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July 07, 2007

The Performance that Changed My Life Blog-a-thon: From Russia with Love

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Terence Young - 1963
MGM Region 1 DVD

Like many of my junior high friends at the time, From Russia with Love was our introduction to James Bond. And like many people my age, this was the film that first cemented in our minds that there is only one James Bond on film, and that is Sean Connery. I was twelve at the time that I first saw From Russia with Love and at the time required permission from my parents before I saw any movie. The permission from one parent being sufficient, this was one time I had to ask my father, helpfully noting that Lotte Lenya was in the film. I don't know if he saw through my ruse, or if I really need to try so hard to justify why I was going to see a spy film.

While I remembered that a film called Dr. No had come and gone about a year ago, it was not until that late Spring that I "discovered" James Bond. By the Summer of 1964 I was collecting the Signet paperbacks that cost fifty cents each. What made James Bond so irresistable for most twelve year old boys was not the adventure, but the sex. We wanted to be James Bond not to fight SPECTRE or SMERSH, but because James Bond got laid, and often. Since we couldn't be James Bond, the James Bond movies were the sexiest films available to us at the time.

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Daniela Bianchi's brief glimpse of nudity was considered quite risque once upon a time. It wasn't until Goldfinger when I had my first crush on a Bond girl, Shirley Eaton. For a part of my life, one of the pleasures of seeing a James Bond film was the chance to look at attractive women with a much skin as could be revealed in a mainstream film.

Even though I had seen Sean Connery in Darby O'Gill and the Little People a few years previously, I did not remember him from that film, probably because he wasn't one of the title characters. Connery did become the first movie star in my life that hadn't had a career that was well established by the time I was paying attention to actor not in servitude to Walt Disney. Unlike parental favorites like Gary Cooper or Bette Davis, Connery was one of the first movie stars that as far as we were concerned, did not exist prior to the Bond films. One of my other reasons for liking From Russia with Love more than the other Bond films is due to Robert Shaw. What probably made the difference is that this is the one of the few films where Bond has an adversary that is his equal, where he is required to have a true duel to the death, in this case within the confines of a train. Lotte Lenya will mostly be remembered for her shoes with the knife blade toes. And even though James Bond saves the world at the end of the film, what was never sufficiently explained to me was who is Matt Monro and why is he the one singing the title song?

For more life changing performances, go to Emma's blog, also known as "All About my Movies".

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Posted by Peter Nellhaus at July 7, 2007 09:00 PM


Great post! I just adore Connery (he's so sexy and when he's good, he's very good!) and From Russia with Love is easily one of the best Bond movies. I can remember seeing this for the first time on TV when I was a kid and loving the final fight Bond had with Robert Shaw. I was holding my breath while it went on because I really didn't know who would win and that's a rare thing to experience in any Bond movie.

Posted by: Kimberly at July 8, 2007 03:19 PM

I love this movie, possibly my favorite Bond. Definitely my favorite theme song, though I have no idea who Matt Monro was, either.

Posted by: Campaspe at July 9, 2007 06:37 PM