Monday, January 30, 2012
FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE
(October 1963, U.S.)
If DR. NO (1962) was the opportunity for the brand new James Bond film franchise to get its feet wet, then the second one, FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE, was the film that solidified many of the Bond elements and standards we've come to love and expect, including the pre-title opening white circle accompanied with the traditional opening theme, percussive themed "007" action music by John Barry, "Q" branch equipment as well as the characters of "Q" himself and Ernst Stavro Blofeld (identified only as "Number #1 here). This film is also one of the few (aside from QUANTUM OF SOLACE) that serves mildly as a direct sequel from its preceeding film. Listen carefully for the mention of Dr. No's name, Bond's previous trip to Jamacia and a very brief return of Sylvia Trench's character.
Although a lot more low key than many "high octane" Bond films, FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE is based on the 1957 novel of the same name by Ian Fleming. In this story, Bond is sent to assist in the defection of Soviet consulate clerk Tatiana Romanova (played by Daniela Bianchi) in Turkey, where SPECTRE plans to avenge Bond's killing of Dr. No. Along the way, he must do battle with ex-SMERSH operative and SPECTRE Number #3 Rosa Klebb (played by Lotte Lenya) in a role that, frankly, has come to define the true meaning of "DYKE" in my book (sorry for the very un-PC word there, but just take a look at the character and tell me you don't agree with me. The truth is an ugly and un-PC thing sometimes) and Red Grant, a cunning SPECTRE assassin and one of the most devious enemies Bond has ever faced.
Now speaking of Red Grant, let me get into that character for a moment. Over the course of my childhood in the 1970s and 1980s, I got to know actor Robert Shaw (not personally) a bit in films like THE STING (1973), JAWS (1975), BLACK SUNDAY (1977) and THE DEEP (1977). There is an irresistable intensity and seriousness about him that brings out unforgetable performances in everything he's done. As Grant, though, his dialogue is minimal. In this role, it's his physical presence, his body language and almost creepy silence that makes him a deadly character. Bond history will often cite secondary evil characters as Oddjob (GOLDFINGER) and JAWS (THE SPY WHO LOVED ME and MOONRAKER) as the more memorable ones. But in my book, it's Robert Shaw as Red Grant that gets my vote. As a trademark Bond girl, Daniela Bianchi is beautiful and sexy, but I'm afraid that's about it. Her character is almost pointless except to accompany our hero along the adventure. In other words, she's not the worst Bond girl (Denise Richards still holds that title!), but she's hell and gone from being the best, either.
By the way, the next time I discuss a Bond film, it'll be a double-feature post, so to say. Can you guess what they'll be?
Favorite line or dialogue:
Tatiana Romanova: "The mechanism is...oh James, James...will you make love to me all the time in England?"
James Bond: "Day and night. Go on about the mechanism."