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1 review, 44 user ratings

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From Russia with Love
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by MP Bartley

"The One With The Gypsy Cat-Fight"
5 stars

Although 'Dr. No' had become a huge success on its release the Bond franchise was still far from assured. The template for the series had yet to be laid down and it was still to be seen whether Eon productions could pull off the same trick twice. Happily they could, and if 'Dr. No' was a sterling, if low-key, thriller then 'From Russia With Love' expanded on that to become much more muscular and confident whilst still retaining a high degree of intelligence.

'From Russia With Love' sees SPECTRE and its boss, Ernst Stavro Blofeld (heard, but not seen, at this point) itching for revenge at the British Secret Service and Bond in particular, for destroying their missile-toppling site and their agent Dr. No. In revenge they enlist the defected Russian security chief Rosa Klebb (Lotte Lenya) to arrange a mock defection from Russia by beautiful cipher clerk Tatiana Romanova (Daniele Bianchi) with the Lektor decoding device. Their plan is to lure Bond into aiding the defection in Istanbul and therefore steal the device for themselves, kill Bond and kick up a stink between the British and the Russians in the process.

After 'Dr. No' provided the blueprint for what the series could become, 'From Russia With Love' plays to its strengths and expands upon the formula. We now get the obligatory pre-credit sequence (one of the best, as it sets up the rest of the film with an air of mystery) and we get Q's first appearance to provide Bond with a trap-laden briefcase. Alas, Q had yet to be fully established and has about 5 minutes of screen-time. Nevertheless Desmond Llewelyn, does enough to make Q a memorable character alongside Lee's and Maxwell's firmly established M and Moneypenny. We also have the introduction of the theme tune (instrumental for the credits, with the full vocal only at the end) with Matt Munroe's smoky ballad adding an Eastern flavour to the action.

The film essentially takes everything that was great about 'Dr. No' and improves on it further. Turkey works well as the background to the intrigue and it's refreshing to see that they hadn't completely abandoned the idea of having intelligent plots in favour of action set-pieces. When recent Bond films have all been about the juvenile action with simplistic plots, it's a breath of fresh air to go back and find a Bond film that's heavy with intrigue and has an adult air to it. It's rare to find a Bond film where you have to carefully follow the plot and it's rare to find one that's actually about spying.

Director Terence Young also has much more of a confidence about him, and doesn't play it safe like 'Dr. No' sometimes did. There's more action in the first 40 minutes here than there was in the entire 'Dr. No' running time. Young displays a crisp invention for action sequences and some of the sequences from the attack on the gypsy camp to Bond's scrape with a helicopter are still some of the most memorable in the entire Bond canon. He also never loses sight of the plot amongst the action, and combines the action with it to heady effect. If Hitchcock had ever directed a Bond film, it would have turned out like 'From Russia With Love' and that's high praise indeed.

Connery is much more comfortable in the role now and is starting to display the charm of the character alongside the ruthlessness of him, with great relish. He looks the part and is the part, in only his second attempt. The villain quota is also beefed up with two of Bond's more memorable adversaries. Although Blofeld is a shadowy presence in the wings, the film belongs to Klebb and her Ayran hit man Red Grant (Robert Shaw). Lenya is a spiteful hellcat, looking like she's permanently sucking on a lemon whilst displaying unnerving feelings towards Romanova (a stunning if bland, Bianchi). And watch out for her kicks...

Shaw meanwhile is possibly the meanest henchman that Bond's ever come across. There's no gimmicks to his character, just a brutal and malignant hatred of Bond. He's built like a brick shithouse and his legendary punch-up with Bond in a train carriage just shows how tough the earlier Bonds were. It just goes to show, if you want great villains...just cast great actors.

'From Russia With Love' is strong, adult stuff for a Bond film. Heavy on interest and plot, it's almost unique in that its plot doesn't basically centre on a bomb exploding or a laser being fired. Although it doesn't skimp on the action like 'Dr. No' does, it's still a far cry from the lightweight Roger Moore years. It's one for the Bond purists and should be savoured like a strong, Turkish coffee.

