Universal Exports - The James Bond Thread

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Universal Exports - The James Bond Thread

Post by Sid Seadevil on Fri May 13, 2011 1:13 am

You know his name...

Now you have a dedicated venue to discuss any and all aspects of the enduring icon that is Bond. James Bond.

Now, do get on with it!
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Re: Universal Exports - The James Bond Thread

Post by Johnstone McGuckian on Fri May 13, 2011 3:15 am

A very very much needed thread. I just wish they'd get on with the next film.
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Re: Universal Exports - The James Bond Thread

Post by The Co=Ordinator on Fri May 13, 2011 4:35 am

Moonraker. Best Bond film. Evah!

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Re: Universal Exports - The James Bond Thread

Post by stanmore on Fri May 13, 2011 7:44 am

*ponders putting a Bond elimination game into this thread* Smile

Licence to Kill wouldn't last long...
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Re: Universal Exports - The James Bond Thread

Post by Patrick on Fri May 13, 2011 7:50 am

Grerat idea for a thread, Sid!

The Co=Ordinator wrote:Moonraker. Best Bond film. Evah!

The year was 1979, and Cubby Broccoli was interested in cashing in the new wave of sci-fi chic. I've often wondered if the idea for 1982's "Black Orchid" was rooted in this Bond film.

For my money, the best Bond movies are the ones where the villain actually has some characterization. And the two I'd put on this list are Gert Frobe as Auric Goldfinger, and Telly Savalas as Blofeld in "On Her Majesty's Secret Service." Highly under-rated, OHMSS.

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Re: Universal Exports - The James Bond Thread

Post by stanmore on Fri May 13, 2011 8:15 am

Patrick wrote: Highly under-rated, OHMSS.

Aye, but it's kicking comes because it contains one of the stodgiest romances in the history of celluloid...
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Re: Universal Exports - The James Bond Thread

Post by Patrick on Fri May 13, 2011 8:23 am

Which is odd, because it's actually fairly faithful to the book.

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Mr. Kiss-Kiss Bang-Bang, Reviewed

Post by Patrick on Fri May 13, 2011 12:54 pm

If we're going to have a thread to discuss James Bond, we ought to do it properly. Which means beginning at the logical starting point.

Dr. No
UK Release: October 6, 1962
US Release: May 8, 1963




Every successful entertainment franchise has to start with something big enough to make an impact, and when the first of Ian Flemming's Bond novels debuted to UK audiences in the fall of 1962, it did just that. But we're now almost fifty years on from Dr. No, which begs the question, how well has it aged? Personally, I think in most respects, it's held up well over time.

Bond. James Bond.
Let's start with Bond, himself, as portrayed by the legendary Sean Connery. No, he was not the first choice to play the role- producers Harry Saltzman and Cubby Broccoli considered David Niven and Cary Grant, among others, but realized if they wanted the Bond films to become a franchise, they were going to have to cast someone who would agree to play the role for several movies, and that meant taking a chance with (at the time) a relative unknown. Connery nailed the role. From his reveal at the card table lighting a cigarette, to his last scene as he intentionally releases the rope towing the boat he and Honey Rider (Ursula Andress) are riding in, his every scene reminds viewers that he is unapologetically an edgy, masculine, dangerous character who can exude gentlemanly charm as easily as he can be a cold-blooded killer. The James Bond of Dr. No is supremely confident as he strides around Jamaica in suit and tie, Walther PPK tucked under his arm, and eyes alert for both enemy action and beautiful women.



Connery is captivating in every scene- from quickly recovering from the suprise of finding Sylvia Trench in his flat, to besting his "chauffeur" in a fight, he has a way of asking one to do something and they simply jump to do it. Remember the scene where he and Honey are captured by Dr. No, and are about to go through the decontamination bath? He orders No's henchmen to remove his handcuffs... and they oblige! With alacrity! That's a commanding presence.

You also get to see just how resourceful and intelligent Bond is. He knows full well he's being photographed at the airport and neatly blunts the attempt. He's wise enough to phone the Government House office and find out if the chauffeur sent for him is a friend of foe. He applies a single strand of his hair across a closet door to alert him if his room has been tampered with. He arranges Taro's house to set the scene of a love tryst still going on, as we patiently awaits the arrival of the assassin. This is vintage cold-war spy stuff from the analogue days of the early 60s, with nice touches of subtlety, and its actually rather sad to see it's fallen by the wayside these days. These little things go a long way to revealing what kind of man Bond is by showing us, not telling us.

