Film Flung in Canal

Sean Connery’s James Bond ends FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE by unspooling a film and slinging it in the waters of Venice, which an act of auto-criticism I’m not going to be able to top. Is it just me or is this movie not very interesting?

It’s built on DR. NO by giving John Barry more sway over the music, and they’ve hired the great Freddie Young Ted Moore to photograph it, which results in some wonderful location stuff in Turkey. Daniela Bianchi is a warm and somehow geeky heroine, wrong for the role but all the better for it, and Lotte Lenya is a memorable villainess. Robert Shaw is kind of wasted as the muscle.

 Filmed on location in the Mines of Moria!

Other than that, I was frequently bored. I remember GOLDFINGER being great fun, and that’s maybe the point where everything finally clicks. And doesn’t actually fire on all cylinders again (I’m sure that’s NOT a mixed metaphor — many things that click also have cylinders, and why shouldn’t James Bond be one of them?) until ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE. Which suggests I’m not a big Terence Young fan (he didn’t do those too), outside of CORRIDOR OF MIRRORS. I mean, BLACK TIGHTS is amazing in small doses. But the later work is dreadful, isn’t it? THE KLANSMAN?

Still, of course I’d love to see his Saddam Hussein biopic, or hagiopic. How is that not a massive cult film? Total unavailability may have something to do with it.

17 Responses to “Film Flung in Canal”

  1. Jonathan Says:

    I highly recommend Film Crit Hulk’s analysis of the Bond films – a bit of a chore to read because it’s in all caps, but well worth it. He takes an opposite view of FRWL:

    “The new entry obscures some of the camp of the first one and favors a more concentrated and classic espionage/love story at its center. And in this HULK’s opinion? The effect is downright lovely. This film, despite some serious problems, actually has a real sense of romance and suspense to it. And part of what makes that true is that the film really just uses a measured and classic cinematic approach.”

    Whether or not you agree with his judgments on individual films, he makes really interesting points about the series in general.

  2. Howard Curtis Says:

    Ted Moore was the cinematographer of DR NO, not Freddie Young.

  3. Howard Curtis Says:

    Sorry, I meant FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE (but T.M. was the DP on DR NO too).

  4. Randy Cook Says:

    FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE is the first of the Bond films I saw, which may account for its being my favorite. The Bond films hadn’t yet metastasized into what they finally became, and I was a kid, and I just figured I was watching a rather naughty, escapist adult spy film. I saw it for a second time in ’71 and it seemed horribly dated, a perception which changed as the film grew older. Aside from the “Girl Fight” and some really labored sexist humor, I still think it’s fine, and preferable to the cartoonish nonsense the series became. Really liked Lotte and Daniella and Shaw, and still do. Enjoyed GOLDFINGER as well, but gave up after being disappointed by THUNDERBALL. Have seen very few since. Liked SPY WHO LOVED ME when it came out but saw it again after Moore died (for the sake of Auld Lang Syne) and it seemed awful cheap and corny. Watched Connery’s return film once, and never want to see NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN again. Seen a Brosnan and a Dalton and a couple Craigs, but can’t remember much about them. I think THE ROCK would have been a great James Bond picture if they’d been able to license the name and actually CALL the character “James Bond”…but since the Greatest British Agent had been caught and incarcerated and emerged a fucked-up psychopath after 20 years in solitary I do realize that the Fleming estate would’ve been unable to see the fun in that conceit. Maybe I should see some more of the Connerys I missed, but when I caught a few minutes here and there during a Bond marathon, none of them really stoked a desire to see more. Trying too hard with the gimmicks, I think: when you’ve seen three Christopher Lee nipples, you’ve seen ’em all, is what I say.

  5. revelator60 Says:

    Generally speaking, Bond fans tend to rate “From Russia With Love” as one of the best entries in the series, though that raises the question of whether you need to be a Bond fan to find it interesting (I can’t provide an objective answer). Perhaps fans like the film because it was the last time the series pulled off a straightforward spy film—after Goldfinger Bond was never the same and descended into self-pastiche and parody, with only a few exceptions (Peter Hunt’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service being the best).

    I agree Terence Young wasn’t a terribly interesting director (though neither was Guy Hamilton, who did Goldfinger and a couple of the worst Bonds), but the efforts of Barry, Connery, Lenya, Pedro Armendáriz, Ted Moore, and Peter Hunt (whose editing made the Orient Express fight scene one of the best screen punch-ups) more than compensated. I think Daniela Bianchi was completely right for the role, since her character was not a femme fatale but a sweet-natured, slightly naive agent conned into what she thought was benign misinformation plot. Fleming wrote that the character looked like a young Garbo, which caused major headaches for the casting department.

