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Jump Cut 3
The British Censorship of
From Russia with Love

from research by Gavin Salkeld

By Glenn Erickson

Nine years ago Savant was sitting at MGM trying to think up new "MGM Video Savant" article ideas, and came across a letter asking a common question about a Jump Cut -- a continuity break in the middle of a shot -- in the science fiction film Forbidden Planet. Since the answer was spelled out in an OOP Criterion laserdisc, I passed the info along.

This started a short series of similar inquiries but the biggest one was about the second James Bond adventure From Russia With Love. The original article is HERE, just for the sake of historicity. I've transposed most of it and added new input that came in just last week from Gavin Salkeld, a self-described Bond and censorship fan who runs a video service in the UK that can be accessed at this link: GnC Films. The site also offers numerous DVDs of GnC's amateur films.

This first part comes from the 1997 article:

Who has cut the end of From Russia with Love? What's missing, and why?

In the final scene of From Russia with Love Sean Connery and Daniela Bianchi are blithely Gondoliering on a Venetian canal (okay, okay, in front of a rear-projection of a Venetian canal) when Connery produces the 8mm roll of blackmail film taken by SMERSH in the Istanbul bridal suite. He holds the reel up to examine a length of it against the sunlight, and says. "He was right, you know." Before Bianchi can answer, there is a really obvious cut. A new angle pops on with the actors in different positions and the dialog proceeds as if something substantial has been cut out. Matt Munro has been singing the title song in the background; the lyric jumps forward a few notes, indicating that maybe two or three seconds of film are missing.

This is an occasion that demonstrates that Savant doesn't pretend to know everything. I have been unable to get an answer to this question from the usual James Bond experts I know, and as I haven't yet seen a shooting script for From Russia with Love I can only guess as to why this cut is here. I don't know if older videotapes have the same cut, and I don't know whether or not this is the way the film screened in theaters. Pressed to make my best guess, I'd speculate that in the missing dialog Bond might compare the blue-movie blackmail ploy to England's notorious Profumo sex scandal of the time. A joke like that would be considered embarassing to the Brits and might have been cut for export. It's just a fun guess, based on knowing too much and not enough.

Anyone know for sure? Have some proof, a script page perhaps? I'd be grateful for some help in publishing the truth here.

FOLLOWUP: Two really helpful responses follow - do these readers jog anyone's memory? Any U.K. collectors care to check out their copies of From Russia with Love? I want to see it for myself to consider the case closed. MGM V.S.

"JOHN" WRITES: "It doesn't get better, it gets deeper. After reading about the jump cut I examined an old 16mm print made in England at Technicolor (it's an IB print) at the time Thunderball was about to be released. The cut is there. Bond says , "He was right you know", then the cut. The amazing thing is that there is a hot splice in the release print at that point, indicating to me that the negative and sound tracks were not cut. (NOTE: good call. V.S.) This print has the revised "end credit" that reads "The End, but he'll be back in....

Also, Technicolor London used to ink edge number the release prints and according to the edge numbering nothing is missing! Perhaps someone who worked at Technicolor London in 1963 or 1964 could provide an answer. I would guess this material is missing from all American copies, although where the leader survived it says it is "production 17286, Version USA Short Version" (although I never heard that there were "different" versions of From Russia with Love). - - John

DALE WRITES: "I am a member of the James Bond 007 International Fan Club and an expert on all matters concerning 007. In the original edit of the scene, Sean Connery holds up the film and says,"He was right you know - what a performance!", referring to his and Tatiana's sexual exploits in the hotel. At the time it was thought that this piece of dialogue was a bit risqué and so it was cut. This is why there is a jump of a few seconds in the final scene." -- Regards, Dale McFadzean Esq.

That's how the strange case of From Russia with Love ended in 1997; until now nobody wrote to confirm any of the above scenarios or offer new information. In 2004 MGM started a big film and HD remastering program of the James Bond library, with the original negatives of the first three films (which don't always look very good on DVD) being digitally scanned at a 4k resolution and then cleaned up and optimized. It was hoped that by going to the original negative the Jump Cut at the end of From Russia with Love would disappear, but I get conflicting reports on this issue. Even if the negative was found to be intact, it's possible that the original composite audio mix is gone, and the restorers would feel compelled to leave the cut in.

A few days ago reader Gavin Salkeld wrote in with what he says are the answers, straight from the files of the British Board of Film Classification. From Russia with Love was apparently the target of some pretty stringent censorship from the BBFC. All save one of the alterations and cuts that Salkeld lists below were permanent. I'm told that the shot of a "nude" Tatiana Romanova (Daniela Bianchi) walking to the bridal suite bed wasn't part of the original UK release, but all of us thirteen year-olds remember it well from when the film showed here. The jump cut at the end was a censor call, and it links up to a cut earlier in the film.

Here are the cutting notes, according to Gavin Salkeld. I've added some notes in bold.

The BBFC cuts to From Russia with Love in 1963

1) - References to "lovers" and "physical enjoyment" have been cut. There's no indication of exactly where these references appear.
2) - The dance in the Gypsy Camp has been shortened to remove wriggling and shots of the women bending over backwards, as a small amount of pubic hair is on show.
3) - The fight that follows between the Gypsies and the Bulgars has been considerably reduced.
4) - Tania walking nude towards the Bridal Suite bed was cut for the cinema release, but reinstated into video and DVD editions. In all editions I've seen, the actress or her double is actually wearing a body stocking and is veiled by some curtains.
5) - Bonds reference to searching Tania is missing, and the kissing is reduced.
6) - Tania's remark, "I hope I came up to expectations" is cut.
7) - The scene of the two of them in bed has been darkened and shortened.
8) - The use of "Was I" in "Was I as exciting as all those Western girls?" has been changed to "Am I?" The past tense implies that the couple have had sex, while the present tense implies that Bond just finds her attractive.
9) - Bond's line "two hours should straighten this out" as he lowers the blind on the Orient Express is cut.
10) - Killer Red Grant (Robert Shaw) gets the drop on Bond in his compartment on the Orient Express. Grant's remark "What a performance!" when he throws the compromising 8mm film reel at Bond is removed.
11) - The subsequent Bond-Grant fight is shorter than it was originally.
12) - When Bond shoots SMERSH assassin Rosa Kleb (Lotte Lenya) in the Venice hotel room, shots of her dying have been trimmed and removed, and her death cries have been muted on the soundtrack.
13) - Bond's repeat of Red Grant's quip, "What a performance!" as he examines the film reel in the Gondola, has been cut.

As W.C. Fields might say, that's quite a list of picked nits. All worldwide editions of the film are now exactly the same, retaining all the original BBFC cuts excepting Tania's walking nude towards the bed, which is now restored in the UK as well. Just to be clear, there is NO uncut version of this anywhere in the world.. From Russia with Love was quite an erotic film when new, and it's interesting to know just how badly the censors beat it up.

Savant's thanks and compliments to Mr. Salkeld.

July 22, 2006

DVD Savant Text © Copyright 2007 Glenn Erickson

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