Viewed from the lens of someone seeing this film for the first time in 2011, it's probably easy to slide past the fact that Bond is also a take-no-prisoners type. There's a ruthlessness to his character that, for 1962 audiences, was probably quite shocking. And it's presented with a certain nonchalance. Consider this sequence of events from the middle of the movie: Bond becomes suspicious of the Governor-General's secretary, Miss Taro (Zena Marshall) when the file on Dr. No goes missing, and he finds her spying at her bosses office door. What does he do? He flirts with her, successfully enough to receive an invitation to visit her home, remotely located up in the mountains. En route, the "three blind mice," fail to run Bond off the road (which elicit the first in a long line of darkly comedic responses), Bond's has his suspicions confirmed that Miss Taro is, indeed, a mole for Dr. No. Yet he still keeps the appointment, surprising Taro when he shows up unscathed and apparently car-less. He is smart enough to know that the phone call Taro receives is a check on the success of the assassination attempt, and allows Taro to report it failed. So he now knows he can expect another assassin to show up, and kills the time by having a little recreational sex with Miss Taro. It's his turn to use a phone call for a ruse, and pretending to order a taxi, he has, in fact, requested the local constabulary to take Miss Taro into custody. With her out of the way, all he need to is dress the scene up so that it meets the assassin's expectations and patiently wait. When the assassin- Professor Dent (Anthony Dawson)- arrives, he empties his gun into the bed, thinking he's killed Bond. Now it's Bond's turn, and in case you think Bond isn't a cold-blooded professional, after he's plugged Prof. Dent a few times, he puts icing on the cake by shooting Dent in the back.


Cold. And at the time, quite controversial.

Minnows pretending they're whales
We don't see Doctor No (Joseph Wiseman) in person until very late in the film. He is revealed to us slowly and in pieces- first, as a disembodied voice who provides Prof. Dent with a nice, large tarantula to be introduced to Bond. Then, as Bond and Honey sleep off their drug-laced coffee, as a long shadow in the door, and then as a white linen suit with strange black gloves. All this makes his ultimate, in person, arrival on screen almost as big a moment as Bond's first appearance at the card game.

When we finally do see him in the dinner scene, we see him with all his calculated, rigid glory. Again, viewed through a 2011 filter, this type of portrayal is now a bit cliched. But for early 60's audiences, Doctor No was actually rather imposing. Like Bond, he is quite confident in how "in control" of the situation he is, and, again like Bond, he is intelligent, ruthless, unblinking, and several steps ahead of his opponents. And he possesses a set of artificial hands that, while they lack a full range of movement, can crush steel.

Consider that dinner scene for a moment. Yes, that scene has been parodied and redone to death in the last fifty years, but here, it serves to nicely illuminate the character of Doctor No. The reason for the dinner invitation was that Bond had impressed No, so much that No wanted to see if he could be recruited to SPECTRE. Not surprisingly, Bond's devotion to duty disappoints him. That's where the character analysis kicks in: in Doctor No, we have a character who has screwed the Chinese mafia out of $10 Million (a large sum today, an outrageous sum in 1962), offered his services to both Eastern and Western intelligence services only to be rejected by both, and ended up with SPECTRE. This also makes SPECTRE seem a bit like the Island of Misfit Toys, where those who are too brilliant and sociopathic for the rest of world can gather and plot the world's demise.


If you compare and contrast Doctor No and Bond, you could construct an argument that are sort of mirror images of one another. They share the traits I mentioned a moment ago: ruthless, intelligent, confident, and, when necessary, don't blink at the need to be cold-blooded. It's how they carry themselves that the characters diverge. Bond chooses to clothe himself in a well tailored suit and tie. He plays high stakes games of Chermin-de-fer, risks missing his flight to have a roll in the hay with Ms. Trench, meets socially with the last three men to see Strangways alive at an exclusive club, and orders his martinis shaken, not stirred. He is working for the good guys and has no moral ambiguity about it. He is warm, charismatic, masculine, socially-adept and uses a gun. Doctor No is an outcast. He is cold and clinical, dresses somewhat androgynously, is rigid, sexless and probably hasn't been laid in quite some time (and probably doesn't care, either.)

