From Russia With Love’s 60th Part I: The difficult sequel

From Russia With Love's poster

From Russia With Love’s poster

Adapted from a 2013 post.

Nothing about From Russia With Love was easy. From scripting all the way through filming, the second James Bond film was difficult and at times an ordeal.

At last three writers (Richard Maibaum, Johnna Harwood and an uncredited Len Deighton) took turns trying to adapt the Ian Fleming novel, with major rewrites during shooting. One cast member (Pedro Armendariz) committed suicide shortly after completing his work on the movie because he was dying of cancer. Director Terence Young was nearly killed in a helicopter accident (CLICK HERE for an MI6 HQ page account of that and other incidents).

For many 007 fans, the movie, which premiered Oct. 10, 1963, is the best film in the Eon Productions series. It’s one of the closest adaptations of a Fleming novel, despite the major change of adding Ernst Stavro Blofeld and SPECTRE into the proceedings. It also proved the success of Dr. No the previous year was no accident.

Fleming’s novel was one of U.S. President John F. Kennedy’s 10 favorite books, a list published in 1961 in Life magazine. From Russia, With Love (with the comma and published in 1957) was one of the author’s most important books.

Fleming’s friend, author Raymond Chandler, had chided 007’s creator for letting the quality of his Bond novels slip after 1953’s Casino Royale. “I think you will have to make up your mind what kind of writer you are going to be,” Chandler wrote to Fleming in an April 1956 letter. Fleming decided to step up his game with his fifth 007 novel.

Years later, producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, with an endorsement of the source material from Kennedy, proceeded with adapting the book. Dr. No veterans Young, editor Peter Hunt, director of photography Ted Moore and scribes Maibaum and Harwood all reported for duty on the new 007 project.

The major Dr. No contributor absent was production designer Ken Adam, designing the war room set and other interiors for Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove. John Stears, meanwhile, took over on special effects.

Armendariz, as Kerim Bey, the head of MI6’s station in Turkey and Bond’s primary ally, had a big impact. He lit up every scene he was in and had great on-screen chemistry with star Sean Connery. When Kerim Bey is killed, as part of the complicated SPECTRE plot, it resonates with the audience. The “sacrificial lamb” is part of the Bond formula, but Armendariz was one of the best, if not the best, sacrificial lamb in the 007 film series.

The gravely ill actor needed assistance to complete his scenes. In long shots in the gypsy camp sequence, you needn’t look closely to tell somebody else is playing Kerim Bey walking with Connery’s 007. (It was director Young, according to Armendariz’s WIKIPEDIA ENTRY.)

Young & Co. retained the novel’s memorable set pieces (the fight between two gypsy women, the subsequent battle between Bulgarians and gypsies and the Orient Express train fight between Bond and Red Grant). The production also added a few twists, including two outdoor sequences after getting Bond off the train earlier than in the novel. The question was how would audiences respond.

The answer was yes. “I see that ‘From Russia With Love’ is now a movie and although I rarely see them I plan to take this one in,” former CIA Director Allen Dulles wrote to Fleming in 1964.

He wasn’t alone. The film, with a budget of $2 million, generated $78.9 million in worldwide box office, almost one-third more than its predecessor.

NEXT: John Barry establishes the 007 music template

1997 HMSS article: A VISIT WITH IAN FLEMING

November 2012 post: LEN DEIGHTON ON FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE

IFP unveils 70th-anniversary logo

Ian Fleming Publications today introduced its 70th-anniversary logo for the literary James Bond.

The Bond character debuted with the novel Casino Royale, published in 1953. The book would be adapted in the fall of 1954 on CBS, with Barry Nelson as an American version of Bond.

The rights to Casino Royale weren’t available to Eon Productions when it started its Bond film series in 1962. The novel would be parodied in producer Charles K. Feldman’s 1967 spoof. Eon finally obtained the rights and its version was released in 2006, the first Eon production to star Daniel Craig.

This year, IFP has said it will publish new editions of Ian Fleming’s original Bond stories.

Here is IFP’s tweet with the 70th-anniversary logo.

Ian Fleming Publications prepares for a big 2023

Ian Fleming Publications sent an email this week to various James Bond websites saying it is getting ready for a big 2023.

Next year marks the 70th anniversary of the publication of Casino Royale, the first Bond novel by Ian Fleming. IFP previously has said it will publish new editions of the Fleming originals.

IFP, in this week’s email, said a 70th-anniversary logo will be unveiled in the new year. A teaser version (mostly obscured) was included. Also coming out in early 2023 will be the new covers for the Fleming titles.

