Terence Young, UK, 1963, 115 min.
Our second installment of Bond finds him going up against the Russians in From Russia With Love. Again, I’m less familiar with the Connery Bond films, only having seen them a few times, but this movie was much better than I remembered. Where Dr. No had slow plodding moments, From Russia With Love was slicker and a far more exciting installment of the Bond series.
In From Russia With Love, Bond is after a Russian decoding machine before the Russians can get their hands on it. Little does he know that the Russians have a plot of their own to trick Bond into stealing the machine for them, and enlists the help of Tatiana Romanova, a clerk who is also tricked into thinking she is helping her country. The two catch on to what is going on and flip the tables on SPECTRE.
I really enjoyed this movie. It had a lot of issues but it closer resembled the Bond I have come to know and love. The plot was interesting and I loved that this was the first of many visits to Istanbul. One of the things I like about Bond is that they reflect the era they were filmed and this was no different, with Russians being the main villain I can totally see audiences having a very real reaction to the movie.
On to the fun stuff!
Theme Song/Intro: It’s funny, whenever I think of From Russia With Love, I think of the slow, plodding vocal version of the song and was ready to rip into the intro for being boring. I had forgotten that the intro actually uses the upbeat instrumental version which is infinitly better for a bond film. It’s hip, it’s fun and it’s lively and we get the first credits with ladies
Notable Cars: There were definitely more cars in this movie than in Dr. No.
1935 Bentley 3.5 Litre drophead coupé: We get our first taste of a Bentley in a Bond movie, although it’s brief. Such a great looking car and so iconic to the Bond universe.
Punt: You only see it in the scene with Bond and Sylvia Trench but I like it. And it has a phone in it. With a cord. Like a kitchen phone. It makes me laugh.
Citroën 11 Legere: The Citroen is a car I know of because I see them a lot when I visit my family in Italy. In From Russia with Love the Bulgarian Agents drove around in these and I like it because of the detailing in the front. That chevron pattern always sticks out to me but we are a long way off from the bad guys getting cool cars that rival Bond.
Chevrolet C30 flatbed truck: Speaking of bad cars…..
Rolls-Royce Silver Wraith & Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost Coupe-de-Ville: The Rolls is another iconic Bond car, most notably for Goldfinger, but seen here first belonging to Ali Kerim Bey, another one of my favorite characters.
Fun Gadgets: Now we are on to something, Bond finally gets some cool gadgets in this movie. Other than the car phone, which must have been mind-blowing at the time, Bond also has…ready…a pager. I’ll repeat…a.pager. That’s 20-ish years before anyone had ever heard of a pager! Or before middle school kids would prank page their friend’s older brother during a family gathering because they had a crush on him. Ahem…moving on.
Bond also get’s some sweet upgrades to his attache case, including spare ammunition, hidden knives, gold Sovereigns, a folding snipers rifle and an exploding tear gas cartridge.
The villains get some cool gadgets as well this time. SPECTRE has given their operatives shoes with knives in them, which, while seems awkward and perhaps uncomfortable, is a big step up. Red Grant also has a garrote wire is his watch, which would make me think twice about asking the man for the time if I ever saw him at SPECTRE headquarters….
Best Q Moment: yay! We FINALLY get Desmond Leyellyn as Q! Excitement. He doesn’t have a huge role, he pretty much just comes in to M’s office to give Bond his gadget, but it was exciting to see him. He looks so young that I almost didn’t recognize him. We don’t get any iconic lines, but it was nice to see Q.
Tatiana Romanova: Soviet Embassy clerk who is tasked to tempt Bond. She’s interesting because she’s not technically a bad guy but recruited by SPECTRE without her knowledge. There is also a point early on in the movie where Rosa Klebb tells her that she should be lucky her job is so easy she pretty much just has to lie on her back. When Tatiana protests she may not want to have sex with Bond, Klebb tells her she pretty much has to. That was funny. Or not. It wasn’t funny. It was very uncomfortable, even by Bond standards.
Ali Kerim Bey: The British Intelligence station chief in Istanbul. I love this character, he’s funny, likable and always ready to help Bond. He has one of my favorite scenes with his wife (mistress? Knowing Bond movies, most likely mistress) and I was sad when the character was killed.
Rosa Klebb: A former SMERSH higher-up, she’s now chief operations officer for SPECTRE. Klebb is a great bad girl. She’s cold, unemotional and does what she has to do to get the job done, no wonder SPECTRE hired her. She’s very memorable and it was really fun to watch her on the screen.
Donald “Red” Grant: I could not believe my eyes when I realized this was Robert Shaw. Holy cow. This character is scary, kills unmercifully, and is almost like a robot in his devoutness to SPECTRE. We see him first in the movie, killing what we find out afterwards as a Bond look-a-like, so we know if anyone could take down Bond, it would be him.
Villain: Ernst Stavro Blofeld is one of the most enduring characters in the James Bond universe. This is our first view of him, though, view may be the wrong word. We only ever see Blofeld from the back of his head or his hands, but you learn quickly that he is definitely the puppet-master that controls the strings of Spectre. While he later will be played by some of the most iconic actors, right now he’s just a voice and a white cat.
Tatiana: [Bond first meets Tatiana, who has crawled naked into his hotel bed] You look surprised. I thought you were expecting me.
James Bond: So, you’re Tatiana Romanova.
Tatiana: My friends call me Tania.
James Bond: Mine call me James Bond.
James Bond WILL return in….Gold-FINGA! I mean…Goldfinger, just Goldfinger.