18th February 2018
Brady Major takes an in-depth look back at From Russia With Love
By Brady Major
In this fifth part of an in-depth review of 'From Russia With Love', we focus on the creative elements and analyze the work of the team behind the camera.
Terence Young returned to the Bond series in From Russia with Love for a landmark second time to provide another rousing adventure.
Young’s directing style favoring wide shots and a distaste for close-ups are back as he delivers us even more action and drama than the first time. Young’s wise choice to always show as much of the actors moving in scenes as possible pays off here and the expansive locations the cast navigate help to create a sense of smallness, like Bond is a speck in a dangerous world, under the thumb of SPECTRE.
The production of From Russia with Love cemented Young’s genius as a director and proved his knack for working around problems that could pop up on the fly. While shooting at the train stations of Istanbul, for instance, Young was annoyed by all the attention the camera equipment, lights and film stars were attracting loads of bystanders there, so he had a stuntman distract the crowds by hanging himself over a nearby balcony, pretending like he was going to fall without proper assistance. As the crowd rushed to the stuntman, Young called for cameras to roll and got his shots.
When deciding how to realize the scripted fight between the gypsy girls at the camp location, Young had the two women involved, Martine Beswick (later a star in Thunderball) and former Miss Israel Aliza Gur train exhaustively for the bout every day for a three week period to ensure that they had the movements down and would look natural when shot. Wanting to ensure that he would catch a realistic looking fight on camera, Young’s directorial advice to the women while shooting the scene urged them to act as though they really were going to kill each other.
The biggest moment in the production for Young, however, was the helicopter crash that occurred when he was scouting locations in Scotland for the film’s boat chase. Young, along with the pilot and his art director took off in the copter, which had been showing signs of malfunction, and, once in the air, they fell with it into the water, sinking fifty or so feet to the bottom of the ocean. Thankfully members of the production were on shore nearby the crash and were able to swim to the rescue of Young and his fellow passengers. In true Terence Young fashion, the director was back behind the camera filming From Russia with Love only thirty minutes after the near-fatal crash. Unflappable, just like Bond.
Opening Title Design
Designer Robert Brownjohn delivered his first of two iconic title designs starting with From Russia with Love, showing that his genius was worthy of matching anything Binder could bring to his own credits. For many reasons, these titles have long been a favorite of mine for their specific visuals and simple brilliance in style. The vibrant colors of the flashing text and the kinetic energy of the dancer’s moving body as the credits are projected onto her bewitches me. This sequence, best described as flesh projection, was a style of design that Brownjohn would adopt in the next film’s opening title design, which sees the beautiful Margaret Nolan cast in gold paint as sequences ripped from Goldfinger play out along her body’s every curve and crevice. The difference between these sequences, however, is that Nolan functions as a frozen figure in Goldfinger’s titles, like a statue, as still as a projection screen as the images flash over her. From Russia with Love’s titles stand out all the more for this reason, as it goes beyond using a human body as the canvas for the presentation of the credit text and allows the movement of the woman’s figure to influence, distort and warp the names that scroll across her. Because of this, these credits are all the more lively and electric, the visual equivalent of jamming a bent fork into a wall outlet.
Brownjohn’s ultimate design choice for the credits of From Russia with Love was fitting for the sort of film that he was supplying an interlude to. On the face of it, the titles connect well to the film’s explicit sensuality, use of sexual motifs, double-entendres, and subtext. After all, the plot revolves around a villainously repressed lesbian making a sex tape of Bond and a woman, with numerous allusions to female oral centers and Bond’s little soldier tossed in for good measure along with pre and post-coital shots of our hero and his allies as they either enter or exit the “salt mines.” The visuals of the title design also serve to add a very “meta” layer to the rest of the film. It’s not hard to imagine that the belly dancing talent we’re watching in these credits is the same one that enchants Bond, Kerim and the whole crew of gypsies at the camp later on in the film. In a very subtle way, the opening credits are giving us a promise of what is to come, if we’re just patient enough.
