Bond Breakdown #02: From Russia With Love (1963)


From Russia With Love (1963): Bond Breakdown by Rantbo

Number 1, the mysterious leader of the evil organization known as SPECTRE (SPecial Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion), puts two of his top agents to work on a devious project. Kronsteen aka Agent #5,  devises a plan to steal a high-tech cryptographic device (a Lektor Decoder) for the Soviets, while at the same time enact revenge on MI:6 and 00 Agent James Bond, for the destruction of their outfit in Crab Key and the subsequent death of their agent, Dr. Julius No. Rosa Klebb, aka Agent #3, is put in charge of carrying out the dastardly deed of organizing for Bond to do the dirty work and in the end, pay for his misdeeds against SPECTRE.


After a nail-biting opener, the filmmakers go to work at raising my blood pressure yet again, but this time, it isn’t the possible death of my favorite secret agent that gets my heart pumping, it’s Lisa “Leila” Guiraut*.

Leila is the first official half-naked female body of the now famous Bond Credit Sequences. The James Bond Theme blares in all its glory, as the credits are displayed in a light show on the bouncing breasts, gyrating hips and waving abs of the gorgeous belly dancer. Using her skin as a projection screen, title designer Robert Brownjohn, begins a tradition of making credit sequences, not only fun, but anticipated. Well done, old man.

The only thing lacking from the sequence, is a film specific “title” song. While one was recorded with famous 60s English singer, Matt Monro, it isn’t played properly until the end credits. I’m not a big fan of the song, but I still find it kind of a shame that it never really got its opening credits due. On the plus side, John Barry is officially THE composer and on top of the amazing Bond Theme returning (thus solidifying it inseparable from the series), Barry also creates a second Bond theme, used in times of pulse-racing action and moments of peril. It too, becomes an instant classic and is featured in many of the future installments.

*You get to see much more of the lovely Miss Leila during the gypsy camp scene later on.


Body Bags Filled [9 for certain, 11 unconfirmed] Bedpost Notches [4]

Connery returns in his sophomore performance as 007. He first appears (as himself and not a guy in a mask) in what would become typical Bond fashion. In pre/post coitus suaveness. James is kicking back and having himself a little holiday with returning Bond film beauty, Sylvia Trench. The formula set from DR. NO is brought back by director Terrance Young, as Bond is interrupted in his bliss, by a call informing him that ‘M’ is cranky and needs him to report for duty. Bond agrees after negotiating out a little extra time to finish the job at hand. Oh, James!

But Young also made sure to keep things fresh by upping Bond’s a darker edges, making the character less sunshine and puppy-kisses this time around. We are shown the side of Bond that makes his superiors pick him time and again, the dark side. They know that even though Bond is a bit of a rogue and a joker, when the fit hits the shan, Bond will do the dirty work necessary to complete his mission. After killing an assassin in cold blood, a la DR. NO, Young had to delve a little deeper to get audiences talking with a sequence in which Bond repeatedly strikes a woman for information. Granted, this film was made in the 60’s, but it’s still quite jarring to see the hero beating on a woman. But, it works for the character, as it’s a great reminder to the audience that as charming and likable as James is, he is still a machine with a license to kill and a drive to get the job done, that reaches above morality.

Connery gives another great performance and it’s clear that he is WAY into the role. I’ve read quotes that FRWL is Connery’s personal favorite outing as the character, and it shows. The role is also much more physical and in doing many of his own stunts, you can tell that Sean gave it his all. He gets in a brutal fight to the death, a gypsy-camp shootout, he dodges certain death from swooping helicopter blades and gets down and dirty using gasoline tanks and a flare gun to blow up a fleet of perusing boats. Bond just plain kicks ass and this sequel simply solidified that as fact.


Eric Pohlmann as The Voice and Tim Moxon as The Hands of Number 1

Sherlock Holmes and Professor Moriarty, Van Helsing and Count Dracula, Superman and Lex Luthor, America and Russia, and James Bond and this guy: Ernst Stavro Blofeld, but we don’t know that yet. ‘Number 1’ is all the identity he is given. His face is never shown, and he is represented only by his commanding, yet calm vocals, and a pair of well-groomed hands. Rather than physically represent the evil of global terrorism, it is left up to the performances of his subordinates to sell the eerie intimidation and ruthless malice behind the curtain. Luckily, Number 1 has some of the best. This role is very small and shrouded in mystery, but will continue to build in the following films, eventually becoming one of the greatest movie villains of all time.

