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From Russia with Love

From Russia With Love is a bigger, messier movie with a lot more going on, but it maintains the likable, easy-going tone and wide-eyed sense of adventure of Dr. No. It manages to hit the sweet spot between Bond’s modest debut and the grandiose vehicles that came after.

The plot, cast and budget have all grown, but James Bond remains the star. More so than perhaps any other Bond movie (at least until Daniel Craig takes over), this is a movie about Bond, not simply a movie with him in it. He’s given more room to grow, make decisions and mistakes. Sean Connery is still defining who Bond is, not coasting on audiences’ familiarity with him. It’s probably his best performance as Bond.

The James Bond of From Russia With Love is intriguing and enigmatic, as any good spy should be. The whole venture is kicked off because SPECTRE can’t stand him, and they base their elaborate plan on the (accurate, it turns out) assumption that he can’t resist a beautiful blonde.

Yet Bond, to the movie’s credit, is not perfect. He’s still capable of making mistakes, mis-judging people, and even showing fear. Contrary to what many of the ‘70s and ‘80s Bond film writers believe, this makes him a far more interesting hero, and one whose victories are more deeply felt.

Sean Connery as James Bond in From Russia With Love

As suggested by the title, From Russia With Love has a more overt romantic angle. The story begins — and is eventually resolved by — Bond’s capacity for love. With women, Bond is still curious and tentative, and even somewhat aware of other’s needs. He has not yet been reduced to a creature enslaved by lust.

The plot is mysterious and intricate in the best possible way. SPECTRE spells their plan out early on, so we know which major beats to look for, but the minor details are left out, and there are plenty of twists and hiccups along the way. We know, of course, that James Bond will come out on top, but how exactly everything is going to play out is a mystery until the final minutes.

Blessed with a larger budget, thanks to the surprise success of Dr. No, From Russia With Love ups the ante in terms of spectacle. This time we’re treated to an explosive helicopter crash, an even more explosive boat chase, and several elaborate shoot-outs. All are excellently executed, but the movie (and director Terence Young’s skill) often shines brighter in the quieter moments, like a brutal, close-quarters punch-out between Bond and top henchman Red Grant that still ranks among the series’ best and most intense.

From Russia With Love is a lot like Dr. No — from the opening scenes of Bond in M’s office, to the closing shot of Bond and a beautiful girl relaxing in a boat after a job well done — but it still feels more like a vibrant re-living than a stale regurgitation. From Russia With Love delicately, but deliberately, takes the first step in transforming the contents of a surprise hit into a versatile formula.


VerdictA confident step forward for the series in terms of storytelling and action that also deepens the James Bond mythology.

Main Villain

Lotte Lenya as Rosa Klebb in To Russia With Love
  • Name Rosa Klebb (aka “#3”)
  • Played By Lotte Lenya
  • Distinguishing Features Diminutive stature; poison-tipped knives that come out of the toes of her shoes.
  • Background Former head of operations for SMERSH (Russia’s counter-intelligence agency) who has since defected to work for SPECTRE.
  • Sinister Plan Working in cooperation with Kronsteen and the as-of-yet-unnamed head of SPECTRE (see ‘Associates’ below), Klebb plans to steal a Lektor, a Russian encoding device, and disgrace James Bond and MI6 in the process as revenge for their roles in killing Dr. No. This very complicated plan ultimately involves letting Bond think he’s stolen the Lektor, only to kill him, take it back, frame him for a murder, and release an incriminating video of him to the media.
  • Hospitality Towards James Bond Klebb is never lucky enough to actually capture Bond.
  • Psychiatric AssessmentBased on her actions in this movie, it’s not immediately apparent that Klebb suffers from any mental illness, although the fact that she abandoned her high-ranking post in Russia’s counter-intelligence agency to work a terrorist organization suggests certain sociopathic tendencies.
  • Death Shot by Tatiana Romanova when Klebb forces her to choose between Russia and Bond (she chooses Bond, obviously).
  • Verdict Klebb is actually a bit of a background player, relatively speaking, as the villainy is more of a collaborative effort by a variety of SPECTRE agents. Klebb is the most vibrant part of the team though, operating with a fiery, near-cartoonish intensity, whether she’s dressing like a maid and trying to stab Bond with her knife-shoes, or pounding her minions with brass knuckles to see how “fit” they are.

Villainous Lair

  • LocationVenice, Italy
  • Art Director Syd Cain (for the 1st of 3 times)
  • VerdictSPECTRE assembles in a rather generic office, which is very disappointing. It has a decent fishtank, which #1 loves to talk about, but it pales in comparison to Dr. No’s million-dollar aquarium.

