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Story publication year — 1966
Film release year — 1987
007 – Timothy Dalton

The fourteenth book (short story, see below) and fifteenth film.  This was an interesting comparison initially, because the film and the story share a single common sequence.  In the story, this sequence is the entire story.  In the film, this sequence is simply the starting point leading to a far more complicated plotline.

In the book, Bond in Berlin on a sniper mission to stake out a no-man’s land between the East/West borders to ensure the safe passage of a defector/double agent from East Berlin across the border into West Berlin.   Bond faces an almost identical task in the film, only the relevant events take place in Bratislava, Czechoslovakia.  The difficulty is that the KGB also knows that the agent plans to defect and the border point where he intends to make his run.  Bond’s mission is to take out the KGB’s sniper before he (or, as it turns out, she) can get a shot at the agent before he can be exfiltrated.

In both the story and the film, 007 sequesters himself inside an apartment across from the patch of no-man’s land.  In the story, as Bond is setting up his rifle, he sees a women’s orchestra enter the Soviet building directly opposite his position and makes particular note of a beautiful blond cellist.  In the film, Bond takes position across the street from an opera house, where the defector is watching a concert before his escape through a bathroom window at intermission.  In both, Bond is assisted by a “by the book” career agent (Captain Sender in the book; Captain Saunders in the film) who gets under his skin.

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The story features rising tension as Bond waits each night for several days for the defector to make his move.  Finally, as the man darts across the “dead zone” Bond sees his KGB counterpart through his rifle scope and is stunned to realize the Soviet assassin turns out to be the stunning blond cellist he had admired.  The film takes an identical turn.  In both, Bond makes a last second decision to spare the blond sniper by deliberately missing the kill shot, getting close enough to simply ensure that the blonde cannot get a shot off herself.   Also, in both, 007 rebuffs Captain Sender’s/Saunder’s threats to report Bond to the Head of Station for deliberately missing his mark by explaining that he “scared the living daylights” out of he.

The book ends there, with a somewhat melancholy 007 musing about how he would welcome the loss of his double-0 number and thinking about how the blonde had “much the same job in her outfit as he had in his.”  The film, by contrast, is really just beginning. While in the book the exfiltrated agent is hurried away in a waiting car, in the film Bond finishes the exfiltration by smuggling the Soviet defector (General Georgi Koskov) through a Q-devised capsule that takes Koskov through the Trans-Siberian pipeline into Austria.  From there, we learn that Koskov has actually double-crossed Mi6 and is part of an international arms smuggling scheme that Bond must take out.  Another key difference: in the story, Bond never again will see his KGB sniper counterpart and he assumes that he shot off her left hand and that she will face court-martial back in Russia; in the film, Bond of course manages to seduce the sniper, who we learn is Kara Milovy, away from the KGB and away from Koskov, who turns out was her previous boyfriend.

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Book publication year – 1966
Film release year – 1983
007 – Roger Moore

The fourteenth Bond publication (actually entitled Octopussy and The Living Daylights, a collection of four short stories), and the thirteenth film. Some pretty interesting stuff here. The film borrows themes from the Octopussy and Property of a Lady short stories but is, as a whole, quite a different story.  This is a rare instance where, in my view, the film surpasses the written work that inspired it.

Octopussy, the story, bears little relation to the film, but is very interesting in ways not unlike Fleming’s short story Quantum of Solace (which also bears almost no relation to the film adaptation).  Bond himself has very little to do with the narrative.  Rather, the story is about the life and (gruesome) death of Dr. Dexter Smythe, which is obviously a stand-in for Ian Fleming himself as he faced his own final days (the publication was his last, and was released after his death).  The story takes place in Jamaica (where Fleming maintained a winter home).  There, Dr. Smythe is confronted by 007, who has come to arrest him for a murder Smythe committed during the final days of WWII.  Like Smythe (and Bond), Smythe worked in British naval intelligence during, and immediately following the War, when he was tasked with clearing out Nazi hideouts.  He (again, like Fleming) is a heavy drinker and heavier smoker who suffers from heart problems.  Although it has been years since the War, Bond investigated the suspicious death of a German hiking guide (who, it turns out, was once a father figure to Bond) and figured out that Smythe murdered the German in order to steal gold stashed in a mountain range; gold that subsequently financed Smythe’s indulgent and slothful lifestyle on Jamaica.  Bond gives Smythe some time to think things over and Smythe, rather than facing arrest and trial back in England, commits suicide by allowing an octopus to kill him while he is snorkeling.

