007 films and their (sort of) continuity part I

Poster for a Dr. No/From Russia With Love double feature

Poster for a Dr. No/From Russia With Love double feature


We were scanning some 007 Internet message boards recently. A couple of assertions caught our eye, including one that *every* James Bond film has its own timeline that has nothing to do with any other 007 film. The other was that Casino Royale wasn’t a “reboot,” in which the Bond saga started over.

Facts would indicate otherwise. Still, the subject of continuity is a murky one for Bond films. Continuity has never been a big marketing point, at least until 2008’s Quantum of Solace, which was hyped as the first “direct” sequel to a Bond film (Casino Royale, in this instance). So here’s a glance at when the series at least attempted continuity.

Contrary to the Quantum of Solace hype, 1963’s From Russia With Love contains a few references to the events of Dr. No. True, it’s not mere minutes or hours later (even that is murky in Quantum, which we’ll get to in part II), but it’s clearly a year or less. Examples:

Early in the film, SPECTRE chief Ernst Stavro Blofeld is conferring with Kronsteen, his director of planning, and Rosa Klebb, a recent SPECTRE hire from the Soviet Union. Kronsteen tells Blofeld that SPECTRE “will have the chance for a personal revenge for the killing of our operative, Dr. No, because the man the British will almost certainly send is their agent, James Bond.”

After the plot has started, we finally see Sean Connery’s Bond spending a pleasant day making out with girlfriend Sylvia Trench out in the English countryside. Bond had met Sylvia in Dr. No and the two, eh, enjoyed each other’s company before Bond flew to Jamaica on the Dr. No assignment. Their reunion is interrupted when Bond has to call the office and is told he needs to return. Bond tells a disappointed Sylvia, “We’ll do this again some time soon.” Sylvia replies: “The last time you said that, you flew off to Jamaica. I haven’t seen you in six months…” Bond manages to buy some time before returning to headquarters.

In 1964’s Goldfinger, there’s another apparent refernece to Dr. No. In the original film, Bond met CIA agent Felix Leiter for the first time (Leiter wasn’t in the Ian Fleming novel). After the main titles, Leiter meets Bond again in Miami, where 007 is getting a rubdown from a woman named Dink. After Dink departs, Leiter says he’s surprised that Bond has let “a member of the opposition get that close to you.” Bond’s reply: “Well, they got a lot closer to you in Jamica, didn’t they?”

Five years later, 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service has a new Bond with George Lazenby. M tells Bond he’s being taken off Operation Bedlam because he’s had “two years” to track down Blofeld but has been unsuccessful. You Only Live Twice had come out in 1967 (and showed Blofeld’s face on camera for the first time), so that’s an apparent reference. More explicitly, when Bond decides to quit, he’s going through his desk, taking out objects from previous movies, including Honey Rider’s knife and Red Grant’s garrote watch, with excerpts from the scores of Dr. No and From Russia With Love playing in the background as he does so.

All of this was probably meant to reassure the audience that despite the new face, it was still Bond. Whatever the motivation, dicector Peter Hunt, screenwriter Richard Maibaum and composer John Barry had hit continuity button hard. On top of that, Maurice Binder’s main titles had an “hourglass” motiff showing the passage of time as well as (non-Sean Connery) clips from the five previous 007 films.

Eight years later, in The Spy Who Loved Me, Bond and Agent Triple-X are showing off how much they know from each other’s dossiers. Triple-X one ups Bond by starting to talk about his late wife, presumably Tracy from OHMSS. Bond cuts her off, showing it’s still a sore subject. It’s the first time since OHMSS the marriage was explicitly referenced.

For Your Eyes Only in 1981 takes the OHMSS continuity play one step further. In the pre-titles sequence, Bond visits Tracy’s grave (and her name is on it, so there’s no possible mistake). The tombstone says Tracy died in 1969, the year OHMSS was released. The epitath is “We Have All the Time in the World,” the last line of OHMSS when a disbelieving Bond is mourning the loss of his wife, as well as the name of the main song from the film.

What’s more, the script contained a reference where the (sort of) Blofeld in the film’s pre-titles sequence says this is “the 10th anniversary of last encounter,” which would match 1971’s Diamond Are Forever, the last time the official film series used the Blofeld character openly. The line was snipped in final editing; Kevin McClory claimed ownership of Blofeld so Eon opted to take out the explicit reference. That decision was too late for Marvel Comics, which included the line in its comic book adaptation of the movie.

The ill-fated marriage gets referenced yet again in 1989’s Licence to Kill when Felix (whose own wife is about to get killed) says Bond was once married “but it was a long time ago.”

So connecting the dots, it would seem, at the very least, the Sean Connery-George Lazenby-Roger Moore films all share a timeline, though you’ll get arguments whether Diamonds Are Forever pretends OHMSS never happened. The films all have Lois Maxwell playing Miss Moneypenny. Extending the timeline through Timothy Dalton’s two films may be a more dicey proposition (he had his own Moneypenny, Caroline Bliss). On the other hand, Robert Brown, who had played M in the last two Roger Moore films, was still around, and so was Desmond Llewelyn’s Q.

After Licence to Kill, Bond went into a hiatus during a six-year period when Albert R. Broccoli considered selling off his Bond interest as well as getting into a legal fight with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. When the dust settled, yet another new Bond was about to debut. And one of the key Eon Production personnel was about to muddy things up more, continuity wise.

TO BE CONTINUED

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