Top Henchman

Robert Shaw as Grant in To Russia With Love
  • Name Red Grant
  • Played By Robert Shaw
  • Background Unknown. Although we do know that he has been highly trained in the delicate art of killing James Bond at SPECTRE’s island training camp (he literally practices by killing people dressed up like James Bond).
  • Specialties Strangling James Bond with a cable that extends out of his wristwatch. It’s also noted several times (by both Rosa Klebb and James Bond) that he is in tremendous physical shape, and he pulls off a very convincing English accent.
  • Verdict While Rosa Klebb logs much less screen-time than the average Bond villain, Grant logs much more than the average henchman. He’s the one in charge of executing the bulk of the plan, which even gives him the opportunity to take on the Talking Killer role (i.e. the one who explains the sinister plan to Bond). As played by Robert Shaw, with his grizzled good looks and imposing stature, he’s a menacing foe, even without much dialogue. Perhaps to keep him more in line with a crew of bad guys who are all a little bit silly, Grant sports a strange bleach-blonde hairdo.

Notable Associates

Ernst Blofeld in To Russia With Love
  • Leader of SPECTRE (aka “#1”)
    Though revealed in later Bond films (and Ian Fleming’s novels) to be Ernst Blofeld, neither his name nor face would’ve been known to watchers of the movies alone by this point. In From Russia With Love, all we see of him is a thick head of slick-back black hair and a fluffy white cat that he constantly strokes.
  • Kronsteen (aka “#5”)A world-class chess champion and SPECTRE agent who orchestrates the plan to steal the Lektor and get revenge on Bond. He plays no part in carrying it out, but when the plan fails, #1 has him killed (by poison shoe).
  • KrilencuA Russian assassin who “kills for pleasure.” He’s assigned by the Russian military to kill Kerim Bey (MI6’s operative in Istanbul) after SPECTRE sets him up for the murder of a Russian embassy guard.

Lead Bond Girl

Daniela Bianchi as Tatiana Romanova
  • Name Tatiana Romanova
  • Played By Daniela Bianchi
  • Seems To Be A Russian agent setting Bond up for assassination.
  • Turns out to be A Russian agent being unwittingly used by SPECTRE as part of their devious plan to steal a Lektor and humiliate/kill Bond.
  • Frenemy Status Enemy, then friend.
  • How Far Does James Get Tatiana and James go all the way, with SPECTRE filming the whole thing from a secret room.
  • Does James Get Her Killed? No. In fact, he saves her from being killed as per SPECTRE’s plan.
  • Verdict At absolutely no point does poor Miss Romanova have any idea what’s going on — until the movie’s final moment, she still thinks she’s working for her beloved Mother Russia, even though she never actually was. At some point she goes from scheming against Bond to sincerely being in love with him, but it’s unclear when this switch occurs, nor does it particularly matter, given how inconsequential her actions are. The result is that, for much of the movie, when she’s cooing and coming on to Bond, it’s more confusing than anything because we don’t really know what her motivations are or whether we should be rooting for her. Bond’s fascination with her is the foundation of the movie, but ultimately, she’s just another pretty face.

Supporting Bond Girls #1 & #2

Gypsy women fighting in From Russia With Love
  • Names Vida & Zora
  • Played By Aliza Gur & Martine Beswick
  • Seem To Be Two gypsy women engaged in an all-out fight to the death for the heart of a man they both love.
  • Turn out to be Bond asks the gypsy leader to release them from their fight, which in this movie’s (probably inaccurate) understanding of gypsy custom, means that James now “owns” them both and may do with them as he pleases.
  • Frenemy Status They are his possession/love slaves, which they actually seem pretty pleased about.
  • How Far Does James Get He does with them as he pleases, but it’s unclear whether he takes them on one at a time or if he has them make a James Bond sandwich.
  • Does James Get Them Killed? No. In fact, he saves one of them from killing the other.
  • Verdict A sexy catfight which segues into a sexy threesome which then segues into neither of these women being heard from again. A crude, blatant (but pretty funny) attempt to titillate male viewers, and nothing else. Not really sure if Vida & Zora deserve an A+ or an F.
Gypsy Women and James Bond in From Russia With Love

Supporting Bond Girl #3

  • Name Sylvia Trench
  • Played By Eunice Gayson
  • Seems To Be The special friend James made in Dr. No.
  • Turns out to be Exactly what she seems.
  • Frenemy Status Same as before: a friend with benefits.
  • How Far Does James Get In the actual movie they just make-out by the river, although it’s implied that they’ve spent the preceeding six months shagging on the regular.
  • Does James Get Her Killed? No. Just as in Dr. No, Sylvia is long-gone by the time the action begins.

Theme Song

Matt Monro
  • Title“From Russia With Love”
  • PerformerMatt Monro
  • VerdictA cabaret-ready, Frank Sinatra-esque ballad filled with mystery and longing. It’s elegant, romantic, and just a little bit cheesy, much like the movie itself. My only complaint is that it’s not particularly energetic or exciting. It’s more of a theme song for the movie’s happy ending than its ominous beginning (which perhaps explains why it’s the only Bond theme song in history to play over the end credits instead of the opening titles).

Main Titles

  • DesignerRobert Brownjohn (for the 1st of 2 times)
  • VerdictProjecting credits onto the exposed flesh of dancing women is a simple, brilliant idea that became a venerable formula for the James Bond franchise. This being the first example, it’s occassionally a bit awkward — the women are sometimes forced to stiffen up unnaturally or lurch into awkward positions in order to keep the credit text legible — but overall it’s a sexy motif bursting with potential.

