Literary James Bond comparison to cinematic Bond

Discussion in 'Movies' started by Nelson Au, Oct 1, 2006.

  1. Nelson Au

    Nelson Au Executive Producer

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    I thought I'd post about the topic of the Ian Fleming James Bond novels compared to the cinematic Broccoli versions.

    I didn't want to say one verses another as that conveys one is better then the other. I think they are different and should be treated as such. This came about because at the time it looked like Brosnan may or may not return in the next film, I decided to read the novels in order of publication. I have some very old paperback copies, some first editions that I had the fortune to find in a used bookstore many years ago. Though they are not pristine, they are actually in great shape.

    So far, I have read Casino Royale, Live and Let Die, Moonraker, Diamonds Are Forever, From Russia, With Love, Doctor No, Goldfinger, Thunderball, The Spy Who Loved Me, and On Her Majesty's Secret Service. I am currently reading You Only Live Twice and am about 10 pages from finishing.

    What prompted me to post was how much I am enjoying these books and how surprised I was by You Only Live Twice. It's a totally different story then the film and in hindsight, it's too bad the producers had not filmed it in the order of how this book follows OHMSS. I don't want to give anything away; it's worth a read of Thunderball, OHMSS and YOLT. And of course I knew that TSWLM novel is a totally different work then the Roger Moore film. It was an interesting point of view.

    Back to the novels, I am not surprised how the early films follow the books pretty closely. The later films do not. Most of the story structure follows a similar path in the early books, Fleming spends about half the book building up the villain and what he's all about. The last 4 books I've read, Fleming starts to mix it up a bit. At the end, Bond does get the girl, gets the villain and is so beat up; he's in the hospital.

    There isn't much gadgetry but there is car talk. His early car was a Bentley as mentioned in the film Goldfinger.

    What surprised me were how many terms and lines of dialogue actually used in the movies are from the books. Of course there are changes to some plots and incidents. Again, I won't give things away, but there are whole action sequences from one book used in a movie of a different title. And the term "blunt instrument" used in the current Casino Royale trailer is used in one line of YOLT to describe Bond.

    Casino Royale does not read like an origin story to me. I am almost done, there are not many novels left and I am saving the short stories for last. I would be interested in other’s view.
     
  2. MatthewLouwrens

    MatthewLouwrens Producer

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    I've been rewatching the Bond films in the last couple of months, and I realised there is a huge continuity flaw in them - in You Only Live Twice, Bond meets Blofeld face-to-face, but in OHMSS, Blofeld doesn't seem to recognise Bond. Knowing that You Only Live Twice followed OHMSS now makes sense of that problem.
     
  3. CoreyII

    CoreyII Second Unit

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    Hey Nelson, are the books set up so that you must read them in sequence? I have a copy of Dr. No. One of my goals in life is to complete all of the James Bond Novels, even the ones not written by Ian Fleming.

    Not to change the subject, but Nelson your post got me thinking about the time I read First Blood. It was really interesting to see how David Morell wrote Rambo as opposed to the way Sly played the character in the movies.
    As a matter of fact, in the book the character only goes by Rambo, he is never called John.
     
  4. Greg_S_H

    Greg_S_H Executive Producer

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    It's not absolutely essential in some cases, but it is in others. I would definitely advise you to read From Russia before Dr. No and On Her Majesty's before You Only Live Twice. Your best bet would be to start with Casino and go right through in order. That's what I did and it worked out well.

    If you've never read the books, you will probably be surprised at how down-to-earth they are. No outer space foolishness or anything like that. Real spies have scoffed at the books, but they are terrific adventure novels. Beware that there is some shocking racist stuff in the second and third ones, though.
     
  5. Mark Hawley

    Mark Hawley Second Unit

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    Yeah, defintiely read them in the order they were published/written. An intersting bit is that the novel From Russia With Love takes place before Dr. No, but the film was made before they adapted From Russia With Love. However, the film Dr. No actaully refers to something that happened in the From Russia With Love novel (the bit about his beratta jamming and being in the hospital).

    It's been a while since I read them, but the most faithful movies were Dr. No, From Russia With Love, Goldfinger , Thunderball and On Her Majesty's Secret Service. The rest, hardly resemble the novels at all except in maybe character names, setting and a very basic similarities in premise (ie: Both the novel and film of Diamonds Are Forever take place in Vegas, have Tiffany Case for the love interest and maybe a few villains have the same name -they also both deal with diamonds - but that's it).