Crab Key interests me
A word here about Sir Kenneth Adam, the set designer for this, and several other Bond movies. His work is frankly brilliant. You always know you've arrived at the villain's lair because of the way he plays with space, shape and lighting. In contrast to the "ordinary" places, like confined hotel rooms or the bedrooms of mountain houses, Dr. No's operation takes on an air of vastness. The rooms do not have regular shapes- the vaulted ceiling of the nuclear reactor control room, Bond's triangular cell, or the 'meeting room':


His ability to take a mediocre budget and work magic with is legend, and Sir Kenneth deserves all the praise he's gotten.

I started with "A" and know I'm up to "T". I bet I know a lot more than you.
And finally, we come to Honeysuckle "Honey" Ryder. The first in a series of names that serve as double entrendres, and the first Bond woman. As characters go, there wasn't much there. But if you want to sell a movie, all you need is impact.


Wham!

All told, Dr. No kicked open the franchise with style and a hard edge. I'll give four bottles of 1953 Dom Perignon out of a possible five.

James Bond will return in From Russia With Love.

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Re: Universal Exports - The James Bond Thread

Post by The Co=Ordinator on Fri May 13, 2011 3:06 pm

Have you got reveiws on file for all of them Patrick? Laughing

FWIW I reckon your 4/5 is spot on.

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Re: Universal Exports - The James Bond Thread

Post by Patrick on Fri May 13, 2011 3:44 pm

The Co=Ordinator wrote:Have you got reveiws on file for all of them Patrick? Laughing

No, I wrote this one today, but the idea of doing Bond film reviews is an idea I've been kicking around for several months now. My plan is to add a new one every couple of weeks.

The Co=Ordinator wrote:FWIW I reckon your 4/5 is spot on.

Thanks, C=O!

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Re: Universal Exports - The James Bond Thread

Post by The Co=Ordinator on Sat May 14, 2011 1:45 am

In which case that's excellent work in such a short space of time. Looking forward to the other 20 odd pieces!

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Re: Universal Exports - The James Bond Thread

Post by Sid Seadevil on Sat May 14, 2011 3:49 am

An excellent review of an iconic film, Patrick. I await the next one eagerly.

There's little doubt that the series holds a unique place in cinema history and has had a lasting influence, both culturally and cinematically, that's continued to this day. It single-handedly created the enduring template for the action movie as we now know it, as well as mirroring the social changes of western society as a whole as the decades progressed.

And before somebody comes along and accuses "Casino Royal and Quantum of Solace" of falling into the "Bourne Clone" school - I'll disagree with it now. As far as I'm concerned it's a flawed accusation. Yes, those two films (Casino Royal in particular) tapped into some of the stylistic choices of Bourne; but I think it's pretty clear that the latter films themselves were merely tapping into and updating the stylistic choices of the early Bond's in the first place.

Basically the latest Bond's merely borrowed back what was theirs in the first place. Something they had already partially attempted to do with limited success during the Dalton era.

Pre-emptive strike over.
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Re: Universal Exports - The James Bond Thread

Post by The Co=Ordinator on Sat May 14, 2011 4:07 am

I still haven't seen either Craig film. Will catch up with them before we reach Patricks' reviews.

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Re: Universal Exports - The James Bond Thread

Post by Sid Seadevil on Sat May 14, 2011 4:20 am

I suspect you'll find much to enjoy in them, old chap. Particularly Royal.
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Re: Universal Exports - The James Bond Thread

Post by Patrick on Sat May 14, 2011 8:01 am

Sid Seadevil wrote:And before somebody comes along and accuses "Casino Royal and Quantum of Solace" of falling into the "Bourne Clone" school - I'll disagree with it now. As far as I'm concerned it's a flawed accusation. Yes, those two films (Casino Royal in particular) tapped into some of the stylistic choices of Bourne; but I think it's pretty clear that the latter films themselves were merely tapping into and updating the stylistic choices of the early Bond's in the first place.

Basically the latest Bond's merely borrowed back what was theirs in the first place. Something they had already partially attempted to do with limited success during the Dalton era.

