Monday, 11 December 2017

Ian Fleming in A Constant Heart

Until the publication this year of her diaries, Maud Russell’s pivotal role in Ian Fleming’s James Bond career largely remained unknown. Were it not for Maud’s loan of £5000, Ian Fleming may not have been able to buy Goldeneye, his winter retreat in Jamaica where he wrote all the Bond novels. In addition, Maud’s husband, Gilbert, may have had a hand in Fleming’s wartime appointment to the Naval Intelligence Division (NID), from which Fleming derived so much inspiration.


The diaries, edited with care by Maud Russell’s granddaughter, Emily Russell, focus on a seven-year period from the eve of the Second World War in 1938 to the end of hostilities in 1945. Ian Fleming and Maud first met in December 1931, or possibly early 1932, and their friendship – and intimacy – deepened, especially during the war, when Maud became Ian’s confidant and she herself gained a position at NID. The diaries are not clear on the matter, but it is likely that Maud and Ian were lovers.
 

The diaries offer a personal view on the course of the war – Maud alludes to momentous events in passing as she writes about her own life and those of her family and friends – and for students of Ian Fleming (and James Bond), they provide insights into the very foundations of Fleming’s life as a novelist.
 

Reading the diaries, I was struck by several aspects. Ian Fleming became enchanted by Jamaica while visiting the island for a naval conference in 1942, and had vowed to return there after the war and build a home. Maud’s diaries after this time, however, suggest that it was the thought of escaping to a tropical paradise that had really attracted Ian, and that, to some extent, the choice of island had been a secondary consideration. Maud records in October 1943 that one evening she and Ian discussed ‘Tahiti – or any escape island – and the formidable future till after 12 o’clock.’ Tahiti came up again in conversation in January 1944. Maud wrote that almost every time she saw Ian, he wanted ‘to talk about cottages, seashores, Tahiti, long naked holidays on coral islands and marriage’. Tellingly, that evening, Ian had also spoken about writing ‘a novel or two’ after the war.
 

The diaries give us, too, an insight into Ian Fleming’s activities at NID. We tend to assume that Fleming barely saw any action during the war, and largely stayed out of harm’s way in Room 39 at the Admiralty. Maud’s diaries, however, reveal that Fleming participated in several secret missions in France and elsewhere that placed him in danger.
 

In November 1940, Maud records that Ian ‘has been on some dangerous job again,’ and indeed Fleming had escaped serious harm when a house at which he had been staying was ‘blown away’. Maud also described Fleming’s journey close to the end of the war to Schloss Tambach in Germany to retrieve military documents. I was surprised to read, as well, that, earlier in 1941, Ian Fleming had considered resigning from his NID duties and joining a motor torpedo boat crew where he would see more action. Of course, the idea may never have been a serious one, but it perhaps reveals an early fascination with underwater action that would be expressed later in his novels Live and Let Die and Thunderball.
 

These and other incidences to which Maud Russell refers confirm the impression gained from other accounts that the war was the making of Ian Fleming and that it was a very formative period for him. More generally, the diaries reveal Maud’s humanity, warmth and intelligence, and identify her as an essential witness to aspects of the war that are often left out of the history books. Emily Russell’s book is enthralling and deserves a place on the bookshelf of every Fleming aficionado, alongside those other indispensable first-hand accounts, the letters of Ian Fleming (edited by Fergus Fleming) and those of Ann Fleming (edited by Mark Amory).
 

A Constant Heart: The War Diaries of Maud Russell, 1938-1945, edited by Emily Russell, is Published by the Dovecote Press

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

An interview with Henry Hemming

The latest issue of MI6 Confidential, which celebrates the 50th anniversary of You Only Live Twice, has just been published. In this special issue, the film's dubbing editor, Norman Wanstall, talks to Matthew Field and Ajay Chowdhury, there is an article on a never-produced film treatment inspired by the novel of You Only Live Twice, and, poignantly, the magazine contains the final interview with the late Karin Dor, who played Bond girl Helga Brandt.

I'm honoured also to have contributed to the issue. Away from You Only Live Twice, the magazine includes my interview with historian Henry Hemming about his book, M: Maxwell Knight, MI5's Greatest Spymaster. In the interview, we talked about Maxwell Knight's life, his motivations, his extraordinary success running agents, and, of course, the extent to which Fleming's M was based on the spymaster.

 
It's a fascinating issue, and anyone interested in James Bond and the world of espionage, fictional or otherwise, should buy a copy. For details of how to purchase a copy, or subscribe to the magazine, click here to visit the MI6 Confidential website.

Sunday, 26 November 2017

Some Bond memes in Archer

Better late than never, I’ve finally got round to watching Archer, the animated spoof espionage series featuring the suave, irresponsible, and misogynistic secret agent, Stirling Archer. Naturally, the whole series draws very heavily on the James Bond films for inspiration, and H Jon Benjamin, who voices Archer, reveals in an interview with MI6 Confidential that his performance is based to some extent on Sean Connery’s Bond. Apart from referencing Bond in a general sense, the series alludes more specifically to the films, and I noted a few of these references while watching season one.
 

The ninth episode, ‘Job Offer’, in which Archer takes a job with a rival agency, Archer and Lana, his colleague and former lover, are tied on a metal table and threatened by a laser beam, à la Goldfinger. ‘Skytanic’ (episode 7) has an airship that brought to my mind A View to a Kill. The sixth episode, ‘Skorpio’, in which Archer rescues Lana from an arms dealer, features Archer in frogman mode and involved in an underwater battle that could have been taken from the storyboards of Thunderball.
 
A scene from 'Skorpio', Archer, season 1
James Bond is name-checked a couple of times in the series, and the cover of the season one DVD clearly derives from the poster of Live and Let Die.




Fictional spies of earlier vintage are not forgotten either. In ‘Dial M for Mother’ (episode 10), Malory Archer, agency chief and Archer’s mother, has a copy of Greenmantle by John Buchan beside her on her bed. The episode title is especially interesting. It references a Hitchcock film, of course, but it takes on extra significance in the context of James Bond: M was Ian Fleming’s nickname for his mother, Eve, and according to Fleming’s biographer, John Pearson, Eve provided some of the inspiration for James Bond’s chief.
 
A scene from 'Dial M for Mother', Archer, season 1
Issue 25 of MI6 Confidential has an excellent article on Archer, which includes interviews with the cast and the creative team, and is well-worth reading. Meanwhile, I’ll get on with catching up on the remaining seven series.