The opening titles are simple in conception, involving some text splashed against the shifting form of a woman, but its lack of pretension rescues it from losing itself to over ambition or an exhausting use of motifs and flashy design elements. Its glory lies in the fact that you always know what is being depicted, and what the design team was trying to convey through their idea. Visually, it’s a powerhouse, and one hell of a tease. Text snakes on the back of the dancer as catalogs of names from the film crew react to every jolt of her spinal cord. Her limbs tantalize us further as we spot her fingers dancing from out of frame, followed shortly by the sight of her thighs as they slip in and out of shadow. It’s easy to desire more of her.
The visuals of the sequence connect intensely to a movie like From Russia with Love that is so focused on what roams in shadow, and what that darkness can hide (usually, it’s Donald Grant). It’s a special treat, then, that this particular design uses shadow as one of its only core tools, and to great implementation. We never spot the full picture of the dancer, only parts of her over time, just as Bond uncovers the SPECTRE plot piece by piece as danger lingers on. We always want to see more of the dancer and crave for her to enchant us just a second longer, but by starving us the film owns us forever.
The imagery of the gyrating woman is also exciting and arousing without being overly sexualized or classless, the difference between a Playboy and a gutter porn magazine, perhaps. As was always the case with vintage Bond, the depiction of women in poses is treated with a great reverence, as if their appearances before us are rituals that need to be respected. Like Bond, the film crew and audiences were clearly enthralled by these images of beauty and praised them like monks at temple simply for existing as they were. This attitude, and how Brownjohn designs the titles, is true to the character of Bond as well, who is far removed from the title of misogynist that radical-feminist circles would have you believe he fills. Bond appreciates women for their aroma, their curves, their enchanting glances and tantalizing undulations, never disrespecting the treats they offer to him (and willingly, might I add!). The opening titles of From Russia with Love allow us to share in this experience, if only fleetingly and indirectly. In a moment of genius, the full body of the dancer can only be taken in if one is able to assemble a collage of the shots that make up the credit sequence, which collectively gives us a more cohesive picture of the form that is attempting to tease us.
The theme for From Russia with Love that accompanies this visual treat is my favorite arrangement of it ever composed, so full of brassy life, and it’s stuck right in the middle of Barry’s updated Bond theme. The theme is produced here with a great mix of bellowing trombones as trumpets and saxes produce a wailing sound like the tune is struggling vigorously to come to life. Like few others have matched, the opening titles combine imagery and sound in ways that leave a lasting impact.
Just as From Russia with Love has one of the strongest villain schemes and most plausible plots, it naturally has one of the best scripts and maybe Maibaum’s finest. The writing team must be commended for taking Fleming’s original material and making a film out of it that, for me, results in an even more captivating and rich adventure. The changes to the story, including the role and acquisition of the Lektor/Spektor, the expansion of sequences like the gypsy camp and the Orient Express fight and an alteration of the overall story’s pacing, are vital to the feeling and life of the movie that gives it such power.
There are so many great themes and ideas at play here interspersed with a rousing spy adventure. For one, From Russia with Love is one of the most sex-laden and adult films in the Bond canon, when you really sit down and think about it. This film features a honeypot spy scheme and an incriminating sex tape that gets filmed with Bond and a girl for starters, and on top of that the spy has a threesome at a gypsy camp of all places and one of his villains is a repressed lesbian who acts on her attractions with a sensuality laced with poisonous control and force.
