From Russia With Love
directed by Terence Young
written by Johanna Harwood (adaptation) and Richard Maibaum (screenplay)
starring Sean Connery, Daniela Bianchi, Pedro Armendariz, Lotte Lenya, Robert Shaw, Bernard Lee, Lois Maxwell, Eunice Gayson
The travails and subterfuges of the world’s most dashing agent take center stage in the second installment in the colossal franchise.
M16 British Secret Service Agent James Bond (007) (Connery) checks in here to capture the elusive Lektor cryptographic device that both the OSS and CIA are hungry for because it deciphers Russian secret documents. He is lured to Istanbul to meet with a Russian Beauty named Tatiana Romanova who is under the impression that she is being given the opportunity to defect to the other side. Unfortunately, she is merely being used by the nefarious SPECTRE to attract Bond in an epic struggle to pit the Russians and British against one another. The film is essentially a romance between Bond and Tatiana who quickly fall into when she shows up in his bed. Such is the allure of Bond who always manages to bring them in with little or no effort.
In this film, Bond is hounded by SPECTRE goons including the strong and vital Red Grant (Shaw) who has been programmed by the sinister Rosa Klebb (Lenya) to retrieve the Lektor in order to sell it back to the Russians for a tremendous profit. Ostensibly the British are involved only so they can have their pants pulled down because of the Doctor No. incident. This film features one of the best belly dancing sequences of recent memory. It is hypnotic and impossible to ignore. The woman’s name is Lisa Guiraut and wherever she is today I just want to say thank you for your performance. It was truly a work of art. There is also a decent cat fight between two gypsy women who are fighting over a sultan. Bond ends up sorting the dispute by bedding both women and ostensibly deciding which one pleased him the most. I wonder just what Sylvia (Gayson), Bond’s unofficial “girlfriend” thinks of all this whoring around or does she just expect it considering who he is and what he is able to do.
There is tremendous energy in this film as it carries through from Istanbul to Venice. There’s a real sense that danger is around every corner and that Bond must be exceedingly careful to get out of the trap alive. It’s the essential Bond formula and this one does a thrilling job in actualizing it without stumbling over its fresh script. The characters are vivid, alive and one feels destined for great things that involve stealth, ingenuity, and physical strength. There is a terrific sense of the Cold War vibrating through this work as the Russians are presented as grand enemies whose secrets are necessary to the state of both the British and American nations. The whole point of the Lektor is to sneak a peak at necessary secrets that the Russians would rather have kept secret.
We need secret agents to do the work that others can simply not do. In Bond’s case, he makes the work seem exquisitely well crafted and original. He is forever the quintessential man for the job and every entry into a new territory is merely another place where Bond will do precisely what he is instructed to do. This perfection of form, this impossibility of style leaves the viewer ecstatic and feeling whole somehow. For just the moments when Bond figures out another piece of the puzzle, the audience can swoon and realize a bit about what it means to be so ably equipped. In this film Bond doesn’t take a false step. He is the perfect image of charisma and everything he does leads him toward a specific goal. Bond is the man who solves all our problems for the few moments he is on screen. The style, grace, and poetry with which he carries his body and employs his mind are precisely how we would react to dangerous situations if we only could develop the same icy sensibility that charms Bond through every circumstance.
Bond must navigate in this one through some difficult and harrowing circumstances that allow him to come through as he always does in the end. We know he succeeds and all we want to see is precisely how he goes about getting the job done. The tricky attache case that contains fabulous new weapons that he uses to get himself out of the muck are symbols of the progressive aspect of the British Secret Service. They are the future of weaponry and allow Bond to be one step ahead at all times. Much of what he does in this film is anticipate and stay on guard although there are moments when he is forced to act immediately and with great care. Naturally, he pulls off every confrontation and manages to kill a few of them in the process. There isn’t much blood here but a few bodies do pile up as the film progresses.
Sexual tension works for Bond as he attracts both men and women to his incredibly vibrant personality. Men want to be him and women want him to bend them over softly and show them the latest secret weapon in his arsenal. It’s the price of being Bond and he suffers so exquisitely to please nearly every woman who stumbles into his web. Bond is the perfect sexual animal and he radiates an intense heat that all women are instantly attracted to. Yet his cool demeanor keeps them off base as he does remain selective in who he allows to experience him full front. Most of the woman can hardly stand to be in his presence and there is much swooning to be had when he walks into any room.
The performances in this film all keep the plot rolling along. Sean Connery is again spot on as 007 and every gesture he makes seems calculated for supreme effect. Connery is at ease in this film and maintains his charisma throughout. Daniela Bianchi plays it reserved sexy in this film as she carries a bit of coldness with her throughout the film. Her character is open and warm but there is something about the office clerk about her and occasionally the reserved, timid aspect of her character is revealed which simply makes her even more sexy and seemingly respondent. Robert Shaw is strong and vital in this film and until the end he hardly says a word. Nevertheless, he presents a strong presence that is realized toward the film’s close.
Overall, this film radiates with a specific energy and is ingenious enough when it has to be. The characters are all fully formed and there is the requisite mixture of sex and power at play throughout. Bond continues his reign as the sexiest, most vital secret agent of that period. He personifies every personal characteristic that is sold as ideal to the general public. Bond is a rock star who pushes all the right buttons in his audience who just want to feel a bit more able when they watch this film. Fantasies erupt about the potentialities inherent in such blazing charisma if only it could be tapped into and exploited. Bond is a promise of sorts and an emblem of what can be accomplished with the right application of style, form, capability, opportunity and grace