Friday, 17 November 2017

A note on the origin of the loquacious villain

The trope or meme of the loquacious villain who loves the sound of his own voice and can’t help revealing the secrets of his nefarious scheme is a familiar one from the Bond films and similar action or adventure films. It’s attested, too, in literature. We see it in the Bond novels, of course, but also in older fiction. A novel by William Le Queux offers one example.


In The Mysterious Three (1915), Dago Paulton (the book is of its time!), with his accomplice, Baronne de Cauldron, has trapped the hero, Richard Ashton and his adventurer friend, Frank Faulkner, in a room of a chateau in France. Paulton begins to make things very clear to Ashton.
“You possess information you have no right to possess,” he tells Ashton. “You know the Thorolds’ secret, and until your lips are closed I shall not feel safe.”
“You can’t suppose I shall reveal it,” Ashton answers.
“Not reveal it, man, when you know what is at stake! You must think me very confiding if you suppose I shall trust your bare assurance. As I have said, I intend to – to – well, to close both your mouths.”
“Why Faulkner’s,” Ashton asked.
“Because he is to marry Gladys Deroxe, who is so friendly with Vera Thorold, who is to be my wife. Vera knows too much, and may have told her little friend what she knows. I mistrust Vera’s friends – even her friends’ friends. You understand?”
“Oh, why talk so much!” the Baronne interrupts. “Tell him everything in a few words, and have done with it!”
The Baronne’s interjection reminded me of Scott in Austin Powers (“Why don't you just shoot him now? I'll go get a gun”), and suggests that the talkative villain was a somewhat over-familiar trope even when Le Queux was writing. I’m sure there are other examples, for instance from the likes of John Buchan, and it’s a topic to I will certainly return. Watch this space!

Friday, 10 November 2017

Danger Mouse, Special Agent Oso and James Bond

A little while ago, I posted a tweet about a couple of Bond-inspired episode titles from the latest series of Danger Mouse, featuring the world's greatest secret agent. I was subsequently alerted to another children’s animated series, Special Agent Oso, whose episode titles are also Bond-inspired.
 
The title of episode 13 of series 2 (2017) of Danger Mouse
 

Special Agent Oso is a pre-school series about a bear who, in each episode, helps a child complete a task (for instance, flying a kite or setting the table). The series was originally broadcast on the Disney Channel in 2009. Series 1 was broadcast between 2009 and 2010, the second from 2010 to 2012. In total, 116 episodes were shown, each one with a title that plays on the names of the Bond films or, in two cases, the titles of Bond songs.
 

There is, for example, ‘From Grandma With Love’ (From Russia With Love), ‘A Zoo To A Thrill’ (A View To A Kill), ‘The Chairs Are Not Enough’ (The World Is Not Enough), and Dr Snow (Dr No). Some of the titles are unintentionally ironic. ‘License to Cheer Up’ is obviously based on Licence to Kill, which, until the Daniel Craig era, had been the most serious and humourless Bond film of the series. ‘Drink Another Day’ (Die Another Day), meanwhile, could be the very words Bond lives by.
 

Just for fun, I catalogued all the titles and did some basic analysis to see if any patterns emerged in the selection of Bond film titles. The most commonly used film name is Goldfinger with 11 occurrences. Octopussy, Tomorrow Never Dies, Moonraker, and Never Say Never Again are the least frequently used film names, with one occurrence each.
 
Frequency of Bond film titles used in Special Agent Oso
 

There is no clear difference in the choice of titles between the two series; generally, the most commonly used film names in series 1 remain common in series 2, but there are some interesting differences. Diamonds Are Forever, Licence to Kill and The World Is Not Enough are used less in series 2, while Dr No, The Man With The Golden Gun, and Thunderball increase in frequency in series 2. The most substantial increase is Quantum of Solace, which isn’t represented at all in series 1, but accounts for almost 6% of titles in series 2. Series 1 was broadcast in 2009, after Quantum of Solace had been released, but presumably planning of the series began before the film’s release date of 2008.
 
Comparative proportions of film titles used in series 1 and 2 of Special Agent Oso
 

What is mildly surprising is the middle ranking of From Russia With Love. The film title is a favourite of newspaper headline writers, but evidently the writers of Special Agent Oso haven’t been quite so keen. It seems that what is suitable for the press isn’t necessarily so suitable or amenable for children’s programming. The survey of Special Agent Oso titles also shows that Bond film names have varying levels of adaptability. Octopussy and Moonraker have poor adaptability and are little used, while Goldfinger has a high level of adaptability and is prolific.
 

Returning to Danger Mouse, since the cartoon was relaunched in 2015, there have been only ten episodes with Bond-inspired titles. While this is too small a dataset for comparison with Special Agent Oso, it is revealing that the only Bond film title to be used twice in Danger Mouse is Goldfinger – Greenfinger (also the name of a Special Agent Oso episode) and Gold Flinger.

Friday, 3 November 2017

Bond Vehicle Collectibles, and Corgi's DB5 as archaeological artefact

The other week a work colleague of mine brought in an old, rather play-worn Corgi Aston Martin DB5 to show me, knowing that I was a James Bond fan. I was delighted that he had done so, and I examined the car so that I could tell him more about it. I told him that the car was an early model, being gold painted, rather than silver, and that it had other features typical of the early model; the bullet-proof screen at the back, for instance, was raised by pressing the exhaust pipe, rather than the overriders extending from the rear bumper, as in later models.


Coincidentally, I had just read a new book about toy James Bond vehicles, so was able to give my colleague much more information about Corgi’s best known model. Bond Vehicle Collectibles (Amberley, 2017) by Paul Brent Adams is a guide to the Bond-related toy vehicles produced not only by Corgi, but other manufacturers, among them Hot Wheels and Johnny Lightning. The book is written from a collector’s point of view, and so contains a useful account of all the different models, their scales, and variations in design, and provides advice about filling gaps in a Bond car collection (for instance where official models of a car that featured in a Bond film don’t exist).
 
Bond Vehicle Collectibles (Amberley, 2017)
What’s best about the book, though, is its stunning colour photographs. Most of the images are of cars produced for the 'James Bond Car Collection', a part-work issued by Eaglemoss (in the UK, at least) in monthly instalments from 2007. The collection included many cars never produced by Corgi or other manufacturers. Coincidentally (again!), this series has just been relaunched by Eaglemoss as 'Bond in Motion: The Official James Bond Die-Cast Collection'.
 

The book is a slim one, and if you’re after more detail on the Corgi models, I recommend Dave Worrall’s 1996 book, The James Bond Diecasts of Corgi. However, for a good overview of all the toy vehicles and some great photography, then Paul Adams’ book is a must.


