New U.N.C.L.E. book coming out in 2015

The original U.N.C.L.E.s

The original U.N.C.L.E.s

A new book about The Man From U.N.C.L.E. television series is due out next year.

“Solo and Illya: The Secret History of The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” by Craig Henderson is to be published by Bear Manor Publishers, according to the Facebook page of THE GOLDEN ANNIVERSARY AFFAIR, the two-day event held in the Los Angeles area last month in connection with the show’s 50th anniversary.

Henderson created the File Forty fanzine in 1970, according to a Jon Burlingame response to the post. Henderson also assisted Burlingame when the latter produced a series of U.N.C.L.E. soundtracks in the 2000s.

“He’s uncovered a lot of information about the show no one else has,” Burlingame wrote.

Finally, Henderson produced A CENTURY OF U.N.C.L.E., which details how the worlds of U.N.C.L.E. and James Bond intersected for more than a century, beginning with the birth of Ian Fleming in 1908 until the death of U.N.C.L.E. executive producer Norman Felton in 2012. It’s a resource this blog has cited numerous times.

Casino Royale (1954), a reappraisal

Barry Nelson in 1954's Casino Royale

Barry Nelson in 1954’s Casino Royale

If there’s a red-headed stepchild in the world of James Bond, the 1954 CBS production of Casino Royale would be it.

The television Bond is mostly ignored. When it does come up in fan conversation, it’s the subject of derision.

An American as James Bond? Outrageous — although Eon Productions, which makes James Bond movies, seriously considered the notion twice, for Diamonds Are Forever (John Gavin was signed before Sean Connery was enticed back) and again for Octopussy (James Brolin was screen tested before Roger Moore was enticed back).

And he’s called Jimmy Bond! Outrageous — although Bond never calls himself Jimmy, other characters do. The only time he refers to his own name, he is making a telephone call and says, “This is James Bond.” Actor Barry Nelson also is clearly billed as playing James Bond in the end titles.

The television production, part of CBS’s Climax! anthology series and airing live on Oct. 21, 1954, is more like a televised play. While Ian Fleming’s first novel was short, it still covered too much ground to be covered in a 60-minute time slot. Excluding commercials and titles, only about 50 minutes was available to tell the story.

Antony Ellis and Charles Bennett, who adapted the novel for television, certainly took plenty of liberties with the source material.

Two Fleming characters, Vesper Lynd and French agent Rene Mathis, are merged into one character, Valerie Mathis (Linda Christian), a woman from Bond’s past who is working for French intelligence. Meanwhile, Bond is changed from being a British agent to an American one. Felix Leiter is changed to a British agent and his name is now Clarence Leiter (Michael Pate).

Presumably, the idea of an American Bond stemmed from how this was airing on U.S. television. At this point, Fleming and Bond weren’t huge names among the American public.

Anyway, to get things going, Act I opens with Bond being shot at outside a casino. It’s not terribly convincing, mostly because of the limited resources of the production, which was broadcast live. Bond ducks behind a column and the audience can see squibs going off to simulate gun fire.

Shortly thereafter, Bond makes contact with Leiter, who explains to Bond (and the audience) how the agent’s mission to bankrupt Le Chiffre (Peter Lorre) in a high stakes game of baccarat. No M, no briefing from M.

At one point, Leiter says Bond’s nickname is “card sense Jimmy Bond,” while Valerie calls Bond “Jimmy.” However, she also calls him “James Bond” when introducing the agent to Le Chiffre ahead of the big baccarat game.

Peter Lorre is the first actor to play a Bond villain referring to the agent constantly as “Mr. Bond,” something that would be repeated throughout the Eon films.

There are some bits from Fleming’s novel, particularly during Bond’s card game with Le Chiffre. Even here, Ellis and Bennett do some tinkering. After Bond is cleaned out, he gets additional funds not from Leiter, as in the novel, but from Valerie. What’s more, Bond’s torture is considerable milder than the novel or 2006 feature film. The ending from Fleming’s novel isn’t used and things end happily.

This version of Casino Royale’s main value is that of a time capsule, a reminder of when television was mostly done live. Lorre is suitably villainous. If you find him fun to watch on movies and other television shows, nothing here will change your mind.

Barry Nelson’s Bond won’t make anyone forget the screen 007s. Still, Nelson was a pro who had a long career. He does the best he can with the material and production limitations. He even gets to deliver the occasional witticism. (“Are you the fellow who was shot?” Leiter asks. Bond replies, “No I was the fellow who was missed.”)

