Published on November 19th, 2015 | by Thompson
Gonzo Bond Movie Reviews: From Russia with Love (1963)
Instead of ripping on the new James Bond film, Spectre, I’ll instead piggyback on its short-lived popularity by reviewing every Bond film in a Gonzo fashion. I’ll be under the influence for each review, so by the end of the series readers will know which Bond films are best to watch while high and a little drunk.
The Gonzo Bond Rating, or GBR, is based on 007 ingredients that make a good Bond film: 001) The First Five, or first five minutes of the film including the credits, 002) The Game, or plot, 003) Bond’s Game, or Bond’s performance, 004) Bond’s Villain, or the villain’s performance and general evilness, 005) Bond’s Gear, or cars, guns, and gadgets, 006) Graphics, or explosions, stunts, and the like, and, of course, 007) Bond Girls, which is not necessarily performance driven, as is the case with Dr. No.
From Russia with Love (1963)
I have a few beers and puffs off my vaporizer full of sativa gas as James Bond (Sean Connery) is asked to willingly fall into a love trap set by the KGB over a Lektor decoding machine. 007 jumps in feet first and keeps them on the ground despite the immense beauty of the Soviets’ bait and immense size of the Soviet assassin.
The First Five
If you actually think James Bond would fire his weapon without seeing his target, the first five minutes of From Russia with Love might scare you. A large, Soviet assassin named Grant, played by a young, fit Robert Shaw, strangles Bond with a garrote wire and the credits role, projected in groovy colors on women dancing to a score by John Barry that isn’t bad.
The naive but beautiful Tanya, played by former Miss Rome and Miss World runner-up Daniela Bianchi, is chosen by Russia’s government to set a trap for 007. M. asks Bond to oblige the Soviets and play their little game with the hope of getting their hands on an encryption device while an assassin attempts to kill Bond on a train.
All great murder mysteries and love stories have a train in them, according to Throw Momma from the Train, and From Russia with Love is no exception. With the assassin following Bond throughout the movie, and the death of Bond in the first five minutes in the back of your mind, you just know it’s going to lead to a good fight. It does, and doesn’t disappoint, except [spoiler alert] that Bond should have been able to tell his Istanbul contact Ali Kerim Bey (Pedro Armendáriz) wasn’t killed by the man whom he was guarding on the train. That whole scene made me wince a bit. Even I, stoned and drunk, knew he couldn’t have been stabbed in the back by a dead man.
The moment Bond is introduced always gives us an idea of what to expect from his game, and with Connery back for the second installment, you get cool, calm, collected in bed and in the bush – even when he know’s the woman he’s in bed with is trying to set him up.
In his intro, he’s about ready to dirty a picnic blanket with a beautiful brunette, but we get an especially good look at Bond’s game during his interactions with Miss Moneypenny (Lois Maxwell).
“You know I never even look at another woman,” Bond says. “Let me tell you the secret of the world.”
M. makes sure Bond leaves the photograph of Tanya at the office, which he signs “w/Love, From Russia” for Moneypenny, who burns it if I remember correctly.
I also love the way Connery cases a hotel room. He just floats across the floor, checking the doors, closets, windows, and phones. Needless to say, it doesn’t take long to get Tanya in the sack. She’s ready and willing when he arrives at his suite, having seen pictures of him.
“James, will you make love to me everyday in London?” she asks.
Although #1’s cat makes an appearance, we still don’t see his face, and the villain ends up being SPECTRE’s #3 – Rosa Klebb, played by Lotte Lenya. She’s cold-blooded, for sure.
“There’s no substitute for experience,” she says as she tours the training ground for assassins.
“I agree,” the tour guide responds. “We use live targets as well.”
Her test of Bond’s assassin consists of a punch to the gut with brass knuckles, but like Dr. No, she doesn’t scare me. She might scare Tanya, but it never really feels like she has a chance against 007. That isn’t sexism, as you’ll see when we review Goldeneye. [Spoiler alert] Tonya gets the best of her in the end.
“She’s had her kicks,” Bond jokes about the fight he has with the knife in Klebb’s shoe.
Desmond LLewelyn makes his debut as Q. and borrows Bond a new briefcase with 40 rounds of ammunition for his “PPK,” a throwing knife, and an AR-7 sniper rifle. Also included are 50 gold sovereigns and a magnetized talcum powder gas grenade.
The infrared scope on the AR-7 comes in handy, as [spoiler alert] Ali Kerim Bey gets revenge on the man who blew up his office.
Bond’s first company car is also revealed for a brief moment at the beginning of the film. The 1935 Bentley 3.5 Litre is outfitted with a carphone, rare for its time, but it’s lack of use means this Bond film loses a point.
There’s a pretty ridiculous explosion at the office of Ali Kerim Bey that interrupts some sex, but the huge shootout at the Gypsy compound mostly makes up for it with some awesome explosions.
Bond also blows up an awesomely armed, mini-helicopter after a pretty sweet chase reminiscent of North by Northwest. A lot of stuff also burns, including boats and men.
The Bond Girls
This Bond is full of 10s from beginning to end and includes Gypsy belly dancers that make even Bond laugh, finally relaxing a bit. A cat fight breaks out between two Gypsies after the same man, but Bond asks Ali Kerim Bey to put an end to it, and the Gypsy “king,” whom Bond saves during a gun battle at the compound, says he will, but only if Bond decides which is best suited to marry the prince.
“This might take some time,” he jokes. “As if I didn’t have enough problems.”
They take care of him during his stay – cooking, sewing, etc. He never does declare a winner.
Tanya’s voice was actually provided by Barbara Jefford, and it’s a very sexy voice. She breaks into Bond’s suite and is found by 007 running naked from the balcony to the bed. You get a nice shot of her ass, but it’s her facial features that are practically perfect. The Soviets get a nice show of them having sex through the two-way mirror above the bed.
Director Terence Young isn’t shy about showing a bit of breast. Early in the film he gives us a shot down the bathing suit of a woman massaging Bond’s assassin, and not much later he gives us the same angle again when Ali Kerim Bey is about to go “back to the salt mine” and have sex until a pretty ridiculous explosion interrupts him.
Total GBR: 060/070
If you’re looking for a Bond film that features fine ass girls in cat fights, belly dancers, shootouts, and helicopter explosions, From Russia with Love is a damn fine choice. Connery comes into his own and spends a bit more time in the field than he did in Dr. No. The graphics improve despite just one year between the first and second Bond film, and the Bond girls are exemplary. It does, however, lack a strong villain.