As might be expected by now, the story’s plot has almost nothing to do with the film, which centers on a rogue Soviet general’s diabolical plan to instigate nuclear war between the USSR and Russia, with (unknowing) assistance from an innocent but mysterious woman named Octopussy who lives on a private island populated by gorgeous women.  However, in an homage to the original story, in the film Octopussy reveals to 007 that her father was Dr. Dexter Smythe, and she thanks Bond for giving her father the opportunity to kill himself, rather than face the humiliation of being exposed for his crime.

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The film owes more to Property of a Lady, as both the film and the story involve a rare and priceless Faberge egg and a tense auction where 007 swaps the original egg for a replica.  The similarities, for the most part, end there.  In the story, the egg and the auction are used to flush out a Soviet mole working inside MI6; in the film, the egg and the auction is a side-story to introduce Kamal Khan, the evil (and exiled) Afghan prince who is a co-conspirator with General Orlov and his plan for nuclear war.

As noted above, the Octopussy story ends with Smythe’s brutal death in the waters off Jamaica.  Property of a Lady ends with 007 spotting the Soviet’s top London spy.  While, naturally, in the film adaptation, Bond manages to avoid nuclear Armageddon with mere seconds to spare. 

This was a sad read, as it seems that Fleming did not have a chance to really edit and polish these stories before his demise. The film, however, makes up for that with — despite Roger Moore’s slapstick-y portrayal of 007 and some cheesy chase/fight scenes — a solid and fast-paced plot combined with a few classic Bond villains.

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Next:  The Living Daylights  

 

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Novel publication year – 1965
Film release year – 1974
007 – Roger Moore

Fleming’s thirteenth Bond publication (the twelfth novel); the ninth film.  This will be a short post, mostly because I lost my notes for the movie and don’t feel like watching it again (that’s not to say I find the movie terribly bad, I’m just not up for it again for a while).

The basic premise in both the novel and the film is the same:  kill Francisco Scaramanga, a professional assassin known as the man with the golden gun.  The critical difference, however, is that, in the novel, Scaramanga has no clue who James Bond is at first and unwittingly hires him to act as his assistant during a gangster meeting Scaramanga hosts in Jamaica to raise funds for a hotel he is developing called the Thunder Bird.  Scaramanga only learns that Bond is an MI6 agent sent to kill him when one of his guests – an agent sent from Moscow to kill Bond – identifies 007 and informs Scaramanga.  In the film, by contrast, Scaramanga actually looks forward to meeting Bond because he views 007 as a world-class professional who might be a sporting challenge for Scaramanga, who keeps his gun skills sharp by inviting other assassins to his remote island hideout for duels in an elaborate fun house.

There are few similarities to explore.  In the novel, Scaramanga is a gruff and unsophisticated – but thoroughly ruthless – sociopath hell-bent on saving his investment in the Thunderbird and expanding his criminal syndicate’s operation.  In the novel, Scaramanga is a suave and charming loner, offering Bond champagne when he arrives on Scaramanga’s beach.   In the film, one gets the sense that Scaramanga, rather than being desperate for cash, is enjoying a relaxing life of semi-retirement and luxury that leaves him a bit bored.

