images

Story publication year – 1961
Film release year – 1965
007 – Sean Connery

The ninth Fleming 007 publication; the fourth film.  Some interesting items to compare and contrast here.

The novel opens with 007 waking up hungover after a night of playing cards. He reports to M shortly thereafter and is given a summary of his recent physical test, giving the reader insight into the excesses of the Crown’s top spy, which includes 60 cigarettes and half a bottle of booze each day. Bond later remarks to Miss Moneypenny that he drinks as much as he does because he would “rather die of drink than of thirst.” Nice.

M extols Bond about the virtues of eating natural, unprocessed foods – he almost sounds like a modern dietician advocating whole, organic foods – and then directs him to report to a health clinic, Shrublands Health Spa, for two weeks of rest and detoxification.

One interesting item of note is that in the novel Fleming notes that Miss Moneypenny “dreams hopelessly” about 007, which, I believe, is the first time in any of the novels that there is any indication of her attraction to him. In the films, of course, Moneypenny is head-over-heels for Bond from the very outset.

The film, oddly, opens with 007 attending his own funeral, killing his would-be murderer shortly thereafter, and then escaping his killer’s home on a jet back pack. After which, Bond, for some reason, ends up at Shrublands.

images-2

Bond’s experience at the clinic is similar in both the novel and the film. While strapped to a spine-stretching machine, one of SPECTRE’s henchmen, Count Lippe, cranks up the machine’s pressure in an ultimately failed attempt to kill Bond off. In both, 007 notes a telltale gang tattoo on Lippe’s hand. In the novel, Bond’s attempt to hookup with his attractive nurse is rebuffed, quite unlike Bond’s sort of creepy move in the film, where he essentially bribes his nurse into sex in exchange for his promise not to report the problems with the stretching machine to his doctor/her boss. In both the novel and the film, Bond exacts revenge on Lippe by turning up the heat while Lippe is encased in a sweatbox.

Next, in both, we meet Ernesto Blofeld, the charismatic leader of SPECTRE – the Special Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge, and Extortion. In the novel, Fleming provides some background: SPECTRE is comprised of Blofeld, 18 international thugs, and two scientists. Blofeld himself made a fortune during World War II spying for the allied countries, but, now, his organization commits crimes for profit.

images-3

The depiction of the SPECTRE meeting is similar in both the novel and the film. Blofeld is a ruthless leader of the group; in the novel, he electrocutes one of the members in his chair for sleeping with a girl SPECTRE had kidnapped, when the ransom demand assured the girl’s father that his daughter would be returned unharmed.

Bond’s basic mission is the same in both the novel and in the film – SPECTRE has hijacked a plane carrying nuclear missiles through the efforts of a corrupt former military pilot; in both the pilot is murdered as soon as his part of the scheme is over.

Although not exactly in the same manner, in both the novel and in the film, the nuclear missiles are hidden underwater near the Bahamas after they are removed from the hijacked plane. Emilio Largo is the SPECTRE operative overseeing the mission – dubbed “Plan Omega” – from his luxury yacht, the Disco Volante. In both, SPECTRE threatens to use the missiles to destroy two North American cities unless a $100 million ransom is paid.

In both, naturally, Bond encounters a Bond girl, Domino Vitali.  Domino is known around the Bahamas as Largo’s mistress. Again, naturally, Bond flirts with her to move closer to Largo. In the novel, Bond first meets Domino in smoke shop and suggests which cigarettes she should purchase if she is trying to quit smoking. In both, they later flirt over a lunch of conch chowder.

img12-1

Bond’s introduction and interaction with Largo is similar in both the novel and film. They encounter each other during a card game in a hotel casino. Bond, of course, dominates the game, during which he drops a hint to Largo that he suspects him of being associated with SPECTRE. In both, 007 takes Domino to dinner following the game and they grow closer to each other – a common but slightly unbelievable trend throughout the Fleming novels and the corresponding films where the evil mastermind seems ever willing to allow 007 to wine and dine his mistress and thereby gain information about an ongoing or upcoming criminal scheme.

Bond’s investigation of Largo and Plan Omega takes similar twists and turns in both the novel and film and involves a great deal of underwater scuba missions to try and determine if the missiles are stashed on the Disco Volante. One difference is that, in the film, Bond meets with Q branch to obtain some of the gadgets, typically found in many 007 films, to help him on his mission.   In both, however, Bond meets up with his old friend, Felix Leiter, who helps him complete the mission. Bond and Leiter ultimately discover that the bombs are hidden underwater and that the dead pilot of the hijacked military plane was Domino’s brother.

