Bond Is Back!: FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE (United Artists 1963)

The Cold War got really hot when James Bond returned to the screen in FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE, second in the film series starring Sean Connery as Ian Fleming’s Secret Agent 007. Picking up where DR. NO left off, the film is popular with Bond fans for its more realistic depiction of the spy game, though there’s still plenty of action, romance, and quick quips, along with the introduction of several elements soon to be integral to the series.

FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE has Bond falling for Soviet defector Tatiana Romanova (Daniela Bianchi), who’s willing to help steal a Russian Lektor decoding machine for Her Majesty’s Secret Service. But both she and Bond are just pawns in a larger game, with the international crime cartel SPECTRE making all the moves. Their goal is to not only posses the decoder and ransom it back to the Russians, but to eliminate 007 for taking their operative Dr. No out of circulation. The complicated story involves double-and-triple crosses, and two of the best villains in the Bond canon – Lotte Lenya as the sinister ex-Soviet spymaster Rosa Klebb, now working for SPECTRE, and Robert Shaw as the cold as ice assassin “Red” Grant, whose job is to protect Bond from harm while the machine is being stolen, then kill him for his transgressions against SPECTRE.

It’s the first film we get a look inside SPECTRE and the first appearance of SPECTRE’s Number One, Ernst Stavro Blofeld (and his white cat), soon to become James Bond’s Number One Nemesis. His face is never shown here, though British actor Anthony Dawson is seen in body (his voice is dubbed by Austrian Eric Pohlman). Also making his debut is Desmond Llewelyn as “Boothroyd from Q Branch”, the gadget man later known as just Q. Other Bond firsts are the pre-credits opening sequence, a theme song (sung by Matt Munro at the movie’s end), and the presence of Martine Beswick as a Gyspy girl. Miss Beswick later appeared in THUNDERBALL, though as a different character (and her name is erroneously spelled in the credits as ‘Martin’… how anyone could mistake lovely Martine for a Martin, I’ll never know!).

Despite being more grounded in reality than most Bonds, playing more like a traditional spy saga, there’s still lots of action going on, including a battle at the Gypsy camp, a perilous train ride aboard the Orient Express featuring an extended fight between Connery and Shaw, a dangerous journey to freedom that includes a helicopter scene intentionally reminiscent of NORTH BY NORTHWEST’s crop duster, and an exciting boat chase, followed by a final confrontation with the evil Rosa Klebb in Bond’s hotel room. FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE was another box office smash, cementing 007 as a cinematic force to be reckoned with, and led to a third sequel, 1964’s GOLDFINGER. Since I’ve already covered that film (follow this link ), next up will be the fourth entry… THUNDERBALL!

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