From Russia With Love is where we start to get more of the Bond stuff. We get our first Bond theme, first title sequence with scantily clad women, first scene with Desmond Llewelyn as Q, first totally convincing rubber mask but most importantly, we get our first evil gay character. And it's my favourite evil gay character, the murderously bitter old lesbian. This one's called Colonel Rosa Klebb and she's played by the wonderful Lotte Lenya, best known otherwise for her work with Kurt Weill. With her lemon and onions facial expressions, her perving over the female lead and her forthright approach with a poisoned toe knife you can either be offended by the homophobic stereotype or you can spend the whole film rooting for her.
She is hamstrung by working for the crappiest evil organization ever. SPECTRE's main raison d'être is to get the Soviets and the west to fight and they can't even manage that. At the height of the cold war, they launch a series of insanely overcomplicated schemes that are all defeated by a mangy date rapist. No wonder Klebb looks like someone's pissed in her cornflakes.
Speaking of rape, watching the old Bond films has really helped clarify why our culture can't get a grip on something as simple as what constitutes sexual consent (someone saying they want to have sex with you and really meaning it). Connery's Bond is supposed to be the ultimate ladies man, no woman can resist him and this is partly true. No woman can successfully resist him, they'll try but he'll smack them around a bit till they give in. The level of casual violence against women is really quite jarring, it's strange that they still show these films as Saturday matinees on ITV.
The Bond Girl in this one has been conned by Klebb (which I admit to finding pleasing to say) into pretending to defect so she can be a double agent for Mother Russia only she'll really be reporting to SPECTRE. Fortunately Bond is there to shag her, rough her up a bit and then shag her again. This treatment results in both love and a desire to defect for real.
So that's the brutal misogyny taken care of, how are we for racism. We have a stereotypical Gypsy (ie brunette) camp. Does it have quaint wooden caravans and dark, tempestuous women with heaving bosoms? Of course it does.
This one had a decent budget and it looks terrific. The famous train fight scene still holds up well, it actually conveys better than most contemporary action films that a life or death fight is an exhausting, terrifying struggle. The catfight in the gypsy camp is simultaneously pure titillation and surprisingly close to how people I see fighting drunk on a Friday night go about things.
Sadly, when it comes down to it, there's only so much a poisoned toe knife can do for you. Klebb's defeat is certain but luckily she isn't young and photogenic enough for Bond to rape her to the side of good so she gets the dignity of being treated as a serious threat and killed. But I'll always remember her as she was; bitter, manhating and venomous.
|She was the people's evil old lesbian. She was the evil old lesbian of our hearts.|