I'm going to watch all of the James Bond Films

A while back, I watched Dr. No, the first James Bond film, for the first time, and started a thread about it. (Holy crap, that was a year and a half ago. Time flies!)

Last night I moved on to Bond #2, From Russia With Love (1963). I figure I might as well keep going now. I’ve seen several of them, but I don’t really recall which ones, so what the heck, let’s just go in order. I won’t wait another year and a half for the next one, but I’m not going to binge either; just whenever I have an evening to kill and feel like I’m in the mood for some 007. I figure instead of making a new thread for every film, I’ll bump this one each time I watch the next installment.

My only request for this thread is that we not discuss any of the films ahead of time. If you’re dying to talk about, say, Moonraker, please do so elsewhere until I’ve posted here that I watched it. Let’s see how long this takes (probably years!), but now that I’ve publicly announced my intention, I guess I’m stuck.

I won’t re-hash Dr.No here; the previous discussion is there if you want to read it. Quick summary: I enjoyed it, but found it much cheesier and campier than I’d expected.

So, From Russia With Love: Wow. Leaps and bounds ahead of Dr.No just a year later. A bigger budget and a much more cohesive vision. You can see all the franchise’s thematic staples beginning to emerge. According to IMDB, Sean Connery, Barbara Broccoli, and several others associated with the Bond series point to this one as their favorite. And I can see why – this is where the bar was set.

The plot is a somewhat simple McGuffin chase involving a decoding device and a ride on the Orient Express. SPECTRE also wants revenge on Bond for the killing of Dr. No, which ties it back to the previous film. You’ve got everything you want in a Bond movie crammed in there. Menacing bad guys, frying-pan-into-the fire action sequences, cool gadgets, and of course, the Bond Girl.

Robert Shaw was great as the menacing tough guy, teased before the credits and then worth the wait when he finally gets into the action. Lotte Lenya created an amazing character that has influenced countless other characters and spawned many parodies over the years. Brilliant.

One of my favorite parts: Immediately after a brutal, protracted hand-to-hand battle to the death in the train compartment, Connery stands up, straightens his tie, and buttons his jacket. Pure Bond.

One aspect that hasn’t really aged well is the movie’s treatment of women. Tatiana betrays her country because… why, exactly? Because Bond is good in the sack? Because she’s fallen in love with him for no good reason? Even after he roughs her up a little? Oh, and he allows Grant to poison her without knowing whether it’s lethal or not. OK.
Then there’s the Gypsy camp scene. Bond doesn’t want the women to fight each other; that’s fine. And the line “You heart is too soft to be a true Gypsy” was cutely ironic. But what’s the resolution to that situation? A threesome, apparently. The scene doesn’t go anywhere except a superfluous sexual innuendo. Unless I missed something, I could have done without that whole bit.

But overall, a really entertaining film. By all accounts one of the best – if not the best of the Bonds. We’ll see how well it holds up as I go.

(To self-hijack for a minute, I have a confession: I did not realize Lotte Lenya was a real person! I always figured that was just a name in a song. Turns out she was married to Kurt Weill, who wrote “Mack the Knife.” Some accounts claim that Louis Armstrong improvised her name while recording the song; others say she was originally written into the lyrics. It doesn’t matter – if you’re name-checked in “Mack the Knife,” you’ve got instant badass cred in my book!)

It’s my favorite of the Connery Bonds. More spying, less stupidity. The plot feels like something that could really happen (unlike Dr No, and about 75% of the rest.)

As to the sexism, well, it was the 60s. You can hate it, accept it as a relic, or view it dispassionately, clinically, like an anthropological study. :slight_smile:

Not only was she married to Weill, she was a singer and performer in her own right. Taking on the role of Rosa Klebb was a very significant departure for her.

Having seen her in the film, I can’t picture anyone else in the role (although they arguably created other similar characters for the Bond films, like Irma Bunt (played by Ilse Steppat) in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.
If you’re going to take a year and a half between films, it’ll take you over 37 years to do the Eon films alone (ignoring the TV Casino Royale, the 1967 Casino Royale, and Never say Never Again)

OP, how could you forget to mention Kerim Bey? His numerous sons, his deadpan humor, at least as much of a ladies man as Bond himself.

“Limpet mine on the wall outside - timed to catch me at my desk. But by good fortune, I was relaxing on the settee for a few moments. The girl left in hysterics.”

“I’ve had a particularly fascinating life. Would you like to hear about it?”
(gagged, tied up Russian shakes his head no)
“You would?”

