Monday, 28 February 2011

The first one won't kill you; not the second, not even the third... not till you crawl over here and you KISS MY FOOT!

From Russia With Love (1963)
Chosen by BlogalongaBond

Another month, another Bond - this time one of my faves.

Bond's Intro: After an odd fake out (I assume the producers realised they didn't have Connery on screen for 15 minutes) that makes no sense what-so-ever but sets Grant up as a capable killer (even though it is of course revealed to not be Bond, the subconscious will have logged Shaw garrotting Connery). It's mildly amusing to see Connery as panicky, firing off a wild shot whilst the effortlessly cool Shaw stalks him. But seeing as Bond has kind of been a bit rubbish for all of Dr. No and will be for much of this film that moment doesn't work as well as perhaps it should.
I like to imagine that SPECTRE didn't tell Grant that it was a double for Bond, to see maybe if the reputation of the man (based on what? accidentally killing a bunch of people and bumbling his way into Dr. No's plot after he shot the guy in cold blood that might have told him what was going on) would effect performance against him. Maybe, god only knows?
We then get Bond proper, much later after establishing all the bad guys, smooching it up with the lovely Sylvia Trench (who comes off as a bit clingy here, shame as it's the last time we see her). Not a classic first scene for Bond but it does re-affirm that he puts the needs of his penis above the wants of his boss.

Theme Song and Credits: Once again we have no singing on our credits scene (though weirdly in my memory it does - strange the way we recall things) and our dancing female is not yet naked. Though it is much more overtly sexualised this time, the names projected onto the undulating thighs of a belly dancer, so we also start to see a thematic connection between the design sense of the credits and the film itself. The song is not fully heard until the end and is ok I guess, I'm of a mind that Bond songs should always be sung by women though.

The Ladies: Daniela Bianchi is quite, quite stunning and has more of an impact and presence than Ursula Andress. It's quite easy perhaps, and not entirely unfair, to dismiss her as a doting wisp of a character but unusually she is the driving thrust of the plot, rather than someone tacked onto it, and at least has more than one thing going on in her head (it's never really explored but she is working an angle on Bond and at least hesitates before shooting Klebb).
Sylvia Trench and Moneypenny pretty much slot in exactly as they did in Dr. No though Trench has a little less spark here.
Rosa Klebb is almost as aggressive at going for Romanova as Bond is, which if she was an attractive male may have changed the outcome of the movie. But alas, she is the first explicitly homosexual baddie we have for BlogalongaBond (i don't know, maybe you could make a case for Professor Dent) but by no means the last.

The Baddies: Now we get more of a feel for SPECTRE, who have a massive ego it seems. SPECTRE Island, really? And our first glimpse at Blofeld (it always amuses me to see the question mark where the actors name should be in the credits, for all the sex and violence, they're really made for kids).
We do so much better here than Dr. No. Grant, Klebb and Kronsteen are all interesting and varied. Grant the baddestassed thug of all badass thugs, Klebb all overt sexuality and Kronsteen the cold analyst.
Grant is the henchman that all future henchmen will be measured by (and come up short).

License to Kill: Bond maybe the worst secret agent ever. That's ok, he generally there to blow shit up. But he's also kind of rubbish at that for the most part. Over 40 mins before he gets into action and he's rather careless about who he attacks (I'm not sure how making a tent fall on both a Bulgarian and a Gypsy is meant to help the Gypsys but he basically repeats that later with a wagon and then a pond). Still, about 3 and a half hours into the James Bond series he finally becomes Bad Ass. By having a worthwhile opponent in Grant and one of the great fight scenes of all times (good dissection of that here) we see Bond as fully capable, both in toughness but also smarts (clocking Grant stealing his cash gives him the edge he needs and he plays on that greed). The chase with the helicopter is thrilling but the action with the boats is let down by the standard idiotic goons. Oh and the final bad guy is of course not killed by Bond, which is not the last time that will happen.

Bond hates foreigners: Not so much of that here. The Gypsy scene is a little condescending but there is a genuine warmth between Kerim Bey and Bond (unlike the servant/master relationship Quarrel had in Dr. No).

Bond hates women: We get some pretty piggish behaviour from Bond. 'From this angle things are shaping up nicely' he says on seeing Romanova's legs. Is quite quick to slap her around to find out what is going on (but that's true of most people he meets so...) and makes a joke about oral sex and the size of his dick that isn't all that smooth (though Connery just about pulls it off).

Bond's Crazy knowledge: Not especially exhibited here. In fact he goes out of his way to assert his ignorance 'I don't know too much about cryptography, sir' he says to M. As Kerim Bey is filling him in on the history of his city Bond offers up a 'really?' but couldn't sound more bored.

Bond's a big fat snob: 'Red wine with fish, that should have told me something'

00's killed: None again, my memory of the section being slaughtered left right and centre may be flawed. But we do have Kerim Bey dead I guess.

Mini Overview: Terrific stuff. Really solidified the work of Dr. No into generating one of the great movie series of all time. Barry's work here is superb, defining the Bond (and action films generally) sound for decades to come. The plot is a convoluted nonsense (Grant's going to make Bond's death look like a suicide by shooting him multiple times?) but fun with a great cast delivering some interesting characters.

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