Friday, December 30, 2011

From Russia with Love

Alright, everyone! Here I am again with another 007 adventure. This time, it's Sean Connery's second go-round as James Bond, From Russia with Love.

After the huge success of Dr. No, a sequel was inevitable. From Russia with Love, again directed by Terence Young, builds upon the success of its predecessor, and establishes the template for what we've all come to know and love as a James Bond film.

For the first time, we get the opening sequence of sexy ladies gyrating over the cast and crew credits, projected upon their bodies. For the first time, we get a title song for the movie, in addition to the famous Bond theme. We also get our first ever gadget tutorial from Q, and a further glimpse of Bond's archfoes, the shadowy criminal organization SPECTRE.

This time around, SPECTRE is out for revenge on Bond, after killing their agent, Dr. No and foiling their scheme in the process. They send an assassin named Grant (Robert Shaw) after him, and set him up with Tatiana Romanova (Daniela Bianchi), a Russian clerk that has no idea who she's in bed with (figuratively speaking. Literally speaking, she's in bed with Bond). The majority of the action is set in Istanbul this time around.

Bond is more clever with the one liners than he was in Dr. No. The sexual suggestiveness is played way up. I mean, this movie is DIRTY. I always knew the Bond films had this stuff in them, but I guess I had never seen one where it was pushed to this extent. I grew up on the cleaned up, neutered Pierce Brosnan 007 films.

The villains become a little more arch this time around, but only a little. It's not like Dr. No was a paragon of subtlety. Robert Shaw is one of the better nemeses in a Bond film as SPECTRE assassin Grant. And Number 3 is pretty memorable too, with the blade that pops out of the tip of her boot.

Whereas in the first film, Bond was a pretty low-tech spy, this time around, he gets some gadgets from Q, including a trick briefcase. They're still not at the heights of implausibility that they eventually reach. I believe I remember him unfolding a briefcase into a helicopter in a later one.

One thing I noticed in From Russia with Love is product placement, something we've all come to expect in a James Bond movie. There may have been some in Dr. No, but I wasn't on the lookout for it at the time. Eveready batteries must have paid top dollar for some screen time in this movie.

Though I preferred the less gimmicky, more gritty feel of Dr. No, From Russia with Love is just as good. It expands and solidifies the Bond universe and utilizes its increased budget by adding some grander set pieces and action sequences. I was actually surprised that it was a direct continuation of Dr. No. The later James Bond movies have little to no continuity from one to the next, which I think is a shame. At the end of the movie is the promise of a third, surely already in production at the time of this one's release.

James Moore will return soon with his review of GOLDFINGER.

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