Returning to my colleague’s DB5, it occurred to me as I was turning it round in my hands and looking closely at the details, that I was seeing the car as an artefact (I am, after all, an archaeologist). There was a great deal one could tell just from that model, and many of the questions I’m looking to answer when I examine, say, Roman pottery, I could also ask of the DB5 – date, type, origin, condition, context, and so on, allowing me not just to catalogue aspects of its design and manufacture, but also form a picture of its use and history as an object. The model cars of James Bond may well yet be a future specialism in the study of material culture, with Bond Vehicle Collectables and other books providing much of the groundwork!

Friday, 27 October 2017

'Like something out of James Bond'

We often read stories in the papers or online in which aspects of the story have been likened to ‘something out of James Bond’. Take a recent case of a cigarette scam in Yorkshire, which was reported in various newspapers. The police uncovered a hidden room full of contraband goods, which the police described as a ‘James Bond-style room’. Reports about new technology rarely fail to mention James Bond. A new submersible vehicle designed by Aston Martin, for example, was inevitable dubbed, in another recent article, ‘James Bond-worthy’. References such as these have been made for decades, even before the Bond film series was launched, and sometimes in the most unlikely publications.
 

Farm and Country magazine is far removed from the world of James Bond, but a column ('Leaning on the gate') by farmer Peter Fraser in the edition published 27th April 1960 managed to include a reference to Fleming’s creation. The column offered Fraser’s view of farming in the spring, and described how two of his Jersey cows had died mysteriously. There was talk of magnesium deficiency, a drop in temperature and poor quality grass, but no one had really got to the bottom of it. ‘We need a new detective to solve this mystery,’ Fraser wrote. ‘Some new James Bond – we had better ring up Ian Fleming.’
 

An article by Lord Kilbracken ('Topsy and the treasure') that appeared in The Tatler on 27th September 1961 not only mentions Ian Fleming, but is about a subject that might have appealed to him. In the piece, Lord Kilbracken revealed an interest in the circumstances surrounding a fabled hoard of objects known as Rommel's Treasure. The treasure is said to have comprised priceless objects stolen by the German army in North Africa in World War Two and subsequently dumped in the sea off Bastia in Corsica. Lord Kilbracken had learnt of an underwater search for the treasure by 'a shadowy figure straight out of Ian Fleming', a Mr Helle. I agree - the story is well into Live and Let Die or 'Octopussy' territory.
 
Headline from the Aberdeen Evening Express, 29 July 1965
 

A more conventional story that alluded to James Bond appeared in the Aberdeen Evening Express in July 1965. The piece reported the trial of three people, 'including an attractive bus conductress', who had been charged with possessing Indian hemp. The legal representative of one of the accused is reported as saying: 'The whole story reads more like a James Bond thriller than a court case.'
 

These items reveal that, even before the film series, James Bond had become synonymous with intrigue and mystery and was sufficiently embedded into the cultural environment to be evoked in unrelated contexts. The piece in the Aberdeen Evening Express is particularly telling, as it suggests that the novels remained an important cultural touchstone after 1962, when Dr No was released, and that it took a few years before the film series overtook the novels in cultural significance.

Thursday, 19 October 2017

Fleming's France

If you were to name the spiritual home of James Bond, you might say London, Jamaica, or possibly Scotland. What about France? The country certainly has a good claim. Two of Bond's adventures – Casino Royale and 'From a View to a Kill' - are set entirely in the country (save for a brief return to London for M's briefing), and Bond passes through France in two others, Goldfinger and On Her Majesty's Secret Service. What's more, Bond knows a thing or two about French food and wine, especially Champagne, has good command of the language, even down to the vernacular, and, as a youth, lost his virginity in Paris.


The connections between James Bond and France, as well as between the country and Ian Fleming, are explored in La France de Fleming: James Bond, une passion française (2017, Le Temps Editeur), a new book by French academic and Bond aficionado, Pierre-Oliver Lombarteix. The author reminds us that Fleming's relationship with France began very early. Many of the books Fleming is likely to have read in his childhood – by Oppenheim, Le Queux or Buchan – are set in France. His mother, Eve, had French ancestry, his grandmother, Kate, adopted a French girl, Sybil Mayor, and tragically, his father died in northern France during the First World War.
 

While rarely seeing action himself during the Second World War, Ian Fleming directed operations that were based in France, and he witnessed the Allied raid of German positions in Dieppe. After the war, Fleming frequently visited France, and, on the eve of the publication of Casino Royale, drove to Marseille to meet one of his heroes, the underwater explorer Jacques Cousteau.
 

It is little wonder, then, that the Bond novels would become imbued with the essence of Fleming’s experiences of France. His visit to Marseille alone would leave its mark on two novels, Live and Let Die and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, and the books would include many more elements of France. Some of Fleming’s heroines have French origins. Solitaire’s real name is Simone Latrelle, Vivienne Michel is French-Canadian, and Tracy – La Comtesse Teresa di Vincenzo – is the daughter of a French crime lord. As for the villains, Mr Big is half French and Le Chiffre is French by culture, if not birth. Several chapters title are in French or incorporate French terms, and there are many occurrences of French in the text besides gastronomic references. As Lombarteix suggests in his study, French is the second language of the Bond books.
 

La France de Fleming is an interesting and insightful read. It explains why the French continue to have a love affair with the novels (and films) of James Bond, and reminds us that Bond is a global character, a fictional hero for everyone. Lombarteix’s book also reminds us that there exists some excellent Bond scholarship that is not in English, which provides a different and exciting perspective on the Bond phenomenon. An essential addition to the literary Bond fan’s library.

Friday, 13 October 2017

Ian Fleming and William Le Queux - some literary connections

William Le Queux, the prolific late 19th and early 20th century author of novels of espionage, international intrigue and mystery, has often been cited as an influence on Ian Fleming's writing. Reading just some of his many books, it's easy to see why.
 

Take Mademoiselle of Monte Carlo, for instance. In this crime story, published in 1921, we are introduced to protagonist Hugh Henfrey in the gaming rooms of the casino at Monte Carlo. He's observing the eponymous Mademoiselle, a woman who regularly occupies the roulette tables and enjoys a great deal of success. Henfrey suspects that the Mademoiselle knows something about the mysterious death of his father, and confronts her at her grand house at the end of a day's gambling. Before the Mademoiselle can reveal anything, however, she is shot by an unknown assassin. The police naturally suspect Henfrey, who manages to escape their clutches with the help of a master criminal, a Robin Hood figure known as the Sparrow who has his own reasons for intervening.


