Skip to comments.Literary Bond Superior to Movie Version
Posted on 11/25/2012 6:02:27 AM PST by Perdogg
They stand together in a dusty corner of my fathers old bookcase, scratched and battered but still serviceable, as much a part of a boys coming of age in the 1960s as Beatle records and old copies of Playboy in which many of the Bond novels first made their way to junior-high-school-aged males. The Signet paperbacksI dont think Ive ever seen a hardcover of one of Ian Flemings James Bond booksstill conjure up images of adventures in exotic locales, Istanbul and the French Riviera, Japan and Jamaica.
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The one thing, true for almost any and every movie, is the inability to tell the back story and back ground. Mr Barra alludes to this when talking about Bond complaining about how penurious his agency was. Reading the early novels with a historical eye, one is reminded that Britain was under rationing and travel restrictions well into the 1950s and part of Bond's duties came from enforcing those restrictions.
As always perspective and knowledge add much to the enjoyment of reading and watching subjects based in the past.
Of course they are, but then we don’t get the fun car flips, perilous ski ventures, oodles of silly to actually helpful Q-equipment...movies are just more fun. :D
The only Bond movie which pretty much was the same as the book was Dr. No.
All the first ones were close enough that you would recognize the story line tho. Even when they began to get way off the storyline as in “Diamonds Are Forever”, you could still see parts of the book.
They eventually got to where the only similarity to the books was the title and the movies were the worse for it.
Then again most people seem to like unbelievable car chases and impossible fights etc.
I remember seeing those SIGNET Bond books for sale back in the 1960s. About this time the ISRAEL BOND spoofs came out.
Playboy did a Annie Fannie cartoon about James Bond vs Israel Bond.
I also remember when Columnist Bob Green had a fit in print about the MOONRAKER novel he bought, not being the Ian Flemming book, but a novelization of the movie.
The best James Bond movie is still FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE.
Just curious... does the literary Bond have a character named ‘M’ ( 007’s boss )?
RE: The second chapter of Casino Royale is titled “Dossier for M”.
Thanks. How’s the character like? Is it anywhere like Judy Dench? The steely, don’t-care-if-your-agent-dies-as-long-as- the-mission-is-accomplished, type of woman?
I think I recall the book version of Dr. No was an industrial birdlime magnate, I can’t remember what Dr. No from the movie was supposed to do? Also I think I remember Bond fighting a giant squid in the book.
I really liked the book and the movie. Dr. No in the book was a lot more Fu-Manchu-ey than the movie as well.
the books in general were far better, with the films devolving into self parody.
the movie Goldfinger did however solve the problem of the inability to move the gold so Ill give advantage to Glodfinger he movie.
From russia was both good as a book and film, but changing SMERSH to Spectre was dumb in the film version.
Thunderball was the last one to come close to the book.
They could do a whole reboot and re-adapt all of the films from the original books.
But to do so, it would have to be PERIOD pieces and not revisionist updates.
Also, the way Hollywood screenwriting credits go, this would be nixed (if you adapt a book to the screen and someone else later writes the same adaptation using those characters, etc, the original screenwriter often still gets credit for it whereas the TRUE credit belongs to the original author). Additionally, the adapted films reportedly mix elements from different books to concoct the filmed stories.
The one I'd really like in true life and working order is "Little Nellie" from "You Only Live Twice".
When a book is sold to the movie makers they call in pro script writers to work it over, often leaving nothing from the book but the title and main character.
Years ago I read a book THE GUN by C S Forester. It was later made into a movie THE PRIDE AND THE PASSION and was greatly changed form the book, almost like a completely different story, but still worth watching.
It is true that the literary connection with the James Bond novels is, and ever shall be, more complete than any film company’s lavish production, of the screenplay, derived from the novel.
I own the Penguin Book Company Centenary celebration of publication of the Ian Fleming novels, complete with ‘pulp’ covers, circa 2008. I’ve traveled a lot until a few years ago, and these were on my “library-building list”.
I started reading them, after purchasing them from a drug store on the way home from junior high school, in 1967.
I still find reading a real book, without the aid of electronics and insufficient battery power, always more enjoyable.
Dr. No: Very close to novel, though the villian’s operation was somewhat altered. No mention of SPECTRE in novel, but it was in the movie.
From Russia With Love: Very close, though the operation in the novel was organized by the Soviet SMERSH, not SPECTRE as in the movie.
Goldfinger: Very close to novel, though the movie improved on the novel by realizing it was easier to nuke America’s gold than steal it. The Pussy Galore character in the novel is a definite lesbian, though this element was eliminated in the movie.
Thunderball: Very close to novel, which is appropriate since the novel’s premise was originally conceived as a sceen treatment (do an internet search for Kevin McClory for the whole ugly story).
You Only Live Twice: Movie had rockets launched from Japan, trying to trigger WW3. Book had Bond seeking revenge on Blofeld (in Japan) for killing Tracy in the previous book, “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service”. Aside from the Japanese setting and a few characters in common, the film is a major departure.
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service: Very close. The character of Tracy Draco is very close, though she plays a more active role in the movie (understandable, since she was played by Diana Rigg). The young women hypnotized into going out and spreading bioweapons were all from the U.K. in the book, while they were international in the movie.
Diamonds are Forever: The diamond smuggling is vaguely portrayed, and the character names of Peter Franks, Tiffany Case, Shady Tree, and Wint and Kidd are kept. Everything in the movie dealing with Blofeld and lasers is pure Hollywood hogwash. The novel is significantly better than the movie.