On top of these adult themes and ideas, From Russia with Love is a film about fractured privacy. There are so many incidents throughout the picture where intimate moments between characters are uprooted, surveyed or exploited, and where spaces that are meant to be safe havens are bugged, compromised or rigged to blow, taking you with the blast. Bond’s hotel room is covered in bugs, only increasing the paranoid feeling he displays while in Istanbul. Kerim’s domestic life in his secret hide-out in the Grand Bazaar is figuratively and literally obliterated by a mine, shaking him up and nearly writing his death certificate. The agents of the Russian consulate have no idea that Kerim and his team have literally burrowed into their fox’s den and have compromised their security. Later in the film, the same consulate is bombed and in the ensuing chaos, Bond breaks through their security and robs them of their greatest possession. At the gypsy camp, the intimate and private matter involving a feud between two women seeking to marry a chief’s son is made a public fixture of entertainment in the community. Not long afterward, that same gypsy camp is raided in a moment of vulnerability and lit up with gunfire and flames in a massive ambush. Kerim goes directly to Krilencu’s doorstep and kills him at the place where he expected sanctuary and protection with nothing more than a cold shot to the back from the AR-7 rifle. Kerim’s death in the confines of the train car forever fractures his domestic family back in Turkey, who are now without their leader. And lastly, Klebb breaks into Bond and Tatiana’s hotel room when the pair think their troubles are behind them, under the guise of a cleaning lady. Every mounting moment of invasive action directed at private confines in even more private moments lends the film a very penetrating quality, creating the idea that nowhere the action moves is safe for our heroes.
As another major theme, From Russia with Love also shows us no secrets can get kept, and depicts characters wearing all kinds of masks to survive. Bond, M, and Kerim all know they’re in the middle of a duplicitous game, yet they play their part in it to secure the Lektor. Klebb lies to the Russians and Tatiana, Tatiana lies to Bond as Bond lies to her, and they are both lied to by Grant, who nearly succeeds in his mission. That’s not even factoring in the duplicity that plays out between Kerim, the gypsies, the Bulgars and the Russians, who each think the wrong things about the other thanks to SPECTRE’s delicate and manipulative hand. Analyzing From Russia with Love and studying the motivations of each of the characters, the lies they tell and the lies they’re told is head-spinning to contemplate. The script presents us with a raw spy adventure that creates a very real world picture of the Cold War climate, where you were constantly being watched from above ground or below, and where danger was always lurking around the corner to strike at those unaware.
In true espionage fashion, a great emphasis in the script is also put on surveillance and communication between parties, and how our words have the power to manipulate the state of play. An equal emphasis is put on mouths and lips as the carriers of information or deliverers of lies with great duplicity. Tatiana comments to Bond about how her mouth is too small. Krilencu attempts to escape his hide-out from the open mouth of Anita Ekberg. Grant won’t allow Bond to die until he crawls over to kiss his foot. The words Bond and his spy colleagues use as they exchange plans around the stations are muted to nothing by the rattling of the carriages, the steam puffing from the trains halted on the tracks and all the voices of the pedestrians milling about, masking their secret operations. And of course, in a spy game this tough, it’s lips that need t be silenced most of all.
The motif of fish become surprisingly prevalent in the movie as well, where Blofeld’s fighting fish serve as metaphors for the characters in conflict in the film. The shot composition and editing as the pair of fighting fish flap violently beside Blofeld while he briefs his team on the Lektor plan is striking, and it’s great visual foreshadowing for the brutal action that unfolds on the train between Bond and Grant in their final confrontation. Even more so, however, the bout of the fish is a strong foreshadowing of the conflict between Kerim, Benz and Grant. Kerim and Benz are the two fish fighting it out, while Grant is the sharper fish that lies in wait, striking when the enemy’s weakness is highest.
In addition to all the interesting elements the script really seems to showcase, there’s an endless amount of ways that From Russia with Love truly sets itself apart from any other film out there, even 50 years on. The filmmakers dared to underserve Bond for the first twenty minutes of the film in order to give screen time to the villains to build up the scheme that will be forming itself around our British agent in this adventure. This is a film where we get to spend as much time with the villains as we do our hero. We as the viewers actually get to see SPECTRE island on the screen as opposed to having it just mentioned off-hand by one of Blofeld’s agents, or by the man himself. Like no other Bond film, From Russia with Love walks us by the hand into the villains’ den on SPECTRE island to give us a front row seat into how the organization is run and how agents are forged from normal candidates into brutal killing machines. I grin sadistically every time I hear Morenzy state that they use “live targets too.” We live with these villains under their roof, sleep in their beds and follow in the impressions of their footsteps as they lay traps for Bond and his allies. As the SPECTRE plot gradually envelopes Bond and the rest of our heroes, we know the truth behind the traps they’re falling into through our time with the villains and can only watch as 007 is swallowed up in it, until he inevitably ends up on his knees in a train car with a pistol jammed in his face. The script makes you wonder just how Bond is going to worm his way out of that predicament, it feels so fatal and final.
