6 things to love about From Russia with Love (1964)

I’m a huge James Bond fan, and I love all of them, even Lazenby. And the number of Bond movies I truly hate can be counted on half of one hand. For a franchise spanning some 50 years and 25 films, that’s pretty damn good. If you asked me which Bond film is my favorite, I would be hard pressed to pick just one. You’ve got the over-the-top fun of The Spy Who Loved Me, the gritty Casino Royale (the 2006 version. The one made in 1967 is shit), and the amazing Goldeneye. But if you held a gun to my head and forced me to pick the one that rises to the top, I would have to say it’s From Russia with Love.

From Russia with Love is the second film of the James Bond franchise, coming out just a year after Dr. No (I still think it’s incredible that there were three Bond movies in just three years, and four in just five. It really does illustrate just how huge a phenomenon the franchise was back then), and it builds on the foundation of the movie that came before it.

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The plot goes as follows: months after James Bond defeats Dr. No, the organization known as SPECTRE decides to kill two birds with one stone and get revenge on our favorite British secret agent for killing their operative and to use him to get their hands on a Soviet Lektor decoding machine. Their plan is to have a female Soviet officer based in Istanbul pretend to have a crush on Bond and contact him through his superiors with an offer to help him get one. Said officer, Tatiana, is merely a pawn being manipulated by Rosa Klebb, a former Soviet officer who’s been turned by SPECTRE. Bond and his superiors are well aware this is a trap, but the opportunity to get their hands on a Lektor is just too good to pass up…

6 things to love about From Russia with Love (1964)

So, what are the components of this film that make me enjoy it so much? Let’s break it down.

1. It’s gritty and realistic.

Many James Bond plots involve a criminal mastermind threatening the world in some way, be it Auric Goldfinger irradiating the United States’ gold supply (and bear in mind what a big deal that would have been; The U.S. was still using the gold standard, which was in part one of the reasons America and Europe’s economies were ticking along so well and oil was $1 a barrel. Wipe out that gold, and the dollar essentially becomes worthless. It’s actually a pretty cool plan. I just think the movie Goldfinger as a whole is pretty boring), to Ernst Stavro Blofeld (ver. 4.0) using a satellite equipped with a jewel-encrusted laser beam in Diamonds are Forever. Even Dr. No has a huge secret lair with its own nuclear reactor, and he’s using some radio beam to knock down American rockets for… reasons. Honestly, I can’t remember exactly why he’s doing that. Do they ever explain it? Is there a ransom demand like there was in Thunderball?

Looking at From Russia with Love, the villains have two clear goals: get the Lektor machine from the Soviets which can either be sold back to them or to the highest bidder, and kill and discredit James Bond to avenge Dr. No. There are no world-shattering plots, and nothing outlandish. It’s rather refreshing, really, and we don’t see its kind again until much later in the franchise with The Spy Who Loved Me.

What I also like is how the Cold War is very much a factor in this story. I’m not saying Bond writers need to utterly immerse themselves in the real world, but the franchise suffers when it strays too far from it (I’m looking at you, Moonraker). Now, if one is to talk about the tone of the films, then one has to talk about the gadgets. Which brings me to…

2. The advent of gadgetry.

There was a time when I loved the Aston Martin with the ejector seat, oil slick, and machine guns, and the Lotus that turned into a submarine. And then I grew up.

Okay, okay, that sounds cynical and bitter. Don’t get me wrong, I like the more outrageous James Bond films for what they are and they can be fun, but sometimes I do think things can get, well, kind of stupid. From Space Marines firing lasers (seriously, what is it with lasers with these writers? Goldfinger had one, Blofeld uses one, Bond gets one in a watch, sheesh!) to invisible cars, I think the franchise is at its lowest when things get eye-rolling-ly over the top.

Bond is most interesting to me when the focus is on spy craft rather than gadgetry. That doesn’t mean I’m against the principle of gadgetry; the CIA museum is full of the stuff, and gadgets can be fun. I just think it’s when you enter the realm of science fiction (the aforementioned laser beam watch) that I have issues. The first film that had Bond using such exotic equipment was From Russia with Love. Here, James is given a special briefcase…

6 things to love about From Russia with Love (1964)

…containing a collapsible rifle, equipped with a tear gas bomb that will go off in the face of any thief who doesn’t properly open it, as well as a hidden dagger and concealed emergency swag in the form of a cache of gold sovereigns. The entire briefcase was believable and functional. And Bond was not the only one using gadgetry. SPECTRE was apparently outfitting their agents with boots/shoes containing poison blades…

6 things to love about From Russia with Love (1964)

…and Bond’s opponent Grant had a way cool garrote watch.

6 things to love about From Russia with Love (1964)

I think it’s cool when the minions get outfitted with their own special toys. This brings me to…

3. The rise of the henchman.

One of the problems with Dr. No, and one of the reasons why it’s not fondly remembered, is the lack of memorable bad guys. Yes, Dr. No is very cool, but he doesn’t appear on screen until late in the third act (granted, you do hear his voice in an earlier scene, which is staged in a very effective, menacing manner). His stand-ins are largely forgettable minions that no one really cares about, and who don’t pose much of a threat to Bond at all.

