To Love it, To Love it Not… Sean Connery is back as Bond and so there is plenty to enjoy with From Russia with Love (1963). Out of personal preference, my top three favorite films in the franchise would have to include Goldfinger (1964), Casino Royale (2006) and this beauty, all packed with quintessential Bond.
Sean Connery is arguably the best Bond. Some of that resulting from being the original and also simply because he was made for the role with dashing good looks, an impressive physique, and one smashing accent. Next, comes arguably one of the best so-called “Bond” girls in Tatiana Romanova (Daniela Bianchi) who plays the beautiful Russian opposite the handsome Brit. They’re a match made in heaven beginning with steamy encounters, followed by violent escapades, and topped off with playful romance. There’s not more you would want, except action and villains and gadgets, which we also get along with some ubiquitous Cold War sentiment.
In this installment, the Soviets are pitted against the CIA and MI6 with the nefarious SPECTRE manipulating both sides. They have received the aid of one of the Soviet’s highest officials in Rosa Klebb, who puts their plan into action. She, first and foremost, recruits deadly assassin “Red” Grant (Robert Shaw), followed by the pawn Tatiana Romanova, who works at the Soviet consulate in Istanbul. She is to be the siren to lure Bond into a trap with the tantalizing promise of a Lektor device (which MI6 desperately wants).
Thus, as any good spy would, Bond goes after this presumed admirer and first meets with station head Ali Kerim Bey. One man is dead and the Soviets suspect the Westerners. Bey’s office is bombed and the Soviets are the obvious culprit. However, the whole time it’s Grant working incognito.
Bond is taken by Bey to a gypsy camp for refugee and after an evening capped by ambush, he has his first meeting with none other than the beautiful Romanova. The new accomplices ultimately steal the Lektor without a hitch and board the train as “newlyweds” with Bey. However, the ever lurking Grant is waiting for Bond and his companions. Without getting into all the gory details, it sets the stage for a great fighting sequence.
007 gets away with a recently drugged Romanova and puts a helicopter as well as a fleet of motor boats out of commission single-handedly. Number 1 of SPECTRE is very displeased, and Klebb has one last time to make things right. She has a wicked pair of kicks. That’s over soon enough.
What’s left is a romantic gondola ride with our two lovebirds and the notes of Matt Monro playing over the kisses. Talk about a first date, this one was a great one, even for all us third-wheelers.
Goldfinger maybe the apex of Bond viewing, but From Russia with Love is a close contender for that title. Its action does not look half bad even after 50 years, and Sean Connery is quite the hero. What more is there to say about Daniela Bianchi except God was very good to her. Very good indeed. It’s a great adventure with everything you would want and expect in a spy thriller. It’s from Russia with love.