Bond’s second cinematic outing is about his trip to Istanbul to spring a trap and retrieve the Lektor decoding device from the Russians. But will Mel find it a Turkish Delight?
From the DVD menu she notes, “There’s naked women already.”
“To be fair, they are the same ones as last time. They haven’t exploited new women for every film’s DVD menu,” I say. Then I ask if she knows anything about From Russia With Love before we hit ‘play’.
“Nothing… must be about the Cold War.”
I tell her that there are two things that are unique to this movie that I think she will actually like, so to be on the look-out for them.
On-screen 007 is apparently killed by Grant’s garrote wire. “Dead! Thank —- for that!”
As the credits roll I reveal that this film came out just a year after Dr. No. I ask Mel if she wishes they could turn them round this quick nowadays.
You wouldn’t like the next Daniel Craig one this year?
“Not really. I do wish there was a new Beyonce album every year though.”
The unseen Number One is meeting with Rosa Klebb and Kronsteen. I ask Mel if she remembers SPECTRE from Dr. No. She cannot.
On SPECTRE Island a young lady strips to her underwear. Mel says, “Here’s a girl. Nakedness.”
I then foolishly say, “I think she’s just a masseuse.”
“JUST a masseuse. Why is she taking her clothes off?”
To work more easily? Maybe it’s hot on SPECTRE Island?
“Then why is everyone else fully-clothed?”
As Klebb punches Grant in the gut with a knuckle-duster I point out that he is topless.
When Klebb tells Tatiana what she has to do Mel says, “So she’s prostituting her? She’s obviously going to shag Bond, fall in love and then be torn about who she’s loyal to.”
Meanwhile, James Bond is having a sexy picnic.
“Big, hairy, stinking beast. I hate his guts.”
I ask if he’s hairier than me.
“You’re hairier on top, he’s hairier on the bottom.”
I say that you can’t see his bottom.
“His legs. His legs are like a beast’s.”
But you said that you liked him more after Dr. No!
“I hate him again… he’s with a woman already.” I ask if she recognises the woman, but she’s forgotten poor Sylvia Trench already.
Then Mel suggests that we keep a track on the blog of the number of women Bond sleeps with in each movie. I ask if she can remember how many there were in Dr. No. “Three,” she replies without a moment’s hesitation. How can she remember that but not remember SPECTRE?
As 007 gets a call on his carphone from Moneypenny, Miss Trench tries to interrupt.
“OH MY GOD! He slapped her! The way he’s talking to her… ‘behave’… I literally hate his —-ing guts.”
M explains the mission to Bond. Tatiana Romanov, a Russian cypher clerk has fallen in love with a photo of 007 and wishes to defect to Britain, bringing with her a Lektor decoding machine. Bond’s only worry is, “suppose when we meets me in the flesh-”
“…she thinks I’m a shit,” Mel finishes for him.
I pause the DVD and ask Mel what she thinks of the plot so far.
“He knows it’s a trap, but he thinks he’s awesome.”
This is one of the things that I thought she might actually like about this movie. I was hoping it would remind her of the manner of our meeting. In 2006 Mel used to go to the bank everyday for the company she had a placement with the summer before she went to university. A handsome bank employee caught her eye and she was compelled to send a note with her number asking me to call her. The rest is history. I ask if this set-up reminded her of our own love story.
“No. She’s a prostitute and he’s a spy. I’m not a prostitute and you’re not a spy, are you?”
I shake my head dolefully.
After the limpet mine attack on Kerim Bey, he tells Bond that the girl left. “Found your technique too violent?” Bond asks. Both men chuckle.
“Why is that funny? violence towards women?”
Bond sees Tania for the first time through the periscope that sees into the Russian embassy. “Things are shaping up nicely from this angle.”
“He’s a greasy cheeseball” is Mel’s assessment. I worry about what she is going to make of Roger Moore.
At the gypsy camp two girls are fighting for the right to marry the chief’s son.
Mel says, “Women are absolutely humiliated in these films.” She turns to me accusingly. “And you love them.” I say nothing, silently just pleased that the two gypsy girls aren’t fighting naked, as they are in the Fleming novel.
To be honest, this was the second bit that I thought she would enjoy. Mel loves Big Fat Gypsy Weddings on television. She just looks at me when I suggest this.
“Do they not show the bits where the women fight over the right to marry men?” I enquire innocently.
Mel says they don’t, and I think the programme must be all the poorer for it.
The Bulgars attack the gypsy camp and all hell breaks loose.
“Do you think this is what Appleby Horse Fair is like?” I ask.
When the attackers have been repelled, Bond asks the chief gypsy to stop the girl fight. I hope that this will impress Mel.
“He probably just wants to shag both of them,” she says, with remarkable prescience.
The girls arrive in Bond’s caravan and Kerim tells the agent, “They’re both yours.”
“‘They’re both yours’ They are just possessions, women are portrayed as slaves.”
Back at the hotel, Bond sees Tania slip into his bed through the window.
Mel gasps. “She was FULLY naked then.” Bond wastes no time joining her. “He’s JUST met her. He’s literally just met her. Urrggh, it’s minging. He’s so disgusting. These films just make out women are sex-hungry all the time.”
I should say, it’s not that Mel is a prude in any way, just that she likes romantic love stories. For her, this scene should come at the end of a movie after ninety minutes of romance, comic misunderstandings and reunions in significant locations from earlier in the film.
Mel is then quite bored with the film for a while, as Bond bravely recovers the Lektor and they board the train. After Kerim’s death Bond is quite rough with Tania when he tries to get answers out of her, and slaps her face.
“I find this horrible to watch. He knows she’s on other side, so why is he sleeping with her? It’s horrible… he’s a horrible man.”
I ask Mel if she thinks doing horrible things in order to defend peace and liberty might be acceptable, as this is still an area for debate today.
“But he sleeps with her and then slaps her around. They don’t do that in Guantanamo Bay.”
Grant makes his famous slip-up of ordering red wine with fish.
“You can get reds that go with fish now. Really low tannin reds.”
During the fight-to-the-death between Bond and Grant I ask Mel who she is rooting for.
“I literally don’t care. There’s no tension in any of these anyway, he will always survive.”
But then when Rosa Klebb appears in our hero’s hotel room disguised as a maid, she gasps slightly and says, “that’s that woman.”
I ask Mel to sum up her feelings about From Russia With Love, which she delivers in a series of staccato judgments:
“Awful. Hated it. Boring shit. Misogynistic. Waste of two hours. Glad it’s over. Literally rather watch… Postman Pat.”
Why Postman Pat?!?
“It was the most juvenile thing I could think of.”
I reveal that in Fleming’s novel Klebb succeeds in stabbing 007 with her poison-tipped shoe-knife and he apparently dies. Fleming had decided to kill the character off as he had yet to crack America. I ask if she would have preferred the same ending to the movie, suspecting I already know the answer.
“No more Bond films? Definitely.”
Mel will Return… watching Goldfinger.
Original trailer for From Russia With Love:
Order From Russia With Love on DVD from Amazon:
The Ian Fleming novel:
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