Bonding with Bond, Day 2: From Russia With Love

Community Manager Ryan Fujitani is watching all of the James Bond films in order.

Welcome to the second day of this immense undertaking. I watched From Russia With Love last night and gleaned even more insight into the Bond universe.


From Russia With Love

I had certain expectations for From Russia With Love, but I found that they were turned a bit upside down. It was solid and pretty well done, but I have to confess that when I finished the film, I found myself thinking, "Gee, that was kind of, well, boring." That's right, I said it: boring. Was it a better made film than Dr. No? I'd say so, yes. Was it as much fun to watch as Dr. No? Not for me, really. While you're chewing on that, let me offer you some thoughts to help you digest.

Connery nailed the role again, but like much of the film, he felt somewhat subdued to me. Where were the random displays of flair from the first movie, like the suave twirl he did when he stood up from Miss Moneypenny's desk and entered M's office for the first time? Where was the goofy sidekick a la Quarrel, the over-the-top villain, the extras with bad aim and even worse accents? And what of the classic "Bond. James Bond?" Maybe my preconceptions simply clouded my judgment, and I'm coming at the Bond franchise all wrong. I also don't want to sound like I didn't enjoy From Russia With Love, because I did; just not as much as Dr. No. Having said all that, let's get to the fun stuff.

Blofeld There were a number of interesting things to note. First off was the unexpected introduction of Blofeld, the other Bond villain I'm told Dr. Evil is based upon. You never actually hear his name spoken, nor do you see his face, but there he is in the end credits, played by a gentleman named "?". Like Prince. Then there was young, barrel-chested Robert Shaw as Red Grant, a rival superspy with Bond in his sights and Bond's true nemesis in the film. He was a great villain, smart, strong, and unflinching, but because of Blofeld's mysterious presence, I failed to realize Bond's fight with Grant was the climactic one-on-one battle.

Moving on, when Bond appears for the first time, he's sharing a picnic with none other than Sylvia Trench, the same saucy dame from the casino in Dr. No! Bond is quickly called away for duty, but indulges in a farewell shag with Sylvia - again - before leaving her to save the world. I'm sensing a pattern here, and I won't be surprised if Sylvia randomly appears throughout the franchise to help remind us that Bond's got pros in all area codes.

Tatiana Romanova The film's main sexpot, however, is Tatiana Romanova, a Russian agent who falls prey to Bond's charms. She was pretty in a Cybill Shepherd sort of way, but I personally didn't think she held a candle to Honey Ryder, nor did she have as cool a name. I also couldn't tell whether she was only pretending to love Bond or actually in love with him; the latter, of course, turns out to be the case. Furthermore, consider that Bond winds up in an implied threesome with two gypsy women after a gratuitous catfight over another man, and I think it's safe to say no woman is off limits for 007.

I liked From Russia With Love, but I think the impossibly debonair Bond of the first film lost just a little bit of his luster here, in favor of a stronger plot and more interesting characters. Maybe I was just shell shocked to discover not all of the early Bond films were entirely campy and ridiculous. I imagine if I'd seen it back in '63, before all these plotlines and archetypes had time to impregnate the imaginations of aspiring copycat screenwriters, I might have turned in a CIA application the very next day.

My favorite line: "I'd like to see her in the Flesh."

My favorite moment: The gratuitous gypsy catfight, for various reasons.


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Comments

IMAmoose24

Eric Schulze

Well, I can understand why you wouldn't like it as much as Dr. NO. Clearly, your in it for the campiness right now, and they're is nothing wrong with that. Your gonna get your fill throughout the next couple days. Just wait until you get to Octopussy! Campiness GALORE!

Speaking of Galore, have fun with little ***** in Goldfinger, which I, as many do, consider to be my favorite of the bond movies.

Oct 22 - 06:58 PM

IMAmoose24

Eric Schulze

Wow, not allowed to type p****. What has America come to?

Oct 22 - 07:00 PM

inactive user

Jared King

Can't type it! She's has my favorite Bond girl name! Awesome movies!