    I know For Your Eyes Only does take a page or two from two short stories in that collection of stories of the same name (it also adapts one of the more memorable bits from the Live and Let Die novel - License to Kill adapts another memorable scene from that novel as well. Also, The Living Daylights film uses the short story of the same name as a springboard (much of the first 10-15 minutes of the film -after the credits, that is, resembles the short story with much of the dialog being similar).
     
  6. PatH

    PatH Second Unit

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    I've read all Flemings (twice, I think), some Gardners, and no Bensons. I think someone else is at the helm now, but I couldn't say who. I even read some time back that the owners of the franchise were planning some teen Bond novels (shudder!). Prefer the Flemings and recommend they be read in order. Expect no apology for the racist tones in LaLD because it is a product of its time and the British upper class origins of its author. Never thought I'd see in the films Leiter's mangled body with the attached note "He disagreed with something that ate him." Hee! Hee!

    As someone else said, the books are good adventure reads, varying in quality, usually with the health of their author. The first three films are generally faithful to the books, with Goldfinger actually playing better on film than the book. Literary Goldfinger planned to take tons of gold from Fort Knox on a train, which wouldn't work because of the weight alone; cinematic Goldfinger was much smarter. This was the film where the formula jelled. The producers have spent 45 years trying to duplicate it and, hype to the contrary, have not departed from it. And, tying this back to literary Bond, Felix Leiter, though always in support, had more to do in the books than the movies and was no more black than James West from TV. That's not a racist comment, either. It just shows the determination of cinematic Bond--or rather his producers--to pander to current sensibilities, either with regard to political correctness (M will always be a woman by edict of Glidrose, LTD, the owners of the property) or pop culture (Texas Hold'em is hot now so all of a sudden Bond is the best poker player in the Service) Readers of Casino Royale will not, however, find that game in evidence, because a) it didn't exist in 1953 and b) Bond would hardly have been exposed to it, moving as he did in the world of baccarat and chemin de fir. Even Doctor No (film) and OHMSS (film) got that right. That's what he was playing, not Texas Hold'em

    Just my two cents. The books are a bit dated, but read them anyway. You'll have a good time.

    PatH
     
  7. Greg_S_H

    Greg_S_H Executive Producer

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    The Young Bond books came out. I forgot about them.
     
  8. Beau

    Beau Supporting Actor

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    I've read all the Fleming books and short stories. I'm not actually a big fan of Flemings style, but the ones that differed from the movies were interesting reads, just to see what the story was really suppose to be. My favorites were probably TMWTGG, DAF, and GF. Most of the short stories were really good, though, FAVTAK being the one exception.
     
  9. CoreyII

    CoreyII Second Unit

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    There were young Bond books? When did this occur?

    The only thing I remember outside of the films was that James Bond Jr. cartoon, which must have made Ian Fleming turn 300 times in his grave.
     
  10. Greg_S_H

    Greg_S_H Executive Producer

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  11. Nelson Au

    Nelson Au Executive Producer

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    Yes Cory- Reading them in order is the best way I think. Though they all don't have to be in order, I was surprised by the number of times Fleming refers to older cases from the last book.

    As you noticed in reading First Blood, literary Bond differs from the cinematic version in many ways. It was interesting to me to discover them as I read these books! But he does have dark hair and Felix Leiter is a blond and does appear often and works as his partner.

    I had forgotten about the line about how Felix disagreed with something that ate him being in the film Licence to Kill.

    The fact that these books takes place in the 1950's and early 60's does date them for certain aspects, but it's interesting to see a slice of life that Fleming writes from.

    Matthew, I think the producers just messed up that Blofeld didn't recognize Bond.
     
  12. Andy Sheets

    Andy Sheets Cinematographer

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    I've read that this occurred because the director of OHMSS was so hellbent on delivering a movie that was faithful to the novel that he forgot that Bond and Blofeld had already met in the films.

    Aside from reading the books in order, one thing I'll recommend is not to get discouraged when you get to Diamonds Are Forever, which is a terrible book. Seems like Fleming started it without really having any idea of what he'd write, so the plot just drags its feet all over the place until Fleming decides to end it. The next book, From Russia With Love, is arguably the best in the series, though.

    For all the talk in regards to the film version of Bond being a sort of cipher who just likes hot women and martinis, the Bond in the novels is an exceptionally well-drawn character. You get to know pretty much everything about him, from his hobbies to his general attitudes and goals to his favorite foods and much more. It's also interesting that despite being an assassin, he very much dislikes murder, and his body counts in the books are often very low, and sometimes even non-existent, which is obviously a major contrast to the films, especially the later ones.