Vladek Sheybal as Kronsteen aka Number 5

As the Chief Planning Officer for SPECTRE, Kronsteen is the brains behind the nefarious schemes and orchestrated chaos of the organization. Number 5 conducts the film’s plot like a grandmaster game of chess, which is fitting, as he is a world champion of the game in his spare time. He sets up the pawns of good and the knights and rooks of evil and foresees all their conceivable moves—almost. Kronsteen forgot one thing, to account for the sheer awesomeness of one British Bad-Ass. Too bad, as this means his ass. Though his part is small and his screen time is limited, I liked this character and I think Sheybal did a great job of bringing the cock-sure brainiac to life.

Robert Shaw as Donald ‘Red’ Grant

“Donald Grant, convicted murderer. Escaped Dartmoor Prison in 1960. Recruited in Tangier, 1962.”
Blondie here happens to be the top student at SPECTRE’s assassin outreach program. Trained in what could only be Chuck Norris’s back yard, Red is ready for anything, be it a punch in the gut from an angry Austrian midget, having to snipe during a gypsy camp shootout, or getting into a legendary brawl with Britain’s top agent.

Red emanates an eerie claustrophobic vibe, as he works from the shadows, always staying two steps ahead of Bond. His calm demeanor and cold hearted killings cover the film like an ill-fitting tuxedo—but in a good way. Quint can take a long walk off a short peer into a sharks mouth, this is my favorite performance by Shaw and set the bar for Bond henchmen that few, if any, were able to pass.

Lotte Lenya as Rosa Klebb aka Number 3

Intimidating, creepy and oddly sexy (I’ll explain), Rosa Klebb absolutely owns the screen whenever visible. A bronze medalist in the SPECTRE organization, Klebb makes it difficult to envision the guy that edged her out for the runner up. Most people would put Red as the principle villain of the picture, but I disagree. He’s just a glorified and well toned henchman with a bunch of screen time. Rosa Klebb is the one to watch. Pulling the strings of Number 5’s plan, she hand picks Red and Bond Girl Tatiana like the highest paid casting agent in Hollywood. Klebb knows her shit.

She starts by recruiting Red from the ninja compound and tests his manliness by equipping brass knuckles and punching him in the gut. Her next mission, to recruit an embassy clerk to seduce Bond, she does by playing out a game of intimidation infused with patriotic duties and promises of riding-crop fetish spanking for punishment (or pleasure) of screwing up.

Tasty. That stuff in the bedroom with Bond and Romanova doesn’t have anything on the sexual tension of this interview. But, you know what they say about the best laid plans of overconfident uptight chess players and pseudo-lesbianistic interrogators…

When her plan goes tits-up, Klebb decides to get her hands dirty. By becoming a maid. That’s not a joke, just a half truth, that happens to be funny. Posing as such, she infiltrates Bond’s hotel room to steal the coveted Lektor and is betrayed by her own pawn, Tatiana. Bond and Klebb tango about the room as she tries to kick him with a poisoned knife jutting out of her clodhoppers. She fights like a Spartan, but ends up succumbing to a fatal gunshot wound, via Tatiana. Oh, the spanking that would have gone down had she survived! But, she didn’t. It is to be a shame.


Eunice Gayson as Trench—Sylvia, Trench

Bond’s first girlfriend, Sylvia, is back again for a piece of the old JB. And I still love her. Introduced yet again next to Bond, she’s lookin’ foxy in a two-piece bathing suit, hair all down, like a 60’s pinup girl—damn. Originally it was conceived that she was going to be a mainstay in the Bond films, but sadly that piddled out. Not sure why, but I believe it had to do with director Terrence Young not returning for the next installment. Gayson was a friend of his and got the gig because of it. So, regrettably, this is her farewell performance, but thankfully it was a memorable one. I especially love her little pout she gives when James is on the phone, getting called back into duty. Placating the poor girl, Bond decides to throw her a bone and negotiates enough time to give her satisfaction, one last time. Upon hearing which, she claps her hands together in gratitude and excitement—too cute. I miss her already.

