MI6 trawls the archives to see how critics of the day received Sean Connery's second outing as James Bond in "From Russia With Love"...

Time Tunnel: Review Rewind

5th May 2010

New York Times - April 9th, 1964
Secret Agent 007 is very much with us again, and anyone who hasn't yet got to know him is urged to do so right away! He is, of course, the snappy fellow who goes by the name of James Bond in Ian Fleming's thrilling novels and is reproduced on the screen by an equally snappy actor by the name of Sean Connery.

His reappearance in this instance is in the second delightfully wild film made from a Fleming novel, "From Russia With Love."

Don't miss it! This is to say, don't miss it if you can still get the least bit of fun out of lurid adventure fiction and pseudo-realistic fantasy. For this mad melodramatization of a desperate adventure of Bond with sinister characters in Istanbul and on the Orient Express is fictional exaggeration on a grand scale and in a dashing style, thoroughly illogical and improbable, but with tongue blithely wedged in cheek.

Again good old "Double Oh Seven" is sent by his London chief, "M," to look into a promised opportunity to tweak the hide of the Russians in the Near East.

It seems there's a secret mechanism called a Lektor that may be filched from the Soviet Embassy in Turkey, if the cards — and the cads — are smartly played. This means the agent who does it must work in consort with a beautiful girl and a Turkish voluptuary, which is right down old "Double Oh Seven's" street.


Of course, he doesn't know the whole set-up is a diabolical plant of that international apparatus, Spectre, aimed to snag Lektor for itself and also to place its favorite nemesis in the gravest jeopardy. And he doesn't sense that the strange and solemn fellow who tails him all over the place is a homicidal paranoiac ("the best kind") working for Spectre, until almost too late.

Well, there's no point in trying to tell you all the mad, naughty things that take place — the meetings with mysterious people, the encounters with beautiful girls, the bomb explosions, the chases, the violent encounter of Bond with a helicopter, a motor boat race. Nor is there any point in trying to locate the various characters in the plot, all of whom are deliciously fantastic and delightfully well played.


There's Lotte Lenya as an arch Spectre agent, Robert Shaw as the paranoiac, Pedro Armendariz as the jovial Turkish contact and Daniela Bianchi as the beautiful girl. And, oh, how beautiful, luscious and voluptuous she is! Even old "Double Oh Seven" cannot resist her, and takes her home at the end.

Terence Young has directed the whole thing grandly, with some color photography of Istanbul and surrounding country that gives it the proper key. Don't ask any more. Just go to see it and have yourself a good time.

Time - 10th April 1964

Ian Fleming is the late late late show of literature. Perused at the witching hour, the violent adventures and immoderate amours of James Bond, Agent 007 of the British Secret Service, seem as normal as Ovaltine—and rather more narcotic.

Shown on screen, they are apt to seem absurd. Doctor No, the first of Fleming's novels to be filmed, was shot as a straight thriller, but most spectators took it as a travesty and had a belly laugh. The reaction was not lost on Director Terence Young. From Russia, his second treatment of a Fleming fiction, is an intentional heehaw at whodunits, an uproarious parody that may become a classic of caricature.

"Once more unto the breach, dear friends," the hero (Sean Connery) announces as the story begins. He means, somebody hastens to explain, a breach of Soviet security; a libidinous Russian cipher clerk (Daniela Bianchi), who has somehow heard of Bond's charms, informs the British Secret Service that for one night with him she'll do anything—like turn over the latest Soviet cipher machine. Obviously a trap, but Hero Bond steps into it as casually as he steps into his rep silk undershorts.


The lovers meet in Istanbul. He wears a hand towel, and she is covered by his automatic. "You're beautiful," he mutters. "Some people think my mouth is too big," she pants in reply. "No," he assures her, "it's the right size—for me." Bang! A bomb explodes in the Russian consulate, and in the ensuing confusion Bond and his musky Russki escape with a cipher machine. But the end is not yet. In the next hour or so, 007 is slugged by a phony British agent, bombed by a passing helicopter, pursued by an avalanche of rats, and drop-kicked by a homicidal charlady (Lotte Lenya) with a poisoned dagger planted in the toe of her terribly sensible shoes.


All this is marvelously exciting. Director Young is a master of the form he ridicules, and in almost every episode he hands the audience shocks as well as yocks. But the yocks are more memorable. They result from slight but sly infractions of the thriller formula. A Russian agent, for instance, does not simply escape through a window; no, he escapes through a window in a brick wall painted with a colossal poster portrait of Anita Ekberg, and as he crawls out of the window, he seems to be crawling out of Anita's mouth.

Or again, Bond does not simply train a telescope on the Russian consulate and hope he can read somebody's lips; no, he makes his way laboriously into a gallery beneath the joint, runs a submarine periscope up through the walls, and there, at close range, inspects two important Soviet secrets: the heroine's legs.

Sophisticated? Well, not really. But fast, smart, shrewdly directed and capably performed. And though the film will scarcely eradicate the sex and violence that encumber contemporary movies, it may at least persuade producers that sick subjects may be profitably proffered with a healthy laugh.

Variety - June, 1982
From Russia with Love is a preposterous, skillful slab of hardhitting, sexy hokum. After a slowish start, it is directed by Terence Young at zingy pace. This one has to do with Sean Connery being detailed to go to Istanbul and lift a top secret Russian decoding machine from the embassy. British Intelligence senses that this may be a trap, but getting the machine is important.

Connery can pull it off if he will help a young Russian cipher clerk (Daniela Bianchi) to escape to the West. She thinks she is working for her Russian government, but actually she is a pawn of Spectre, an international crime syndicate.

Bond has a glorious slap-up fight to the death with Robert Shaw, the killer detailed to bump him off. He is hounded by a helicopter as he runs across moorland clutching the decoding machine. He beats off his pursuers in a motor boat by setting fire to the sea. He referees a fight between two jealous gypsy girls just before the encampment is invaded by the crime gang.

Connery is well served by some crisp wise-cracking dialog by Richard Maibaum [in his script adapted by Johanna Harwood]. Robert Shaw is an impressive, icy, implacable killer and the late Pedro Armendariz weighs in with a formidable, yet lightly played, performance as the man who knows the sinister secrets of Istanbul.


The distaff side is less well served. Newcomer Daniela Bianchi is a good looking Italian girl with shapely legs and promising smile. Lotte Lenya has been lumbered with a part that doesn't fully come off. Disguised with an Eaton Crop and heavy pebble spectacles, she stands out as somebody up to no good from the first glimpse.

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