Another blog-a-long… not sure this will happen for all of the 007 movies, they may turn into just notes as I am watching the movie (especially during the Lazenby error -word chosen specifically) – but, for now, we’ll see how this goes.
#2 – From Russia with Love – 1963 – Directed by Terence Young
MGM Lion – Immediately into the classic theme & bond shooting into the screen amidst a camera lens intro bleeding red… Did Dr. No have that? I can’t even remember.
Bond scampering in a well-sculpted garden complete with statues. There is someone either following or on patrol. The guard, steps on a branch alerting Bond to his prescence. The guard is a blond Eurpoean looking guy. Bond fires a shot no where near the him. Is Bond following or looking? The blonde gets the jump on Bond and begins to strangle & kill him. Lights come on the back of a large mansion with lots of people looking on. According to a boss man, it took “exactly 1 minute 56 seconds” to find and kill Bond. The boss felt that was “excellent,” and then leans down and pulls a mask off of the dead fellow, revealing that it was a training exercise. Clearly, they are looking to kill Bond. And, this European is meant to be the assassin.
Cut to this movies theme song… which is pretty much an elongated version of the true Bond theme. Still no pop stars submitting a theme song.
After the title sequence, we are presented with a chess match. It is clearly a championship of masters. There are many spectators and a large board indicating the pieces position on the board. One of the players is presented with a glass of water. Underneath, is a note that says “Your presence is required immediately.” The next move he makes, is for check mate.
You then see him on a ship. Elsewhere, on the ship. A man stroking his white cat and talking about Saimese fighting fish. Talking about how some of the breed wait for the fighters to fight it out. Once the surviovor is too exhausted he, like SPECTRE, attacks. It is revealed that the chess player, and a manly looking Russian woman are agents of SPECTRE. (Like Dr. No was the inspiration for Dr. Evil in Austin Powers, this woman is clearly the inspiration for Frau Farbissina in the same films.) The man stroking the cat is referred to as #1, the girl is #3, and the chess player is #5. They are setting a trap for the British Intellegence Association in an effort to kill James Bond in retalliation for the killing of Dr. No. The bait is a cryptography cypher.
Back to the Mansion. Blonde European completely reminds me of Rocky from the Rocky Horror Picture Show. (As a result, he will henseforth be called Rocky. His character is really named Donald Grant.) A beautiful woman, strips into her underwear (amazingly POINTY bra!), she kneels down to apply sunscreen to his back. #3 has arrived by helicopter and is looking for Rocky. They have a significant training area that they walk through. She finds him. He stands and presents himself, wrapped only in a towel. She walks around him inspecting him. Slips on brass knuckles, slugs him in the stomach, and deems him “fit enough.” She wants him to meet her in Istanbul.
Cut to (presumably Istanbul), a pretty blonde woman is navigating some alleyways looking for an address. She finds the address & Rocky is seen observing her. She knocks on the door and #3 answers. The pretty bonde introduces herself as from something security & her name is Tatiana Romanova. #3 asks if she knows who she is & is identified as Cournal Klebb head of Operations. Klebb tells her to take off her jacket & inspects her. There is some palpable lesbian tension as she tells her she is very good looking. Romanova is being assigned to give false information to the enemy. Asks her if she is willing to sleep with men that she is not in love with. Shows her a picture and says she must do whatever that man says. Threatens her with death if she fails. The duty is clearly to sleep with the man in the photo. The man is not revealed…
Scene cuts to Bond making out with a woman in a small row boat. He gets a page and has to make a phone call. (Mind you, it is 1963!) Walks to his car & the woman is beligerent. Whining that she hasn’t eaten yet. It is Moneypenny saying that M has been looking for him all day. He says he will be in 30 mins. The whining woman, Sylvia, gets annoyed and grabs the phone saying no he will not, that the last time he went into the office, he ended up going to Jamaica and that she hasn’t seen him in 6 months. (OH! This is the same woman Bond introduced himself to in Dr. No – with the first ever, “Bond. James Bond.”) Bond tells Moneypenny to “Make it an hour and a half.” He then begins to raise the canopy on the convertible so he can shag her in the car. Classic.
