“James Bond…is back!”
After the success of Dr No, Broccoli and Saltzman were keen to repeat the formula and so Connery returned as did director Terence Young for a sequel with twice the budget of the original, establishing the franchise that would go on to be one of the most popular and profitable in cinema history. Thy optioned Fleming’s novel “From Russia with Love” mainly because John F. Kennedy had named it as being one of his favourite books and production started in 1963.
SPECTRE, alluded to in “Dr No” are at it again, this time attempting to steal a Russian decoding device called Lektor. Bond is sent to retrieve the device before the organisation can get its hands on it, in the process meeting and romancing a stunning soviet agent Romanova who is unwittingly working for SPECTRE to lure Bond into a trap as revenge for the death of Dr No.
Considered by many to be the series finest outing, “From Russia With Love” is another taut thriller which introduced many of the elements that would become standard in later films, most notably the appearance of Desmond Llewellyn as genius fixer and gadget maker Q (here known as Major Boothroyd). It also marked the first appearance of regular villain Blofeld, here largely unseen who would return in several films right up until the Roger Moore era and who would become the inspiration for a thousand spoofs.
As SPECTRE’s operative Red Grant is Robert Shaw, turning in a powerful performance more than capable of standing it’s own against Connery. He has an almost animalistic savagery and is thoroughly believable as Bond’s nemesis, apparently getting the upper hand in a confined fight scene on the Orient express. Miss World runner up Daniela Bianchi played Tatiana Romanova (though like her predecessor Ursula Andress was also dubbed) and she makes a decent enough job of it though lacking Andress’ smouldering chemistry with Connery, she is never less than believable in her relationship with Bond.
Noted character actor Vladek Sheybal gives his sinister best as Kronstien but most memorable is singer and actress Lotte Lenya as Rosa Klebb who, following on from Dr No and his metal hands, kills with retractable poison tipped spikes in her shoes. Syd Cain returned as Art Director and got a credit this time on a production beset with problems with an actor being diagnosed with terminal cancer during the shoot and having to withdraw, an explosion burning another actor and Terence Young’s helicopter crashing into water and sinking on a location recce (fortunately, Young and his cameraman escaped without injury).
Upon it’s release, the film was met with a very positive reaction from public and critics, grossing eventually $78 million making the future of the franchise secure. It remains popular with Bond fans for its lack of reliance on gadgetry at the expense of characterisation and it’s internal continuity to the first film. Spy mania gripped the world and it could only be a matter of time before, as this film said for the first time on it’s credits, “James Bond Will Return”….