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From Russia with Love (1963, Sean Connery, Desmond Llewellyn)

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After runaway success Dr. No introduced moviegoers to Ian Fleming’s stylish secret agent, 007, producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman had no trouble deciding which of the popular James Bond novels to film next. After all, President John F. Kennedy had gone public with his top-10 favorite books of all time, and Fleming’s ‘From Russia with Love’ made the list.

Fighting SPECTRE
But Cold War tensions inspired one major change from Fleming’s 1957 novel. With the Cuban Missile Crisis occurring just six months prior to filming, producers decided to shift the evil empire from Russia to an independent sinister organization, SPECTRE. In fact, the Soviets are relative innocents in this version, where British and American espionage agents race against SPECTRE to obtain a Soviet Lektor decoding machine.

Location, Location, Location
From Russia With Love still ranks among the very best–and not just because the tone is faithful to the Fleming books or because Sean Connery is at his Bondish best. It also scores big on all of the key elements that 007 fans have come to expect, and helps to explain why, so many years after the Cold War has ended, the Fleming serializations are still popular. First: location, location, location. Those of us who remember reading the spy novels as youngsters and imagining ourselves in all of those exotic places have come to appreciate the lavish location filming — in this case, Istanbul, Turkey. ‘Q’ (Desmond Llewelyn) is also introduced in this film, and his exploding attache case with its hidden extras start a chain of gadgets that escalate with each new film. But just as some of the simplest gadgets — like Odd Job’s deadly derby in Goldfinger — are also the most memorable, it’s tough to find a better lethal gimmick or a more sinister villain than Rosa Krebb (Lenya) and her ‘switchblade’ shoes.

Big Villains and Beautiful Babes
The bigger the hero, the bigger the villains must necessarily be, and Krebbs is wonderfully complemented by SPECTRE assassin Red Grant, played by Robert Shaw — the same Robert Shaw who’s most famous for his portrayal of shark hunter Quint in Jaws. Here, Shaw is young and lean and Arian-mean, and the fight sequence between his character and Bond on the Orient Express provides one of the film’s many classic moments. But ‘Bond’ also means beautiful women, and here the cast can’t possibly be topped. Daniela Bianchi, who plays love interest Tatiana Romanova, won the Miss Universe crown in 1960, and the two women who fight with each other in the gypsy camp were also pageant winners.

Then, of course, Bond fans expect close calls, chases, and explosions that are as dangerous to film as they seem on-screen. Connery did his own stuntwork in a scene where he had to fall to the ground at just the right moment to avoid being hit by a helicopter in pursuit, and the timing of the climactic boat chase and blazing inferno were so difficult to film that the crew moved from the coast of Turkey to the coast of Scotland to get it right.

But if anything cements the appeal of this film it’s the engaging presence of Mexican actor Pedro Armendariz, who plays Kerim Bey, Bond’s Istanbul contact and sidekick. During filming Armendariz found out that he was dying of cancer. Broccoli and director Terrence Young promised him that they’d shift all of the shooting sequences so that they could film his scenes first, rather than replace him. It ended up being Armendariz’ last film.

production details
UK | 115 minutes | 1963

Director: Terence Young
Script: Ian Fleming, Richard Maibaum, Berkely Mather, Johanna Harwood,

cast
Sean Connery as James Bond
Bernard Lee as M
Robert Shaw as Donovan ‘Red’ Grant
Francis de Wolff as Vavra
Desmond Llewelyn as Q
Peter Madden as McAdams
Peter Brayham as Rhoda
Lois Maxwell as Miss Moneypenny
Vladek Sheybal as Kronsteen
Anthony Dawson as Ernst Blofeld
Julie Mendez as Girl Dancing During Opening Titles
Daniela Bianchi as Tatiana Romanova
Pedro Armendáriz as Ali Kerim Bey
Lotte Lenya as Rosa Klebb
Eunice Gayson as Sylvia Trench
Walter Gotell as Morzeny
Nađa Regin as Kerim’s Girl
Aliza Gur as Vida
George Pastell as Train Conductor
Martine Beswick as Zora
Jan Williams as Masseuse
Hasan Ceylan as Foreign Agent
Neville Jason as Kerim’s Chauffeur
Peter Bayliss as Benz
Nusret Ataer as Mehmet
Michael Culver as Man in a Punt (uncredited)
Aileen Lewis as Chess Tournament Spectator (uncredited)
Nikki Van der Zyl as Sylvia Trench / Receptionist (voice) (uncredited)
Jim O’Brady as Krilencu’s Henchman (uncredited)
Bill Brandon as Gypsy (uncredited)
Moris Farhi as Gypsy (uncredited)
Alf Mangan as Gypsy (uncredited)
Dido Plumb as Gypsy (uncredited)
Ernie Rice as Gypsy (uncredited)
Fred Wood as Gypsy (uncredited)
Andre Charisse as Hotel Concierge (uncredited)
Hugo de Vernier as Hotel Porter (uncredited)
Elizabeth Counsell as Woman in a Punt (uncredited)
Victor Harrington as Chess Tournament Spectator (uncredited)
Barbara Jefford as Tatiana Romanova (voice) (uncredited)
Eric Pohlmann as Ernst Stavro Blofeld (voice) (uncredited)
Pat Ryan as Naval Officer Listening to Bond’s Tape (uncredited)
Bob Simmons as James Bond in Gunbarrel Sequence (uncredited)
Gordon Sterne as SPECTRE Helicopter Pilot (uncredited)
Bedri Çavusoglu as Police (uncredited)