According to legend when running in 1960 for the Oval Office, Jack Kennedy (one of your faithful scribe’s role models) listed Ian Flemming’s From Russia With Love as his ninth favourite book. This and the fact that the director of Dr. No (1962) and of it’s sequel stated he would like to adapt this one, it was virtually guaranteed this book would be chosen as the next to be slapped onto the silver screen (even if it does not follow the book order). If the White House gave it virtual endorsement from a man who is now short of being a revered figure on the left, how can it fail?
It may surprise you then if I tell you it is entirely set in Europe. Indeed, not one of the thousands of frames which make up this little gem were shot on American soil or depict an American setting. As the title suggests, it mostly takes place in the old Warsaw Pact behind the easern side of the Berlin Wall. For a series that on the surface entirely eschews commentating on politics, this firmly establishes Agent 007 as a Cold Warrior.
The plot on an initial or even repeated viewing is sometimes hard to understand, there are more than a few double – double crosses and extemporanious characters such as Kronstein (Vladek Sheybal) who explains the plan as his and literally is only on screen to die when Blofeld (played by an uncredited Anthony Dawson who played Professor Dent in Dr. No) punishes him. But these are not intollerable faults and I should promise that if you allow them to just happen, they will not spoil your enjoyment of this classic.
As is the case in most of Connery’s tenure, his portrayall is flawless as usual, but here Pedro Amadovar as Kerim Bay (who would pass away shortly before this films release) gives it his all, he gives such a good clinic in acting as Kerim that when this rather thankless character does meet his demise towards the end, you feel the same loss that 007 does and its a credit to his memory and is continued in a manner by his son in his appearance in Licence To Kill some 26 years later.
Also notable is Desmond Llewellan in his first turn as Q. Q would become something of a series regular, appearing in 17 of the EON movies until 1999’s The World is not Enough. From the fact he is rather aimible and indifferent to 007’s well established harsh treatment of his workshop’s gadgets, it is obvious he would go on to perfect the role in later turns, but otherwise it is lovely as always to see the arguable standard bearer of this series for the next 36 years.
Overall, I would highly recommend this film. The convoluted plot can be easily overcome, the acting is near flawless and the music is near the series’ usual high standards. It should be noted however that like a lot of other Bond fans, I only really liked this one more as I got into my late teens. I would likewise not recommend it to any one as their maiden voyage into the Bond seas, its story is as I said, a bit dense and while as I said, this can be overcome, for some it may be appreciated more than actually liked.