As he & M walk into M’s office, you hear Bond saying “But, I’ve never even heard of a Tatiana Romanova.” M & he joke that she has fallen in love from a photo. They know it is a trap, and the bait is a cypher machine called a “Lector.” Tatiana supposedly has it, and is willing to turn it over to the British Intellgenece on the condition that Bond goes to Istanbul and brings it & her back to England safely. Classic exchange – James: “But, what if when she meets me in the flesh, I don’t rise up to expecations?” M: “Hmmm… Just see that you do.” They call for Q to bring in the booby trapped briefcase that they are now issuing to all agents.
The first ever exchange between James & Moneypenny (despite them referencing their banter in Dr. No). She talks about having tried everything to get Bond. He tells her he never even looks at other women. He then signs the photo of Tatiana – “From Russia, with Love” & gives it to Moneypenny. Airport scene. Bond & driver have an exchange about lighters that is clearly pre-arranged to identify as the proper contacts. Just like the last movie, there is a seedy looking guy watching Bond and the exchange. Seedy guy gets into a car with a Middle Eastern looking guy. Rocky is in another car outside the airport watching both Bond, and his trailer. Bond notices the tailing car. The chauffeur says they are Balkans and they each spy on each other and make no bones about hiding that fact.
They arrive at a busy marketplace looking kind of place. They find a secret door and are introduced to a sharp dressed man, Kerim Bey, who was clearly just busy with a woman. They acknowledge that in the Balkans things are done differently & they make it easy for the Russians and each other to keep tabs on each other. He says that all of his key employees are his sons. The man says that this is a wild goose chase. Tells Bond he should spend a couple of pleasant days in Istanbul and then “go home.” Kerim doesn’t seem to be telling the whole truth, to me.
Cut to Rocky still following Bond. There is a man, not sure who, tied up in the back of his car. Bond checks into his hotel. Inspects his well appointed room while his theme song plays. Finds a bug behind the painting on the wall by the bed and in the phone. He wants a new room. He knows the hotel is in on the bugging. He agrees to evaluate the bridal suite.
Rocky pulls up to the Russian embassy. Leaves the vehicle and a guard finds the man in the back of the car. He is dead. He gets in another car that has Klebb in the back seat. She says “Good work. Who else can the Russians suspect besides the British.” I think it may have been the driver of Bond’s original tail. Not sure, but it’s also not really significant.
Cut back to Kerim’s room. He has a pretty woman whining that she wants sex. He reluctantly (because he was previously reading/working) embraces her and a bomb explodes outside of his room. Later, Bond shows up on scene. Kerim believes it is the Russians that tried to kill him. They go down to some water filled tunnels beneath the city. It used to be a reservoir “built by Constantine 1600 years ago.” They boat over to a place underneath the Russian consulate. They are using a periscope provided by the British navy, & secretly installed, to spy on a meeting room in the Russian consulate. There are quite a few men at the table. One is an assasin (Kolenko) that Kerim tells Bond to remember because he kills for pleasure. Then they see Tatiana’s legs. Bond admits he’d like to “see her in the flesh.” With a very horny sounding “Yesssssss” for punctuation.
Kerim tells Bond he will set him up with some gypsy friends tonight because it will be safer than the hotel. He says that they had a car setup as a decoy with a couple of dummies in the back going the opposite way. But, upon arrival at the gypsy place, someone radios Kolenko, and a truck with armed men takes off. A hell of a sexy belly dancing scene is being observed gleefully by Bond. Meanwhile, the truck arrives and kills a guard. Rocky is also waiting in the wings. There are two girls who are fighting over the same men. The girls are going to fight. And the elders will decide who the victor is and who gets to marry the chief’s son. Good girl fight = sexy women in low cut tight blouses, & hiked up skirts so they are basically in panties, of course. Just as the fight gets good, Kolenko and his men show up firing. Kerim is shot in the arm by Kolenko in the firefight. Rocky takes position and waits. Bond is looking for Kolenko & saves the gypsy chief’s life. Rocky shoots a Russian as he comes upon Bond. Clearly, Rocky wants to kill Bond himself & on his terms.