Pre-emptive strike over.

I agree with you, Sid. To the extent that someone is going to compare Daniel Craig's portrayal of Bond to the Jason Bourne series, I think the reason they do that is Craig's Bond is very much the 'blunt instrument' M accuses him of being. He's all cold-blooded killer without the charm and charisma of his predecesors in the role, and I think that's a function of the creative decision to do away with the familiar Bond formula to movie making and return the character to be more of what was in the Flemming novels.

With Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace, we're clearly in the midst of a multi-movie story arc involving Quantum (the new SPECTRE?) It's an open question at this point as to whether the Bond charisma will make a return. Personally, I hope it does.

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Re: Universal Exports - The James Bond Thread

Post by Sid Seadevil on Sat May 14, 2011 9:32 am

Very much agreed, Patrick. I'm also more than a little certain that the patented Bond charisma will be restored to its rightful status by the story arcs end. I tend to look on CR, QoS and the forthcoming film as pretty much "Bond: Year One".

And by the end of it all the old familiar icons will be back in place and ready for more self-contained adventures.
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Re: Universal Exports - The James Bond Thread

Post by The Browncoat Cat on Sat May 14, 2011 10:03 am

stanmore wrote:*ponders putting a Bond elimination game into this thread* Smile

Licence to Kill wouldn't last long...
I have a soft spot for Licence to Kill, even if it did borrow large chunks from the novel Live and Let Die. In many ways, it is a better adaptation of that novel than the official movie of Live and Let Die ever was. After all Licence to Kill is the ultimate way to get revenge. First you get his money, then you ruin his reputation, then you steal his woman and finally, you blow him away.
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Re: Universal Exports - The James Bond Thread

Post by Patrick on Sat May 14, 2011 4:41 pm

You know, Cat, that's a brilliant distillation of the plot of License To Kill. My own sense is that, while it was a fine story, so far as it goes, it got bogged down with a creative decision to make it sanitized for certain sensibilities. I'll expand on this when I do my full review.

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Re: Universal Exports - The James Bond Thread

Post by Sid Seadevil on Sat May 14, 2011 5:53 pm

I'll agree with both of you on that. I'm looking forwards to that review when it finally rolls around.
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Re: Universal Exports - The James Bond Thread

Post by The Browncoat Cat on Sat May 14, 2011 5:59 pm

Sid Seadevil wrote:Very much agreed, Patrick. I'm also more than a little certain that the patented Bond charisma will be restored to its rightful status by the story arcs end. I tend to look on CR, QoS and the forthcoming film as pretty much "Bond: Year One".
Interestingly, Dr. No is the sixth Bond novel that Fleming wrote, so starting the movie franchise with that particular story is strange. It is true that by Die Another Day, the Bond Movies had become a parody of themselves, and rebooting was a wise choice. I would love it if movie 23 turned out to be a version of Live and Let Die that sticks as close to the original story whilst expanding it into a modern setting as Casino Royal did.
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Re: Universal Exports - The James Bond Thread

Post by Sid Seadevil on Sun May 15, 2011 3:06 am

We shall see, Cat - we shall see. Which reminds me, I'm well overdue for a reread of the books.
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Mr. Kiss-Kiss Bang-Bang, Reviewed

Post by Patrick on Fri May 27, 2011 12:22 pm

Sean Connery's second appearance as Bond, in a solid espionage story straight from the cold war.

From Russia With Love
UK Release: October 10, 1963
US Release: May 24, 1964




The problem that confronts a movie franchise when it attempts to go back to the well a second time is that it must at least equal the film that preceded it. From Russia With Love does this with a plot boiled down to its essentials, a realistic feel that doesn't rely on gadgets or outrageous set-action pieces.

Your clock, is it correct?

Mr. Connery demonstrated his firm grasp of Ian Flemming's gentleman spy in Doctor No, but in this film, he makes the character his own. If you watch both movies in close succession, the differences in performance are subtle, but in From Russia With Love, you can detect that Connery has relaxed into the role. Watch how he walks through the airport in Istanbul, brimming with confidence, but striding with ease as he delivers the pass phrase to Kerim Bay's son. This easy confidence seems to have brought about a creative decision in Director Terrance Young: whereas in the first movie, Connery was centered in virtually every shot. In this film, Connery's presence is so commanding that Young apparently didn't feel the need to that this time, despite the fact that this movie has a lot more characters getting screen time.

