Trigger Mortis: a preview

Trigger Mortis cover

Trigger Mortis cover

By Brad Frank, Guest Writer
Trigger Mortis, by Anthony Horowitz, the newest James Bond continuation novel, comes out Sept. 8. This one is unique because it’s based on an original story outline by Ian Fleming, and brings back one of his most famous characters.

Fleming had always been interested in seeing James Bond on the screen, and throughout the 1950s he considered various deals for the film and/or television rights. A live TV adaptation of his first novel, Casino Royale, aired on CBS in 1954.

In 1956, Fleming was commissioned to create a TV series called “Commander Jamaica.” It was never produced, so he changed the main character’s name and other details, and used it as the basis for his 1958 novel Doctor No.

Another network proposed a James Bond TV series, and Fleming wrote a handful of episode outlines. When that project fell through, he adapted three of them into short stories, which were published in the 1960 collection For Your Eyes Only. Fleming’s habit of adapting unproduced scripts would come back to haunt him during the extended Thunderball legal case.

Fleming’s unused TV outlines have never been seen outside of the archives of Ian Fleming Publications until now. Trigger Mortis is based on one of them, originally called “Murder on Wheels.” Trigger Mortis takes place immediately following the events of Goldfinger, and features that book’s heroine, Pussy Galore.

Goldfinger is arguably the most famous Bond story of all time, although it’s known mainly from the 1964 film starring Sean Connery and Honor Blackman, which differs somewhat from the book.

The first obvious difference between the novel and film is that Bond’s friend, CIA agent Felix Leiter does not appear in the early parts of the book. He only shows up at the very end, during the raid on Fort Knox. Also notable is that in the book, Goldfinger works for SMERSH, using his gold to pay operatives, while the film presents him as a totally independent criminal who has partnered with China.

In the film, Jill Masterson (Masterton in the book) is adamant that Goldfinger pays her only to be seen with him, nothing else. It’s quite the opposite in the novel, in which Goldfinger fantasizes about literally making love to gold. Her death via gold paint isn’t revealed until much later, when Bond (and the reader) learns about it from her sister. And while the golden girl is one of the most memorable images in all of film, upon analysis it makes no sense outside of the broader context.

Fleming, who was very skilled at describing games or competitions, presents all 18 holes of the golf match in wonderful detail. The film reduces this to only three holes, but the results are the same. In the novel, Oddjob is not Goldfinger’s caddy, only his chauffeur. Following the game, Goldfinger in the novel invites Bond to dinner at his home, where we learn about Oddjob’s Karate skills and trick bowler hat.

As in the film, Bond tails Goldfinger to Geneva, meeting Jill’s sister Tilly Masterton along the way. When they are captured spying on Goldfinger’s factory, Tilly is NOT killed –- she survives almost to the end of the novel. The famous laser beam table is merely an old-fashioned circular saw table in the book. Goldfinger inexplicably hires Bond and Tilly to work for him on Operation Grand Slam. In the film, he keeps Bond alive merely for show, knowing that they are being spied upon by Bond’s friends.

Pussy Galore is actually a relatively minor character in the novel, who has little contact with Bond until the end. She is not Goldfinger’s private pilot –- in fact she isn’t a pilot at all, but rather the head of an all-female criminal organization. She first appears along with the other crime bosses who Goldfinger wants to join his big plan.

It has often been stated that the film improved on the book’s plot by having Goldfinger irradiate Fort Knox with an atomic bomb, thus increasing the value of his own gold reserves, rather than trying to steal it. This may be true, and yet there are many other changes in the film which make little or no sense. I’ve already mentioned Jill’s death. Another example is that, in the novel, while Goldfinger does murder the one gangster who refuses to join him, the others, along with Pussy, become active members in the attack on Fort Knox.

The film merely hints, with one line of dialogue, that Pussy may be a lesbian. The novel makes this quite explicit. She and Tilly are obviously attracted to each other. Pussy does not help Bond thwart Goldfinger’s plans, and only turns to his side in the last two chapters.