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An interesting contrast is the continuity in the novel from 007’s previous mission in You Only Live Twice.  There, the story ends with 007 suffering from complete memory loss, but enjoying a quiet married life on a remote island with Kissy Suzuki, the gorgeous diving girl who saved his life following his final battle with Ernesto Blofeld, until 007 sees a Russian name that jogs his memory and leads him to leave the island and travel to Russian.  In The Man with the Golden Gun we learn that Bond did, in fact, make it to Russia, where he was brainwashed by Soviet intelligence and sent back to England with orders to murder M.  Bond attempts to kill M with cyanide but is foiled; M, realizing that 007 was brainwashed, does not hold the episode against him, and Bond is ultimately un-brainwashed with electro-shock therapy.  M decides to send 007 after Scaramanga – which M. considers an impossible mission – as a way for Bond to get back into good graces (or, presumably, be killed off).

A detailed analysis of the differing plotlines isn’t very necessary here.  In the film, Bond gradually makes his way to Scaramanga’s island for the final battle, while in the novel, Scaramanga gradually learns about who Bond is and why he is in Jamaica.  Of course, 007 ultimately prevails in both:  in the novel, Bond finishes Scaramanga off after foiling his plans by blowing up a train carrying Scaramanga and his gang (followed by a slow chase scene where Scaramanga nearly has the last laugh).  In the film, Bond turns Scaramanga’s deadly fun house against him by tricking him into thinking that 007 is a harmless mannequin until he puts a bullet through his heart (and, thereafter, destroys Scaramanga’s solar power station, which was part of some half-explained scheme to sell the technology to foreign governments).

A final interesting point of contrast is Mary Goodnight, 007’s former secretary who (in the novel, is now an assistant in MI6’s Jamaica office while in the film is stationed in Hong Kong) plays a prominent role in both.  The novel version of Goodnight is more serious and plays a greater role in helping Bond on his mission, while the film version is slapstick, with Goodnight constantly getting herself and Bond into trouble.  That said, in both versions, Goodnight is kidnapped by the bad guys and Bond comes to her rescue.

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At the end of the novel, the Queen offers Bond a knighthood in recognition of his successful mission (he turns it down, but looks forward to convalescing for the next three weeks in Goodnight’s villa); in the film, Bond gets just a nice thank you from M, but similarly enjoys Goodnight as he sails away from Scaramanga’s island.  

In the end, I found both the novel and the film to be somewhat sub-par and lacking in genuine 007 credibility.  The film was particularly disappointing, as Christopher Lee (Scaramanga) and  Hervé Villechaize (Scaramanga’s henchman, Nick Nack), could have both benefitted from a stronger script.  As noted, Scaramanga comes off as slick and genteel — rather than the menacing and diabolical villain the audience knows he can pull of from his typical role in horror films.  Nick Nack simply is used mostly for his comedic appeal, but the viewer gets the sense that — despite his diminutive size — Villechaize had the ability to play a more ruthless, more typical, Bond-villain.

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(Next:  Octopussy and The Living Daylights (probably separate posts)  

 

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Novel publication year – 1964
Film release year – 1967
007 – Sean Connery

The eleventh publication; the fifth film. The film represented the first time that the producers more or less disregarded Fleming’s original storyline and devised a new screenplay almost from scratch. That said, there are some areas worth comparing and contrasting.

The novel is not, in my opinion, among Fleming’s best. Bond is sent on what M considers a hopeless intelligence-gathering mission to Japan in an attempt to see if 007 will be able to bounce back from his shock and depression following the murder of his new bride, Tracy, the events of which took place in OHMSS. Specifically, Bond is directed to learn what he can about “Magic 44” — a secret ciphering technique. The first half of the story is essentially a travelogue as Bond, together with Tiger Tanaka (the head of Japan’s secret service), make their way around Japan as Bond adapts to Japanese culture and develop a cover to allow him to infiltrate the compound of a mysterious foreigner named Dr. Guntram Shatterhand.   Dr. Shatterhand, Tanaka eventually explains, has developed a deadly garden filled with various types of poisonous plants and insects. This poison garden, Tanaka further explains, has become a killing field for suicidal Japanese citizens. Tanaka conscripts 007 to kill Shatterhand with the understanding that “Magic 44” will be shared with him as a reward. Dr. Shatterhand turns out to be Ernst Stavro Blofeld, 007’s old nemesis and the man who murdered Tracy. Blofeld’s “ugly” henchlady, Erma Bunt, is still at his side.

