Tuesday, January 27, 2015

From Russia With Love (1963) | Bond

Actors and Allies



Sean Connery is still on top of his game in From Russia With Love. Like in Dr. No, he switches easily between deadly serious and smirkily bemused. That's especially useful in this plot where he begins the mission thinking that it might be a trap, but doesn't fully sense the danger in it. He approaches it like a fun game that gradually becomes more deadly as the real story unfolds and the stakes increase.

An example of this light-hearted attitude about the case takes place in the briefing scene with M. Both men suspect something fishy, but - as SPECTRE has predicted - feel that the Lektor is worth looking into anyway. The sexual nature of the mission (ie Tania's infatuation with Bond being her claimed motivation for defecting) seems to amuse both of them. M's more subtle about it than Bond, but it's still there and Bernard Lee once again proves himself the perfect actor for that role as he balances authority with an appropriate dash of camaraderie.

Desmond Llewelyn joins the series as someone whom M introduces simply as the Equipment Officer from Q-branch. The credits have the character's name as Boothroyd though, so he's clearly playing the same part that Peter Burton played in Dr. No. If Bond holds a grudge for having his beloved Beretta taken from him by Boothroyd in the first film, he's too professional to show it. He listens politely if amusedly to Llewelyn's dry lecture on the fancy attaché case. When he's invited to operate it himself, Bond looks even more amused, but not in a demeaning way. He's a child with a new toy. It's all part of the fun for him, even though he doesn't think he'll need the case for his current assignment. Bond and Boothroyd's relationship isn't at all adversarial yet, but the groundwork has been laid thanks to their very different attitudes about the technology.

Lois Maxwell's Moneypenny is still in a mutually flirtatious and harmless relationship with Bond. Like I said with Dr. No, I've always read their scenes together as her being hopelessly in love with him and his leading her on, but so far that's really not the case. That could change, and I'll keep an eye out, but I really enjoy their mutual teasing and the shared attraction that might would go somewhere if only they didn't have the same boss who commands so much respect from them both.

The final ally I need to talk about is Kerim Bey, played by Pedro Armendáriz. This is another improvement over the book, because the movie leaves out all the rape from Kerim's backstory. Book Kerim is charming, but he's also extremely dark and it's disturbing that Bond is so fond of him. Book Bond is extremely dark as well, but he's not a rapist. Between Kerim and Marc-Ange Draco from On Her Majesty's Secret Service though, he sure is fond of them. Movie Bond and Movie Kerim on the other hand are also kindred spirits, but they're much tamer than their literary versions. They're both letches and enjoy leering at each other around beautiful women, but that's as far as that goes. For the most part, Kerim Bey is a charming, confident, hedonistic old spy and it's easy to see him being exactly what Bond wants to grow into.

Best Quip



Bond really has to work his way up through some awful gags to get to this one, but "She's had her kicks" gets a smile out of me after Klebb fails to stab Bond with her poisoned shoe-knife.

Worst Quip



There are so many awful ones in From Russia With Love from "She should have kept her mouth shut" (referring to the escape hatch in a Marilyn Monroe poster) to "I'd say one of their aircraft is missing" (after a helicopter blows up). The worst though is when Bond sets a bunch of pursuing boats ablaze and grins, "There's a saying in England: Where there's smoke, there's fire."

Gadgets



The best one - and the first real Bond gadget of the series - is the attaché case. It's right out of the novel and feels appropriately fantastic, yet plausible. Bond also uses a tape recorder disguised as a camera though and SMERSH outfits some of its agents with deadly gadgets. Grant uses a garrote-watch and a couple of people use the poisoned shoe-knife.

Top Ten Gadgets

1. Attaché case (From Russia With Love)
2. SPECTRE shoe-knife (From Russia With Love)
3. Camera-tape recorder; mostly because it reminds me of a camera my dad used to use (From Russia With Love)
4. Grant's garrote-watch (From Russia With Love)
5. TBD
6. TBD
7. TBD
8. TBD
9. TBD
10. TBD

Bond's Best Outfit 



Bond's well-dressed in general in this movie, but I'm partial to gray suits, so I'll give the Best Outfit prize to this one.

Bond's Worst Outfit



Again, there's not really a horrible outfit in the whole movie, but pin-stripes don't do it for me, so this number will take the "honor" by default.
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