From Russia With Love
Cast & Credits
Sean Connery James Bond
Daniela Bianchi Tatiana Romanova
Pedro Armendariz Kerim Bay
Lotte Lenya Rosa Klebb
Directed by Terence Young
Original Running Time: 1 hour and 55 minutes
The film starts out with the marvelous gun barrel sequence and afterwards the film makers decided to tweak the formula a little bit from Dr. No. Instead of going directly into the title sequence we are given our first pre-credit teaser in the series. It shows a man tracking down and killing James Bond in a short period of time with a garotte wire that he pulls out of his watch. Actually, we find out that it's not Bond after the man's mask is taken off. We also learn that it's a training excercise. It's not the best intro to a Bond movie ever, but it establishes the formula that has been used in every one of the official Bond films since. Then we get the titles which were done this time by Robert Brownjohn. It consists of the credits being projected on a belly dancer. Pretty slick, but I preferred the job that Maurice Binder did in Dr. No. I'm just saying... What is much better though, is the music. As good as Monty Norman's soundtrack was in Dr. No, John Barry completely obliterates it. Mr. Barry would go on to be one of the greatest figures in Bond history. His music is undisputedly the tops in the series. Anyway, to the movie...
In the beginning of the film we watch members of SPECTRE planning out a massive scheme. We are introduced to SPECTRE number 1 (well at least to his hand petting a white Persian cat) who listens to the devious plot concocted by master chess player Kronsteen (played by Vladek Sheybal), SPECTRE number 5. Kronsteen suggests getting the former head of operations for Smersh (the Russian Secret Service), Rosa Klebb (who recently left Smersh and happens to be SPECTRE number 3), to get a young and attractive female Russian agent to tempt the British with a lektor decoder machine. He does this figuring that they will send their best agent, James Bond. This will allow them to get revenge on him for killing their operative Dr. No and help them to get their hands on the decoding machine themselves. Then they can use the lektor to extort money from the Russians. Got all of that?
Only a few high ranking officials know that Klebb has left Smesh so this allows her to get a hold of a lektor machine and to hire a Russian agent. She chooses Tatiana Romanova and tells her that she has to meet up with James Bond and do ANYTHING that he says. Tatiana is also told that if she refuses, that she'll be shot. Shortly afterwards she hires SPECTRE's number one killing machine Red Grant (played by Robert Shaw), who happens to be the savage that killed the guy in the Bond mask in the beginning. If you don't think that he's a tough guy, Klebb punches him in the gut with brass knuckles to prove it to you. He doesn't budge. It is briefly mentioned that he's a paranoid psychotic. All of this is part of what makes the movie so great. The plot by SPECTRE is genius and it sets up the rest of the movie.
M (one again played brilliantly by Bernard Lee) calls Bond into his office and explains that Head of Station T (Turkey) was told by Russian agent Tatiana Romanova that she wants to defect, but only if James Bond meets her and birings her with him to England with the decoding machine. M and Bond both surmise that it's a trap and that James should proceed with caution. Then Q (Desmond Llewelyn in his first of many appearances) enters the office and shows Bond an attache case that happens to have a few features that might come in handy later on in the film.
Soon Bond goes to Istanbul and we meet the Head of Section T, Kerim Bay. He is played vibrantly and full of life by Pedro Armendariz. Ironically he was very ill when this movie was being made and died shortly after it was finished. Anyhow we soon see a limpet mine exploding, one of the greatest cat fights ever, and a shootout at a gypsy camp where Bond should have died but was saved by somone who eventually wants to kill him. Yes, you read that right.
Finally Bond meets up with Tatiana Romanova and her beautiful decoding machine. Shortly afterwards they hop on the Orient Express to head on their way to London. Bond eventually meets up with a Captain Nash (really Red Grant) who works for the British government. Bond deduces that Nash might not be who he really says that he is because calls people "old man", drugs Tatiana Romanova, and worst of all orders red wine with fish. What comes up soon is not only the best scene in the movie but one of the best in the entire series. Just when Bond looks like he's done for, the attache case comes in handy. Then comes a great fight scene. It is wonderfully choreographed, shot, and edited. I wish that all young wannabe directors would watch this. This is how you do a fight scene. You don't just shake the camera and hope that people can't tell what's going on while at the same time make it look like a lot is going on. Ugh... Anyway, the scene is extremely brutal and lasts a lot longer than an average Super Bowl commercial.
Without giving too much away, SPECTRE number 1 has one of his underlings killed off randomly for the first time. I love this stuff. Why don't they do this in Bond movies anymore? Why? Then Bond is attacked by a helicopter and a venom lace knife housed in a shoe. Will Tatiana help Bond or wont she? Will she or won't she?
There's not much about this movie that isn't well done. It's well written, well acted, and has three awesome villains (SPECTRE number 1, Red Grant, and Rosa Klebb). John Barry's soundtrack is brilliant and Sean Connery is settling into the role of Bond. He is even better here than he was in Dr. No. One thing that really stands out to me about this movie is how plot driven it is. Sure there's a lot of action, but this movie is definitely more about the plot. Another thing that I love is how it enters the realm of fantasy with the comic book style villians, but it still remains believable and grounded in reality. Some Bond films are too serious and some are too far fetched. This is the best of both worlds.
5 out of 5 for a Bond movie. This is one of the top Bond films ever made.
By the way, if you guys ever want to read a Bond book, but don't want to read the whole series - this is the one to read. From Russia With Love is one of the best books that I ever have read.
James Bond wil return next Monday in Goldfinger.
Proud member of the SONIC SUPPORT SQUAD
Tag "Sorry man. Someone pissed in my Wheaties."
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