After the events of Dr. No, which resulted in the death of the title character, SPECTRE (led by Ernst Stavro Blofeld) looks to get revenge for their fallen comrade. But before they do, they plan on utilizing Bond to get their hands on a Soviet cryptographic device called Lektor. After Bond gets his hand on the device, they will finalize their revenge, killing their enemy and gaining the power device.
Bond, James Bond:
Sean Connery back for round two of his six official appearances (Never Say Never Again being a non-canonical appearance). Again, Connery is showing why he is most people’s default Bond; not only did he start the role, but he truly inhabits the suave super spy. I’m not here to defend Bond’s womanizing, because it is an unfortunate product of the time, that has mostly died out (?) in the films, but you can see why Bond would be popular. He’s good looking dude who can rock a suit. And when he gets called into action, he’s quick and smart. He has a fun sense of humor. One of my favorite moments in this movie is when James is waiting for a bomb to go off, and he has to keep asking someone if the clocks are right. When the bomb finally goes off, he has this little smile on his face, and it’s such a satisfying little moment. He’s everything you want a spy to be.
An unfortunate moment is that Bond unnecessary strikes a woman in this movie. I understand that she is lying and that she could have information that could potentially mean life or death for Bond, but she poses no threat to him. It’s a frustrating moment that is not helped by Connery’s own opinions on slapping women. (Here’s a Barbara Walters interview with him.) I understand that this is the 60s and that the film and Connery himself are products of the time, but that doesn’t mean I have to like those things.
“From Russia With Love,” which during the credits is instrumental, but a version with lyrics sung by Matt Monro plays during the end credits (and technically, briefly on a radio, for some reason), so I’ll use that as my reference point. This song is fine. It’s pleasant sounding, if not particularly memorable. When I ranked these songs, I put this one at 16 of 24, which is obviously closer to the bottom than the top, but the difference in quality from 16 to 1 is smaller than the difference in quality from 16 to 21. If that makes sense. It does in my head. Moving on.
So this one is a bit odd. I think, technically, Red Grant (the late Robert Shaw, who is Quint in Jaws), is a henchman to Number 1/Blofeld, but I’m going to treat him as the main villain because he is the main nemesis James deals with in this movie. But before I discuss the wonder of Grant, I will briefly discuss Blofeld, because he’s Blofeld. This is our first introduction to the classic Bond nemesis/head of SPECTRE, and we do not see much of him, in almost every sense of the word. We only ever really see his torso and lap (which belongs to actor Anthony Dawson, although the voice belongs to Eric Pohlmann), and he pets his cat, but he still makes an impression. He’s very mysterious, but also imposing. You understand this imposing power through Lotte Lenya’s hesitant and fearful performance as Rosa Klebb and Vladek Sheybal’s cocky performance as Kronsteen. It is a little odd that neither Dawson nor Pohlmann get any kind of credit in the film, as the end credits state that Blofeld is played by ?. The 60s were weird.
But anyways, Red Grant. Robert Shaw is so good in this movie. He’s so built that you start to feel fear just looking at him (we basically meet the guy by watching him get punched with brass knuckles, during which he does not even flinch). At one point, he basically just karate chops a dude to death. When I try to karate chop things, I end up hurting my hand, and he just ended this dude like it was nothing. He’s always just a few steps away from James, and even saves his life at one point, just to make sure that Bond is able to get the encryption device before he dies. The first time the characters officially interact, Grant is disguised as an ally of James’ and we get to watch Bond be just a couple steps behind in a couple of really fun and tense scenes. We also get a much more satisfying final confrontation than Dr. No provided, with a wonderfully tense fight scene taking place in a singular train compartment. The choice to not utilize a score, and having the only sound be the train’s movement and the blows that these two men land on each other makes the scene and fight so much more effective. The rest of the movie could have been absolute nonsense, and Shaw’s performance, and Grant’s imposing nature, would have made this movie better than Dr. No.
Eunice Grayson returns briefly as Sylvia Trench, and she leaves even less of an impression than she did in the first movie. And her appearance makes me wonder, did Sylvia know about the boat tryst with Honey Ryder? Is she just chill with James sleeping around on these missions? Does she know he’s a spy? Why is she even in this movie?
Briefly mentioned above, Rosa Klebb is the female villain/henchwoman of the film. She is mostly there as a go-between for Blofeld/SPECTRE and Tatiana, the true Bond girl, which allows the plot to really get going. She doesn’t have a lot to do, but she is effective in her scenes. She plays the fear well in her scenes with Blofeld, and is able to be imposing herself in the scene with Tatiana. Her final confrontation with Bond is more than a little anti-climatic since most of it is her trying to kick him with a poisoned spike while she’s pinned to the wall by a chair. It’s kind of silly, but I got the train fight, so I’m not really going to complain here.
