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Review of Llewella Chapman's book on From Russia With Love

By: Brian Smith
Published:
2023-02-10
From Russia With Love (BFI Film Classics)
Just over a year ago Llewella Chapman brought us Fashioning James Bond, a history of costume design in the 007 movies, written, said I, ‘with an eye for detail as befits the subject matter.’ Here, Chapman again brings to bear her perceptiveness, this time to the second James Bond film, From Russia with Love (1963). It is also the first Bond to be featured in the BFI Film Classics book series.

In her introduction Chapman says that if she were to recommend one Bond film to watch, it would be From Russia With Love. Hailed by the author as the ‘best Bond film of them all’, Chapman’s enthusiasm shines on every page.

In From Russia With Love, the Bond ‘formula’, although not quite there yet, advances from Dr. No (1962). In this film, we have our first pre-title intrigue and a gadget briefing from Desmond Llewellyn’s Equipment Officer (named ‘Q’ in the subsequent films). Just as James Chapman, in his book on Dr No, refutes that the ‘formulaic and repetitive’ charge cannot be levelled at the first film, neither does it apply to the second. From Russia With Love is not ‘Dr No 2’. From Russia with Love has an individual quality that has never been equalled. There is a relative sense of realism. Even though the Russians of Ian Fleming’s novel are replaced by Spectre, the film retains the essence of a cold war thriller.

The film still stands as one of the most faithful adaptations of an Ian Fleming novel.


Chapman sets up the context of From Russia With Love with clarity and economy beginning with Fleming’s inspiration to write his story through to the setting up of Eon Productions and release of Dr No. In the following chapters we follow the film’s journey from script to screen. There’s an ingenious repurposing of Umberto Eco’s ‘Play situations and the plot as a “game”’ theory from his article ‘The Narrative Structure in Fleming’ which was published in The Bond Affair (Macdonald, 1965/66). Although I’ve never entirely agreed with Eco’s theory, here it provides an interesting analysis and comparison of Richard Maibaum’s script versus Fleming’s original 1958 novel.

I love all the incidental information peppered throughout, such as the various contemporaneous film reviews, salary breakdowns and box office takings. Packed with information and consistently insightful, Llewella Chapman’s scholarly research combined with her obvious love of the subject matter is a winning combination.


Review by Brian Smith. Copyright © 2023 From Sweden with Love. All rights reserved.

Editor's Note:
Available editions of From Russia With Love (BFI Film Classics):

>Paperback edition (Amazon UK)
>Paperback edition (Amazon.com)

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