Nolan's Pop Culture Review--now in our third calendar year!
PCR # 140 (Vol. 3, No. 48) This edition is for the week of November 25--December 1, 2002.
Just in time for the lame new Bond film "Die Another Day", I've decided to enlighten you all on the true 007, the literary Bond. Ian Fleming's novels were and still are action/spy masterpeices and not without literary merit in their own right. I will review the books and compare them to their respective film versions. If you have never heard of or read the Bond novels prepare to be enlightened.
James Bond 007
Ian Fleming's Bond was not the 007 of the films. Bond in the novels actually has more of a background. We learn that his parents were killed in a mountain climbing accident and we often read of his apartment and his maid. Bond is also very much a killer. He is described by Fleming as looking like actor Hoagy Carmichael and a scar adorns his face. He is also a womanizer, but more so than the Bond of the movies, he actually falls in love several times.
Casino Royale (1953)
Fleming's first Bond novel takes 007 to France where he must go head to head with an ex-SMERSH agent, Le Chiffre. 007's assignment is to bet against Le Chiffre in Baccarrat. It is hoped that Bond will break him thearby diminishing SMERSH funds. What Bond does not know is that Le Chiffre owes SMERSH money and will stop at nothing to get it back. The Bond girl Vesper Lynn an agent herself, has a tryst with Bond which leads to her end in a final subplot. The book is a bit slow for a Bond novel but it does introduce all the prinicipal characters, M, Felix Leiter, and SMERSH. Fleming's highly interesting description on the rules of Baccarrat make this almost a worthy handbook for card players as well as spy enthusiats.
FILM: Casino Royale (TV-1954, Theater-1967). The 60's comedy version was a farce but early on got an American TV adaptation of the novel that is basically page for page the novel with the exception of an American Bond played by Barry Nelson. Peter Lorre as Le Chiffre is genius casting.Live And Let Die (1954)
This is the novel where the true flavor of the Bond books began as Fleming's so called action "sweep" really kicked in. 007 is sent to team-up with Felix Leiter to stop another SMERSH agent the African-American Gangster Mr. Big. Big is an excellent villain who uses voodoo fears to keep his gang in line. Big is smuggling pirate gold to finance SMERSH and once again Bond must foil their plans. The Bond/Leiter chemistry is great as is the Bond girl Solitaire, a fortune teller. Most of the action takes place in St. Pete, Florida and one part even has Bond driving over the Gandy bridge into Tampa where he eats at the Gulf Winds Bar. Bonds thought's on St. Pete being depressing and full of old people is classic. Fleming's detailed account on the fish of Jamaica is another highlight as Felix's slaughter via sharks is shocking.
FILM: Live And Let Die, 1973, was the first Roger Moore 007 film and unfortunately not true to the events in the novel but it at least kept the overall mood and theme. In the movie Mr. Big is simply a disguise for Dr. Kananga and SMERSH references are dropped.
The third Bond novel is perhaps the most British of the 14. For one thing the entire novel takes place in England. For another the threat is aimed on London. The story starts out with 007 doing M a favor and beating a loudmouth cheater, Drax, at cards at their local men's club, Blades. Later Bond is sent to investigate a murder at Drax's facility. Drax is a millionaire who is funding a defense rocket for Britain. Bond meets Gala Brand a policewoman also investigating Drax's facility and between the two, Drax's true motives exits the shadows. Drax plans to blow up London all for an old vendetta. The early scenes in Blades are highly engaging and it marks the only time we see what M does outside of the Branch. Villain Hugo Drax with his all red hair, ruddy skin, and loudmouth makes a colorful character at first and an evil sadist by the end.
FILM: The 1979 film version of Moonraker is one of the worst crimes visited on Fleming fans and is not worthy to be described here. Even Drax is completely opposite of the description in the novel. In the film he is shown as quiet and calm.Diamonds Are Forever (1956)
Fleming with his 4th 007 adventure decided to have Bond go after old fashion gansters instead of spies. 007's mission is to catch the head of a worldwide diamond smuggling ring which leads him to America and the Gangster brothers The Spangs. Leiter makes his return to the series having recovered from a gruesome shark attack and now has a hook in place of his hand. Tiffany Case is a weak Bond girl and actually does very little in the novel whatsoever. The villains, the Spang brothers, are empty characters leaving the quirky homosexual hitmen Wint and Kidd to steal the show. After Bond shoots Kidd between the eyes, one of Fleming's greatest passages appears:
As he walked slowly across the cabin to the bathroom, Bond met the blank eyes of the body on the floor.
And the eyes of the man ....spoke to him and said: "Mister, nothing is forever. Only death is permanent. Nothing is forever except what you did to me."
A paragraph that proves Fleming was much more than just an action adventure writer.
FILM: The 1971 movie kept very little of its soure material and added Blofeld to the fray. The Wint/Kidd encounter and the meeting of Tiffany Case is all that is intact from the novel.From Russia With Love (1957)
The ultimate epsionage novel where 007 goes up against SMERSH assassin Red Grant for possession of the SPEKTOR, a cypher decoding machine. Red Grant is probably fiction's most terrifying villain with a history of rape, mental illness, and a case of full moon murders. Grant's superior Rosa Klebb is also a formidable villain who at the end of the novel kicks Bond in the shin with her poison toe cap, killing 007. Yes this was to be Bond's last novel, but as Conan Doyle found out before Fleming, true heros never die in the eyes of their loving public. Thanks to the open ending of this novel further 007 adventures were to be written.
FILM: The 1963 film version is one of the closest to the novels with the exception of the organization being SPECTRE instead of the novel's SMERSH.Dr. No (1958)
Bond returns from the dead (we find out that he recovered after a long spell in the hospital) and must solve the murder of fellow agent Strangways in Jamaica. Along the way he uncovers a plot to misguide U.S. missiles lead by the eccentric Dr. No. Honey Ryder is the perfect Bond girl and the one most often thought of. Dr. No is Fleming's most frightening creation. No's bald head, lashless eyes, and hook hands create a nightmare vision. This novel is also Fleming's most outrageous as proven when 007 must do battle with Dr. No's giant pet octopus.
FILM: 1962. Actually one of the better of Connery's Bond films and his first. The basic plot structure is still intact with the exception of the octopus battle, Dr. No's hands (they are metal instead of hooks), and the particulars of No's death.Goldfinger (1959)
Fleming's slowest moving and dull novel to date. It begins with a prologue adventure, a trend that the films would become famous for known as the pre-credit sequence. Auric Goldfinger plots to rob Fort Knox for SMERSH with the Chinese army backing him and his hat throwing murderous henchman Oddjob on damage control. Bond is teamed with Pussy Galore. Fleming never thought of a better name than that for a Bond girl.
FILM: For all its notoriety (it seems to be the one everyone has seen) the 1964 film is as dull as the novel, if not more so.Next Week: For Your Eyes Only to Octopussy
"The Enlightenment" is ©2002 by Terence Nuzum. Webpage design and all graphics herein (except where otherwise noted) are creations of Nolan B. Canova. All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2002 by Nolan B. Canova.