Following on from the success of Dr. No, director Terence Young returned to Ian Fleming’s legendary British secret agent James Bond in an adaptation of From Russia with Love. Sticking with Sean Connery as 007 and maintaining the same supporting cast of Bernard Lee as M and Lois Maxwell as Miss Moneypenny, From Russia with Love is the first Bond film to include most of the common elements associated with the series, including the stylised opening credits by Robert Brownjohn, the vodka martini, shaken, not stirred and Desmond Llewelyn as weaponmaster Q.
Shady organisation SPECTRE devise a plot to steal a cryptographic device from the Soviets with a view to selling it back to them, meanwhile framing British Intelligence Officer James Bond (Connery) in the process. A former high-ranking Soviet who has defected to SPECTRE hires Tatiana Romanova (Daniela Bianchi) to seduce Bond as part of the secret plan to implicate him as revenge for him killing their agent Dr. No.
From Russia with Love stands as the first properly recognisable Bond film in the series, containing elements that would later become the norm. From the opening credits that are projected onto the bodies of belly dancers to the high-speed chase scenes incorporating all manner of vehicles and gadgets, From Russia with Love could easily be any number of Bond films in the next two decades.
Connery is more comfortable as the super spy, and his effortless charm and sex appeal are clearly part of the draw of these early instalments. Also the mysterious SPECTRE agents remain an intriguing backseat villain who would spread out over the course of the next few films. It’s a shame that Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery did such a good job of parodying the early Bond films, because it’s difficult to look at SPECTRE in any terms other than Dr. Evil and friends. Although special mention to the unrecognisable Robert Shaw as the assassin Grant, as he brings an almost Terminator style approach to dealing with his targets, which helps From Russia with Love remain a thrilling, if slightly flawed instalment.
There are gypsy women animalistically brawling, and one of the most over-the-top chase scenes and use of a briefcase in the whole series, which considering it would later include invisible cars is quite the accomplishment. But he script zips along at a far old pace, giving the audience almost no time to consider the ridiculous nature of the big setup that is central to the narrative. In the end then From Russia with Love is one of the better installments simply because of the level of fun inherent to the premise, although it’s a little too silly to be a bona fide classic.