Bond in this movie is slightly toned down- he is not the sophisticate we were introduced to last time around, there is no casino scene, no tuxedo, and no Dom Perignon. He even appears, initially, to have overlooked Grant's strange choice of red Chianti with fish. What we get is the essential Bond, who is good with a Walther PPK, good with a rifle, good with a woman, and deadly serious about his job.

Another character difference in this film is that, unlike in Doctor No, where we see Bond being always aware of his surroundings, his resourcefulness in assessing the dynamics of a situation, and his ruthelessness, here we see a Bond that gets outsmarted at several points. We also see that needless killing (like shooting someone in the back) is done away with. Remember the attack scene at the Gypsy camp? Bond's life is in danger the whole time. In some instances, he shoots to kill, while in others, he simply disables them. This leads to some odd choreography. At one point, a Gypsy is grappling with a Bulgar on a cart, and Bond simply flips the cart over, sending both into a pond. Why doesn't he just shoot the Bulgar? Why leave the Gypsy- an ally of the Turkey station chief, and therefore MI-6, to fend for himself in the pond with the attacking Bulgar? It's logical inconsistencies like this that don't reflect well on the movie, although they aren't ultimately deal-breakers.

A word here about a character trait Bond exhibits, concerning the women in his stories. In both the case of Honey Ryder and Tatiana Romanova, despite his ruthlessness, he rescues both of them. And he does this even though both women apparently mean very little to him, personally. Perhaps this can be called a re-definition of chivalry, with a healthy dose of thank you sex on the side.



Exactly one minute, fifty-two seconds. That's excellent.

There are two themes at play in From Russia With love. The first centers around the character Grant. In the pre-credit sequence, we see Grant apparently kill Bond (something that probably shocked viewers in 1963, until the Bond stand-in was revealed to have been wearing a mask.) How he does it is interesting: in a dark garden behind a mansion, he shadows his target for a bit before killing him. This foreshadows the role he will play throughout the movie- shadowing Bond all along.

The theme that emerges from this is that Grant is Bond's pyschological shadow. In Jungian psychology, and boiled down for simplicity, a psychological shadow is that part of one's personality which typifies everything we refuse to acknowledge about themself. The theory holds that the reason we develop an intense dislike for some people is that they personify the traits and qualities we hate in ourselves, and we project those onto the object of our enmity.

Grant silently tails Bond through much of the first 90 minutes of the movie. When he finally does speak, we hear him use a fake upper-class British accent, when in fact he he lower class Irish (this is the accent he turns to after he gets the drop on Bond.) He is introduced to us early in the film as a "homicidal paranoid" and a cold blooded killer. Given what we've seen of Bond in much of Doctor No, and the final act of From Russia with Love, its not hard to image that Bond is only a few steps removed from being a sociopath himself. Grant is the more base, lower class, irrational, brutal killer that mirrors the refined persona Bond projects to the world.



My congratulations, sir. A brilliant coup.

Following the opening credits, we watch an extended scene of the final moves in a championship chess game. This neatly deposits the second theme of the movie in our hands: Chess. The plot of the movie itself is a chess match between SPECTRE and Bond, and virtually every character in the movie is the literal pawn of someone else.

Consider:
- Bond and MI-6 are SPECTRE's pawns.
- So are Klebb, Kromsteen and Grant.
- Bey is Bond's pawn.
- The Bulgarians are pawns of the Russians, and the Russians hold the queen: the Lektor decoder.
- The Gypsys are used for cover by Kerim Bey, making them his pawns.
- And poor Tatiana Romanova is everyone's pawn.

And the only king? Blofeld.


There is a particularly interesting aspect to this chess game plot: the events are entirely driven by SPECTRE, not by Bond, the star of the piece. This is something no movie-making studio would ever consider doing in contemporary film. The villains? Several steps ahead of the star of the movie? That would never happen today. But it works rather well in this story: SPECTRE successfully breaks the cold war truce between Britain and Russia in Turkey, continue to keep them battling one another as a distraction technique, and get Bond to do the dirty work of stealing the Lektor. They then get the lektor back, sell it back to the Russians, and, as icing on the cake, exact revenge for the death of Doctor No by killing Bond in a humiliating fashion. And because Bond is kept so distracted, SPECTRE almost succeeds. Twice!



