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From Russia With Love Review

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To avenge the death of their agent Dr No, international crime cartel SPECTRE have Soviet spy-mistress Rosa Klebb and psychopath Red Grant implement a plan to assassinate British agent James Bond.

★★★★

The second James Bond movie, and still one of the best. It opens with a classic piece of misdirection as Connery’s super-agent is found in the middle of a dangerous mission, and then swiftly killed by hard man Robert Shaw – but this turns out to be a test run with a Bond lookalike, and we’re into a diabolically clever scheme to lure 007 to his doom and only incidentally serve the strategic interests of the Soviet Union.

It’s a long chase scene, studded with memorable set-pieces: the hair-pulling gypsy cat-fight between Aliza Gur and Martine Beswick, Bond tumbling to the fact that the villain is only impersonating an English officer and gentleman because he orders the wrong wine with fish (and then throttles him with a trick briefcase), Hitchcockian cat-and-mouse with an attack helicopter, and an attack by the wonderful Lotte Lenya with a poisoned shoe.

Daniela Bianchi isn’t one of the more memorable Bond girls, which is a shame since her character is supposed to have been selected for the mission especially to appeal to our rogue agent, but Bernard Lee and Lois Maxwell continue to develop their regular roles as M and Miss Moneypenny and Desmond Llewellyn makes his series debut as Q.

Seen only in shadow, the cat-stroking SPECTER chief Blofeld is played by Anthony Dawson and dubbed by Eric Pohlmann – though he would be dropped from Goldfinger, Blofeld’s enmity with Bond would serve as a continuing story arc all the way from Dr No to Diamonds Are Forever. Monty Norman’s Bond theme recurs, but we also get the first Bond hit song – Matt Monro’s balaleika-scored title number.

It's one of the franchise's highlights, and if the dated action can be forgiven, a cracking cold war story.

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