From Russia With Love (1963) – Terence Young

 

Anyone who knows me, knows that I love the Bond films, so it was really no surprise to me that a number of them would start to pop up the further I got into the 101 Action Movies list.

Of the early James Bond films, From Russia With Love is closest to the source material penned by Ian Fleming. Sean Connery, the quintessential 007 is perfectly at ease in the role now, after his first outing in Dr. No and exudes a calm, relaxed cool that tells you he can handle anything the fiends at S.P.E.C.T.R.E. throw his way.

jamesThis time out, Bond is drawn into a more traditional spy thriller, MI6 has learned that a woman, Tatiana Romanova (Daniela Bianchi) is willing to deliver to the British a lektor decoding machine, if Bond himself comes for it, apparently she claims to be in love with him, though she’s actually working for Rosa Klebb (Lotte Lenya), whom she believes is still working for the Russian government. In the end, they are all pawns in S.P.E.C.T.R.E.’s game to push the western and eastern worlds that much closer to war.

Every step of the way, Bond is shadowed by an agent waiting to kill him and snatch the lektor for S.P.E.C.T.R.E, the intimidating assassin, Grant (Robert Shaw), which leads to a brilliant fight sequence within the confines of a train car.

Bianchi is lovely as Romanova, first following her assignment, and then, as it happens, actually falling in love with Bond, choosing love over country.

grantUnlike later films in the series, the gadgets are at a bare minimum, a kitted out brief case with cash, knives, a collapsible rifle and an explosive device, all introduced for the first time by Major Boothroyd (Desmond Llewelyn), referred to from the next film onward, as Q.

The film also introduces one of my favorite musical pieces, John Barry’s 007 Theme, which appears in 5 Bond films (From Russia With Love, Thunderball, You Only Live Twice, Diamonds Are Forever and Moonraker) after the James Bond Theme.

From Russia With Love serves as a great introductory point for anyone looking to see the best of the early Bond films, the story is well-crafted, the characters are developed, the locations are lovely, and it takes its time in the telling, in an enjoyable way.

Our gentleman spy gets caught up in a showdown at a gypsy camp, a boat chase, and as mentioned the fight between he and Grant on the train. There’s a bit of blackmail as well, as Bond and Romanova are recorded the first night they spend together.

boatThis is Connery’s Bond at the height of his cool, though Goldfinger perfects it, and my favorite of his is just a little further along on the list.

This is Bond without tons of glib remarks, there are a couple, and an involving story.

I love all the Bond films (yes, there are even moments I like in Moonraker) but this one is probably in my top 10, maybe even my top 5. I’m looking forward to seeing what other ones show up on the list.

What are your favorite Bond films and moments?

Who’s your favorite 007?

bond

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