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The first three Bonds (Dr. No, FRWL, Goldfinger) are without question
the best in the series, though From Russia with Love may well be the
best of the best. It has all things we look for in a great Bond film -
exotic locales, sinister villains, beautiful women - but it was made
before Goldfinger established the
formula as canonical, so its plot line may surprise viewers reared on
the later Bond films. For one thing, there's little or nothing in the
way of gadgetry (though Q does provide our hero with a pretty nifty
briefcase). Beyond a brief encounter with the faceless Number One,
there's no arch-villain looming over the action, and the henchmen are
at once less invulnerable and more interesting than most of their
successors in the series. Particularly memorable, of course, are Lotte
Lenya as the hatchet-faced Colonel ("She's had her kicks") Kleb and
Robert Shaw as the brutish Donald "Red" Grant. Kleb's edgy menace is
neatly offset by her terror at the prospect of failure (an option which
Number One refuses to countenance); her subtle come-on to Tatiana
Romanova was positively daring by 1963 standards, and she manages to do
for footwear what Goldfinger's Odd Job went on to do for head gear.
Grant is no superman, but a vicious, small-time thug, recruited by
SPECTRE and transformed into a fearsome enforcer; his bitter encounter
with Bond on the train speaks volumes about the class tensions that
still underlay British society in the post-war era.
Connery, for his part, gets to build on the character he first fleshed out in Dr. No. His Bond really emerges here as a complex man, formidable but flawed. He's genteel and sophisticated, but he doesn't always keep his cool; unlike the too-often unflappable Roger Moore, Connery's Bond betrays both anger and fear when the circumstances seem to warrant it. He intervenes chivalrously to stop a fight between two Gypsy women, but he's not above slugging a woman in the service of his mission. I've always enjoyed the humanizing chemistry between Connery and Pedro Armendariz's larger-than-life Kerim ("I've led a fascinating life") Bey, the most charming of Bond sidekicks; their friendship comes across as genuine and multi-dimensional. Today's viewers (especially women) will likely find Daniela Bianchi's Tanya ("I LOVE you, James") Romanova an uncomfortably passive damsel-in-distress, but, hey: she's drop-dead gorgeous and has some nice scenes with Connery. The Turkish and Balkan settings are spectacular and the train sequence at the end is both exciting and suspenseful. Cold War scenario notwithstanding, this one has aged very well. Shake yourself a pitcher of vodka martinis and spend a Friday night watching Dr. No, From Russia with Love and Goldfinger.
'From Russia With Love' is the second and last of the Bond films to be
made without a rigid formula. With 'Goldfinger', the expected elements
of the later films would all accrue in a single film, setting a
template the series would struggle to escape from (and, for the most
part, would not bother trying to). So, like 'Dr. No', there's only a
single sex interest (let's not use the term 'love' too lightly), rather
than the good-girl-survives, bad/tragic-girl-dies dichotomy that would
later structure all the films (bar OHMSS and, interestingly, the Dalton
films), and unlike 'Dr. No', the villainous plot is rather small beer
and resolutely real-world - to steal a code machine and humiliate the
British Intelligence community in the process. There's also no
bombastic theme song, although Matt Monro provides an easy-listening
version of the theme tune at the end (it's not half bad, actually,
although Shirley Bassey's brassy 'Goldfinger' makes it seem
antediluvian in comparison).
Effectively, this means that it's the last Bond film in which the makers were trying to make a film, not a Bond film. It didn't matter if the motifs were all there or not, it only mattered if it was a good film. Unsurprisingly, it has a good claim to being the best film of the series, and it's certainly the least self-conscious (compare with 'Thunderball', an artificial attempt to replicate 'Goldfinger' but making everything bigger).
So, Daniela Bianchi isn't really just the latest 'Bond Girl', but the character at the heart of this thriller - she pretty much is the story. Ursula Andress might have had an iconic entrance in 'Dr. No', but she was so much window-dressing, irrelevant to the plot, arriving late and with almost no agency in the events that unfold around her. By contrast, the crucial pivot of 'From Russia With Love' is whether Bianchi's Tanya will side with Bond or SMERSH - the age old 'love or duty' dilemma.
The film also takes time with detours that have little to do with the main plot - as in the sequence at the gypsy camp. There is a real feeling of a functioning world around Bond's escapades, rather than just colourful 'exotic' backdrops.