Oct 22 - 07:02 PM

rt-ryan

Ryan Fujitani

Thanks, IMAmoose24. I wouldn't say I'm necessarily "in it" for the campiness, but I think I was definitely expecting it. From Russia With Love wasn't without its bizarre moments, like pretty much the entire gypsy camp scene, but overall it did feel more serious to me, which I wasn't quite prepared for. Like I said, it was still enjoyable, but after the surprising delight I experienced with Dr. No, I was hoping for a little more of the same, I suppose. Looking forward to Goldfinger, which I'll be watching as soon as I jump outta the office here.

And thanks for the heads-up on the asteriskification of *****.

Oct 22 - 07:19 PM

vader_of_vjun

Timothy Maddocks

Interesting that you liked FRWL less. One of the main reasons it is so highly regarded is that it lacks the token goofyness of most other Bonds, I suppose. The reason I personally would rank it so highly is because it's just an excellent, well paced spy thriller...with the emphasis on "spy."

Still, Goldfinger is more in the vein of Dr. No, I suppose, from a certain point of view. The goofyness is there, that's for sure.

Oct 22 - 09:18 PM

inactive user

Jared King

"Bond. Bond with your kids. I'm James Bond I approve this message."

His campaigne commericial.

Funny right! No, maybe.

Oct 22 - 10:24 PM

Shawndorman

Shawn Eastridge

Definitely agree. From Russia with Love is classic, but it is a tad bit slow at times. Of the two, I prefer Dr. No as well. You're in for a treat with Goldfinger...it's quintessential classic Bond at his best.

Oct 22 - 11:17 PM

Timothy Michael Makepeace

Tim Makepeace

Funny you see the pattern with Sylvia Trench. She was orginally supposed to be a recurring character in the series, even make an appearance in Goldfinger, the next film. But because the director of the first two, Terence Young, left pre-production for Goldfinger, her character was dropped.

Oct 23 - 01:28 AM

BigPopper

Benjamin Wright

As you continue your discovery of the Bond films don't let your expectations be set by the cliches that are repeated in more recent films. These first movies were based more on Ian Flemings novels and less on franchise expectations. There is an evolution to the films. The evolutions within the films changed the way Hollywood made movies and set the image that the world now has for James Bond and the super spy genre. Some of the movies are better than others. Some of the details not evident while watching the movie the first time gave me a greater appreciation for it. This was Pedro Armendariz's (Ali Kerim Bey) final performance. He performed some of his scenes in a great deal of pain and was undergoing treatment but refused to leave his role unfinished. The scene when Rosa Klebb is called to meet #1 in his office had to be reshot after the set had already been torn down. The result was something the visual effects and cinematography teams and Lotte Lenya could be proud of. The fight scene in the train was the first close quarters fight of its kind and one of the more challenging pieces to create. These films are now dated but I have gained a greater appreciation as I have learned more about the challenges inherent in creating them.

Oct 23 - 04:33 AM

megladon8

Braden A.

Er...I already did this.

And it was even called "Bonding With Bond".

Oct 23 - 04:54 AM

Wooley

Logan Emory

Well, to be honest, I sort of agree.
While RUSSIA was always my mother's favorite, and has the reputation of perhaps being the best in the series, it is a little dry.
It seems more like a John LeCarre spyer than a Fleming.
That said, I also agree that it is a better FILM than most Bonds, just a little slow for what we've all come to expect.

Oct 23 - 07:10 AM

buckeyes1186

Adam Specht

You'll grow to appreciate From Russia with Love, I promise you. Once you've seen the rest of the films and gotten the opportunity to see FRWL again, I'm confident you'll realize how amazing it is. No Bond film has done a better job than FRWL at capturing the essence of Ian Fleming, although Casino Royale and On Her Majesty's Secret Service come very close. It's Connery's favorite, and Michael G. Wilson has basically acknowledged it as the gold standard of Bond films. As he humorously put it, "We always start out trying to make another From Russia with Love and end up with another Thunderball."

Well, I'm sure you'll love Goldfinger. Personally, I think it's the most overrated film in the series, but still very good. However, don't expect all of Guy Hamilton's Bond films to be as good as Goldfinger. His other three are garbage.

