Skip to main content
BFI logo











Screenonline banner
From Russia With Love (1963)

Main image of From Russia With Love (1963)
35mm, colour, 116 mins
Directed byTerence Young
Production CompanyEon Productions
Produced byHarry Saltzman
 Albert R. Broccoli
Screenplay byRichard Maibaum
Original novelIan Fleming
PhotographyTed Moore
MusicJohn Barry

Cast: Sean Connery (James Bond); Pedro Armendariz (Kerim Bey); Lotte Lenya (Rosa Klebb); Robert Shaw (Red Grant); Bernard Lee (M); Daniela Bianchi (Tatiana Romanova)

Show full cast and credits

The criminal organisation SPECTRE devises a plot to capture Lektor, a Russian decoding machine, and at the same time dispose of British agent James Bond.

Show full synopsis

The massive success of Dr No (d. Terence Young, 1962) led to a significantly increased budget for the second James Bond film. The result, From Russia With Love (1963) saw the first unveiling of the full Bond formula was unveiled: the largely irrelevant pre-credits sequence, elaborate titles featuring semi-clad women, the spin-off title song (though not yet performed over the credits), the first appearance of a recognisable Ernst Stavro Blofeld (called 'Number One' for now) with trademark white cat, the first appearance of 'Q' (Desmond Llewelyn) with his endless supply of gadgets, Bond's callously witty one-liners, exotic locations, a full-blown John Barry score... the list goes on.

It also had advantages not enjoyed by many later Bond films, notably an intelligent script that retained the substance of Ian Fleming's novel while toning down the overt Cold War politics (the Cuban Missile Crisis had only occurred the previous year). The villains are still Russians, but are dissidents working for the stateless crime organisation SPECTRE, as opposed to the explicitly Soviet SMERSH in the novel.

Compared with Joseph Wiseman's anaemic Dr No, this film boasts the first major Bond villains in the form of Blofeld, the spike-shoed Rosa Klebb (Lotte Lenya) and man-mountain Red Grant (Robert Shaw). Grant in particular is one of the most effective heavies in the whole canon, with Shaw's obvious intelligence letting him convey as much menace through dialogue as he does in the scenes when he's trying to beat Bond to a pulp.

If Daniela Bianchi has less impact as the main love interest, she has the historical drawback of being chronologically sandwiched between Ursula Andress (Dr No) and Honor Blackman (Goldfinger), two far more memorable Bond girls. But she has genuine chemistry with Sean Connery, who recommended her for that reason. Connery himself now fitted the role like a well-tailored glove - Fleming had already shown his approval by retrospectively giving the character Scottish ancestry in the final novels.

The plot revolves around Bond's attempt at acquiring a Lektor decoding machine, effectively a McGuffin-style excuse for trips to exotic locations (Turkey, Yugoslavia, Venice) and expertly-staged suspense and action sequences involving speedboats, helicopters and the Orient Express. Later Bond set-pieces would be far more elaborate, but the quality of the script and acting set From Russia With Love apart from its predecessor and many successors: even today, it's regarded as one of the series' high points.

Michael Brooke

Click titles to see or read more

Video Clips
Monthly Film Bulletin review
Barry, John (1933-2011)
Bart, Lionel (1930-1999)
Broccoli, Albert R. (1909-1996)
Connery, Sean (1930-)
Lee, Bernard (1908-1981)
Llewelyn, Desmond (1914-1999)
Shaw, Robert (1927-1978)
Young, Terence (1915-1994)
James Bond
James Bond: Sean Connery