Monday, 15 August 2011

From Russia With Love

Thunderball has always been my favourite Bond despite its obvious flaw of having not a single exploding helicopter in it.

And while the Disco Volante spectacularly crashes at the end, this blog is not called Exploding Yacht So I am left to review From Russia With Love.

This is Sean Connery’s second outing as 007 so he’s without the toupee and corset that he would sport with distinction in later Bond entries.

We pick up the action with Connery having bested Robert Shaw in the train fight. He’s now making his escape across country in a lumbering truck. Some SPECTRE agents start to buzz the truck in a small Hiller UK-12 helicopter and try to kill Bond by dropping grenades on the truck, but succeed only in disabling it.

Bond grabs a rifle and takes cover behind some rocks where he can take some pot shots at the chopper. Connery manages to shoot the co-pilot in the shoulder just as he’s about to drop a couple of grenades. He clumsily scrabbles around at his feet for the grenade he’s now dropped. But too late the chopper explodes in a delicious orangey fireball.

It then falls - obviously - from the sky cart wheeling about before crashing into the ground where it explodes twice more for good measure. Connery scuttles back over to the truck where he can be nicely silhouetted against the fourth, final, and biggest explosion.
Verdict

A humdinger of a helicopter explosion. You have to salute director Terence Young and the special effects team for their gusto with which they set about destroying this helicopter. Have Jerry Bruckheimer and Michael Bay ever blown up the same helicopter four times? No sir, they have not.

Exploding helicopter innovation

Nothing particularly innovative, as this was made in 1963 it's the earliest exploding helicopter action I have yet recorded.

The sequence also helps establish a classic exploding helicopter trope where the occupants know they’re doomed moments before consumed in a conflagration. Sadly, as these are Russian agents no-one says “What the?….” before being immolated. Unless of course they’re muttering it in Russian.

Do passengers survive?

They really should have if the klutz in the co-pilot hadn’t spent so long fumbling about for the grenade in the cockpit.

Positives

I doubt any fictional character has been responsible for as many exploding helicopters as 007. Connery gets Bond off the mark in fine style.

Negatives

None. A faultless exploding helicopter sequence.

4 comments:

  1. The gauntlet has been laid down to find an older exploding helicopter scene.

    I hear there is one in Casablanca.

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  2. It might be a bit left-field, but the 1980 film The Final Countdown (where's the crit?) involves a US aircraft carrier travelling back in time to December 1941. A Sikorsky SH-3 Sea King helicopter explodes (cause: flare gun fired in cockpit). Surely this is the earliest example of an exploding helicopter? Although the film was made in 1980, they DID travel back in time ....
    Martin Hill-Jones, Torrevieja, Spain

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  3. Martin - thanks for the tip-off about The Final Countdown. I think you could be correct. Whilst From Russia With Love is the earliest produced film with an exploding helicopter in, it's also interesting to consider the question from the point of view of the earliest year depicted in a film that a chopper blows up in. Where Eagles Dare - which includes a chopper fireball - is a good example. Made in 1969, it is set during WW2 probably around late 1943 or early 1944. However, The Final Countdown is clearly set some years earlier so this is the new holder of that title. However, I am aware of another time travel film which could knock both these films out the park. Samurai Commando 1549 sees modern armed forces travel back to the 16th century. Helicopters are in the film, but I don't yet know if one explodes. I mean to get round to it soon.

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  4. Update - I've just watched Samurai Commando - Mission 1549 on YouTube. There are TWO exploding helicopters! So I suppose I'll have to hand over my crown. Ho Hum ...

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