Fan Reviews - From Russia With Love

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"From Russia With Love" by Barracuda

An assassin pulls a length of wire from his watch and silently approaches James Bond from behind. Looping the wire around Bond’s neck, the assassin pulls it tight and holds it there until Bond gasps his last breath.

From Russia With Love is the first James Bond film to feature the now obligatory pre-title sequence, and although the murdered man is immediately revealed to be wearing a mask of 007, the short sequence is atmospheric and full of suspense. Since James Bond does not appear until much later in the plot, this device must have been designed to introduce Sean Connery into the story much sooner than he would have otherwise done.

Differing only slightly (but vitally) from the Fleming story, From Russia With Love is probably the only Bond film not to have at its finale a huge exploding set. Instead of a 007-by-numbers world domination theme, the film concerns a plot by SPECTRE (SMERSH in the book) to assassinate Bond in compromising circumstances and at the same time obtain a Russian cipher machine in order to sell it back to the Russians.

From Russia With Love is the first film to feature the much loved Desmond Llewellyn (introduced by M as ‘The Equipment Officer’ from ‘Q-Branch’ and billed as Boothroyd in the credits) and follows the same structure as the book, with the beginning of the film devoted to planning the assassination, and although this makes the first half a little slow at times, the local colour provided by the locations and characters fleshes out the story to ultimately make it much more believable than most of the films. This highlights one of the weaknesses of the film series from the 1970s onwards, when Fleming’s worldly sophistication was replaced almost entirely by a thin veneer of glamour and scenes like the gypsy camp, which is effectively used to provide local colour while driving the plot forward, have been replaced by the anonymity of the five star hotel and the needless action scene. With few gadgets, Bond has to rely upon his wits and during a gun flight at the gypsy camp he stands amid the confusion not knowing what to do, far from the decisive agent we see in most of the films. By the time the story has progressed to the Orient Express the film is full of suspense and while locked in a sleeping compartment with SPECTRE assassin ‘Red’ Grant, Bond is force to fight to the death in a terrifyingly claustrophobic sequence accompanied by the rhythmic knock of the rails in the background.

At times some of the acting from supporting characters is a little weak, and whenever Kerim, the head of the Istanbul MI6 station, fires a gun he snatches at the trigger so that the whole weapon wobbles impossibly, but overall the cast play the roles well and unlike some of the series the film is coherent due to its reliance on Ian Fleming’s plot. With none of the over the top gadgets, plots and pyrotechnics that have become so closely associated with James Bond, From Russia With Love remains one of the best of the series.

"From Russia With Love" by Stromberg

After production woes such as mismatched scenes and problems shooting scenes, From Russia With Love comes off a great success.

The suspenseful introduction, showing a person in a Bond-style mask killed is great, and the first few scenes with the chess match are equally satisfying. Sean Connery returns to play Bond again, and does an excellent job. The introduction of Blofeld is a chilling touch, villain red Grant is good, and villainess Rosa Klebb is interesting, delivering lines with confidence and strength. Bond girl Tatiana Romanova (Daniela Bianchi) is excellent beautiful. Regulars (M, Moneypenny, etc.) are great, and we are introduced to the charming Desmond Llewellyn, soon to become a regular in all Bond films.

The storyline, which involves SPECTRE trying to get James Bond to steal a decoding machine and deliver it to them is clever, and they hire Tatiana Romanova to woo Bond into getting the decoder. Amidst all this, our hero 007 is in danger of a terrible embarrassing death. Small sets are fairly under whelming, showing no apparent major design (such as Dr. No's sets) but show a rustic, simplistic style of Bond. Action wise, this film rates highly, scenes such as the gypsy fight are especially entertaining.

Other pleasant touches include the briefcase Q issues to Bond, filled with great little gadgets, the climax in where Rosa Klebb pulls out her knife-clad shoe, and the 'mini-finales' such as Red Grant's death, the helicopters circling Bond and the final boat scene at the end.

A fine film to watch, though personally not necessarily enjoyable as the others, From Russia With Love is a classic and 2 hours well spent.

"From Russia With Love" by Q

Sean Connery reprises his roll as the super spy in From Russia With Love. This film gives the Bond series it's "signature" pre-title sequence after produces decided to add a scene. It becomes a wonderful trend of the Bond films and the pre-titles just gets longer and more adventurous.