Fortunately, that problem is solved in later movies with the rise of the henchman. Who can forget Goldfinger’s Odd Job, the most iconic minion of all time? Or The Spy Who Loved Me’s Jaws? Or Goldeneye’s Xenia Onatopp? Live and Let Die’s Tee Hee? Diamonds are Forever’s Wint and Kidd? But all of them pale in comparison to From Russia with Love’s Grant, played by Robert Shaw.

6 things to love about From Russia with Love (1964)

Grant is everything you can ask for in a murderous subordinate. He’s low-key enough to fade into the background, intelligent enough to make decisions on his own, and frighteningly competent. Over the years, this franchise’s henchmen have gotten cartoonishly silly; even Famke Jennsen’s Onatopp was a bit ridiculous with her over-the-top sadism, and her method of assassination, which involved crushing men with her legs.

No, Robert Shaw’s Grant makes the top of my list, with the way he stalks Bond throughout From Russia with Love, even saving Bond’s life once (seriously, in that scene Bond was a dead man if it wasn’t for Grant) because he has yet to acquire the Lektor. It also helps that unlike many of the other actors who would play minions, Robert Shaw was Sean Connery’s match in terms of acting, which made their exchange on the train so memorable. And both men were of a size, which implied that in many ways they were equal but opposite. I won’t deny part of my bias regarding this film stems from my admiration for Robert Shaw, an actor who died too soon.

Of course, one can’t talk about the henchmen without discussing their superiors. Which brings me to…

4. SPECTRE.

While it was revealed in Dr. No that the titular character was working for the organization, it wasn’t until From Russia with Love that SPECTRE was truly born. Here we saw the organization in action, along with its iconic elements, such as Blofeld and his equally iconic cat…

6 things to love about From Russia with Love (1964)

And the ring. Can’t forget the ring.

…to its numbered field generals.

6 things to love about From Russia with Love (1964)

A Bond film succeeds and fails based on the strength of its villains. For example, I don’t rate Quantum of Solace very highly, because quite frankly, Dominic Greene is a pretty lame bad guy (seriously, Bond uncovers the existence of Quantum just by following him), and has arguably the dumbest-looking minion ever.

6 things to love about From Russia with Love (1964)

The only thing this guy is memorable for is that haircut; you have to go watch Despicable Me to find somebody who looks stupider. I had to IMDb him to find out his name is “Elvis”. He looks like Moe Howard’s child molesting grandson.

And what about Quantum itself? By movie’s end (and implied by Skyfall, due to its absence), Quantum is destroyed. SPECTRE in From Russia with Love? Bond only gets to see a tiny part of it. He doesn’t even have any idea that the architect of the plot is Kronsteen; SPECTRE is smart enough to compartmentalize. Their security is tight, and though James has won this round, all SPECTRE has lost is a few minions.

There was another thing that I liked about SPECTRE: anyone could potentially be a member (an idea liberally borrowed in Quantum of Solace). With Kronsteen being part of the organization, it’s like Bobby Fischer possibly being the mastermind of numerous terrorist and extortionist plots worldwide. In From Russia with Love, SPECTRE is low-key and their aims are believable, whereas in Dr. No, their goals are nebulous, and in Thunderball, their plot to blackmail, well, everybody promptly puts them on the shitlist of every intelligence agency in the world.

Honestly, all the CIA and MI-6 have to do is tell the Soviets that SPECTRE was behind that nonsense in Turkey, using Klebb as a pawn to manipulate Tatiana, and I’d say there’d be a five-year truce between spy agencies so everyone can concentrate on wiping out Blofeld and company (which, now that I think about it, is more or less the plot of The Man from U.N.C.L.E., where East and West cooperate to take down THRUSH. I never thought I’d find myself admitting The Man from U.N.C.L.E. made, in one significant way, more sense than the Bond franchise). Hell, why the Soviets and CIA don’t right away assume its SPECTRE messing with their space flights in You Only Live Twice is beyond me. You see what frustrates me about some of these films? From Russia with Love just makes more sense, at least in how the villains are handled.

And how about the way Blofeld himself is presented, faceless and menacing, as if he personifies SPECTRE itself (much like Dr. No was shown in the prior film)? I think once we got to see the man’s face in You Only Live Twice, the mystique was gone, to be parodied by later generations.

Hell, Blofeld’s name isn’t even spoken in From Russia with Love. That’s just so cool.

5. Bond isn’t perfect.

One of the reasons Roger Moore’s Bond never appealed to me is how flawless he seemed. Not a hair out of place, slacks perfectly creased, always cool and calm, charming smile permanently spread across his face, along with the fact there was never a sense that he was in any peril. And he always seemed to know everything. Not so with Connery’s Bond.

The writers weren’t afraid to put him in situations where he was on the ropes, helpless and ignorant. In From Russia with Love, Bond is manipulated into taking a room with a one-way mirror so he can be filmed having sex with Tatiana, and throughout the film, Grant stalks him without Bond being aware of his existence. Bond is Kronsteen’s pawn in his chess game. Perhaps one of the reasons why I like Craig’s Bond so much is the way he’s handled echoes the early Connery films. Yes, I know Bond isn’t going to die. All the same, I much prefer my heroes to seem both mortal and fallible; that makes the victory mean so much more.

6. The best Bond.

Everyone has their favorites, and often it’s the Bond they grew up with. But for me, despite Roger Moore being my generation’s Bond, I’ve always felt Connery was the greatest. He was equal parts smooth and rough, charming and merciless, able to order the right wine with fish or ruthlessly gun down an unarmed assassin because he’s given up all the information he has and is now useless (to me, the best scene in Dr. No). Other Bonds were alright; I thought Dalton got shafted, getting just two films, and I would have liked to have seen him get more. And Daniel Craig has done a stellar job. But for me, Connery will always be the best.

