Bond Goes Deep!: THUNDERBALL (United Artists 1965)


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THUNDERBALL, the fourth 007 adventure, will always hold a special place in my heart. It’s the first James Bond movie I saw at the theater, released at the height of the Secret Agent/Spy craze, and I was totally hooked! I even had all the toys that went with the movie, including Emilio Largo’s two-part boat the Disco Volante, with which I engaged in mighty battles in the bathtub against VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA’s Seaview (hey, I was only seven!).

SPECTRE is at it again, this time hijacking a NATO jet loaded with two nuclear bombs, and holding the world hostage. Bond, sent to recuperate at a health spa, stumbles on to trouble related to the crisis, and is sent by MI6 to investigate Domino Derval, sister of the NATO pilot. This leads 007 to Domino’s “guardian” Emilio Largo, a rich and powerful man who’s Number Two…

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The Secret Batman-James Bond Connection – Revealed!


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FLASH! This breaking news story is brought to you by Cracked Rear Viewer, serving the film community since 2015!

It’s the story America (and the world) has been waiting for – the hitherto secret link between The Caped Crusader and Secret Agent 007. Proving once again this blog will go to any lengths to create some content  bring you the truth behind the Hollywood scenes! Our trail begins in the year 1943. WWII was raging across both oceans, and America needed heroes to defend the homefront. Columbia Pictures secured the rights to the popular comic book BATMAN, and presented a 15-chapter serial starring one Lewis Wilson (1920-2000) as Bruce Wayne/Batman, battling the evil Japanese saboteur Dr. Daka, played by the villainous J. Carrol Naish:

Wilson was married to the former Dana Natol (1922-2004), and in 1942 they had a son named Michael. Though the Wilson’s film career went nowhere, they…

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Bond Is Back!: FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE (United Artists 1963)


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The Cold War got really hot when James Bond returned to the screen in FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE, second in the film series starring Sean Connery as Ian Fleming’s Secret Agent 007. Picking up where DR. NO left off, the film is popular with Bond fans for its more realistic depiction of the spy game, though there’s still plenty of action, romance, and quick quips, along with the introduction of several elements soon to be integral to the series.

FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE has Bond falling for Soviet defector Tatiana Romanova (Daniela Bianchi), who’s willing to help steal a Russian Lektor decoding machine for Her Majesty’s Secret Service. But both she and Bond are just pawns in a larger game, with the international crime cartel SPECTRE making all the moves. Their goal is to not only posses the decoder and ransom it back to the Russians, but to eliminate 007…

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James Bond Begins!: Sean Connery as 007 in DR. NO (United Artists 1962)


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Ian Fleming’s secret agent 007, James Bond, was introduced in the 1953 novel Casino Royale, and was a smashing success, leading to a long-running series of books starring MI-6’s “licensed to kill” super spy. No less than President John F. Kennedy was a huge fan of Fleming’s books, and since the early 60’s were all about “Camelot”, producers Albert Broccoli and Harry Saltzman decided to cash in and bring James Bond to the big screen (the character had appeared in the person of Barry Nelson in an adaptation of CASINO ROYALE for a 1954 episode of TV’s CLIMAX!, with Peter Lorre as the villain Le Chiffre).

DR. NO was the first Bond movie, and the producers wanted Patrick McGoohan, star of the British TV series SECRET AGENT, to play the suave, ruthless Bond. McGoohan declined, and Richard Johnson was considered. He also turned them down, leading Broccoli and Saltzman…

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Book Review: The Man With The Golden Gun by Ian Fleming


(SPOILERS)

On August 12th, 1964, Ian Fleming died in Canterbury.  He was 56 years old.

Like his famous creation, James Bond, Ian Fleming was both a heavy drinker and a chainsmoker.  Unlike Bond, he suffered from heart disease.  In 1961, he had his first known heart attack and his health was always precarious afterward.  It is said that his last words were to the ambulance drivers: “I am sorry to trouble you chaps. I don’t know how you get along so fast with the traffic on the roads these days.”

Eight months after Fleming’s death, his final James Bond novel, The Man With The Golden Gun, was published.  (One more collection of short stories, Octopussy and The Living Daylights, would follow in 1966.)

The Man With The Golden Gun opens with a brainwashed Bond attempting to assassinate M and ends with Bond turning down a knighthood and again declaring his loyalty to Her Majesty’s Secret Service.  In between, Bond is tasked with tracking down and killing the notorious assassin, Pistols Scaramanga.  (Scaramanga is known for using a golden gun.)  Bond once again goes undercover, assuming the name Mark Hazzard and working his way into Scaramanga’s operation.  Felix Leiter makes another appearance and, by the end of the book, it looks like Bond might even find happiness with his secretary, Mary Goodnight.