UPDATE: Casino Royale was the third broadcast of the Climax! series. The first was an adaptation of The Long Goodbye, with Dick Powell reprising the role of Philip Marlowe. So in two of the first three broadcasts, Climax! tackled novels by Raymond Chandler and Ian Fleming.

IFP announces new licensing deal for 007 comics

Cover for Marvel's 1981 comic adaptation of For Your Eyes Only

Cover for Marvel’s 1981 comic adaptation of For Your Eyes Only

Ian Fleming Publications said Oct. 7 it reached a licensing deal with Dynamite Entertainment for a new series of James Bond comics.

Here’s an excerpt from the IFP statement:

We are very proud to announce our new partnership with Dynamite Entertainment, a leading publisher of English language comic books and graphic novels, who have worldwide rights to produce comic books, digital comics and graphic novels starring James Bond. 007 will re-live the exploits that have thrilled and captivated fans for over half a century in fresh visual adaptations of Fleming’s classic Bond stories, the first of which will be launched in 2015. Moreover, Dynamite plans to create a series of brand new adventures unveiling the defining – and largely undocumented – early years of Bond’s career. These new stories will draw inspiration from the Fleming canon to explore Bond’s ‘origins’: his raw early years before he gambled with his life in the first novel, Casino Royale.

Bond has an uneven history of comic book adaptations.

DC Comics, now owned by Time Warner’s Warner Bros. unit, did an adaptation of Dr. No, the first 007 film, in 1963. Years later, Marvel Comics (now owned by Walt Disney Co.) adapted 1981’s For Your Eyes Only and 1983’s Octopussy. Before the DC and Marvel efforts, there were U.K. comic strip adaptations of Ian Fleming novels and short stories. Those comic strips have been reprinted previously.

Based on the IFP statement, the newest deal doesn’t involve Eon Productions, which has produced the 23-film James Bond movie series. For Bond fans, 2015 shapes up as the time for a new movie (the yet-untitled Bond 23), a new a new James Bond continuation novel and the new comic books/graphic novels.

New 007 author: novel’s title won’t be ‘Murder on Wheels’

Anthony Horowitz, hired by Ian Fleming Publications to write a new James Bond novel, took to Twitter to say what the title isn’t.

Here’s the text of the Tweet:

IFP, in AN OCT. 1 STATEMENT, said Horowitz’s novel would be based on an Ian Fleming outline for an episode of a never-produced 007 television series. The outline has the title Murder on Wheels. IFP never said that would be the title of the novel. But Horowitz evidently felt there was enough confusion he wanted to clarify — and added a tidbit of information in the process.

IFP announces new James Bond novel for 2015

IFP says new novel to inspired by "unseen Fleming material."

IFP says new novel to inspired by “unseen Fleming material.”

Ian Fleming Publications said Oct. 1 a new James Bond continuation novel is coming out next year inspired by “previously unseen material written by Ian Fleming.:

Here’s an excerpt of A STATEMENT ON IFP’S WEBPAGE.

Ian Fleming Publications Ltd. and the Ian Fleming Estate are delighted to announce that bestselling and award-winning author Anthony Horowitz has been invited to write the next James Bond novel, due for worldwide release on 8th September 2015.

Horowitz is one of the UK’s most successful authors and has over forty books to his name including his recent Sherlock Holmes novel, The House of Silk, and his enormously successful teen spy series featuring Alex Rider. As a TV screenwriter he created both Midsomer Murders and the BAFTA-winning Foyle’s War, and is looking forward to taking on his next project:

(snip)
Set in the 1950s, Horowitz’s story will be unique among the modern James Bond novels, in that a section will contain previously unseen material written by Ian Fleming. (emphasis in original)

Since 2008, the 100th anniversary of Fleming’s birth, IFP has mostly commissioned period Bond novels. Offerings by Sebastian Faulks (Devil May Care) and William Boyd (Solo) were set in 1967 and 1969 respectively. The one exception was Jeffery Deaver’s Carte Blanche, featuring a timeshifted Bond in the “present day” of its 2011 publication.

The Horowitz project goes backward, based on the IFP statement. A Fleming great niece, Jessie Grimond, is quoted as saying the novel is based episode treatments Fleming wrote for a never-made televisions series. Fleming subsequently turned some of the television story outlines into short stories in 1960’s For Your Eyes Only collection. Grimond says in the statement “there are a few plot outlines which he never used and which, till now, have never been published, or aired.”

