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From Russia With Love (1963 - PG)
FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE is an adaptation of Ian Fleming's 1957 novel and the second of what would become a string of classic Bond films. At the head of the film is the original Bond, Sean Connery. This time Bond is off to Istanbul in hopes of intercepting a Russian cipher machine, unaware how much bait lay in waiting. With a Russian beauty, the nefarious organization SPECTRE, a deadly assassin, and a determined Russian agent in the prospects, Bond will have his hands more than full as he attempts to escape the multiple red herrings and deliver the coveted machine back to the British Secret Service.
Written by: Ian Fleming (novel), Joanna Hardwood (adaptation), and Richard Maibaum (screenplay).
Directed by: Terence Young.
Genre: Action, Adventure, Thriller.
Tagline: "Blood is the best security in this business."
"Training is useful, but there is no substitute for experience."
"Let's just say that Istanbul is a rough town."
Rated: PG for some mature references and action violence.
The film opens with your typical night scene- Bond (Sean Connery) is trampling through the grounds of some foreign estate while a Russian spy tracks him down. But wait, Bond dead in the first 5 minutes of the film? As it turns out the victim is not Bond at all, but a hapless “guinea pig” who has volunteered to “play” Bond while the Russians train the nefarious “Red” Grant (Robert Shaw) to master the art of killing the infamous British agent. Pan to a nifty and totally appropriate psychedelic belly-dancing scene where the credits roll off her ample body parts. Unfortunately the following scene isn’t quite so exotic, nor exciting, an international chess game, although cinematographically it’s quite impressive (and apparently put a hefty dent in the budget).
Still the boring events are soon over and now the film focuses on two dueling Beta Fish while Number 1, the nefarious head of SPECTRE, Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Eric Puhlman) gives a diatribe on the need for “wit and survival” to Number 3, Colonel Rosa Klebb,(Lotte Lenya): head of Russian spy operations. Together the two, and another agent, Number 5, corroborate a plan to steal the Russian’s covetous Electric Decoder, which involves some inside help from Number 3 of course. Likewise, the three culprits are intending British cooperation and in the process, hoping to undermine Bond once and for all in retribution for the death of Dr. No in the prequel.
So the film pans to Istanbul where Klebb, Grant, and the beautiful but potentially just as deadly Tatiana Romanova (Daniela Bianchi), who has been hired to play a red herring in Number 3’s latest plan that involves giving false information to the “enemy”, await Bond’s arrival. The plan is for crime cartel SPECTRE to initiate a ploy to lure Bond to his death by setting up the possibility for the British consulate to acquire a Russian decoding machine, Lector, from a defecting Russian agent, Klebb. But more than the Lector will play bait to Bond’s demise. Tatiana Romanova is going to likewise be very helpful in complicating matters.
Of course Bond smells out the trap immediately, but as usual, he’s known to have a penchant for beautiful women. Likewise, in hopes of ascertaining Lector in the process, Bond and his British headquarters agree to go ahead with the case- with all “eyes” on alert in the meantime. Of course before he can head off to Istanbul, Bond needs his bag ‘o goodies, courtesy of British Secret Service dollars.
While in Istanbul Bond first convenes with an old gypsy friend, Ali Kerim Bey (Pedro Armendáriz) then he moves on to his lodgings where, predictably, the first room is tapped. Requesting a second room however seems to prove in vain. Meanwhile Ali Kerim Bay is enjoying the pleasant company of a siren beauty when an unexpected collision erupts within his room. As Bond rushes over to investigate matters he is given a particularly novel tour through underground ancient ruins via a water canal that leads to Bey’s secret “headquarters” which has a convenient apparatus installed so as to aid his spying on foreign affairs.
Things continue to heat up at a local gypsy party where Bond and Bey have decided to venture. In the midst of some exotic belly dancing another agent is murdered by “Red” and, for extra entertainment some gypsy female wrestling ensues, but not without the interruption of an agent firearm-battlefield. Its mayhem and women!
And more women! As Bond heads back to his hotel he is surprised, or isn’t he, to discover Tatiana Romanova awaiting his presence, in his bed nonetheless, and looking quite comfortable. A classic Bond lust scene ensues, with drama only mounting the next day. Though Bond is sure that Tatiana promises to turn over the Lector to him, and consequently, the British, still, Bey isn’t so sure Bond is keeping his wits about him. All the same a quick hiatus on the open sea proves quite helpful in unveiling some secrets about the decoding machine, Lector.
