My Second Favorite Fist Fight in the Movies

My preferred airline now has a channel of “classic films” which included the Bond outing From Russia with Love¬†on my recent trip back home. And why not? It’s a very well made film and unlike the more silly and comic book-like Bond films that came along in the 1970s and 1980s, it’s fairly realistic and hence more engaging.

It also includes my second favorite fist fight in the movies, in which psychopath Donald Grant (played with convincing viciousness by Robert Shaw) and superagent James Bond (played by the inimitable Sean Connery) have it out on a train. The verbal build up is almost as good as the fisticuffs: It’s filled with class resentment, desperation and downright nastiness (“The first bullet won’t kill you, nor the second, not even the third…not until you crawl over here and you KISS MY FOOT”).

It helps a lot that Connery and Shaw were physically powerful men, and IIRC they didn’t like each other (I seem to remember that they almost got into a punch-up off camera). They attack each other with vigor, in an amazingly long scene shot in an eerie blueish light. And it’s not one of those pretty Marquess of Queensberry fights that Hollywood often serves up; there’s grappling and kicking and scrapping and brutal life or death struggle.

p.s. In case you are wondering why I describe it as my second favorite fistfight in film, it’s because cineastes have long recognized that unquestionably, the fight scene with the most energy, style, humanity and realism takes place in the wretched Mogumbo Bar on the Barbary Coast….