In both the novel and film, Bond reveals to Domino that Largo had her brother killed, and she then plays a crucial role in helping Bond take down Largo and Plan Omega’s failure. Also, in both, Largo discovers that Domino has betrayed him after she is caught using a Geiger counter to search the Disco Volante. In both, Largo and intends to torture Domino into revealing Bond’s plans. Largo’s intended method of torture is the same: using lit cigar and ice cubes “applied scientifically” to the skin. However, the novel, Domino is actually tortured; in the film he fails to get that far.

The final confrontation is similar in both the novel and film. Bond, with assistance from U.S. Navy frogmen, engages Largo and his henchmen in a ferocious underwater scuba fight.  In the novel, Leiter joins the fight despite the disabilities he incurred in Live and Let Die; in the film, however, Leiter sits out the fight. In the novel, Largo almost succeeds in choking Bond to death but Domino saves his life by – having escaped from the Disco Volante – shooting Largo through the neck with a speargun, thereby avenging her brother’s murder. In the film, Largo attempts to escape on the Disco Volante, which, for the final chase, is converted into a swift hydroboat. Bond eventually gets aboard the boat and engages Largo in a fight – once again, Bond is saved when Domino appears and shots Largo with a speargun. 

In the novel, Bond wakes up in a hospital, where Leiter tells him that Domino never gave up during Largo’s torture. Bond demands to see Domino, staggers into her hospital room, and then passes out on the floor next to her bed.   Fleming leaves the reader with the impression that Bond has fallen in love with her. In the film, the Disco Volante crashes – Domino and 007 end up in a life raft, from which they are rescued.

It is worth noting that Never Say Never Again, a non-EON produced 007 film, not included on the “Bond 50” Blu Ray set that I am doing this blog with, is also based on the Thunderball novel and there is a good deal of similarity between the novel and the film’s script, particularly the Shrubwoods scenes described above. The general mission to defeat SPECTRE’s plan to steal nuclear missiles and use them to extort millions from various government’s is also mostly the same. Again, Domino’s brother is used to hijack a military plane transporting the missiles, which are similarly hidden underwater. Largo also is killed in the end by Domino.

images-4

There are, however, plenty of scenes that bear little relation to the novel, most memorably a video game played by 007 and the SPECTRE evil-doer (here, Maximillian Largo) called “Domination” in which the players compete for world domination by bombing different countries where each player receives an electric shock each time his opponent claims a country. Of course, 007 defeats Largo at both the video game and at the film’s conclusion.

Next: The Spy Who Loved Me

 

 

 

 


Story publication year – 1960
Film release year – 2008
007 – Daniel Craig

Fleming’s eighth Bond publication (the collection of short stories (For Your Eyes Only)); the twenty-second Bond film.  This will be a fairly short post, as there is scant material to compare and contrast.

That said, Fleming’s original short story is very interesting and unlike any of his previous 007 novels or stories. It almost seems like Fleming decided Bond needed a bit of break.

The story opens with a very bored 007 sitting in a living room after a dinner party at the British governor’s home in Bahamas. Bond has just concluded a routine investigation concerning weapons smuggling into Cuba.  Bond and the governor had been joined at dinner by a couple that has just left to catch a flight to Montreal. In casual, but awkward, conversation Bond tells the governor that (while he has no intention of actually ever getting married), if he did, he would want to marry an airhostess, aka, a stewardess. This prompts the governor – who Bond views as a staid and boring bureaucrat – to launch into a fascinating tale.

The governor recalls a young civil servant, Masters, he once knew who fell in love with an airhostess named Rhonda. They married, but then Rhonda had an affair and thoroughly broke his heart. Her paramour, however, dumped her while Masters was on assignment to Washington, D.C.; she intended on recommitting herself to Masters upon his return to the Bahamas and becoming the best wife she could be.

But, as the governor explains to Bond, by the time he returned from Washington, Masters had zero “quantum of solace” for Rhonda. The governor further explains that one’s quantum of solace is the amount of comfort one person has with another. When he returned to their home, Masters told Rhonda that he had full evidence of her affair and that he would file for divorce. The divorce would be become effective when his assignment in Bahamas was over. Until then, he commands her to not speak to him, prepare all his meals, and keep their house – which he divides in two per a detailed floor plan – clean and tidy. Rhonda obeys, but she is unable to persuade Masters to take her back, or, for that matter, even barely speak to her.

Masters, as promised, left Rhonda on the island and returned to England. Shortly thereafter, she learned that he had left them both in debt with multiple creditors. She was thoroughly humiliated. After living destitute in the Bahamas for several years, Rhonda landed a job in Jamaica and she eventually met a Canadian millionaire, whom she ultimately married and lived happily ever after.

