Sean Connery’s James Bond spies ‘From Russia With Love’

Movie Review

Sean Connery in “From Russia With Love”

Just as most people have their favorite screen James Bond, most have their favorite James Bond movie.

For many purists, “From Russia With Love” ranks extremely high on the list. Currently streaming on Hulu, the 1963 caper came close on the heels of Sean Connery’s debut as Agent 007 in “Dr. No” … and much of the appeal of the second round rests in the actor’s cool confidence in a role he grew into very quickly. There’s also satisfaction for Bond devotees in the film being one of the most literal adaptations of a novel by Ian Fleming, since gadgetry began to compete heavily with story with the follow-up, “Goldfinger.”

Though Bond — or someone we think is him — appears in the pre-credits sequence that became a standard Bond element with “From Russia With Love,” it actually takes a while for him to enter the picture in full. Early scenes are devoted to introducing various villains such as Rosa Klebb (Lotte Lenya), she of the poison-tipped knife concealed in her shoe, and impressively strong henchman Red Grant (Robert Shaw, 12 years before his “Jaws” turn as Quint).

They’re in on a plot to discredit Bond by luring him with a much-coveted decoding machine, then filming him while being seduced by one of their allies played by Daniela Bianchi. A problem is that she genuinely falls hard for our hero (of course), leaving her loyalty in doubt until the moment when it counts the most.

While “From Russia With Love” has many highlights, the culmination of a tense trip aboard the Orient Express surely is among the best. Returning from “Dr. No,” director Terence Young stages a train-compartment fight that’s as brutal as it could be, and it’s held up very well over nearly 60 (!) years. The helicopter and boat chases that follow also continue to stand nicely.

Another cast member hugely deserving of mention is Pedro Armendariz, who was terminally ill when he filmed the part of Bond’s jovial Turkish contact Kerim Bey. The performer makes every moment he’s on the screen count; this entry also marked the first appearance of Desmond Llewelyn as weapons expert Q (the briefcase he gives Bond for the mission is legendary), and Bernard Lee and Lois Maxwell are back as boss M and secretary Miss Moneypenny.

The James Bond series got (and pretty much stayed) a lot flashier after “From Russia With Love,” but this espionage saga handles its intrigue quite honorably, a huge reason it remains so cherished by so many 007 aficionados.

Jay Bobbin

Jay Bobbin has decades of experience covering the television and movie businesses, winning Tribune Media Services’ Crown Jewel Award in 2008 for his performance in the company. Over those many years of interviewing and writing, he has spoken with everyone from Robert De Niro and John Travolta to Paul McCartney and Tony Bennett … from Meryl Streep and Julie Andrews to Taylor Swift and Carrie Underwood.

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