Tuesday, January 29, 2013

From Russia With Love (1963)

I always want to like this one more than I do.  And yet, every time I see it, it never quite does it for me.  I like many elements of it, but ultimately, it just doesn’t satisfy me.  Bond movies typically meander and can be slow, which is fine, but the whole gypsy camp section -- even when the bad guys arrive and shoot the place up -- just makes me yawn.  And for no reason I can figure out, I can’t seem to retain the gist of the plot when I watch this one.  In the beginning, I’ll think, Okay, I have it.  Then I always get midway through and think, what’s going on again?  Then Grant shows up, and I get it again.  I think I just never get invested in the plot enough to really get wrapped up in it.  Going after the decoder, while actually a really good spy plot, just isn't carried off in a manner that pushes my personal buttons.

On the other hand, I love Lotte Lenya as Colonel Klebb, and I love Robert Shaw as Grant.  Two top notch, distinctive bad guys.  I particularly love how you don’t hear Robert Shaw speak until he finally hooks up with Bond.  The whole section on the Orient Express is my favorite part of the movie, with the tension between Grant and Bond slowly increasing until their showdown.  Every time I see this movie I think that if it had been made in the 1980’s, Rutger Hauer would have played the Grant role.  I should mention that I also love Vladek Sheybal is in this.  He’s one of those unmistakable actors I first saw in The Wind and the Lion and watched for ever after.  He is great as Kronsteen.  And Walter Gotell, who will go on to have a recurring role as General Gogol in future Bond films, gets to play a menacing henchman.

I love Pedro Armenderiz as Karim Bey, with all his sons who work for him.  I LOVE the Istanbul scenery, particularly the cisterns under the city that they row through.  Connery’s Bond is perfect throughout, from his playfulness, to the violent side of him when he thinks Tanya’s betrayed him.  He's fabulously good-looking, as always.  I particularly love the scene when he throws his hat onto the rack from the doorway, only to find Moneypenny is not alone, and M is with her.  Classic and awesome.

Favorite parts – Bond on his date in the beginning with Sylvia Trench, just relaxing on a day off.  Everything with Bond and Grant on the train.  Rosa Klebb and Bond’s fight at the end.

Music: Good
Theme song:  Good. Instrumental during credits, sung at the end, and I like both versions a lot
Credit sequence:  Meh, kind of boring
Bond girl:  Gorgeous, but… bland? 
Bad guys:  Love them all
Overall personal rating:  2 out of 5 stars


  1. This is my favorite Connery as Bond movie. I've always loved it head and tails above the rest for some reason. But then again, I've always had a fascination for Russia and her very complicated history, so maybe that's it.

    1. I know several people who consider this either their favorite Connery Bond film, or their favorite Bond film period, which is why I keep trying to watch it with different eyes. But each time, it still fails to grab hold of me. Weird, really, because I like so many parts of it.

  2. Interesting about the the gypsy scene. I enjoyed that part because it had the same actress who was in Thunderall (which I saw first) and I was hoping to find a clue that would link the two to possibly being the same character. Silly me!

    1. Martine Beswick! I love her as Paula in Thunderball but never realized she was one of the gypsies in From Russia until right now. How interesting! Looking her up, I also didn't realize she was also one of the dancing silhouettes in the Dr. No opening credits! Wow, she got to be in the first three Bond films. How cool is that?

  3. I've seen this one at least 3 times, and can never remember what it's about! Weird, huh? Except that fight with Lotte Lenya with the knife in her shoe, that I always remember very distinctly.