It’s an unfortunate book.  Apparently, Fleming had finished his first draft but was still in the process of editing when he died.  As a result, The Man With The Golden Gun has all the flaws that you would associate with an early draft.  The plot is thin.  There’s little nuance or subtlety to the dialogue.  Bond comes across as being rather dull, showing little of the wit or personality that was present in both On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and You Only Live Twice.  Scaramanga is a bit more interesting but he can’t compare to the great Bond villains like Blofeld or Goldfinger.  There’s really not much else to say about The Man With The Golden Gun.  It’s a sad way to end Fleming’s Bond series but, at the same time, it doesn’t diminish everything that Fleming accomplished in the previous novels.

Anyway, since I’ve reviewed all of Ian Fleming’s Bond novels, I guess now is the time to rate them all, from best to worst.  Not included in the list below are the two collections of short stories that Fleming wrote, For Your Eyes Only and Octopussy.

From best to worst:

  1. On Her Majesty Secret Service (1963)
  2. From Russia With Love (1957)
  3. Moonraker (1955)
  4. Goldfinger (1959)
  5. Dr. No (1958)
  6. You Only Live Twice (1964)
  7. Casino Royale (1953)
  8. Live and Let Die (1954)
  9. The Spy Who Loved Me (1962)
  10. Diamonds are Forever (1956)
  11. Thunderball (1961)
  12. The Man With The Golden Gun (1965)

Despite Fleming’s death, Bond would live on.  Not only would there be the films but other writers would continue Bond’s literary adventures.  Later this year, I’ll start in on the non-Fleming Bond novels.  Until then, I hope everyone has enjoyed this look back at Ian Fleming’s original novels!

Bond, as visualized by Ian Fleming.

Book Review: You Only Live Twice by Ian Fleming


(MAJOR SPOILERS)

You Only Live Twice, the 11th James Bond novel, opens 8 months after the tragic ending of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

Tracy Bond is dead.

Ernst Stavro Blofeld has vanished.

And James Bond is no longer the man who readers thought they knew.

Over the course of the previous ten novels, one thing that remained consistent about Bond was his ruthless and unsentimental approach to his job.  For the first 9 books, Bond was the man who reacted to Vesper Lynd’s suicide by coldly announcing, “The bitch is dead.”  Then, in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Bond finally fell in love and married, just to have Tracy murdered an hour later.  The first few chapters of  You Only Live Twice introduces us to a Bond who has become a shell of his previous self.  The man who used to always be in control of every situation is now drinking so heavily that it’s causing him to screw up at his job.  The once committed professional is now rarely in his office and, when he’s summoned to a meeting with M, he actually shows up late.

M has decided that he only has one option.  It’s time to demand Bond’s resignation.  The scene where M says that he has no choice but to fire his best agent is a shocking one.  For 10 books, Bond has been M’s best agent.  M is almost a paternal figure to Bond.  To read M casually talking about dismissing Bond not only shows us how far Bond has fallen but also reminds us that there’s no room for sentiment in intelligence work.

Fortunately, before going through with his plan to fire Bond, M speaks to a psychologist who explains that Bond is suffering from shock and that, in order to become the man that he once was, he needs to be given a task that will restore his confidence, an “impossible” mission.  If Bond succeeds, it’ll be the first step to dealing with his grief.  If Bond fails, his career will be over.

That’s how Bond eventually ends up in Japan, trying to convince the head of Japan’s secret service, Tiger Tanaka, to share intelligence with the British.  Tanaka says that he’s willing to do so if Bond does him a favor.  The mysterious Dr. Guntram Shatterhand has moved into an ancient castle and has set up his own “suicide garden.”  Tanaka wants Bond to kill Shatterhand.  Once Bond realizes that Shatterhand is actually Blofeld, he’s more than happy to do the favor.

Of course, it won’t be easy to penetrate Shatterhand’s castle.  However, with the help of actress Kissy Suzuki, Bond disguises himself as a mute Japanese miner named Taro Todoroki and heads out to get his revenge.

You Only Live Twice is one of the stranger Bond novels.  Far more than any of the other Fleming books, You Only Live Twice deals with Bond’s psychology.  In fact, the story is often so twisted that it’s tempting to wonder if perhaps the entire thing is some sort of fever dream.  Much like a German silent film, it sometimes seems as if the book’s bizarre and outlandish plot is actually a reflection of Bond’s twisted mind.  We’ve never seen Bond as self-destructive as he is at the start of this book and it’s probably not a coincidence that his mission leads him to a literal suicide garden.  When Bond transforms himself into Taro Todoroki, it allows him to leave behind the baggage of being Bond and only by denying his identity can he finally defeat Blofeld.  As for Blofeld, he’s such a bigger-than-life villain in this book that it sometimes tempting to think that he may have leapt fully formed out of Bond’s damaged psyche. Blofeld is the opponent that both Bond and Fleming needed.

