SPECTRE is looking for revenge on MI-6 agent James Bond (Sean Connery) for killing their Jamaican agent Doctor No. After training several agents, operative Colonel Rosa Klebb (Lotte Lenya), formerly of the soviet SMERSH operation, approves Donald “Red” Grant (Robert Shaw) for the mission. To lure Bond into their trap, Czech Chess Grand Master Kronsteen (Vladek Sheybal) plans to offer a Lector cryptography device from the Soviet consulate in Turkey. They recruit a beautiful cipher clerk at the consulate named Tatiana Romanova (Daniela Bianchi, voice-dubbed by Barbara Jefford) to tempt him.
In London, his chief M (Bernard Lee) informs Bond of the availability of the Lektor machine if they help Romanova to defect. Though they are suspicious, they cannot resist the Lektor. Boothroyd of Q Branch (Desmond Llewelyn) equips Bond with a multi-functional attaché case and a folding Armalite AR-7 sniper rifle. In Istanbul, Bond connects with Ali Kerim Bey (Pedro Armendariz), the head of Station T. Kerim Bey is attacked by a Soviet agent named Krilencu (Fred Haggerty). A small army comes after them in a gypsy camp and the two men kill Krilencu. Romanova meets Bond at his hotel suite and she offers him plans to the Soviet Consulate so he can steal the Lektor. They sleep together, secretly filmed by SPECTRE. Bond and Kerim steal the Lektor and plan to leave the city on the Orient Express train. Grant kills Kerim and Bond must remain on the train to inform MI-6. He is suspicious of Romanova.
The train arrives in Belgrade, where Bond is to meet an MI-6 agent named Nash, but Grant has killed Nash and taken his place. Grant drugs Romanova and overpowers Bond. He says he intends to kill Bond and Romanova and stage them as a murder-suicide to cause a scandal in Britain. Bond tricks Grant into setting off the booby-trap in the attaché case and kills him. With the Lektor in hand, Bond and Romanova leave the train in Yugoslavia, evade SPECTRE helicopter and boat attacks, and reach safety. Learning of Grant’s death and Bond’s escape, SPECTRE’s mysterious chairman, Blofeld, has Kronsteen executed and sends Klebb to kill Bond. Klebb enters the hotel room of Bond and Romanova in disguise and pulls a gun on Bond. Romanova kills Klebb and the lovers spend time together.
From Russia with Love was chosen as the second Bond film because President Kennedy had said it was one of his favorite books. The film was the last one he saw before leaving for Dallas, where he was assassinated. It was directed by Terence Young, produced by Albert Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, written by Richard Maibaum and Johanna Harwood, based on the 1957 novel by Ian Fleming. It was a critical and commercial success and still considered one of the best Bond films. It won the BAFTA for cinematography. The pre-title sequence, the postscript action sequence, and the secret weapon gadget were all introduced in the film. John Barry was the main composer of music from this film on.
Robert Shaw and Sean Connery did most of their fight stunts themselves. Shaw did not want to do the movie but his wife insisted. Stephen Spielberg cast Shaw in Jaws after seeing him in it. Pedro Amendariz (Kerim Bey) had made a film called The Conqueror (1956) near a U.S. nuclear test site and contracted cancer. He was dying from it throughout this movie production and in serious pain. They moved up his scenes to finish them as soon as possible because he intended to use his pay to set up his wife for the future. Afterwards, when the doctors would not let him die, he committed suicide. Rosa Klebb’s knife-shoe was a real weapon used by the KGB. Her character in the novel was based on a real Russian Colonel known to Ian Fleming.
Connery’s eight bespoke Saville Row suits cost $2000 apiece. The helicopter and boat chases were added to the story for the film. A boat full of cameras sank in the Bosporus. A miniature radio-controlled helicopter was used for some scenes. The movie beat out Tom Jones, The Great Escape, and The Birds for the top box-office. Reviewers said it was preposterous, with self-mocking flamboyance, a stunning box of tricks, lurid adventure and pseudo-realistic fantasy, illogical and improbable amiable nonsense, with tongue fully in cheek, and will no doubt make a fortune. It was the favorite Bond movie of Albert Broccoli, Ian Fleming, Sean Connery, Lois Maxwell, Timothy Dalton, and Daniel Craig. The novel had been inspired by a real incident in which a U.S. Naval Attaché was assassinated and thrown from the Orient Express, and by Ian Fleming’s own experiences at an INTERPOL conference in Istanbul.