The gypsy host thanks Bond for saving his life & he, in turn, asks the host to stop the girl fight. The man agrees to and says he will let Bond decide who should marry the son. The women are presented to Bond for the evening for his evaluation. Bond agrees that the decision will take time. He presumably sleeps with both. Good man.
Kerim & Bond find Kolenko’s hideout. Kerim sends two of his sons to ring the doorbell of the building Kolenko is in. The building has a giant billboard for a movie starring Bob Hope. Kolenko tries to escape from a secret window/door (in the mouth of the woman on the billboard). Kerim shoots & kills him as he tries to escape.
Back at Bond’s hotel room. He orders room service & smells something different as he enteres the bathroom. As he is undressing, he hears noises from out in his room, grabs a gun and investigates. He enters his bedroom to find Tatiana in his bed with the sheets up to her neck. Banter. She tell him her friends call her Tania. More banter that leads to them kissing. He asks about the Lector. She tells him it is at the consulate, and throws herself at him. There is a mirror above the headboard. The camera pans and reveals that it is a one way mirror, and Bond & Tatiana are being filmed. Scandalous! (Wonder if that is on the internet…)
The two of them are now in a tourist location where there is a rather loud tour guide. Bond sees that they are being tailed. Tatiana puts something on a column for Bond. But the tail, who is the seedy Balkan from the airport reaches for it first. Bond knocks him out and looks around to see who else might be around. Rocky comes out of the shadows and kills the Balkan. Bond is confused, but takes what she left for him. She left the blueprints of the Russian consulate.
Next, Bond & Tatiana meet on a ferry. He has a sweet double lens camera. But, it’s only disgusing a tape recorder. He interviews Tatiana about the Lector. Cut to M, men, & Moneypenny listening to the tape. They excuse Moneypenny because Tatiana keeps getting racy. They decided that the info she has given about the Lector is accurate & send Bond a message to go ahead with the deal. But, Bond gets a gleam in his eye and says they will tell Tatiana that they will steal it on the 14th.
On the 13th, Bond walks into the consulate, and his contact sets off a bomb creating confusion in the place. Bond begins searching for the Lector. He finds Tatiana & the Lector. He tells her it is only tear gas & they begin to escape with the Lector. They escape underneath the building into the tunnels meeting up with Kerim. And, then out onto the public streets & onto a train. Tatiana recognizes a Russian security member. Rocky is shown to be on the train. And the Russian security member jumps onto the train himself.
They get two cabins. Bond & Tatiana are in one. Kerim is in another. They discuss the plans to escape to England. He will have the train stopped just before the Balkan frontier where a car with more of his sons will be waiting. They will then head to an airport 20 miles away and fly to Athens before going to England. In the meantime, he & Bond capture the Russian security agent.
Rocky is still patrolling. Bond & Tatiana decide they have a couple of hours to kill. So… they fuck. A couple of hours later, James is itching to meet Kerim in the restaurant car, as planned. As they begin to head there, a conductor finds James & tells him there has been a terrible accident with his friend. Both the Russian security agent, and Kerim Bey are dead. Presented as if they killed each other. Clearly, Rocky has been busy. Next, we see the train pass by the waiting car. His sons jump back into the car to chase the train?
Bond confronts Tatiana. Tells her he knows she is being put up to this. She says she didn’t know that Kerim was to be killed. He slaps her. She cries saying she has truly fallen in love with him. (There are not enough movies with men slapping women anymore… oh wait, I guess that is a good thing.)
The train reaches a destination point. Bond is off the train & finds one of Karembe’s sons with the cigarette exchange that was done at the airport. He tells the son about his dad. Rocky watches the whole scene. Bond, thus far, is buying the story about them killing each other. Or maybe he sells that to the son to prevent retellation issues. He tells the son to send a wire to M to have another agent join them.
Another train stop. Rocky gets off the train and meets up with a man. They head to a restroom. Rocky comes out of the bathroom alone and meets up with James Bond. Rocky and James go through the cigarette/lighter exchange. Clearly, Rocky took out the English agent & is now pretending to be him. Rocky does his best English accent, but Bond knows something is up. He sends Rocky & Tatiana to the restaurant car ahead of him and looks through Rocky’s brief case verifying it is the same one that he now posesses.
