FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE

Thanks to Q, those breasts are now equpped with machine guns (1962)
With Sean Connery, Daniela Bianchi, Pedro Armendáriz, Robert Shaw, Lotte Lenya, Bernard Lee, Lois Maxwell, Desmond Llewelyn, Eunice Gayson
Directed by Terence Young
Reviewed by JL and JB

     For many James Bond purists, especially those familiar with the Ian Fleming novels, FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE remains the greatest Bond film ever made. It's basically a simple spy story with the good guys and the Rooskies chasing down the same MacGuffin, or "Lektor Decoder," if you will. The plot is secondary to the colorful characters (including memorable baddies Lotte Lenya and Robert Shaw), one of the loveliest Bond girls (Daniela Bianchi), and the well-staged action and fight sequences. In his second outing as Bond, Sean Connery claims complete ownership of the character. Some may opt for next year's GOLDFINGER as the gold standard of the Bond franchise, but FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE demonstrates how good the series was before the producers discovered that an abundance of girls, gadgets and gags sold more tickets. 5 - JL


"If you want my body and ya think I'm sexy..."     The original Ian Fleming novel had a very innovative structure: James Bond did not appear until the second half of the book. The first half featured the bad guys planning their trap for Bond, the second half featured the trap itself. In the book's final paragraph, Bond is kicked by a poison-tipped shoe and we are led to believe that he has died. It might have been Fleming's way of getting rid of his spy, the way Sir Arthur Conan Doyle killed off Sherlock Holmes in his short story The Final Problem. Like Doyle, Fleming brought his hero back again, in his next novel, Dr. No, which opens with Bond recuperating in a hospital.

     From RUSSIA WITH LOVE is unlike any other James Bond film, and may very well be the best. It features only one gadget (a briefcase with a handful of helpful spy tools), no elaborate Ken Adams sets, a handful of realistic action sequences and the grittiest, best-edited fight in the entire series. Like DR. NO before it and unlike just about every Bond film to follow, FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE is a straightforward spy story colored with fantastical elements. Remove Blofeld and SPECTRE, and FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE would simply be a spy story about an English agent trying to steal a Russian decoder.

     The cast of FRWL is one of the best of all the films so far. Sean Connery had become an overnight star with DR. NO, and he is joined by famed German actress Lotte Lenya as Agent #3 Rosa Klebb, defected from Russian intelligence to SPECTRE, and the great Robert Shaw as murderous psychopath Grant, ordered by SPECTRE to kill Bond and retrieve the stolen McGuffin. There is also Pedro Armendáriz as good guy Kerim Bey, one of the few characters in the whole series that feels like an actual friend to Bond and not just another fill in the blank friendly agent. Daniela Bianchi may have been an unknown but she exudes the kind of girlish charm and innocence that few future Bond girls could match. Finally, Vladek Shebal as Agent #5 Kronsteen has an unforgettable villainous face, a cross between Peter Lorre and Buster Keaton, and is the kind of character actor you rarely see in a Bond film these days. 5 - JB

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The Secret Vortex

HOW TO TALK LIKE A BOND VILLAIN

"My orders are to kill you and deliver the Lektor. How I do it is my business. It'll be slow and painful.


WE WERE SAILING ALONG ON KERIM BEY

     Mexican actor Pedro Armendáriz gives one of the most memorable performances in the entire Bond franchise as Turkish agent and all around gregarious rogue Ali Kerim Bey. Armendáriz was gravely ill during the shooting of FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE and was diagnosed with inoperable cancer. He insisted, however, that he would finish the film, and director Terence Young quickly rearranged the shooting schedule around Armendáriz's needs.  In June of 1963, four months before the premiere of FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE, Armendáriz took his own life.