The novel concludes with their rescue from the crashed plane, which in the book was a hijacked commercial airliner, rather than Goldfinger’s private jet. Oddjob, not Goldfinger, gets sucked out of the airplane window. To justify her conversion, Pussy tells Bond “I never met a man before,” and Bond promises her a course of T.L.C. – Tender Loving Care — treatment.

Fleming would usually, during the opening chapters of his next novel, tie up any loose ends from the previous one. But he never again mentioned Pussy Galore, or what happened between her and Bond after the novel’s conclusion. That conveniently left the door open for her to reappear in Trigger Mortis.

© 2015, Brad Frank

Brad Frank is a director of the Ian Fleming Foundation.

Jon Burlingame starts a YouTube channel

Film and television music expert Jon Burlingame has started a YouTube channel called Reel Music. First up: a look at Burlingame’s picks for top 10 spy movie scores.

Burlingame has written books on television composers and James Bond music. In the initial video, launched on Aug. 11, his selections comprise a number of different composers.

Burlingame’s list is presented in chronological order and doesn’t attempt to rank the 10 selections. It begins with Bernard Herrmann’s score for 1959’s North by Northwest and ends with John Powell’s score for 2002’s The Bourne Identity.

Along the way, there are two John Barry scores (Goldfinger and The Ipcress File), three Bond films (including one not made by Eon Productions) as well as efforts by Lalo Schifrin, Quincy Jones and Dave Grusin.

You can take a look for yourself. While individual viewers might quibble with selections or argue for others, there’s no dispute that Burlingame knows the music territory.

Note: the image below shows posters for Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation and The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie. Neither shows up on the list, but they present a “news peg” in journalism-speak.

Common thread in 007 scripts: Making Bond bigger

Sean Connery in a 007 publicity still

Sean Connery in a 007 publicity still

There’s something a number of James Bond scripts have in common: There are attempts to build up supporting characters. But in the end, there’s only one top dog. And his name is Bond, James Bond.

007 collector Gary J. Firuta has provided copies of a number of Bond scripts. In a June 1966 draft, screenwriter Roald Dahl had Japanese agent Suki more of an active participant in the Kobe docks action sequence. Both Bond and Suki are shooting it out with thugs at one point. In the final film, however, agent Aki doesn’t do a whole lot, except flee to report to Japanese spy chief Tiger Tanaka.

In both Jack Whittingham’s first draft for what would become Thunderball as well as a later Richard Maibaum-John Hopkins draft, Felix Leiter also is more of an active participant in events. In the final 1965 film, Felix (Rik Van Nutter) gets punched by 007 in the stomach (so Felix won’t say “007” before Bond does so) and watches Bond (Sean Connery) do his thing.

In Richard Maibaum’s rewrite for The Man With the Golden Gun, Lt. Hip *and his nieces* infiltrate the martial arts school where an abducted Bond has been taken. They end up saving him from being finished off by prized pupil Chula. Not so in the final movie, where Bond (at the last second) fights off Chula and escapes *and then* encounters Hip and the nieces.

Finally, here’s an example the blog CITED IN 2009 about the differences between the Goldfinger novel and film. In Ian Fleming’s novel, it was Bond’s caddie who figured out how Goldfinger was cheating. In the film, Bond does it by himself while the caddie nods his approval.

Patrick Macnee dies at 93, BBC says

Patrick Mcnee and Diana Rigg in a publicity still for The Avengers

Patrick Mcnee and Diana Rigg in a publicity still for The Avengers

Patrick Macnee, debonair actor best known for playing John Steed on The Avengers, died today at 93, according to the BBC, WHICH CITED MACNEE’S SON RUPERT.

There was also a statement ON THE ACTOR’S WEBSITE that said Macnee “died a natural death at his home in Rancho Mirage, California…with his family at his bedside.”