The hallmark of the script and its strongest element is how Bond and Grant’s big bout is gradually led up to, resulting in an explosive payoff. As 007 goes about his work in Istanbul Grant is never far behind, symbolized as a force of nature that slips in and out without alarm. As viewers, we know everything Bond doesn’t, and spot every moment where the killer spares the spy’s life in order to move the Lektor plot along. Images of Grant killing a vicious member of Krilencu’s crew to save Bond from a slash or his silencing of a Bulgar to ensure Tatiana’s betrayal remains hidden all feel incongruous. Although he’s a villain, Grant is actively written as a guardian angel for our heroes, up until the moment where he no longer has to be. When Bond and Grant finally meet face to face, the work that the screenwriters put in to make their confrontation a spectacle worth waiting for is potent. As From Russia with Love begins and we spot Grant seeking out a faux-Bond to strangle, the screenplay is already crafting a Chekhov’s gun for audiences that is more like a bazooka.
Throughout all this high drama and espionage, the film never loses the ominous feeling of impending doom from start to finish that the script helps form, and this danger is felt in such a vast variety of different locations, from smoke-filled stations and massive mosques to colorful bazaars and the cramped, quiet train compartments of the Orient Express where your only company is hopefully the sound of the rattling carriages on the tracks.
Such is the deep and engrossing magic of From Russia with Love.
Ted Moore returned for From Russia with Love to continue his great work from Dr. No in a film that once again allowed him to showcase the atmosphere a location can exude for audiences. While his work depicting Jamaica was fantastic, the contrast of the less exotic, more rugged and gray toned Istanbul does magic for the film. What makes Dr. No and From Russia with Love such great back to back Bond adventures is that the creative team took what worked in the first and brought it back in the second, while also flipping the script on a few things to make the adventure feel extremely fresh and different from Dr. No visually and in mood, which they really succeed at.
From Russia with Love carries a smoky feeling and atmosphere, and Moore’s visuals and lighting choices make us able to smell the odorous alleyways of Turkey, feel the rough textures of the rugs littering the bazaars and taste the cigarette smoke coating our lips as Bond and Kerim both light one up. This is truly transportive filmmaking here, where the movie looks and feels like a visual travelogue to the location, making us believe for a moment that we were there with the filmmakers as they brought it to life beautifully. The color palettes on display, the use of light and shadow, the staging of the action and how the shots are composed are all finely tuned and perfect, representing some of Moore’s greatest work.
There’s also a great wealth of clever visuals ingrained in the cinematography of From Russia with Love where distinct moments in the film or particular shots are framed in a way that recalls earlier ones that then thinks them as images of great meaning or feeling. Many examples of this trick crop up across the film.
At the beginning of the movie, both Bond and Tatiana sit in front of their superiors while they inspect a photo of one another, connecting the scenes visually and symbolically. Because the first look Bond and the girl get of one another is indirectly gained through a photo, we get to share in the anxieties of the pair, the former hoping he impresses and the latter only hoping he’s good to her. Their feelings match that of two people meeting up after only communicating online in our current age, with the air or mystery and element of surprise both an enticing and neurotic delight. Both parties realize they are going to be playing the other for their side, which instantly muddles their motivations as we wonder at which point Bond and Tatiana both reach a mutual understanding and care for each other outside the attainment of the Lektor and the orders of their respective bosses.
In another moment, the image of Colonel Klebb invading Tatiana’s person space with her fingers is directly contrasted with the image of Bond wrestling intimately with Sylvia in the next set of shots that follow it, delineating the difference between the unwanted touches the Soviet woman lays upon her underling and the passion of consent that Bond and Trench openly practice with one another. Later on in the film, the image of Anita Ekberg’s mouth opening on the Call Me Bwana poster is juxtaposed directly with a shot that comes during Bond and Tatiana’s first meeting just minutes thereafter, where the woman opens her mouth in the same suggestive way. Both instances represent some of the most sensual aspects of the film that push a very adult and erotic theme.