6 things to love about From Russia with Love (1964)

Even when they have him “disguised” as a Japanese fisherman.

My only regret is that Connery came back to do Never Say Never Again. I feel that film just hurt his legacy.

I’m aware From Russia with Love is not perfect. Bond sleeps with four women, firmly establishing his status as a man-whore. Kerim Bey’s death perpetuates the cliché that being Bond’s friend means you’re likely going to wind up on a slab somewhere. Kronsteen is killed for his failure, which makes me wonder why anyone would want to work for SPECTRE in the first place if you get punished for making mistakes. Using that logic, then maybe Blofeld should be executed for giving Kronsteen the job, eh?

The movie also doesn’t stand completely on its own, as it relies on the events of Dr. No to set up the plot. And the theme song is one of the weakest, least memorable tunes in the history of the franchise, lacking Shirley Bassey’s brassy voice with Goldfinger, or Tom Jones’ passionate performance of Thunderball, or even the still-cool rock sound of McCartney’s Live and Let Die (which was used to awesome effect throughout the film of the same name). But compared to most Bond films, I think it easily holds its own.

So, what was your favorite Bond film and why? Let me know in the comments below!

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  • Kenneth Peter Shinn

    As a sidenote: Reason Number 7 – Kerim Bey.

    • Muthsarah

      “Back to the salt mines…”

      “He also is my son. All of my key employees are my sons. Blood is the best security in this business. Biggest family payroll in Turkey. Not bad for a man who started life breaking chains and bending bars in a circus.”

      It’s like Anthony Quinn wandered off the set of “La Strada” and right into a Bond film.

  • Toby Clark

    “Kronsteen is killed for his failure, which makes me wonder why anyone would want to work for SPECTRE in the first place if you get punished for making mistakes. Using that logic, then maybe Blofeld should be executed for giving Kronsteen the job, eh?”
    It gets worse when you remember that his part of the plan worked perfectly and that it was Klebb’s choice of hitman who screwed it up.

    • Jonathan Campbell

      Yes, but in fairness, nobody but Bond knew that. Also, he might not have been killed for his failure so much as his smug superiority.

      Also, I’ve never really liked the whole “why would anyone work for evil people who will kill you for failing” argument, because that’s exactly what happens in real life. And if they kill you for failure, what do you think they’ll do to you if you try and leave?

  • KM

    RE: reason no. 1, “The Spy Who Loved Me” had nothing outlandish? The one where a villain hijacks three submarines, tries to start World War III, and wants to start a whole new society under the sea? Are you sure you don’t mean “For Your Eyes Only”, where both sides are after the ATAC unit?

    • Thomas Stockel

      My bad, I meant to say For Your Eyes Only. I have to fire my editor.

      Oh, wait. I’m my editor. Guess I’m fired. 🙂

  • Immortan Scott

    This is my favorite one too, by a wide margin.

  • MichaelANovelli

    I keep telling people Live And Let Die rules the roost, but nobody wants to listen! 😉

    • Thomas Stockel

      I dig it. And Paul McCartney’s theme song is probably my favorite of the franchise.

      EDIT: And I especially love how the theme song is featured throughout the film.

  • Muthsarah

    “From Russia with Love is the second film of the James Bond franchise, coming out just a year after Dr. No (I still think it’s incredible that there were three Bond movies in just three years, and four in just five. It really does illustrate just how huge a phenomenon the franchise was back then), and it builds on the foundation of the movie that came before it.”

    What it illustrates to me is that you once could write, produce, and market a very well-made film in less than three years. Nowadays, they choose a release date a year or two in advance, secure the cast, do the early marketing, and apparently only then work on the screenplay. That “Spectre” was two years into production before the producers realized that they didn’t like the script shows highly skewed priorities. Get the script right, and THEN worry about everything else.

    “[FRWL’s plot is] rather refreshing, really, and we don’t see its kind again until much later in the franchise with The Spy Who Loved Me.

    TSWLM’s ridiculous compared to this. How do you go from Red Grant to Jaws, and a tale about a turncoat, an unwitting puppet, and a decoding device into a sea fortress and a scheme to trigger a nuclear war as a means to create a new master race, under the sea? THAT’S not outlandish?

    After Thunderball, you’d have to wait until For Your Eyes Only for the Bond series to come back to reality. Not that I don’t enjoy a few films along the way.

    “And the ring. Can’t forget the ring.”

    I’ve actually never noticed that. Is that the same octopus from the new posters? I was afraid the first time I saw it, since all I saw was a bullethole in what I assumed would be a windscreen. But if it could possibly mean something else, just a symbol of an organization (and how HYDRA, really, so I doubly hope it’s decades old), I’d be much relieved.

    “There was another thing that I liked about SPECTRE: anyone could potentially be a member (an idea liberally borrowed in Quantum of Solace).”

    I personally don’t like this device. It requires zero cleverness or foreshadowing to have ANYBODY suddenly turn into a bad guy. The scene near the beginning of Quantum only makes M16 look incompetent. If anyone could be an infiltrator, then ANYONE could be an infiltrator. Moneypenny. The guy Albert Finney played. Even Q. Having one of them suddenly turn bad is no more impressive than a random jump scare. Just let the good guys be good, the bad guys be bad, don’t be afraid to let the audience know more than Bond does, and actually be clever in telling a story of how Bond figures it out. That’s 10x better than having MI6 mook #4 suddenly pull a gun on Bond with an “a-ha” musical sting.