The film is also, in my opinion, on the lower end of 007 films and does not merit extended comment. Quite unlike the novel, the film begins in outer space, where a U.S. space capsule is captured by a larger spacecraft (not unlike the submarine hijackings seen in Thunderball). The scheme turns out to be orchestrated by, whom else, Blofled. Blofeld’s plan in the film is to induce a nuclear war between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. in exchange for a $100 million payment from China.

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Turning to some interesting crossovers, both the novel and the film depict a bromance between 007 and Tanaka. Each are cut from the same cloth and enjoy women, good food, and copious drinking. For example, in the novel, Tanaka brings Bond to various massage parlors and restaurants serving Kobe beef and Fagu. In the film, Tanaka treats Bond to a hand bathing by a crew of masseuses and essentially provides him with a sex companion, explaining that, in Japan, women “come second.”   That said, both formats feature strong “Bond girls.” In the film, Bond’s Japanese courtesans often step in to save his life, while in the novel, Kissy Suzuki – whom Bond develops true feelings for – is critical to both his infiltration of, and eventual escape from, Blofeld’s castle. Both the film and the novel also give a nod to Japanese ninjas and their centuries-old combat and spying techniques; the primary difference being that, in the novel, Tanaka insists that his team of ninjas (and 007) undertake their missions without the use of modern weapons (i.e., guns), while, in the film, Tanaka has no such compunction, noting at one point that his team possesses powerful jet propulsion guns.

Although Blofeld is the central villain in both the novel and the film, as noted above, his scheme in each is vastly different. In the novel, Blofeld’s somewhat modest goal is to simply to operate an attractive place for Japan’s suicidal citizens to creatively put themselves to death by, in one case, walking into a pool of scalding lava or, in another case, jumping into a pond filled with flesh-eating piranha fish. As also noted above, Blofeld’s scheme in the film is a far more audacious plan to escalate cold war tensions between the U.S. and the Soviet Union until World War III breaks out. (Although it is worth noting that Blofeld also has a piranha pit in the film.) Simply put: both storylines are a bit silly and unrealistic. That said, what makes the novel more compelling than the film is Bond’s almost desperate desire to exact revenge on Blofeld for Tracy’s murder.

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Of course, 007 defeats Blofeld both in the novel and in the film. The Blofeld death scene in the novel is particularly intense, as Bond first narrowly escapes death by avoiding a lava geyser in Blofeld’s torture room and then a beheading under Blofeld’s samurai sword before strangling Blofeld to death with his bare hands whispering, “die Blofeld! Die!” as Blofeld takes his final gasps of air. In the novel, Bond re-sets the lava geyser that almost killed him to blow up Blofeld’s castle. In the film, Blofeld himself activates a self-destruct system to destroy his unground lair as Bond and a team of ninjas close in. So, in both, Blofeld’s complex base of operations is destroyed. The difference is, in the film, Blofeld escapes to fight another day.

The endings are very different. The film features a typical 007 movie ending with Bond getting the girl in a life raft as they await rescue following another successful mission. In the novel, Bond narrowly escapes Blofeld’s exploding castle by floating away using a large balloon before crashing into the ocean, where he is rescued by Kissy. It turns out that (much to Kissy’s pleasure) Bond has lost his memory, and begins to live a simple life on Kissy’s island, Kuro, helping her fish every day. M. believes that Bond had been killed and has 007’s obituary published. (The obituary, incidentally, provides the most detailed background information about Bond’s upbringing than found in any of Fleming’s prior novels or stories.) Bond’s memory begins to recover when he reads a Russian name of a scrap of newspaper and tells Kissy that he must travel to Russian to help him regain his memory. Lastly, just a quick note:  it appears that Blofeld will make yet another appearance (or not) in the upcoming 007 flick, SPECTRE.  Can’t wait.

