Of any two consecutive films in the James Bond series, I think it’s safe to say that “From Russia With Love” can be seen as the sequel to “Dr. No”. I call “From Russia With Love” a sequel to “Dr. No” because of the obvious continuity hints in the story (Sylvia, references to Jamaica, and Kronsteen suggesting No’s revenge); also, Young directed both of the films, and I think his certain style carries from “Dr. No” to “From Russia With Love”. Had EON decided to utilize Jack Lord in the films following “From Russia With Love”, then perhaps the continuity could have carried on; however, they didn’t do that, and be strict on continuity, there’s no way the other Leiters were up to standards with Lord’s Leiter.
That said, “From Russia With Love” is an example of classic Cold War Bond. When people say Cold War spy film, my mind heads straight towards “From Russia With Love”.
I can see “From Russia With Love” as a step-up on “Dr. No” in many ways. But also, it preserves some of the qualities that made “Dr. No” so fantastic. First, we’re given another simple, yet highly intelligent plot. “SPECTRE plans to lure James Bond into stealing the Soviet decoding machine, and unknowingly deliver it into their hands. In the process, Agent 007 is to suffer a humiliating and disgraceful death.” Like it’s predecessor, “From Russia With Love” also contains more intelligent and even brute agents, improving on the first SPECTRE agent we met in “Dr. No”. Kronsteen and Klebb certainly make for very interesting characters and, together with their boss- Ernst Stavro Blofeld, they create a well-thought-out and devised plan; it wasn’t something thrown together, spur of the moment, and certainly SPECTRE had a good reading of Mi6’s mentality, giving them an upper hand, I’d say.
Another bit I liked about the movie is no over-the-top gadgets, once again. The briefcase was a really brilliant piece of equipment, holding a rifle, some coins, a knife, and of course- the bomb that would explode if opened incorrectly. I wish the Bond gadgets would have stayed as simple as this, instead of getting progressively unrealistic as the films went on.
Note: the pager Bond uses while he’s with Sylvia. I think this technology just goes to show that Bond was way ahead of his time.
These type of evil schemes aren’t what you really see anymore in the Bond films. Looking at the more recent Bond films, Bond sort of gets in the way, messing up the villains’ plans, while in these early films, SPECTRE has the one-up on Bond, and have a lot of control of what goes on during his mission.
Though I thought “Dr. No” had more beautiful locations, “From Russia With Love” surely doesn’t disappoint. First, we have SPECTRE Island- quite an interesting location, to say the least. Then, the most interesting to me was Istanbul. The shots of Hagia Sophia were beautiful, and it was just wonderful to see the streets of Istanbul- I liked these shots in the film so much that it really makes me want to be in that location. Seems like a great place. Later on, we follow Bond all across southern-central Europe, mainly on the train. I loved the train scenes, and the occasional glimpses out the window that we’d get. The location used when Bond is in the truck escaping was great, too; an isolated part of the country, with vibrant green grass on each side of the long dirt road. Very simple, yes; but, enjoyable.
I’d say that John Barry’s soundtrack corresponded with the actual film perfectly, more so than any other soundtrack in the series. Certainly, Barry had made more interesting scores as the years progressed, but the music for “From Russia With Love” really captured the essence of the locations, the plot, the Cold War, the tension, the thrills, and the adventure.
As mentioned, the villains in this film are as diabolical, witty, and evil as Dr. No was. Again, there’s not any bullshit going on with these baddies- no games with these early SPECTRE agents. I previously mentioned Kleeb, Kronsteen, and Blofeld, but really wanted to discuss Grant here. Grant’s probably the greatest henchman of this franchise. Quirky ones, like Oddjob, NicNac, Xenia, and etc. show up later in the franchise; however, Grant seems to be the most realistic and brute of henchmen, who also plays an important part in the main plot of the film. Robert Shaw did a perfect job with him. He was a robust, muscular, handsome, witty, and psychotic character, all at the same time. Another no bullshit baddie. He carries out his orders perfectly, doesn’t hesitate to kill, and comes within a fingernail-width of completing his mission.
In my “Dr. No” review, I mentioned that Connery was a natural James Bond actor. This film is no different. He still seems like he’s not even acting, and carries out all of his acting brilliantly. This man is certainly the real deal when it comes to James Bond actors… Daniel Craig and Timothy Dalton sure comes close, though.
Kerim Bey proved to be a very loyal and likable ally, too. Pedro Armendariz did a great job acting as him, especially if you consider the illness and pain he was dealing with. Certainly was a shame to see Bey die in the film, because he was just such a great ally- and a damn shame about Pedro Armendariz’s tragic condition that led him to commit suicide.
Tatiana was a very beautiful Bond girl, much like Andress. She even had an alternate mission, which puts the depth of her character above Honey Rider, in a sense; considering Honey really had no intention of helping Bond find Dr. No. There are some parts in which I think Tatiana came off as a weak character, but it was later made up for. So, really no complaints with Tatiana. I think Bianchi played her well, and she was certainly another gorgeous addition to the series.
My favorite scene in this film has to be the train fight. There aren’t many henchman v. Bond fights in the series that can match up to this. The claustrophobia of the cramped train rooms and the dimmed lighting really added to the suspense and thrills of the fight. Plus, Grant was such a built henchman, I’d say that the fight was in the air (if I had seen this movie back in 1963). It seemed as if Grant had the upper hand for a bit, but of course, Mr. Bond is victorious. Great fight, though.
As with “Dr. No”, there isn’t much bad to this film.
Actually, I didn’t notice any continuity errors- but then again, I don’t pick apart a film just to see how many flubs it has. Then, there’s the so-called “mistake” at SPECTRE island, where the noise in the training area doesn’t start until Klebb gets there. I don’t see this as a big deal at all, and it’s never bothered me.
In summary, this was a worthy sequel to “Dr. No”. Connery still plays Bond brilliantly, Tatiana is another quality Bond girl, Kerim Bey was a memorable ally, and SPECTRE proves to be cold and diabolical, once again. I think both of these films deserve a perfect 10, just because they’re pure classics, and we’re never going to see another Bond film like them again.