    “Bond isn’t perfect.”

    Yeah, but this is a part of Bond being of a different era. A pre-Bond era, really. Once the movies took off, it was inevitable the producers had to keep finding new ways to top the peril Bond found himself in, make him even more ingenious in how he escapes, and raise the stakes in the event he (inexplicably) failed. And you can only go so far before he’s a comic book superhero. They didn’t have to overreach, but if they hadn’t, the general audiences eventually would have gotten bored, especially as other franchises would have gleefully taken that extra step and made Bond seem lacklustre and boring by comparison, no matter how plausible he remained.

    “[Bond was] able to … gun down an unarmed assassin because he’s given up all the information he has and is now useless (to me, the best scene in Dr. No).”

    Yeah, I can’t even imagine Dalton’s Bond doing that (OK, he would have done that to Sanchez, but that’s it). It’s right up there with FYEO’s car kick in both how ruthless it is and, yet, how emotionally perfect. In the latter, Bond wants revenge against a nasty guy who killed several innocent people James had reason to feel for, but in Dr. No, it was ice-cold professionalism. Not until the opening of Casino Royale does the franchise quite match it.

    “The movie also doesn’t stand completely on its own, as it relies on the events of Dr. No to set up the plot.”

    I dunno about that. I think it stands on its own. Whatever references are dropped early just give it a serial quality that fits the type of story, and new viewers shouldn’t feel lost. Star Wars didn’t need to explain everything about the Old Republic or the nature of the Rebellion, it just jumped into a bigger story. FRWL doesn’t rely on Dr. No at all. The continuity’s just a little bonus.

    “And the theme song is one of the weakest, least memorable tunes in the history of the franchise”

    Oh, you can go to he–

    Sorry. Sorry.

    I don’t mind Matt Monro’s singing at all. Remember when the film came out. These weren’t the “Swinging 60s”. Rock music was still for kids. James Bond, a man old enough to have maybe served in WWII, still had TWO feet firmly planted in the old world. FRWL is very much a 1950s film, clearly having taken more than a little inspiration from “North by Northwest”. Having a crooner serenade the audience while James and Tatiana kiss on a boat in Venice is very old-school. Even “Goldfinger” was a little slow to the uptake, what with that crack about the Beatles. Thunderball is the first film I feel is truly a product of the 1960s. Nuclear blackmail (very WMD-ish), Tom Jones, speed ramping, and everything Fiona and Domino wore.

    As for favorite film, I really wish I could answer that. For my own sake. The best I can do is say that it’s either a tie between FRWL and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, or FRWL wins by a hair (and by virtue of clearly being the “better” film, even if I may love OHMSS a little more). FYEO is third, and then it gets murky again. You Only Live Twice and License to Kill, probably. Then The Man With the Golden Gun or A View to a Kill. But that’s because camp has so much replayability.

    Casino Royale (2006) is the best-written, best-produced, maybe best-acted of the series. It just isn’t a lot of fun for me so I rarely revisit it. I’d watch any Moore over the best Craig.

  • Toby Clark

    “Not a hair out of place, slacks perfectly creased, always cool and calm, charming smile permanently spread across his face, along with the fact there was never a sense that he was in any peril.”
    I’d point to the centrifuge scene in Moonraker as a counterexample.

    • Thomas Stockel

      Hmmm, a valid point.

    • Muthsarah

      Well, it’s 50-50 luck that James had the right dart in his wrist-gun-thing at the time. He had the armor-piercing one when he needed it in the centrifuge, and he had the poison one when he needed it on the space station.

      Moore wasn’t just crazy smooth, he was crazy lucky. He knew NOT to try to escape from Hip in TMWTGG, because, as it turns out, he was a good guy who was just trying to take him to M. He also got knocked out by Anya in TSWLM, with absolutley no ill effect. In FYEO, he is incapacitated exactly once…by goons answering to Colombo, a good guy. Moore’s Bond even knew the exact right moments to fall short, meaning that he could only be temporarily bested by a good guy, and only when it advanced the plot.

      • Toby Clark

        I seem to recall that the gun was loaded with both darts, and could fire either depending on how Bond twisted his wrist. I may have to recheck that, though.

        But in any case, my point was that Bond looked more legitimately terrified during that scene than he has before or since, under any actor, and he also looked pretty shaken up for some time after getting out of there.

  • danbreunig

    I’ll have to go with You Only Live Twice. It’s the one that has just a little bit of everything: Connery, Blofeld, gadgetry, 60s era sci-fi and nuclear war paranoia, class and cheese at the same time, and introducing cliches like the white cat in lap with a visible face. Plus really setting up the trope that you can’t have an action-adventure series without at least one episode about going inside a live volcano that WILL blow in the end and then escaping with seconds to spare.

  • Gallen_Dugall

    “Space Marines firing lasers”
    *ahem* Microwave frequency lasers which had been developed the year before. So not really “sci-fi gadgetry” as much as “ripped from the headlines”. Never put into use because they could be defeated by tin foil. Kind of a major limitation.
    The most impossible gadgets in these films don’t get much grief and generally involve impossibly small power supplies (it’s not the wrist watch laser that’s unrealistic as much as it’s the lack of a large suitcase sized power supply) or antennas (don’t get me started on people who believe the chip they put in dogs can broadcast a signal).
    But yeah, this is probably the best of the Bond films.

