Sunday, 19 December 2010

Shaken not Stirred - A Bit of Bond

It's one of those days, raining so I don't feel like running and England has been hit with snow storms which has affected my ability to watch any Premier League footie matches. So I thought I'd write a Blog about my favourite spy and then crawl back into bed with the missus. :0)

Bond, James Bond
 I'll start off with a question. Who is your favourite James Bond? I'd have to list mine as follows -

Number 1 - Sean Connery (Firstly he was the original and secondly, I think his movies kept the tone of the books the best)
Number 2 - Timothy Dalton
Number 3 - Pierce Brosnan
Number 4 - Daniel Craig
Number 5 - Roger Moore
Number 6 - George Lazenby

I don't think I'll count David Niven in Casino Royale as it was a comedy. Mind you he did play the part quite well.


I saw my first Bond film in 1964 or so, when the Base Theater in Chatham N.B. showed Goldfinger with Sean Connery and Honor Blackman as Pussy Galore. It was a great movie for a 9 or 10 year old boy. I will say that Goldfinger's henchman, Odd Job, did scare me, especially his hat with the metal brim. It was a dangerous, effective weapon. I never saw all the Bond movies, but as many as possible; Live and Let Die, Dr. No with the lovely Ursula Andress, On Her Majesty's Secret Service with George Lazenby, everyone's supposed least favourite Bond, You Only Live Twice, etc. They were great movies, stirring the imagination of a young fella and providing action and entertainment.

I don't think I read my first Bond book until a few years later, when we'd moved on to Germany in the later 1960's. As a bit of background, the Bond books were written by Ian Fleming. Mr. Fleming was a British Naval Intelligence officer during WWII. He was born in 1908 and died in 1964. His career as a spy provided background for his Bond stories which were written between 1953 and 1966 (obviously published after his death). He did write some other books, most notably that well-known children's story, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

Most of the Fleming's Bond books have been made into movies. His literary executors did periodically hire other author's to continue to write Bond books and the follow-on movies starring Pierce Brosnan, Timothy Dalton and Daniel Craig had little to do with Fleming's original stories. (well, except for Craig's first, Casino Royale).

Anyway, I read most of the Bond stories while I was in Junior High School. They were very exciting stories, with action, adventure and for my young mind, sex!! Fleming presented a dark image of Bond and in the Connery movies, I think they followed that trait quite well. The follow-on movies with Roger Moore relied more on humour and I don't think they were quite as good. Having said that, I think Live and Let Die was one of the better Roger Moore movies, with the scenes in New Orleans, the voodoo in Jamaica.

It had been many years since I had read a Bond story when I noticed some paperback versions in my local used bookstore, ABC Books. They were published by Pan Books and looking  at the covers, they rekindled my interest in reading the Bond series. I've so far read From Russia With Love and it was as good as I remembered. But I thought I'd highlight the books I've got and tell you a bit about each story in case you've never been introduced to Ian Fleming's James Bond before.

Live and Let Die was originally written in 1954. Pan Books published their first edition in 1957. The edition I have is a 16th Printing from 1964 (obviously a popular book).

In this story, Bond meets Mr. Big, an American Negro master criminal, head of a Voodoo cult, a high ranking member of SMERSH, the Soviet murder organization that Bond battles in many of his books. He also meets Solitaire, Mr. Big's inquisitor, an exotic Creole beauty with the power to read a man's mind.

Racing from New York's Harlem district to the shark - infested waters of the West Indies, this is a power-packed James Bond adventure.

In the movie, Mr Big is played by Yaphet Kotto with menace and panache. Jane Seymour plays the Creole beauty, Solitaire.

The soundtrack had one of Paul McCartney's best songs, of course, Live and Let Die. (At least I liked it. :0)). If you like a little Voodoo in your life and some dark danger, try both the book and the movie.

In 1957, From Russia With Love came out. The version I have was published in 1964, a 17th Printing.

This story finds Bond in Istanbul in love with the beautiful Tatiana Romanova, spy for SMERSH, trying to use her to gain possession of a Russian Decoding machine.

