From Russia with Love (Terence Young, 1963) is a more suspenseful and aggressive movie than Dr. No. Its plot is more complex and convoluted. It plays with the convention, rather than cementing it. And, yet, it ranks as one of the best entries in the overall series. It is a cool and suave spy thriller, self-deprecating at times, reassured in every scene. While it does not yet have the grandeur of some of the future movies, especially in terms of location shots, its scale is ambitious and appropriate. Connery, I dare say, has never been better. His performance expertly captures Ian Fleming’s spirit of Bond, while filling every frame with a dash of ironic confidence that grounds the film. This balance of human depth and pulp storytelling carries through the entire movie. It is a roller coaster ride at a small-town fair, incredibly fun, yet edgy and intimidating. Continue reading
Ah, From Russia With Love (Terence Young, 1963). This is one that I remember learning as a kid that a lot of Bond aficionados adored, and while I could understand why some people might feel that way, the movie just never clicked with me. And it still doesn’t as much I thought it would upon rewatching it. Furthermore, my girlfriend – my viewing partner for this series of reviews – had a tough time getting into this one, so much so that she fell asleep at one point.
When I watched this movie years ago, I found the plot a bit confusing. Watching it now, it’s actually nowhere near as complicated as I remember, as James Bond (Sean Connery) has to apprehend a Soviet Lektor decoding machine but is actually being set up by SPECTRE (the evil organization introduced in Dr. No [Terence Young, 1962]). In fact, From Russia With Love’s plot establishes a formula that would be repeated in several future Bond films in which different intelligence agencies race to retrieve a Macguffin (such as the ATAC in For Your Eyes Only [John Glen, 1981] and the GPS encoder in Tomorrow Never Dies [Roger Spottiswoode, 1997]). Continue reading
Dr. No, penned by Maibaum/Mankowitz and directed by Terrence Young, laid the foundation for the James Bond franchise. Yet, in retrospect, the movie does not feel part of the franchise. As the Ur-Bond, it lacks the familiar formula of the subsequent entries. There is an opening title sequence, but it does not carry the punch of Monty Norman’s iconic score. Ken Adams’ production design is impressive yet the low $1 million budget shows through the seams. And the script owes much more to a traditional spy thriller than the action-driven spectacle the series would craft into a global brand.
Dr. No almost feels like a series prologue, an introductory chapter. It is easy to glance over, but crucial to know for what comes next. While it merely teases many of the future conventions of Bond, it also created long-lasting snapshots of the series’ famous iconography. One of them is the image of Ursula Andress emerging out of the water, dressed to kill. The producers would later pay homage to this timeless scene in Die Another Day (Lee Tamahori, 2002) and Casino Royale (Martin Campbell, 2006). Continue reading
Note: Given that this is the first of my reviews, each blog post will cover the following: plot synopsis (spoiler-free) as well as my impressions of the pre-title sequence, music, characters, gadgets, stunts and special effects.
I was eleven when I saw Dr. No (Terence Young, 1962), the first of the long-running James Bond franchise from Eon Productions.
To eleven-year-old me, Dr. No felt ancient. The music was pretty corny (the score is arguably the worst of the Bond franchise, even if the iconic “James Bond Theme” plays at every conceivable moment); the performances mostly over-the-top (so much dubbing!); and the pacing pretty slow. However, I still enjoyed the experience. And I did again upon my recent rewatch. Continue reading
The story of the film was adopted from an internet novel, “Lost on a Red Mini Bus to Tai Po”, circulated in 2012 in one of the hottest internet platform in Hong Kong names, “Golden Discussion Forum”. The film “Midnight after” was released in 2014 and was nominated for several Hong Kong Academy Awards and was selected in the Panorama section of the 64th Berlin International Film Festival. Although the story was based on the novel, the film Director, Fruit Chan, had treated the film in his own way by adding new symbolisms and metaphors. The story started by depicting a minibus departed from Mongkok, a downtown area in Hong Kong. The minibus’ destination was Taipo, a suburb area. The minibus communed from Kowloon, city area, to the New Territories, suburb, via the Lion Rock Tunnel. After passing the Lion Rock Tunnel, all the people in the minibus lost contact with other people in Hong Kong and later discovered that Hong Kong has entered a doomsday scenario where all the population was gone except the people inside that particular minibus. In the film, it seemed only the 17 people inside the mini-bus (including the driver, grass root worker, university students, young working class, ordinary couple, fortune-teller, middle age man, computer genius & otaku representing exaggerated versions of Hong Kong’s varied Chinese populace belonging to a variety of occupation and social classes) were alive while the whole Hong Kong population vanished. Continue reading
This post marks the first in a series of reflections on the James Bond franchise. In the run-up to Spectre (Sam Mendes, 2015), the most recent Bond film, Mediascape Blog editors James Fleury and Matthias Stork will survey the entire Bond cinematic canon, covering both the official and unofficial films. For those who don’t know their M’s from their Q’s, this will include 24 official Bond films, all produced by EON Productions, as well as two guerilla productions, Columbia Pictures’ Casino Royale (Ken Hughes et al., 1967) and Taliafilm/Warner Bros.’s Never Say Never Again (Irvin Kirshner, 1983).
The goal of this series is to pay homage to one of the most iconic series in cinema history. Furthermore, it is a way to revisit the longevity of the films from today’s perspective and evaluate their nostalgic value. The authors will take two distinctive approaches. James will review and reevaluate the films based on his childhood memory. Additionally, he will watch the films with someone entirely unfamiliar with the series and try to negotiate both point of views. Matthias, meanwhile, will highlight specific moments and scenes from each film, particularly focusing on the aesthetic and historical background that informs the series. Continue reading