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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