It turns out that Rhonda was the wife of the couple who had attended that night’s dinner party at the governor’s house. Bond apologies to the governor for thinking “Mrs. Harvey Miller”, aka, Rhonda, was a bore and thanks the governor for teaching him a lesson about people and fate. The story ends with Bond and the governor wishing each other good night and 007 ruminating about how boring his life in the secret service really is. There is no mission; no Bond girl; no heroics; and no happy ending. In fact, nothing whatsoever actually happens other than Bond hearing a story about the past. However, this was one of the more fascinating Fleming stories – I literally could not put this one down, the storytelling was so carefully and compellingly crafted. I imagine that Fleming lived this story in his own life, probably at his vacation home, Goldeneye, on Jamaica, at a similar dinner party.

goldeneye_fleming_villa_aerial 

All of the above, of course, has nothing to do with the 2008 film; which, in my view, is the weakest in the Daniel Craig series thus far. The film, essentially, picks up from the Casino Royale film and deals principally with Bond coming to terms with his love of, betrayal by, and the ultimate death of Vesper Lynd. He is reassured at least twice (by M. and Mathis) that Vesper truly loved him, and the film ends with Bond “letting go” of her memory by dropping her necklace in the snow after capturing the man who had blackmailed her into betraying him. Surrounding this is a tepid and disjointed mission to foil a villain, Dominic Greene, who has aims on cornering the fresh water market in Bolivia. Bond, naturally, defeats Greene.

Two items of note as far as similarities: First, although not present in the short story, the film invokes similar female revenge themes, as found in Fleming’s original Goldfinger as well as For Your Eyes Only (themes also reflected in the respective films), among others. Specifically in the Quantum of Solace film, the Bond girl (Camille Montes) crosses paths with 007 on her own personal mission to kill General Medrano (a Bolivian exile who wants to become the country’s next dictator), who had killed her parents some years earlier. Second, in both the story and the film, Bond never sleeps with the Bond girl – he is completely chaste in the story (as all he did was listen to someone else’s story) and while, in the movie, he sleeps with MI6 staffer Strawberry Fields, he never actually beds Camille.

quantum-of-solace-olga-kurylenko
Next: Thunderball

 

 

james-bond-a-view-to-a-kill-011

Story publish year – 1960
Film release year – 1985
007 – Roger Moore

From A View to a Kill was one of five short stories Ian Fleming included in the book For Your Eyes Only, which was Fleming’s eighth James Bond publication.  A View to a Kill was the fourteenth Bond film.  There is not a lot to say here; both are entirely different.

Fleming’s story involves Bond’s investigation into the murder of a Royal Corps motorcycle dispatch rider whose briefcase, containing sensitive British intelligence, is stolen.  Bond learns that a group of gypsies had lived in a wooded area near where the currier was shot to death and stakes out the area.  He discovers that a small cell of Soviet spies is hiding in the woods in an underground bunker and plans to murder another Royal Corps currier and thereby obtain more British state secrets.  Bond disrupts their plan by posing as a currier and taking out the entire group with help from the story’s love-interest, Mary Ann Russell, another MI6 agent who seems to have immediately fallen for Bond and, in the final sequence, saves his life.

That’s about all that really need be said about Fleming’s original work; it is, essentially, a one-act play.  Of interest, however, are a few personal things the reader learns about Bond’s history and habits.  For example, although he lost his virginity there, Bond has hated Paris since World War II.  But when he finds himself in Paris, he stays at the Terminus Nord Hotel and drinks at Harry’s Bar.  These snapshots clearly reflect Fleming’s own experience as a British navel intelligence officer during the War and his subsequent world travels.  Such personal and local insights are a continuing highlight of Fleming’s novels and stories.  The story concludes with a bit of foreshadowing of 007’s lighter side, to come in future work:  After Mary Ann saves his life, Bond leads her away by the arm, remarking that he’d like to show her “a bird’s nest.”  All in all not unlike the triumphant closing sequences found in many of the films.

The film features a mostly cheesy opening sequence in which 007 retrieves a microchip from 003’s dead body in Russia.  It turns out that the microchip is a copy of a chip being developed by the British; but, the chip recovered from 003 continues to work even after being subjected to a radioactive blast.

The man behind the counterfeit chip is Max Zorin, the film’s primary villain.  Zorin’s master plan is to monopolize the microchip industry by bombing a mine in California and flooding all of Silicon Valley.  Bond, naturally, prevents this all from happening.

