The lights come up on a nasty nocturnal exercise and the opening credits are projected onto undulating flesh—the shift from Dr. No's Caribbean design is a marked one, the Byzantine network fits the metallic Cold War ménage to a fare-thee-well. A Soviet decoding machine is the MacGuffin, SPECTRE's plan is to seize it and then sell it back via pawns on both sides of the Iron Curtain, a natural grid for the Czech chessmaster (Vladek Sheybal). One half of the plan is James Bond (Sean Connery) and the other is the Russian consulate clerk in Istanbul (Daniela Bianchi), a gauzy guise (sightseeing newlyweds) over a swiftly splintering East-West truce. "I think we're talking at cross-purposes again." Mosques for tourists and gypsy catfights up above and stampeding rats in the catacombs below, that's the land of sultans in the age of spies, the Turkish intelligence chief (Pedro Armendariz) inspects it through a periscope. The blithe Eros of the cavorting agents is contrasted with the steely Thanatos of the flaxen assassin (Robert Shaw), "a homicidal paranoid, superb material." (The Paolozzi image of a dead foe dangling from the lips of an Anita Ekberg billboard segues into a ripe view of Bianchi's mouth, isolated in close-up like a pink Lichtenstein blowup.) Out of plush elements Terence Young orchestrates the series' tightest expression of brutes playacting as gentlemen, a British calm purposely met with such jolts as the former SMERSH colonel with venom-tipped boots. Lotte Lenya's presence enhances the Germanic flavor (Lang figures in the exploding suitcase and the Orient Express brawl adduced from Cloak and Dagger), though Hitchcock is the clear tributary in the bizarrerie of the drugged heroine waking up on a truck of flowers just in time for a helicopter blitzkrieg. "Yes, I think I got that without the subtitles." The final gondola ride ends with the unspooling of a tell-tale reel of film, just the romantic declaration for randy cutthroats "working on the company's time." Cinematography by Ted Moore. With Bernard Lee, Eunice Gayson, Walter Gotell, Francis De Wolff, and Lois Maxwell.
--- Fernando F. Croce