The James Bond series was a monumental series for me growing up and, as I planned on featuring one of the 20+ films in the series as a Key Movie, I just couldn’t choose. So, Since this is the start of a new year I thought I would try something out a little different with my weekly classic Movie review, I am going to review each and every Bond film continuing with today’s entry ‘From Russia With Love’.
Welcome to Key Movies of My Life ‘James Bond Edition’.
Today’s Key Movie:
Setup as a direct sequel to Dr. No, SPECTRE has put a bounty on the head of James Bond for killing their agent Dr. No and disrupting their operation in the Caribbean. Bond is pursued by the menacing Donald ‘Red’ Grant, played by Robert Shaw. Traversing London, Istanbul (not Constantinople), and even Venice, this globe trotting adventure continues Sean Connery’s run as Special Agent James Bond.
Why this movie?
I am not sure when I first watched this particular film but I do remember loving it from the start. From Russia With Love is one of the first films of it’s kind where it was a direct sequel to the previous and depicted direct consequences from the last entry. It was also the very first to really establish the deeper currents of the agency known as SPECTRE. As I was exposed to the Bond films at a young age, this one came across as one that really had more action and, surprisingly, more depth than the first entry. It firmly establishes the villains of the franchise with seriously threatening characters to our hero with actual layers of espionage throughout.
Okay, you like this film, but is it really a ‘good film’?
I particularly love this film as it established many of the classic tropes still used to this day. From code phrases intended to establish identity to the gadgets issued by ‘Q’ Branch, this is a film that dives deep into the realm of agents and counter agents yet being careful to play up the fantasy and not the mundane reality of real espionage. We all know that an agent like James Bond would have been killed outright almost immediately in real life but his bravado makes for a much more interesting story telling device. Bond is so good that he can practically flaunt his existence and still be the world’s most effective special agent.
For the first time we have a real challenge for our hero in the form of ‘Red’ Grant. Grant hunts Bond down throughout the film and soon proved himself to be a real threat to our hero. We also get a chance to see deeper into the organization known as SPECTRE led by Ernst Stavro Blofeld known in this film only as Number One. Blofeld will come back to challenge bond many times over and really establishes himself as a major threat to Bond and MI6. This film also marks the first appearance of Desmond Llewellyn as ‘Q’ and we would see him in every official Bond film for the next 30 years.
The film itself is extremely well paced and astonishingly well acted. This is a blockbuster film through and through and holds up to many of our modern films in terms of pace, cinematography and casting. The cast is well rounded with the incomparable Robert Shaw as the Villain ‘Grant’ but most outstanding is Pedro Armendariz as Kerim Bey. Playing the role of Bond’s contact in Istanbul, Pedro plays his role extremely well in that he is a completely believable ally for Bond. Another standout is Daniela Bianchi who plays the Russian Spy Tatiana Romanova.
Tatiana is sent by SMERSH and SPECTRE to pretend to be in love with Bond in order to pass off a device known as the Lektor in order to provide England with false information. While she is a Bond Girl in every sense of the word, Daniela does a fantastic job playing the counter agent to Connery’s Bond. Tatiana would of course eventually really fall in love with our favorite super spy but, of course that is not unexpected, it is a Bond film. While still a little but of a Damsel in Distress, due to her role as a spy, Tatiana can certainly hold her own.
We also meet the notorious Rosa Klebb played by Lotte Lenya. Lotte does an amazing job playing the Russian agent in charge of the operation and comes across as the real threat in this film. Designated as Number 3 by Blofeld, Klebb is certainly a force to be reckoned with.
One fun bit of trivia, there is an iconic helicopter scene near the end of the film that is almost a perfect recreation of a similar scene from Alfred Hitchcock’s famous film North by Northwest. If fact the scene in this film was directly inspired by the Hitchcock scene and included into the story even though it was not in the original novel.
Overall, this is a solid entry in the Bond Franchise and really helps to establish what would be comes staples of the franchise as a whole. While Bond is still a womanizer, (something that will likely never completely change) this is toned down a notch to allow for some real story and character development.
OK, where do I get this movie?
As usual, this is one that can be found pretty much anywhere. You can pick it up on it’s own fairly inexpensively or even as part of an ultimate box set. This is certainly one that you will enjoy as it is really the beginning of the Bond we know and love.
Late To The Game 1/10/2019
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