From Russia with Love: Ultimate Edition
Even from the first entry in the James Bond franchise, the series laid bare the formula that would keep it running for over 40 years. In 1962's Dr. No, the first half of the film is essentially a detective story. Fleming's Bond is the progeny of Philip Marlowe and Sam Spade, but what separates him from those great detectives is the second half of the film, which involves the fanciful mechanisms of a ruthless bad man who wants to bring down the free world. This split between detective fiction and outrageous set pieces with outlandish master plans gets to the heart of everything that's right (and wrong) with the 007 series. As engaging as the gadgetry and expensive pyrotechnics can be, those are also the elements that date each Bond film the most, so it's no surprise that the movies that hold up best are the ones that are anchored to a fairly coherent story and feature believable villains and threats. And such is why 1963's From Russia with Love is usually considered one of greatest of 007 entries it denies fancy pyrotechnics and evil laboratories for a straight-ahead, espionage-centric narrative. After an introduction title sequence (a series first) that shows the threat of Bond adversary Red Grant (Robert Shaw), the story moves on to SPECTRE (SPecial Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion) and their latest plan to cause the Russians and the West to fight it out. They want to get a Russian girl to pretend to fall in love with Bond and offer a Lectre a prized piece of communist technology in exchange for his affections. Since SPECTRE's new #3 Rosa Klebb (Lotte Lenya) has not been disavowed by the U.S.S.R, she gets Tatiana Romanova (Daniela Bianchi) to be the girl who pretends to fall for Bond and hopefully heat up the Cold War. Bond knows it's likely a trap, but he finds the girl attractive enough to play along, and MI6 can't resist the opportunity to snag a Lectre. What Klebb and her cohorts don't count on is Tatiana really falling for Bond, and the two escape from Turkey with the help of Ali Kerim Bey (Pedro Armendariz) and a briefcase from the series-introduced Q (Desmond Llewelyn), which features 50 gold coins and stun-gas. This is quintessential 007, and it's because he's at his most clever. Bond has to rely on his wits to survive against the backdrop of credible spy work, the enemy agents are believable and believably threatening, the girl is attractive, and it's all directed at a very quick clip by Terrence Young. Though the series would often get larger and more absurd, whenever the franchise has had to rethink itself, this film is always the template for "back to basics" Bonds (including 2006's Casino Royale).
Fox/MGM presents their two-disc "Ultimate Edition" DVD of From Russian With Love in anamorphic widescreen (1.78:1) with Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS 5.1, the original mono, and dubbed French audio tracks. Extras on the first disc include a commentary by director Terrence Young and members of the cast and crew, while Disc Two includes the featurettes "Ian Fleming: The CBC interview"(8 min.), "Ian Fleming and Raymond Chandler" (5 min.), "Ian Fleming on Desert Island Discs" (5 min.), an animated storyboard sequence for the boat chase (2 min.), "Inside From Russia with Love" (34 min.), "Harry Saltzman: Showman" (27 min.), three trailers, three TV spots, three radio spots, a stills gallery, and "007 Mission Control," which offers highlights of the franchise's repeated trademarks. Dual-DVD slimline keep-case. Available in MGM's "James Bond Collection: Volume 3."