From Russia With Love (1963): Bond 2, Starring Sean Connery as 007

From Russia With Love, the second movie in the James Bond series, following Dr. No, assembled together the crucial Bond elements into a successful and effective formula that would be used and refined in future installments.

Grade: B+ (**** out of *****)

 

From Russia with Love
Poster by Renato Fratini and Eric Pulford

 

Overall, From Russia With Love, is more stylish and more entertaining than the first film, toning down cold-bloodedness seen in that film.  The action sequences are stronger and lend greater tension to the plot; John Barry’s memorable score makes its first appearance; and Connery’s Bond is cooler and more imposing.

In the pre-credit sequence, James Bond is hunted through a moonlit garden by a man (Donald Grant), who garrotes him.  The man is then revealed to be a masked actor, in a training exercise.  Director Terence Young later commented that the sequence was inspired by the 1961 French film, “Last Year at Marienbad,” directed by New Wave director, Alain Resnais.

The movie’s 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 just want to capture 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 device from a Russian cipher clerk, Tatiana Romanova (Daniela Bianchi), SPECTRE muscleman Red Grant (Robert Shaw) plans to take it from him and kill him.  Bond travels to Istanbul to meet Tatiana.

Arguably, the wittiest lines are in the several encounters between Bond and Grant. Commenting on Grant’s bad table etiquette, Bond says: “Red wine and fish. Well, that should’ve told me something.”

Later on, threatening Bond, Grant says: “The first won’t kill you. Nor the second. Not even the third.  Not till you crawl over here and kiss my foot.” To which the ever-cool Bond says: “How ’bout a cigarette?”

The central action set-piece is one of franchise’s longest and most thrilling, depicting a lethal fight between Bond and enemy agent Grant aboard the Orient Express.

 

Among the gadgets given to Bond by Q-branch is a 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 later used to kill Krilencu and bring down the SPECTRE helicopter.

Way ahead of its times, in terms of technology, 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 Garotte watch, and Rosa Klebb carries a poison-tipped dagger in the toe of her left shoe.

“She’s has had her kicks,” Bond says after her death.

 

Some of the double-entendre (campy) lines are in the dialogue between Tania, who at one point notes, “I think my mouth is too big,” to which Bond quickly replies, “No, it’s the right size, for me that is.”

Bond seems to have time for everything, especially sex.  Explaining to Miss Moneypenny his delay in reporting to the head office, due to a quick afternoon tryst, Bond simply says: “Well, I’ve just been reviewing an old case.”

Lotte Lenya makes a wonderfully sinister villainess.  For some fans, she is one of the two or three best foes in the long running series.

Credits

MPAA: PG.

United Artists

Directed by Terence Young
Produced by Harry Saltzman, Albert R. Broccoli
Screenplay by Richard Maibaum, adaptation by Johanna Harwood, based on From Russia, with Love by Ian Fleming
Music by John Barry (score)
Lionel Bart (theme song)
Monty Norman (“Bond Theme”)
Cinematography Ted Moore
Edited by Peter R. Hunt

Production company: Eon Productions

Distributed by United Artists

Release date: October 10, 1963 (London premiere); October 11, 1963 (UK)

Running time: 115 minutes
Budget $2 million
Box office $79 million

DVD: March 28, 2006

 

Cast
Sean Connery as James Bond, MI6 agent 007.
Daniela Bianchi as Tatiana Romanova, Soviet Consulate clerk and Bond’s love interest. Bianchi’s dialogue was dubbed by uncredited Barbara Jefford.
Pedro Armendáriz as Ali Kerim Bey, head of MI6 Station T in Istanbul.
Lotte Lenya as Rosa Klebb (SPECTRE No. 3), former SMERSH colonel-turned-SPECTRE operative.
Robert Shaw as Donald “Red” Grant, cunning SPECTRE assassin
Bernard Lee as M, chief of British Intelligence.
Eunice Gayson as Sylvia Trench, Bond’s semi-regular girlfriend.
Gayson’s dialogue was dubbed by an uncredited Nikki van der Zyl.
Walter Gotell as Morzeny, SPECTRE thug who trains personnel on SPECTRE Island.
Francis de Wolff as Vavra, chief of Gypsy tribe used for dirty work by Kerim Bey.
George Pastell as the Orient Express train conductor.
Nadja Regin as Kerim Bey’s girlfriend.
Lois Maxwell as Miss Moneypenny, M’s secretary.
Aliza Gur and Martine Beswick as Vida (in green) and Zora (in red), respectively,  jealous Gypsy girls disputing the same man.
Vladek Sheybal as Kronsteen (SPECTRE No. 5), Czechoslovak chess grandmaster and SPECTRE agent.
Anthony Dawson as Ernst Stavro Blofeld (SPECTRE No. 1), head and mastermind of SPECTRE and Bond’s nemesis.
Dawson’s dialogue was dubbed by an uncredited Eric Pohlmann.
Fred Haggerty as Krilencu, Bulgarian assassin who works as killer for the Soviets in the Balkans.
Desmond Llewelyn as Major Boothroyd, head of MI6 Q Branch, also called “Equipment Officer”