Bond 26: On His Majesty’s Secret Service

One-time image or the James Bond feed on Twitter

In 2023, James Bond films and novels will now be On His Majesty’s Secret Service. Queen Elizabeth has passed away, one of the most memorable celebrity deaths of 2022.

Prince Charles is now King Charles III. His mother was one of the youngest to assume the throne. She assumed the title of one of Ian Fleming’s best James Bond novels (1963). That title carried over to the sixth James Bond film made by Eon Productions (1969).

It remains to be seen how the movies and novels will be affected by the death of Queen Elizabeth. But no man, or monarch, awaits or no one.

There are signs that, maybe yes or maybe not, the Bond movies and novels are moving on.

Regardless, Netflix is televising a documentary series about the Royal Family. We’ll see how everything carries on.

It also remains to be seen how the Bond film and literary franchises progress with the passing of Elizabeth.

RE-POST: What 007 and Batman have in common

Adapted from a 2012 post

When following debates among James Bond fans — whether on Internet bulletin boards, Facebook or in person — people sometimes say “try reading Fleming” (or a variation thereof) as if it were a trump card that shows they’re right and the other person is wrong.

Read Fleming. That shows Bond is supposed to be a “blunt instrument.” Therefore, Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace are really true to Fleming.

“Read Fleming!” = “I’m right, you’re wrong!”

Read Fleming. That shows Bond is a romantic hero, not a neurotic antihero, therefore, (INSERT BOND ACTOR HERE) was true to Fleming. Meanwhile, (INSERT BOND ACTOR HERE) meant the 007 film series had reached a nadir.

In reality, over a half-century, the Bond films have passed through multiple eras. To some, Connery can never be surpassed and Moore was a joke. Except, the Connery films have more humor than Fleming employed (on the “banned” Criterion laser disc commentaries, Terence Young chortles about how Fleming asking why the films had more humor than his novels). The Moore films, for all their humor, do have serious moments (Bond admitting to Anya he killed her KGB lover in The Spy Who Loved Me or Bond being hurt but not wanting to admit it after getting out of the centrifuge in Moonraker). Other comments heard frequently: Brosnan tried to split the difference between Connery and Moore, Craig plays the role seriously, the way it should be, etc., etc.

Lots of different opinions, all concerning the same character, dealing with different eras and the contributions of multiple directors and screenwriters. Which reminded of us another character, who’s been around even longer than the film 007: Batman, who made his debut in Detective Comics No. 27 in 1939.

Early Batman stories: definitely dark. “There is a sickening snap as the cossack’s neck breaks under the mighty pressure of the Batman’s foot,” reads a caption in Detective Comics No. 30.

Then, things lightened up after Batman picked up Robin as a sidekick. Eventually, there was Science Fiction Batman in the 1950s (during a period when superhero comics almost disappeared), followed by “New Look” Batman in 1964 (which could also be called Return of the Detective), followed by Campy Batman in 1966 (because of popularity of the Batman television show), followed by Classic Batman is Back, circa 1969 or ’70, etc., etc. All different interpretations of the same character.

In the 1990s, there was a Batman cartoon that captured all this. A group of kids are talking. Two claim to have seen Batman. The first provides a description and we see a sequence resembling Dick Sprang-drawn comics of the 1940s, with Gary Owens providing the voice of Batman. The second describes something much different, and the sequence is drawn to resemble Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns comic of the 1980s, with Michael Ironside voicing Batman.

Eventually, the group of kids gets into trouble and we see the 1990s cartoon Batman, voiced by Kevin Conroy, in a sequence that evokes elements of both visions.

With the Bond film series, something similar has occurred. In various media, you’ll see fans on different sides of an argument claiming Fleming as supporting their view. Search hard enough, and you can find bits of Fleming or Fleming-inspired elements in almost any Bond film. The thing is, the different eras aren’t the result of long-term planning. They’re based on choices, the best guess among filmmakers of what is popular at a given time, what makes a good Bond story, etc.

In effect, both the film 007 and the comic book Batman have had to adapt or die. Fans today can’t imagine a world without either character. But each has had crisis moments. For Bond, the Broccoli-Saltzman separation of the mid-1970s and the 1989-95 hiatus in Bond films raised major questions about 007’s future. Batman, meanwhile, faced the prospect of cancellation by DC Comics (one reason for the 1964 revamp that ended the science fiction era) but managed to avoid it.

None of this, of course, will stop the arguments. Truth be told, things might become dull if the debates ceased. Still things might go over better if participants looked at them as an opportunity. An opposing viewpoint that’s well argued keeps you sharp and might cause you to consider ideas you overlooked.

A few thoughts about the 1960 spy craze

The 1960s was the era of the spy craze. But some folks will argue that point with you.