Come, come, my dear. You are very fortunate to have been chosen for such a simple, delightful duty. A real labour of love.

One can't review From Russia With Love without talking about the two women in principal supporting roles. Lotte Lenya as Rosa Klebb is a formidable presence in virtually every scene she has. It should be noted that the overt lesbianism her character had in the book was significantly watered down in the film, but that takes away none of her tough-as-nails demeanor. In this chess game story, Grant is her pawn to control, and breaking the British/Russian truce in Istanbul is down to her use of Grant. She effortlessly transitions from hard-edge communist bitch to flirting with Tatiana Romanova in the "interview" scene. This is one woman who's shoes you don't want poke fun at.

The other, of course, is Daniella Bianchi as Tatiana Romanova (although her voice was dubbed in by Barbara Jefford.) She is, perhaps more classically beautiful than Ursula Andress, and certainly shares some chemistry with Mr. Connery's Bond. Alas, she isn't given a whole lot to do in the second half of the movie.


I'd say one of their aircraft is missing.

I have only a few nit-picks with this movie. The first is the set design. Sir Kenneth Adam was not present this time around, and in his absence, the imaginative design features that made Doctor No such a treat are gone here, too. The design is more conventional, and the result is a certain lack of visual pop in the final product.

In terms of plot holes, it's surprising some of these happened at all, given how tight the actual story was. I've already mentioned the attack at the Gypsy camp. The entire scene is an un-necessary action sequence that exists for the sole purpose of providing Grant an opportunity to save Bond for a later killing. Other than that, it brings nothing to the story, and Grant's saving of Bond could have been handled more organically within the plot itself.

On the train, Grant has a number of opportunities to kill Bey, Romanova and Bond, but doesn't. He apparently wants to deal with them one at a time. Forgiveable, I suppose, but not entirely consistent with his character.

And finally, those helicopter operators. This is something that's always baffled me: they bring hand grenades with them on the helicopter, but not guns? What?



My orders are to kill you and deliver the Lektor. How I do it is my business. It'll be slow and painful.

Having gone through some of my complaints, I'll now turn to shine a spot light on one of the best scenes in the film: the fight between Bond and Grant aboard the Orient Express. This is a fantastic scene that ought to serve as an example of how to stage such a fight even today. Why? Because it's so realistic. It's more wrestling than actual fighting, and the enclosed geography of the scene makes it easy to follow. It contains none of the phony martial arts exhibitions we see in movies today, which again makes this fight so believable. And, there's no musical score played over the scene. For some reason these days, fight scenes are always staged against a rapid pace musical number. In this scene, we just have the clackity-clack of the train, the tinkle of broken glass and the grunts of the performers. All of this heighten the scene's suspense for the viewer.

All told, From Russia With Love is a solid second installment of the Bond Franchise. One that has held up reasonably well for nearly 5 decades. It's not as good as Doctor No in all respects, which is why I'm giving it three Lektor Decoders out of a possible 5, but it is a very good snapshot of cold war esponiage, and a film worth re-watching if you haven't seen it in a while.

James Bond will return in Goldfinger.

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Re: Universal Exports - The James Bond Thread

Post by The Co=Ordinator on Fri May 27, 2011 12:54 pm

Blimey Patrick, have you been reading my mind? That's a superb review and I concur with almost everything you say - including the rating. Smile

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Re: Universal Exports - The James Bond Thread

Post by Patrick on Fri May 27, 2011 1:18 pm

The Co=Ordinator wrote:Blimey Patrick, have you been reading my mind? That's a superb review and I concur with almost everything you say - including the rating. Smile

Thank you, C=O. Of the era I call the golden age of Bond (up to 1971's Diamonds Are Forever), FRWL strikes me as the closest to actual cold war spy work with a realistic feel to it. A worthy follow up to the impact of Doctor No.

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Re: Universal Exports - The James Bond Thread

Post by The Co=Ordinator on Fri May 27, 2011 2:16 pm

I can't believe we'll keep on agreeing though. Wink

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