From Russia With Love (1963)

Film #12: From Russia With Love (1963)

James Bond film #02 (Sean Connery Bond)

With the success of Dr. No, the makers of the first James Bond film were given double the budget to do it all over again. And boy, did they. From Russia With Love, released a year after its predecessor, ups the ante on everything that made Dr. No such an excellent flick. Taking place mostly in Turkey, this installment sees Bond (Connery once again) agree to help a beautiful Russian agent (Tatiana Romanova, played by Daniela Bianchi), purportedly defect, in order to obtain a cryptographic machine known as a Lektor. Little do either of these absurdly attractive secret agents know, the entire engagement is a ploy by the terrorist organization SPECTRE, which is plotting to kill Bond in vengeance for the death of Dr. No.

Although it was an awesome and exciting action movie, Dr. No was relatively slow-paced and quiet compared to the Bond movies that would come later, probably because it was working without a precedent. With the foundation of the series soundly laid, From Russia With Love is able to take off full-speed. The filmmakers looked at Dr. No, boiled it down to its essence, and then magnified those things to excess for the sequel. This movie is the Empire Strikes Back to Dr. No‘s A New Hope. Everything is pumped up – from the colorful and inventive title sequence (with words going in and out of focus as they’re projected onto belly dancers) to the number of awful one-liners James spouts after killing people. But the things that see the biggest gains are the two most fundamental features of Bond: The action and the women.

While Dr. No had a couple of cool fist fights and an explosion or two, From Russia With Love seems like it’s just a series of kick-ass action sequences connected by ligaments of plot. There’s a boat chase that ends with Bond using a flare gun to light a bunch of shit on fire. There’s a sort of amped up North by Northwest scene where Bond uses a rifle to take down a mini chopper that’s gunning for him (For the record, NxNW is one of my favorite movies, and this homage more than does justice to that infamous scene). Even the hand-to-hand combat scenes are way better. With the support of an increased budget, Bond is now able to get neat gadgets from Q, and he uses them to great effect in the sapphire fight scene with Red Grant (Robert Shaw) on the train.

And then there’s the women. Whereas Dr. No‘s chauvinism could be chalked up, at least in part, to being a product of the 60s, From Russia With Love cannot rely on this anachronistic excuse. It’s just straight-up overt here. Nothing exemplifies the excess of this film better than the scenes in the gypsy camp. It starts with a belly-dancing sequence, mirroring the opening credits, that goes on far too long for comfort. Just when the viewer is relieved of the hypnotism of that gypsy woman’s hips, the story segues immediately into an extended woman-on-woman wrestling match, complete with ample fleshy close-ups. The argument between these women is resolved in the most appropriate way possible, of course – an implied threesome with our dashing hero. At this point, it probably takes Bond more effort to not get laid.

Commonly regarded as one of the, if not the, best Bond movie, From Russia With Love is fantastic entertainment. High-energy and completely indulgent, it’s a great viewing experience, provided that you’re able to laugh off the absurdity of some of its excess.

Final rating: 8.5/10

–James A. Janisse

Stray Observations:

  • Cheesy Bond Post-Kill Line of the Film: (Rosa Klebb is shot after trying to kick Bond with a poison-spiked shoe) “Yes, she had her kicks.”
  • Oh man, what was with that cheesy-as-all-hell wave goodbye at the end? Like something straight out of Warner Bros.
  • I shall now be on the look-out for the first Bond film that doesn’t use jump cuts to ill effect.
  • Similarly, I’ll be looking for the first film that Bond doesn’t wear a hat in. I know they went out of fashion right around this time, since Kennedy was the first President to be inaugurated without wearing one.
    • Oh holy shit, that claim is totally false. My bad. But that’s what the Googles is for. Always challenge your beliefs, kids!
    • This was, however, the last movie that Kennedy ever watched – it was actually chosen as the next Bond story to film because Kennedy said it was his favorite. He saw it the the night before he left for Dallas, on November 21st, 1963. Unless it turns out that that’s also bullshit.
  • Frau from Austin Powers is a pitch-perfect parody of Rosa Klebb.
  • I always thought that Sterling Archer was just an exaggerated version of James Bond. But, no, it’s not exaggerated at all. Maybe just a little less inhibited.

One response

  1. Pingback: From Russia With Love – Bond’s Istanbul Suits, Pt. 3: Charcoal Flannel | BAMF Style

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