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Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Some thoughts on the Bond of Ian Fleming and Hollywood

Thanks to Books on Tape, Blackstone Audio, et al, and now Audible Audio for my Kindle, I'm tearing through books at a steady rate during work-related travel.

After paying for my subscription to Audible Audio, I decided it was finally time to read the source material for the spy movies I grew up with. I had previously read Casino Royale and You Only Live Twice which were fairly good reads, but were quite a different flavor from the Bond flicks I'd seen. So anyway, I set out to go through the rest of the Bond canon in the order the novels were written. So far, in addition to the two mentioned above, I've read Live and Let Die, Moonraker and From Russia With Love.

The first Bond I ever saw on screen was Roger Moore. It wasn't until my teen years I began to see some of the Sean Connery flicks. I knew nothing about the literary Bond, and didn't favor one actor over the other, but I liked the Connery flicks better. My favorite became Thunderball. How can you go wrong with an underground battle between frogmen using spearguns and submerged jet skis?

My senior year in high school I got a chance to see Dr. No and I really liked it. Not many cool gadgets, but the feel of it was groovy, and Connery's Bond in this flick was one cool customer (closer to Ian Fleming's character, in my opinion, than any actor has come until Daniel Craig or perhaps Timothy Dalton).

Speaking of Timothy Dalton, I just saw License to Kill this month. Hollywood finally did to Felix Leiter what Fleming did to him in the second Bond novel. I was shocked to read about the fate of Bond's CIA counterpart in Live and Let Die, not just because it was gruesome, but because Felix Leiter had been a healthy, able-bodied staple in just about every Bond movie.

I'm sure this topic has been analyzed to death, so I won't ramble on too long. But reading the books does take some of the Bond mystique away.

The silver screen Bond is a supercharged exaggeration of the character in nearly every way, as are his adventures. The literary Bond has only used his "license to kill" a couple times in his career. The movie Bond kills anywhere from three to a dozen times in any given story.

One of those kills to Bond's credit, by the way, occurred during the war if I remember correctly. What war? Fleming's Bond got into intelligence work during WWII, and continued serving in that capacity into the Cold War. In the movies, he was strictly Cold War, and we were never given any indication how he got into the business. He was conceived in a test tube by M for all we knew. With all the reboots, I think even the Cold War origin will soon be swept back (if it hasn't already). And with the Daniel Craig films delving more into the Bond character than any previous flicks, we'll probably get his background filled in, too (retrofitted, of course).

Hmm. Just checking the canon, I realized I skipped Diamonds Are Forever. Have to remedy that. I was actually checking because From Russia With Love ended in an almost cliffhanger fashion and I wanted to see what followed it, guessing it would be You Only Live Twice. Nope. Dr. No.

Well, my Bond education will continue. Though the books are interesting, I don't like them enough to make them a priority. So this could take a while.

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