  6. It was nice to see Hunt’s editing get the attention it deserved in the Hollywood UK doc series on British cinema. He enlivened the more stolid aspects of Young’s direction — it would have been interesting to see him put in charge at Hammer, or the Carry Ons, whose action stuff always looked like it had been cut with a bacon slicer.

    He could have got The Hobbit down to one short film, too.

    He’s on particularly florid form in his directorial debut, On Her Maj’s, but does anyone know if any of his other directorial efforts are worth seking out?

  7. revelator60 Says:

    Hunt directed two old-fashioned adventure films with Roger Moore—“Gold” and “Shout at the Devil” (the latter co-stars Lee Marvin)—that are worthwhile, though neither has the stylistic verve of OHMSS. I’ve also heard good things about “Death Hunt.” The remaining titles in Hunt’s filmography are much less promising.

  8. On the DVD release the director admits that the henchmen who are clearly killed by Shaw’s character turn up alive and well for a fender bender a little later — and nobody caught it until after release. There was so much editing and shuffling that they needed reshoots of a set that had been struck. Still images were placed behind actors’ heads and some existing footage of Lenya at the fish tank was run backwards.

    Elsewhere, saw an interview with the now-elderly Miss Israel who played in the infamous girl fight. Laughing, she says she didn’t know men would find that sexy. “I know NOW!”

  9. Martine Beswick must be one of British cinema’s best girl fighters, as she puts up a good struggle in this one against Miss Israel, comes back in Thunderball (a rare feat — Maud Adams and who else?) and battles Raquel Welch in One Million Years BC. As well as fighting Hammer Films to keep her kit on in Dr Jekyll and Sister Hyde, where she only half-won.

  10. Theory: the curse of James Bond applies not to actresses but to directors.

  11. Federico Fellini and Robert Bresson were both fans of “Goldfinger”

  12. Yes, Bresson liked the reflection in the girl’s eyeball. But it took Kieslowski to steal it, for Three Colours: Blue.

  13. david wingrove Says:

    Not having seen BLACK TIGHTS, I still think Terence Young was a fascinating and underrated director. Quite apart from three of the best Bonds (DOCTOR NO, FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE, THUNDERBALL) he made CORRIDOR OF MIRRORS (a camp Gothic masterpiece), WAIT UNTIL DARK (a tense and surprisingly brutal thriller with Audrey Hepburn), MAYERLING (a monument of lush romantic kitsch, with Omar Sharif and Catherine Deneuve as a doomed Habsburg couple) and RED SUN (one of the greatest trash Euro Westerns ever). Not all these films are masterpieces – but I can´t imagine anyone being bored by any of them. The Young film I most long to see is WAR GODDESS, an all-woman peplum from the 70s. But OK, even I will admit that BLOODLINE is unspeakable!

  14. david wingrove Says:

    Oh, and he also made TOO HOT TO HANDLE with Jayne Mansfield as a Soho stripper named Midnight Franklin. What is not to love?!

  15. He really did throw himself deep into Eurotrash — and beyond — didn’t he? Inchon and Foxbat as well as the (rumoured) Saddam pic, Poppies Are Also Flowers… I’m in favour of elevating his reputation just so we can get to see stuff like The Amorous Adventures of Moll Flanders in it’s correct AR.

  16. chris schneider Says:

    I think Connery went on record to the effect that much of the initial James Bond personality came from Terence Young. I haven’t seen most of the Young titles mentioned by DW … though I *have* seen the supremely tacky COLD SWEAT (a loose Matheson adaptation, with the unlikely married couple Charles Bronson and Liv Ullmann). WAIT UNTIL DARK, though, I’ve spent a lot of time with, and I’d say that the Frederick Knott play it adapts is tight enough in structure that it can virtually fly on autopilot.

    The Matheson, btw, was turned into a good Hitchcock Hour episode with Hugh O’Brian and Gena Rowlands. Very much preferable.

  17. That casting, Bronson & Ullman, is unbelievable enough to make me almost want to see the thing. But Young in tacky mode is no joke: The Klansman is a sordid and deoressing affair, evidently a travesty of Sam Fuller’s script. Traces of his eccentric, two-fisted style remain, but with a really bad feeling radiating from the whole mess.

    Bond wears his lapel hanky squared off, rather than triangular, which was a Young style choice.

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