Specifically, according to IFP, the starting point for the new novel is a Fleming treatment titled Murder on Wheels, which “follows Bond on a mission in the world of motor racing.”

The move continues IFP’s strategy of a series of one-offs featuring “adult” Bond while also commissioning “Young Bond” novels and other projects. IFP management changed in the 2000s. For a long period before that, it employed an author to do an ongoing series of “timeshifted” Bond novels written by John Gardner, which ran from 1981 to 1995, and Raymond Benson, from 1997 to 2002. After Benson’s finale, the literary “adult Bond” went into hibernation until Faulks’ 2008 novel.

None of the Bond continuation novels has drawn any serious interest from Eon Productions, which produces the 007 films. The publication of the Horowitz novel will come shortly before Bond 24 is set to be released.

Goldfinger: the first ‘A-movie’ comic book film?

Goldfinger poster

Goldfinger poster

Here’s a thought as Goldfinger celebrates its 50th anniversary. In a way, the third James Bond film may have been the first “A-movie” comic book film.

Before Goldfinger, comic book films existed as serials. Lewis Wilson, father of Eon Productions co-boss Michael G. Wilson, played Batman in a 1943 serial, for example. Serials would run for weeks in 15-minute or so installments ahead of the main feature.

Goldfinger, of course, was based on Ian Fleming’s novel, not a comic book. Still, some Fleming novels seem to draw their inspiration from pulp adventure stories (also a source of inspiration for comic books).

In Fleming’s novel, Goldfinger’s henchman Oddjob was already over the top. With the film, that increased. A gold bar bounced off his chest without causing Oddjob harm. Harold Sakata’s Oddjob crushed a golf ball to show his displeasure with Sean Connery’s Bond. The henchman used his steel-rimmed hat to kill with precision. Oddjob, for a time in the Fort Knox sequence, bats Bond around like a cat playing wth a mouse.

Nor did the comic book style action end there. Bond’s tricked out Aston Martin became the inspiration for “spy cars,” with far more weaponry that a few extras the novel’s Aston had. The deaths of both Oddjob and later Auric Goldfinger could be described as comic book like. It was as if Jack Kirby of Marvel Comics drew the storyboards.

The difference, of course, was this all occurred in a $3 million A-movie where the audience could see the story all in one night.

Goldfinger’s success certainly was felt in the 007 series. In Thunderball, Bond flew a jet pack and in the climatic underwater fight had an oversized air tank that had additional weapons. You Only Live Twice included a helicopter snatching a car with a giant magnet and Blofeld’s volcano headquarters set that cost more than it took to produce Dr. No.

The success of such movies demonstrated audiences had an appetite for such uber-escapist sequences when executied in an entertaining way. You could make the case that Goldfinger blazed a trail that the likes of Star Wars, Indiana Jones and, yes, movies based directly on comic books, exploited.

The path from Connery’s Bond to, say, Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man may be shorter than it appears.

The most obvious sign: director Christopher Nolan, a self-described 007, adapted Bond bits (the Bond-Q briefing evolved into Bruce Wayne getting new equipment from Lucius Fox) into his three Batman movies. Director Sam Mendes in Skyfall returned the favor, saying Nolan’s 2008 The Dark Knight influenced the 2012 007 film.

NYT’s Upshot blog breaks down 007 by the numbers

Ian Fleming

Ian Fleming

The New York Times, IN AN ENTRY IN ITS UPSHOT BLOG, performs a bit of numerical analysis on James Bond.

The Upshot used this week’s 50th anniversary of the death of 007 creator Ian Fleming to examine Bond. The Upshot stresses data-based reporting. The newspaper started the blog after Walt Disney Co.’s ESPN purchased the FiveThirtyEight blog, which used to appear on the NYT’s website, from journalist-statistician Nate Silver, who now works for ESPN and its sister company ABC News. Silver gained fame for using data to project the winners of political races.

The Upshot describes itself as providing “news, analysis and graphics about politics, policy and everyday life.” (For more information, you can CLICK HERE.)

The Bond post by Alan Flippen includes graphics about which authors wrote how many 007 novels (Fleming being in a tie with John Gardner at 14 each) and how many 007 movie titles are derived from Fleming. To read the entire post, CLICK HERE.

In addition, you can read the newspaper’s 1964 obituary on Fleming BY CLICKING HERE. If you want to see the obituary in its original form, you can find information on purchasing a copy, or getting a Times digital subscription BY CLICKING HERE.

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