    Matt Munro’s sleepy theme song is wisely eschewed in favor of a bouncier, instrumental version which segues perfectly into James Bond’s original theme song.
  • DeviceBriefcase
  • Outward appearance “An ordinary black leather case,” in Q’s words.
  • Special Features For one thing, it blows tear gas into the face of the operator if opened the wrong way. It also has a throwing knife that slides out of the top and 50 gold sovereigns embedded in its joints.
  • Usage When being held by Grant at gunpoint in a train car, Bond offers him the 50 gold sovereigns as a bribe to let him live. Of course, when Grant tries to open the suitcase to get them, it explodes in his face. Bond then uses the knife to stab and kill Grant.
The Briefcase of From Russia With Love
The sniper rifle of From Russia With Love
  • DeviceCollapsible AR-7 .22 Sniper Rifle
  • Outward appearance When collapsed, it looks like a nondescript wooden block. When put together, it looks like a sniper rifle.
  • Special Features It folds up, which is a handy trick, especially if James had to go through airport security. It also has an infra-red telescopic sight that allows Bond to locate targets in the dark.
  • UsageAfter assembling the rifle, Bond passes the rifle to Kerim, his Turkish ally, who uses it to pick off the Russian assassin Kirilencu as he attempts to flee from his apartment.
Infrared vision in From Russia With Love
The teargas canister of From Russia With Love
  • DeviceTear Gas Cartridge
  • Outward appearance It is disguised as a bottle of talcum powder.
  • Special Features It’s magnetic, so it sticks to the top of Bond’s briefcase.
  • UsageWhen Bond raids the Russian embassy to steal the Lektor, he uses the teargas to immobilize their defenses.
The bug finder of From Russia With Love
  • DeviceBug finder
  • Outward AppearanceKind of like a remote control, but with a gage at the end.
  • Special Features If held up to the bottom of a regular phone, Bond can tell if his line is tapped.
  • UsageWhen he checks into his hotel at Istanbul, he uses it to see if anyone’s listening to his phone calls (they are).
The camera recorder of From Russia With Love
  • DeviceCamera / Tape Recorder
  • Outward AppearanceLike a regular Rolleiflex camera.
  • Special Features Hidden behind the camera lens is a tape recorder.
  • UsageBond uses the camera as a prop while posing as a tourist, all the while interviewing Tatiana about the Lektor and taping their conversation.
  • [When a make-out session with Sylvia Trench is interrupted by M asking James where he’s been]
    “Oh, just reviewing an old case.”
  • [Asked what he thinks of Tatiana while only able to see her from the waist down]
    “From this angle, I’d say things are shaping up nicely.”
  • [After a bad guy climbs out of the mouth of a large illustration of a woman]
    “She should have kept her mouth shut.”
  • [After killing Rosa Klebb wearing knife-studded shoes]
    “She’s had her kicks.”
  • Name M
  • Played By Bernard Lee (for the 2nd of 11 times)
  • What’s New?Not much. He’s still seen only briefly, and he never leaves his office. In an overheard conversation, James does reveal that the two of them once met some “crazy girls” and had a wild time in Tokyo together, which is the extent of his extracurricular characterization so far.
  • NameMiss Moneypenny
  • Played By Lois Maxwell (for the 2nd of 14 times)
  • What’s New?We learn that she’s a bit more involved in MI6’s operations that one might have expected, as she’s in charge of arranging travel for James and manages communication between Bond and M.
Desmond Llewelyn as Q in From Russia With Love
  • NameMaj. Boothroyd aka Equipment Manager aka Head of the Q department
  • Played By Desmond Llewelyn (for the 1st of 17 times)
  • Affiliation Referred to simply as ‘Q’ in later installments, Boothroyd is in charge of development of MI6’s weapons and gadgetry, and, perhaps more importantly, explaining how these gadgets work to James Bond (and the audience).

Main Destination

Kerim Bey from From Russia With Love
  • LocationIstanbul, Turkey
  • Local AllyKerim Bey, head of Station T and “one of the best men we have anywhere” according to M. Bey staffs the entire MI6 Turkey operation with his numerous sons.
  • Local Ally’s Tragic DemiseKilled by Grant on a train to Zagreb.
  • Cultural SensitivityThe movie admirably attempts to bring attention to the local ethnic tensions cropping up as a result of Turkey’s geographic location making it a hot spot in the East/West cold war, but the scene in the gypsy camp (see “Girls”) does the Roma people no favors in the public relations department.
  • VerdictIstanbul is an excellent choice for an espionage thriller, but by spending more time inside than outside, From Russia with Love fails to capitalize on the amazing city’s distinctive streets and famous architecture.
James Bond in Istanbul in From Russia with Love

Full Itinerary

Venice, Italy SPECTRE Island (location unknown) London, England Instanbul, Turkey Zagreb, Yugoslavia Venice, Italy