production stills. I liked this feature a lot and I wish more of Wave 3 contained these still photo albums. Three television spots and three radio spots have been included, all of which promote a double bill of this film and Thunderball. This film’s theatrical trailer is contained on this disc, as well as double features trailers that pair this film with Thunderball and Dr. No. Next is an audio commentary track with director Terence Young and various other cast & crew members, which is loaded with information though dull most of the time. I weathered the storm and learned a lot, but I wish these Bond tracks were screen specific in the end. This disc also houses two featurettes, both of which are interesting and more than worth a look. Inside From Russia With Love is a half hour piece which covers the production, through interviews and behind the scenes footage. This isn’t that in depth at all, but still makes for an interesting thirty-four minutes if you like the movie. The other featurette is Harry Saltzman: Showman, which deals the title person and his work on this series. Saltzman of course left the series to pursue other interests, but it is nice to see a nod to him included on this disc. The final supplement is an animated storyboard sequences, which features the boat chase scene. Very cool and a nice addition to a disc loaded with bonus materials.