The second installment in the James Bond franchise arrived just 1 year after Dr. No, showing that movies back then certainly knew how to shuttle along and get in and out of production quicker than the seemingly cursed Bond 25. But does the quick turnaround work in favor for From Russia with Love?
STARS – Sean Connery, Robert Shaw, Daniela Bianchi, Lotte Lenya
DIRECTOR – Terence Young
RUN-TIME – 115 minutes
BEST LINE – Spoiler alert, but after Soviet counter-intelligence operative Rosa Klebb is offed, James Bond, without pause, quips “she’s had her kicks.” This relates to the iconic switchblade shoe that she wears. If nothing else, I love the older 007 movies because of their unabashed inclusion of puns.
BEST GADGET – With this film, the world of secreted weapons and clever tricks come into play because MI6 introduce Bond and the audience to Q (Desmond Llewelyn), who I think was the beating heart of the spy series. In this movie before James is dispatched to Turkey, Q goes through a handy travel case equipped with ammo, a hidden knife, a folding rifle inside and a security proof catch system that triggers tear gas if opened incorrectly. The perfect holiday essential!
EEEK MOMENT – Right at the end, when the audience think it’s all over and James is loving life with the Bond girl, as he was with Honey Ryder at the end of Dr. No, we see his hotel room infiltrated by Rosa Klebb disguised as a maid. The irony of knowing who she is with Bond unaware is a tasty morsel right before the credits roll.
00 UH-OH – The opening sequence is one of the shortest and weakest ones in the 24 features and it sees a fake Connery mask peeled off a dead lackie which looks plastic and shoddy considering it’s clearly the Scottish actor we’ve been watching beforehand. I doubt they had the materials to make such a convincing Bond mask back then! This is a teeny niggle in comparison to a truly pained scene that sees the MI6 agent heading to a Romani camp, which is utterly peppered with the dated gypsy term and sees a scuffle between two women, which winds up as a clear intention to ogle the flesh and cat-fight, it’s shot gratuitously and goes on far too long.
ICONIC MOMENT – It’s a short-lived image but one that has stood with the franchise like the martinis, the girls and guns. As the SPECTRE organisation convenes and we see Klebb and Czech chess player talk to their unseen boss, the film reveals a hand stroking the white fur of this mysterious man’s cat. All we know at this point is he is called Blofeld and even the credits list the actor as ?, a nice way of playing along with the shadowy aura of the big Bond baddie.
MINI REVIEW – Again, like the 1962 Jamaican set opener, this movie features some dodgy dialogue, outdated views on race and sex and a Bond girl selected on her looks alone, which sees her being dubbed over like Ursula Andress was but that is frustratingly part and parcel of the early 007 movies.
This time around the story shifts into a more political thriller and sees the espionage angle narrowed down. Bond flies to Istanbul to meet with Soviet clerk Tatiana and look the married part, whilst hoping to get a cryptography device from the Soviets themselves. Bond might know it’s a trap but he doesn’t know that Blofeld is playing sides against one another and that assassin Donald Grant is tailing him, in the hopes of killing him once the machine is in SPECTRE’s hands.
Sadly, the more political and intelligence warring tone of the story doesn’t come across in a spine-tingly way and instead of major suspense and thrills, From Russia with Love is fairly bland and definitely one of the dullest chapters to come out of the Bond franchise. Unlike a good few of 007 outings which are enjoyable under numerous watches, this is one that slightly tests the patience and goes too long with seeing James constantly on the move or on a train and the lack of a villain stepping in the way is a sour note too.
Blofeld may be an iconic adversary but he hardly appears, Grant is a brooding henchman left to stalk Bond and Klebb does little else to add sinister touches aside from her final scene. Dr. No himself may have had small screen-time but he has the typical sit down conversation and final showdown whereas From Russia with Love is less fun and sunny than before and holds minute action to sustain the excitement.