From Russia with Love (1963)
From Russia with Love (1963)

Genre: Action and Spy Running Time: 1 hr. 55 min.

Release Date: October 11th, 1963 MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Director: Terence Young Actors: Sean Connery, Daniela Bianchi, Pedro Armendariz, Lotte Lenya, Robert Shaw, Bernard Lee, Eunice Gayson, Walter Gotell, Nadja Regin, Lois Maxwell, Aliza Gur, Martine Beswick

 


 

“F

rom Russia with Love” is the first James Bond film to make use of a true opening scene (though not of the action-packed caliber or length of subsequent entries), along with movie-specific theme music (an instrumental version that transitions into the popular trumpet tune), and more creative title credits – this time casting neon words over a belly dancer. Desmond Llewelyn makes an appearance, brandishing a booby-trapped briefcase as his only Q-Branch gadgetry, while Connery is introduced in his iconic tuxedo uniform. The beautiful women are plentiful, no martinis are properly served, a hierarchy of unique villains is designed, and the end credits denote that Bond will return in yet another adventure – “Goldfinger.”

Having lost their valuable operative Dr. No (in the previous film), global terrorist organization SPECTRE (Special Executive for Counter-Intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge, and Extortion) has devised a new decoy plan to goad MI6 into leading agent James Bond (Sean Connery) into a trap. Helmed by defector “Number 5” (real name Kronsteen [Vladek Sheybal]), and orchestrated by “Number 3” (the Russian Colonel Rosa Klebb [Lotte Lenya]), Istanbul operative Corporal Tatiana Romanova (Daniela Bianchi) meets with Bond, under the impression that she’s involved in a legitimate Soviet counterintelligence agency mission. But Klebb has recruited a top assassin, the fair-haired Grant (Robert Shaw) to ensure that 007 is extinguished for good.

Bond eagerly arrives in Istanbul, though he’s certain that the assignment is a subterfuge – but he’s nevertheless intrigued by a photograph of his contact, Tatiana, who will supposedly defect only with his help. Once in the city, Bond is guided by Ali Kerim Bey (Pedro Armendariz), head of the Turkey station. With Cold War tension and animosity surrounding them, Tatiana soon aids Bond in stealing a cryptograph that both British and American covert agencies have been after for years. As SPECTRE plays the various nations against one another, 007 remains the target of revenge, struggling to stay one step ahead of each new attempt on his life.

With a drawn-out bellydance performance, a gypsy catfight, convoluted spy subplots, and too many minor characters, “From Russia with Love” still suffers from a myriad of the same problems that “Dr. No” exhibited the year before; chiefly, the story moves too slowly, fattened up with activities that are inconsequential and not action oriented. Characters interact, explanations are spilled verbosely, and widespread geography is traversed (this is one of the more globetrotting of Bond’s episodes), but it makes little difference on the outcome. Humor is present but it’s thankfully regularly moderated; the lingering lighthearted tone prevents Bond from ever being in any real danger, even when he’s temporarily caught off guard. A suspenseful fistfight in a train car, utilizing tight angles and close quarters for some amusing choreography, is the best of such moments – but similar sequences are too far and few between.

– Mike Massie

  • 6/10