SPECTRE’s member Dr. No is dead and the evil organization wants revenge. The terrorist syndicate sets up an elaborate trap for James Bond (Sean Connery, The Untouchables) that involves a sexy Russian agent (Daniela Bianchi, Requiem for a Secret Agent) and a Soviet encryption device.
Reaction & Thoughts:
“There’s a saying in England: Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.”
Second Bond movie bucks the trend of sequels by being superior to the first film in almost every aspect. From Russia with Love, directed by Terence Young (Red Sun) from a screenplay by Richard Maibaum and Johanna Harwood, has better production values, a stronger cast, and more exotic locations. There isn’t a single dull moment in the entire film — it builds up so much momentum!
There is not that much action, but the well-constructed narrative kept me glued to the TV screen. I liked the fact that you are made part of the adventure — you travel alongside Bond, encountering new characters and uncovering new clues. The twists and turns are fun, and you get to see many beautiful locales.
From Russia with Love is the first movie in the series that has a pre-title sequence. It’s also the first movie that has a title song. Curiously, the song, performed by Matt Monro, is played over the end of the credits and frankly, it’s not all that good.
I did love the fact that the character of Bond received a bit of development. Bond bluntly admits that his sexual appetite is pathological. He almost gets killed because of sex and Bond promptly acknowledges that this is a serious flaw in his character. People who always complain about the franchise’s apparent misogyny will find solace in the fact that the producers aren’t totally tone-deaf to their grievances.
The villains are particularly impressive. Robert Shaw (Jaws and Black Sunday) is an imposing and charismatic killing machine. The brutal fight between Connery and Shaw aboard a moving train is the film’s highlight.
Lotte Lenya’s Rosa Klebb (The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone) is perhaps the most memorable female baddie in the entire franchise — she’s a scary lady! The cast also includes Pedro Armendáriz (Three Godfathers) as Kerim Bey, Lois Maxwell as Miss Moneypenny, Bernard Lee as “M,” and Martine Beswick (Dr Jekyll & Sister Hyde) as a gypsy girl. First appearance of Desmond Llewelyn as Boothroyd (aka “Q”).
Conclusions & Final Thoughts:
From Russia with Love is one of the strongest entries in the franchise, definitely one of Connery’s best (it is the actor’s favorite Bond movie). The film has a great balance between gritty espionage, humor, and romance. Color, 115 minutes, Rated PG.
James Bond will return