And just as Bond found freedom in his new identity, it seems that it did the same thing for Ian Fleming as a writer.  There’s a liveliness to Fleming’s prose that suggests that he actually enjoyed writing this odd chapter of Bond’s life.

And then there’s that ending!  Despite the fact that I already gave a spoiler warning, I’m not going to reveal the ending because it’s one of the most shocking and unexpected endings in the history of the Bond novels.

Tomorrow, we finish up our look at Ian Fleming’s Bond novels with The Man With The Golden Gun.

Book Review: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service by Ian Fleming


(MAJOR SPOILERS)

“The World Is Not Enough”

— The Bond Family Motto, as revealed in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service by Ian Fleming

First published in 1963, Ian Fleming’s 10th James Bond novel opens with Bond in a familiar situation.  He is back at the Casino Royale, both to gamble and to visit Vesper Lynd’s grave.  Much as he did after being tortured by Le Chiffre, Bond is considering resigning from Her Majesty’s Secret Service.  However, in this case, Bond’s desire to quit is not motivated by petulance or wounded pride.

Instead, it’s due to frustration.  Bond has spent the past year searching for any evidence that SPECTRE and Blofeld survived the events of Thunderball.  Bond is convinced that SPECTRE no longer exists but M disagrees.  Feeling that he’s wasting his time, Bond has even written out an official resignation letter.  From the minute that we read Bond’s self-satisfactory resignation letter (along with Bond’s thoughts as to how M would react to each passage), we realize that, after two novels in which Ian Fleming seemed to be bored with his most famous creation, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is going to be a return to form for both Bond and Fleming.

As opposed to continuing to search for Blofeld, Bond is much more interested in getting to know Contessa Teresa “Tracy” di Vicenzo.  When Bond first sees Tracy, she’s boldly racing past him in her car.  The second time, he rescues her from the social embarrassment of revealing that she doesn’t have the money to cover her gambling debts.  The third time, he prevents her from committing suicide in the ocean.  It’s only after all of this that Bond learns that Tracy is the daughter of Marc-Ange Draco, Europe’s biggest crime lord.  Draco and Bond discover they have a lot in common.  They both operate in the shadows and they both want to protect Tracy.

That’s right, James Bond is in love!  Over the course of Fleming’s novels, James Bond falls in love three times.  The first time was with Vesper Lynd in Casino Royale and it ended with Vesper’s suicide.  The second time was with Tiffany Case in Diamonds are Forever and it ended when Tiffany left him for an American.  The third, and final time, is with Tracy.  Just as he did with Vesper, Bond eventually asks Tracy to marry him.  This time, Bond and Tracy actually do get married but the marriage only lasts an hour before ending in tragedy.  On Her Majesty’s Secret Service features Fleming’s darkest ending since From Russia With Love concluded with Bond seemingly dropping dead in a hotel room.

What makes the ending so shocking is that, up until those final few passages, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is such an enjoyable and almost carefree adventure story, a throwback to Dr. No and Goldfinger.  With the help of Draco, Bond discovers that Blofeld is currently hiding out in Switzerland.  However, ultimately, it’s Blofeld’s own vanity that exposes him.  Blofeld writes to the College of Arms, asking for confirmation that he is actually descended from royalty.  Assuming the identity of genealogist Sir Hilary Bray, Bond travels to Switzerland and uncovers Blofeld’s latest plot.  It’s actually a pretty silly scheme, one that involves brainwashing British girls to return home and destroy Britain’s agricultural economy.

But it doesn’t matter how silly Blofeld’s plot may be.  Indeed, the plot is so over the top that it’s impossible not to enjoy it.  In On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Fleming seems to have rediscovered his passion for not the character of Bond but also for M.  (One of the book’s best scenes occurs when Bond visits M on Christmas morning.)  This is a fun read, without any of the slow spots that were present in Thunderball and The Spy Who Loved Me.  Perhaps it had something to do with the fact that, while Fleming was writing his book in Jamaica, Dr. No was being filmed nearby.  Not only does Fleming work a winking reference to Ursula Andress into On Her Majesty’s Secret Service but he also revealed that, like Sean Connery, Bond was Scottish.

All in all, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is one of the best of Fleming’s original novels.