Macnee enjoyed a long career, playing dozens of characters. Still, The Avengers and his character of John Steed, with his bowler and umbrella, became Macnee’s career trademark. The show first went into production in 1961. Its greatest popularity came when he was paired with Diana Rigg’s Emma Peel.

The actor saw two of his co-stars — Honor Blackman and Rigg — leave the series to take the lead female role in James Bond movies (Goldfinger and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service). Another Majesty’s actress, Joanna Lumley, was Macnee’s co-star in a 1970s revival, The New Avengers.

Macnee finally got his turn at a Bond movie, A View to a Kill, in 1985, playing an ally of Bond (Roger Moore) who is killed by henchwoman May Day (Grace Jones). Macnee, years earlier, had played Dr. Watson to Moore’s Sherlock Holmes in a made-for-television movie. Macnee also made a properly dignified chief of U.N.C.L.E. in 1983’s The Return of the Man From U.N.C.L.E.

UPDATE: For the second time this month (Christopher Lee’s death was the other), Roger Moore bids adieu to a colleague:

Some observations, questions about Trigger Mortis

NO! It's Trigger Mortis, not Tigger Mortis!

NO! It’s Trigger Mortis, not Tigger Mortis! (With apologies to A.A. Milne)

All of a sudden, Murder on Wheels doesn’t sound so bad: When the new James Bond continuation novel was announced, a big selling point was how it was based, in part, on a treatment Ian Fleming wrote for a never-produced 1950s television series.

Murder on Wheels was the title of the treatment. Author Anthony Horowitz said on Twitter on Oct. 2 it wouldn’t be used as the novel’s title, although it would be a chapter title. So early May 28, the world was told Trigger Mortis was the novel’s title.

Is Trigger Mortis really that much better? Obviously, somebody at Ian Fleming Publications thought so. Trigger Mortis was already used for the title of a 1958 crime novel. (CLICK HERE for details via The Rap Sheet website.) Meanwhile, on social media, the title generated puns, such as the illustration seen here, which was on Facebook. (Shout out to Chris Wright who found it and put it on Facebook.)

One of the most famous Bond women returns: The main surprise that was held under wraps until the May 28 title announcement was the novel is set two weeks after the events of Goldfinger and that Pussy Galore puts in an appearance.

In Ian Fleming’s original novels, James Bond occasionally thought about the women he had met. Examples: there were references to Tiffany Case in From Russia With Love, to Vesper in Goldfinger and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and to Honeychile Ryder in The Man With the Golden Gun. Still, they never showed up again, so Horowitz is trying something different.

Does the villain of Trigger Mortis have a tie to Goldfinger? The PRESS RELEASE for Trigger Mortis says characters include “a brand new Bond Girl Jeopardy Lane and a sadistic, scheming Korean adversary hell-bent on vengeance Jai Seung Sin, a.k.a Jason Sin.”

Oddjob, Auric Goldfinger’s henchman, was Korean and Goldfinger employed other Koreans. Could Jai Seung Sin be seeking revenge for the events of Goldfinger? We’ll see when the novel is published in September.

SPECTRE: newest twist on 007 product placement

SPECTRE teaser poster

SPECTRE teaser poster

No spoilers.

James Bond movies have never been shy about product placement. SPECTRE may just be a twist on a long-standing tradition.

For decades, the 007 film series produced by Eon Productions has cut deals with companies pitching their wares. Goldfinger did deals with Ford Motor Co. and Gillette. With Thunderball, not only did Ford provide vehicles but then-CEO Henry Ford II appeared as an extra. Moonraker had deals with Marlboro, 7 Up and British Airways.

By the time Pierce Brosnan was 007 (1995-2002), writer Bruce Feirstein, in his FIRST DRAFT for what would become Tomorrow Never Dies, didn’t even specify a car model for 007’s vehicle. It just said “(Insert name).”

