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HTF BLU-RAY REVIEW: From Russia With Love

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#1 of 6 ONLINE   Cameron Yee

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Posted October 16 2008 - 04:43 PM

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Release Date: October 21, 2008
Studio: MGM Home Entertainment
Packaging/Materials: Single-disc Blu-Ray case with cardstock slipcover
Year: 1963
Rating: PG
Running Time: 1h55m
MSRP: $34.98

MAIN FEATURE
Video1080p high definition 16x9 1.66:1
AudioDTS HD Master Audio: English 5.1 / Dolby Digital: English Mono, Spanish Mono, French 5.1
SubtitlesEnglish, Spanish

Note: Portions of this review include material from my review of the two-disc DVD included in the "James Bond Ultimate Collection, Volume 3." You can read the entirety of the review here.


The Feature: 4.5/5
James Bond (Sean Connery) is tasked to rendezvous with a female Soviet agent (Daniela Bianchi) who may want to defect and provide MI6 with a Lektor decoding machine. Unbeknownst to her (and Bond) she is being manipulated by Ernst Blofeld and his SPECTRE organization.


Video Quality: 4/5
The film is correctly framed at 1.66:1, encoded in AVC and devoid of blemishes. Black levels are deep and inky and contrast is very good. Shadow detail is limited, particularly in the nighttime and darker interior scenes, but this could very well be a limitation of the film stock used at the time. Fine object detail is excellent - skin texture (and the makeup on it), blades of grass and threads in fabrics all standing out in their clarity. Some cutaway, wide shots (the air traffic control room and the overview of the chess match hall) have a noticeable drop in quality, though I'm hesitant to fault the transfer, other than perhaps being too revealing. Colors have good depth and richness and grain structure is nicely preserved with no signs of noise reduction or artificial edge enhancement.


Audio Quality: 4/5
Despite having a 5.1 audio mix in DTS HD Master Audio, the activity is predominantly a front stage affair with surround activity most prevalent in the finale. What little directional effects exist also are front stage predominant. Some sound effects have a noticeable lo-fi quality and can grate a bit on the ears, but it's forgivable given the film's vintage. The plentiful explosions have good fullness in the bottom end but the activity isn't sufficiently deep to be considererd true LFE. Dialogue is clear and crisp, however, and the music score has a pleasant silkiness in the strings and nice dynamic range overall.

Though the release includes the original mono track, I can't really see anyone choosing it. The lossy 224 kbps track is grainy and generally unpleasant. Switching back to the lossless track is like putting hand lotion on chapped skin.


Special Features: 5/5

All the special features from the "Ultimate Edition" DVD release have been ported over and some have been upgraded to high definition video! Though the "007 Mission Control" random access piece is merely grabbing elements from the feature, two subsequent documentaries and the theatrical trailer are now high definition - a nice touch.

Audio Commentary with Director Terence Young and Members of the Cast and Crew: John Cork of the Ian Fleming Foundation serves as the moderator/narrator for this collection of trivia and pre-recorded interview clips with cast and crew. It is tightly scripted and Cork is clearly reading, but the information is interesting and well chosen, with the interviews enhancing it. The only criticism is the commentary packs in so much information that it is sometimes hard to keep up, but this is usually alleviated by the pre-recorded interviews.

Ian Fleming: The CBC Interview (7m42s): Black-and-white television Canadian news interview with Fleming, produced on the event of Fleming's death in 1964. The opening shot provides a bit of interesting trivia related to "GoldenEye."

Ian Fleming and Raymond Chandler Featurette (5m11s): Fleming's audio interview of Chandler for the BBC, set to a slideshow of archival photos of the two authors.

Ian Fleming on Desert Island Discs (5m11s): BBC audio interview with Fleming, discussing his time in the British Navy, working as a journalist, and his writing routine. Set to a slideshow of archival photos.