A View to a Kill was Roger Moore’s last turn as 007.  This was a good thing, as by this point his age and slapstick/tongue in cheek style significantly undermined his credibility as the supposedly ruthless MI6 agent.   (To be fair, of course, the comedic elements can also be blamed on the screenwriter and director.)  The film boasts car chases, gadgets, and cheesy quips aplenty.

As mentioned earlier, there is little at all to compare and contrast the film with between Fleming’s original story.  Essentially, the only semi-nexus is that both formats take place in France, albeit the film’s screenplay has 007 traveling about from Siberia to France to San Francisco and other locales.

While the film’s plot is mostly decent overall, the real highlights are Zorin, memorably played by Christopher Walken, and Mayday, Zorin’s loyal (well, until almost the end), sidekick, played by Grace Jones.  Walken plays Zorin, a KGB/SPECTRE associate with platinum blond dyed hair, as an aloof and sadistic megalomaniac who grins mischievously as he machine- guns members of his own staff to death. 

Mayday is equally ruthless, until she realizes that Zorin has double-crossed her.  She ultimately plays a critical role in subverting Zorin’s evil plan and sacrifices her own life to so ensure the success of 007’s mission.

The best part of the film, in my view, is Duran Duran‘s theme song.

Next: For Your Eyes Only

Novel publish year – 1958
Film release year – 1964
007 – Sean Connery

The seventh novel; the third film.  The contrast between each format is very interesting, as both the novel and the film are among the finest of each series.  Moreover, the film presents an instance where the director took some significant liberties with the original storyline, but nevertheless produced an adaptation that, despite some major deviations from Fleming’s original version, managed to capture the tone and basic essence of the novel.

The novel opens with a contemplative 007 in a Miami airport mulling over existential issues of life and death after killing a Mexican bandit who had been hired to kill him in connection with an opium operation Bond had been investigating.  In the film, Bond is wrapping up what seems to be an entirely different sort of mission by setting a time bomb to destroy an oil refinery, after which he goes for a cocktail and takes in a belly dancing performance. 

In the novel, Bond decides to spend an extra night in Miami and get drunk, where he meets Junius Du Pont (of the famous chemical-producing Du Pont family), who tells Bond that he had observed him at the Casino Royale les Eaux in connection with the events that are the subject of Fleming’s first novel, Casino Royale.  Du Pont offers to privately hire Bond to figure out how a certain man – Auric Goldfinger – has managed to beat him at canasta over and over again.  Du Pont is certain that Goldfinger is a cheat, but he cannot prove it.  In the film, after the oil refinery business, Bond runs into his old CIA friend, Felix Leiter, at the Fontainebleau hotel in Miami, who informs Bond about Goldfinger being a suspected cheat at gin (not canasta).

In both, 007 easily figures out how Goldfinger cheats by sneaking into his hotel room during a game and meeting Jill Masterson, Goldfinger’s assistant/companion.  After ruining Goldfinger’s scheme, in the novel Bond leaves town with Jill, with whom he spends an enjoyable train ride from Florida to New York.  In the film, Bond sleeps with Jill shortly after humiliating Goldfinger, but is almost as shortly thereafter knocked out by Goldfinger’s dangerous henchman, Oddjob.  In the film, Bond awakes to discover Jill dead, covered head to toe with gold paint.  The same method is used to dispatch Jill in the novel, although Bond does not learn of her demise until later in the storyline.  

In the novel, Bond returns to London and is assigned night station duty at MI6 – something he has not done since becoming “00.”  Bond remains interested in Goldfinger, and it turns out that the Bank of England is also interested in him in connection with gold leaks from England.  M suspects that Goldfinger is a moneyman for SMERSH, both providing it with gold and by damaging England’s currency base by not fully reporting his gold holdings to the British government.

The chase begins in earnest in the novel when Goldfinger invites Bond to a round of golf at the Royal St. Marks, seemingly impressed with Bond’s ability to undermine him during the card scheme in Miami.  Unlike the novel, however, in the film Goldfinger never actually met or even saw Bond in Miami, so Bond arranges to paired up with Goldfinger for the golf match.  In both, Bond and Goldfinger agree to play according to the “strict rules” of golf.  This of course leads to Goldfinger’s un-doing, as Bond once again catches him cheating, and uses it against him to win the match by default.  In the novel, it is during the golf match that Goldfinger tells Bond that Jill Masterson is no longer in Goldfinger’s “employ.”

