From Russia With Love (1963)

Welcome to your briefing 007. Your mission: From Russia With Love. We have been contacted by a Russian woman who wishes to defect and has apparently grown quite a liking to your file photo. It is most certainly a trap, but a lectre decoder, something we have wanted to get our hands on for some time. You will go to Istanbul, meet the girl and help her get the decoder and get out. But beware, SPECTRE may somehow be involved.

The Beginning

This is the first film in the series to have a pre-title sequence scene. We see Bond being hunted in some kind of garden and much to our surprise he is killed! But do not fret, it is revealed that it is a training mission for an agent of SPECTRE. We then launch into the title sequence, which consists of the credits being projected onto belly dancers. It is a neat and cool way to present the credits. The song played at this time is not the title song, however, but is again the Bond theme we are so familiar with. The title song plays over the end credits and is a decent little ditty.

Location

Istanbul, Turkey

Allies

M

Again Bernard Lee is M and sees little screen time, being there merely to introduce us to the plot of the film and send Bond on his way.

Kerim Bey

Bey is Bond’s contact in Istanbul. He is a funny, fun loving character who is spared his life when his woman requests his presence on the day sofa. He also aids Bond in escaping the evil SPECTRE agents on his tail by taking him to a gypsy camp. And interesting character, he is a fun guy to spend time with.

Enemies

Rose Klebb

 Rosa is a Russian officer who has defected and joined up with SPECTRE. Her moniker is in the organization is “Number Three”. She is in charge of fulfilling the plot thought up by “Number Five” to get Bond, and the British, back for Dr. No, in addition to getting the lectre decoder for themselves. She is deliciously evil. Short of words and quick in her delivery, she is the type of woman you would not want to know, despite her size.

 Red Grant

Grant is the assassin assigned with Klebb to help bring down Bond and get the decoder. He is cold and says few words. A former killer, he was recruited by SPECTRE for missions just like this one. Played magnificently by Robert Shaw.

Q Branch

So I lied in the last one, Desmond Llewelyn does show up here, but as Major Boothroyd of Q Branch. The standard PPK is the weapon of choice here. Bond is seen in the beginning as having both a beeper and a car phones, both things that were later invented in real life. He is also outfitted with a 00 standard briefcase full with a throwing knife, rounds of ammunition and pieces of gold. It also contains a full, collapsible sniper rifle. The case can also be booby trapped for anyone trying to get into it that shouldn’t be. And of course the case comes in handy down the road, as it always does. Nothing spectacular here yet, but some nifty devices.

The Girls

Sylvia Trench

Sylvia makes a unique second appearance here in the very beginning of the film. I’m not sure, but she may be the only Bond girl to make a second appearance as the same character, as Maud Adams made two appearances, but as different characters.

Tatiana Romanova

 This is the main character in the film apart from Bond and is the Russian girl caught in a plot between SPECTRE and the Russians. She is forced to act as though she is in love with Bond, not a hard thing to do. Played by Daniella Bianchi, Romanova may very well be the prettiest Bond girl for my money. She is gorgeous. Her character is not much of one, especially in terms of feminism. She is forced to play the damsel who needs Bond and is even drugged to be taken out of the main fight in the film. So while tremendously beautiful, the character is not much of a help to Bond.

The Car & the Chase

 In this one there is no car, but a boat and a boat chase. The scene is a decent one, but like the one in Dr. No, is not one of the best ever captured on screen. The way Bond gets out of it is pretty inventive and classic Bond, however.

Mission Debriefing

 From Russia With Love is undoubtedly an improvement on everything in Dr. No. Both directed by Terence Young, the Bond franchise takes a good turn in terms of filmmaking here. Young does a great job at creating suspense sets a great mood. In addition to the direction, the music score is a great leap here. Instead of using the same theme over and over there is actually a score and it works really really well in helping set that mood. The way that Young sets the scene with the opening sequence, then the chess match with “Number Five” and the meeting with the faceless head of SPECTRE and his two minions is a great table setter for the story about to unfold. It should be noted that the head of SPECTRE remains faceless and is only seen petting his cat, famously parodied in Austin Powers with Mr. Bigelsworth.

Bond is up to his same heroics here, though there is nothing quite as iconic as there was in the opening film. Sean Connery is classic Bond nonetheless and participates in numerous scenes that make him so great, most notably the boat chase and the main showdown between himself and Red Grant, the SPECTRE assassin. Connery’s performance, while not perfect, certainly serves its purpose in creating the mystic of the character and the man within this film in particular. At my count, here Bond sleeps with only two women, one of which he slept with in the previous film. This number is staggeringly low considering most of his escapades, but it is made up by the fact that we get the first celebrity sex tape from the proceedings, just further proof that the Bond films will forever be way ahead of their times.

From beginning to end, one of the best Bond films. The plot is not super great, but that is made up for by great characters and set pieces. I have already mentioned that it has the most beautiful Bond girl, in my opinion, but it also has a great mood set by the score and the direction. It also contains many nuances that make it great. Like the fact that “Number Five” is at a chess match and is called by “Number One” to a meeting at once and so he hastily wins the match. He does not give up to get out of there, he uses his intellect to get out fact, something that can be seen as scary for something like SPECTRE to be employing this great mind. They are no slouches, they know what they are doing and it adds to that kind of “on edge” mood throughout the whole film. Great set design once again and great lighting I thought too. Certainly one of the better in the serious.

James Bond will return in….

Goldfinger

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