She’s named checked because she sung the song. It’s not in the original German lyrics, and there was no reason why it should be – it would have been distracting, since Lenya was the female lead (she didn’t sing the song in the stage production, but recorded it later).

If you insist on being a Bond movie completest, you might also wish to include Operation Kid Brother (1967) with series icons Bernard Lee, Lois Maxwell, Daniela Bianchi, Anthony Dawson, Adolfo Celi and someone named Connery.

Also, The Liquidator (1965), though only for the best fake-Bond theme music ever.

Are you also going to do the unofficial Never Say Never Again and the original Casino Royale?

I concur that From Russia With Love is the best Connery film, and therefore the best of the whole franchise. Beautifully acted, cool gadgets, and a plot that moves fast enough to cover up the holes.

I have never been able to figure out why the Bond films work for me. JB is an idiot, with an incredible streak of dumb luck that brings him out on top, but Connery sells the character so well that it just seems right that Bond should triumph thru sheer cool. For instance -

Because he’s James Bond. Of course women will fall on him. He’s James Bond.

The whole idea of the Orient Express is silly. Tatiana won’t defect without it - ok, fine. When she shows up at the train station, grab the Lector away from her and get on the next plane to England. Take the girl too, if she will come along - but what is she going to do, go back to Rosa Klebb and complain? And as I mentioned else3where, they can get a periscope into the Russian embassy, but not a microphone.

But, for some reason, I get carried along and that kind of question doesn’t distract from my enjoyment of the film.

Regards,
Shodan

Heh. I doubt I even have 37 years left on the planet. I don’t plan to space them out that far, now that I’ve decided to do this.

You’re right! Great character, and a sad story. Pedro Armendáriz was terminally ill during filming, and passed away before the film’s release.

I do plan to watch Never Say Never Again, probably in release date order. I saw it on the big screen when it was new and I recall enjoying it. A re-watch will be interesting. Chances are I’ll skip the made-for-TV Casino Royale. I saw the 1967 spoof version some years ago, and feel no desire to ever see it again.

This right here is going to be the key to carrying out this whole endeavor, methinks.

For better or for worse, the silly parts of James Bond movies are the only parts I remember afterwards. So my memories of From Russia With Love are:

-the Bond-killing training session
-the shoe-knife
-the periscope under the embassy
-the girl getting folded up in the train bed

That’s pretty bland stuff compared to the all-out craziness in Goldfinger.

That was Live And Let Die.

Or did they both do it? It’s been a while since I saw FRWL.

Seems to me some basic cable channel–TNT, maybe, or Spike–used to show a lot of Bond marathons, and that’s where I saw a lot of the old ones for the first time. You’re wise not to binge-watch them, as everything from Goldfinger to the last Roger Moore one features something that’s jaw-droppingly stupid, and in heavy doses, it’s hard to pretend otherwise.

Be charitable about the sexism. These movies were made by men who likely served in WWII but were too old to get in on the groovy Free Love of the 60s and basically watched it from the sidelines.

The Bond franchise has never been one I’ve been terribly enthusisastic about, although I do like the films. But when I rewatched a few Connery and Moore era Bonds I realized just how head and shoulders they were above everyone else in terms of action and charm. Now Bond movies are just one of many blockuster films, but pre-Star Wars it was the biggest game in town.

In FRWL, Grant drugged Tatiana, and she was unconscious on the couch in the next compartment when the fight occurred. Bond knew it too, Grant told him that the extraction route was only for him, not her as well.

This past summer, one of my premium movie channels had them all in succession. I never knew David Niven was James Bond until then. It was a crappy movie.

My favorites in order:

Roger Moore
Pierce Brosnan
Sean Connery
Daniel Craig
Timothy Dalton
George Lazenby

When I watched From Russia with Love for the first time, the thing I remembered most was that it had a chess game. I was big into chess at that time. Trivia: the position shown on the board in the movie comes from a real game played by Soviet world champion Boris Spassky.

Please tell Barbara Bach’s dress that I still remember it fondly.

Isn’t this the one that James Bond knew he was speaking to an impostor because he gasp drank red wine with fish? Only Russians could be so vulgar.

You might keep an eye on Amazon, the blu Ray set is often on sale during the holidays. I bought a few years ago, I think it goes up to the new Casino Royale.

I know FRWL is the better film and more of a real spy film. I know that the Bond franchise was still finding its legs, but if you handed me Dr No and FRWL, I’ll pick to watch Dr. No 90% of the time.

Somehow I’m thinking that’s Diamonds are Forever, I could be wrong. I’m thinking I need a new Bond marathon after the holidays.