Animated Storyboard Sequence (1m27s): Original storyboard sequence of the boat chase scene, with the actual scene edited in for comparison.

Credits (1m20s): Production credits for the "MI6 Vault."

"007 Mission Control": An interesting feature, giving random access to scenes around a particular character or theme, all in 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio and 1080p high definition 16x9 1.66:1 video. Better than skipping through the feature disc? It depends. For fans of the opening title sequence, this is an easy way to access it. And obviously users aren't meant to watch all the clips, but only access their favorites; otherwise, why not just watch the feature? The one departure from simple clips from the film is the "Exotic Locations" item, which is a montage of film locales with narration by Maude Adams. In high definition video and stereo audio.

Inside "From Russia With Love" (33m43s): History of the film, featuring interviews with cast and crew and archival photos. Not an exhaustive treatment, but nicely produced and a good catch up with surviving contributors to the film. Daniela Bianchi receives a good share of interview time, while Sean Connery provides only a brief soundbite. In high definition with stereo audio.

Harry Saltzman: Showman (26m41s): Biography of Producer Harry Saltzman, who worked with Albert Broccoli on the first nine Bond films, featuring interviews with surviving family and industry colleagues. In high definition with stereo audio.

Theatrical Archive: (7m31s) Three theatrical trailers. The second trailer, "Bond Back to Back," promotes a double feature of the film with "Dr. No" and the third, "Bond Sale," a double feature with "Thunderball." The first trailer is in high definition with stereo audio.

TV Broadcasts (1m36s): TV spots promoting the "Bond Sale" double features.

Radio Communication (1m29s): Radio spots promoting the "Bond Sale."

Image Database: A large image gallery filled with the requisite mix of promotional stills, on-set shots, and advertising materials.

"Quantum of Solace" Movie Cash: In promotion of the upcoming Bond film starring Daniel Craig, a cover sticker has a code to access an online coupon worth up to $10.50 toward the purchase of a ticket for the movie. At the time of this review the website was not yet active. The sticker also left a fair amount of adhesive on the cardstock cover, though it was easily removed with duct tape.


Recap

The Feature: 4.5/5
Video Quality: 4/5
Audio Quality: 4/5
Special Features: 5/5
Overall Score (not an average): 4.5/5

For those who have never owned any version of "From Russia with Love," the Blu-Ray release is a no-brainer, having very good audio and video transfers to go along with the plentiful set of extras, some which are now in high definition. For owners of the DVD version, the decision to re-purchase the title on Blu-Ray will ultimately come down to how much they enjoy the film. My personal strategy with the release of the Blu-Ray Bond films, before I knew I'd be getting them to review, was to purchase only those titles I really loved, this film being one of them. I suspect, however, that hardcore fans will be looking at a wholesale upgrade for all the films if the rest of the titles are as fine as this one.
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#2 of 6 OFFLINE   PaulDA

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Posted October 17 2008 - 04:56 AM

Another item for my Christmas list. One of my favourite Bond films (and books).
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#3 of 6 OFFLINE   Matt Butler

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Posted October 17 2008 - 05:21 AM

What PaulDA said. On my Christmas list.
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#4 of 6 OFFLINE   Ed St. Clair

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Posted October 17 2008 - 11:25 AM

Would be interested too learn how this release compares too the previous releases A/V-wise.
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#5 of 6 OFFLINE   Thomas Agermose

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Posted October 20 2008 - 07:25 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Cameron Yee
grain structure is nicely preserved with no signs of noise reduction

I believe Mr. Harris differs in opinion. Check out his A few word about From Russia With Love thread

#6 of 6 ONLINE   Cameron Yee

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Posted October 21 2008 - 04:38 PM

Quote:
I believe Mr. Harris differs in opinion. Check out his A few word about From Russia With Love thread
I will certainly defer to Robert's more expert opinion and trained eyes. The DNR then is subtle - not your typical type where detail is obliterated - hence my evaluation.
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