    • Muthsarah

      Wait…are you saying it was plausible that the US could have put a space marines company into space on maybe an hour’s notice (tops), AND equip them with lasers (isn’t space stuff mostly aluminum, and easily punctureable by steel/lead bullets? And would aluminum foil REALLY deflect lasers capable of tearing steel (or….other aluminum) apart?

      Microwaves, yes. Good for leftovers. But firing laser bullets capable of killing or tearing a space station apart is another thing.

      Personally, I think it’s…*sniff*…kinda beautiful that so many commenters here can agree on a single best Bond film. It seems kinda unanimous now.

      • Gallen_Dugall

        All I said was microwave frequency lasers were a real thing at that time.
        I’ll agree this one was the best because I’ve been convinced by recent reviews and attempted nostalgia viewings that none of them were very good. Many of them can’t be sat through.

  • Low Mileage Pit Woofie

    Goldeneye for me: Brosnan brought the suave, Tina Turner channelled some Shirley Bassey into the theme song, Sean Bean made for a tough opponent, introduced Judi Dench as the new M, there was some excellent supporting actors with Robbie Coltrane, Joe Don Baker and Alan Cumming, it was the first Bond film to acknowledge the collapse of the Soviet Union, it upped the car chase stakes with a tank, and the villain’s scheme bridged the gap between realistic and outlandish.

    • Thomas Stockel

      I liked Goldeneye, too. Sean Bean’s Alec Trevelyan is one of the best Bond villains, not only because like Grant he was Bond’s physical equal, but he also had a valid motivation for his actions.

      • Muthsarah

        Valid? The governments of Churchill and Attlee screwed over my parents, and I had to live with it, therefore ALL BRITONS MUST SUFFER MY WRATH!!!!!!!!!

        …is valid to you? It’s an original motivation, cinematically, and it does raise the spectre (no pun) of a really dark period in history where Britain capitulated to brutal totalitarianism for no good reason, but still. Trevelyan was nonetheless a monster for pursuing the plan he did. If anything, he should have focused on the Soviets (and their hardline Russian successors). THEY were the ones who actually killed his ancestors, the British were just gentlemanishly oblivious as to assume Uncle Joe would play fair cricket, or what the hell ever.

        But Bean is talented and charismatic, I won’t take that —- wait, this was ONLY SIX YEARS BEFORE FELLOWSHIP…..

        ………my brain, or the parts of it linked to my memory, are sad now. Where does the time go…

        • Thomas Stockel

          “Valid” may have been the wrong word. Credible, perhaps? At least is goes beyond the simple monetary goals most bad guys go for.

          • Muthsarah

            He’s a good villain. Fairly well-written. Rather well-performed. No camp at all, but a definite hard edge.

            Wait….he should’ve been a Dalton villain.

            Honestly, the more I think about the Bond series, the more convinced I become that Dalton really, REALLY should have had more chances. I do love License to Kill (my #5), but, given how much current pop culture is in love with the Craig series, and its dark, gritty, humorless, dark grittiness, I can absolutely believe that, had Dalton been given another couple of films in the early 90s, that the Bond series could have again LED moviegoing trends, instead of just copying them all the time. Bond was cutting-edge in the 60s. But after OHMSS, EON chickened out, and just tried to give the audience what it wanted, by first trying to re-do Goldfinger with Diamonds are Forever, then spending the entirely of the 70s apeing other, “hipper” films. Really, I don’t think they’ve caught up since.

            But had they kept making Dalton-esque style action movies into the 90s, when the rest of the action genre was dying, they could maybe have re-invented it and become, again, the gold standard. But they didn’t. And the (too-brief) Dalton era is now seen as an aberration. When, instead, it’s so clearly the predecessor to the Craig era, which the masses like beyond all measure or perspective. You can go from LtK to Casino Royale without the slightest hesitation.

          • CaptainCalvinCat

            I have to frank (strange, I thought, I was Calvin): I don’t get it. I don’t understand, why people are so enamoured with this grim, dark, gritty, most-of-the-time-humorless Bourne-Rip-off-Wannabe of the new Bond-Movies. They are soo… I almost want to say: “Dull”. I mean – yes, it has nice action, but I’m missing the levity.

            And yes, I read the books by Ian Fleming and I have to say: Casino Royale is… not that good. The only thing, that really makes it work, is the fact, that the audio-book is read by the ever-awesome Hannes Jaennicke – at least in German.
            The rest is… dull.
            And – shouldn’t a spy book be at least entertaining?

            I mean: take a look at the character of James Bond – and how he is at first not very happy with Vesper being there. Sorry, that guy is not very likeable.

            Have a look at this review: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zJTJ3HYxySw

            I tend to agree with him.

          • Muthsarah

            (Haven’t watched the video yet, but I will. I like The Dom, didn’t know he did a Bond.)

            Why do people like nu-Bond so much?

