Sunday, May 21, 2017

Don't Make a Scene: From Russia With Love

The Story: Here's a scene from the second James Bond film, From Russia With Love, away back in 1963.

Spy stories are full of acronym's, so bear with us for a moment through this first course of alphabet soup. There was never a S.P.E.C.T.R.E. (The Special Executive for Counter-Intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge, and Extortion) and SMERSH (Shmiert Spionem--"Death to Spies") only existed briefly, but that didn't stop Ian Fleming. SMERSH had been an assassination squad in the KGB, but was disbanded after the Second World War. SPECTRE was an organization that Fleming and Kevin McClory dreamed up to try and make it easier to get their James Bond spy film (what would become Thunderball) into the Russian market. So, when Bond did make it to the silver-screen, thanks to producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, they had somewhat the same idea. They replaced the Russians as Bond's main opponent, and substituted SPECTRE. That complicated things when it came to From Russia With Love, the second film in the "007" series. Fleming had Bond being lured by a beautiful courier, who wanted to defect to the West with something Her Majesty's Secret Service desperately wanted...the Russian decoding machine, the Spektor.

Confused? You should be.

SPECTRE (the fictional organization) had been a part of Fleming's novels post-Thunderball, and the producers wanted to divert attention from the Russians as foes, too (you never know when a film-market might open up). So, they complicated the plot, using double agents for SMERSH, working for SPECTRE, to steal the newly-christened "Lektor" decoding machine for the purposes of the blackest of mails, and eliminating the British agent who messed up their missile-toppling scheme in the last movie (Sean Connery is James Bond).

But Bond has help--a briefcase from "Q" branch that contains everything but a lavatory sink* which just might come in handy...for the entire running time of the movie. But never more so than here. Essential to the plot is assassin Donovan "Red" Grant (Robert Shaw), who tails Bond on his mission, dispatching all who might get in Bond's way retrieving the Lektor. Grant then eliminates Bond's contact aboard the Orient Express and prepares the End Game.

Yeah, it might be the obvious choice to pick the Laser Beam scene from Goldfinger, but I have a lot of affection for this scene between Connery and Shaw—both at the top of their game with an excellent script and the proper amount of gritty danger. It's clear from Shaw's performance that Grant is a psychopath, and it would be a long, long time before Bond would seem to be in any credible danger when confronting a villain. Here, the scene is tense, and Shaw, by turns minimal and over-the-top, gives Bond, and the audience, a lot to worry about.

The Set-up: SMERSH assassin Donovan "Red" Grant has killed James Bond's contact, Nash, and assumed his identity. Bond, having never met the man but receiving the proper identification code is none the wiser. At dinner, "Nash" orders red wine with his fish, and slips Russian defector Tatiana Romanova (Daniela Bianchi) a sleep-inducing powder. Returning to their stateroom aboard the Orient Express, she collapses on the bed, and "Nash" and Bond retire to the connecting room. There, while "Nash" explains the proposed escape route, he knocks Bond unconscious and disarms him. Bond wakes up to find himself on the business end of Grant's pistol.

"Red" Grant: Keep still.
Grant: All right then, get up on your knees.
Grant: Put your hands in your pockets.
Grant: Keep 'em there.
James Bond: Red wine with fish. Well, that should have told me something.
Grant: You may know the right wines, but you're the one on your knees.
Grant: How does it feel, old man?
Bond: "Old man?" Is that what you chaps in SMERSH call each other?
Grant: SMERSH?
Bond: Of course....SPECTRE. Then it wasn't the Russians' show at all. You've been playing us off against each other, haven't you? And it was SPECTRE who killed the Russian agent in the Mosque. You?
Grant: Mm-hmm.
Bond: Kerim and the other man?
Grant: Mm-hmm.
Bond: And Nash?
Grant: Oh, I don't mind talking. I get a kick out of watching the great James Bond finding out what a bloody fool he's been making of himself. We're pro's, Mr. Bond.
Grant: We sweated your recognition code...
Grant: ...out of one of your men in Tokyo...
Grant: ...before he died. I've been keeping tabs on you.
Grant: I've been your guardian angel.
Grant: Saved your life at the gypsy camp.
Bond: Oh. Yes. I'm much obliged.
Grant: We were keeping you alive until you could get us the Lektor.
Bond: So, you had me deliver it to you on a plate. It's brilliant. Go on. I'm fascinated.
Grant: Now that we've got it, you and the girl are expendable. Between here and Trieste.
Bond: The girl? Isn't she SPECTRE, too?
Grant: No. She thinks she's doing it all for Mother Russia. She takes her orders from Colonel Klebb.
Bond: But, Rosa Klebb's Russian. Head of operations for SMERSH.
Grant: Was. Klebb works for SPECTRE now. The girl doesn't know that.
Bond: Well then, why kill her?
Grant: Orders. That's only half of it, old man.
Grant: Here's a roll of film. She'll have this in her handbag.
Grant: And on you, they'll find this letter.
Grant: It's from her, threatening to give the film to the press unless you marry her for helping you get the Lektor.
Bond: What film?
Grant: Taken in the bridal suite at your hotel. Something else the girl didn't know about—or you.
Bond: Must be a pretty sick collection of minds to dream up a plan like that.
Grant: You see the headlines? "British Agents Murders Beautiful Russian Spy Then Commits Suicide!"
Bond: Tell me, which lunatic asylum did they get you out of?
Grant: Don't make it any tougher of yourself.
(Grant comes forward and back-hands Bond across the face)
Grant: My orders are to kill you and deliver the Lektor. How I do it's my business. It'll be slow and painful.
Bond: How much are they paying you?
Grant: What's it to you?
Bond: We'll double it.
Grant: Your word of honor? As an English gentleman?
Grant: The first one won't kill you.
Grant: Nor the second. Not even the third.
Grant: Not 'til you crawl over here and you kiss my foot!
Bond: how 'bout a cigarette?
Grant: Not a chance.
Bond: I'll pay for it.
Grant: What with?
Bond: 50 gold sovereigns.
Grant: Where are they?
Bond: Up there in my case.
Grant: You show me.
(Bond opens the case carefully, turning the latches horizontally as "Q" described.)
Bond: Here you are. What about that cigarette?
Grant: Throw 'em down there.
Grant: Any more in the other case?
Bond: I should imagine so, it's a standard kit. I'll have a look.
Grant: Put your hands back in your pockets.
(Bond watches pensively as Grant throws one latch, then the other)
(Grant opens the cases with the latches turned vertically, and when the case is opened, the tear-gas cartridge explodes in his face. A fight ensues...)

From Russia With Love

Words by Ian Fleming, Richard Maibaum, and Johanna Harwood

Pictures by Ted Moore and Terence Young

From Russia With Love is available on MGM and Fox Home Video

* What's in that black attache case? What isn't? There's a secret compartment, a hidden throwing knife, a compartment for holding a disassembled Armalite rifle with scope, extra ammunition in the skids, strips of 50 gold sovereigns in the side panels, and a magnetized tin of talc' which is actually a tear-gas canister that will explode in the face of anyone who opens the case in an unprescribed manner. Handy.

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