From Russia with Love
Directed by Terence Young
Though it successfully emboldened the brand by introducing Bond's arch nemesis, head of SPECTRE, Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Anthony Dawson, who played Professor Dent in Dr. No and would provide the criminal mastermind's arm and voice again in Thunderball), and upped the scale of action on every front, From Russia with Love quite possibly represents the peak of the sly spy's callous objectification of women.
Not only does he gleefully engage in a distressing amount of coitus in, and around, life-threatening situations for a professional intelligence agent, but the effortless babe-magnet graciously accepts ownership of two gypsy women after their fight over another man is interrupted by insurgents, while making more than a few comments about the appropriateness of a woman's mouth size.
Viewed in a modern context, the overt sexism heavily distracts from a meandering plot that sees Bond knowingly dive headfirst into an assassination scheme orchestrated by Blofeld as retribution for the death of the previous film's villain, Dr. No, in order to recover a Russian decoding machine highly coveted by MI6. Many of the same limitations that plagued Bond's first adventure—Connery's lack of combat prowess, antiquated special effects—hinder this film's durability, but From Russia with Love is notable for introducing more than just the often borrowed image of the faceless super villain stroking a fluffy cat.
Q (Desmond Llewelyn, the most consistent actor in the franchise's tumultuous casting history) makes his first appearance with a gift of gadgetry befitting a superspy; a suitcase with a folding sniper rifle, a hidden throwing knife, fifty gold sovereigns and a teargas defense mechanism should the case fall into enemy hands.
The chief henchmen are more than just indistinct meat shields this time out too. Ex-KGB agent Rosa Klebb, with her impish demeanour, severe bulldog face and thick Russian accent is clearly the basis of the shrill Frau Farbissina from Austin Powers and the stoic, hulking Donald "Red" Grant is a prototype for beloved later series powerhouse, Jaws.
Even though it's somewhat uncomfortable viewing for those less enamoured with the side of Bond that enjoys sex with "the sweet tang of rape", as Ian Fleming wrote of the character in 1953 novel, Casino Royale, From Russia with Love makes some vital canonical contributions and is a distinct artefact of its time.
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