            1. Serious moviegoers want serious movies. Or something. Camp is gone. I’m not saying Joel Schumacher killed it (why even bring it up, seriously…), but it’s dead, and it’s been dead since the 1990s for sure. Teenage boys want to feel like their Bond fantasy is all too real, and pop culture in general is in love with the cult of the antihero. You get to be bad, and still think of yourself as being good. Look at TV. You can’t even portray modern antiheroes as bad guys having fun acting like good guys (or the other way around). They have to be most unhappy, brutal, and tortured, but have a heart of gold. To have it both ways, really.

            Early Bond was willing to do some pretty bad stuff (some of which has aged horribly and makes him genuinely detestable to modern eyes), but it still portrayed him as being a good guy, just a good guy with a hard edge fit for a hard job. But fans today want more than that. They want good-guy-as-thug. They want Bond as Harry Callahan. Or The Punisher.

            2. Austin Powers means Bond in particular can’t be played silly anymore (or even run the risk of being seen that way), not if you want to have mainstream appeal.

            1997 put the final nail in old Bond, I fear. Goldeneye was a last hurrah (pretty silly, still, but well-balanced), and Tomorrow Never Dies was dated before it even came out. It walked right into the Dr. Evil kind of villain, and, in addition to that film’s clear over-the-top style-over-substance focus (because it was aping John Woo), it just burned out. And to try to compensate for a lack of a focus on charm and cool, the producers just kept upping the ante on bigger and longer action scenes.

            As for Casino Royale, I think the dialogue scenes are the best in the series. M’s warning to James about the money, James and Vesper’s scenes, even the torture scene. It moves at a fast clip, it’s a little too underplayed and hence hard to follow at first (but it improves on rewatches), but it’s very clever in a le Carre kinda way, without being too convoluted. Really, the only change I’d make to the movie would be to tighten up the first two acts and de-emphasize the poker aspects. I think even a re-cut of the same film with about 15 less minutes could make a huge difference. It’s just that so much of the movie plays it so intense, it gets oppressive and exhausting.

            As for the books, I’ve read four of them. Two were good (Moonraker and OHMSS), one was bad (YOLT), and one was good at first, then fell apart (Diamonds are Forever). From what I recall, Bond never comes off like a thug, or tortured, no, but I’m also not picking up on him being such a racist or sexist (by the standards of the time). Fleming, absolutely. YOLT and DaF…had their difficult passages. But I got the impression that whenever these subjects came up, Fleming wrote Bond to be less prejudiced and narrow-minded than he clearly was himself. The Bond in these books was absolutely a good guy from beginning to end. He felt bad about having offended Tiffany, he sympathized with Tracy, he accepted Gala’s brush-offs without getting all…Goldfinger or Thunderballish about it. And other that that, he just did his job. The only fault I found in the literary Bond is that he’s written kinda stupid sometimes, missing the obvious and stumbling into trouble that I, the reader, pictured flashing in front of him in big neon letters. But the plot must advance, I guess.

            Craig does play him as far, FAR rougher than the James of these four books. I have my doubts that any hero of the 1950s could have found acceptance if played like Craig’s Bond. Maybe Mike Hammer, but I only know that character by reputation.

          • CaptainCalvinCat

            Hey, the Dom is awesome. ^^

            However – I see myself as a serious movie-goer and… I can understand that people want SOME serious movies. Let me put it that way: I love eating strawberries as much as the next person does. Strawberries are tasty, they are healthy. But on the other hand, I love eating crisps (or chips, as we call them). I like diversity.

            Now, imagine you’re on an island and the ONLY thing, you can
            eat there, are strawberries. Sure, you’ll enjoy that a couple of days. Or maybe
            a couple of weeks.

            But then comes the realization, that you just can’t stand strawberries anymore.

            I like watching a movie, that has deep meaningful sequences, that makes you
            think about live and death and… stuff. I liked the Bourne-Movies as a
            separate beast.

            Or: You watch – say: Batman begins. Yeah, Batman begins is a
            new beast, brings in a new flair, a new sense of “taking it
            seriously” and gives you a good feeling, because now you can admit that
            you like to watch Batman, which was viewed as “a comic book movie”
            and therefore: for kids.

            But then you watch – say: superman. And you think “Wait
            a second – I saw that. I saw that only in another costume.” Shouldn’t
            superheroes be NOT interchangeable?

            Take Bourne and Bond – I liked Bourne, because I could enjoy
            the more campy stuff with James Bond. But now Bourne is Bond and I ask myself:
            “Why even bother? Why watch this movie if the atmosphere is basically the
            same?”

            And concerning the “Antiheroes having fun”… well
            – I point over at Flash where Captain Cold and the Flamethrowerguy are
            basically having a ball. So much, that they’re in the line-up for “Legends
            of tomorrow”.

            Concerning “Bond as thug” – no…. that’s just awful.

            Austin Powers – yeah…. I’m honest: there is a difference between Bond and Powers.

            The difference is: Bond is not nearly as ridiculous as Powers is – because even
            in the most outlandish scenario, while Powers was acting immature and childish,
            Bond underplayed that.

            While Powers would go all-out “behaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaave
            baby” in an secret lair of the Bad guy, Bond would deliver a suave comment
            – that’d be it. Powers is all over the top, all over the place, complete with
            dick-fart-shit-jokes, while I think, the only “ewwwwwwww”-Joke that
            Bond pulled was the urine-sample.

            And not even in Tomorrow Never Dies they are that much
            over-the-top as in the Austin Powers Flicks.

            Plus: You cannot compare Elliot Carver to Dr. Evil.

