Terence Young returns to direct the second installment in the James Bond franchise, “From Russia With Love.”
Sean Connery is back as 007 and he is assigned to escort the beautiful Russian Tatiana Romonava with the Lektor, a secret Soviet computer.
Tatiana (Daniela Bianchi, one of the most beautifully charming Bond girls) claims to be wanting to defect, but she is under duress from the terrorist organization SPECTRE to trap Bond (revenge for the demise of Dr. No) and cause a conflict between England and Russia.
Ian Fleming’s story is deeply rooted in the Cold War climate of the mid 1960s. It only makes sense that SPECTRE, with leadership from the mysterious Blofeld, would become a formidable opponent to Bond. Moments like the Cuban Missile Crisis and other events of the time were on everyone’s mind. I imagine it was easy to relate to in this film.
The story primarily takes place in one of Fleming’s most favorite known locales, Istanbul, Turkey. Young has great shots within enormous cathedrals and museums and even underground in 16th century tunnels, as well as outdoors on the ferry. It’s a fascinating, scenic tour.
Connery is at his best here. He looks great in his fitted suits, letting the suave and dry humor of Bond come naturally. 007 even disapproves of one ordering red wine with fish. Yet he’s also a great player, as his chemistry with gadgets like his quick assemble sniper rifle and trick briefcase (complete with explosives, gold coins, and dagger) really works well. A great fight scene aboard a train against Red Grant (Robert Shaw, in a great toughie role, nowhere recognizable compared to his later portrayal as the shark fisherman Quint in “Jaws”) is brutal and bare knuckled. Well choreographed within the close quarters of a small train compartment.
Another killer comes in the form of Rosa Kleb (the miserly Lotte Lenya) with the shoe knife that’ll kill you in 12 seconds. She’s a lot of fun.
“From Russia With Love” is the most unusual of the Connery/Moore films. There’s no giant fortress for a villain, or global domination plot that is speechified to Bond over dinner.
The film is more like a Hitchcock interpretation as a pursuit is the driving force. People turn up dead just feet away from Bond and he doesn’t confront or acknowledge the villains himself. He knows they are there, but he doesn’t pick them out of the crowd. Young’s film relies on the suspense that Hitchcock introduced time and again as in “North By Northwest,” for example. A great scene pits Bond against an aggressive helicopter dropping grenades.
The gadgety playfully exists however, as does Bond’s chauvinism for great puns and tongue in cheek material.
The future of the franchise was looking even more promising here thanks to Connery and EON productions upping the stakes in action and more forthright innuendo.
Bond was going to be here to stay for quite a long time.