From Russia With Love (1963)

<strong class="MovieTitle">From Russia With Love</strong> (1963)

(Second viewing, On Blu Ray, September 2018) I could have sworn that I had seen all the James Bond movies as a young teenager, but watching From Russia with Love has me doubting, because at the exception of the last five minutes, I remembered almost nothing of the film. Maybe I only caught the end of it when I was young. Maybe I saw it and didn’t care, because compared to other Bond movies, this one ranks much lower on the ludicrousness scale. I wouldn’t exactly call From Russia With Love realistic or subtle (there’s still SPECTRE, serial seductions and fancy gadgets to keep things interesting), but there’s a down-to-earth quality in Bond’s attempt to bring a Soviet “defector” home with a decoding machine that keeps it grounded. It feels dull compared to the excesses of other movies in the series, but it’s a rather good film from a dramatic perspective—especially considering that Bond’s enemies at least attempt to use his own weaknesses (the arrogance, the seduction) against him. Sean Connery is, once again, a delight as the debonair agent, with Daniella Bianchi being OK in a generic way as the main Bond Girl. (Eunice Gayson is a happy surprise, reprising her role from Dr. No.) With this second instalment, the James Bond formula gets a few more upgrades: Q and his gadgets show up, the credit sequence gets a naked dancing woman, Bond gets looser with the one-liners and the exploitation factor ramps up with a gratuitous catfight. While the spy plotting is much stronger in From Russia With Love than most entries in the series, the overall effect is duller than expected. (The lengthy prologue doesn’t help.) It does hint at a possible alternate reality where Bond movies would have stayed grounded in some kind of recognizable reality … but then the follow-up was Goldfinger.

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