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   FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE (1963) 

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CAST
Sean Connery
Daniela Bianchi
Pedro Armendariz
Lotta Lenya
Robert Shaw
Bernard Lee
Eunice Gayson
Lois Maxwel

DIRECTED BY
Terrence Young

PURCHASE


DVD



Novel




Time: 155 mins.
Rating: PG
Genre: Action/Spy Thriller


Now that I've begun taking an active interest in the Bond series – we've got most of them on DVD – I have to say that not only do I prefer Sean Connery as Bond (as most women do), but I like the earlier, gadget-free films better as well. Actually Q makes his first appearance in the series in FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE, but the item in question is a tricked up briefcase which is still fairly believable as an item with special powers. The action sequences and the plot also reside on the more acceptable side of reality, while still interesting and exciting. Always a hit with the ladies, Connery is suave and sexy, yet clearly dangerous. He may love you, but there's no question that he'll leave you if you become inconvenient to his plans. Ah, how we love the bad boys.

FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE has a fairly simple, but intriguing story. SPECTRE wants to get their hands on a Soviet encryption machine called a Lektor, as does every other super power. So they devise a plan that will not only secure them the machine, but get 007 out of their hair once and for all. Since Bond can never pass up a pretty face, they "employ" the services of Tatiana Romanova (Bianchi), a beautiful young woman who works for the Russian embassy. To ensnare Bond, she dangles not only herself, but a Lektor as well by claiming she wants to defect. M and Bond are sure it's probably a trap, but can't pass up the opportunity if she's sincere. When Bond arrives in Istanbul, his presence is well noted by the Russians and SPECTRE's hired killer Red Grant (Shaw). Bond hooks up with the local agency man Kerim Bey (Armendariz), who shows him around and helps him formulate a plan on how to snatch the Lektor. Unfortunately, Kerim has more pressing local problems, like threats to his life, to give Bond much of a hand. Of course, getting the ladies to do what he wants is never much of a problem for Bond.


"My orders are to kill you and deliver the Lektor. How I do it is my business."

A well-planned attack on the Russian embassy allows him to gain possesion of the Lektor and the heart of Tatiana. Amidst the madness, they are able to slip fairly unnoticed onto the Orient Express, where Kerim has devised a plan to get them around customs and safely into Britain. It wouldn't be a Bond film if things went according to plan. It's at this point that the film picks up pace as Bond fights for his life and the Lektor. Red Grant, posing as a British agent, manages to gain the upper hand, giving SPECTRE possession of the Lektor for a brief moment. However, Bond doesn't die easily and Grant is soon on the other end of the garrote. SPECTRE is unwilling to accept defeat – they have already promised to sell the Lektor back to the Russians – so Rosa Klebb (Lenya) is dispatched to finish the job Grant should have completed. Needless to say, Bond escapes some pretty hairy situations before he and Tatiana are safe in England.

What makes Bond films truly wonderful to watch, besides Connery, the beautiful women and the explosions, is the art direction and production design. Each film has a completely different location which is an intigral piece of the plot and the look. Bond films truly capture the unique qualities of their exotic locales bringing the audience to a place they most likely will never set foot in, but feel like they've been to after watching the movie. From the sets they created it's clear that Istanbul is an old and luxurious place, with many secrets and more than a hint of danger. However, it's not until Bond boards the Orient Express that the real danger, at least to him, takes place. The fight scene between Bond and Red Grant in a tiny sleeper compartment is amazingly choreographed. This is an all out war fought with fists that will only end when one of them is dead. It's not too hard to figure out which one that will be. This is also the scene where Q's little gadgets come into play.

The films' action set pieces occur towards the end and are well worth the wait, though nothing like you'd encounter in later films. The first is a direct homage to the crop duster scene in NORTH BY NORTHWEST, except in this case Bond is on a mountaintop trying to evade a helicopter. He also has a weapon, which makes a big difference on how the sequence ends. Being a big fan of NORTHWEST, I was somewhat disappointed in this scene, but even though it's a ripoff, it's still pretty exciting. The finale finds Bond and Tatiana in a speed boat trying to get to England while evading numerous other boats with men trying to kill them. Needless to say the scene ends in a fiery explosion that leaves Bond clear sailing. FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE is somewhat different from many other Bond films as it takes its time to let the story unfold. This one is more of a mystery, with Bond trying to uncover the mastermind behind the pretty girl, instead of just foiling the bigger plan.

This being the second time around, Connery seems much more comfortable in his role as suave super agent 007, stretching the bounds of the character just a bit more. Though he occasionally feigns indifference, you can see that he does care for the girl and her welfare. The sex may be great, but her life is in his hands and he's not about to let her sacrifice be wasted. If you have the opportunity, it's great to be able to watch these films in order to see how Connery builds on the character with each outing, as well as how the creators create the set pieces that eventually become an intigral part of the Bond lexicon. FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE actually holds up pretty well, mainly because the plot is believable and doesn't rely on any crazy twists. This is action adventure in its purest form and is great fun. If you like Bond, this is a definite must-see.



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