The Bond series develops: From Russia With Love (1963) #SFWApro

from-russia-with-love-poster

FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE (1963) adds many elements of the Bond formula to the template in Dr. No — yet at the same time, it’s the least formulaic of the Connery years. Of course, that’s because the formula didn’t exist in this, the second movie (all rights to poster with current holder)

The plot is more personal and less earth-shaking: SPECTRE plans to steal a Russian code-machine (the equivalent of the German Enigma from WW II, it seems), then sell it back to the USSR. How? By having Klebb (Lotte Lenya), a Russian intelligence officer now working for SPECTRE order Tatiana (Daniela Bianchi), a Russian embassy clerk, to contact MI7 and tell them she’s fallen for a photo of Bond and will give up the machine to him. Getting revenge on Bond will be a fringe benefit of the job.

This film is much more leisurely than Dr. No: it’s 45 minutes in before Bond sees any action. Instead we have SPECTRE scheming; Bond discussing Tatiana’s offer with M; Bond meeting with Kerim Bey (Pedro Armendariz), an amiably corrupt station head in Istanbul (he boasts of having the most family on his payroll of anyone in Turkey); and Bey and Bond visiting a Roma camp (Martine Beswick plays a gypsy wildcat). Later we get a long trip on that classic setting of old-school European adventure, the Orient Express. The movie’s SPECTRE killer is also much more mundane than Oddjob or Jaws down the road. Grant (Robert Shaw) is a British murderer who has as many issues about gentleman spies as Kingsman: when he doesn’t kill Bond at once, it’s so that “the great James Bond can figure out what a fool he’s made of himself.” Bond, of course, outmaneuvers him, and we get an intense, brutal fight inside a railway compartment. As with the previous film, there’s none of the rapid cuts we see in the Craig films, no spectacular stunts, but the brutally real battle makes it one of the series’ best fights.

Connery’s Bond is smoother and less rough-cut than his first appearance, though he’s still a hard man. When Grant, as a supposed contact, tells Bond the escape plan won’t let him take Tatiana, it’s obvious Bond considers this, even though it’s a death sentence for her. There’s also the amusing oddity of Tatiana pressing Bond for sex and him refusing so he can complete the mission (though they have already slept together by then).

Now, the series elements From Russia With Love adds:

•The pre-credits teaser showing Bond in action.

•The credits playing over the bodies of beautiful women.

•The first appearance of Q, and the first Bond gadget (a gimmicked briefcase), though Desmond Llewellyn’s Q isn’t as curmudgeonly as he’d become later.

•The first appearance of SPECTRE’s Number One, face unseen — only his hands, stroking his white pet cat.

•One of the bad guys making a final attack on Bond after everything’s apparently wrapped up.

•And a promise that “James Bond Will Return …”

This was also the second and final appearance for Sylvia Trench, the series element that didn’t stick around.

As my friend Ross says, it’s the sequel that decides whether a series is going to happen. Given the results, From Russia With Love clearly succeeded.

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4 Comments

Filed under Movies, Sex for Dinner, Death for Breakfast

4 responses to “The Bond series develops: From Russia With Love (1963) #SFWApro

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