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originally posted: 07/14/04 01:36:36
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User Comments

7/06/18 Suzanne Intelligent spy plot and great filming locations 5 stars
10/16/12 Dr.Lao Everything a Bond movie should be 5 stars
4/08/12 keith miron Complicated, as with almost all james bond films, but it has some good action sceans 3 stars
4/11/10 Black Lance Superb 5 stars
12/13/08 Ravenwest Masterpiece 5 stars
11/11/08 Mark Gibson Much more than Dr No, its the template for bond great. 5 stars
1/28/08 JV35 The best Bond film 5 stars
12/08/07 Screwball Terrific Bond film 5 stars
7/21/07 Sugarfoot A must see, not only the second best Bond entry,also the influence on the genre is worthy. 5 stars
4/24/07 David Risser Not enough action 3 stars
1/23/07 action movie fan good sets and gadgets but hard to follow stoyr-not your best bond 3 stars
12/25/06 Eden A Bond movie for adults. The best of the lot 5 stars
9/16/06 ProSneakyD The best bond thriller of all time, but also the most classic cold war story ever made. 5 stars
7/26/06 Sepi53 Best Bond ever! 5 stars
1/03/06 Anthony Feor Sean continues to impress me 5 stars
12/27/05 Yorkee Really Good - keeps you interested!! 5 stars
11/21/05 chris exellent bond movie 5 stars
10/26/05 Nick Another of the great Bond movies, on ly a few or less better 5 stars
7/01/05 moviesamurai good, if a bit boring 4 stars
5/26/05 tony Brilliant sequel to a blockbuster hit. This is the film that helped the movies continue! 5 stars
4/20/05 Indrid Cold Very different from the light-hearted action of later Bonds, not for all tastes. 3 stars
1/26/05 Tom Benton A masterful, Hitchcockian entry in the 007 series. 5 stars
12/18/04 Matt F. my all-time favorite bond film 5 stars
11/17/04 C Vega Classic Bond Action With A Fantastic Cast 5 stars
9/24/04 RJ968 Intelliegent script, great cast, realistic action sequences. Classic all the way 5 stars
8/17/04 Herolder A classic Bonf movie 5 stars
8/08/04 James Bond One of my favorites 5 stars
7/17/04 legend A passable Bond flick as they go. 3 stars
6/30/04 James Bond As I always say shakin, but not stirred 5 stars
6/01/04 Nobody Jamese Bond is probably the reason so many kids are getting STDs 3 stars
5/30/04 Sean Scanlan Wonderful action 5 stars
12/27/03 earl hofert my favorite bond film 5 stars
11/29/03 john they sure knew how to do them 5 stars
7/06/03 Paul S. Rosa Klebb is the most horrible woman to grace the silver screen ... 5 stars
5/16/03 Andrew Carden Excellent Bond Flick With Connery Giving His Best Performance As James. 5 stars
10/14/02 Charles Tatum Connery hits his stride, and Shaw is excellent 5 stars
9/17/02 CVJ Not the best bond movie ever but still great 5 stars
3/17/02 Zargo my favorite connery bond movie 5 stars
2/03/02 R.W. Welch Not particularly imaginative but done well enough. 4 stars
9/09/01 Henry Ginsberg Good but not Great 3 stars
8/07/01 Mr. Hat (formerly Joe Zappa) Not bad. Not that good, but not that bad either. 'Nuff said. 3 stars
4/08/00 Gremlin Great movie, the one all other train battles copied off of, Connery's awesome 5 stars
11/25/99 Dr. Acula great "SPY" movie,Shaw is awesome, Barry score is superb, give it a chance! 5 stars
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  08-Apr-1964 (NR)

  10-Oct-1963 (PG)

  N/A (PG)

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