There also isn't an undue emphasis on big action set pieces - Bond's encounter with a helicopter (very 'North by Northwest' - in fact Hitchcock's influence is detectable throughout this film, from the Cathedral sequence, to the cool Blondeness of Bianchi, to the train setting of the second half) and the climactic speedboat chase are well-executed, but miniature next to those of later films. Tellingly, the best remembered action sequence is the fight between Connery and Robert Shaw on the train, and the series would never better this intimate, brutal struggle.
Shaw is by far the best of the series' bull-necked heavies - he's intelligent and charismatic as well as forceful, almost a Bond-equivalent. Lotte Lenya and Pedro Armendariz are both excellent in their supporting turns, reminders of a time when the series actually featured fully developed supporting characters, and Bianchi is good - she may lack the overt sex appeal of Andress, but she's a better actress, playing innocent without being either stupid or dull. Connery really grows into the role here, a long way from the pork-pie hatted clod he was in the first film but still untamed and prickly enough to be an exciting screen presence. It was a long slow decline from here to the tubby jobsworth of 'Diamonds Are Forever'.
The early Bond films often escape the critical gaze, and when they are subjected to it, it is usually through rose-tinted spectacles. 'Dr. No' is dull and poorly acted, 'Goldfinger' fun but rather shapeless, and 'Thunderball' just tries too hard altogether. 'From Russia With Love' is a polished little gem, a cold-war thriller done with great style, and a minor masterpiece, irrespective of the series around it.
Following the surprising success of Dr No, it became obvious that
Broccoli and Saltzman's next step as producers would be other cinematic
adaptation of Ian Fleming's work. Their choice this time was From
Russia With Love, a novel once pointed out by US president Kennedy as
one of his favorite books.
Trying to capture the unique mood and look of Dr No, the producers brought back almost everyone involved in the first Bond outing ( excepting mediocre composer Monty Norman, whose clumsy tunes were replaced by a magnificent John Barry's score, in his first "official" collaboration in the Bond series). This includes Broccoli's long-standing collaborator Terence Young, screenwriter Richard Maibaum ,and, of course, Connery, that rough Scottsman, initially despised by everybody as a "lorry driver" , who nevertheless delivered an unforgettable performance as James Bond.
All these talents combined to produce what no doubt is one the best Bond films of all time. Contrasting with the over the top story lines which would very soon become synonymous with Bond, From Russia With Love is a gritty and realistic Cold War thriller,filled up with sex violence and pure excitement. Terence Young considers this to be his best Bond film, and the movie proves him right. It is full of stylish shots( the famous close-up of Romanova's lips while Bond says "your mouth is just the right size") and really hot( by the 60's standards) seduction sequences. Even the back projection, a technical device often unfairly criticized , works wonderfully. Although many have criticized the action sequences following Bond's scape from the train, I think they're excellent, adding to the film's sense of danger and excitement. The helicopter chase, in particular, is a moment of brilliant film-making.(And it's even better than the sequence From North By Northwest that inspired it) The shot of Bond and Romanova embracing in the foreground with the helicopter exploding in the background perfectly encapsulates what the entire movie is about:danger, romance, violence.
As for the cast, Connery seems more confident and relaxed this time, but when it comes to his job, he is as ruthless and cold as Fleming originally envisioned the character. Lotte Lenya wonderfully portrays SPECTRE mastermind Rosa Klebb ("..such a disgusting woman..." as Romanova states at one point) . But it is legendary supporting actor Robert Shaw who nearly steals the show as a cold-blooded hit-man with a psychotic strain to him.
All in all, From Russia With Love is definitely a must-see not only for Bond fans, but for every discerning film lover.A true classic.
This has to be my favorite bond. It mixes the best aspects of an action
movie with the necessary espionage. Recent Bond attempts have moved
away from the "spy-game" aspect and rely more on large explosions to
dazzle the viewer. Kerem Bey, the Turkish spy leader, is as much a
partner and foil for Bond as there ever was. Any movie with a gypsy
fight, absurd helicopter assassination attempts, and boat chase has to
Also, Daniella Bianchi is my favorite Bond girl. Her truceau is as sexy as it gets, though this is a subject every true Bond fan will debate about. The only objection is that they dubbed her voice into a more coarse, Russian accent. Overall, it is a wonderful movie that spans the globe and defeats SPECTRE. James Bond will return, but never with as much intrigue, beauty, and suspense as "From Russia With Love".
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
For the first time, we are introduced to the leader of Spectre, Ernst
Stavros Blofeld known as number one, and whose face remains hidden
until "You Only Live Twice."