            Furthermore: I think that the dialogues from Casino Royale
            onwards were… rather cringe-inducing than clever. The only thing one could at
            least smile about was “to the left, to the left, to the left”, when
            le Chiffre was torturing bond.

            the rest was… erm… rather meh.

            At least concerning humour in the dialogues:

            “I’m the Money.”
            “Every penny of it”.

            I almost see the writer jumping up and down saying
            “See, we crammed in a Moneypenny-Reference, we know our stuff, we are
            SOOOO good.”

            Nope, you’re not.

            Plus – I can see the same writer gritting his teeth, writing
            this scene, saying “There, you have your Moneypenny-Reference, are you
            HAPPY, impossible to please fanboys?”

            Other stuff, that doesn’t work: “You’re Stephanie
            Broadchest” (or “Brustwartz” in the German dub – pun on nipple)

            Bond blowing his cover (really mature there, Jimmy Bondi)

            And while we’re at it:

            Like I said, I read the original casino-royale-book. Yeah,
            for a movie, that tries to be as “true to its origin” as possible, it
            does not that good of a job at it.

            And I’m not even talking about Bond being blonde – while in
            the books, it is clearly stated that Bond has black hair. The whole first half
            of the movie is not in the book – there is no chasing through an exotic
            country, there is no trip to Florida, where he’s seducing a woman, that later
            is killed off, there is not even Bond being the reason, why LeChiffre lost his
            money and needs to gamble. AND there is no Bond blowing his cover, which could
            be viewed as the reason why the bad guys are after him, leading to the
            “What a tweest”-like ending, that Vesper was the one.

            No, in the book, we don’t know why the russians know, that
            Bond is there. We know, that LeChiffre lost money – probably his own fault –
            and is now gambling. THEN they approach Bond, because of his amazing
            baccarat-skills. Rene Mathis is his friend in this book, they know each other
            for a long time.

            Vespers Character is pretty much the same in the novel than
            in the book – while not that active. She’s there that Bond has someone to
            ponder over, fall in love with and that Bond can be Mister Exposition concerning
            the rules of Baccarat and Mathis can comment on why Bond is playing as he is
            playing. Think of both as Joey Wheeler and Thea Gardner.

            The only difference concerning Vespers Character Arc is,
            that her boyfriend is indeed a prisoner and her way of dying. there is no chase
            through the streets of Venice – there is no “obviously she is going to
            betray him”-scene, where Vesper is his password and she’s all broken up
            about it. If I recall correctly, the money is already on its way to england.

            However: Vespers death comes completely out of the blue –
            she takes pills and is writing a farewell-letter to Bond, explaining, why she
            did what she did.

          • Muthsarah

            “Furthermore: I think that the dialogues from Casino Royale onwards were… rather cringe-inducing than clever. The only thing one could at least smile about was ‘to the left, to the left, to the left’, when le Chiffre was torturing bond.

            the rest was… erm… rather meh.”

            When Vesper and James first meet, they get into a game of “guess what the other one is like”. James basically just criticizes her, and she completely dresses him down, with his body language telling her (and the audience) that she’s far more right than wrong. When it’s over, she asks him “How was your lamb?”, and he replies “skewered…one sympathizes”

            That could just be from the book, but it’s a great capper.

            “Plus – I can see the same writer gritting his teeth, writing this scene, saying ‘There, you have your Moneypenny-Reference, are you HAPPY, impossible to please fanboys?'”

            No I’m not, Mr. Writer-Man. While I’m cool with continuity, this kind of stuff is nothing but cheap pandering. I didn’t care one whit for the Aston Martin in “Skyfall”, for instance. Anyone can reference an old movie, but it takes skill to make a reference that actually matters to a new one. I hear “Spectre” is full of even more references, and I’m already dreading them. Well, most of them. It could be worse than a reference-fest. It could be a remake. Of my second-favorite film. Which one of the trailers implied it was.

            “Other stuff, that doesn’t work: ‘You’re Stephanie Broadchest’ (or ‘Brustwartz’ in the German dub – pun on nipple)[/quote]

            I liked this one. It was unnecessary to mock the old movies to justify the new one, but this one still had it coming, it was untelegraphed, and they didn’t dwell on it. It was the first instance we saw of James actually charming Vesper a bit. He can be witty when he wants to be. Wish he had done more of this kinda stuff, really.

            “Bond blowing his cover (really mature there, Jimmy Bondi)”

            I thought his reasoning was quite sound. Sure, it was another shot at the old formula, but this movie staked its claim to realism, and in reality, there was no way they were going to fool Le Chiffre into thinking Bond and Vesper weren’t exactly who they really were. Hang that lampshade quickly, and make it clear to the audience that this film goes by a very different logic from the last one*. Which, incidentally, featured Bond trying to disguise himself when meeting the villain, but instead of being undone by cheap technology, he’s just going to be up-front about it. No disguise, no illusions. Bond was chosen to face Le Chiffre because he was the best MI6 had, and he was going to beat him to his face. Until Le Chiffre cheated. And so did Felix. Sort of.

            * – Aside from the giant plot hole.

            “However: Vespers death comes completely out of the blue – she takes pills and is writing a farewell-letter to Bond, explaining, why she did what she did.”

            A big improvement in the film, no?