Live and Let Die: Tenuous connection. The character of Solitaire is in both, but the similarity is vague. There are some elements in the novel that were used in later movies, including the mangling of Felix Leiter (seen in the movie License to Kill) and dragging Bond and a woman across a coral reef so they’d be eaten by sharks (see in the movie For Your Eyes Only).
The Man With the Golden Gun: Aside from the names Scaramanga (and some details of his life story) and Mary Goodnight, no similarity to novel.
The Spy Who Loved Me: the novel by this name is unique among the Fleming books. It’s the only one written in the first person, through the eyes of a French-Canadian woman who only meets Bond in the later chapters. Similarity to the movie is nil.
Moonraker: The villian’s name in each is Drax. Beyond that, zip.
For Your Eyes Only: Fleming’s book by this title was actually a collection of short stories, named “From a View to a Kill” (see movie entry below), “For Your Eyes Only”, “Quantum of Solace”, “Risico” and “The Hildebrand Rarity”. This movie was mostly a combination of elements from “For Your Eyes Only” (young bow-and-arrow-wielding woman seeks revenge on man who killed her parents) and “Risico” (two Greek smugglers involve Bond in their violent rivalry). The movie also got the coral-dragging idea from “Live and Let Die” (see above).
Octopussy: Fleming’s “novel” was another collection of short stories titled “Octopussy and the Living Daylights,” consisting of those two stories, with a third, “The Property of a Lady”, added for the paperback edition. The movie combined elements from “Octopussy” and “The Property of a Lady.” In “Octopussy”, the title refers to the nickname given to an actual octopus that lives in the coral near the beach home of retired secret service agent Dexter Smythe. Bond goes to Smythe’s house to reveal his knowledge of Smythe’s criminal actions during WW2, with the idea of letting Smythe kill himself honorably rather than submit to a court-martial. In the movie, “Octopussy” is the nickname of the Maud Adams character, who says she is Smythe’s daughter (in the short story, Smythe had no children) and she appreciates that Bond gave him a chance to avoid dishonour. The “Property of a Lady” is the lot name of a Fabergé egg put up for auction. In the short story, the egg is being used as a payoff for a double-agent, while the movie uses it as a payoff to the bad guy.
A View to a Kill: Although the title was from a Fleming short story, the similarity between this lousy movie and that story is nil.
The Living Daylights: The short story by this name featured Bond going head-to-head with a blonde sniper. The rest of the movie, involving Afghanistan and whatnot, is pure Hollywood.
License to Kill: The first movie title not taken from a Fleming work. One element, a rather messily-murdered oceanographer named Milton Krest, is taken from the short story “The Hildebrand Rarity” (see above). Felix Leiter gets mauled in this movie, in a manner taken from the novel “Live and Let Die”.
Goldeneye: A Hollywood original, though the film was named after Ian Fleming’s house in Jamaica.
As mentioned, The World is Not enough is a Bond family motto, though the connection to James Bond is doubtful. In the novel “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service”, Bond meets with some heraldry experts with the idea of learning enough to pass as one under the cover name “Hillary Bray”. The first expert insists on regaling Bond with the history of a famous English family by that name (with “The World is Not Enough” as a motto and for whom “Bond street” in London is named) but Bond shows scant interest and denies any connection, since his father is Scottish.
[Heraldry Expert Griffon Or] reached for another volume that lay open on his desk and that he had obviously prepared for Bond’s delectation. “The coat of arms, for instance. Surely that must concern you, be at least of profound interest to your family, to your own children? Yes, here we are. ‘Argent on a chevron sable three bezants’.” He held up the book so Bond could see. “A bezant is a golden ball, as I am sure you know, Three balls.”
Bond commented drily, “That is certainly a valuable bonus” - the irony was lost on Griffon Or - “but I’m afraid I am still not interested. And I have no relatives and no children. Now about this man...”
Griffin Or broke in excitedly, “And this charming motto of the line, “The World is not Enough”. You do not wish to have the right to it?”
‘It is an excellent motto which I will certainly adopt,” said Bond curtly. He looked pointedly at his watch. “Now, I’m afraid we really must get down to business.”
The later movies may have a few random Fleming elements here and there, but you’d need a freeze-frame to find some of them.
Moonraker you would have the very curvy Gala Brand and the swimming scene and the bridge game.
I dont think they could for a start they would not be PC and they would get the audience.I read the books 40yrs ago and they were amazing i imagined all the situations him getting the girls ,fighting the bad guys pure escapism.Audience would be bored to death watching the adaptions.
My niece saw Skyfall thought it was great gave her Dr No to look at got a text a few days later,”Wow James Bond movies sure have changed”she did not like it thought it was kinda juvenile and funny.,dragons and spiders and a man with metal hands.
Thanks for the excellent synopsis. I must get around to reading all the works one of these days...
Give her the books to read.
Unfortunately, today Honeychile would be shaved bald down yonder. Blech.
She does not read gave her the Harry Potter books as a xmas gift years ago still sitting on the shelf gathering dust.
Books very enjoyable, when i was a kid read Len Deighton,John Le Carre etc.Pure escapism kids would not enjoy them now different generation..
If you have seen the Bond movies books possibly might be a let down nothing like the later movies.
Casino Royale,Dr No,From Russia with love and Goldfinger you might enjoy after that Bond was really just a trademark name movie went with the times,think Roger Moore during the disco and Star Wars era and now Bond during the Bourne style era,gritty and violent..
Excellent essay! Well done!!!
John Batchelor was discussing last night (during the 9pm hour — at about 9:30, I think) the issue of James Bond films and outer space exploration. He had some expert discussing how Ian Fleming wrote about space and moon exploration vis-a-vis Bond. It was quite an interesting segment.