This film was very adventurous for it's time and features magnificent sets a tense fight or two along with a intriguing plot. Maybe the thing that puts the modern audience off this film is it's slow-moving nature. Unlike later films, even Goldfinger or Thunderball, it relies on plot to capture the imagination of viewers rather than the usual gun battle or grueling hand top hand fight.

The one major fight in this film, is however a "goodie". It take place on a train and features the first true Bond gadget, Q's lethal briefcase. Bond uses the imaginative tricks of Q's case to outwit his hard edged appoint, "Red" Grant. In its time, the fight was beyond the previous boundaries of cinema violence.

The twisting turning plot will leave the first-time viewer guessing until the end. It features the voice (and hands) for the fist time of criminal organisation leader Blofeld.

Well worth a watch and a personal favourite of mine. From Russia With Love pushed cinema past it previous boundaries. Don't go in expecting an action packed, explosive thriller. It's not at all that, but in it's own way, amazing.

"From Russia With Love" by Overkill

So who would you say was responsible for the success for the James Bond film series? Cubby Broccoli? Sean Connery? Richard Maibaum? How about John F Kennedy? Not as strange as it may sound.
In a 1961 interview for LIFE magazine, JFK expressed affection for Ian Fleming’s exciting spy adventures, which simply convinced Bond’s producers further that they had a winner on their hands. But big Jack’s choice of favourite, From Russia with Love, was duly noted and Broccoli and Saltzman decided that it would be their next cinematic Bond adventure.

Critics have often regarded FRWL as a highpoint in the series. This is very strange, or maybe not, as it is probably the one which veers furthest from the ‘formula’ that people expect from a Bond movie (a formula which, of course, had not been instilled).

Bond’s mission here really is a product of the Cold War, and relies on his detective skills, spying ability, and his proficiency for blowing things up. A chess grandmaster, and SPECTRE agent, has concocted a devious plan to destabilise British intelligence and avenge the death of Dr No (one of the few direct references to another film but standard practice for a sequel). The plot (the most involving, convoluted and ‘grown up’ in the series) will see Bond attempting to capture a Lector de-coding machine with the help of a cipher clerk who is working for SMERSH (and, unbeknownst to her, SPECTRE) who Bond first meets when she is wearing nothing but a necklace.

Along the way Bond also teams up with perhaps his greatest ally in the entire series, Kerim Bey (a great performance from the then very ill Pedro Armendariz), narrowly escapes death at the hands of a very nasty assassin, Krilencu, and witnesses some great girl-on-girl action (that’s fighting by the way) at a gypsy camp.

In tune more with the 50s and 60s style of spy movie than the action-packed extravaganzas the series would become, the climax is extremely low key (with a ‘sting in the tail’ which pre-dates the Guy Hamilton movies that would follow). After escaping another attempt on his life on the Orient Express Bond and Tatiana steal a van and then a boat. The ensuing boat chase ends with one of the best looking explosions in cinema history as Bond unleashes the boats fuel into the water and triggers it with a flare gun, sending a great wall of flames to engulf his adversaries.

But FRWL is probably best remembered for one scene especially, that assassination attempt on the Orient Express. Not just any attempt, but a cold, ruthless, calculated attempt. Throughout the film Bond has been ominously shadowed a silent, well-built albino SPECTRE agent, Donald ‘Red’ Grant. His part in the plot is cunningly never revealed, but he’s always there, stalking, watching, and even saving Bond’s life. Then on the Orient Express (after posing as Bond’s contact) all is revealed. The resultant cat-and-mouse antics not only prove Connery’s worth as an actor, but how quickly he had grown into the part. He positively oozes confidence without appearing arrogant, and even when all looks lost you can still sense he has something up his sleeve (or in his briefcase). Robert Shaw is superb (as he always was) and he is perhaps the perfect match for Bond: he is as callous, ruthless and determined as Bond, and the great skill of both the director and the actors is the scene produces that rare moment in a Bond film when you genuinely think he might just buy it this time. I know that sounds ridiculous, but if you don’t fear for the hero’s life, the film isn’t doing its job.

FRWL does the job, admirably. It may seem a little slow moving and tame by today’s standards, but for a down-to-earth, gritty spy thriller it has rarely been bettered.