The story begins in the French Riviera, but the location shifts rapidly, taking in Paris, Italy, Spain and England as Henfrey tries to stay one step ahead of the law while attempting to solve the mystery of his father's death and the Mademoiselle's (attempted) murder. It's difficult not to think of Casino Royale during the Monte Carlo scenes (the weapon used by the would-be assassin, incidentally, is a rifle disguised as a walking stick; Le Chiffre's henchman who threatens Bond which such a weapon at the baccarat table must have read the book), and generally the tale is set in a world with which James Bond would be very familiar.
 

It's not just Ian Fleming who may have been inspired by Le Queux. One curious trait of the Sparrow is that he has a deformed hand, which he hides in a black glove. I couldn't help thinking of Julius Gorner and his deformed hand (occasionally hidden in a white glove) in Sebastian Faulks' Devil May Care.
 

Let's take another book - The Stretton Street Affair (1922). In this mystery, another Hugh, this time Hugh Garfield, is invited into the London house of a wealthy businessman, statesman and philanthropist, Oswald De Gex, and persuaded to sign a death certificate on behalf of De Gex's 'niece', who had apparently suffered a heart attack. Garfield does so and then takes a drink brought to him. He falls unconscious, and a month later comes to his senses in a French asylum, having no memory of how he got there. The mystery deepens when, in Italy, he sees the young woman for whom he signed the death certificate very much alive. What's more, De Gex denies all knowledge of having met Garfield and even having a niece.


It's an intriguing story, and contains a trope that has seen expression in other work, including the Bond books and films and beyond: a deference towards the rich and powerful that alone deflects suspicion away from them. Garfield naturally suspects De Gex of foul play and behind some devious international plot, but no one - neither his friends or the police - believes him. How can De Gex, a great and famous man and friend to Europe's politicians, be involved in any criminal plot? It's inconceivable.
 

We see it in John Buchan’s Richard Hannay adventure, The Three Hostages (1924), and this deference also allows Moonraker's Sir Hugo Drax (Hugo, Hugh - is there a link?) to develop his nefarious scheme. Even James Bond is taken in ('He felt a glow of admiration and almost of reverence for this man and his majestic achievement'). In the film version, the Minister of Defence quickly apologises to Drax when he, M and Bond enter Drax's lab to find nothing there. And in A View To A Kill, the Minister of Defence (again!) dismisses the idea that Max Zorin is up to no good ('Max Zorin? Impossible. He's a leading French industrialist').
 

There was something else that I noticed. In a recent post, I discussed the origin of the 'Bond - James Bond' form of introduction, highlighting that it was a standard formula in earlier 20th century thrillers and no doubt also books of other genres. William Le Queux's books underline the point: '“I haven't the pleasure of your name.” “Garfield - Hugh Garfield,” I said. “Mine is De Gex - Oswald De Gex,” he said.
 

One final observation: William Le Queux was a contemporary of E Phillips Oppenheim (considered to be another influence on Fleming’s writing). Both wrote similar sorts of novels, set in similar sorts of places, featuring similar sorts of characters. One of Oppenheim’s characters is called Mr Grex (who appears in the novel Mr Grex of Monte Carlo (1915)), which is obviously very close to De Gex. Take the authors’ names off the covers, and I expect to modern readers the novels would be indistinguishable. The point is that it’s difficult to be specific about influences on Ian Fleming. We can recognise elements of early 20th century fiction in Fleming’s work, but these were common tropes or memes in the sort of fiction that Ian Fleming would have read in his youth.

Friday, 6 October 2017

Another variant of the 'Bond is what every man would like to be...' meme

It was Global James Bond Day yesterday, which marks the release of the first James Bond film, Dr No in 1962. I thought I’d search through the British Newspaper Archive for contemporaneous reviews of the film. One of those I found, published in The Tatler on 17th October that year, was quite interesting for more than one reason.
 
From The Tatler, 17th October 1962
The review is positive, though the reviewer, Elspeth Grant, viewed the film as a comedy. 


She begins:
‘Mr Ian Fleming’s Dr No is billed as “The First James Bond Film!” – and I don’t mind how many more the producers, Messrs Harry Saltzman and Albert R Broccoli, have up their sleeves, providing they are as much fun as this one, which Mr Terence Young has directed with skill.’

The review ends:
 

‘Mr Bond has so many perils to brave – it’s no wonder he feels it necessary to fortify himself with a stiff vodka martini at frequent intervals: by the end of this killing picture, you’ll probably want one yourself – if you can stop giggling long enough to drink it.’

Also included in the review is a sentence that has a ring of familiarity.
 

‘Every male will instantly identify himself with this devastating he-man, and no doubt many a swooning female will wish she had half the luck of the Misses Eunice Gayson, Lois Maxwell, Zena Marshall and the ravishing Ursula Andress.’

If not exactly a variant of Raymond Mortimer’s phrase, that James Bond is 'what every man would like to be, and what every woman would like to have between her sheets', Elspeth Grant’s line certainly conveys the same idea.

Thursday, 28 September 2017

When James Bond went cruising

Over the decades, James Bond has been used to advertise a range of products, among them clothes, shoes and tea, that have had no official connection to the books or films. In 1963, James Bond was used to advertise cruises.
 

A supplement to Tatler magazine in May 1963 included an advertisement for Union-Castle cruises. The advertisement, ‘No pistol packing for James Bond’, features an illustration of James Bond by a swimming pool on board a cruise ship and in the company of a bikini-clad woman. The accompanying text reveals that they are on the Windsor Castle, a cruise ship on its way to Cape Town, and that M is sending Bond there for rest and recuperation. The woman, called Orchid, is an agent too, as she confesses to Bond that M ‘sent me to keep an eye on you’.
 
Union-Castle advert in the Tatler, 29 May 1963 (c) Illustrated London News Group
Published after the film version of Dr No was released, the advertisement inevitably contains nods to the film. James Bond resembles Sean Connery, and from the text it’s clear that Bond has consumed ‘vodka martinis at shipboard prices’. The books have not been forgotten either; another activity that Bond has enjoyed is ‘bridge at 1d-a-hundred’, the copywriter presumably being aware of the bridge game in Moonraker
 

The second advert (‘Holiday with pay-off for James Bond’) was published in the Tatler in October 1963. This time, Bond is holidaying on the Blue Lagoon beach near Mombasa, having travelled on the cruise ship the Kenya Castle. Later, Bond will travel on to Durban via Zanzibar, Dar es Salaam and Beira. Bond’s holiday is again courtesy of M, apparently to thank Bond for his efforts on ‘the Klemanski case’. Bond again has female company, a blonde, bikini-clad woman (not Orchid, it seems). ‘James, promise me you haven’t brought any weapons on this holiday,’ she asks. ‘Only for fishing…,’ he replies as he suggestively clasps a spear-gun.
 