They meet in the restaurant car. During conversation, Rocky reveals that they will reach the border in an hour, spills some wine, and is seen drugging Tatiana’s glass. Bond sees it. He confronts Rocky. Rocky convinces him that he is legit & then begins explaining the escape plan on a map. Rocky gets the drop on Bond & knocks him out. He goes through his pockets and relieves him of all money and weapons. Bond wakes up, and they talk – Bond figures out that Rocky is an agent for SPECTRE & they have been playing the Russians & Brits against each other. Rocky reveals that the girl doesn’t realize she is working for SPECTRE, thinks she is working for “Mother Russia.” Rocky plans to kill both Bond and Tatiana. She will have the film of them fucking in her handbag. He will have a note on him that bribes him about going to the press with the film. And, it will look like they killed each other over the bribing.
Rocky is ready to kill him. Bond asks for a cigarette. Says he will buy them with the gold sovereigns in the bief case that Rocky doesn’t know about. Bond sets him up & Rocky inspects the other case for more gold. The booby trapped case explodes the tear gas in Rocky’s face. Fight ensues between the two cabins. Hand fight. Lots of broken glass, lunging, and grunting. It is really a good fight scene. Rocky starts pulling the wire from his watch to strangle Bond as he did in training. Bond gets hold of the knife in the loaded brief case and appears to kill Rocky. Then goes through and gets his stuff back from Rocky.
The train begins to slow. Bond tries to wake Tatiana. They get off the train & run into a field. The train pulls away & there is a man waiting for Rocky. Bond overtakes him, knocks him out and throws him in the cab of the car. Grabs Tania and throws her in the bed of the truck. In daylight now, they are drivin down a road & a yellow helicopter is waving them down and dive bombing them. Now they throw grenades. Bond stops the truck and runs up the hill to draw the chopper to him. It does and it keeps diving at him. He finally takes cover underneath a rock, and is able to get access to the rifle within his brief case. He fires, hitting a man in the arm, just before he can drop another grenade. The helicopter explodes. They drive to a small boat waiting for them & take off, still with the driver. And then he dumps him in the water.
Second time there is a camera angle from behind the #1 SPECTRE man. I almost mentioned it earlier. Because they are on a boat, they have a rocking camera that simulates the rocking of the ship. It’s annoying and instantly disorientating. At any rate, they are discussing the fact that “three men are dead,” including Rocky. He acknowledges that Bond is still alive, and they don’t have the Lector yet. He says that they have already negotiated the return of the Lector to the Russians & they always deliver what they promise. He has #5 killed because his plan has failed (with a venom that killed him in 14 seconds – they are very big on acknowledging how long death takes). He tells Klebb that she had better deliver.
Back to Bond & Tatiana on the boat. They are being chased by someone who is calling for Bond to pull over. They fire at him & puncture his barrels of gasoline. Bond immediately dumps them in the water & then fires a flare towards them. The gasoline ignites and all of the chasing boats are consumed in flames.
In Venice now, James & Tania are enjoying their time on a balcony. Klebb comes in disguised as a maid. Talk about being willing to get your hands dirty. She pulls a gun on Bond & Tania and then begins to order Romanava around. She tells her to take the Lector out of the room & begins to close the door. She takes too long to pull the trigger, and Tania attacks her, relieving her of the gun. However, she has the venom tipped shoes and tries to kill Bond in a handfight. Tatiana shoots & kills her.
Now they are passengers on a boat heading out of Venice. The movie ends as they kiss to the song “From Russia with Love.”
Interesting, they flash a “THE END” on the screen… and then that fades to – “Not quite the end. James Bond will be back next fall in Ian Flemming’s Goldfinger.”
Great film. I had forgotten how much I liked this one. It is really well done. It’s suspenseful & you are constantly wondering who is playing who.
This blog has some interesting production notes on the film. And, GQ has a post of their favorite Bond women of all time… which is well worth a perusal.
Bond Score Rating +4