By Carter B. Horsley
The second film in the James Bond series, "From
Russia With Love" is a romantic thriller with exotic locales,
very memorable characters and plenty of action. The first film
in the series, "Dr. No," established Sean Connery as
the world's most debonair spy and here his character is even more
assured and sophisticated.
Connery's James Bond is dapper and deadly,
confident and courageous, sly and smart. In "Dr. No"
he was a daring adventurer, but in "From Russia With Love"
he became a world icon of heroic manliness and guaranteed the
future of the most successful series in film history.
Connery would eventually retire from the role
to be replaced by Roger Moore, who also had a long run as James
Bond. Connery would return subsequently one more time to the role,
which has also been played by Roger Lazenby, Tim Dalton, Pierce
Bosnan and David Niven.
It is very difficult to pick the best James
Bond film. This one firmed up the formula and is perhaps Connery's
best, but ?The Spy Who Loved Me" with Roger Moore (see The City Review article) is more exotic.
The formula of a mini-adventure at the start
of the film, high-tech gadgets, spectacular locations, beautiful
leading ladies, eccentric, megalomaniacal villains, impressive
stunts and excellent scores was set in "From Russia With
In "Dr. No" and in most subsequent
sequels, the villains are very ambitious and usually want to dominate
the world, but in "From Russia With Love," the main
villain, Ernst Stavros Blofeld, the head of SPECTRE, only seeks
a Russian decoding device. SPECTRE also wants to kill Bond to
revenge his killing of one of its major operatives, Dr. No. His
face is never seen in this movie and only appears in a later sequel,
"You Only Live Twice." His "Number 3" and
"Number 5," former KGB agent Rosa Klebb, played by Lotte
Lenya, and chess master Kronsteen, played by Vladek Sheybal, are
the "bad guys" in this film who use agent Red Grant,
played by Robert Shaw, to pursue their evil ends.
The film opens on a beautiful estate where
Grant stalks and kills British agent 007, James Bond, a rather
surprising opening. Bond, of course, was not killed, only a man
wearing a very well-made mask that strongly resembles him.
Kronsteen plans to have a beautiful Russian
cipher clerk, Tatiana Romanova, played by Daniela Bianchi, turn
over the decoding device, known as the "Lektor," to
James Bond and then to have Grant take it from Bond and kill him.
Klebb convinces Romanov to pretend to defect
to the British, but Romanov is unaware that Klebb is a SPECTRE
agent. The "Lektor" is in the Russian Consulate in Istanbul.
Tatiana promises to defect, but only will do it if James Bond
picks her up on the pretext that she has fallen in love with him
on the basis of a photograph. Although the British think the defection
may be a trap, they agree to the defectio because they want the
Bond goes to Istanbul where Station T is headed
by Kerim Bey, played by Pedro Armendáriz. SPECTRE stirs
up trouble in Istanbul by having some Bulgars and Gypsies killing
some Russians and some British.
Bond meets with Tatiana and is convinced that
the "Lektor" is genuine and they plan to escape aboard
the Orient Express. SPECTRE, however, photographs Bond and Romanov
making love and plans to use the photographs to embarass the British
Kerim Bay is killed and Bond asks London for
help and is told to meet Captain Nash at the stop in Zagreb. Grant,
however, finds the captain first and kills him and takes his identity.
Grant does a good job of faking a British accent
but Bond becomes suspicious when he orders the wrong wine in the
train's dining car. Grant confronts Bond in his train compartment
and Bond forestalls his being shot by telling Grant that he has
50 gold coins in his briefcase. While still holding a gun on Bond,
grant tries to open the briefcase, which is booby-trapped. Bond
and Grant have a tremendous and very vicious fight and Bond is
able to kill Grant.
Bond and Romanov get off the train and travel
by car and boat to Venice pursued by more SPECTRE agents. They
escape only to be confronted in their hotel room by Rosa Klebb,
disguised as a cleaning woman, who tries first to shoot Bond and
then, when disarmed, to kick him with a poisoned blade in the
sole of her shoe. Romanov manages to shoot Klebb and returns a
ring Bond had given her as he tosses the blackmail film into a
Based on the novel by Ian Fleming with a screenplay
by Richard Mailbaum and Joanna Harwood, "From Russia With
Love" has plenty of action but is memorable mostly for the
acting. Daniela Bianchi, an Italian who was Miss Universe 1960
and whose voice is dubbed, is very, very lovely, especially when
she wears a black ribbon around her neck. Robert Shaw is a fearsome
adversary. Lotte Lenya is deliciously witchlike. Pedro Armendáriz,
who died just as the film was about to open, is wonderfully mirthful
and lusty as Kerim Bey.
This film introduced Desmond Llewelyn as Major
Boothroyd who becomes better known in the remainder of the Bond
series as "Q," the Secret Service's master of gadgets.
Connery is much more at ease in "From
Russia With Love" and is perfect as he would be in several
more films in the series. Subsequent Bond films would be much
flashier and be filled with more gadgets and stunts. They would
be cutting-edge and the popular touchstone of gee-wiz technology,
but they would not have been made had not "From Russia With
Love" made 007 so damn attractive. unbelieveable