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Saturday, April 30, 2011

FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE (1963)

While it’s never held the iconic status of GOLDFINGER/’64 (nor that film’s ultra-clean narrative line), the second James Bond pic anchored the series with most of the signature elements that continue to prop up the increasingly arthritic franchise. This early outing has an unusually strong cast with Sean Connery, still lithe & dangerous as Bond, playing hardball with Robert Shaw (an actual actor as the menacing goon), and footsies with the gloriously eccentric baddie Lotte Lenya. A good thing, too, because Bond’s romance with Soviet spy Daniela Bianchi never heats up. The first half of the film plays out as a picturesque vamp (in photogenic Istanbul) before turning into a picaresque chase, a bit too closely modeled on Hitchcock’s NORTH BY NORTHWEST/’59. (A ‘Making-Of’ short details some of the plot contortions.) GOLDFINGER took things one step farther away from a realistic spy yarn (for better & for worse) and even managed to set Connery up with an age-appropriate love-interest. After that it was all bloat, gadgets & self-mockery. Recent entries have kept up-to-date with ultra-violence & buckets of CGI. Whoopee.

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