          • CaptainCalvinCat

            > When Vesper and James first meet, they get into a game of “guess what the other one is like”. James basically just criticizes her, and she completely dresses him down, with his body language telling her (and the audience) that she’s far more right than wrong. When it’s over, she asks him “How was your lamb?”,
            and he replies “skewered…one sympathizes”

            Yeah, that scene got a mild chuckle out of me. And no – it is not lifted from the book. The complete first half of the movie until they arrive in Montenegro (and even THAT is changed – in the novel, they go to a fictional place in France) is not in the book.

            >>”Plus – I can see the same writer gritting his teeth, writing this scene, saying ‘There, you have your Moneypenny-Reference, are you HAPPY, impossible to please fanboys?'”

            > No I’m not, Mr. Writer-Man. While I’m cool with continuity, this kind of stuff is nothing but cheap pandering. I didn’t care one whit for the Aston Martin in
            “Skyfall”, for instance. Anyone can reference an old movie, but it
            takes skill to make a reference that actually matters to a new one. I hear
            “Spectre” is full of even more references, and I’m already dreading
            them. Well, most of them. It could be worse than a reference-fest. It could be
            a remake. Of my second-favorite film. Which one of the trailers implied it was.

            I have to be honest – I have no problem with references, but don’t show us movies, which we could watch right now, that are definitely better than the one, we’re watching. So instead of Casino Boring I could watch – I don’t know… Die another Day or so. And while people hate that flick, it’s still better than the borefest of Casino Royale.

            >>Bond blowing his cover (really mature there, Jimmy Bondi)”

            > I thought his reasoning was quite sound. Sure, it was another shot at the old formula, but this movie staked its claim to realism, and in reality, there was no way they were going to fool Le Chiffre into thinking Bond and Vesper weren’t exactly who they really were. Hang that lampshade quickly, and make it clear to the
            audience that this film goes by a very different logic from the last one*. Which,
            incidentally, featured Bond trying to disguise himself when meeting the
            villain, but instead of being undone by cheap technology, he’s just going to be
            up-front about it. No disguise, no illusions. Bond was chosen to face Le
            Chiffre because he was the best MI6 had, and he was going to beat him to his
            face. Until Le Chiffre cheated. And so did Felix. Sort of.

            See that’s the problem – he isn’t the best MI6 had. They were pretty clear about it in the movie, that this 007 is a thug and more or less a gun for hire. He’s not the best the service has – he is… think of him as Jonathan Archer in a Bond Suit. Irresponsible, doesn’t like being dressed down (okay, who likes that), and all in all – while he’s close to the book…. yeah, I have to call it – the book-Bond is an
            unsympathetic bastard. And I don’t like the Casino Royale Bond… I’m okay with Skyfall-Bond.

            >>”However: Vespers death comes completely out of the blue – she takes pills and is writing a farewell-letter to Bond, explaining, why she did what she did.”

            > A big improvement in the film, no?

            Nope – in that case I happen to like that Vespers Storyarc-Ending came out of the blue.

          • Muthsarah

            “I have to be honest – I have no problem with references, but don’t show
            us movies, which we could watch right now, that are definitely better
            than the one, we’re watching. So instead of Casino Boring I could watch –
            I don’t know… Die another Day or so. And while people hate that
            flick, it’s still better than the borefest of Casino Royale.”

            Or, as the old (by recent standards, at least) quote goes: Don’t reference a good movie in the middle of your bad movie.

            “See that’s the problem – he isn’t the best MI6 had. They were pretty
            clear about it in the movie, that this 007 is a thug and more or less a
            gun for hire. He’s not the best the service has – he is… think of him
            as Jonathan Archer in a Bond Suit. Irresponsible, doesn’t like being
            dressed down (okay, who likes that), and all in all – while he’s close
            to the book…. yeah, I have to call it – the book-Bond is an
            unsympathetic bastard. And I don’t like the Casino Royale Bond… I’m okay with Skyfall-Bond.”

            When in CR did someone say that Bond wasn’t the best chance they had to beat Le Chiffre in the tournament?*

            * – Again, ignoring the glaring plothole.

            I, too, find it skeptical that, aside from all his other talents, Bond is also the best poker player MI6 could recruit. But, as a fan of the Moores, I’m used him being almost insultingly good at everything. I’ve also read Moonraker (after seeing Skyfall, admittedly), and M roped Bond into helping him expose Hugo Drax’ cheating at bridge. So there’s precedent.

            I actually don’t mind the Bond from the novels I’ve read. Leaving aside plot-moving-forwarding stupid moments, he seems at worst desensitized, and very jaded, which I attribute to having put his life on the line so often, it’s forced him to devalue it in order to function. That, and the expectation that he’s likely to die at any time, and simply be replaced, maybe not even remembered, officially. Not a huge leap from that to being a loyal thug. I don’t personally mind the situation-appropriate thuggish nature of Craig’s Bond, I just wish they could turn it off more often, even if he’s only faking charm. Write movies that don’t revolt around him being miserable and super-serious all the time. Send him to more resorts to check out leads, let him romance (even if at an emotional distance) more women, let him soak in some luxury, even if he’s always watching for people watching for him. I want Daniel Craig in Thunderball, god damn it!

            The movies need levity, somewhere, but I don’t mind if James himself can’t find…well…his quantum of solace.

  • Murry Chang

    I’m a Brosnan Bond man myself. The movies he was in weren’t great but he played Bond the best IMHO.

  • Immortan Scott

    This (and almost every pre-GoldenEye Bond film) was added to Hulu starting today!