What’s different about SPECTRE is it may amount to being product placement for a country — Mexico, to be specific — than a series of companies.

The Tax Analysts website, which is targeted at tax professionals, PUBLISHED A MARCH 3 ARTICLE detailing how SPECTRE’s script was altered to take advantage of as much as $20 million in Mexican incentives. (If you click on the link, there are spoilers.)

The incentives are intended to make Mexico look as good as possible in movies, according to the website. The country has reason to do so, according to AN ARTICLE IN THE WASHINGTON POST. Here’s an excerpt:

The Mexican government’s sensitivities to its violent reputation are no secret. When President Enrique Peña Nieto took office in 2012, he tried to minimize the focus on the drug war while emphasizing economic and political reforms. But ongoing high-profile violence, including battles in Michoacan and the disappearance of 43 students in Guerrero, has undercut that message.

None of this is happening in a vacuum. For blockbuster movies, access to the vast Chinese market is a must. The 2013 movie Iron Man 3 was a co-production with China. The 2012 remake of Red Dawn turned the villains into North Koreans instead of Chinese.

With SPECTRE, according to Tax Analysts, it was more of a direct subsidy. SPECTRE’s budget may exceed $300 million, making it one of the most expensive movies ever made.

Meanwhile, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, the studio that owns half the Bond franchise, emerged from bankruptcy only a few years ago. It doesn’t even release its own movies, cutting deals with Sony Pictures (including the 007 films) or Warner Bros. (the now-completed Hobbit series). For MGM, $300 million is a huge bet, even for a 007 film and even though the most recent Bond movie (Skyfall) had a worldwide box office of $1.1 billion.

Put another way, $300 million is real money. Some Bond fans may get annoyed with product placement but they don’t have to sign the checks. As a result, it’s understandable why MGM would be willing to change SPECTRE’s story in return for millions of dollars.

SPECTRE by the numbers (and not just 007)

SPECTRE teaser poster

SPECTRE teaser poster

SPECTRE is starting production in Rome, for a five-week shoot, including a car chase, that will cost almost as much (if not more) than some movies.

So, here’s a breakdown of the kind of spending that’s known about the 24th James Bond film. We’ll assume a total production budget of $300 million.

According to information from hacked Sony documents, the budget was on pace to well exceed that, but there were also efforts to rein it in. We’ll assume the trends cancel themselves out so we’ll go with a nice round number with $300 million.

For the purposes of this post, we’ll assume a 30-week shooting schedule. Principal photography began on Dec. 8 and is supposed to run seven months. Actual total may run a week or two less than 30 weeks, but some filming was done before principal photography began. So, again, we’ll use a round number.

Cost per week, total: $10 million.

Cost per week, Rome shoot: $12 million (five weeks, $60 million, according to figures reported by


Dr. No: $1 million

From Russia With Love: $2 million

Goldfinger: $3 million

You Only Live Twice: $9.5 million (Ken Adam’s volcano set alone cost more than Dr. No)

The Spy Who Loved Me: $14 million

Moonraker: $31 million to $34 million, depending on estimate (Initial plan was to keep it close to Spy’s budget but it was evident that wouldn’t hold)

Tomorrow Never Dies: $110 million (first to exceed $100 million)

Quantum of Solace: $230 million (first to exceed $200 million)

SPECTRE: $300 million (first to reach $300 million).

One week’s shooting on SPECTRE costs more than You Only Live Twice, which had the one set that cost more than Dr. No.

Put another way, each day’s shooting on SPECTRE costs more than Dr. No. At $10 million a week, if you shot seven days a week, equals $1.43 million daily.


Taken 3: $48 million

Kingsman: The Secret Service: $81 million

The Man From U.N.C.L.E.: $75 million

To be fair, none of this takes into account 50 years of inflation. At the same time, this exercise is also a reminder that studios don’t play with Monopoly money. Studios don’t get to spend, or receive, inflation-adjusted dollars.


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