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Next: The Man with the Golden Gun

MC This post is off-topic and, in a first for this blog, will not offer a comparison between the literary 007 and the corresponding film adaptation. Who knows? Maybe a preview of what this blog will turn into once I am done with Fleming’s books. In addition to James Bond, I am a big fan of Nero Wolfe, Rex Stout’s brilliant detective and gastronome who, together with his loyal right hand man Archie Goodwin, solves confounding murders in post-War New York City. So I was intrigued when, while reading OHMSS for the most recent novel vs. film post (below), I came across a reference to Wolfe. Specifically, during one passage, M (as cantankerous as ever) asks Bond:

What the devil’s the name of that fat American detective who’s always fiddling about with orchids, those obscene hybrids from Venezuela and so forth? Then he comes sweating out of his orchid house, eats a gigantic meal of some foreign muck and solves the murder?

007 replies:

Nero Wolfe, sir. They’re written by a chap called Rex Stout. I like them.

M then pronounces that the Stout books are “readable” and continues to lambast orchids. This appears to be a Fleming shout-out to Stout, who he apparently admired. But it got me drawing some comparisons between the main characters in the Bond and Wolfe novels. M-Dinner-Jacketimages-2 M, plainly, bears a strong resemblance to Nero Wolfe. Both are, to use a word Wolfe once used to describe himself as, “magisterial.” They are both the ultimate bosses in their respective stories; their authority is never seriously challenged. Both are nearly always in a bad mood. They both also enjoy good food and drink. M frequents the Blades club in London and Fleming usually describes his meals in considerable detail, as he often does when Bond dines during the course of a mission, often down to the vintage of the wine Bond enjoys. Nero Wolfe, by contrast, rarely takes meals outside of his home (unless he hits Rusterman’s) and frequently debates culinary matters with his loyal cook, Fritz. Like Fleming, Stout also carefully describes Wolfe’s meals in great detail. Finally, Wolfe religiously tends to his exotic orchids; M, meanwhile, paints — exclusively — watercolors of the wild orchids of England.

007 and Archie also share some similarities. Both are street-wise tough guys who are the characters that actually get their hands dirty by carrying out the bosses’ orders, often with little regard for their own safety.   Both are also insufferable, and sharply dressed, ladies’ men (although, interestingly, both of these traits are magnified in the film (Bond) and television (Wolfe) versions of the books). In addition, both are loyal to a fault; the only difference is that Bond serves his government, while Archie serves a private detective, often working in tension with the police. images-3images-4 Pretty cool.

OHMSS

Novel publication year – 1963
Film release year – 1969
007 – George Lazenby

The tenth novel; the sixth film. Both are great, although – if you can’t tell by now – I slightly preferred the novel. But, as in most cases, the film is very strong mainly because it closely adheres to Fleming’s original work. That said, viewers either love or hate Lazenby’s portrayal of 007. I think he does a very admirable job in his sole appearance as Bond.

The film cleverly channels the novel’s opening sequence. In both the novel and the film, Bond is driving towards the Casino Royale-les-Eaux (the same casino where he battled Le Chiffre in Casino Royale and where, Fleming explains in the novel, 007 makes an annual pilgrimage to unwind and gamble) when he is passed on the highway by a beautiful girl. In the film, Bond later sees her car pulled over near a beach and witnesses the girl wading into the sea to commit suicide while, in the novel, Bond proceeds along to the casino where he finds the girl – who he learns is La Comtesse Teresa di Vicenzo, aka “Tracy.” In the novel version, Bond had saved Tracy from a massive gambling debt as the Casino the night before he sees her suicide attempt on the beach. In the film, Tracy escapes the beach when Bond is accosted by thugs and proceeds to the Casino, where she is then later saved by 007 at the gambling table. In the novel, Tracy and Bond are both kidnapped immediately after Bond pulls her from the water while in the film Bond is kidnapped by himself. Despite the slightly different timelines, in result in both is the same – Bond sleeps with Tracy at the casino shortly after bailing her out as her “payment” for the debt he rescued her from.

