From Russia with Love (Terence Young, 1963, UK)

From Russia with Love is unquestionably one of the best of the Bond series. Director Terence Young returns with twice the budget of Dr. No, and a better feel for the material. Sean Connery is also visibly more comfortable in the role, exuding more charm than during his first outing.
The result is a film which expands on the grittier style of the first film, but with a broader scope. Rather than one location (Jamaica), where are treated to beautiful vistas of multiple exotic locations, including Istanbul and Venice. There is an excellent scene in the Hagia Sophia mosque. We are also treated to multiple baddies, including the henchmen which would become a staple of the series. Famous Austrian stage actress Lotte Lenya as Rosa Klebb, and Robert Shaw as Donald Grant, are two of the most memorable and cold-blooded enemies in the series. 
The kitsch factor is somewhat turned up in From Russia with Love, although not to the extent that it would be in subsequent films in the series. From Russia with Love is unquestionably a Cold War spy thriller. Even though Blofeld is introduced here (although unseen), the aim of SPECTRE is not to take over the world, but rather to access a cipher machine. As with Dr. No, the plot is quite simple and tight, with almost no subplots to speak of. The pacing is better than in Dr. No, punctuated by excellent action sequences. Some of them are a bit hokey, such as an attack on a Gypsy camp, while others - such as Bond’s hand-to-hand combat with Robert Shaw in a confined train cabin - feel gritty even by today’s standards.
From Russia with Love strikes a great balance between campy humor and Cold War grit, and as a result it is one of the best Bond films.


8/10

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