In the novel, Goldfinger invites Bond to dinner following golf.  In the film, by contrast, Goldfinger is irate after losing and cautions Bond to not cross his path again.  Goldfinger makes his point by instructing Oddjob to throw his razor-lined bowler hat a nearby statute, decapitating it.  Goldfinger makes a similar while Bond visits for dinner; he directs Oddjob to demonstrate his physical power and karate expertise in front of Bond, clearly as a warning that Goldfinger possesses the ability to eradicate Bond if he so chooses.  Goldfinger also gives a housecat (which Bond had creatively used as cover while snooping around the house) to Oddjob for dinner, explaining that Oddjob developed a taste for cats during a famine in Korea, his homeland. 

In both, Bond uses a tracking device attached to Goldfinger’s gold-leaden Rolls Royce to follow Goldfinger’s movements.  In the novel, Bond learns that Goldfinger is able to smuggle his gold around Europe using the Rolls and that, in addition to providing some financing to SMERSH, the gold is eventually melted down, fashioned into parts used for airplane seating, then transported to India, where it is refabricated and sold, as gold prices in India are the highest in the world. 

As Bond follows and spies on Goldfinger, he runs into Tilly Masterson, who is hell-bent on killing Goldfinger to avenge her sister Jill’s murder.  In the film, Bond spoils Tilly’s chance to shoot Goldfinger from a hilltop overlooking Goldfinger’s car and then re-encounters her in a wooded area outside of Goldfinger’s factory.  In the novel, Bond and Tilly are both captured by Oddjob; in the film, however, Tilly is killed by a blow from Oddjob’s bowler hat as they try to escape from the woods in 007’s Austin Martin DB

In the novel, Bond finds himself tied spread-eagle to a table with a circular saw positioned at the end of the table.  When Goldfinger switches on the saw, Bond fully expects to die and braces for it.  He passes out and dreams he is in heaven, where he becomes concerned about introducing Tilly to Vesper Lynd, his former flame from Casino Royale.  At the last minute, Goldfinger decides to spare both Bond and Tilly because he concludes that they may be of more use to him alive, in connection with his ultimate plan.

In the film, Goldfinger threatens to do away with Bond in similar fashion; only here Bond is threatened with mutilation by laser rather than circular saw.  Bond is spared we he blurts out that he knows about “Operation Grandslam” – a term he overheard while spying on Goldfinger.

 

In the novel, Goldfinger explains to Bond that he has been in love with gold his entire life and that he intends to rob $15 billion of gold from Fort Knox and flee to Russia aboard a Soviet warship that will coincidently be visiting the United States on the date of the heist.  He hires hires Bond and Tilly to handle the administrative details of Operation Grandslam (under constant watch by Oddjob, of course).  In the film, Goldfinger is more concerned with keeping Bond alive so as to not arise too much interest from MI6 and the CIA.   Moreover, in the film, Goldfinger does not intend to actually steal any of Fort Knox’s gold; rather, his ultimate plan is to use a radioactive device to contaminate America’s gold supply.

Another significant difference between the novel and the film is found in Goldfinger’s relationship with characters from the American criminal underworld.  In the novel, Goldfinger has assembled a crew drawn from different gangs to help him execute his master plan to insert sedatives into Fort Knox’s water supply and then use a nuclear warhead to blow off the door to the gold reserve.  (Goldfinger of course confides to Bond that he actually intends to poison all of the inhabitants of Fort Knox to death.)  One of the mobsters is, naturally, Pussy Galore, who heads a lesbian gang from Harlem called The Cement Mixers.  Goldfinger’s plan is to use his group of co-conspirator’s to pose as a large contingent of Red Cross workers sent into Fort Knox by train to treat the “sick” residents.  In the film, Pussy runs an all-female gang of pilots, who are tasked with flying over Fort Knox disseminating nerve gas to disable all of its inhabitants.

In the novel, just one mafia boss declines to participate and is excused from the group’s meeting.  Minutes later, the group is informed by Goldfinger that he fell down the stairs while leaving the meeting and died.  All of the other gangs indicate that they are on-board in exchange for a share of the $15 billion.   In the film, Goldfinger murders all of the gangsters with nerve gas after explaining his plan to the group.  In direct contrast with the novel, in he film just one gangster declines to participate in the plan; as he exits the meeting Bond slips note into his pocket with instructions to bring to the authorities.  Similarly, in the novel, Bond gets word of the scheme out by writing an SOS note to Leiter (who, in the novel, as a result of the events of Live and Let Die, is now employed by Pinkerton’s; in the film he is still a CIA agent) and hiding it in the bathroom of a small plane the criminals use to take an aerial tour of Fort Knox; it is found by the plane’s cleaning staff and passed along the right channels.