As Bond escapes with the Lektor and boards the Orient Express, the cinematography does what the costume design department had and symbolically links Grant as Bond’s ultimate doppelgänger. The shot of Bond walking along the track in Belgrade station while Grant tails him through the train windows is immaculate for this reason as the SPECTRE assassin plays the role of the predator. Then, when the train stops at the Zagreb station a little later on, the scene that plays out is a clever reversal of the previous station stop in Belgrade. This time Grant gets off the train while Bond prowls from the carriages, the predator-prey role swapped.
And, in the biggest moment of tragedy in the film, Kerim’s death at the hands of Grant while he’s busying himself with Benz visually recalls the earlier moment where Blofeld symbolically explains his plan to get the Lektor using fighting fish to do so, with Bond’s ally cast as the fish that gets distracted and weakened by their opponent while a greater threat waits to strike at them from off stage. This connects directly to the foreshadowing we see of the moment in the script.
Moore’s smart visual linking in so many instances throughout From Russia with Love creates very self-aware cinematic photography as the film’s images overtly play on and off each other, giving an added feeling of depth and resonance to what is on display. Carnal desire is juxtaposed with abuse, eroticism plays off of escape, tragedy is foreshadowed with subtlety and images of paranoia abound. A rich and thought-provoking visual catalog is the result.
In John Barry’s big debut as the main composer of a Bond film, he doesn’t back down and delivers big time. For From Russia with Love he produced an amazing set of compositions, some that delivered the now classic arrangement of Norman’s Bond theme, and others that used local sounds of Turkey to give the score an exotic and cultural edge. Throughout the film, Barry’s arrangements of the Bond theme hit hard, and you can feel his orchestra’s instruments straining and wailing to birth the classic Bond sound.
Constantly, Barry’s music adds layers of atmosphere to the film, ramping up the tension to excruciating levels of tension that don’t let up. And when you mix his music with the visuals of Ted Moore and the performances of the cast, you get a combination that’s hard to beat. This film also debuts the secondary Bond theme by Barry, simply titled “007” that for my money is just as classic as the main theme. It’s rip-roaring, action-packed and pulse-pounding music that is used to great effect.
Lionel Bart’s song From Russia with Love, with vocals by Matt Munro has always been a favorite for me as well, largely because it’s the closest we’ll ever get to hearing a Frank Sinatra styled Bond song. The orchestra is grand, as is Munro’s range, his greatest moment being during the finale of the tune when he holds the final note for twelve long seconds. Classic.
As with Terence Young, Ted Moore, Richard Maibaum and John Barry, editor Peter Hunt returns from the Dr. No team to continue to marvel us in From Russia with Love.
Hunt’s fast and exhilarating editing style is back in full effect, bringing with it a great sense of kinetic energy. He makes the simple image of two fish in a tank wrestling with one another feel as lively and tension-filled as the gypsy camp and helicopter chase.
Some of Hunt’s all-time finest work comes in the train fight between Bond and Grant, where he keeps the momentum of the shots quick and vigorous. As in Dr. No, he amps up the sound to give the audio a serious punch, making the cracking and shattering of the glass, the steady rhythm of the train carriages shuffling on the tracks and the bodily collisions of Bond and Grant as they wrestle each other in the cramped space register as avalanches of cascading sound that delight our eardrums even while the noises are in serious danger of rattling them to muteness.
Hunt’s rough, quick and messy style perfectly compliments a film like this whose script and cinematography strives to evoke the same feelings that the Cold War era imprinted on our human history.
