From Russia With Love
= 5 stars
Starring Sean Connery, Daniela Bianchi
Directed by Terence Young
I’m not a big James Bond fan but still find the movies reasonably entertaining. There’s enough of a mix between the standard Bond cliches (spy gadgets, car chases, nefarious evil-doers, hot babes) and unpredictable plot twists. I also like the contrast between the exotic opulence in the upper-class world Bond generally hangs out in (casinos, black tie dinners, yachts, exotic countries and locations) and the brutal yet efficient violence that threatens to break out at any moment. Anyhow, From Russia With Love from 1963 has all the classic Bond stuff, with the truly suave Sean Connery as Bond, 007.
Early on we are introduced to the creepy SPECTRE chief Blofeld stroking a white cat, who although he never shows his face, is obviously the inspiration for Austin Powers’ Dr. Evil. When we finally meet Bond, of course, he’s making out with a hot babe. There is a drop-dead gorgeous Russian blond Tatiana (Daniela Bianchi) who is set up to ensnare Bond. It’s really a treat to see this kind of sixties bachelor-pad type adventure play out, with mascara-enhanced babes, an over-the-top jazzy-loungey score by John Barry (that makes Bond checking for bugs in his hotel room sound exciting), and belly-dancing cat-fighting gypsies.
There are a few elements that reminded me of Hitchcock’s North by Northwest (namely the encounters on a train, and a helicopter trying to mow down Bond). So a bit of trivia-digging was in order, and it seems Hitchcock was once in the running to direct this Bond adventure, with Cary Grant as Bond and Grace Kelly as Tatiana. Now that would have been amazing, and it explains a few wink-wink moments in From Russia With Love as homage.