Union-Castle advert in the Tatler, 16 October 1963 (c) Illustrated London News Group
Again, Bond resembles Sean Connery, and while the advertisement doesn’t include other obvious references to Dr No or From Russia With Love, which had been released in the same month, the scene curiously prefigures the beach scene in Thunderball (1965), in which Bond is with female company (in that case Domino) and armed with a spear-gun.
 

The Union-Castle advertisements were published at a time when exotic travel was becoming more affordable and cruising was gaining in popularity; the film Carry On Cruising, which poked gentle fun at the industry and its passengers, was released in 1962.
 

The advertisements also remind us of the part that the novels played in generating James Bond’s advertising power. Over time, the films would come to dominate, and the tropes or memes presented in advertising featuring Bond would derive largely, and probably exclusively, from the films only (though of course these contain memes that can be traced back to the books). In 1963, however, the books were still influential.
 

After all, the cruise advertisements were published, as they acknowledged, ‘with a bow to Ian Fleming, author of the excellent ‘James Bond’ books, published by Jonathan Cape: and to Eon Productions, whose film ‘Dr No’ is the first of a series based on these books’.

Thursday, 21 September 2017

Improve your golf, with Ian Fleming

Ian Fleming was fond of golf manuals. His favourite was How to Play Your Best Golf All the Time by Tommy Armour, which he also placed on James Bond’s bookshelf, along with Ben Hogan’s The Modern Fundamentals of Golf. And The Golfer's Manual; Being an Historical and Descriptive Account of the National Game of Scotland by Allan Robertson is among the volumes that made up Fleming’s collection of books ‘that had started something’.
 

So one can imagine that, when he himself appeared in some golfing instructions, Ian Fleming was thrilled to say the least.
 

Henry Cotton’s Golf Notes were syndicated around the world. The pioneering golfer’s notes that were published in Farm and Country on 30th September 1959 focused on the golf swing and the importance of good position of the legs and feet. To illustrate Henry Cotton’s various points, the article includes photographs of golfers in action. Golfer no. 1, for instance, ‘does not know how to use his toes or his hips’, while the legs of golfer no. 2 ‘have worked against his arm swing’.
 

Golfer no. 3 was none other than Ian Fleming. So what was his golfing malaise? ‘Celebrated author Ian Fleming,’ Cotton wrote, ‘is caught at a later point in his swing, and whilst his arms could be coming to a position of rest, both his feet are firmly anchored on his heels. In all three cases the body is nowhere near completely facing the hole; it is locked by the hips and “dead feet”.’
 
Ian Fleming's golf swing and 'dead feet'
Despite Fleming’s faults, Henry Cotton admitted that Fleming ‘is quite a golfer’ with ‘a good hard action, which could be put to even better use with some “educated” footwork.’
 

Rather like James Bond, indeed. Bond shares a nine handicap with his creator, and similarly has trouble with his swing, which we know from Goldfinger (1959) is flat. Bond would do well to take some tips from Henry Cotton, with a little help from Ian Fleming.

Sunday, 17 September 2017

How James Bond appears in reviews of Logan Lucky

The actors who play or have played James Bond are so firmly identified with the role that their appearances in other films, especially those at odds with the adventures of the master-spy, provoke interest and excitement, particularly in the media. Daniel Craig in Logan Lucky is no exception, and many media reviews inevitably mention Bond in some way.


In the film directed by Steven Soderbergh, two brothers – Jimmy and Clyde Logan – attempt to pull off a heist during a NASCAR race with the help of an incarcerated explosives expert called Joe Bang, played by Daniel Craig.
 

A trawl through the reviews in the UK newspapers and other media outlets has revealed several references to Bond. Simran Hans focuses on the strangeness of Daniel Craig’s appearance, writing in The Observer that it is ‘bizarre to see Bond with a bleached buzz cut (not to mention a tiny tattoo of a star adorning his left cheekbone)’. Meanwhile, Geoffrey McNab in The Independent highlights Daniel Craig’s Southern accent, remarking that Craig’s ‘drawling accent that reminds you of Sheriff JW Pepper in Live And Let Die’. 
 

Apart from mentioning Daniel Craig’s famous blue eyes, Andrew Lowry writing for Empire magazine suggests that Daniel Craig’s years as Bond have not allowed Craig to demonstrate his fine acting skills: ‘Those blue eyes of his — so cold as Bond — are here bulging with lunacy. He’s hilarious and totally convincing as someone far from the officer-class stylings of his day job; it’s a pleasure to be reminded of what a good character actor Craig can be.’
 

The write-up in the Express takes a similar view: ‘That dinner jacket is such a perfect fit, I’d almost forgotten about Daniel Craig the actor.’ 
 

Other reviewers have detected a certain glee in Craig’s performance in Logan Lucky, which has given him a chance to cut loose from his measured turns as Bond. Rebecca Lewis writes in The Metro that Craig’s casting as Bang flips ‘his most famous role as the cold British spy James Bond on its head’. Charlotte O’Sullivan of the Evening Standard remarks that ‘when in Bond mode he keeps the weirdness under wraps, but for this hillbilly heist comedy he lets it all hang out’. Beyond the UK, Anthony Lane writing in The New Yorker states: ‘so liberated does Craig appear, on a hollering vacation from his stern-visaged duties as James Bond, that his mood exalts the whole enterprise.’
 

It’s not the first time that reviewers have claimed that, away from the Bond films, actors have been able to flex acting muscles that they rarely have the opportunity to exercise as Bond, as if Bond’s tuxedo is more of a straitjacket than dinner-jacket. What’s more, this comes with a sense of liberation in their performances. For instance, in his review of The Tailor of Panama (2001) in The Guardian, Philip French thought that ‘the cleverest trick… is the casting of Pierce Brosnan, who's never been so good’. Ian Nathan reviewing The Matador (2005) for Empire magazine wrote that ‘we’ve never seen Pierce Brosnan so liberated — he’s a man reborn’. (Mind you, Pierce Brosnan’s tenure as Bond had ceased by this point, so possibly there had been something extra in his performance, just to show the Bond producers if nothing else.)
 

