Saturday, March 9, 2013

#936. From Russia With Love (1963)

Directed By: Terence Young

Starring: Sean Connery, Robert Shaw, Lotte Lenya

Tag line: "The world's masters of murder pull out all the stops to destroy Agent 007!"

Trivia: The brutal fight in the train compartment between James Bond and Red Grant lasts only a few minutes on screen and took three weeks to film

After the box-office success of Dr. No, it was a "no-brainer" that producers Harry Saltzman and Albert “Cubby” Broccoli would bring Ian Fleming’s super spy James Bond back for another big screen adventure. Working with a larger budget, the creative minds behind the second Bond outing, From Russia with Love, upped the ante on the first, making it bigger and more elaborate while, at the same time, tapping into that flawless marriage of style and action that made Dr. No a worldwide phenomenon.

The criminal organization SPECTRE is after a Russian decoding device, and two of its best operatives, Rosa Klebb (Lotte Lenya) and Kronsteen (Vladek Sheybal) have concocted a plan they believe is foolproof. They will lure Britain’s #1 spy, James Bond (Sean Connery) to Istanbul, wait for him to acquire the machine, then kill him once it's in his possession. 
Knowing his weakness for gorgeous women, SPECTRE sends Russian beauty Tatiana Romanova (Daniela Bianchi) to steer 007 in the right direction.

But Bond knew from the start he was walking into a trap. With the help of section chief Ali Kerim Bay (Pedro Armendáriz), Bond instead turns the decoder over to MI6, leading to a violent confrontation between 007 and Red Grant (Robert Shaw), SPECTRE’s top assassin.

The action sequences are, without a doubt, more spectacular than those in Dr. No. From a well-staged gunfight at a Gypsy encampment to a thrilling chase in the final act, From Russia with Love is packed with excitement. As if all this wasn't enough, the film goes out with an even bigger bang: the showdown between Bond and Red Grant, easily one of the most exciting fistfights in Bond’s long history.

From Russia with Love is also the movie that introduced actor Desmond Llewelyn to the series, better known as ‘Q’ (here credited as Boothroyd, head of the ‘Q’ Branch), the HMSS operative who, for many years, provided the ultra-cool spy gizmos that get 007 out of some tight spots. And while the gadgets in From Russia with Love aren’t the most intricate (a briefcase equipped with a sniper rifle, ammunition, and a teargas canister), it was nice to see another familiar face join the series' ranks. Llewelyn would reprise the role of ‘Q’ sixteen more times before finally handing the reins to John Cleese in 2002’s Die Another Day.

Along with the addition of some new allies, this film also marked the big-screen debut of Bond’s arch-nemesis, Ernst Blofeld (played here by Anthony Dawson), the SPECTRE mastermind who would next turn up in Thunderball. And while 007 himself is certainly more subdued than he was in Dr. No, Connery continues to shine in the part, striking the perfect balance between strength and refinement to further solidify his position as the quintessential James Bond.

Yet another long-standing tradition is launched at the very end of From Russia with Love when, during the closing credits, it's revealed that “James Bond will return” in another cinematic adventure. And since it seemed to work well for the 007 franchise, I figured I’d borrow this little announcement for myself.

Stay tuned: in the next few weeks, I’ll be moving on to 1964’s Goldfinger, which, spoiler alert, is my favorite of the series.


beep said...

My favorite Bond flick. One of the few early ones to stay fairly true to the book.

DVD Infatuation said...

@beep: It's definitely up there for me as well. A great movie!

Thanks for the comment!

Unknown said...

I believe this was John F. Kennedy's favorite movie. I'm really enjoying your posts. Keep up the good work!

John said...

I'd put this Bond flick at the top of them all, with Goldfinger second and On Her Majesty's Secret Service third (despite the one-time appearance of George Lazenby who, in my opinion, made a great James Bond.) FRWL didn't rely on the high-tech gadgets prominent in subsequent additions of the series and focused instead on the actual conflict.