Martine Beswick as Zora and Aliza Gur as Vida

Before pumping his main squeeze Tatiana for information, Bond gets into a precarious situation featuring these two gypsy sex-pots. In love with the same man, these two “ladies” are destined to duke it out for the right to woo said lucky bastard. Bond happens to arrive at the camp on the night of the brawl. Oddly, James is appalled as the two beauties lunge at one another in a fury of hair pulling, nail swiping and cheap blows. These kitties like to scratch, Meeeow! Unfortunately, soon after round one begins, an unrelated shootout busts up the campsite. Chaos ensues, but with a healthy dose of superspy ass-kickery, things are set right . Impressed with how badass Bond is, the camp leader praises James and honors a request from him to stop the cat fight. Problem is, this leaves the battle undecided and it is up to the man who stopped it to resolve the matter…

It is still a mystery to this day, as to just what occurred during the long hours of that night, but what we do know is that the next morning a certain two ladies are seen cooking breakfast and mending the clothes of a very satisfied looking Scotsman.

Daniela Bianchi as Tatiana “Tania” Romanova

Kerim Bey: “Charming, charming—charming!”
Her name is a mouthful, but luckily her mouth is just the right size for Bond. Plus, it sounds so cool when Connery says it: Taught-E-Ha-Na. I must say Miss Daniela is one drop-dead gorgeous little lady and she scores high on a bunch of other Bond girl levels. Tatiana is such a great leap from the “stand there and look pretty” style of the first film, as she actually does stuff while looking good.

Tricked into believing that she is working for her country, she agrees to play the traitor, selling her country out for a man she had only seen in a picture, (Bond, of course). MI:6 suspects a trap, but they allow Bond to go through with it regardless and this poor girl is caught in the middle. Tatiana plays the role of the love-lost damsel-in-distress a little too well and becomes torn between her fear of Klebb and her love for James. But, we all know which emotion wins over the other. Bianchi becomes the role, and with both smarts and beauty, she sets a standard for future Bond Girls—I for one would defect for some of her Russian lovin’, that’s for certain.


“An ordinary black, leather case—with 20 rounds of ammunition here and here [on the left and right bottom sides]. In the side here, a flat throwing knife. Press that button there [right front face], and out she comes. Inside the case, you’ll find an AR-7 folding sniper’s rifle. It’s .25 caliber with an infrared telescopic sight. Then if you pull out these straps [dividing the inner compartment], inside are 50 gold sovereigns. 25 in either side. Now, watch very carefully. An ordinary tin of talcum powder. Inside, a tear gas cartridge. That goes in the case against the side, like that. It’s magnetized, so it won’t fall. Now, normally to open a case like that, you move the catches to the side. If you do, the cartridge will explode in your face. Now, to stop the cartridge exploding, turn the catches horizontally… then open normally.”

Try getting that bag past airport security nowadays. Bond ends up using the rifle, ammo, knife and teargas to, of course, whip some ass. The sovereigns don’t really get used, per say, but they end up serving as a badass means to an end. All-in-all, it’s “…a nasty little Chrishtmesh preshent.” But more importantly, it is designed and delivered to Bond by one of the greatest characters of all-time, Major “Q” Boothroyd as played by the outstanding Desmond Llewelyn.

Replacing the actor Peter Burton (from his brief stint as the character in DR. NO), Desmond Llewelyn IS Q. Here in his first outing, ‘Q’ is only given a small and pretty uneventful appearance. Summoned to M’s office just as 007 is ready to disembark, he delivers the goods from his department in a serene and dignified manner. He does his job and that is that. Not much else to say—for now. It isn’t until later installments that the filmmakers took notice in the untapped genius that Llewelyn had to offer.  I’m just thankful that they came to their senses and gave the old boy a shot. More on Q as his role develops.


