In one of the most intriguing pre-title sequences, the mood is dark, the setting is dark, and we see Bond pursued by an agent (SPECTRE). Pre-Title Sequence in a setting we are not familiar with and with a very perplexed and worried look upon James Bond’s face.
He really does not look confident, which makes us viewers nervous. He has a gun in hand, as he walks cautiously around these dark grounds with statuary and foliage – lots of hiding places.
Until, from behind, Bond is strangled to death. For 1 minute and 52 seconds, he was pursued and killed. Bond, dead. But wait…ala Mission: Impossible’s use of masks, the mask is lifted off of Bond to reveal that it was really someone else.
Masks in Use
Note that the Mission: Impossible television series does not start until 3 years after the filming of From Russia With Love, so here, the film could have possibly influenced one of the major components of Mission: Impossible television series, and later the films!
Of course, The List of Adrian Messenger was released in June 1963 and was the first we know of to heavily use make-up and facial masks as disguises, which are peeled off at the end of the film. So perhaps, From Russia With Love was influenced by The List of Adrian Messenger (not a spy movie per se) and then later influences the spy television series, Mission: Impossible and the subsequent films.
There is a great article written about some of this by Jeremy Dunns, April 14, 2015. Read it!
“From Russia With Love” was Ian Fleming’s 5th James Bond 007 book, published in 1957, and the second EON Productions film about our master spy hero. Timely released in 1963 during the ramp-up of the space race between the US and Soviet Union – the two giant and powerful countries were at each other’s throats.
Fleming Gets a Boost from the U.S. President
John F. Kennedy was President of the US then, and Ian Fleming actually met President Kennedy. Kennedy was quoted as saying that “From Russia With Love” was one of his 10 favorite books. The Fleming novels took off in sales after that in the US. Of course, later in 1963-1964, the film was released, but President Kennedy had been assassinated on November 22, 1963, in Dallas, Texas.
The subject matter of the film, obtaining a Soviet Lektor (which is an encoding device to protect communications – much like the Enigma machine in WW-II). It was stolen by SPECTRE,. But if obtained by Bond it would give the West an advantage over the Soviets. This topic was very much in vogue at the time. In the film, Russia is very much aware of James Bond already, and the pre-title sequence demonstrates how they are training to be able to kill Bond. So the tension of the film is established immediately.