He must also battle one of SMERSH's toughest contract killers, originally from Ireland, Donald Grant and also the evil Rosa Klebb with the poisoned blade in her shoe.

I think that Tatiana was Bond's one true love and he became even more cynical after this story. (But I'll let you read it yourself to find out if I'm right).

The movie came out in 1963 and was a dark, gritty affair. It starred Robert Shaw as the arch villain, Donald Grant and Lotta Lenya as Rosa Klebb, a role she played with panache.

We move onto 1958 for my next Bond story, Dr. No. This is actually the sixth book in the series, so you can see I have a few gaps to fill. From the cover, it's apparent that this is the movie that helped bring the lovely Ursula Andress into prominence, with the famous bathing suit scene on the beach of Dr. No's island.

In this story, Bond is on a routine assignment in Jamaica, a holiday and convalescence. The sun shines, the palm trees wave and the calypsos throb. Bond is tasked to investigate the murder of a colleague, a fellow agent.

On the horizon is the island, Crab Key, which is an island fortress run by the evil, villainous Dr. No.

His prescription for Bond is one long calculated dose of torture and death. Bond is assisted by Quarrel, a local fisherman and Felix Leiter, a CIA agent and Honeychile (Honey) Rider to solve the mystery of Dr. No.

In 1959, Fleming wrote Goldfinger, the first movie I saw and probably one of my favourite Bond books as well (maybe because it was my first introduction to Bond).

Bond was warned not to tangle with Goldfinger, but the super-criminal's latest obsession was too strong and too dangerous. He had to be stopped.

Auric Goldfinger is determined to take possession of half the supply of mined gold in the world - to rob Fort Knox. He has enlisted the aid of the top criminals in the US, including a group of beautiful thieves from the Bronx. He has conceived a plan so foolproof that it will take all of Bond's talents to stop him.

The is an excellent novel and it was also a great movie. Some well-remembered moments; such as the woman painted gold, played by Shirley Eaton, the laser beam that threatens to split Bond in half, Oddjob's metal brimmed hat, which kills the sister bent on revenge, and of course, Honor Blackman as the lovely and dangerous Pussy Galore.

I have to say that I have never seen the movie or read the book of this next Bond thriller, Thunderball. It came out originally in 1961 and I have no idea why I never got the book or went to see the movie; I remember it being at the theater.

In this story, SPECTRE, the Special Executive for Counterintelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion, an international gang of super criminals in Paris, have stolen two nuclear bombs.

They have sent a blackmail letter to Britain's prime minister threatening to detonate the two hijacked atomic weapons in unspecified western cities if they are not given 100 million Pounds in gold bullion.

Bond is assigned the mission to foil the dastardly threat and he has just one person who can help him. She is the beautiful blond mistress of SPECTRE's sinister, 'Number One'.

I'm afraid I can't tell you much more about this story until I manage to sit down and read it in the near future. The Bond Girl in the film, which was released in 1965 was French actress, Claudine Auger, playing Domino. I'll have to see if I can find the movie too, to see if it lives up to the other Sean Connery Bond movies.

The final Bond book I have on my book shelf in the 'to be read' area is On Her Majesty's Secret Service, which was published in 1963.

This story features one of Bond's arch villains, Ernst Stavro Blofeld. The back jacket describes the story as, "one of the world's master criminals.. a remarkably beautiful woman... and exciting chases about the Swiss mountains."

Bond goes undercover to discover the true reason behind Blofeld's allergy research in the Swiss Alps that involves beautiful women from around the world.

In the movie, the main female lead was played by the lovely Diana Rigg, later well-known for her role as Emma Peel in the Avengers. James Bond was played by George Lazenby in this film. He was a little known Australian actor and unfortunately much-maligned for his attempt to replace Connery in the role. I actually thought the movie was great, lots of action in the Swiss Alps, beautiful scenery and while Lazenby was somewhat wooden as Bond, he still played the role quite well.

So there you have it, my partial collection of Bond books that I'm slowly working through as I relive my childhood. Good fun!

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