At the start of From Russia With Love (1963) an assassin pulls a length of wire from his watch and silently approaches James Bond from behind. Looping the wire around Bond’s neck, the assassin pulls it tight and holds it there until Bond gasps his last breath.
From Russia With Love is the second James Bond film and the first to feature the now obligatory pre-title sequence. Although the murdered man is immediately revealed to be wearing a mask of 007, the short sequence is atmospheric and full of suspense. Since James Bond does not appear until much later in the plot, this device must have been designed to introduce Sean Connery into the story much sooner than he would have otherwise done.
Differing only slightly (but vitally) from the Fleming story, From Russia With Love is probably the only Bond film not to have at its finale a huge exploding set. Instead of a 007-by-numbers world domination theme, the film concerns a plot by SPECTRE (SMERSH in the book) to assassinate Bond in compromising circumstances and at the same time obtain a Russian cipher machine in order to sell it back to the Russians.
From Russia With Love is the first film to feature the much loved Desmond Llewellyn (introduced by M as ‘The Equipment Officer’ from ‘Q-Branch’ and billed as Boothroyd in the credits) and follows the same structure as the book, with the beginning of the film devoted to planning the assassination, and although this makes the first half a little slow at times, the local colour provided by the locations and characters fleshes out the story to ultimately make it much more believable than most of the films.
This highlights one of the weaknesses of the film series from the 1970s onwards, when Fleming’s worldly sophistication was replaced almost entirely by a thin veneer of glamour and scenes like the gypsy camp, which is effectively used to provide local colour while driving the plot forward, have been replaced by the anonymity of the five star hotel and the needless action scene. With few gadgets, Bond has to rely upon his wits and during a gun flight at the gypsy camp he stands amid the confusion not knowing what to do, far from the decisive agent we see in most of the films.
By the time the story has progressed to the Orient Express the film is full of suspense and while locked in a sleeping compartment with SPECTRE assassin ‘Red’ Grant, Bond is force to fight to the death in a terrifyingly claustrophobic sequence accompanied by the rhythmic knock of the rails in the background.
At times some of the acting from supporting characters is a little weak, and whenever Kerim, the head of the Istanbul MI6 station, fires a gun he snatches at the trigger so that the whole weapon wobbles impossibly, but overall the cast play the roles well and unlike some of the series the film is coherent due to its reliance on Ian Fleming’s plot. With none of the over the top gadgets, plots and pyrotechnics that have become so closely associated with James Bond, From Russia With Love remains one of the best of the series.
What we say
From Russia With Love is one of the classics and the one James Bond film that both fans and film-makers look back on as a solid standard to be judged against.
Premiere: 10th October 1963 at the Odeon Leicester Square UK: 11th October 1963 US: 8th April 1964
Richard Maibaum & Johanna Harwood
Albert R Broccoli and Harry Saltzman
|Francis De Wolff
|Ernst Blofeld (as ?)
|Gypsy Dancer (as Leila)
|Woman on Bridge in Venice (uncredited)
|Hotel Concierge (uncredited)
|Woman in a Punt (uncredited)
|Man in a Punt (uncredited)
|Hugo De Vernier
|Hotel Porter (uncredited)
|Istanbul Hotel Receptionist (uncredited)
|Chess Tournament Spectator (uncredited)
|Captain Nash (uncredited)
|Tatiana Romanova (voice) (uncredited)
|James Bond (uncredited)
|Mosque Tour Guide (uncredited)
|Girl Dancing During Opening Titles (uncredited)
|Chess Umpire (uncredited)
|Ernst Stavro Blofeld (voice) (uncredited)
|Woman on Train (uncredited)
|James Bond in Gunbarrel Sequence (uncredited)
|Nikki Van der Zyl
|Sylvia Trench / Receptionist (voice) (uncredited)
- Dry martini with Sylvia Trench
- Raki with Kerim Bey at the gypsy camp
- Taittinger Blanc de Blanc champagne while dining on the Orient Express
Bentley 4¼ litre Vanden Plas tourer (1939)
- “Red wine with fish. Well that should have told me something.”
- “I think my mouth is too big.” “No, it’s just the right size…for me that is.”
- “I hope you are not disappointed”.
“I will tell you in the morning”.
- “She’s had her kicks.”
- “Green figs. Yoghurt. Coffee, very black.”
- “You wont be needing this OLD MAN”
- “You’ve never been to Istanbul? Where the Bosperous moonlight is irresistible. Let me tell you the secret of the world.”
- “Your clock, is it correct?”
- ”She should have kept her mouth shut”.
- “You might know the right wines, but who’s on his knees now”.