One of the many details that return from Dr. No to From Russia with Love is Bond’s wardrobe, handled here by the costume design team of Jocelyn Rickards and Anthony Sinclair. The first two Bond films cemented gray suits with white or light blue dress shirts and navy grenadine ties as Bond’s go-to “uniform” out in the field. These looks defined Bond’s visual appeal under Sean Connery, and he wears them with the same swagger as he did in his debut appearance in this movie. He truly feels like he sleeps in these suits-as Terence Young even advised him-it’s so natural how he wears them. And this time around the grenadine ties use a four-in-hand knot instead of the Windsor knot used in Dr. No, which Fleming himself despised because he thought they made a man look too vain.
Sinclair’s tailoring motto of simple and sensible style is widely evidenced in this film as Bond pops about wearing fitting attire for every moment. The magic of these suits is that they were produced and fit to Sean in a style that made them forever timeless in appeal. To create this effect, the colors were restricted to small gradations of navy blues and grays like in the previous film, which are the most natural colors to wear and also those that made Sean pop the best while he wore them. These fits would look nice on any man who slid in them, but when worn by Sean they are given an added sense of class and lively energy. The way he saunters sleek and proud around Istanbul like all the cobbled streets are his runway is a delight to watch. Sinclair dresses him in the go-to navy and gray suits, but also adds a nice flannel chalk stripe suit that he wears whilst facing off with Klebb in the Venetian hotel room at the end of the film. The tailor also provided another exquisite tuxedo to the production of the pre-title sequence, this time worn by a faux Bond. All exquisite ensembles, no less.
Where Bond’s style is concerned, From Russia with Love also subtly represents an exciting transition period in the franchise. This film and Dr. No before it crafted the character of James Bond into a well-dressed man, but the style of Goldfinger and the films beyond would absolutely catapult 007 into achieving the title of a style icon, taking Sean along for the ride. After 1963 the very restrained and simple style of Bond’s wardrobe and his navy and gray suits would expand to include more diverse looks, including three-piece suits and ivory dinner jackets with a greater range of color palettes and fabrics for the suits to be crafted with. The ambitions in the style of these films extended beyond just the suits of James Bond, however, and in just another film we were already seeing the now classic Ken Adam sets take the world by storm as John Barry crafted the 007 sound. From this point on, nothing would ever be the same again.
Where our Bond girl Ms. Romanova is concerned, the wardrobe chosen for Daniela Bianchi in this film is perfect, with each look making her classic beauty the center of attention. In the script, this woman is built up as a graceful and professional individual, and what Bianchi wears in the film underscores these ideas. From Russia with Love represents a beautiful marriage of writing and style for this reason, and it characterizes Tatiana with great detail, but never in a way that draws attention to itself.
Every ensemble that Tatiana sports in the film represent who she is as a woman, someone who wants to look nice and respectable, without ever going overboard. She’s visibly restricted in her style, never going out of her way to show skin or act rebellious. For this reason, she can appear like a beautiful tortoise hiding in her shell, until Bond gives her a chance to open up. One of the sweetest moments of the film that hints at the repression Tatiana represents occurs on the Orient Express. Bond has surprised Tatiana with a set of dresses that are more in touch with the west’s sensibilities, styled to show more of the skin of the woman wearing them. At the sight of the dresses, Tatiana is overwhelmed with joy and immediately sets about putting them on. It’s clear that she often dresses to conform to the strict rules of her native society, and when given the chance to branch out in her style and literally let her skin breathe in western clothes, she feels like a new woman, wholly reborn.
Saliently, the costume design department respected the character of Tatiana Romanova enough to never sexualize her in obscene ways, and instead gave her a wardrobe of simple coats and dress shirts that made her feel like an office girl with her own style and sense of identity. The range of colors expressed by these clothes, from heavy blues and whites, pinks and yellows, serve to accentuate Bianchi’s beauty in the way the navy and gray suits Bond wears were designed to magnify Sean’s allure and features. In wearing them, Bianchi becomes one of the most gorgeous Bond girls in the history of the series, but that’s a rather small order for a woman who could wear nothing but a ribbon around her neck and still retain a sense of class. To this day, one of the many unending treats that can be gained from rewatching From Russia with Love is to stand in awe of her exquisite beauty.
