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Written by / 11/19/2015 / No comments / , , , , ,

CONNERY BOND TWO: FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE

year: 1963 cast: Sean Connery, Robert Shaw, Lotte Lenya, Daniela Bianchi Director: Terence Young 
Considered by many as the best Bond film ever made, FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE is indeed an extremely fine production with a surprisingly subtle opening credit sequence without any corny lyrics (which began with GOLDFINGER), but the prologue opening the film, involving a guy wearing a perfect Sean Connery Bond mask, is perhaps the weakest catapult in the series. Human masks are always such a banal reach, especially when they're taken off. And yet, what follows is a surprisingly basic story involving Bond hooking up with a Russian beauty to get an important device from the evil SPECTRE, led by a facially-unseen Bloefeld, introduced for the first time in the franchise.

Book Artwork
Following Ian Fleming's long short story, CASINO ROYALE, his next, FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE, was the first full-length Bond novel... and DR. NO the second. Strange that the title villain from the first film is actually mentioned in the beginning of this one, making RUSSIA a bonafide sequel as opposed to just the next vehicle on its own.

Some literary input here: At the end of the highly recommended FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE novel, the nefarious Rosa Klebb uses that poison blade shoe and... pretty much kills 007. No joke. He's mere seconds from death on the last paragraph, and when the DR. NO book begins, Bond is brought back to life in a rather forced fashion. It's almost as if Fleming wanted to kill his man from the very start but then changed his mind due to the success, and potential. Thank heavens. 

Daniela Bianchi
Well James Bond is alive here, and Connery turns in one of his most mellow, natural performances as the master spy, hanging his hat as coolly as he makes love and sporadically fights for his life. The suspense has a smooth, easygoing momentum. Instead of a thread of action sequences leading from one point to the next, thus resulting in a bombastic conclusion, the finale takes place on a train with coldblooded henchman Grant, underplayed neatly by Robert Shaw, during a quaint conversation leading slowly, yet intriguingly, to a violent conclusion. Unlike most hired thugs, Grant is pretty much the main villain here while the cat-petting Bloefeld fills in exposition and yet, Lotte Lenya's edgy lesbian, Krebbs, really steals the show. She's the true "bad guy"; or at least the scariest. 

Meanwhile, the mid-section flows nicely thanks to a friendly Turkish businessman leading Bond around town, and the plot is explained only enough for the story to play out in an entertaining, breezy fashion for LOVE to maybe not be the best in the series, but definitely the most comfortable...

Like a perfectly fitting steel-tipped boot. Desmond Llewelyn provides his first turn as Q (although he's called Boothroyd of "Q Branch") with a wonderful gadget-laden briefcase. And RUSSIA co-stars one of the prettiest Bond girls ever: Daniela Bianchi's Tatiana is so mesmerizing, you might just forget there's a movie going on at all.

RATING: ****
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