Oct 23 - 10:12 AM

martinscorsese25

christopher cantos

dude, though for me this is the best bond along with Casino Royale, Connery's favorite is Thunderball!

Oct 26 - 05:44 PM

rt-ryan

Ryan Fujitani

Makeshift Python,
No kidding. Yeah, I could've seen Sylvia in a recurring role, but that would have certainly been a bit silly, and I can understand why they opted not to do that.

BigPopper,
That's fascinating! As I watch these, I have been trying to keep in mind that they were the originators of all these cliches (I actually make mention of this in my upcoming Goldfinger writeup), and I'm already seeing the evolution of the films. As I've mentioned before, I'd love to delve deeper into the creation of the Bond mystique, but this project is already taking about 4 hours out of my evenings!

Megladon8,
No kidding... Well that's pretty crazy. Did you post your thoughts somewhere? I'd love to read them and compare reactions...

buckeyes1186,
I'll have to give it a rewatch when this is all over, then. I can certainly see why so many people love From Russia With Love, and maybe my opinion of it will change when I see how it fits within the entire Bond canon.

Oct 23 - 11:29 AM

sunsaz

Chris Moore

This was one of the last Bond films before Casino Royale to really go bare bones on the spy gadgets, and it worked excellently. Not that I have a problem with the gadgets, but they eventually got to be too much of a good thing.

This one easily makes my top 5 Bond movies list. It's just a shame that this film got overshadowed in Bond-history after Goldfinger was such a smash.

Oct 23 - 12:15 PM

inactive user

Jared King

You know my jokes not funny.

Oct 23 - 02:06 PM

jocorotten

Joanna Cohen

I am a big From Russia With Love fan. In fact, for many years my necklace of choice was indeed a velvet ribbon. Goldfinger will always be my favourite though. It is the one I saw first. My first Bond love.

Oct 24 - 01:00 AM

connery007

Alex Gutierrez

daniel craig is extremely difficult to watch and accept as James Bond except for the fight scenes. he does not posses the worldly qualities we have come to knoew Bond for. Please dont force him to wear another tuxedo.
Goldfinger was my favorite and the You only live twice, bond at his grandest and most spectacular,after all that's why we watch isn't it?

Oct 24 - 05:40 AM

buckeyes1186

Adam Specht

Oh, shut up. Daniel Craig is amazing as Bond and if you can't see that, you have no taste. Well, if You Only Live Twice is your favorite Bond film, you definitely have no taste.

Oct 24 - 10:08 AM

buckeyes1186

Adam Specht

Oh, shut up. Daniel Craig is amazing as Bond and if you can't see that, you have no taste. Well, if You Only Live Twice is your favorite Bond film, you definitely have no taste.

Oct 24 - 10:08 AM

Strider

Alvin Kimel

"From Russia with Love" is probably my favorite Bond flick, precisely because it is the least campy of the Bond flicks ("Casino Royale" excepted). I just read the book for the first time this past summer and was delighted to discover that the movie is remarkably faithful to the book.

Sean Connery remains my favorite Bond, particularly the Bond of the first four movies. After "Thunderball" the franchise really started to go downhill. "You Only Live Twice" is just too painful. Every ten years I watch it again in the hopes I will find it to be a better movie. Sadly, it only gets worse. But the first four Bond movies hold up well, I think.

Oct 24 - 08:50 PM

Strider

Alvin Kimel

"From Russia with Love" is probably my favorite Bond flick, precisely because it is the least campy of the Bond flicks ("Casino Royale" excepted). I just read the book for the first time this past summer and was delighted to discover that the movie is remarkably faithful to the book.

Sean Connery remains my favorite Bond, particularly the Bond of the first four movies. After "Thunderball" the franchise really started to go downhill. "You Only Live Twice" is just too painful. Every ten years I watch it again in the hopes I will find it to be a better movie. Sadly, it only gets worse. But the first four Bond movies hold up well, I think.

Oct 24 - 08:52 PM

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