From Russia (With Kisses & Flowers)

DATELINE: Spy Extravaganza

Lotte Lenya Lets Bond Have It

Lotte Lenya & Sean Connery in Fight Royale!

No, From Russia with Love is not about a date between Trump and Putin. It’s the 1963 movie about James Bond, based on Ian Fleming’s hilarious novels, and starring Sean Connery.

With its iconic music, beautiful location photography, glorious Technicolor, and outrageous performances, it is a hoot and a half, even fifty years after its original release. Every set up will have your mouth agape and fighting back laughs.

If you want to know how a movie can stand up to time, take a look: even with its anachronistic and silly car phones, beepers, and lasers. These were cutting edge back then.

Not half the entertainment is in its two foremost early Bond villains: Robert Shaw and Lotte Lenya.

Shaw’s tow-headed muscle guy was a forerunner of Dolph Lundgren’s Soviet superman from Rocky. It was the start of a decade of over-the-top villains, culminating with Quint from Jaws.

No overwhelming technology or special effects had yet to take hold in the well-produced low-budget Bond movies. However, a regrettable act or two occurs, with Connery slugging a woman. The producers also steal Hitchcock’s North by Northwest crop duster chase with a helicopter going after Bond.

Pipsqueak septuagenarian Lotte Lenya steals every scene, as she did as the procuress in Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone. Her final confrontation, a fight with James Bond, is a kick or two to the head. She gives him a run for his secret agent style. You can’t beat an old lady fighting James Bond in grand style.

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Endeavour 5.5: Quartet

DATELINE:  Bond, Endeavour Bond

Endeavour as Bond Shaun Bond, or Smiley Evans?

The latest episode called “Quartet”, set in 1968, at the height of the James Bond and Spy Who Came in from the Cold, sent Endeavour Morse (Shaun Evans) into the world of foreign agents and double-crosses with Communists.

It’s not a far jump from an international festival murder at Oxford to the world of mysterious secret agents. A child is collateral damage during spy versus spy, which incenses Endeavour. Call this a kind of Bond meets John LeCarre!

As Inspector Thursday states, they are not “danger men” referring to the series starring Patrick McGoohan back then as a secret agent man. The police are ordered to back off the case, but Morse soon finds himself working undercover too with all those 00 types.

When members of the Special Branch ask to meet Morse and tell him to wear a dinner jacket, he shows up like Bond for a meeting with a couple of weasels that would make George Smiley smile.

The British have always had a spot for traitors and communists in the government and, in the words of one double agent, little people. The ones you don’t notice are the hired assassins.

They even try to garotte Morse, and they hijack murder victims to cover up the covert stuff.

Though there seems to be an unrelated case of domestic abuse going on in the mundane world of Thursday’s precinct, it may all tie in to billionaire perfume makers, East German dentures, and girlfriends who run off to take photos in Vietnam.

This season Endeavour offers two bonus episodes, and this high quality makes us wish they could make many more.

Yes, the series is already down for a sixth and likely final season.

 

Yes, Dr. No is Bananas

DATELINE:  First Bond

in Bond bed

Back in 1963, audiences were treated to a new kind of superhero in the person of Sean Connery:  Bond, James Bond.

The film called Dr. No was a departure on many levels from your usual spy/adventure stories. First, this was tongue-in-cheek (sort of) and came out of a series of Cold War novels by Ian Fleming.

As you might expect in this movie, the spies are decidedly low tech: old fashioned telephone banks are everywhere. There are no computers, and MI-5 or 6 communicates by short-wave radio with its agents.

The shocker: Bond has a license to kill and does so with the aplomb of your everyday cold-blooded sociopath. Of course, it’s all done in the name of the Queen and Country.

This movie deals with an independent terrorist organization that calls itself SPECTRE and is motivated mostly by evil and money, whichever is most handy.

The movie is lusciously filmed in Technicolor in Jamaica where Dr. No (Joseph Wiseman), a half-Chinese mad genius, has a nuclear power plant where his workers wear what we’d call Hazmat suits today. Yet, the whole bunch of bananas seems like parody, not far from Get Smart.

Along for the Bond ride in this first Fleming novel on the big screen is Ursula Andress in various states of undress and Jack Lord as the CIA agent (before he went Hawai 5-O on us). Wiseman’s half-Chinese villain has no hands (black prosthetics) and cream-color suits that would make Sydney Greenstreet envious.

Bond is nothing less than promiscuous and rather dangerous, and Connery is perfect as the pre-politically-correct man’s man. Don’t shake that martini. Audiences must have hooted every time that Bond music motif hit the screen. It still tingles.

We particularly like the tarantula put into Bond’s bed and crawling up Connery’s arm and back. Ah, those were the days!

Everything or Nothing: Bond, James Bond

DATELINE: Movie Mashup of James Bond

A documentary on the franchise and character of James Bond may surprise everyone and no one. From the pen of Ian Fleming to the small screen, the first Bond was Barry Nelson on TV in 1954 with Peter Lorre as the villain.

This entertaining documentary manages to pull together an epic story of productions, lawsuits, rivalries, and vastly differing philosophies of Bondage.

Touch on every key point, the film will rivet the casual Bond fan to the devotee of all those Broccoli-Saltzman films. From Sean Connery to Daniel Craig, the styles of Bond have matched the historical epoch of the 20th and 21st century, from the Cold War to the War on Terrorism.

The men who played Bond seemed touched by the experience and delighted by the opportunity. Each one left a mark on the character and the character changed the actor.

Harder to explain is the family sense of the Bond movies that exploited women, violence, and special effects to the size of enormous profits.

In the final analysis, feuds between Broccoli and Saltzman, between rival producer Kevin McClory and the Broccoli family, between Roger Moore and Sean Connery, all seem to be part of a story to savor.

Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton offer their analysis and opinions on James Bond as if to show the spectrum of appeal.

Pierce Brosnan notes that fewer men played Bond than men who walked on the Moon. It makes for a special club.

Enriched by clips and clever dialogue from the films, this movie turns out to be a guilty pleasure.