My 007 Marathon continues. Last was Dr. Noand now it’s its 1963 sequel, From Russia with Love! 

As much as I enjoyed Dr. No, I really liked From Russia With Love, for a number of reasons. I’ve always been fascinated by the Cold War, so the lowered stakes and espionage between British and Russian spy agencies (manipulated of course by SPECTRE, the shadowy organization that I was surprised to see enter the franchise so early) had me hooked from start to finish. I know that many of the films still ahead of me deal with bigger, world-dominating stakes and diabolical supervillains, so I tried to soak in From Russia With Love‘s smaller, character focus as much as I could.

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Perhaps the film’s biggest highlight is Robert Shaw as SPECTRE’s assassin, Red Grant. It took me far too long to recognize that Shaw is from Jaws. He’s so great in this film, despite the fact that he really doesn’t talk much. While Dr. No was an interesting enough villain, I love that Shaw was more of the anti-Bond. He actually reminded me a lot of Daniel Craig.

I also love that the film deals a lot with Bond’s eternal conflict between his feelings and his obligation to his country – as seen by his relationship with Russian defector/SPECTRE plant Tatiana Romanova (Daniela Bianchi). Bianchi doesn’t get to do much but pine after Bond, which I found disappointing. There’s a lot that could have been done with her character. But, alas, that’s 1963 Hollywood for you.

From the close-quarter fist fight aboard the Orient Express and a helicopter chasing Bond on a hilltop, From Russia With Love balances out the slower character moments with more action than Dr. No, and easily became one of my favorite Bond films to date.

Next up: Goldfinger! 

Additional Note: I had no idea that SPECTRE agents were given numbers. So that‘s where the stupid “Number Two” gag from Austin Powers comes from…

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