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In both, Bond initially appears to be targeted by Marc-Ange Draco, who is the head of the Unione Corse, a criminal enterprise that is the Corsican/French equivalent of the Italian Mafia, and who also happens to be Tracy’s father. Draco proves to be a lovable gangster. He learned about how 007 saved Tracy at the casino and Bond quickly warms up to him as they chat. Draco explains to Bond that Tracy grew up in a privileged, spoiled, jet-set life that has caused her deep depression and, hence, her suicide attempt. Draco sees Bond as the type of man that can straighten Tracy out and turn her life around. Specifically, he wants 007 to court and marry his daughter, and promises Bond $1 million in gold as a dowry. In the film, Bond politely demurs, while in the novel Bond tells Draco that Tracy needs to enter mental health treatment in Switzerland before he will consider being with her. In both, however, Bond is genuinely interested in a relationship with Tracy.

One major contrast to note is that, in the novel, Bond is seriously considering resigning from MI6 due to his boredom with his seemingly endless assignment to locate Ernesto Blofeld (following the Thunderball case). In the film, Bond seriously considers resigning because M takes him off of the Blofeld case, apparently because of 007’s inability to make any progress. What is similar in this regard is that Bond obtains information about Blofeld from Draco.

Although there are some minor differences in the plotlines, in both the novel and the film, Bond tracks down Blofeld’s whereabouts using the College of Arms, a government agency which tracks the coats of arms and pedigrees of families in the United Kingdom. In both, Bond poses as genealogist Sir Hilary Bray to infiltrate Blofeld’s remote compound, Piz Gloria, which is located high in the Swiss Alps near a ski resort Blofled also owns. Blofeld, who, following his foiled plans in Thunderball, has radically altered his appearance with plastic surgery, is attempting to have the College of Arm’s confirm that he is, in fact, a Count (as a way of further disguising his true identity). A key aspect to this in both the novel and the film is the fact that Blofeld has no earlobes, which is a tell-tale sign that he actually could be a member of the aristocratic family he claims to be from.

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In both, Blofeld is hard at work as an “allergist” purporting to develop hypnotic remedies to cure odd aversions to food products, such as, in one case, an irrational fear of chickens. Conveniently for 007, all of Blofeld’s “patients” are gorgeous women residing at Piz Gloria for treatment. Of course, Blofeld’s true work is far more nefarious – he intends to use his hypnotic techniques to send the girls back to the UK with biological agents designed to wreak havoc on the food and vegetation supply. He is assisted by Irma Bunt, a cold woman who runs the operations aspect of the project and who keeps a close watch over Blofeld’s patients. In the novel, Bond only sleeps with one of the girls, Ruby, while, perhaps unsurprisingly, he hooks up with several girls in film.

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(An interesting side note: In the novel, Bond observes Urusla Andress having lunch at the ski resort adjacent to Blofeld’s compound. Andress, of course, played Honey Rider in the film adaptation of Dr. No.)

Blofeld learns of Bond’s true identity thanks to an unrelated intrusion into Piz Gloria by another secret agent who is sniffing around Blofeld’s operation. In the novel, the agent recognizes Bond and begs him to confirm for Blofeld that he is actually an employee of Universal Exports, the longtime front company for MI6. Bond denies knowing him and the agent is dragged off to be tortured, causing Bond to realize he has precious little time to make an escape before the agent is coerced into revealing Bond’s true identity. The film version is slightly different, as the agent is captured, tortured, and killed before Bond is confronted about his own true identity as a secret agent.

Both the novel and film depict 007’s daring escape from Piz Gloria. In both, Bond skis down the mountain while Blofeld’s men are in hot pursuit. One difference is that, in the film, Blofeld himself joins the chase. The escape sequence in the novel is particularly exciting as 007 narrowly dodges an avalanche and ski jumps across train tracks just as one of Blofeld’s henchman closes in and is killed by an oncoming train. In both story lines, Bond manages to get away and ends up in a small Swiss village on Christmas Eve where he dips into a party to hide out and (somewhat randomly) encounters Tracy, who helps them both escape Blofeld’s hunting party.

