Novel publish year – 1956
Film release year – 1971
007 – Sean Connery
The fourth novel; the seventh film. While the novel is certainly superior to the slapstick-ish film, it is among the weaker of the Fleming books. That said, what is interesting here is that, despite this era’s penchant for the film scripts diverting wildly from the original novel (and there is certainly a lot of that here), there are actually a good number of, albeit sometimes minor, similarities between the two formats.
Both the novel and the film commence with 007 being assigned to investigate how diamonds mined in Africa end up smuggled into the United States. Both the novel and the film begin with an opening sequence where we see that the diamonds originally leave the mines hidden in the mouths of miners, who, following their shifts, visit a corrupt dentist, who then extracts the valuable contraband. In the novel, M explains to Bond that the British are helping the U.S. Treasury Department; hence, despite an initial investigation by Scotland Yard, only MI6 has jurisdiction to proceed with the case. A similar explanation is offered in the film. The general plan is to have Bond – after assuming the identity of a smuggler named Peter Franks – smuggle the diamonds to the United States to learn where the smuggling pipeline ends.
A fundamental difference is the nature of the criminal enterprise at work. In the novel, M explains that the diamond pipeline to America is operated by a shadowy Mafia-type organization, the Spangled mob. M is terrified of the Mafia. In this regard, Fleming was plainly influenced by the Kefauver Committee, which, five years prior to the novel’s publication, had issued one of the first ever Congressional reports detailing La Cosa Nosta’s influence in America. In fact, the Committee’s report is expressly referenced several times in the early stages of the novel. The criminal element in the film, by significant contrast, is 007’s arch nemesis, Ernst Stavro Blofeld, who does not appear at all in the novel, but previously appeared in the film versions of From Russia With Love, Thunderball, and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (he also appears in the non-Eon-produced film Never Say Never Again, which will be discussed in a separate post). A highlight here is Charles Grey’s portrayal of Blofled – who also memorably played The Criminologist in The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975).
In the novel, the Spangled mob’s ultimate goal is simply profit. While, in the film, Blofeld needs the smuggled diamonds to power a satellite that has the capability to shoot powerful beams at and destroy military bases and assets around the globe.
A frequent recurring character, Felix Leiter, appears in both the novel and the film. In the novel, however, Felix Felix is no longer a CIA operative, having lost and arm and a leg in a shark attack in Live and Let Die; he is now a private detective who re-connects with 007 to help investigate horse race fixing in Sarataga Springs. In the film, Felix is still with the CIA and plays his usual side kick/helpful role as Bond’s primary liason with American law enforcement.
Another interesting character contrast is found in Tiffany Case – the primary Bond girl in both formats. In the novel, Tiffany is hard-bitten and gritty – the daughter of formal brothel owner who was gangbanged when her mother refused to pay protection money to local thugs. In the film, Tiffany is introduced in a similar hard-edged light; however, as the narrative progresses, she is diminished to a slapstick character who bungles things and becomes more concerned with staying out of jail than anything else. One remarkable contrast is that, towards the end of the novel, 007 actually realizes he is falling in love with Tiffany, and the novel closes with an indication that she will return to London and move into Bond’s flat. There is no such long-term romantic suggestion at the conclusion of the film.
The Wint and Kidd characters are actually much better developed and far more interesting in the film. In both the novel and the film, the homosexual duo strive to kill 007 to the very end, despite the fact that, in both storylines, the primary criminal objective has failed and Bond must simply close the start of the diamond pipeline – something Wint and Kidd, as hired hoodlums, had and have nothing to do with. The film characters are especially memorable for their creepiness and cruelty. The characters in the novel are somewhat one-dimensional; in fact, in many sequences they don black silk hoods to conceal their identities, and simply mechanically carry out their assigned tasks (for example, Brooklyn stomping 007). In both formats, Wint and Kidd meet their ends (albeit by much different methods) at Bond’s hands while aboard the Queen Elizabeth as 007 and Tiffany are enroute back to England.
The final struggle in the novel centers on Bond and Tiffany escaping on a vintage train from a retro Wild West style ghost town, Spectreville, which Serraffimo Spang has created in the desert outside of Las Vegas. In the film, Bond tracks Blofeld to an oil rig near Baja, California, where Blofled is attempting to blackmail nations around the world with the threat of his satellite/laser device – global nuclear supremacy will go to the highest bidder. Of course, in both versions, Bond kills the criminal masterminds. (Although in the film, perhaps it just appears that Blofled has met his demise…) At the end of the novel, Bond returns to the start of the smuggling pipeline in Africa and kills Jack Sprang – who himself is trying to shut down the operation due to 007’s infiltration – by blowing his helicopter out of the sky with a Bofors artillery gun.
Next: From Russia With Love