Continuing our weekly series of rewatching every single James Bond movie – which began with Dr. No last week – this time we’re tackling the second entry into the franchise, 1963’s From Russia with Love.
One of the best-reviewed of all the Bond films, Sean Connery is decidedly more confident and comfortable this time around, in a mostly riveting spy romp that has its dated moments and flabby elements, but bolsters the Bond formula far more decisively than its predecessor.
As ever, if you’ve not seen the film in quite some time, a rewatch is sure to prove illuminating within a contemporary context, both in terms of its influence on more recent Bond films, and as representative of the politics of the 1960s.
A classic Bond film that created the template for so many future entries, From Russia with Love is the ludicrously fun – if undeniably flawed – trend-setter that’s (mostly) aged pretty damn well…[/nextpage][nextpage]
11. The Pre-Title Sequence Is One Of The Series’ Weirdest
The Bond movies are typically known for their showy, action-packed pre-title sequences, but Russia with Love served up a subversive set-piece right out of the gate.
The film opens with SPECTRE assassin Donald “Red” Grant (Robert Shaw) and James Bond (Connery) appearing to pursue one another through a hedge maze at night, ending with Red seemingly strangling Bond to death.
As it turns out, however, this was merely a SPECTRE training exercise, and “Bond” was actually a poor goon wearing a Bond mask. By focusing on the villain rather than the hero and giving fans a brief opening shock, it was one hell of a bizarre, expectation-defying way to open the spy sequel.
10. The Villains Are Fantastic
Most Bond movies live and die by the quality of their villains, and From Russia with Love benefits from featuring three of the series’ best and most iconic baddies to date.
For starters, there’s SPECTRE’s Number 3, Rosa Klebb (Lotte Lenya), the scheming Chief of Operations who largely pulls strings from afar until getting her hands dirty in the movie’s final showdown (and paying the price for it).
And finally, there’s Ernst Stavro Blofeld, who appears only briefly in voiceover form. However, there’s an eerie effectiveness to his few scenes as he presides over the SPECTRE agents, calling the shots and setting up his future involvement as Bond’s most iconic adversary.
It’s easy to take these villains for granted given how many subsequent Bond films have attempted to replicate their success, but they’re quintessential Bond antagonists at their most intimidating, mysterious and thrilling.[/nextpage][nextpage]
9. Matt Monro’s Title Song Doesn’t Play Over The Titles…For Some Reason
If you haven’t seen From Russia with Love in some time, you’ll probably safely assume that Matt Monro’s iconic, Frank Sinatra-esque title song plays over the opening title sequence, but surprisingly, that’s not the case at all.
Even though it’s a Bond staple to have the title song accompany the title sequence, here John Barry’s orchestral score is instead featured, while Monro’s terrific tune is played briefly later in the movie and gets its most prominent showing in the film’s end credits.
While some of the earlier Bond songs sound a little goofy to modern ears, Monro’s is a smooth, agreeably old-school classic that probably should’ve been given a more fitting place in the movie.[/nextpage][nextpage]
8. It’s Heavily Influenced By North By Northwest
Alfred Hitchcock’s classic suspense thriller North by Northwest was released in 1959, just three years before Bond’s first movie hit screens, and so it’s not terribly surprising that director Terence Young attempted to spice this early Bond romp with a sprinkle of Hitchcockian flavour. If you’re going to shamelessly “borrow” from another filmmaker, you may as well steal from the best, right?
There are two scenes that especially recall Hitchcock’s thriller: the lengthy set-piece on the Orient Express (but more on that later), and far more blatantly, the third-act sequence in which Bond battles a helicopter. As Bond desperately flees from the vehicle, it’s hard not to recall the iconic crop-duster attack from North by Northwest.
This is especially interesting as Hitchcock was in fact an early contender to direct From Russia with Love long before Dr. No was even filmed – with Cary Grant and Grace Kelly set to play Bond and Tatiana Romanova respectively – but after Vertigo bombed at the box office, those plans were nixed.
Fans will surely argue on where the line between playful homage and straight-up cribbing lies, but the similarities are undeniably intentional.
(Excerpt) Read More at: WhatCulture.com[/nextpage]