From Russia with Love (1963)

SPECTRE is back again, and they’ve set a trap for the British Secret Service.  When the bait turns out to be irresistable, M sends Bond to retrieve it knowing they’re being set up.  But who is setting the trap? And do M and James really know what they’re getting in to?

 


 

From Russia with Love builds upon the solid foundation build by Dr. No, and takes things a step further.  It may not be many people’s favourite, but it very much announces that Bond is here for a while – there is deliberate effort in developing characters and organisations for the viewer and establishing the franchise for the long term.

That’s not to say that this movie suffers as a result – it is still a good, solid entertaining ride.  However, I get the sense that with a more established franchise there are some areas which could have been explored more.  The opening, for example, sets up SPECTRE as the villains planning a trap for MI6; a more establishd SPECTRE orgnaisation would have allowed the writers to keep them hidden, exploring the complexities of their plan further and keeping the viewer in suspense.

Action-wise, things are kicked up a notch from Dr. No, and it benefits from a combination of a better budget and some better chosen camera angles to make the most of the action taking place.

From Russia with Love balances some big ideas without over stretching itself, and comes out in a good place.  It’s absolutely worth a watch, and leaves the Bond franchise on a solid foundation for the future.

 


 

Bond:
Sean Connery.
Connery reprises his role, and he’s just as good this time around.
5/5

Villains:
Ernst Blofeld/Number 1 (amusingly credited to “?”).
Number 1 is never seen, save a hand petting his trademark fluffy cat, and the suspense is handled well.  His menacing voice and well framed shots mean he is both an excellent villain and gives something for fans to look forward to…
4/5
Rosa Klebb/Number 3 (Lotte Lenya).
While her motivations seem strained at best, she does get a cool factor for the poisoned shoe-knife.
3/5
Donald ‘Red’ Grant (Robert Shaw).
Grant gives a bit of a spy-vs-spy vibe as the SPECTRE agent sent to take care of Bond, and does well in the role.
3/5

Bond Girl:
Tatiana Romanova (Daniela Bianchi).
Tatiana gets a lot of screen time here, and makes good use of it, though she does seem too ‘damsel in distress’ for a supposed Russian agent.
3/5

M:
Bernard Lee.
Bernard Lee’s M is the one in charge, and his response to Bond’s flippant attitude show he is the kind of M who gives agents discipline his way – straight up, without sugar coating it.
3/5

Q:
Desmond Llewelyn.
A disappointingly brief introduction to one of the series’ most iconic characters save Bond himself – and an actor who would retain the role for an astonishing number of films.
2/5

Moneypenny:
Lois Maxwell.
Lois gets a little more time to flirtatiously tease Connery’s Bond here, and her fun-loving demeanor brightens up the early scenes.
3/5

Others:
Kerim Bey (Pedro Armendariz).
A spy who has come to enjoy the more relaxed spy business of Istanbul – he keeps things light but is in the know when his expertise is needed.
3/5

Gadgets:
The newly introduced Q branch comes through in a pinch, with the swiss army knife of suitcases.  Tear gas, throwing knife, spare ammunition… and oh, some bribe money!  Everything the modern spy needs.
3/5

Cars:
Chevrolet Apache C3.
The only thing Bond drives in this movie. Disappointing to any car enthusiasts out there, but the story doesn’t suffer for it.
0/5

Overall:
A solid follow up to Dr. No.  From Russia with Love doesn’t break any real new ground like its predecessor, but it develops a lot of characters, MI6 and SPECTRE alike.  Not one for introducing Bond to the uninitiated, but the character development alone would definitely make it worth watching, and there’s much more than that to love about it.
8/10

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