    I also love how in the books Bond often ends up looking like Bruce Willis at the end of Die Hard - clothes tattered and soaked in his own blood. Saving the world is a tough business. Again, a major contrast to the film version. I remember seeing License to Kill with my mom and she was absolutely shocked when Bond ended up getting a little cut up at the end [​IMG]
     
  13. Kevin Grey

    Kevin Grey Cinematographer

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    Plus, if I remember correctly, Rambo died at the end of the novel, causing Morrell to put in an author's note explaining his resurrection when he adapted the movie sequel.
     
  14. Greg_S_H

    Greg_S_H Executive Producer

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    I enjoyed it. I guess some books work for some and not others.
     
  15. CoreyII

    CoreyII Second Unit

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    Hey Kevin, you're right, but I didn't want to ruin the end for someone who hasn't read it. But then again, everyone probably knows the ending to the book anyway, it's been like 30 years since it was published. [​IMG]
     
  16. James@R

    [email protected] Second Unit

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    Actually, the producers made a conscious effort to remain as faithful as possible to the book. Hence, Blofeld didn't recognize Bond.

    The literary Bond is a very dynamic character, and undergoes a drastic change over the course of the books. The broken man in The Man with the Golden Gun is a far cry from the agent in Casino Royale. As a result, Fleming himself admitted he was running out of stories for Bond near the end. Where would he take the character?

    The secret to the cinematic Bond's longevity is that he has remained, largely, a very static character. The world would change, the actor would change, but it was always the same Bond (and Bond formula) at its core. He may have been serious or lighthearted, but audiences always accepted that they were watching the same guy from Dr. No.

    It's true that the books themselves are more "down to earth" than the films, but it's no wonder real spies would scoff at them. Fleming often put the stories down as mere fantasy, and thought it silly that anyone would actually take them seriously. They may not approach the level of the Moore era, but there's still some pretty outlandish things in them (for their time).

    And it's important to remember their context. What may seem mundane (or "serious") to readers today was still new and exotic when the books were published. For example, Fleming spends half of You Only Live Twice just describing what it's like to visit Japan. Of course, today you can get online and have a trip booked within minutes.
     
  17. Matt Czyz

    Matt Czyz Supporting Actor

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    How do Gardner's Bond books stack up? I see them often at used book stores and the story descriptions sound pretty decent.
     
  18. andrew markworthy

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    And that's before we get to the Neanderthal attitudes about women. I think they've got to be seen as products of their time, but I think it's worth stressing that your politically correct sensibilities may be shocked.

    FWIW, the Bond books have a surprisingly loyal following amongst some highbrow Brit literary critics (e.g. Anthony Burgess was a great admirer). Having said that, I'd say they're not going to be to everyone's taste. I'd suggest buying/borrowing just the first one before committing yourself (I assume that you can get good bargains on the whole set in the USA? - in the UK you can get the complete set of novels in the very good Penguin editions for under 10 pounds).

    And if you want to read other books that were made into films, may I strongly recommend Raymond Chandler's Philip Marlowe novels? FWIW, in the UK they are regarded as 'serious' literature. I'd stick my neck out and say that posterity is likely to view Chandler as one of the great twentieth century writers.
     
  19. Nelson Au

    Nelson Au Executive Producer

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    Andrew-

    I think the aspect you bring up about Fleming's novels as an aquired taste is probably true. I grew up on the Broccolli films and never read the Fleming novels. Well I did read Goldfinger in High School ages ago, but I probably skimmed it. As for being PC, I know it's written in a time when this kind of stuff was plain normal, so I roll with it.

    Casino Royale was a hard read for the first chapter or so, but got into pretty quickly. Some terms and references went over my head, such as the French. I don't read French and I do not connect the reference he makes. But it was an exciting read and I continue to enjoy it as I now start Man with the Golden Gun having just finished YOLT. That was a shocker ending!
     
  20. Greg_S_H

    Greg_S_H Executive Producer

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    I really don't encounter it too often in literature of the period. I was a little surprised by it, actually. And, I second Andrew's Chandler recommendation. I read his entire catalog a few years ago and enjoyed it much. I might also recommend Ross MacDonald, but his books are not as available. Gregory McDonald's Fletch books are all available, however, so you might also want to try those. After I finished the last of the Bond books, I was desperate for something similar to fill the void, but I never really found it. le Carre wasn't it--probably more authentic, but not really adventure novels. The Remo Williams books were in a similar vein, but they are pretty expensive and hard to find.
     

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