Russia With Love was the fifth novel in the Bond series written by Ian Fleming.
Directed by Terence Young, it was the second Bond story to be adapted for
the cinema by Eon Productions and had double the budget of the first one.
Written at his Goldeneye estate in Jamaica, Fleming was uncertain at this
point as to whether he wanted to continue producing James Bond stories and
constructed an ending that could easily be changed to 'kill off' Bond if
required. The movie significantly aspects of the series, moving away from
the cold war 'anti-Russian' theme by changing the name of MI6's adversary
from SMERSH to the fictional SPECTRE.
This second film started to develop aspects of the series that were to become Bond 'standards', with air, sea and land chases and a number of high-tec 'gadgets' issued to a seemingly disinterested Bond by Desmond Llewelyn as 'Q'. The movie also had a theme song, although the vocal version was not used over the opening film credits. The melodic but powerful title track was written by Lionel Bart and recorded by Matt Monro. Other 'firsts' included our introduction to Ernst Stavro Blofeld, face unseen and whose title credits were attributed to '?'. Blofeld's voice was dubbed by an uncredited Eric Pohlmann and the screen portrayal was actually by Anthony Dawson who, when he reprised the part in 'Thunderball', became the only actor to have played Blofeld more than once. Kronsteen, a master chess-player and the planner for SPECTRE (the Special Executive for Counter-Intelligence, Revenge and Extortion), proposes a plan to steal a Lektor cryptograph device from the Russians to be ransomed for cash in combination with retribution against James Bond for the death of Dr. No.
Ex-SMERSH officer Rosa Klebb is given the responsibility for carrying out the operation by the head of SPECTRE and she recruits Donald "Red" Grant (played by Robert Shaw) as Bond's assassin. Cipher clerk Tatiana Romanova, working at the Soviet consulate in Istanbul, thinks Klebb is still working for SMERSH and is inducted into the scheme as 'bait' for Bond. Romanova contacts the MI6 "Station 'T'" in Turkey, proposing to defect and help them acquire a much-desired Lektor machine but only on the condition that the operation is handled by James Bond, whose name and face she has supposedly seen in a Russian Intelligence file. Bond travels to Istanbul to make plans with the head of Station 'T', Kerim Bey. Following a bomb attack on his office, Kerim Bey and Bond spy on a meeting in the Soviet consulate and manage to identify a rival local agent called Krilencu.
That night, Kerim Bey and Bond visit a gypsy settlement but get involved in an attack by Krilencu's men. Kerim Bey is wounded and 007's life is only saved by the secret intervention of Red Grant. The following night, Kerim Bey exacts revenge on Krilencu with Bond's sniper rifle. Bond returns to his hotel to find Tatiana Romanova in bed waiting for him, unaware that he is being filmed by SPECTRE. In the morning Bond takes Romanova to the airport as she is catching a flight to attend a pre-arranged rendezvous at Hagia Sophia. They are followed by an enemy agent who intends to get hold of Romanova's plan of the Soviet consulate. He succeeds, but is killed by Grant to prevent him from disrupting SPECTRE's plans. Bond finds the body, recovers the floor plan and takes it to Kerim Bey where they devise a scheme to steal the Lektor.
The operation is successful and Bond, Kerim Bey and Romanova make their escape with the device, a sort of glorified 'typewriter', on the Orient Express. SPECTRE agent Grant intercepts and boards the train at Zagreb, contacting Bond and conning him into believeing that he is a British agent called Nash from station 'Y'. Grant/Nash eliminates Kerim Bey and a Soviet security officer, setting the murder scene up to make it look as if they have killed each other in a struggle. At dinner he slips Romanova a drug, causing her to retire early and then uses his almost superhuman strength to subdue Bond.
Some time is spent with Nash gloating over his success, revealing to Bond that he is working for SPECTRE but that Tatiana thinks that she is doing it all for SMERSH and Russia. He boasts about how SPECTRE has been manipulating MI6 and the Soviets for years, fuelling the mistrust of the 'cold war' and how he is going to kill off Romanova, making it look like a suicide and leaving the film taken of them at the hotel in her bag with a forged suicide note implicating Bond. Grant is tricked into opening Bond's gadget-ridden briefcase and is subjected to a blast of tear gas which distracts him enougth to allow Bond to attack him, eventually using the knife hidden in the case to stab him and finishing him off with his own garotte. After she recovers, Romanova and Bond abandon the train and make their escape using the lorry that was Grant's intended method of departure. Bond thwarts an attack by helicopter, destroying it before they switch transport to a powerboat.
The news of the escape reaches the SPECTRE supremo who makes his displeasure and lack of tolerance of failure known in no uncertain terms by having Kronsteen executed by poison, injected into him via a spike in the toe of agent Morzeny's shoe. Klebb is expecting the same fate but is given the chance to redeem herself by killing Bond and recovering the Lektor. She despatches Morzeny in pursuit of Bond using powerful SPECTRE boats but Bond uses fuel drums and a flare gun to set a trap for them, resulting in their destruction. Reaching Venice, Tatiana and Bond check into a hotel and it looks like it's all going to end happily ever after until Klebb turns up in person disguised as a maid and tries to steal back the Lektor. On being discovered by Bond she tries to eliminate him by using the poisoned spike in the toe of her shoe but Bond manages to fend her off with a chair, in lion-tamer fashion, long enough for Romanova to shoot her. The final scene shows Bond and Tatiana riding in a gondola with Bond's hand allowing the incriminating film to stream into the water of the canal.
The novel was apparently one of J. F. Kennedy's personal favorites and the film is allegedly the last one he saw before his untimely death. From Russia with Love was the first Bond film to employ John Barry as the main composer of the soundtrack and, following some controversy over the writing of the original 'James Bond Theme', he made the decision to compose a new one. This has since become known as the '007 Theme' and has been used in many of the subsequent films. Despite the suggestion in the title, the film is not based in Russia at all. The opening and closing scenes use stock footage of St. Mark's Square in Venice with the interior action being shot on the Pinewood set. The Orient Express trans-Balkan train journey ends in a helicopter attack sequence filmed in Scotland while the main location for the film is Istanbul, Turkey.
Arguably the most ridiculous part of the film, and a somewhat unsavoury indicator of the morality of the times is the scene where Kerim Bay takes Bond to a gypsy camp to hide out and two women get involved in a catfight/deathmatch for the hand of the chief's son. None of this is faintly relevant to the plot or mentioned again after the scene. Apart from that, the film is good on action and provides an excellent vehicle for transferring the basis of the Bond stories away from 'cold war' espionage into a fight against international terrorism mostly aimed at global domination.
The film premiered on 10th October 1963 at the Odeon, Leicester Square, London and was the biggest British box office hit of the year. It was released worldwide in 16 countries the following year, with the US premiere being held on 8th April 1964 at New York's Astor Theatre and the film's box office gross eventually doubling that achieved by Dr. No.
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also see Bill Harry's Sixties pages on Sean Connery as 007
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