From Russia With Love (1963)

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From Russia With Love (1963)

Post  BoG on Tue Apr 27, 2010 7:43 pm


BOND#2: With the Lektor on a Train to Doom

MASTER PLAN: steal the Russians' decoding machine and blame Bond for the whole mess. Due to editor Peter Hunt's innovations, we end up with the first pre-credits teaser here, a dark play on the death always hovering around Bond, and then into the ever more surreal credits. The fact that this is a sequel to Dr. No is emphasized by bringing the sinister organization SPECTRE into the forefront (it was mentioned briefly in the previous film, towards the climax) and even mentioning the killing of the dastardly Dr. No in the early minutes here, during the planning to get some payback against Bond.
Despite the misleading teaser sequence, the heroic secret agent doesn't really appear until 18 minutes in, following all the preparatory scheming by the villains. Check out SPECTRE's training facility - a modern school for assassins/gladiators - intense! This was also the closest we get to sci-fi concepts here, a bizarre atmosphere suggesting superhuman killers and strange lethal gadgets (and a version of Bond's future scenes with Q seen from a villainous perspective). Bond first appears with the same girl, Ms. Trench, he first bedded near the start of "Dr. No" and she was removed from future Bonders for obvious reasons: Bond can't have a regular girlfriend (the original plan was to have Trench show up at the start of half-a-dozen Bonders, whereupon she would finally take part in the latest mission - too dull a premise, I suppose). Then we get the now-familiar scenes with Moneypenny, M and Q (first played by actor Llewelyn here), who contributes a fancy briefcase in this one. Bond's entrance into Moneypenny's den is probably the most amusing of the series and the subsequent briefing is great, as usual.
The plan of the villains is fairly complex and relies more on traditional espionage than any of the future films. There's no grand plan for world domination, let alone setting events into motion which would effect a large section of the world. Bond's mission takes him to Istanbul in this one, where he is to meet a supposed defecting Russian agent (Bianchi) and steal a special decoding machine of the Russians. It's all a plot of SPECTRE's to mess up both the Soviets and the free world at the same time - it doesn't sound all that thrilling for a typical Bond fan, but for those into actual spy games and bottomless intrigue, this is in some ways a pinnacle of the Bond oeuvre.

The master villain is partially revealed as SPECTRE-head Blofeld, seen only from the neck down, stroking his white cat, but he employs top agents #3 (an actual Soviet defector, played memorably by actress Lenya) and #5 (a chessmaster) to carry out the logistics. All this is wonderfully atmospheric for fans of wild, weird villainy and would be repeated in future films, such as Thunderball. SPECTRE agent#3, also known as Rosa Klebb, is the de-facto main villain here, doing the actual field work for the plan, and no one would soon forget her. There are even undertones of lesbianism in her scenes with the femme fatale and main Bond girl, unthinkable in those days, copying the more blatant descriptions in Ian Fleming's novel.
Connery's 2nd outing as Bond is, if possible, even more assured and professional than his first. He seems a bit more relaxed and there are especially fine, evocative scenes of him becoming friends with the Kerim Bey character, his contact in Istanbul, and becoming familiarized with the new locale (great location shooting). Just when things seem to be going along as a standard mission, we get a gypsy girl fight. Then we're on the train, the sequence which springs to mind for most of us when this Bond film is brought up. As Red Grant, actor Shaw played the first of those steel-muscled henchmen of Bond infamy - the extra tough brawn to complement the villainous brains (Klebb and the chessmaster here). But Red isn't simply muscle; he's somewhat psychotic, possibly vain and more than a little in love with himself. Besides wanting to kill Bond, he wants Bond to suffer, to humiliate himself; it's an added element which will be lost in most of the future films involving the big fight to the death. Here, it adds a palpable sense of urgency and tension, not to mention the usual sadism.

When I first watched this film on TV, a very long time ago, the famous fight between Bond and Grant was heavily edited; I couldn't understand what the fuss was about (this fight is often listed as among the top 10 best fights on screen). Later, I finally viewed the complete unedited version. Wow. Brutal. There's no doubt this film was influential on the entire spy genre of sixties cinema. And, Bond would return in Goldfinger.
BoG's Bond Scores: Bond:10 Villains:10 Femme Fatale:7 Henchmen:10 Fights:10 Stunts/Chases:8 Gadgets:8 Locations:9 Pace:9 overall:9
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From Behind the Scenes

Post  BoG on Wed Nov 05, 2014 3:12 pm



Author Ian Fleming with Connery during filming; it was the last Bond film that Fleming would see released:
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