Movie Review: FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE

There are very few James Bond movies that can stand alone as its own spy flick. From Russia With Love is that rare occasion in the franchise when it’s strictly in the espionage genre, and less in the world of 007. In fact, From Russia With Love is the last Bond movie before the series moved into the realm of “spy fantasy”.

Watch FRWL and tell me that you don’t see elements of some of Hitchcock’s spy thrillers. It doesn’t stray too far from Ian Fleming’s original novel, and the cast is one of the strongest in Bond franchise history.

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My FRWL Notes:

  • The first ever Bond pre-title sequence isn’t action packed or exotic, but it does the trick. It’s got enough suspense to enjoy, even though we know they won’t kill of Bond in the first two minutes.
  • I know something is up with Sean Connery’s waxy complexion in the scene. I guess that looks like a mask.
  • Was chess a really that popular back in the early 60s? Does this justify having a chess match as the first scene after the credits?
  • Is Kronsteen the most arrogant, villainous character until Boris from Goldeneye?
  • Another first is our first glimpse (sorta) at Blofeld.
  • FRWL is a sequel to Dr. No, which is rare in the Bond franchise.
  • The Lektor Decoder is an old-school “MacGuffin”.
  • Is it just me, or could Daniel Craig play Red Grant in a remake of this movie? Craig has a very 1963 Robert Shaw vibe and look to him. While I’m at it, I could also see Mike Pence as Red Grant.
  • Grant is basically a serial killer turned sanctioned agent.
  • I don’t think we get enough of the SPECTRE training camp.
  • Rosa Klebb (played brilliantly by Lotte Lenya) is giving off some very obvious Sappho-vibes while instructing Tatiana Romanova.
  • Is Sylvia Trench as close to a “serious girlfriend” as James has ever had in the movies?
  • A 1963 movie theater audience must have been blown away with Bond’s Bentley having a car phone.
  • Here’s another first…our first time seeing Desmond Llewelyn as Q. The character’s real last name (Boothroyd) is listed in the credits.
  • These very early Connery movies used the Bond theme for anything! The classic theme song blasts out as Bond walks through an airport and while he’s checking out his hotel room!
  • Kerim Bey (terrific turn by Pedro Armendariz) is one of my favorite Bond helpers/mentors of all-time.
  • Kerim’s girlfriend/mistress is…umm…there is no other way to put this. Very horny.
  • That gypsy camp extravaganza (belly dancing, girl-fight, all-out battle) needs to be its own film.
  • Bond has to choose a winner in the gypsy girl-fight by having sex with both of them and then pick the best one. Is this Bond’s only implied threesome in the series?
  • I always seem to forget that a major plot point of this movie involves a Bond-Tatiana sex tape, and Russian “kompromat.”
  • Half of this film takes place on the Orient Express. It’s rare for a Bond movie to spend this much time in one location.
  • Sean Connery portrays Bond just the right way when he learns of Kerim’s murder. You can tell there is some pain, but he moves on because there is a job to do.
  • Bond’s hand-to-hand combat versus Red Grant inside the train still stands up as not only the best fight scene in Bond franchise history, but one of the best in all of film history. For 1963, this was a very brutal fight.
  • Bond running from the helicopter has a very North By Northwest cinematic feel to it.
  • Great trick by Bond on the boat. Using his own fuel to set fire to the other boats. “Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.”
  • Bond fighting Klebb is both suspenseful and hysterical. The way she is trying to kick him, while he uses a chair like a lion tamer does. Great stuff. Also, Klebb’s death face and movement is slightly orgasmic.

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Bond’s coolest moment? Bond checking his hotel room for “bugs” and telling the suspicious hotel clerk he wants the bridal suite.

Bond’s most embarrassing moment? Goofing off as he walks into M’s office.

Bond’s best line? “She should have kept her mouth shut.” That Anita Ekberg has a big mouth. 

Best acting performance? Where to start?! Lenya? Shaw? Connery? But I’m going to go with Armedariz’s performance as Turkish spy head Kerim Bey. He’s so damn likable. The actor was dying of a brain tumor throughout filming. A very brave performance. 

Bond’s #MeToo #TimesUp moment? Bond doesn’t really force himself on any women in this movie, but he does slap Tatiana after Kerim’s death, as he tries to get answers out of her.

Worst line in the movie? “Who is Bond compared with Kronsteen?

What I noticed for the first time after watching this for the 165th time? During the belly dancing scene, there is a cutaway to Bond breaking character and you can see Sean Connery smiling and really enjoying the show.

Best action sequence? The full scale gypsy camp battle scene between the Turks and the Bulgarians. 

Who or what is the title song about? The song, which only plays lyrically at the end, seems to be about a man who has found love and is ready to do anything to keep it. 

Best looking cinematic moment? Bond vs the helicopter. 

How could the villain have succeeded? Red Grant sold himself for 50 gold sovereigns. He could have killed Bond right there.

Which other Bond actor could have starred in this movie? No one else. This is a total Connery movie. He’s so lethally sharp. I do think someone like Timothy Dalton or Daniel Craig could have played Bond in this type of spy thriller. 

Does Bond ever think he might die? Twice. Once when Grant has him on his knees in the train. The other when Klebb has him at gunpoint in the Venice hotel. 

What would have made the movie better? Explaining more about the plan to use the sex tape. It’s still a little murky. 

What’s in a name? Bond uses the alias David Somerset, a married man on vacation with his wife, while on the Orient Express.

What’s in a title? From Russia With Love comes from the title of the novel written by Ian Fleming, which was one of JFK’s favorite books. 

Drinking game: Take a shot of Raki (what the gypsies drink) each time Tatiana says “Gems” AKA “James”. 

“WTF?!” moment: Tatiana trying to make a mustache with her hair.

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Fun fact: Bond meeting Tatiana in his hotel bedroom, has been the audition love scene all potential Bond actors must do. 

Overall ranking: 2nd out of 24. 

Review synopsis: There aren’t many Cold War era spy films more entertaining than From Russia With Love. There are only a handful of Bond films that can compete with it. FRWL never seems to drag on, it’s well-written and directed. It’s a great view into what made Fleming create Bond. Connery proves here why he is the best 007 actor to ever play the role. The movie exudes sexy, cool confidence.

The end "wave goodbye" in From Russia With Love (1963)

 

 

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