In both the novel and in the film, Goldfinger’s plan falls apart when the military forces guarding Fort Knox pretend to be asleep (or dead) as Goldfinger moves toward Fort Knox, only to awaken and overpower his henchmen.  In the novel, the authorities had been tipped off after the note 007 left in the above-described plane made its way to Leiter.  In the film, it turns out that Pussy Galore got word to Washington, after falling for Bond, and after instructing her gang of pilots to disseminate a harmless agent over Fort Knox.  (In the novel, Pussy does not indicate to 007 that she has switched sides until the very end for the story.)

In the novel, Goldfinger and Oddjob manage to escape from Fort Knox, while in the film, only Goldfinger makes it out, as Oddjob meets his end when he and his razor-equipped bowler hat come into contact with electrified bars in Fort Knox’s vault while attempting to prevent Bond from disabling the dirty bomb meant to contaminate the gold supply, which Bond – with some help – of course manages to do with just seconds remaining on the clock. 

In the novel, Leiter tells Bond that Goldfinger and Oddjob have not yet been apprehended, and Bond heads to the airport to return to London.  There, he is told that he is due for a typhoid shot before embarking.  This is, of course, a trick – Bond is poisoned and passes out.  He awakes mid-air on a plane next to Oddjob.  Pussy is also aboard, dressed as a stewardess, as is Goldfinger himself, dressed as an airline employee.  Goldfinger advises 007 that the plane is flying to Russia, where Bond can expect to be interviewed by SMERSH agents.  Pussy hands Bond a glass of whiskey, with a note stating that she is now “with him.”  To escape, Bond pretends to doze until Oddjob is distracted; he then pulls a knife from his boot and uses it to smash one of the plane’s windows.  Bond next pummels Goldfinger and ultimately strangles him to death.  After taking command of the plane, Bond redirects the flight to land in the ocean near a rescue ship.  Once safely aboard the ship, Pussy comes to Bond’s room and asks if he will visit her in Sing-Sing.  Bond does not address Pussy’s question; instead, he kisses her “ruthlessly” and the novel abruptly concludes. 

A similar finale is found in the film.  After defeating the Fort Knox scheme, Bond boards a flight bound for Washington, where he is to accept the President’s thanks for a job well done.  Of course, Goldfinger is aboard.  He explains that the plane is flying to Cuba.  Bond once again foils Goldfinger’s plans – a fight ensues on board, resulting in Goldfinger – like his loyal henchman Oddjob in the novel – being sucked out of a hole in the fuselage and killed.  Bond and Pussy manage to escape by parachuting out of the plane and, once on land, get to know each other better while awaiting rescue.

Next:  For Your Eyes Only

artwork-by-francesco-francav

Novel publish year – 1958

Film release year – 1962

007 – Sean Connery


Fleming’s sixth novel; the very first film.  Many critics consider Dr. No to be Fleming’s finest 007 novel.  Thankfully, the film adheres closely to the novel in both plot and overall tone.  Both formats are superb, although there are few interesting differences.

The novel begins with M sending 007 to investigate the disappearance of Commander Strangways, MI6’s man in Jamaica.  M is clearly irritated with 007 for nearly getting himself killed at the end of From Russia With Love.  In fact, it is here where Bond is ordered to swap his Beretta – which, according to the armourer, belongs in a “ladies handbag” – for a Walther PPK.

The film begins differently, with the now-famous opening card game sequence where the audience – and Bond-girl Sylvia French – first meet “Bond.  James Bond.”  Then, however, the film transitions to an opening sequence very similar to that of the novel – where Bond discusses his mission to Jamaica with a gruff M.  In the novel, 007 is irritated with M because he believes (correctly) that M has assigned him a light mission because of the injuries Bond suffered during his final struggle with Rosa Klebb in From Russia With Love.  Of course, as Dr. No was the first Bond film, there is no such backstory.

Another interesting contrast is that, in the film, Bond’s flirty relationship with Miss Moneypenny (M’s private secretary) begins immediately.  Not so in the novel – while in many of Fleming’s books Bond ruminates about how lucky he is to have a beautiful secretary, and often interacts with M’s secretary – there is little to no casual or flirtatious banter.

Dr. No (1962)

In both formats, three assassins posing as blind beggars murder Strangways, and Bond’s investigation quickly leads to suspicions about Dr. Julius No, a reclusive man who lives on a nearby island named Crab Key.

One difference is Quarrel.  In the novel, Bond is reunited with his helpful Cayman friend – who had been his sidekick in the second novel, Live and Let Die.  In the film, Quarrel is introduced for the first time, and it initially appears that he is an enemy, until it turns out that he is actually helping CIA agent Felix Leiter, who is in Jamaica, also investigating Dr. No.  Felix – another recurring character in the Bond novels – is also necessarily introduced for the first time in the film, although he has been a friend and colleague of Bond’s since the first novel, Casino Royale.

