Bond: From Russia With Love
Our James Bond retrospective continues with the second installment of the James Bond franchise- FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE, considered by many to be the finest film of the series. Do I agree? Read on...
PLOT: Bond goes to Istanbul to aid in the defection of a Soviet agent named Tatiana Romanova (Daniela Bianchi)- all the while being dragged deeper and deeper into a sinister scheme involving a Russian decoding machine sought after by the sinister organization- SPECTRE.
REVIEW: After the considerable international box office success of DR.NO, producers Albert R. Broccoli & Harry Saltzman immediately began work on a follow up. With FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE, the producers had a bit more time and money to play with- and the result shows up on screen.
Unlike the somewhat uneven DR.NO, RUSSIA is a much slicker, and confident picture. It’s also a lot more elaborate- benefiting enormously from being based on one of author Ian Fleming’s best novels- which was reported to be on none other than JFK’s reading list at one time. Also- bear in mind that at the time, this cold war story was fairly timely, adding a degree of realism to the series. There’s no laser beams or end of the world scenarios- just good old fashioned cloak and dagger espionage. This is truly an outstanding entry in every way.
In terms of filmmaking technique, FRWL broke a lot of new ground. With this film, ace editor Peter Hunt practically invented the art of action movie editing- sometimes cutting in an experimental, non linear fashion, which was pretty far out at the time. For an excellent example of the way Hunt revolutionized the action film, check out the final closed quarters fight scene between Bond & Red Grant (Robert Shaw). It’s gritty, extremely violent, and brilliantly cut- standing as one of the best fight scenes ever put to film. The influence of this fight can been seen in pretty much every action movie made since, including the BOURNE films, which owe A LOT to the early Bonds.
Once again, Connery is absolutely incredible as Bond. In this film, he also brings a bit of a sense of humor to the role, that was somewhat lacking in the first film. Another thing about Connery as Bond is that he’s a total bad ass. You never doubt for a second that Connery could do some serious damage if he’s provoked, and he racks up a ton of carnage in this film- dodging helicopters, blowing up a fleet of boats, and at one point even smacking his leading lady (which would never be accepted from another Bond- and that includes Daniel Craig).
They have the true villain of the piece, Red Grant do their dirty work. Of all the Bond villains, Robert Shaw as Grant is my favorite, as he’s the only villain I’ve ever thought was a real threat to Bond. In every way, he’s Bond’s match, except that he has one defect- he has no conscience. Shaw is incredible in this film- which really launched his career, and was supposedly responsible for him getting cast as Quint in JAWS.
For my money- Daniela Bianchi is the hottest woman to ever appear in a Bond film. Like Ursula Andress in DR. NO, she’s dubbed- but man is she a looker!!! Her seduction scene with Bond in an Istanbul hotel room is incredibly hot, and supposedly in the scene used to screen test every actor that plays Bond or a Bond-girl in each film.
BOND MUSIC: John Barry supplies his first full fledged Bond score- and it is a classic. The only thing it lacks is a solid theme song- as the theme song sung by Matt Munro is a little too easy listening for Bond. It’s not a bad song per se- but it lacks a certain gravitas, and it’s not surprising it was left out of the opening credits, and only used at the end. Other than that, the score is flawless and a secondary Bond theme (007) is introduced during the famous gypsy camp shootout.
BODY COUNT: 18
Number of women Bond Sleeps with: Okay- here’s where it gets complicated. Bond definitely sleeps with two- but I personally think the number is four due to the gypsy camp sequence. The whole thing goes like this. Bond is hiding out at a gypsy camp, and witnesses a violent (and awesome) cat-fight between two gypsy women in love with the same man. The sequence is incredible- with each girl viciously scratching at each other, under-scored by Barry’s wicked music- until it gets broken up by a shootout. Bond ends up saving the life of the Gypsy chief, so as a favor Bond gets the chief to break up the fight- Bond will settle the situation himself. He has them both back to his tent, and the girls seem very “friendly” with each other, and they look at Bond like they want to devour him whole. Then we cut to the next morning where one girl is cooking him breakfast, and the other is sowing his shirt. It’s strongly suggested that Bond nailed both of ‘em- which of course, is AWESOME!!!
BEST ONE- LINER: “I’d say one of their aircraft was missing!”- After shooting down a SPECTRE helicopter.
BEST DOUBLE ENTENDRE: Tatiana: (trying on dresses)”I will wear this one in Picadilly!” Bond: “You won’t. They just passed some new laws there.”
BEST GADGET: With the first full fledged appearance of Desmond Llewellyn as Q- we also get the first Bond gadget- a brief case containing a sniper rifle, fifty gold sovereigns, a throwing knife, and tear gas.
RECEPTION: FRWL was an even bigger hit than DR.NO, grossing $72 million internationally, including $24.7 mill in the States- paving the way for the Bond mania that erupted when GOLDFINGER came out the next year.
GRADE: 10/10- FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE is pretty much a flawless Bond film- and a real timeless classic. Is it my favorite? Not quite- it’s definitely one of my top Bonds, but not my absolute favorite.
Previous review: DR. NO