Yesterday I did a double-bill of Dr No and From Russia With Love to kick off my review of all the James Bond films in the Bond 50 bluray boxset.
What struck me was how similar both the films structures are (bare in mind these were pre-Goldfinger so the standard Bond template isn’t in place). These are very much films split in two parts. Both films first half have James Bond investigating for his mission and the second half on the run and escaping. For Dr No Bond finds himself led to Crab Quay Island where he spends much of the last hour. Likewise in From Russia With Love, Bond and Tatyana spend much of the second half on the train and then on the run.
Any way onto the reviews…
Where it all started…
A strong start to the series, but as the Bond template hasn’t been set yet it plays out quite differently to the typical Bond film. Firstly the open credits start the film rather than after a prologue, and the overall tone of the film is more of a detective story than all out spy action. There’s no gadgets either.
Of course, the girls and glamorous locations are all here from the get go with the classic Honey Ryder emerging from the sea. The eccentric villain and his outlandish lair take centre stage towards the end.
My only criticism is the classic Bond theme is over played here, whereas in later films it became a pay-off tune, here the music plays quite regularly even just to set the scene. It’s not a mellow version either, it’s the full on fast guitar riff! In context I can see why this is the case (it also act’s a Dr No’s theme tune to a certain extent) as the tune wasn’t famous and it would get the audience going, but it’s a bit odd to have it playing so regularly and loud (even when Bond’s just walking into a room, etc). This is obviously minor but pulled me out of the film a bit.
FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE
A rarity for Bond films, From Russia With Love is a direct sequel, with characters referencing the previous films events and characters. The initial story and SPECTRE’s scheme is also to act as pay back for Bond’s action at the end of Dr No.
I enjoyed this immensely, the film plays out slightly better than Dr No as you have visibility of the antagonists and their plans from the start of the film (whereas Dr No doesn’t reveal the titular villain until the final act). You feel Bond has a worthy opponent from the white haired assassin Grant and the tension that builds towards their fight is great.
I really love the ending with the helicopters / boat chase and you can feel the budget has been increased from Dr No.
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