In both, Bond proposes to Tracy shortly after they escape Blofeld’s men. In the novel, he pops the question over breakfast as he awaits a flight back to London, while in the film he asks while he and Tracy are hiding out for the night in a barn. Of course, she says yes.

But before he can marry Tracy, Bond must return to Piz Gloria and take out Blofeld; as ever, the mission comes first.   In both, Bond teams up with Draco to do so (in the novel, 007 takes a leave of absence from the Service so as to not officially work with gangsters) and together they wage a ferocious fight with Blofeld’s guards. One difference is that, in the film, Tracy herself participates in the raid on Piz Gloria, while, in the novel, Tracy heads to Munich to rest for a few days while Bond gets back to work.

As in Thunderball, Blofeld manages to escape Bond once again.   In both the novel and film, Blofeld uses a bobsled course to get down the mountain and thwarts 007’s hot pursuit by dropping a hand grenade behind him as Bond closes in.   Despite Blofeld’s escape, his scheme to wage biological warfare fails, as his “patients” are stopped before the plan can be consummated.

Bond and Tracy marry shortly after the mission. In the novel, Bond finally feels as though he has finally found peace and he and Tracy begin planning their new life together. Their marital bliss is very short-lived, as 007 and Tracy are ambushed by Blofeld as they are driving off to their honeymoon; Bond survives, but Tracy is shot and killed in the ensuing car accident.

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Unlike nearly all of the Fleming novels and 007 films, OHMSS ends here, on a very sad note. As the police arrive at the ambush scene Bond realizes Tracy is dead, but tells the police that she is just resting and that he and Tracy “have all the time in the world.” There are no heroics, nor the usual playful banter Bond usually engages his Bond girl in when a successful mission comes to an end. Despite his foiled scheme, Blofeld ultimately won this round with 007.

Next: You Only Live Twice

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Story publication year – 1962
Film release year – 1977
007 – Roger Moore

The tenth Fleming publication (the ninth actual novel, see For Your Eyes Only), as well as the tenth 007 film. There is almost nothing to compare; mainly, this post will highlight the stark differences.  According to The James Bond Bedside Companion by Raymond Benson, the reason for the lack of any commonality is that, when he sold the rights to the novel to the filmmakers, Fleming insisted that only the title be used for the film.  Thus, a script had to be written from scratch without taking any inspiration at all from Fleming’s original work.

The novel is fascinating and, after a slightly slow start, one of Fleming’s best when it comes to being a pure, suspenseful page-turner.  That said, the plot itself is simplistic, akin to a Fleming short story. The unique feature of the novel is that, unlike all prior 007 stories, The Spy Who Loved Me is told from the perspective of the “Bond girl,” Vivienne Michel, who Bond saves from a duo of tough gangsters.

Vivienne (or “Viv” as she is called throughout the book), grew up in Canada and attended finishing school in London. After being burned romantically by two men, she decides to return to Canada and thereafter travel down the east coast of the U.S. on a Vespa.

As she travels through the Adirondack Mountains in New York, and in need of some extra cash, Viv accepts a motel manager’s offer to work the front desk and look out for the motel during the last few days before the motel shuts down for the season. This turns out to be a dangerous mistake, as during her last night at the motel and while in the midst of a furious storm, two creepy gangsters – not very imaginatively named Horror and Sluggsy – turn up and force their way into the motel under the pretense that they work for an insurance company and have been sent to inspect the premises before it closes for the season.

It is immediately clear, of course, that Horror and Sluggsy mean grave harm. Indeed, from almost the moment Sluggsy sees Viv he indicates that he is looking forward to raping her and probably would have done so immediately but for Horror’s admonition that the duo is “on a job” and that Sluggsy must wait until “later.”

