Published on October 19th, 2015 | by Kia0
From Russia With Love: But Set In Turkey
SPECTRE plans to use the British Secret Service to steal a Lektor decoder with the help of Russian clerk turned agent, Tatiana Romanova (Daniela Bianchi). The plan is obviously a trap but the British Secret Service aren’t one to step away from a challenge and plan to send in their best agent, Bond (Sean Connery). Bond is sent in to to retrieve the both the Lektor and the agent. Bond’s arrival in Istanbul seemingly heats up a cold war truce when it is in fact SPECTRE pulling their strings in an attempt to distract both the Russians and the British.
Unaware that both the Russians and the British are simply pawns in a much larger chess game they both plod forward with their respective missions and counter attacks. Planning to remove both Tania and the Lektor and take them across country by train to the Bulgarian border before heading to England. This plan is quickly made difficult by the Russian secret service who spot Tania and Bond leaving Istanbul and send one of their agent after them. All under the watchful eye of Donald ‘Red’ Grant from SPECTRE.
Title Sequence & Bond Theme
From Russia With Love‘s title sequence starts as many Bond films of this time do, with a sexy and often unrelated title sequence. The undulating bodies dancing girls are used as a backdrop to a light show that sees the stars names illuminating the dancers ‘best’ features. Dancing girls only feature very briefly within the movie and do seem slightly at odds with the music but overall it works well.
Having listened to the Bond sound tracks many times this isn’t a piece of music that instantly jumps out at me as a headphones classic (not sure how many orchestral pieces I have on my playlists) with that being said however it is classically Bond. John Barry’s music brings a grandeur to the screen and oozes class, integrity and a quiet confidence – all of which we associate with James Bond.
John Barry’s theme was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Song in a Motion Picture (sadly it lost out to The Magnificent Showman from Circus World, not one that has made it in to my top hits either to be fair).
The Villain And Their Plan
SPECTRE plan to use the British Secret Service and the Russian Secret Service against each other to get hold of a Russian Lektor decoding machine. The plan created by World Champion Chess player Kronsteen aka No.5 and exacted by Rosa Klebb aka No.3 who brings in agent Donald ‘Red’ Grant. The British will steal the machine and then SPECTRE will steal it from them whilst destroying the Secret Service’s reputation at the same time, both parties never fully realising that they were just pieces being manoeuvred by a sinister force.
Venice (the chess game) – As a fan of the game this opening always stuck with me. Although we see very little of the city accept for, what looks like, stock footage. It is a place Bond will visit many times throughout the 007 franchise.
London – M’s office provides a grounding background from which Bond is sent off to Istanbul. Both Moneypenny and M are a safehaven for Bond and although they feature very little, they do bring in a very important part of the Bond legacy – Q (Desmond Llewelyn).
Istanbul – such a stunning city and is a gorgeous setting for the main part of the film. With much of the filming having been done on location in Turkey the sets are perfect and the feeling of real life Istanbul in the ’60s almost tangible. The gypsy camp is the setting for one of the big action scenes and is also extremely well done. The trip to Istanbul introduces us to one of my favourite characters in Bond, Kerim Bey (Pedro Armendáriz), although his time is limited he is a different side to the world of espionage and brings Bond’s time in Istanbul to life.
Train – from Istanbul through Belgrade, Zagreb. Travelling by train for long journeys is something
Venice – Back in Venice it appears that James and Tania take a romantic trip down the grand canal before elegantly saying goodbye to both the viewers and the roll of film that was to besmirch the good name of the British Secret Service.
Wire from watch first used to kill ‘Bond’ in the opening and again used by Donald ‘Red’ Grant when faced with the real Bond.
“An ordinary black leather case” as described by Q is never quite what it seems. Complete with throwing knife, folding sniper rifle, ammunition, 50 gold sovereigns, and killer talc that can go off if your face if you don’t remember to turn the catches to the side – this case is the reason Bond makes it through the mission alive. Q branch anticipating the needs of their field agents perfectly.
Most Inappropriate / Politically Incorrect Moment
As with most early bond movies the over sexualisation and use of women as objects and play things is rather than people is laced through almost every part. From Bond’s quips over Tania’s legs “Well from this angle, things are shaping up nicely” to Tania’s “I think my mouth is too big” comment however the most politically incorrect moment definitely happens at the gypsy camp. The main event of the evening was to be a fight between two women of the camp over who will have the pleasure of marrying the Chief’s son, because him deciding based on who he had a better relationship with was clearly too taxing. They of course fight in next to nothing whilst calling each other every name under the sun for the camp’s amusement. Although Bond does, gentlemanly of course, stop the fight he does not in fact turn down the opportunity to “decide” as they “are both yours”. They of course proceed to not only sexually satisfy Bond but also feed him and fix his shirt…of course.
As much as I was dying to put the hilarious pulling off of Bond’s “face” before the opening sequence. The weirdest moment has to be given to Rosa Klebb who not only does a fantastically bad job at trying to kick someone in the shins but also has one of the best/worst dying sequences in any of the Bond films. It is almost as if Tania had hit her with a freeze gun rather than a bullet! Wonderful over acting that leads in to my favourite one liner.
“Yes, she’s had her kicks” – James Bond after facing off against Klebb with her little stabby shoe.
How Good Is It Really?
From Russia with Love has one of the most simple but, in my opinion best flowing stories. It is an uncluttered one where spies are set against spies in order for the all knowing puppet master of SPECTRE to come out on top. Although their plans are thwarted in From Russia With Love their presence is depicted as something that was hovering not just over the British but also the world, a sentiment that would have hit very hard with the viewing audience of the time who had only two years before seen the terrifying Cuban Missiles Crisis.
The film sees in the first appearance of Q, for many his depiction of Q is synonymous with the Bond movies having seen the coming and going of many actors who played the infamous Bond character. Q branch will continue to play a guiding hand in Bonds world and their new inventions will often see him being pulls from the jaws of despair with only a hairs breath to spare, whilst still having both the time and inclination to make sure his suit and tie still sits well. Although none of Q’s gadgets seem to help Bond with his interesting problem that he does seem horribly susceptible to women getting in to not only his home (in Dr No) but his hotel room without his knowing – quite strange for a secret agent.
One of my favourite characters in this film is Kerim Bey, he is unapologetic in his womanising and his exceptionally large family. His character not only helps the plot along at a steady pace but also provides a classical narrator role to explain the situations that both Bond and himself will be looking to overcome. His performance is a highlight.
Bond seems a lot more at ease than he did in the first movie and it’s clear that Connery has warmed to his role as bond nicely. Robert Shaw certainly does well as a silent killer although not as well when he is needed to speak, as his acting is wooden at best.
Putting aside some of the more hammy acting parts (the “blood splatter” when Kerim Bey is shot is hilarious) and the rampant sexism, this is a good Bond movie. We see a slightly different side to Bond through his playful interaction with Tania. We see more of his thoughtfulness and his inability to leave her behind.
The fight scene on the train shows Bond go head to head with an equally trained foe who could possible have the upper hand in the strength department and has Bond is a sticky position till Q branches wonderful throwing knife comes in handy. It is one of the most brutal fight scenes we have seen in Bond at this time and was wonderfully choreographed.
This movie lays out the path for many of the other movies that come after it and they did it with a simple story that is (mostly) well acted and draws not only on the actors experience but also that of the audience of the time. Throughly enjoyable for a cozy night in.