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Sunday June 16th 2024

From Russia With Love | 1963

From Russia With Love location: Hagia Sophia, Istanbul, Turkey
From Russia With Love location: murder in the mosque: Hagia Sophia, Istanbul, Turkey | Photograph: iStockphoto © Jarno Gonzalez Zarraonandia

007 hadn't become the worldwide phenomenon he is today with the second Bond movie, and the budget was still pretty tight, with most of the location filming around Istanbul, Turkey.

The bookend Venice scenes were filmed by a Second Unit (the closing shots, of Bond and Tatiana Romanova (Daniela Bianchi) sailing under the Bridge of Sighs is clearly rear projection).

From Russia With Love location: Bridge of Sighs, Venice
From Russia With Love location: Bond and Tania sail away: Bridge of Sighs, Venice

‘Spectre Island’, where agents are trained (a sequence apparently inspired by the gladiator school scenes in Stanley Kubrick’s Spartacus) and a fake Bond is garotted during the opening teaser, is no more exotic than the grounds of Pinewood Studios, Iver Heath in Buckinghamshire, with Heatherden Hall, the studio’s main administration building, standing in for SPECTRE headquarters.

Bond travels to Istanbul, Turkey, to collect potential defector, Romanova, arriving at the old Yesilköy Airport, now unrecognisably developed into the busy Istanbul Atatürk Airport, about 9 miles southwest of the city itself.

The covered market to which he’s driven to meet Ali Kerim Bey (Pedro Armendáriz - the Mexican actor, cast in less sensitive times as an all-purpose ‘foreigner’) is Istanbul’s Kapali Çarsi – the Grand Bazaar – one of the largest in the world, and still bustling. The Zeytinburnu-Kabatas tram runs from from Sultanahmet to the Kapali Çarsi (getting off at the Çarsikapi stop).

From Russia With Love location: the Basilica Cistern, Istanbul, Turkey
From Russia With Love location: the underground chamber: the Basilica Cistern, Istanbul, Turkey | Photograph: Yerebatan Sarnici

The flooded underground chamber which takes Bond and Bey under the ‘Russian Consulate’ (where those unobservant Russians fail to notice there’s a periscope poking through the floor) is real, too. It’s the Yerebatan SarniciBasilica Cistern – in Sultanahmet Square. It’s been restored and is now open as a museum. And don’t believe what Bey tells Bond – it was commissioned in 532AD by the emperor Justinian, not Constantine.

It’s in one of Istanbul’s most famous landmarks that Tatiana leaves a plan of the consulate and the whereabouts of the MacGuffinesque Lektor machine. The mosque, in which Red Grant (Robert Shaw) also kills the Russian agent, is the spectacular Byzantine Hagia Sophia. Built as a church, converted into a mosque in the 15th century (when the minarets were added), it became a museum in 1935.

Bond meets up clandestinely with Tatiana on the picturesque Bosphorus Ferry.

Also in Istanbul is agent Krilencu’s apartment, in the industrial section of the city. In Ian Fleming’s book, the apartment has a huge billboard advertising the 1953 film Niagara outside, with a trapdoor in Marilyn Monroe’s mouth. In the movie, the advert is for the Broccoli/Saltzman production Call Me Bwana, the mouth belonging to Anita Ekberg. Enough said.

Escaping with the Lektor machine, Bond and Tatiana board the Orient Express at İstanbul Sirkeci Terminal. Suitably benighted, the same station is also able to stand in for ‘Belgrade’ – where Bond sends a message to M via one of Bey’s many sons – as well as ‘Zagreb’, where Bond is contacted by fake agent Grant.

The motorboat chase was begun off the coast of Turkey, at a small village called Pendik near the Greek border, but delays and hassles led to it being abandoned and completed, along with the truck/’copter chase, at Crinan and Lochgilphead, on the west coast of Scotland, about 50 miles northwest of Glasgow.