Bond-a-Thond #2: ‘From Russia With Love’ (1963)

For the next 22 weeks, MTV Movies Blog will be running what we call the Bond-a-Thond. Every Wednesday we’re taking a look back at a single (official) Bond film, giving you the vitals and seeing how it holds up, right up until the release of “Skyfall” on November 9. Feel free to watch along with us and share your thoughts or just kick back and enjoy the Bond.

From Russia With Love (1963)

Title Meaning: The phrase James scrawls on the picture of Tatiana Romanova, the supposedly defected Soviet agent who requested Bond specifically.

Plot: Wanting revenge for the death of Dr. No in Jamaica, the evil international organization SPECTRE concocts an elaborate scheme to both murder Bond and steal a code breaking device from the Soviets.

Bond: Sean Connery

Villain: SPECTRE assassin Donald Grant played by a delightfully platinum blond Robert Shaw. He is given orders by Rosa Klebb, who in turn answers to Ernst Blofeld, making his first appearance.

Bond Girl: Tatiana Romanova, ex-ballerina, played by Daniela Bianchi

“Bond, James Bond” Occurrences: 0

Martinis: 0

Card Games: 0

Cigarettes Smoked: 0

Explosions: 7

Tuxes Worn: 1

Kills By Bond: 8

Most Creative Kill: While being chased by a helicopter, James shoots one of the passengers, causing him to drop a live grenade in the cabin. It then explodes.

Gadgets: A suitcase with hidden rifle and surprise tear gas action

Mental State of Miss Moneypenny: Playfully desperate

Sexual Partners: 4 (Sylvia Trench, Gypsy threesome, Tatiana Romanova)

First Occurrence of Sex: 18 minutes in

Most Unrealistic Moments: Klebb punches Grant in the stomach with brass knuckles, and he doesn’t flinch; Bond’s Turkish contact, Kerim, has a periscope inside the Soviet embassy

Most “Bond” Moments: As a thanks for helping defend a Gypsy camp, the leader of the group offers Bond two women, who had previously been fighting to the death over a shared lover.

Sign of the Times: During the opening credit sequence, “007” is literally projected onto a set of breasts.

Place in Bond History: Though it lacks many of the hallmarks of a Bond film (no martinis, no “Bond, James Bond”), “From Russia With Love” introduces Ernst Blofeld, the central villain for several series entries, and Desmond Llewelyn appears as Q for the first time. He would appear 17 Bond films in all.

Review: With the second entry in the series, one already starts to feel the pattern of a Bond film. Something will force James to an exotic location. There he will encounter local favor, which will neither shake nor stir him. A woman will fall for his charms, usually begrudgingly and with some degree of suspicion. And Bond will always prevail.

“From Russia With Love” lives and dies by that pattern. Granted, none of us would be here if we didn’t know what we were getting. We want the familiar, but with the exception of Shaw’s playful turn as Grant, there is little else here to make “From Russia With Love” anything other than just the next Bond film.

Connery does his best to keep things interesting and the broadening of the SPECTRE conspiracy intrigues, but without one stunning climax or action sequence, “From Russia With Love” hits the beloved notes without enough improvisation to standout and become more than the film before “Goldfinger.”

The Bond-a-Thond will return next week in “Goldfinger.”

What do you think of “From Russia With Love”? Let us know in the comments below and on Twitter!