His goal is to steal a new decoder, the Lektor, from the office of the Russian consulate, heats up the Cold War by killing and attacking the Russians and the British, through their respective agents, the Bulgarians and the Gypsies...
Spectre has a feeling of resentment against Bond, because he eliminated Dr. No... He instructed number 5: "Let his death be a particularly unpleasant humiliating one."
Sean Connery's second portrayal of the Secret Agent 007 is right on target... Our patriot-libertine is always ready to seduce a pretty spy for his country... He is hard during his interrogation of Tatiana... That slap must have hurt... He has trouble disabling his vicious adversaries... His ultimate match with Klebb's poisoned toe cap left him sweaty... Luckily Tatiana knows which side to stand...
The charming Daniela Bianchi is Tatiana Romanova, a young Greta Garbo... She plays a pawn in Spectre blackmail scene... She knows her defection is fake but doesn't know that Klebb is a Spectre agent who will try to acquire the Lektor, and trap Bond at the same time... She also ignores that behind the mirror above the king sized bed, Spectre agents are secretly filming her love making with Bond from a cabinet de voyeur...
In his final appearance, Pedro Armendariz plays Bond's most memorable Turkish Ally, the delightful Ali Kerim Bey, head of Station T, in Turkey... Kerim Bey is the perfect combination of aggression and intelligence... (Dying of cancer and hospitalized in Los Angeles, this great Mexican actor, took a pistol from under his pillow and shot himself...)
Lotte Lenya plays number three, Rosa Klebb, former head of operations for SMERSH, and now a sadistic Spectre agent placed in control by the mysterious number one, who found Donald "Red" Grant fit enough for duty... This repugnant lady recruits the good-looking Tatiana from the Istanbul consulate... For her, "Training is useful, but there is no substitute for experience."
Robert Shaw is "Red" Grant, a psychopath training on Spectre island who has to take the decoding device from Bond... He is, perhaps, the most memorable assassin who succeeds in making Bond kneel...
Walter Gotell (later known as General Gogol) makes his first appearance in the series...
Vladek Sheybal plays the master planner, Spectre top operative on the mission, number five, Kronsteen... He is a chess master known as the "Wizard of Ice." His plan involves using Bond and Russian cipher clerk Tatiana as pawns...
Fred Haggerty plays the Bulgarian killer Krilencu... The way he is dealt with is very original...
"From Russia with Love" introduces "Q" to the series... Desmond Llewelyn isn't called "Q" yet, but the credits refer to him as Major Boothroyd, the equipment officer...
"From Russia with Love" is a straight spy adventure with lots of action and beautiful women: The attractive masseuse oiling Grant in the garden of Spectre training camp; Sylvia Trench, the "interesting old case" who returns to frolic in a canoe on the Thames; Kerim's slinky mistress lying on the settee, chews 'her breads and whines for attention;' Leila, the belly dancer at the Gypsy camp overwhelming Bond with her abdominal skill; the stunning two Gypsy girls (Vida and Rosa) whom Bond is told to select the victor in their Gypsy fight to the death; the lovely Tatiana lying naked in Bond's bed with only a black ribbon tied around her neck...
"From Russia with Love" is a splendidly entertaining film against exotic Istanbul and Venice backgrounds...
After the success of Dr. No, it was only a matter of time before James
Bond returned for his second installment of espionage and adventure. Of
course, it wasn't until the phenomenal success of Goldfinger that the
Bond series really took off, and established the formula soon to be
followed by every subsequent 007 movie and virtually every other action
movie. But 'From Russia with Love' proved to be an equally effective,
if slightly quieter little film, with more focus on the undercover
espionage portion of James Bond's occupation, and less of the glamorous
saving the world which would later become daily routine for him.
In fact, one of the things that makes 'From Russia with Love' interesting is that it is a 007 movie made before the "Bond movie" formula was established, and noticeable differences in the storyline can be seen. 'Russia' is more of a slower film, with fewer action sequences and more focus on Bond actually being a spy rather than an action hero. This leisurely, tension-building storytelling likely would have garnered terrible reaction in the 90s, but 'From Russia with Love' is still a very strong, if less formulaic addition to the Bond series.