While Logan Lucky doesn’t appear to have set the box-office alight, the film has generally been very well received critically. Judging by some of the reviews, it has been difficult for the critics to watch Daniel Craig’s performance without having his most famous role in mind. There is a hint in some of the reviews too that by comparison James Bond is something of a lesser role. This seems a little unfair. After all, Daniel Craig’s Bond films have been critically acclaimed and award-winning, as well as box-office smashes, thanks in part to his abilities as an actor.

Monday, 11 September 2017

Bond - James Bond: a phrase less ordinary

Which is the best-known three-word phrase in the James Bond films? Licence to kill? Shaken, not stirred? Or Bond, James Bond? To be honest, I couldn’t tell you. All three are so engrained in the popular imagination, they’re probably as well known as each other. What I can be more certain about is that while all three phrases were introduced by Ian Fleming, it was the film series that gave them prominence and cultural weight.
 

In an earlier post, I discussed the claim that Berkely Mather, one of the screenwriters of Dr No (1962), was responsible for the phrase ‘Bond – James Bond’. Given that the phrase appears in various forms in the Bond novels, starting with Casino Royale (1953), the claim is absurd. However, there’s no denying that its use in Dr No was special. After all, it’s delivered by the impossibly cool Sean Connery and is triggered by the James Bond theme.
 
'Bond, James Bond' (Dr No, 1962)
Together, these elements give the phrase value, turning what was an ordinary phrase into something memorable and worth repeating, not just in subsequent films, but more widely in the cultural environment.
 

For Ian Fleming, the phrase ‘Bond – James Bond’ was never intended to be loaded with significance. We can point to two pieces of evidence for this. The first is the Bond books themselves. James Bond uses this form of introduction several times during the course of his adventures. There’s a ‘Bond – James Bond’, or close variant, in, among others, Casino Royale, Goldfinger, Dr No, The Spy who Loved Me, and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (although this last example is interesting, as Fleming appears to have been influenced by the nascent film series as he wrote it; possibly he thought differently about the phrase by this time).
 

But the surname-first name-surname formula is also used in relation to other characters. In Goldfinger, Mr Du Pont introduces himself with the words, ‘My name is Du Pont. Junius Du Pont’. In Diamonds are Forever, Bond’s told of a cab-driver ‘by the name of Cureo, Ernie Cureo’. In the same book, Bond hears about a hoodlum called ‘Budd, “Rosy” Budd’. I’m sure there are other examples.
 

The second piece of evidence is that the formula is used fairly frequently in other fiction. It’s not often that I don’t have a classic spy novel or thriller (some of which would have been very familiar to Fleming) on the go, and as I read them, it’s not long before I come across another example of the formula.
 

In Hushed Up! A Mystery of London (1911) by William Le Queux, the hero, when asked his name, replies, ‘Biddulph… Owen Biddulph’. (I was, incidentally, rather thrilled that the novel featured a main character who shared my unusual surname.) There are various examples in the works of E Philips Oppenheim. In The Great Impersonation (1920), we have from the main character a ‘My name is Dominey – Everard Dominey’ (twice, in fact). In the John Buchan novel The Three Hostages (1924), Richard Hannay is told by a friend who is assuming a name that ‘my name’s Thomson – Alexander Thomson’.
 

It’s a small point, but the obvious conclusion is that the surname-first name-surname form of introduction was a standard one, certainly in some of the older literature. It seems likely that Fleming applied it to Bond – and other characters – simply as a form of everyday speech with no additional significance. Today, with everyone instantly on first name terms, the formula seems somewhat formal and old-fashioned. In a way, too, the phrase is a victim of its own success. Having become so closely associated with James Bond thanks to the films, it can’t be used seriously anywhere else!

Monday, 4 September 2017

When James Bond met Bridget Jones

You won’t often find me curled up on the sofa reading the latest chick lit, but when a quotation from a review on the back of a novel by Helen Fielding, author of Bridget Jones’s Diary, claimed that the book was ‘a Bond-style romp,’ I was intrigued enough to acquire the book and start reading.


Olivia Joules in Olivia Joules and the Overactive Imagination (Picador, 2003) is a freelance journalist who writes for beauty magazines and the newspaper style supplements, but aspires to be a foreign reporter. When Olivia is sent to Miami for a face-cream launch, she meets a charming and mysterious man who claims to be a movie producer, but whom Olivia suspects to be an international terrorist. Despite the doubts of her colleagues, as well as her own, Olivia follows a trail that takes her to Los Angeles, Honduras, and Sudan, risking her life, as well as her career.
 

Inevitably, the book contains several nods and references to James Bond. In her hotel room in LA, Olivia dusts the numbers on the combination lock of the safe. ‘Like James Bond,’ she reflects, though ‘James Bond probably wouldn’t have actually given the numbers a silken, light reflecting sheen.’ (Olivia uses Angel Dust face-powder, rather than talcum powder, which Bond uses to dust the locks of his attaché case in From Russia With Love.)
 

Later, when realising that her room’s been bugged, Olivia makes a call to get the details of the Spy Shop on Sunset Boulevard (‘You know, spies? James Bond? Kiefer Sutherland?’), and eventually is kitted up with the latest gadgets, among them a bug detector, an invisible-ink pen, a tiny digital camera, and a ring with a mirror that allows Olivia to see behind her.
 

Back in London, Olivia is met by MI6 officers, and is taken seriously enough by MI6 to be taken on as an agent. On a boat on the Thames on her way to a safe house, Olivia’s heart was ‘leaping with excitement, the James Bond theme playing in her mind. She was a spy! She formed her fingers into a gun shape and whispered, “Kpow! Kpow!”.’ At the safe house, Olivia is introduced to Professor Widgett, a veteran spymaster and Arabist described by Scotland Yard’s liaison as ‘the James Bond of his day’.
 

While there is no Q-inspired character, Olivia is nevertheless equipped with some handy gadgets, cunningly sewn into clothing (the buttons on her shirt, for instance, are replaced by miniature circular saws) or disguised as the typical accoutrements of a handbag (such as a lipsalve that emits a powerful blinding flash). Interestingly, Olivia is also given a belt fashioned from gold coins ‘for buying her way out a mess’, recalling the straps of gold sovereigns hidden in Bond’s attaché case. 
 

Apart from these obvious references to Bond, there are other aspects that are redolent of elements of Bond books, even if the similarities are coincidental. Olivia Joules is working for the Sunday Times, which is the paper for which Ian Fleming worked. There are shades of Vivienne Michel’s story from The Spy who Loved Me in Olivia’s own backstory. Fed up after a series of bad relationships while in her teens, she vows: ‘I’m not going to give a s*** about anything any more. I’m going to be a top journalist or an explorer and do something that matters.’ And like James Bond, Olivia is an orphan, her parents having died in a road accident when she was fourteen.
 

