After the incredible success of the first James Bond film Dr.No, producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman began work on the second James Bond film, with an approved budget double the amount of their previous film. The movie is based soley off Ian Fleming's fifth Bond book 'From Russia With Love' which was released in 1957. The president of the United States at the time of 1963 was John F. Kennedy and in a LIFE magazine article that year he stated that his top ten novels included From Russia With Love. Upon hearing this the producers decided this would be their next film to be made. Trying to capture the unique mood and look of the Dr. No most of the production crew returned along with director Terence Young. With the larger budget the makers were able to push the boat out technically, and they were rewarded as the film went on to gross nearly $79 million Worldwide. Most of the film was set in Istanbul, Turkey. Whilst other additional scenes were also shot in Pinewood Studios, Scotland and Buckenhamshire.
James Bond, Agent 007, is sent to Istanbul, Turkey to search for Lektor, a Russian decoding machine, for the British Secret Service to gain access to Russian codes. However, this is actually a set-up from SPECTRE (SPecial Excutive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion), who intend to avenge their Dr. No by using this machine as a plot to lure Bond into a trap and then kill him! So, during the British secret agent's mission, he faces more than one enemy, including Red Grant, as well as Rosa Klebb, a former KGB agent who now works for SPECTRE. and can cleverly kill unsuspecting people with the poisoned tip of her shoe!
From Russia With Love is a spy thriller. Almost none of the clichés that riddle later installments are present. Instead Bond is harddown spy doing detective work, not as an action hero as he is portrayed in the more recent movies. Sean Connery was maturing into the centeral role and he was ably supported by a strong cast. Pedro Armendariz excelled as Bond's Turkish ally Kerim Bay, although he was terminally ill when filming began. A former Miss Rome; Daniela Bianchi, was a novice at acting but gave an honest performance (although her dialogue was dubbed) as Tatiana Romanova, the bait in the honeytrap. Robert Shaw and Lotte Lenya breated malevolent life into the deadly duo as Red Grant and Rosa Klebb. The mastermind referred to as only as 'number one' remained a shadowy presence. Both Director Terence Young and Sean Connery noted this as their favourite Bond movie. This is also a film that I am sure Ian Fleming was proud of as it remained true to his book. The is the last film adaption Fleming saw before his passing in 1964.
The movie is significant in that - with the exception of On Her Majesty's Secret Service - it represents the last time that Bond would be seen without the hi-tech gagetry which became a hallmark of the later films. The attache case he is given by Major Boothroyd is innovative but still very realistic. Bond remains a down-to-earth hardworking spy, forced to do detective work, who then faces deadly foes in exotic locations, but remains in the real world, close to the narrative source of Fleming's original book. The films boasts any of number of outstanding elements. Among them, the pre-title sequence, the main title credits being hologrammed onto a body of a belly dancer, and the use of a popular singer to perform a title song.
The movie hosts a strong cast of villains; Rosa Klebb, described in Fleming's novel as a repulsive 'toad-like' woman, SMERSH Colonel Rosa Klebb is one of the cinema's greatest villainesses. Alongside her is Donald 'Red' Grant, who is arguably one of the most realistic and ruthless henchmen. In the novel Grant was described as a 'homicidal paranociac'... in other words, a perfect candidate for SPECTRE. He is chosen by Klebb to assasinate Bond. Onboard the Orient Express in the third act of the film, Grant is defeated by Bond in a brutal hand-to-hand battle. In the movie just before Bond sets of to Istanbul he was issued by Q with a black leather breifcase. It looked ordinary, but, hidden in the secret compartments were forty rounds of ammunition, a throwing knife and fifty gold sovereigns. The case laso contained a sniper rifle and talcum power tin fitted with a tear gas cartridge, which was triggered by the case's catches.
Though still containing gadgets the movie does not go overblown and unrealistic like some of the later predecessors, the gadgetry issued was still believable and came in very handy for Bond. 'A nasty little Christmas present' as Bond put it. The soundtrack was composed by a young John Barry who wrote the famous James Bond Theme for "Dr. No" however due to contractual agreements is still credited to the first movie's composer Monty Norman. Barry gives this movie the real elegant taste, with his seducing instrumental theme, a vocal version sung by Matt Monro during the final credits, the rousing "007" theme and lots of wonderful, exotic musical moments that are giving the real "Bond touch" to "From Russia With Love". In the final duel by Bond and Grant in the train compartment it is interesting to note that there is no action music playing, just the sound of them fighting with the train in motion... which makes a very suspenceful scene.
Whilst the success of Dr. No caught the motion picture industry by suprise, there had been high expectations for From Russia With Love. The producers and studio were not to be disappointed as the film went on to gross a magnificent $78.9 million worldwide. Of the significance to the film-makers was the increadly apparent fact that Bond's appeal was truly universal and not limited to British audiences.