Another noticeable difference is that Bond himself is much less the star of the show than is usually the case. Much more focus is placed on the supporting characters of the story, including minor characters such as chess master Kronsteen (Vladek Sheybal) who likely would simply have been eliminated from the story had 'Russia' followed the standard formula more closely. And for once, Bond isn't completely all knowing, capable of solving any problem independently - he teams up with the wise Kerim Bey (the charming Pedro Armendariz, his last film role) who shows Bond the ropes of Istanbul. But more standard story elements from the Bond formula are still present, such as menacing villains Rosa Klebb (the terrifying Lotte Lenya) and hit-man Red Grant. (an utterly intimidating and menacing Robert Shaw, the film's standout) And of course, there is still a slew of beautiful women for Bond to seduce, especially Russian decoding clerk Tatiana Romanova, played by the immensely gorgeous Daniela Bianchi. Also watch for a tense boat chase near the film's climax, the kind of stunt frequented by future Bond films.
So 'From Russia with Love' is really a quieter, more suspenseful addition to the Bond series, with more focus on Bond doing some actual spying rather than explosions every five minutes and Bond saving the world from some elaborate scheme. It may drag at times, and may not prove quite as exciting as today's audiences might hope, but Connery is at the top of his game here as 007, and his opposers are genuinely menacing and intimidating. For those wishing the Bond franchise would place more emphasis of the espionage portion of Bond's occupation, 'From Russia with Love' should prove the perfect film for them.
Hard to believe, but the movie is actually an improvement on Fleming's novel. Rather than have the Lektor operation be a simple Russian scheme to discredit Bond as Fleming did, SPECTRE takes a hand here in their first on-screen appearance as an organization. The plot is improved considerably because of this. The movie thrives on its supporting actors and Sheybal. Connery is somewhat outshone by these greater lights, but gives a credible performance. From Russia... is a different pace of movie: no one here is intent on wiping out the world's population, or destroying the gold supply, or stealing submarines. Basically, it's a quiet little plot focusing on an elaborate "sting" operation. Until the end, the pace is kind of slow, and might lose more "modern" audiences, particularly those used to incredible stunt sequences every 20 minutes.
Connery came, he acted, and he conquered as James Bond in this second
installment of the James Bond film franchise. With some of the most
realistic fight scenes for a '60s movie and terrific story by Fleming,
this film has a recipe for a masterpiece.
As mentioned in my review of "Dr. No", his charm and intellectual wit is still there, and then in some scenes in a whole lot more better than before. How he tries to commence his mission, you just couldn't fall asleep. A-grade acting by Connery here.
Then-newcomer Daniela Branchi is good as Bond Girl Tatiana, who is the wrong girl at the right time. Desmond Llewelyn, in his debut as gadget man Q, shows us an impressive array of gadgets that Bond would later find quite useful. But it is Robert Shaw, who almost steals the show as the murderous, merciless, assassin Grant, who will stop at nothing to prevent Bond and Tatiana from commencing their mission.
Crew also return here. Producers Brocolli and Saltzman and director Young have returned, with double the budget and double the thrills in return. Also, the musical score by John Barry is memorable, it really sets the tone for a realistic spy adventure.
The story is not meant to be an action picture. It is more like the adventures of a spy, with the dangers of being a spy. In short, it is a complex spy thriller, made to suit the target audience which are spy fans and intelligent viewers. I do not understand how anyone could call such a film "boring." This truly is a pinnacle of the James Bond series, one which will remain for years to come.
A Bond film that stands out among all other films as well as the Bond films, From Russia With Love is filled with not only a heavy dose of nonstop action and adventure, but also an intelligent plot that commented heavily on the world state of affairs in 1963. Capitalist and Communists are set to work against each other by SPECTRE, an organization which does not give any special considerations to economic systems, but wishes to weaken the balance of world power and take control itself. The survival of the Bond films depended on their ability to change with the decades, and From Russia With Love is no exception. Great acting performances from not only Sean Connery, but Robert Shaw, Pedro Armendariz, and Lotte Lenya (the wife of Kurt Weill).
Sean Connery never failed to charm as James Bond.His charm,coupled with the terrific story line that you see here in from Russia With Love,makes this film second only to Goldfinger in terms of ranking all of Connery's efforts as 007.Nearly stealing the show is a fresh faced Robert Shaw as a trained assassin with his eyes zeroed in on the agent.Sadly,we also see the final performance of Pedro Armendariz,who committed suicide the year of the film's release upon learning he had terminal cancer.Even if you are not a Bond fan,this is a very well done good versus evil story that is carried out very well.If you are a Bond fan,you probably have all the films in your collection,whether they are good or bad,but if you are someone who only collects films you consider good,you'll want to consider this one.
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