In both the novel and film, Dr. No uses Crab Key as a base to use radio beams to disrupt American rockets, at the behest of the Soviets.  In the novel, representatives of the Audubon Society (who had been working with Strangways) had traveled Crab Key to check on a bird sanctuary on the island; only one came back alive, but was badly burned by a “dragon.”  The “dragon” also plays a role in the film, as Quarrel explains to a chagrined 007 that a fire-breathing dragon patrols the Crab Key.  Of course, the “dragon” turns out to be a tank equipped with a flame-thrower and is designed to terrorize locals into staying away from Crab Key.  In both, Quarrel dies a horrible fiery death at the hands of the “dragon.”

Dr. No attempts to quickly kill off Bond before he ever reaches Crab Key by having a henchman leave a deadly insect in his hotel room in Jamaica.  In the novel, it is a centipede; in the film, a massive tarantula.

Honey Ryder – the primary Bond girl – is quite similar in both the novel and the film.  Bond encounters her shortly after sneaking onto Crab Key.  The film, of course, features the famous scene where Ursula Andress emerges from the Caribbean carrying seashells.  In the novel, Honey emerges from the water completely naked. 

Bond at 50-007 Best

Whereas Honey plays the a more traditional Bond-girl role in the film, in the novel 007 seems particularly fond of Honey and admires her courage and intelligence, despite the fact that she has had a difficult upbringing and lacks much education.  The novel-version of Honey has a deep knowledge of animals and insects, as she allowed them to live in her house as she grew up.  Her unique insight later saves her life.  In both formats, Bond at times acts almost fatherly towards Honey – for example, he apologizes to her after killing one of Dr. No’s henchmen in cold blood.

Dr. No himself is intelligent and maniacal.  His background is similar in both – in the novel, he had been a treasurer for the Tongs, from which he stole $1 million, after which the Tongs cut off his hands, shot him through the left side of his chest, and left him to die.  Fortunately for him, Dr. No suffered from dextrocardia, so his heart was on the right side of his chest, allowing him to survive.  This explains why Dr. No wears metal pinchers instead of hands.  In the film, however, Dr. No merely explains that the pinchers are the result of a “misfortune.”

In both, Dr. No wines and dines 007 before having him tortured and ordered killed.  In the film, Dr. No actually tries to recruit 007 for SPECTRE, for which he works, but ultimately concludes that Bond is nothing more than a “stupid policeman.”  Although in the novel Dr. No is affiliated with the Soviets and helps them by diverting American rockets, he is not actually a part of SMERSH.

In the final sequences of both, Bond must traverse a tortuous obstacle course designed by Dr. No.  While the course is similar in both formats, in the novel, it ends up in an ocean-side pool that contains a gigantic man-eating squid, which 007 kills before moving on to Dr. No himself.   Interestingly, Dr. No meets his end in the film when he slides into a pool of boiling coolant for his nuclear reactor, his metal pinchers unable to get a grip to pull himself out.  In the novel, Bond kills Dr. No by using a crane to bury him in a massive pile of bird guano.

One final little difference:  in the film, “Underneath the Mango Tree” is a recurring a song – Bond makes his presence on Crab Key known to Honey when he joins her singing as she rinses her shells.  In the novel, when 007 first sees Honey, she is whistling a calypso song named “Marianne,” and Bond similarly joins in.

Next:  Goldfinger

 

 cover_fromrussia

Novel publish year – 1957

Film release year – 1973

007 – Sean Connery


The fifth novel; the second film.  There is not much to say here; both formats are superb, and nearly identical – proving my (sort-of) developing theory that, provided film producers and directors stay close to Fleming’s original narrative, the subsequent film adaptation will be damn good.


The differences:  The most fundamental discrepancy is Colonel Rosa Klebb’s status with the Soviet intelligence services.  In the novel, Klebb is in charge of SMERSH’s Division of Operations and Executions (“
Otyel 2 Division”) Her reputation for prolonged, sadistic torture sessions is legendary within SMERSH.  In the film, Klebb has defected from SMERSH and is working as a SPECTRE operative.  That said, she is, for the most part, no less ruthless.


Both schemes involve the recruitment of naïve Tatiana
Romanova, a low level Soviet cipher clerk based in Istanbul, Turkey who has access to the SPEKTOR (the machine is called a LEKTOR in the film adaptation)– a top secret cipher machine coveted by MI6 and other Western intelligence services (the SPEKTOR was inspired by the World War II era Enigma machine).  In the novel, high-ranking officials at SMERSH have decided to plan an operation to murder 007 to punish MI6 for recent embarrassments (see Dr. No, Live and Let Die, Diamonds are Forever).  In the film, SPECTRE’s plan is to use Tatiana and 007 to obtain the LEKTOR for itself, so it SPECTRE may then offer to sell the machine back to the Soviets (while, at the same time, exacting revenge on Bond and MI6). 

