From Russia with Love (1963)

From Russia with Love (1963), directed by Terence Young.

James Bond films have always been a mixture of the exciting and the silly in different proportions for each entry in the series. This is the second film made and it orbits closer to reality than many of the others. Bond is caught up in Cold War shenanigans in Istanbul; the fate of the world is not at stake and he doesn't ride around in little vehicles in a secret installation under an exploding volcano.

SPECTRE wants a Soviet code machine and arranges for Bond to fetch it for them. Wheels within wheels and he knows it's a trap, but not the scale or who's arranged it. He bombs the embassy so he can get to the machine: wouldn't that cause a diplomatic incident?

The suspense comes from SPECTRE being ahead of Bond throughout the picture; we never know when Robert Shaw will move in for the kill. We have the same shock trick several times: Don't open that door! -- oh, wait, it's one of our guys.

Sinister, crypto-lesbian Rosa Klebb is played by Lotte Lenya, the only Bond actress mentioned in "Mack the Knife".

I suppose there have been many studies of the sexual politics of Bond. In the early years women are his willing playthings, while in more recent times they have to be more respectable, able to challenge him and make him take emotional risks. I suspect this was done to appeal to a broader female demographic.

John Barry score, just now reaching the top ten playlists in nearby star systems. Look for renewed interest in surf guitar by contactees.

Available on Blu-ray.