Moving full speed ahead Bond acquires the Lector effortlessly, almost too effortlessly. Enter a swarm of rats, and a Russian spy, Benz (Peter Bayliss), sent to keep an eye on Tatiana. Though Benz proves easy enough to deal with, there is yet another problem on the plane in the guise of a formidable, stocky, blonde agent, “Red”. As Bond and Romanova make way for the dining car an employee informs Bond that Bey has been murdered, which nonetheless appears to have been staged. Thus when Bey’s associates await his departure from the cable car, and obviously Bey fails to do so, suspicion arises and matters are further complicated, as is typically the case in a Bond flick.
When the particularly suave SPECTRE agent Red Grant returns to the scene under the name “Captain Nash” (Bill Hill) , he proves quite meddlesome and threaten the lives of both Tatiana and Bond. As Bond slowly pieces the puzzle together (and likewise the audience), a witty banter between assassin and agent ensues. With the help of some hi-fi gadgets Bond is able to turn banter into action and once again agent 007 is back in the game and the enemies are down another assassin.
Of course no victory is won so easily and as Bond and Tatiana make way in a stolen vehicle it seems there’s perhaps more surprises around the corner than initially predicted. From road, back to sea again, “From Russia With Love” gives film viewers an excellent panoramic of the European coast line in a Romantic montage before the film’s grand denouement which includes more deaths, an at-sea invasion, followed by some great pyrotechnics, and of course, more women!
“From Russia with Love” is a classic Bond film, and arguably one of the best of its kind. A sophisticated Connery emerges as an iconic leading man in his second act as Britain’s infamous 007. From the nonstop action to the beautiful “Bond girls”, to a witty and intricate plot, “From Russia with Love” provides the movie viewer with a solid 2 hours of entertainment and “food for thought” concerning national affairs in 1963. In a classic Capitalist vs. Communist film, Ian Fleming’s 1957 novel is brilliantly adapted and Sean Connery helps make both Fleming’s plot and the Bond series an instant success. As one critic notes, “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…”
Great acting is right. Taking into consideration the era and the context in which the film was created, “From Russia with Love” has, in the words of the “Behind the Scenes Documentary”, a “stellar cast”. Daniela Bianchi as Tatiana Romanova adds an “exotic air” to the film, which is only supported by the film’s equally captivating “gypsy beauties” and the impressive Pedro Armendáriz (tragically this was his last film- he committees suicide the same year after learning he was terminally ill with cancer). Likewise, Sean Connery, as always, is solid, magnetic, and as suave as ever. Robert Shaw is equally compelling, and arguably “photogenic” as the nefarious assassin “Red”. Lotte Lenya as well is quite captivating as Klebb, though in this film not for her looks, but for her powerful and ruthless air. The cast is deft and does a great job with a 1960’s action flick that incorporated international landscapes, casts, and cultures into the background of its plot.
The score was reminiscent of the original Bond film, with the appropriate amendments and scene-specific additions. It’s a classic Bond score with all the recognizable measures that have become a hallmark of both the Bond film series and action films in general.
Likewise the cinematography was quite daring and adventurous for its time. Accordingly Ted Moore was rewarded with two cinematography awards from BAFTA and the British Society of Cinematography. Some of the best scenes in the film of course are 1) the “Bridal Suite” scene, 2) the opening “Chess” scene, 3) the opening scene with Blofeld and the Beta Fish, 4) the “Boat Chase” scene, and 5) the closing “Love Boat” scene in Venice. Likewise there is much detail given to, and great shots of the Istanbul landscape and its trademark art and architecture, including several shots of timeless mosques.
“From Russia with Love” was nominated for the 1965 Golden Globe for Best Song in a Motion Picture [John Barry (music) and Lionel Bart and Monty Norman (lyrics)]. The film also won 4 other critical film awards including two cinematography awards: the 1964 BAFTA Award for Best British Cinematography (Ted Moore) and the British Society of Cinematographer’s Award for Best Cinematography (Ted Moore). “From Russia with Love” also received two Laurel Awards: 2nd place Golden Laurel for Action Drama, and 3rd place Golden Laurel for Best Supporting Female Performance (Lotte Lenya), as well as a nomination for the (2004) Satellite Awards’ Golden Satellite Award for Best Classic DVD Release.
Sean Connery plays James Bond, the James Bond.
Robert Shaw plays “Red” Grant (AKA “Captain Nash”), the nefarious assassin.
Daniela Bianchi plays Tatiana Romanova, Bond’s Russian love-interest.
Pedro Armendáriz plays Ali Kerim Bey, Bond’s gypsy ally.
Lotte Lenya plays Rosa Klebb, the defecting Russian agent.
Lois Maxwell plays Miss Moneypenny, the British Secret Service’s sultry secretary.
Bernard Lee plays M, head of the British Secret Service.
Anthony Dawson (actor) & Eric Pohlman (voice) play Number 1, Ernst Stavro Blofeld (voice), the nefarious head of SPECTRE.