Like a panther, Sean Connery strides across the screen, slips back into the shirt draped lazily over the side of the 1935 Bentley drophead coupe and picks up a telephone call from MI6.
“I’ll be there in an hour,” he says. With a sideways glance towards a bikini clad brunette, he adds: “Make that an hour and a half.”
The year is 1963 and with that, 007 makes his majestic return to the silver screen with Connery slinking comfortably back into his role as the British Secret Service’s deadliest weapon.
If Ian Fleming’s body of work was to read like a restaurant menu with 1962’s Dr. No listed under entrees; then this evening ladies and gentlemen, From Russia with Love will be your main course.
It is after all, the archetypal James Bond movie and the blueprint of a franchise spanning many decades. From the pre-credit action sequence or the elite henchman adversary, to the first ever Bond title song (offered from the melodious lungs of Matt Monroe) this is a film of firsts, before it all fell so foul of cliché.
So it may offer you the odd morsel of archaic rhetoric, social paranoia and slap on the arse sexism synonymous with the phrase ‘Bond, James Bond’, but it also offers you an injection of ‘60s youth and revolt, a shot of playfulness straight into the veins of stiff-shirted stoicism.
If it’s not the womanising or the drinking, then it’s the slinking across hotel rooms to the swinging sounds of the now iconic Bond theme that makes this a film as much about rebellion towards the British institution – depicted as an ageing and boorish M – as about thwarting the plans of one madman with a cat and an accent.
Which is another thing we must be thankful to Terrence Young’s on screen adaptation for. Almost single handedly did he kickstart the formula for cinema’s master villain, in the cinematic creation of Blofeld and his Number Two, Rosa Clegg alongside the terrorist cell, SPECTRE.
The film finds Bond fall willingly into an assassination ploy involving a naïve Russian beauty named Tatiana (Daniela Bianchi) in order to retrieve a Soviet encryption device stolen by Blofeld’s organisation.
SPECTRE, we already know, is out for the blood of 007 following the demise of its treasurer, Dr. No one year earlier. How will it do it? Why, with the promise of a shag, of course. How very ‘60s.
Meanwhile, sent to oversee Bond’s demise is henchman Grant (Robert Shaw) who confusingly acts as our hero’s guardian angel to save him from plight, until the opportune moment to kill him, arrives. And it does, later in the film, in a claustrophobic train carriage fight sequence.
But that’s not before Tatiana has had the chance to actually fall in love with James, who has already managed to spend an evening at a Romani gypsy camp where he delights in a salacious belly dance and the attention of two young gypsy women.
It’s a bloody orgy out there, and the British Secret Service is the worst for it.
OK, so it’s brash in its narrative, lacks subtlety in much of its dialogue and will never be championed for its efforts in empowering women, but it is James Bond and it is the film that reinstated Britain’s place within cinema.
Reviewed by Robert Hutchins.