TCM Classic Film Fest 2013: From Russia with Love (1963)
Screened from a newly resorted and digital print, the images were sharp, with deeply saturated colors and tones. The sound, crisp and bright. And Sean Connery, as always, the strongest of Bonds. However, sometimes you can have too much of a good thing. Now that the images are so resolute and vivid, we can discern every flaw in the image; from lipstick spread way past the lips’ edges, the obvious body doubles moving around in long shots, and even the swirled and packed makeup on Bond’s own face.
The second in the series, this year celebrating it’s 50th anniversary, From Russia with Love doesn’t move as fast as I remember from past viewings. But what it lacks in modern sophistication, it makes up for in it’s one pivotal and extraordinary scene.
We spend the movie watching two uber-men as they draw closer and closer together. Robert Shaw (who I’ve grown to respect more over the years with every new role I see) is a modern killing machine, a homicidal maniac who is a flesh and blood terminator, stalking and preparing to meet, steal from and kill Bond. In fact, Shaw is always one step ahead of Bond; setting traps and protecting him, all to be able to take him on; mano a mano.
The penultimate set piece in a claustrophobic train car, finally jams these two into its tight frame. It’s the first time, 3/4 of the way through the film, that we’ve even heard Shaw’s character speak, and he effects an almost effete cockney accent, assuming the role of an agent he has just killed.
Every moment that Connery turns his back on Shaw, we see the hatred, disgust and sexual anticipation Shaw feels, itching to humiliate and destroy this superagent, his performance an exercise in great restraint and complexity.
Finally, when the identities are revealed and the battle begins, it is shot and choreographed with such assurance that the scene plays better than some of the excellent superhero fight scenes shot today. By the time they are brawling, the scene’s greatness has reached its apex.
There were still some signature Bond elements that hadn’t been used yet, such as the spectacular finales taking place in the lair of the super villain, the missile launch site or the over-the-top armed fortress, and because of this, the ending feels a little light. It wouldn’t be until the third film, “Goldfinger” that all of the pieces would fall perfectly into place. But as an early outing, “From Russia With Love” still holds up, and thanks to that train car sequence, surpasses many of the later entries.
Gallery of Images from From Russia with Love