From Russia With Love was the second Bond film, with Sean Connery as the dapper spy dashing through several countries to avoid being assassinated.
As in the best Bond films, the villains are the leading characters, and Lotte Lenya and Robert Shaw make a formidable couple of enemies.
This movie also set the formula for the rest of the series – glamour, travel, beautiful backgrounds, girls and a high lifestyle that few governments today would commend. But what the hell – it’s fun and fantasy at its finest!
Istanbul and Venice provide the backdrops to Bond’s deadly battle with the forces of SPECTRE – the Special Executive for Counter-Intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion – who are chasing a top-secret Soviet coding machine.
Sean Connery is in admirably laconic form as 007, spotting the stony-faced SPECTRE agent Robert Shaw as a wrong ‘un when the latter orders red wine with fish on the Orient Express.
From Russia With Love introduced one of the prettiest Bond girls in Daniela Bianchi (pictured below left) who plays Tatiana Romanova. Although Ursula Andress and Honor Blackman have received much more attention over the years, Bianchi is unquestionably the loveliest of the bunch.
Actually, were it not for the stunning double-bill of Claudine Auger and Luciana Paluzzi in Thunderball (1965), Bianchi would be the best Bond girl of the Sixties and arguably ever. Unfortunately, the character isn’t terribly strong, so she’s left to her looks and little else.
The villains this time around are some of the best ever, with Lotte Lenya providing one of the most unusual and powerful Bond baddies as the ferociously frumpy Rosa Klebb (the very obvious inspiration for Frau Farbissina in the Austin Powers films).
From Russia With Love was the first Bond film to feature a new component that would become a staple of the series; It presented the first pre-title sequence as we see the apparent death of Bond.
It also offered the first appearance of Desmond Llewellyn as Q. Actually, he’s unnamed in this film and is only called the “equipment officer from Q Branch”, though the credits refer to him as Major Boothroyd.
Pedro Armendariz (who played Kerim Bey) was dying as he filmed From Russia With Love. The actor became seriously ill during the shoot and would be dead before its release.
Despite being seriously ill, Armendariz conveyed so much life and vitality in his role, and capped his career with an excellent performance in what would become his signature role.
Sean Connery died peacefully in his sleep at his home in the Bahamas on 31 October 2020 having been unwell for some time. He was 90.
James Bond, Agent 007
Donald “Red” Grant