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Wednesday, 30 June 2010


Sadism for the family.

I quite often think this is the best of the James Bond movies - and in the sense of capturing Fleming's writing it is. Faster paced than Dr No and with a far more assured and stylish performance by Sean Connery. From Russia with Love was the natural choice to follow Dr No - it had an exotic location, several great set pieces and the previous year President Kennedy had listed the book amongst his favourites.

Connery seems far more comfortable in the role and for the most part he retained the hard edge of the earlier film - the scene when he slaps Tatina about is electrifying and caused great controversy at the time and it still effective today. And the fight between Bond and Red Grant (Daniel Craig lookalike Robert Shaw) has, to my mind, never been bettered in any of the Bond movies. You actually think Bond could lose this one, which he very nearly does. The helicopter chase - Bond on foot - towards the end of the film is also thrilling and has the feel of the crop dusting scene from North by Northwest. We also see Q for the first time and the film introduces the use of gadgets. Though the gadgets here were actually in Fleming's novel and are not overused as would be the case in later movies. The film also featured the first real teaser sequence in a Bond movie.

When the film was released the professional critics were then, as now, out of touch with popular taste and the notices were mostly hostile.

'James Bond is not fun. He's just sick.' Nina Hibbin, The Daily Worker.

'Quasi-pornography.' Phillip Oakes, Sunday Telegraph.

The movie also introduced another hallmark of the series - the colourful villainous sidekick. Rosa Klebb here can be found in the DNA of Odd-Job, Jaws, Wint and Kidd and all of the odd baddies throughout the movies.

The currently available DVD, part of the Ultimate Collection series is, as are all in the series, quite excellent. The picture and sound are incredible for a movie of this age and as always the discs are bursting with extra features, including a commentary from director, Terence Young and the cast and crew. There are several documentaries with personal favourites being a CBC interview with Fleming and a look at the relationship between Fleming and Raymond Chandler. There is also the full recording of Ian Fleming on Radio Four's, Desert Island Discs. The Ultimate Collection DVD is a fan's dream.

From Russia with Love then may be the best of the entire series - I often think it is. But without a doubt it is an important entry in the series and was a step towards cementing the formula that would make the series such a success. The film was a massive worldwide hit and would pave the way for the next film which would be an even bigger hit. James Bond would return in Goldfinger.

TRIVIA: The film has more than one connection to President Kennedy who, as stated in the text above, listed the book as a favourite but it was also discovered that Lee Harvey Oswald was also a fan.

Bondian Lines - Bond while looking through a periscope at Tatiana's legs remarks - 'Things are shaping up nicely.'


Scott Parker said...

Always loved this one (and For Your Eyes Only) for a specific reason: it was more real world. No supervillains in hollowed-out volcanos. Just get the lecter and bring it back to the UK. Nothing more, but so, so much more.

Frank Loose said...

Without a doubt, my favorite Bond movie. I echo Scott's take that this Bond is more real-world, and that is why i like it the best. Thanks for the well-written review.