 

Nearly every plot point is similar, if not identical.  One difference, however, is that the novel provides a much more detailed background about 007’s chief antagonist – Red Grant (alias “Colonel Nash” (to Bond)).  In the novel, Fleming explains that Grant is the product of a one-night stand between a German weightlifter and an Irish waitress/hooker.  As Grant grew up, he developed a feared reputation as quiet loner and excellent boxer.  During full moons, Grant gets what he calls “the feelings,” wherein he experiences and uncontrollable compulsion for brutality and violence.  As a young man, Grant killed animals once a month to assuage the feelings.  Eventually, he graduated to vicious homicides; he started by slitting a hobo’s throat.  In fact, Grant defected to Russia because he liked the Soviet’s brutal methods.  SMERSH diagnosed Grant as a manic-depressive homicidal maniac, but, naturally, found use for him as an assassin.  Eventually, Grant rose to become SMERSH’s chief executioner.   A similar upbringing and background is mentioned briefly in the film. 

 

In both the novel and the film, Klebb herself is sexually attracted to Tatiana and attempts to seduce her after she is recruited (using false pretenses) for the mission against 007.  In the film, this is referenced in passing when Klebb mentions how pretty Tatiana is and, towards the end of her interview, runs her hand suggestively across Tatiana’s  leg and neck.  In the novel, by contrast, Klebb changes into lingerie and invites Tatiana to bed; in response, Tatiana quickly flees Klebb’s apartment.

 


SMERSH’s plan is the same: The goal is to convince 007 that Tatiana is in love with him (based solely on his file pictures and reputation) and wants nothing more than to defect to England to be with him.  M and Bond smell the inevitable trap, but the lure of obtaining a SPEKTOR is too great to pass up.  Thus, Bond is sent to Istanbul to see how it all plays out.  In both, Bond quickly sleeps with Tatiana, while SMERSH operatives film the action from a cabinet de voyeur.  The plan is to humiliate Bond (and MI6) following his murder with a scandalous tale of illicit romance. 

 

In both the novel and in the film, Darko Kerim – MI6s man in Istanbul – plays a critical role helping 007 along the way.  In both, he is a colorful and playful larger-than-life-character who is, sadly, killed off while trying to help Bond.

 

There are some interesting, but, ultimately (as far as the narrative goes), minor differences towards the end of each story.  One key difference:  In the film, 007 figures out that Grant (using alias Captain Nash) is a spy when “Nash” orders red wine with dover sole for dinner.  (Of course, no cultured British spy would order “the red kind” with fish.)  In the novel, Bond does not realize Nash’s motives until Nash wakes him up during the train trip from Istanbul on the Orient Express “for a talk.”

 

Another difference in the final sequences can be found in Bond’s ultimate victory over Nash.  In the novel, Bond plays dead and tricks Nash into believing that Bond has been shot and killed in his sleeping car.  Bond then stabs Nash with throwing knifes concealed in his suitcase.  In the film, Bond tricks Nash by appealing to his greed, prompting Nash to attempt to open Bond’s suitcase after Bond tells Nash that the suitcase contains 50 gold sovereigns.  The suitcase is rigged with gas that exploded in Nash’s face; thereafter, Bond uses a throwing knife concealed in the suitcase to stab Nash in the arm before strangling him to death with Nash’s own wristwatch garrote.  In both contexts, Bond’s suitcase is a product of Q-Branch’s ingenuity.

  


In the novel, Bond and Tatiana disembark in Dijon, France.  Bond has a final encounter with Klebb at the Ritz hotel in Paris.  First, Klebb tries to shoot bond with a gun rigged under her desk.  When that fails, Klebb tries to poison Bond with poisoned knitting needles.  Bond instead traps Klebb to the wall with a chair.  In the end, Bond’s old friend Rene Mathis arrives and takes Klebb into custody.  But, as in the movie, Klebb quite literally takes a final stab at Bond using a poisoned knife concealed in the toe of her boot.  In the novel, Klebb connects with the knife; 007 blacks out, and the reader is left hanging as to whether he is alive or dead.  In the film, Tatiana saves Bond by shooting Klebb to death, and the two enjoy a much more pleasant ending touring Venice in a gondola.    

 

Next:  Dr. No

diamants sont eternels

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