Sept. 04--Fans of the phenomenally successful James Bond series -- 51 years and counting! -- like to argue over who is the best 007, but most buffs agree that the second film in the series, "From Russia with Love," remains one of the top-five outings of the British superspy.
Based on an Ian Fleming book that President John F. Kennedy said was one of his 10 favorite novels, the film debuted in London in October, 1963, but didn't open here until April, 1964.
"From Russia with Love" demonstrated that 1962's "Dr. No" wasn't a fluke hit, and it set in motion an amazingly durable series that is more popular now than ever. (Last year's "Skyfall," with Daniel Craig as Bond, is the highest grossing film in the franchise.)
A recent digital restoration of the second Bond movie is being screened at Stamford's Avon Theatre on Thursday, Sept. 5, as part of the nonprofit venue's "Cult Classics" series.
"From Russia with Love" established many of the elements that would become hallmarks of the James Bond series in subsequent years -- an elaborate pre-credit sequence; a luscious John Barry score; the introduction of the cat-loving arch-villain Blofeld (whose identity would be kept hidden until "You Only Live Twice" four years later); and the first gadget weapon.
As critic Peter Bradshaw noted in a tribute in the Guardian last year, "From Russia with Love" is a much more straightforward espionage picture than the increasingly elaborate and campy movies that would follow in the wake of the 1964 blockbuster "Goldfinger."
Much of the action is confined to the Orient Express, where Sean Connery has a fight to the death with a muscle-bound killer played by a pre-"Jaws" Robert Shaw.
Later in the film, Bond has a memorable encounter with one of the best villians in the series -- Lotte Lenya as Rosa Kleb -- who, disguised as a maid, tries to kill the British spy with a poisoned blade that pops out of her shoe.
The film earned a footnote in history after President Kennedy requested a private White House screening of "From Russia with Love" -- five months before the U.S. opening -- on Nov. 20, 1963. It was the last movie Kennedy saw.
Avon Theatre, 2727 Bedford St., Stamford. Thursday, Sept. 5, 9 p.m. $11-$6. 203-967-3660, www.avontheatre.org.
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