Friday, 9 October 2015

007 - From Russia with Love

From Russia with Love is a more luxurious proposition than Dr. No. The film is confident, stately even, not quite so rough around the edges. For a start Ian Fleming's alarmist world-view is softened considerably. The evil Soviet empire of his novel is deferred, with all the serial killer recruitment transplanted onto a stateless terrorist organisation that wastes its time murdering lookalikes.

The SPECTRE we saw in Dr. No was rooted in a kind of paternalistic panic. Theirs was an organisation filled with duplicitous, indigenous Jamaicans, lead by a Chinese super-criminal intent on scuppering the Mercury rockets. One part Red Scare to two parts Yellow Peril. In Dr. No self-determination, a starkly British concern, was treated as a very real threat to world stability.

If the Crown's ideals are stripped away, what will replace them? Heaven forbid, Maoism? These thorny little anxieties are absent from Terence Young's apolitical sequel. From Russia with Love's syndicate is instead firmly European. A trashy, moneyed collective with access to helicopters, Wehrmacht surplus and deep enough pockets to buy out card-carrying Communists. Incidentally, the Soviets themselves are dupes. Bond is too busy braining stuntmen in black polo necks to worry about an ideological clash.

From Russia with Love then is suffused with doubling. Like 007, SPECTRE's agents takes their orders from a well-educated British accent behind a grand wooden desk. Bond is given two doppelgängers, an ageing Turkish womaniser who heads up British operations in the East and Red Grant, a blonde phantom that trails Bond across Europe. Grant is 007's unhinged reflection, a less refined version of the dapper secret agent who hasn't quite learned how to match a wine to the food he's just ordered. When the two clash they are indistinguishable, a flurry of stamping legs and clasping hands, framed tight for maximum violence.

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