Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, November 5, 2015


FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE (1964). Director: Terence Young.

A beautiful Russian agent, Tatiana (Daniela Bianchi), is told to romance James Bond (Sean Connery) as part of a scheme engineered by the sinister organization, Spectre. Tatiana is given her orders by Colonel Rosa Klebb (Lotte Lenya), whom she believes is still her superior, but who has actually defected to Spectre. At stake is the Lektor decoder, which is coveted by both the British and Ernst Blofeld (Anthony Dawson, unseen but for the hands stroking his white cat), who is the head of Spectre. Bond and Tatiana come together in Istanbul and wind up in Venice, where along the way they are pursued by a deadly Spectre assassin, Grant (Robert Shaw), chased by speedboats and helicopters, and nearly come to an end at the feet -- yes, feet -- of Rosa Klebb. From Russia With Love is very entertaining, well turned-out hogwash with some very good performances. Although she's playing an "evil lesbian" stereotype, Lenya [The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone] is terrific and nearly walks off with the movie, although she gets competition from a superb Robert Shaw [A Man for All Seasons]. The tense train compartment scene which climaxes in a to-the-death battle between Grant and Bond is one of the best sequences in the picture. "Dr. No" was also a Spectre operative in the previous film, and this one introduces the training camp on Spectre Island, where Rosa punches Grant in the stomach while wearing "wooden knuckles." The copter attack does not compare favorably with the crop duster scene in North By Northwest, but there is a very good boat chase, and the climax with nasty Klebb is memorable. There's a zesty dance from a Gypsy dancer, as well as a cat fight in the Gypsy camp; one of the participants is Martine Beswick [Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde], although her name is misspelled as "Martin" Beswick in the opening credits. Bianchi was "introduced" in this film -- it was actually her fifth credit -- and is capable and very attractive, although it has been reported that her voice was (very skillfully) dubbed due to a too-thick Italian accent. Vladek Sheybal also makes an impression as the Spectre employee Kronsteen. The title tune is sung over the end credits by Matt Monro, a British pop singer of the period. 

Verdict: More fun with James Bond. ***.


angelman66 said...

One of the best! Lotte Lenya's villainous character turn is unforgettable. And Matt Monro is one of my favorite forgotten crooners...

William said...

Yes, Monro is forgotten, even though he did "From Russia" (of course that was a hundred years ago!) and had a career in the U.S. for awhile. I love Lenya -- her death scene is dramatic without overdoing it. She almost steals the moive from everyone else.