Istanbul must be a lucky location for James Bond pics. Back in ‘63, the series found its footing by the Bosphorus with FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE/’63. 17 entries later, #19 pays a return visit and comes up better than its rep would suggest. Sure, the action sequences are painfully bloated and lame double entendres clutter up the script, but the film actually has a story that builds, makes sense, and features some neat reversals.* We also get some sweet new characters including Robbie Coltrane’s fine Turkish Pooh-Bah, Denise Richards’ smart, sexy, funny sidekick, and Robert Carlyle’s pain-immune villain. Helmer Michael Apted, a talented non-specialist, is a dab hand at suspense and deals out the big action stuff to the second-unit so as to concentrate on getting a bit of detailed work from the Bond regulars. Plus, there’s a swell Tyrannosaurus Rex of a Tree-Trimmer that almost tops seeing James Bond out on a date with the long-suffering Miss Moneypenny! (It’s just a funeral, but still.) So, keep your expectations under control, let the pre-credit action sequence play out (almost two reels long!), and you’ll have a pretty decent time of it. And don’t forget to wave ta-ta to ‘Q’ (Desmond Llewelyn) who gets a swell send off.
SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY I: Maurice Binder is no longer around to make those goofy/sexy title sequences, but must we stoop to the ghastly mess we get from Daniel Kleinman? (See our poster to get the flavor of the thing.) And while the producers had dropped John Barry years back to pursue more modish music meisters, Michael Apted tried to amend this diss by assigning Barry to score his next film, ENIGMA/’01. The film, which grossed about one hundredth (!) of what this one made, turned out to be Barry’s swansong.
SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY II: *You don’t really notice it until the film is over, especially since the first half of the story is something of a feint, but with the substitution of oil for ingots, GOLDFINGER/’64 is the underlying template on this one.