Movies baddest beasts from the East as From Russia With Love turns 60

This week marks the 60th anniversary of the second James Bond flick, From Russia With Love, hitting cinemas in the UK.

Along with its star Sean Connery as 007, it’s best remembered for Rosa Klebb, the ex-Soviet agent turned SPECTRE operative with a secret, poisoned-tip blade concealed in her shoe.

But she’s just one of many Russian or Soviet villains to feature on the big screen over the years, as JAMES MOORE discovers.

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ROSA KLEBB: In the 1963 film, Austrian-born Lotte Lenya plays the former Soviet intelligence officer of real-life spy unit SMERSH. The blade hidden in her shoe, which she uses to try and kill 007, is covered in venom that kills her victims in 12 seconds. Similar weapons were actually used by the KGB and Bond author Ian Fleming partly based her on a real Soviet woman, Colonel Zoya Rybkina.

GENERAL ORLOV: The rogue Soviet commander wants to nuke the West in 1983 movie Octopussy, starring Roger Moore. He was played by British-born Steven Berkoff, who would also play brutal Soviet officer Colonel Sergei Podovsky in 1985 action flick Rambo: First Blood Part II, starring Sylvester Stallone.

IVAN DRAGO: In 1985’s Rocky IV, Stallone’s boxer Rocky Balboa takes on the muscly Russian to avenge his pal Apollo Creed. Swede Dolph Lundgren played the ex-Soviet captain nicknamed The Siberian Express. Producer Robert Chartoff said Drago represented fear of the Soviet threat: “If there had ever been conflict, this is what we would have had to face.”

XENIA ONATOPP: An ex-Soviet pilot and assassin turned criminal, Dutch actress Famke Janssen would play the femme fatale. She was known for crushing enemies to death with her thighs, in the 1995 Bond movie GoldenEye. Courteney Cox of Friends was originally offered the role.

VICTOR ‘RENARD’ ZORKAS: Trainspotting’s Robert Carlyle played the ex-KGB agent turned hi-tech terrorist, with a bullet lodged in his brain, in 1999’s The World Is Not Enough. Renard is fox in French, and the character was originally going to be from France.

IRINA SPALKO: Set in 1957, Indiana Jones and The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull stars Cate Blanchett as a ruthless
Soviet agent. She learned fencing and karate for the role in the 2008 movie, also starring Harrison Ford, and based her character and haircut on Bond’s Rosa Klebb.

IVAN KORSHUNOV: In 1997’s Air Force One, Gary Oldman played this ex-Soviet terrorist backing a communist dictator in Kazakhstan. He hijacks the plane used by the US president, played by Harrison Ford with Oldman’s performance earning him the nickname “Scary Gary” during filming.

IVAN VANKO: Superhero flick Iron Man 2 stars Mickey Rourke as Whiplash, a Russian physicist and ex-convict who develops lethal hi-tech whip weapons. For the 2010 Marvel flick the American actor visited Russia to research a Moscow jail and find authentic tattoos for his character.

GENERAL DREYKOV: British acting legend Ray Winstone plays the Soviet-era baddie in the 2021 Marvel superhero movie Black Widow. He’s in charge of the Red Room programme that takes young Russian girls and turns them into assassins like Natasha Romanoff, played by Scarlett Johansson.

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