More generally, the book is as globe-trotting as any James Bond film, and, like Bond, Olivia is a keen and proficient scuba-diver. (And yes, there are sharks.)
 

I have to admit, I thoroughly enjoyed the book. Spotting the Bond references are fun, of course, but the book is also an entertaining page-turner. Gadgets, resourceful spies, witty one-liners, narrow escapes, urbane villains, cocktails and romantic entanglements – it's got the lot.

Monday, 28 August 2017

Bond meets Goth - a non-Bondian use of the phrase 'Kiss Kiss Bang Bang'

The phrase ‘Kiss Kiss Bang Bang’, long associated with James Bond, has proved successful enough in the cultural environment to have a life beyond Bond. Ian Fleming used the phrase, or, rather, a version of it, in a letter to fellow author Raymond Chandler in 1956. Fleming suggested that while Chandler's novels were 'sociological studies', his were 'pillow fantasies of the bang-bang, kiss-kiss variety'. Whether Fleming coined the term is uncertain, but it’s possible that the phrase existed in some form before then.

In any case, the phrase became inextricably linked with James Bond during the height of Bondomania in 1964/5. James Bond was known as Mr Kiss Kiss Bang Bang by Italian fans (or Japanese fans or the press depending on the account one reads), which inspired John Barry to write a song entitled ‘Mr Kiss Kiss Bang Bang’ for Thunderball (1965). 


A variant of the phrase appeared in 2005, though away from the world of James Bond – as the title of Shane Black’s comedy thriller, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, starring Val Kilmer and Robert Downey Jr. Coincidentally, given the origin of the phrase, the titles of Raymond Chandler’s novels and stories are used as chapter headings through the film.
 

David Leigh, who runs the excellent website, ‘The James Bond Dossier’, recently alerted me to another use of the phrase. Back in the early 1980s, Specimen, a goth band (or what has been described as a glam horror post-punk band – think of The Cure dressed as extras from The Rocky Horror Picture Show), owned and ran the goth club, The Batcave, in London. They played there, too, and one of their songs was called ‘Kiss Kiss Bang Bang’.
 

As with the Shane Black film, this ‘Kiss Kiss Bang Bang’ had nothing to do with Bond, although there are hints of the Bond theme in the baseline and a chord progression. This may be coincidence, but then again, possibly not. Have a look at the video and make up your own mind. The song’s not terrible either.
 

 

David has noticed another connection between the Batcave and Bond. Morten Harket, the lead singer of A-ha, who of course wrote the title song for The Living Daylights (1987), can be seen in another video shot at the venue, dancing in glam-goth-inspired attire. Look out for him 5 minutes 35 seconds into the video.
 

 

Many thanks to David Leigh for the information.

Thursday, 17 August 2017

On location: Altaussee, Austria; or a visit to Mr White's house

A summer holiday to Salzburg in Austria allowed me to visit one of the locations used in the last James Bond film, Spectre. The edge of Lake Altaussee, by the alpine village of Altaussee and about one and a half hour’s drive from Salzburg, was the setting for the scene in which Bond visits Mr White. Werner Fischer, one of Eon’s local contacts during the filming of the sequence, was offering ‘In the footsteps of James Bond’ boat tours of the lake, and naturally I booked myself a place on one of them.


My fellow passengers and I had our first treat even before the boat left the jetty. Beside us, moored to another landing stage, was the thin wooden boat that Daniel Craig’s James Bond uses to motor across the lake to Mr White’s cabin.The boat is based on a traditional Austrian craft known as a Zille or Plätte.

Bond's boat in Spectre
As we pulled away from the shore and started to make our way across the lake, we heard some facts and figures about Altaussee. Unfortunately, my German was too poor to understand much, but I got the gist, and in any case, I didn’t need any translation to realise that we were heading towards a wooden building on the far side of the lake that looked rather familiar. In fact, we were following Bond’s course to Mr White’s house.
 
The view towards Mr White's house on the tour (top) and on screen
After a while, the boat pulled up to the jetty beside the building that normally serves as a bar and restaurant. This is presumably closed during the winter, allowing it to double as Mr White’s cabin in Spectre.

 
Mr White's house now (top) and as shown in Spectre
We wasted no time in disembarking and literally walking in James Bond’s footsteps towards the house. Apart from some superficial differences, the outside of the wooden building seemed little changed from its appearance on the big screen. Indeed, traces of the production still remain. The stone footings of the veranda are made of fibreglass and were fitted especially for the scene, and if I understood aright, the chimney was added too.

 
The veranda with the fake stone footings
Entering the building, I saw that the staircase seen in the film is a feature of the property (annoyingly, I didn’t take a photograph).

 
The staircase as shown in Spectre
And there is a further sign that the production crew had been there in the form of two displays of photographs and newspaper cuttings.

 
The displays inside the house
Just before Bond enters the house, we have a view back towards the lake. This shot shows the actual edge of the lake in front of the building.


The view from the house to the lake (not sure where the tree went)
Eventually, we all boarded the boat and returned across the lake back towards the village. As we approached the end of the tour, our guide let us into a secret. Bond alumnus Klaus Maria Brandauer has a house (and boathouse) here. We weren’t told whether he was there during filming, but it’s intriguing to imagine Bond’s reaction if he had bumped into Maximilian Largo, his old sparring partner in Never Say Never Again
 

The boat tour, organised by Altaussee-Schifffahrt, was excellent, although it would have been helpful to have some information at least in English. Nevertheless, if you happen to be in the area, the tour is essential.

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

James Bond films referenced in latest VW commercial

The latest Volkswagen TV advert for the Golf GTE looks to two classic James Bond films for inspiration. The ‘Button’ advert, created by adam&eveDDB, promotes the vehicle’s hybrid technology, which allows drivers to combine electric and petrol engines at the push of a button. The advert features a series of archetypal movie villains with their fingers poised over big red button ready to wreak destruction. We then see the car – and its all-important button – in action before the advert ends with the tagline, ‘a more responsible use of power’.

Viewers are treated to a pantheon of villains. There’s sci-fi supervillain on a spaceship who presses the button to fire a laser that blows up a planet, which is an obvious nod to Star Wars. We also see a mad professor straight out of a 1930/40s’ black-and-white horror film, who presses the button to animate his own Frankenstein’s monster. Then there are villains from a 1970s’ blaxploitation-type film, a Lethal Weapon-style buddy cop film, and a Indiana Jones-like adventure. 

