johnlink ranks FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE (1963)

My history with Bond is, in no way, chronological. I’ve seen a majority of them, I’ve seen films from each Bond (except the one Lazenby flick), with my favorite Bonds being Connery and Craig. FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE is one of those titles I had yet to visit.

I watched FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE (1963) on 10.7.12. It was my first viewing of the film.

This film came second in the series, and (much like the first) it is an oddity in the larger Bond canon since the franchise had yet to establish its clichés. The concept of the Bond gadget is introduced here, with a single multi-purpose briefcase being the object. It is a modest first concept, and simpler than the fun-car Bond is equipped with in third film, GOLDFINGER.

While there is no denying the attraction of Connery as Bond, FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE is certainly not the best of that era. The film moves along with the speed and development of a film which knows it is going to get plenty of sequels. Much time is spent meandering in silliness, most notably a fight between two girls in a gypsy camp. All this would be fine if it somehow enhanced this film, or enhanced the aura of Bond as a character. Instead, it’s just an excuse to get two scantily clad women to have a catfight. Not that I am against scantily clad women, but these films are usually much more creative in introducing them.

The plot of this film has the evil SPECTRE organization creating a trap for Bond to fall into as he chases a decoding machine. Bond knows it is a trap, but plows in regardless. There are levels of villains, with the SPECTRE folks being at the top, but a blonde Robert Shaw (JAWS) plays the major opposition in Grant.

Usually, when the villain babbles about the plan it comes from a place of ego. Goldfinger giving his rundown of his plan before killing everyone is a prime example. He had all this stuff built, so he had to show it off. Even if it is to a bunch of people about to die. But in RUSSIA, Grant seems more akin to the assassins of the BOURNE films, so the idea of him spilling the entire plan to Bond feels unsophisticated and out-of-place. It is too bad, really, because Grant was a heck of an enemy until he stopped to explain himself.

The fights, here, are surprisingly few and far between. However, the last battle between Bond and Grant is astonishingly well created (even if the set-up with Grant telling Bond everything is lame), especially considering the pedestrian fight choreography which proceeded this film in DR. NO. There are also nice surprises in each of the film’s last few scenes. Really, the third act is nicely done, even if the first two don’t pack the same punch.

Seeing this film for the first time didn’t give me the joy some other Connery/Bond movies did, I am sad to say. While FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE is certainly not a bad movie, or a weak entry, it is certainly stuck between being its own film and trying to establish the Bond way. It is a movie stuck both chronologically and idealistically between DR. NO and GOLDFINGER.

SCORES

FILM: 4; MOVIE: 7; ACTING: 5; WRITING: 4

4+7+5+4+0=20

FINAL SCORE: 5

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~ by johnlink00 on October 7, 2012.

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