Where the rest of the cast is concerned, there’s some great suits to behold, from Kerim’s collection of ensembles to M’s brown flannel suit with matching bowtie. Even the different factions in the film, from the Turks, the gypsies, the Russians and the Bulgars have distinctive looks that set them apart visually. The Russians, in particular, are very military in look, best represented in the form of Colonel Klebb who never leaves her uniform, and on the other end of the spectrum, the gypsies of the Turkish camp have clothes made of tattered cloth. The style choices give added life to the minor characters and the roles they hold in the film.
When it comes to the wardrobe of rabid killer Donald Grant, the clothes he wears back up the characterization of him that the script offers us, much in the same way it does for Tatiana. As I mentioned in my analysis of Grant as a character, what he wears in the film builds him up to be a doppelgänger of Bond in a very symbolic way. Every moment, including their final fight to the death, characterizes both men as equals, and this idea is replicated in a fascinating way through the costume design.
We don’t get to know much about Grant’s background in the movie in order to give the character a mythic and mysterious appeal, representing an ungraspable smoke that travels through your clenched fingers, but what we do learn is that he’s very methodical in his work and takes out his targets with the finesse of a predator. Like an animal, he learns the movements and defenses of his meal, then adapts to account for the strengths they pose while prodding their weaknesses. Some members of the animal kingdom utilize camouflage to prowl on their prey, and in From Russia with Love Grant’s camouflage is best represented by the suits he chooses to wear out in the field. If seeing a fit and dangerous man wearing gray suits and navy ties seems a familiar sight to you, it’s because it is. It’s clear from the wardrobe sported by Grant that he has studied James Bond’s style intensely in order to replicate it, and it wouldn’t be difficult to imagine that he tracked down the spy’s tailor to get suits that explicitly recalled his target’s own. Like an actor, Grant is slipping into a role and is dressing with a Britishness about him that masks his motivations. It’s almost off-putting to see him copying Bond in such a heightened way, as he’s able to do it so well; if he wasn’t a SPECTRE hired killer you’d think he was just 007’s biggest fan. For this reason, when Bond and Grant finally meet on the Orient express it’s the equivalent of Elvis meeting one of his impersonators in Vegas. What an image that is…
Overall, From Russia with Love’s costume design is one of the smartest in Bond history because the team dressed its cast in effective ways while also using the style pieces to add further characterization to their roles that the script had already laid the groundwork for. How the script and costume design work together here, best represented in how Tatiana and Grant are given added meaning, purpose and depth through what they wear, is a masterclass product of both production elements and represents one of the subtle bits of genius that makes this film so perfect.
Most of the main original team from Dr. No returned for From Russia with Love, but one big exception was Ken Adam, who was off on production design duties for Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove at the time of the feature’s filming. This absence ultimately made EON seek out Syd Cain to fill the vacancy, the production designer extraordinaire who created the iconic visual of the dragon tank for Dr. No, though he went uncredited for it at the time.
While much of From Russia with Love is built up of location shooting, Cain’s work here stands up well in the history of the series’ production design. If the anteroom chamber of Dr. No was the visual treat of that film’s production design, in From Russia with Love it must be Cain’s chess room set that he made for $150,000. It’s a set that stands up to all the greatest sets in the Bond series, with a strong use of chess motifs to give it that special something. Like Adam, Cain plays with space to make the actors feel small, ramping up the tension of the scene and the operatic nature of the space. His use of shapes, notably the rising circle that supports Kronsteen and his opponent while they play the game, and the larger outer floor designed like a chess board are exquisite, to say the least. If you didn’t research the film you’d immediately assume that the set was a Ken Adam original because Cain expertly knew what the producers were expecting him to provide them that would aid in realizing the overall look and feel of the movie. By using the symbols of the chess pieces in his design, he even makes the set serve as a very “meta” commentary on the coming story, which plays out like a chess game, only with humans swapped out for the game pieces.
Part six will draw conclusions on 'From Russia With Love'.
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The opinions expressed in this review are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of MI6-HQ.com or its owners.