James Bond
From Russia With Love

Starring: Sean Connery
16175DVD Z1
Certificate: PG
Available Now

The international crime syndicate SPECTRE hatches a devious plot to play the British and Russian governments off against each other, and to take revenge on James Bond for the death of their operative, Dr. No...

More than any other Bond film, From Russia with Love can truly be described as an espionage thriller. Later entries would veer further into action/adventure territory, with varying degrees of espionage thrown in as a secondary consideration, but this one has enough twists, suspense and intrigue to stand comparison to the works of Hitchcock. And despite a noticeably larger budget than that of Dr. No, the gadgets have not yet taken over. Bond has only an exploding attaché case, his Walther PPK and his wits to rely upon. This is particularly evident during his gritty fight scene with SPECTRE agent Grant (portrayed with chilling sadism by Robert Shaw) on board the Orient Express.

This film marks a number of firsts for the Bond series. The aforementioned attaché case is introduced by Desmond Llewelyn, although his character is credited here as Boothroyd rather than Q, and he displays none of the famous condescension towards Bond that Q would adopt from Goldfinger onwards. Also for the first time, we see a pre-credits sequence, although this is more of a teaser to the main story than the "mini action movie" format that would become typical of the later films.

From Russia with Love also features the first Bond song to share the title of the movie, as sung by Matt Monro, although unlike the standard adopted later, the song is not combined with the title sequence. Finally, this is the first Bond movie to feature a musical score composed by John Barry. Having previously conducted Monty Norman's soundtrack to Dr. No, Barry provides a rousing score of great range - marred only by the slight overuse of the James Bond theme as 007 searches his hotel room for listening devices, which makes it appear as though Bond is actually trying to find out where the music is coming from!

However, what is most remarkable about From Russia with Love, as the "making of" documentary reveals, is not that the film was so good, but that it was completed at all. The production was bedevilled by potentially fatal accidents involving leading lady Daniela Bianchi and director Terence Young. A problematic script, in which the Russian villains of Ian Fleming's original novel were replaced by SPECTRE, required last-minute rewrites in order for it to make sense to a cinema audience. During filming it also become apparent that Pedro Armendariz (who played the Turkish agent Kerim Bey to perfection) was terminally ill. The movie was literally saved on the cutting room floor with the aid of some ingenious editing by Peter Hunt.

Also featuring a documentary about co-producer Harry Saltzman, this is a great package of a fine movie.

Richard McGinlay