3) 1963’s From Russia With Love
Many of James Bond’s more structural elements (the score, the gunbarrel shots, the lines) trace their way back to the series’ first entry, Dr. No, but the grandiose scale and larger than life nature of the characters are derived from round two, From Russia With Love. Here, the locations are bigger, grander and more diverse. 007 spends time on the Orient Express. He races through Hagia Sophia. He enjoys a meal inside a gypsy camp and even ventures beneath the city through an elaborate maze of canals. From Russia With Love is a proper adventure, and it’s populated by some of the craziest characters ever conceived.

From handsome, hired assassin Red Grant to brilliant chess legend Kronsteen to homely and menacing Rosa Klebb to the first appearance of the man we later know as Blofeld, there are four legitimate, easily identifiable villains in From Russia With Love. They each set the tone for the more outlandish and malevolent men and women to follow, and to be quite honest, all of them pale in comparison to the awesomeness of Kerim Bey. The station chief in Istanbul has just as many wild stories as he does children, and he never stops plotting. Some of the villains in later entries are better than Red Grant and company, but I’m not sure Bond has ever been given an ally as fun and competent as Kerim Bey.

From Russia With Love also features the poisoned toe spike everyone loves so much, as well as an easy to follow plot about a stolen cryptograph device and a Soviet seductress that effectively introduces the idea of playing both sides of the Cold War. From Russia With Love is nearly perfect, and it remains just as fun almost fifty years later.

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