007 Fidelity Index: How close are the films to the books? Part II

We continue with our survey of how the Bond films compare to the Ian Fleming originals. Part I was fairly easy. Part II gets tougher with additional categories.


For Your Eyes Only: As the 1980s began, Eon Productions decided it was time to go back to Ian Fleming. The result was, arguably, the most Fleming-based Roger Moore film. For Your Eyes Only combined story elements from two Fleming short stories and included dialogue and situations from the short stories. To make it work, however, screenwriters Richard Maibaum and Michael G. Wilson devised a plot to marry the two Fleming storylines together. Because of that, FYEO falls just short of the “Best of the Rest” category in Part I.

Die Another Day: This may prove a controversial choice for this category. DAD is mostly remembered for its (in our opinion) bloated second half of big action set pieces and invisible cars. But the first half was a de facto adapation of Fleming’s Moonraker novel, in which the name “Gustav Graves” is substituted for “Hugo Drax,” the Blades club setting is used (though for a sword fight, rather than a Bridge game) and a huge laser satellite takes the place of a missile. Graves shares the same boorish characteristics of Fleming’s Drax. Not as much Fleming influence as FYEO, but more than the films in the following category.


Diamonds Are Forever: The first 30 to 35 minutes retain something of the flavor of Fleming’s 1956 novel. Bond takes the place of a diamond smuggler (he does the deed flying into Los Angeles rather than New York); he meets smuggler Tiffany Case, who acts as if she’s performing a personal Victoria’s Secret show for Bond; there are a couple of gay hit men/thugs named Wint and Kidd; and 007 ends up in Las Vegas. In the film, though, once in Vegas, things shift gears abruptly and we’re left to what Tom Mankiewicz, rewriting a Richard Maibaum script, could devise.

Live And Let Die: Well, we have a smuggling plot, substituting drugs for long-lost gold. Mr. Big has been changed from an actual villain to an alias of the villain. New Orleans gets replaces Florida as a setting. And the villains are black. There is a character named Solitaire, who has talent reading tarot cards. After that, not much in the way of Fleming influence, and one major sequence of the book gets tossed out, though it (a keel hauling sequence) would be used in For Your Eyes Only while other set pieces show up in Licence to Kill.

You Only Live Twice: The major setting (Japan) and some characters (Tiger Tanaka, Kissy Suzuki and Dikko Henderson) show up in the film but the main plot is tossed aside.

The Man With The Golden Gun: Fleming villain Scaramanga shows up, albeit a more sophisticated character than Fleming’s original while Mary Goodnight also makes an appearance, though played completely for laughs. The plot ignores Fleming’s original and is the result of Tom Mankiewicz and Richard Maibaum’s various scripting efforts.

Octopussy: utilizes two Fleming short stories, though there’s much less Fleming content than in For Your Eyes Only. Essentially, Fleming helps provide one scene (an auction where Bond tries to sniff out the villains) and the backstory related to the film’s title character.

The Living Daylights: The Fleming short story of the same name provides the basis of the sequence immediately following the main titles and little else. That sequence (set by Fleming in Berlin) was the most cinematic scene of the short story. Fans of the film feel Timothy Dalton embodied the spirit of the Fleming stories, but the filmmakers didn’t provide Dalton with much of Fleming’s text.

Licence to Kill: A Fleming character in a short story shows up as the lackey of the film’s main villain. The film also utilizes two scenes from Fleming’s Live And Let Die novel, most prominently Felix Leiter getting chewed on by a shark. The script is credited to Michael G. Wilson and Richard Maibaum, but it’s mostly the work of Wilson. The teaser trailer only credited Wilson; Maibaum got a co-writing credit before the film was released.

Moonraker:There’s a villain named Hugo Drax, same as Fleming’s novel. He plays Bridge (though we’re told this and not shown it). And…well, not that much more. Some fans hate the movie while others admire it, but there’s not much Fleming, either way.


007 Fidelity Index: How close are the films to the books? Part I

An exchange of e-mails between James Bond fans referenced a range of faithfulness of the 007 films to Ian Fleming’s novels. That got us to thinking, what would a spectrum of 007 fidelity look like?

Here’s our try at it. To keep thing simple, we’re keeping it to the official series made by Eon Productions


On Her Majesty’s Secret Service: The major components of Fleming’s novel, written in 1962 while filming of Dr. No was underway in Jamaica, are in Peter Hunt’s film version. Richard Maibuam (aided by Simon Raven’s dialogue polish) brings the books’s two storylines closer by having Blofeld capture Tracy, giving her a role in the cliamatic attack on Piz Gloria. The filmmakers may have considered further deviations, but the finished product is the closest to having Fleming’s world put up on the screen.


Dr. No: Some sequences, and even dialgoue, are taken directly from Fleming’s 1958 novel. But Dr. No now works for SPECTRE, rather than the Russians; the screenwriters add Felix Leither and a new character, Miss Taro; Bond’s trip through Dr. No’s obstacle course is removed and he just crawls through tunnels instead; and Dr. No’s demise is totally changed.

From Russia With Love: No. 2 in the series again transposes sequences and dialgoue. Still, some notable tinkering — including having SPECTRE organizing the plot instead of the Russians; Bond gets off the Orient Express much earlier, creating two new, outdoor action sequences; and Bond’s final faceoff with Klebb occurs in Venice, rather than Paris and the film lacks the cliffhanger ending of Fleming’s original. On the latter point, given the filmmakers changed the order of books they used, that’s just as well but it’s still a deviation.

Goldfinger: Makes changes that improve upon Fleming’s 1959 novel, including having the villain plot to irridate Fort Knox’s gold (to make his own more valuable) rather than stealing it. Screenwriter Maibuam felt the novel’s buzz saw corny and a cliche, so the laser beat was introduced instead. The Maibuam-Paul Dehn script also has Goldfinger in an alliance with China, rather than working for the Russians.

Thunderball: The film is not only based on Fleming’s novel but scripts that preceded the book. The novel introduced Blofeld and he’s still pulling the strings here, with Largo being the operational commander. Maibaum and co-screenwriter John Hopkins make things more complicated by having SPECTRE substitute a double for a NATO pilot, rather than just buying off the pilot. And the climatic underwater fight takes place in the middle of the day (probably to make things easier to film, a difficult enough undertaking in 1965) rather than at night.

Casino Royale: In the 21st Century, Eon adds considerably to the basic story of Fleming’s first novel. Also, Vesper’s suicide is transformed from just taking an overdose of pills to being part of a huge action set piece. Still, the main part of Fleming’s novel is there, including the torture sequence and “The bitch is dead” line.