Fortunately for Viv, 007 happens to be passing through the area on his way back from a mission in Toronto when he finds himself with a flat tire and in need of a room for the night.  Then, of course, using his wit and spy skills, Bond manages to save Viv and kill both gangsters. It turned out that the motel owner had assigned Horror and Sluggsy to burn down the motel so that a false insurance claim could be made. Viv had simply been in the wrong place at the wrong time – the gangsters had intended to rape and kill her, then set things up so that she would be blamed for the fire.

Naturally, Viv falls in love with Bond and – after her rescue – they make passionate love before Bond disappears first thing the following morning. Viv then finds a heartfelt note that Bond left behind and sets back off on her road trip knowing that she will never forget the spy who loved her. That’s that; no diabolical international villains, no saving the world, no M or Monneypenny, no Felix. In sum: an uncomplicated but unique and poignant Fleming novel.

The film is solid, but far less interesting. (Although I note that it fares quite well on rottentomatoes.com.) A fairly standardized 007 plotline is used; in this case, the super villain is Karl Stromberg, a megalomaniac who resides in an underwater fortress called Atlantis.  Stromberg employs a massive ocean tanker to literally swallow up U.S and Soviet submarines.  His master plan is to use the submarines’ nuclear warheads to destroy Moscow and New York, which will force the U.S. and U.S.S.R. into a full-scale nuclear war that will mostly wipe out mankind, and thereby allow Stromberg to re-start the human race beneath the sea; with himself, presumably, in charge of it all. Incidentally, this is quite similar to Drax’s master plan in the film adaptation of Moonraker. Like Drax, Stromberg fails thanks to 007.

SPY WHO LOVED ME, THE

 

In a departure from the typical Soviet vs. the West dynamic present in many 007 missions, in the film, the historic adversaries have a mutual interest in stopping Stromberg. Accordingly, 007 is eventually teamed up with Russian agent XXX (heh), aka Major Anya Amasoya, with whom 007 had been competing with to obtain a microfilm that contains Stromberg’s plans. Unlike the novel, which takes place entirely in the Adirondacks, 007 and XXX make their way across various locales as the mission unfolds, from Austria, to Sardinia, to Egypt.

Stromberg’s top henchman, Jaws, is once again out to foil 007’s efforts. Indeed, most of the film is a sequence of different Jaw’s attempts to murder Bond, most of which 007 manages to brush off easily, often in classic Roger Moore-era comedic fashion; at times the script is actually slapsticky during these scenes. That said, 007 never manages to actually kill Jaws off, ensuring appearances in subsequent films.

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One thematic similarity can be found between a speech Viv receives from a police captain at the end of the novel and a speech XXX receives from 007 when she learns that Bond was responsible for her lover’s death (which occurs at the very beginning of the film, when Bond escapes from a Soviet hit team by skiing off the side of a massive mountain in the Austrian Alps only to launch a parachute adorned with the Union Jack). In the film, Bond explains that, in the life of danger and spy craft that they both chose, an agent can be killed at any moment and that in all situations it will come down to a matter of kill or be killed. In the novel, the police chief explains that Viv should avoid men like Horror, Sluggsy and – yes – even Bond, because such men “belong to a private jungle” and are a “different species”, apart from normal people like Viv.

Probably the only other similarity between the novel and the film, and this is real stretch, is that, in both formats, there is a strong female heroine. Although Viv is, in some ways, a bit naive (though she is certainly no dummy) and totally over matched by Horror and Sluggsy, she demonstrates a great deal of bravery and nerve in her attempts to escape. XXX, by contrast, is highly skilled and she often proves to be 007’s match. For example, before they join forces, XXX tricks Bond by pretending to seduce him before using a cigarette to expose him to a substance that knocks him out, thereby allowing her to recover the microfilm described above for the KGB. However, XXX is ultimately captured and imprisoned on the Atlantis, presumably to be a plaything for Stromberg (not unlike Sluggsy’s intentions with Viv, I suppose) as the expected Apocalypse plays out. Bond comes to her rescue, naturally; and she eventually falls for him, naturally. In the end, despite their strengths, each heroine needs 007.

Next: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service