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Colonel Rosa Klebb is a fictional character and the main antagonist from the James Bond film and novel From Russia with Love. She was played by Lotte Lenya in the film version. Her name is a pun on the popular Soviet phrase for women’s rights, khleb i rozy(Cyrillic: хлеб и розы), which in turn was a direct Russian translation of the internationally used labour union slogan “bread and roses”.
Colonel Klebb is a high-ranking member of the feared Russian counter-intelligence agency SMERSH, where she serves as the supervisor of Department II (operations and executions). It is strongly implied in the novel that she is a lesbian. She has a reputation for overseeing the interrogations of enemy agents in which, after torturing the target, she speaks to them in a warm and motherly tone to extract information. She also has a strange fascination with Tatiana Romanova. Ian Fleming believed the description of Klebb’s sexual preferences allowed the reader to understand how she fitted in the plot. She started her career as O.G.P.U agent placed inside POUM during the Spanish Civil War. Her chief was Andreu Nin i Perez, whose mistress she supposedly was. It was later rumoured that it was she who killed him. She is 5 ft 4 inches (163 cm) tall and unattractive. She is in her late forties.
Klebb is assigned by SMERSH leader, General Grubozaboyschikov, to spearhead an operation to get revenge on James Bond for his involvement in the deaths of three SMERSH operatives, Le Chiffre, Mr. Big and Hugo Drax. Teaming with Tov Kronsteen and Red Grant, Klebb sets a trap for Bond, enlisting a cipher clerk, Tatiana Romanova, to pretend to defect, claiming to fall in love with Bond. When Bond takes the bait, Grant will kill him. This plan backfires, however, when Bond foils Grant’s attempt to kill him, and now with information given to him by the now deceased Grant, Bond heads to Paris to confront Klebb.
Bond tracks Klebb to the hotel in Paris, where she was to rendezvous with Grant at the conclusion of his mission. He finds her there dressed as a wealthy widow. After failing to kill him with a gun hidden in a telephone, she successfully poisons him by means of a fugu venom-laced blade hidden in her shoe; she is then captured by Bond’s friend René Mathis, of the Deuxième Bureau. The novel ends when Bond collapses to the floor; Fleming had intended to end the series at that point with Bond’s death. In the next novel, Dr. No, M reveals that Bond survived as a result of Mathis’ timely intervention, and that Klebb had subsequently died.
In the film, Klebb is depicted as a former SMERSH agent who has defected to
become a member of SPECTRE (Blofeld refers to her as “No. 3”). She uses Kronsteen’s plans to obtain the Lektor, a decoding device that is of high value to MI6, and kill Bond. She deceives Tatiana Romanova into helping Bond steal the Lektor, and then sends Red Grant to kill Bond and recover it. After Bond kills Grant and escapes to Venice with the Lektor, Blofeld confronts both Klebb and Kronsteen over who is responsible for the failure of the mission; the latter is executed, whilst Klebb is given one last attempt to get Bond and the Lektor. Posing as a hotel maid, she attempts to take the Lektor; when she is caught, she points a .25Beretta 418 pistol at Bond. Tatiana then distracts her, causing her to drop the Beretta, and Bond and Klebb fight. As in the novel, Klebb attempts to kick Bond with the poison-tipped shoe, but Bond blocks the attack with a chair. Tatiana then picks up Klebb’s Beretta and kills her.
Rosa Klebb was one of two inspirations (the other being Irma Bunt) for the character of Frau Farbissina, of the Austin Powers series.
Rosa Klebb’s shoe blade has been featured in other films. It is used by Jade Fox in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Ichi in Ichi the Killer, James West in Wild Wild West, the Joker in The Dark Knight and Oleg Vasilyevich Orlov in Salt. It was also referenced in the Family Guy episode Mr. and Mrs. Stewie and parodied in the Peter Sellers film The Pink Panther Strikes Again.
A pair of Rosa Klebb’s shoes can also be seen in R’s underground headquarters
in Die Another Day, along with other historic gadgets from Bond films, marking the 40th anniversary of the series.
In the 2010 reimagining of the video game GoldenEye 007, the weapon that was named “Klobb” in the original game (originally named after designer Ken Lobb) has had its name changed to “Klebb”. Klebb herself is also a playable character in the game’s multiplayer component.
Klebb was also included on the list of top ten Bond villains by The Times in 2008.