The Body Count [21 and 11 unconfirmed]

Bond seals 9 evil men’s fates, mostly by bullet, but a couple Rube Goldberg style with a grenade and a big blonde baddie with a knife. Team Bond racks up 6 confirmed kills throughout the film’s duration and Team SPECTRE matches Bond with an impressive 9 kills, mostly executed by Red.

As for the unconfirmed, there is one man that Bond bashes about the head in the Gypsy camp raid, but it’s not clear as to whether or not it was a fatal blow and the other 10 belong to sailors that are engulfed in Bond’s gasoline fire at the end of the film. I don’t think that anyone could have paddled safely out of the fire, but I can’t be sure.

The Best Fight:

Bond vs. Red

The famous Orient Express fight. Bond and Grant, two agents from opposing sides, both at the top of their game, throw themselves into a tornado of punches, kicks and body slams. All within one small passenger-car room. The battle is exquisite, and quite brutal considering the time in which it was made. Editor Peter Hunt truly outdid himself with this one.

The Most Satisfying Kill:

When forced with the decision to betray her superior officer, or shoot an enemy spy, Tania goes with her heart and plugs one in her comrade, Klebb. Tatiana just couldn’t bear to waste such a gorgeous slab of hunk like James. Poor Rosa, the sweet old dear goes down fighting, but ends up like so many of those who oppose Bond, twitching in agony as they slide down a wall to die. “She had her kicks.”


Best Witticism:

Bond’s Turkish ally, Ali Kerim Bey, enacts revenge on a Russian assassin, by shooting him as he climbs out of a hidden hatch concealed by a giant painting of Anita Ekberg on the side of his apartment building.

[After the Russian is shot and falls to his death]

Bond: She should’ve kept her mouth shut.

Best Double Entendre:

Boatman: …it’s a great sport, this punting!
Bond [cuddling with Sylvia in another boat]: I couldn’t agree with him more.
Sylvia: Mmm, I may even give up golf for it.
[Bond gets a phone call]
Moneypenny: He’s [M] been asking for you all morning, where in the world are you, James?
Bond: Uh—well, I’ve just been reviewing an “old-case”.


This film is essentially DR. NO with a higher budget. Along with the extra cash, the filmmakers took a little more care to make a serious and practical Bond. Terrence Young, again, takes all the ingredients that made the first film so special and added a splash of sheen, comedy and grandeur. The extra money and effort shows as the film is beautiful, smart, sexy and thrilling.

Young approaches FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE as kind of an homage to the success of the first film. All of James’s enduring quirks return, but with a slight comedic ~wink, wink~ post modernism twist. And Bond repeats many of the events that occurred in DR. NO; M has to track Bond down and tear him away from Sylvia, Bond arrives at the airport (this time in  Istanbul), but in the same series of shots, he is greeted by a chauffeur, he is watched by a man in a car, he is tailed by another mysterious man, he inspects his hotel room—and so on and so on. What makes this so great is that they allow you to become familiar with Bond’s mission to mission lifestyle. All the while, setting you up for the twist when all these familiarities are thrown out the window of a speeding train. It gives the viewer a taste of what it’s like to live a week in Bond’s shoes. The same-ol’-same-ol’ of day to day life as a spy is all a charade. It takes nerves of steel and balls of brass to do what Bond does so well. Thankfully the talented folks behind these adventures knew precisely how to deliver. FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE is a fantastic Bond film and re-defined the action genre from the previous re-definition that DR. NO gave it. It is a rare occurrence that a sequel will outshine it’s predecessor, but this movie should be listed as the definition of the circumstance.


[  ] Destroys Evil Doer’s Lair
[  ] Drinks or Orders a Vesper Martini
[X] Gets Captured and/or Tortured
[  ] Introduces Himself As “Bond—James, Bond”
[  ] Teams-Up With Felix Leiter
[X] Uses Judo or a Walther PPK to Dispose of an Enemy
[  ] Wears a Tux*

*Though Sean Connery does, it is revealed that the character was not Bond, but a man wearing a Bond-Mask. So, no dice.

Tatiana: “There are some English customs that are going to be changed.”

RANTBO will return in (a review of) GOLDFINGER