The second movie in the James Bond series, following “Dr. No.,” is “From Russia With Love,” a film that brought together all the Bond elements into a successful and effective formula.
The action sequences are stronger and lend greater tension to the plot; John Barry’s memorable score makes its first appearance; and Sean Connery as Bond is cooler and feels more secured as Agent 007.
Overall, “From Russia With Love” is more stylish and more entertaining, while toning down his cold-bloodedness.
In the pre-credit sequence, James Bond is hunted through a moonlit garden by a blond man (Donald Grant), who garrotes him. The dead man is then revealed to be a masked actor, in a training exercise. Director Terence Yiung later commented that he pre-credit sequence was inspired by the 1961 French film, “Last Year at Marienbad,” directed by New Wave director, Alain Resnais.
The title and credits are projected onto the body of a dancing woman, in a sequence designed by Richard Brownjohn, Maurice Binder’s assistant.
In this installment, the villains don’t want to take over the world. They want to captures a Russian decoding device. Assigned to the mission of stealing the decoding device are No. 3, former KGB agent Rosa Klebb (Lotte Lenya), and No. 5, Kronsteen (Vladek Sheybal), an expert chess player who has plotted every move of the task.
Bond’s weakness for beautiful women is exploited by the villains in acquiring the decoding device. Once Bond obtains the decoding device from Russian cipher clerk Tatiana Romanova (Daniela Bianchi), SPECTRE muscleman Red Grant (Robert Shaw) is to take it from Bond and kill him. But Bond suspects a trap, but he travels to Istanbul to meet Tatiana.
The central set-piece is one of franchise’s the longest and most thrilling action scenes, a lethal fight between Bond and enemy agent Red Grant aboard the Orient Express.
Among the gadgets given to Bond by Q-branch is a dapper, lethal leather briefcase, which has become a standard issue for all 00 personnel. It contains storage space for ammunition, knives and 50 gold sovereigns for emergency security. The case also contains a sniper rifle, which is used to kill Krilencu and bring down the SPECTRE helicopter.
Way ahead of its times, Bond also carries a beeper and a mobile telephone, so that he can contact and be contacted by right away with the headquarters.
Not left behind, the villains are also well armed. Grant has a garrotte watch, and Rosa Klebb carries a poison-tipped dagger in her left shoe.
Some of the memorable (campy) lines are in the dialogue between Tania notes, “I think my mouth is too big,” Bond quickly replies, “No, it’s the right size, for me that is.”
Lotte Lenya makes a wonderfully sinister villainess (for some fans, she is one of two or three best foes in the long running series).
Running time: 125 Minutes.
Directed by Terence Young
DVD: March 28, 2006