Some James Bond fans will say everything other than Bond are only “knockoffs.”

Meanwhile, some fans of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (on social media) argue that was actually “the U.N.C.L.E. Craze” with Get Smart, I Spy, and The Wild Wild West following.

A few facts:

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. originally was pitched as “James Bond for television.”

Television producer Norman Felton and Ian Fleming co-created the character Napoleon Solo on October 29-31,1962 during their meetings in New York City.

The Wild Wild West was pitched as “spies and cowboys.”

Get Smart originated as a mix of Bond and Inspector Clouseau.

The success of Bond created a market for an “anti-Bond.” John Le Carre (real name David Cornwell) benefited. Still, Le Carre and his prominent fans said Bond wasn’t up to Le Carre’s standards.

Danger Man (Secret Agent in the U.S.) and The Avengers came out before 1962’s Dr. No. Yet both British TV shows were influenced by the Bond films.

The 1960s spy craze was a high point for the genre. But, even to this day, there’s a lot of grumbling going on.

What should happen for Bond 26

Global James Bond Day has come and gone. There were no major announcements made related to the Eon film series.

With that in mind, what should happen with Bond 26 (whenever it comes out)? :

Bring David Arnold back

Part of the 60th-anniversary festivities was a documentary about the music of the Bond films. Watching that documentary, it’s clear that Eon Productions still adores the work of David Arnold.

Yet, Arnold hasn’t scored a Bond film since 2008’s Quantum of Solace.

Sam Mendes wanted, and got, Thomas Newman for his two Bond films (Skyfall and SPECTRE). Cary Fukunaga initially got his choice (Dan Romer). But he was rejected. So we got Hans Zimmer and his multiple enablers.

Zimmer even said the No Time to Die score was a collaboration between himself and Steve Mazzaro. When you sign Hans Zimmer, he’s not an artist. He’s more of a film-music conglomerate.

Next time out, just sign David Arnold.

Get on with it

For the past six months or so, Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson of Eon Productions have yammered about how hard it is to cast a new Bond.

Come on. Your father/stepfather switched gears and cast new Bond actors on the fly. (See what happened between May 1985 and July 1987.)

Get on with it. By this time, everybody knows about Ian Fleming, and James Bond, and how Fleming can be adapted to movies.

IFP to republish Ian Fleming stories, books

Ian Fleming Publications today said it plans to republish Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels and short stories and other works in 2023.

The new editions will be published under the Ian Fleming Publications imprint. The move is for the 70th anniversary of the publication of Casino Royale, Fleming’s first Bond novel.

The publication date is April 13, 2023, according to an online announcement. IFP had earlier teased it would have an announcement today, Global James Bond Day. Oct. 5, 1962 was when Dr. No, the first Bond film produced by Eon Productions, debuted.

The new editions initially will be published in the U.K. and British Commonwealth in paperback and E-book, IFP said. There also will be “prestige” hardbacks and collector limited editions, according to the announcement.

Besides the Bond novels and short stories, IFP will come out with new editions of Fleming’s Chitty Chitty Bang Bang novel and the non-fiction works The Diamond Smugglers and Thrilling Cities.

Queen Elizabeth dies; her links with Bond

Queen Elizabeth II with Daniel Craig as Bond in 2012

Queen Elizabeth II died Sept. 8 at the age of 96. Her passing is the end of an era and the longevity of her reign is remarkable.

Elizabeth became queen on Feb. 6, 1952. The first British prime minister of her reign was Winston Churchill. Also, she assumed the throne around the time that Ian Fleming was in Jamaica, writing the early drafts of his first James Bond novel, Casino Royale.

Like Fleming’s literary Bond, Elizabeth II as queen confronted a U.K. that was forced to shed colonies and adjust to a new place in the world.

Late in his run as Bond author, Fleming penned On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. It turned out to be one of Fleming’s best Bond novels. The 1969 film adaptation included a striking image when Bond (George Lazenby) is cleaning out his office (not realizing his resignation has been altered to a request for leave).

“Sorry, ma’am,” Lazenby/Bond says toward a copy of a portrait of Elizabeth II. Here it is, courtesy of a tweet by MI6 HQ:

As the movie Bond became huge, members of the royal family showed up during production of 007 movies. But Elizabeth II topped them all in 2012.

For the London Olympics, the queen participated in a Danny Boyle-directed sequence for the opening ceremonies along with Daniel Craig’s Bond.

Prince Charles has now assumed the mantle of king. Yet, somehow, On His Majesty’s Secret Service doesn’t have the same ring.

UPDATE: Ian Fleming Publications put out this tweet in honor of Elizabeth.

Without whom, etc. (58th anniversary)