Naturally, the film series that defined many of the standard tropes or memes of the movie villain is not forgotten. A man strapped to a near-vertical table is looking at the wrong end of a large laser weapon. A woman in a military uniform is at the control panel and laughs maniacally as she presses the button to fire the laser.

What’s interesting is that the scene draws on two Bond films. The laser and the set clearly derives from Goldfinger (1964). There are shades of Ken Adam’s designs, as the set in the advert replicates the little office, complete with employees and a small set of steps, at the back of the laser room in Goldfinger, the golden-brown colour scheme, and the angular walls and metal supports. The laser weapons are also similar in design, albeit that one has green elements, the other blue.

 
The laser rooms in the VW ad (top) and Goldfinger

The villain is modelled on Rosa Klebb in From Russia With Love (1963). She wears a Russian-style military jacket with gold buttons, a light brown or khaki shirt and a brown tie similar to the uniform that Rosa Klebb, played by Lotte Lenya, wears in the Bond film. Their hair is different, but it’s sufficiently close to reinforce the link.
 
A Rosa Klebb-style villain in the VW ad (top) and Lotte Lenya as Rosa Klebb

VW’s ‘The Button’ ad is the latest in a long line of commercials that reference the James Bond films, despite the products having no connection to them. Back in the 1980s, PG Tips advertised its tea bags with the help of a chimpanzee spy called Bond, Brooke Bond. More recently, Sky Sports enlisted David Beckham to advertise its services in a Bond-style advert, and Jaguar evoked Spectre in its advert for the Jaguar XE. Coincidentally, the Sky and Jaguar campaigns, like that for VW, also focused on the villain, demonstrating that the Bond villain is every bit as enduring in popular culture as Bond himself, and is especially appealing to advert writers.

Friday, 4 August 2017

James Bond and railway station restaurants

We know from Goldfinger and the short story ‘From a View to a Kill’ that James Bond is rather partial to the hotels and restaurants of French railway stations.
 

In Goldfinger, while driving through Orleans in pursuit of the eponymous villain, Bond decides to stop at the Hotel de la Gare and eat at the station buffet. Bond tends to choose the station hotels, we’re told. They were adequate, and ‘it was better than even chances that the Buffet de la Gare would be excellent.’ Just as Bond expects, he finds his room cheap and comfortable, and he is able to eat one of his favourite meals – oeufs cocotte à la crème and sole meunière – in the restaurant.
 

Even in Paris, Bond opts for the station hotel. In ‘From a View to a Kill’, Bond stays at the Terminus Nord opposite the Gare du Nord, which we’re told is the least pretentious and most anonymous of the station hotels in the city, although on this occasion, he decides to eat out.
 
Bond's hotel in 'From a View to a Kill'
James Bond would find a kindred spirit in Walter Hillyard, a character in the 1961 espionage novel, The Arena, by William Haggard. While waiting at Paris’s Gare de Lyon to board a sleeper train destined for Milan, Hillyard visits the station restaurant and orders ‘the set dinner unhesitatingly.’ He reflects that ‘you could eat much better at the Gare de Lyon than at many more famous restaurants,’ adding that there was less fuss in the service too. We’re not told what Hillyard eats, but he orders a bottle of Beaujolais, ‘confident that here at least the label wouldn’t be lying.’
 

Such views are probably all that Bond and Hillyard have in common. Hillyard is a City banker, and is unaware that there is a plot to murder him on the train. There is, however, more of a Bond figure in Major Mortimer, a British secret service agent who’s been keeping an eye on the situation and might just be able to save the day.
 

Is it still the case that station restaurants in France are the best? Was it ever the case? Of course, I can’t comment on all stations, but I can certainly vouch for the restaurant attached to the Gare d’Agen in southwest France, where I once had a superb meal of foie gras mi-cuit and steak tartare. You wouldn’t get that in the chain restaurants and sticky-carpeted pubs typically found in English railway stations. As Walter Hillyard says, ‘nobody in their senses would eat at an English terminus at all.’

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Bond 25 - some speculation


The announcement that the next James Bond film will be released in November 2019 was both exciting and frustrating. On the one hand, at last we have solid news about Bond’s next screen adventure. On the other hand, it’s over two years away. When it finally comes out, it’ll be four years since the last film, Spectre, representing the longest gap between films since Licence to Kill (1989) and GoldenEye (1995). Still, looking on the bright side, the anticipation for the new film will be massive and doubtless the film will be a bigger success because of it.
 

The long wait also means that there is plenty of time to speculate wildly about the new film. So, I thought I’d kick my speculation off with some thoughts about what we might expect from Bond 25.
 

We have precious few details to go on, but there are some factors that might be relevant. In my review of Spectre, I suggested that the film had escaped the tag of being Daniel Craig’s Moonraker or Die Another Day. In retrospect, I’m not so sure. I rather think now that the film does represent the end of a cycle, meaning that the next film will recalibrate the series and be more down to earth.

That said, it’s worth bearing in mind that the film may be Daniel Craig’s last film. Or it’ll be the first film of a new Bond actor. Either way, the film will be a reaffirmation and celebration of Bond, and so will attempt to meet audience expectation of what constitutes a Bond film. Putting those two factors together, Bond 25 could well be a good, solid adventure, which exotic locations, jaw-dropping stunts and so on, but built around a plausible espionage plot. Think From Russia with Love or For Your Eyes Only, rather than You Only Live Twice or The Spy Who Loved Me

I don’t think the humour level will be any greater than the level in Spectre, but I do make one plea. Whatever happens, please don’t make it personal for Bond. We’ve had enough of him going rogue.
 

What about Blofeld? He’s too good a character to leave out, but I wouldn’t mind betting that the step-brother angle will be quietly dropped. I expect the story won't explicitly continue the story arc of Spectre either.
 

It's likely the script will once again mine unfilmed passages from the Fleming novels, and there is plenty still to film. But now that an element of continuation novel Colonel Sun has been used in a Bond film, could we see more use of continuation novels? I don’t think so, but an exception could be made for Trigger Mortis, which featured a plot outline and dialogue written by Ian Fleming.
 

As for title, there’s been no urgency to use Fleming’s unused titles, but I’ve always thought that some of his chapter titles would make good film titles. But I have another idea. The trend these days has been for eponymous titles, such as Jack Reacher, Rambo, John Wick, and of course a whole host of superhero films. I have started to wonder, especially in an increasingly competitive market, whether we might eventually see a Bond film called, simply, James Bond, or perhaps Bond, James Bond. Maybe Bond 25 will be that film (but I hope I'm wrong!). Remember, you read it here first.