Our main bond girl is Tatiana Romanova, played by Daniela Bianchi, and voiced by Barbara Jefford. Her main role in this movie is to have sex with James. Yes, it’s all part of some grand scheme with SPECTRE, but her role in that scheme is to look pretty and have sex with James. That’s it. Bianchi doesn’t seem to be a bad actress, but I don’t think I’m going to remember her or this character in the long run of this series. I don’t have much else to say.
Again, I think Red Grant is technically a henchman, plus I’m not going to miss an opportunity to bring him up again. Seriously, I with the James Bond franchise was just Quarrel from the first movie and Red Grant somehow being allies and just going on missions together.
Ali Kerim Bey, played by Pedro Armendáriz, is James’ main buddy in this movie. He’s a fine sidekick and is actually very helpful to James, which I guess is technically a step up from Quarrel and Felix from the first movie (but Quarrel is still cooler because Kerim Bey did not call a singular person “Captain.”) But for real, I like this character a lot. He has a wonderful and stupidly cool way of handling a sudden siege of gunfire, by literally just sitting in his chair until he gets shot in the arm. He doesn’t bother to even take cover, just starts shooting from his relaxing chair. He’s also very much focused on his work, again to somewhat humorous results. His mistress is begging him to come to bed and he’d rather just do his work, but she eventually annoys him to the point that he goes to her, and you can almost hear his eyes rolling as he has to go to bed with a beautiful woman. I might not remember him as much as Quarrel by the end of the series, but he is a very likable buddy for James.
Bernard Lee and Lois Maxwell are back as M and Miss Moneypenny. Again, not a whole lot going on, but they both get fun moments in this one. Lee leaps to cut off a recording that James sent them so that Moneypenny won’t hear the tale of some escapade and then turns it back on as soon as she leaves, only for her to turn it back on at her desk. I hope that these characters get more to do in the next several movies, but, as it stands they are at least getting memorable moments.
Desmond Llewelyn makes his first appearance as the Quartermaster, named simply Q. Llewelyn is in 17 of these movies and, again, you can see why he sticks around. He presents James the first real gadget of the franchise, which I will discuss a bit below, and has a wonderful delivery while discussing it. My favorite moment is when he discusses how if the briefcase is not opened correctly, “the cartridge will explode. In your face.” It’s such a small pause but it allows for a wonderful little bit of humor.
We get a couple here. The second one is a camera/recording device that we never see James get, nor does he use it in a very spy way. He just has Tatiana knowingly provide him the information he can send to MI6.
The first is a briefcase, that I just call a swiss army briefcase. It hides ammunition, a knife, fifty gold sovereigns and a tear gas cartridge that I discuss above. The cartridge will explode (in your face) if the briefcase is opened normally. It’s wonderfully simple little gadget (that technically stretches the definition of “gadget”), but it seems like an appropriate one to open this world to gadgets.
Miscellaneous Spy Business:
-This movie is the first time I have heard about SMERSH, which was apparently a real organization in the Soviet Union. It’s a stupid name, and every time I heard them say SMERSH, I laughed. I don’t think that’s the goal of SMERSH, but that was the end result of SMERSH. SMERSH is fun to say, even in my head. SMERSH.
-Kerim Bey just stocks his organization with his children. It’s Nepotism City.
-I complained about the editing and pacing of the first movie. That is not an issue here, and this only came out one year later. It’s amazing.
-Before James has sex with Tatiana, he turns on a bath. I’m not convinced he turned it off. As far as I’m concerned, everyone in that room drowned and the rest of the movie is just Purgatory. Like the last season of Lost (the characters and the audience, am I right?!)
I like the last season of Lost.
-When Kerim dies, a train employee says that there has been an accident, and then says that two people killed each other. Doesn’t seem super accidental, but you do you, man.
-Red Grant calls James “Old Man” so many times in this movie, and it really seems to annoy James, because he mockingly calls Grant “Old Man” after he dispatches him. It’s just so funny to watch James fight a dude to the death, and he’s mostly annoyed that he got called Old.
–Here is the James Bonding episode for this movie. Also, they are coming back in August, get excited, everyone!
Ratings: 0010. Like I said in my reviews for non James Bond movies, I don’t love giving ratings for movies because I never really know how they’ll actually compare in the long run, but these movies just beg for number scores. And this movie is awesome. I’m hoping I don’t overload this series with tens, but I really feel like this movie deserves it. Outside of a forgettable main Bond girl, this movie gets just about everything right. And I get Goldfinger next. Basically, it’s good to be me, is what I’m saying.
TJ Hizer Will Return With: Goldfinger
Photo Credits: Header: http://movieguy247.com/iMovies/index.php/reviews/james-bond-movies/195-from-russia-with-love Bond Smirking: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MT1YiBu7Gec Red Grant Lurking: http://www.007james.com/characters/red_grant.php Research: Film's Wikipedia Page: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/From_Russia_with_Love_(film) The Wikipedia Page for Q: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Q_(James_Bond)