From Russia, with Love
directed by Terence Young
(United Artists/MGM, 1963)

The new James Bond franchise wasted no time in following up its strong debut film, Dr. No, with a successor, From Russia, with Love. Despite only a year between the two, the Bond legend took an immediate upswing.

From Russia, with Love is a far superior drama and mystery, with wheels turning within wheels as the various plots and machinations unfold. Bond (an elegant Sean Connery) is sent to Turkey to woo a beautiful Soviet defector with a much-needed translation device at her disposal. She (Tatiana Romanova, played by 1960's Miss Universe, Daniela Bianchi, voice dubbed by Barbara Jefford) believes she is duping Bond for Mother Russia, when in fact she is working at the behest of Bond's nemesis, SPECTRE. Of course, she cannot long resist his charms.

Although the SPECTRE leadership is never seen in this film (beyond a hand caressing a white cat), the secret organization has grown far beyond its humble beginnings as implied on Dr. No's island in the previous film. Instead of a single villain, From Russia, with Love gives us several: Rosa Klebb (Lotte Lenya), SPECTRE's No. 3, a highly ranked Soviet official who has already turned but uses her Soviet connections to orchestrate the plot; Kronsteen (Vladek Sheybal), a scheming chessmaster and SPECTRE's No. 5, who believes his wit an easy match for British Intelligence; and Donald Grant (an excellent performance by Robert Shaw) as the killer trained specifically with Bond's blood in mind.

On Bond's side is the delightful, extremely fertile Kerim Bey (Pedro Armendariz), whose many sons help him keep a tight rein on Istanbul intrigue, plus M (Bernard Lee), Moneypenny (Lois Maxwell) and the newly added gadget master Major Boothroyd, a.k.a. Q (Desmond Llewelyn). Bond's adventures this time will take him from the arms of Sylvia Trench (Eunice Gayson), his returning lover from the last film, to the marketplaces and catacombs of Istanbul and a colorful Gypsy camp before reaching an apparent climax on a train speeding through the Balkan countryside. But just when you think it's over -- it's not.

From Russia, with Love quickly upped the ante, vastly improving on Bond's strong debut with its tightly woven plot. This one will keep you guessing -- and if it isn't enough, it ends with a teaser for the third in the Bond series, Goldfinger.

[ by Tom Knapp ]

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