007 (or so) observations about Moonraker

A "guilty pleasure" for some 007 fans

A “guilty pleasure” for some 007 fans

Wednesday, June 29, was the 37th anniversary of Moonraker’s U.S. debut. The 11th James Bond film doesn’t get much love from fans in the 21st century. Yet, it was a huge financial success in the 20th.

With that in mind, what follows are some observations about the film:

001: Drax’s disdain for Britain: This may reflect a few bits of Ian Fleming’s third Bond novel that made it into the movie.

The nationality of Drax (Michael Lonsdale) isn’t specified but he clearly isn’t British. He keeps a British butler around, mostly to boss around.

The Moonraker villain also tells Bond that “afternoon tea” is the U.K.’s greatest contribution to Western civilization. Later (after Bond has investigated Drax’s Venice facilities), Drax makes a comment about not understanding British humor.

002: Bond’s physical stamina: As Bond (Roger Moore) agrees to take a ride in Drax’s centrifuge, Holly (Lois Chiles) says “even a 70-year-old” can take “three Gs” (the force of takeover). Holly says most people “pass out” at seven Gs. Bond withstands *13 Gs* before activating a device he got from Q to escape.

003: One of the best (unheralded) scenes of the movie: Bond further investigates Drax’s Venice facilities. For the Moore version of Bond, this represents one of his deadliest miscalculations.

Bond briefly observes two of Drax’s scientists at work. Visually, there are a number of things to catch the viewer’s eyes. When the scientists briefly walk away, 007 moves in further.

Unfortunately, Bond didn’t leave everything as he left it, and the two scientists die as a result. One of the best shots of the film is one of the scientists dying while Bond watches on the other side of a Plexiglass barrier.

Yes, this sequence included the joke that draws groans from hard-core Bond fans (the John Williams theme from Close Encounters of the Third Kind is the entry code). Still, overall, the sequence is a mostly serious one for a very lighthearted movie.

004: The minister of defense (defence to our British friends) plays Bridge with Drax: Others have made this observation long ago, but it is one of the few direct references to Ian Fleming’s 1955 novel. So we thought we’d mention it here.

005: Bond is a cheapskate! No tip, James? You get to stay in the President’s Suite at an expensive hotel in Rio and you stiff the guy on the tip. In From Russia With Love, Bond (Sean Connery) stuffed his tip in the suitcoat pocket of the guy who took him to his Istanbul hotel room. He shows his contempt while *still* giving a tip.

But here? Come on, Bond! The guy is just trying to make a living!

006: Bond’s brief moment of compassion for a fellow MI6 agent: After almost getting killed by Jaws, the MI6 agent in Rio offers to still help bond. He declines, saying she should get some rest.

007: Bond’s cable car reaction: Only 007 would react to a stalled cable car by going to the car’s roof. Only a CIA agent (Holly in this case) would have a first reaction to grab the nearest chain. Also, how many cable cars have a chain laying around?

008: The special effects of the boat chase weren’t that good, even in 1979: Friend or foe of the movie, this was not a highlight.

Seriously, the Spy Commander saw the film five times in the theater and you can could discern what was real and was special effects.. But Albert R. Broccoli & Co. had the good sense to keep up the pace to get past that.

009: Bond momentarily loses his cool: It only lasts a few seconds, but Bond really is annoyed with Jaws (Richard Kiel) after the henchman fishes 007 out of Drax’s pool.

0010: Some of the walls of Drax’s space station seem to be made of cardboard: Ken Adam (1921-2016) was one of the greatest production designers in the history of film. But a few shots in the climatic space station fight indicate the budget was running low.

0011: John Barry deserves every compliment he’s ever gotten for this film: The veteran 007 composer improves almost every scene in the movie with his score. It might not be his best Bond score, but Barry elevates the film throughout.

0012: This film is unique in the 007 film series:  It’s the one time that Eon Productions founder Albert R. Broccoli more or less didn’t have to worry about the budget.

In the 1970s, United Artists and Eon had to confront whether the 007 film series could continue after Sean Connery left for good and after Eon co-founder Harry Saltzman sold his interest to United Artists.

In the 1980s (and beyond), Eon had to deal with budget issues after Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer acquired UA in the early part of the decade.

For Moonraker, Broccoli really had (almost) Carte Blanche for making a Bond movie. This really was “the money’s up on the screen.”

 

007 collector, author John Griswold dies

Cover to Ian Fleming’s James Bond: Annotations and Chronologies for Ian Fleming’s Bond Stories

Cover to Ian Fleming’s James Bond: Annotations and Chronologies for Ian Fleming’s Bond Stories by John Griswold

John Griswold, who amassed a large collection of James Bond items and wrote a book about the literary 007, died on Sunday.

Griswold, 65, wrote Ian Fleming’s James Bond: Annotations and Chronologies for Ian Fleming’s Bond Stories , published in 2006, which analyzed Fleming’s 007 works.

Griswold also put together a Bond collection that included, among other things, a Mort Drucker illustration of Fleming; Drucker artwork for a Mad magazine parody of the first eight 007 films; Robert McGinnis artwork for Bond movie posters; and a first-edition copy of the Casino Royale novel.

The collector suffered from Alzheimer’s and his collection was put up for auction in 2010.  The blog was informed about Griswold’s passing by collector Gary J. Firuta, who assisted with the 2010 Griswold auction.

Griswold’s 2006 book can be purchased on Amazon.com.

Different ways to celebrate Ian Fleming’s birthday

"Sounds like a jolly good time."

“Sounds like a jolly good time.”

Around the world, James Bond fans are noting the 108th anniversary of the birth of Ian Fleming. There are plenty of ways to celebrate from morning until evening.

Eat a James Bond breakfast: That’s what blogger Edward Biddulph of James Bond Memes did. He even sent a photo of his scrambled eggs on Twitter.

It’s past time for breakfast as we type this, but if you want scrambled eggs the way Bond had them, David Leigh of The James Bond Dossier supplied the recipe in a post some time back.

Warning: Your doctor may not approve of using as much butter as in the Bond scrambled recipe, which is from the short story 007 in New York.

Re-read a Fleming James Bond novel or short story: It’s never a waste of a Bond fan’s time to go back to where it all began. Even in the 1962 novel The Spy Who Loved Me, written from the perspective of a woman, you can see Fleming’s gift for detail.

Watch a James Bond movie: Admittedly, this falls under the “duh!” category and is a bit obvious. But for May 28, you may want to concentrate on 007 films with higher “Fleming content,” as detailed in our handy dandy guide.

Watch an episode of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. or the 2015 U.N.C.L.E. movie: Fleming’s involvement in the 1964-68 television series is widely known, but rarely discussed. Many Bond fans look down on the show, and many U.N.C.L.E. fans say he hardly contributed anything.

We take a middle ground. Fleming’s involvement helped attract NBC’s interest. By the time he bailed out in mid-1963, there was enough momentum to get to the pilot stage and indeed the pilot was made in late 1963. And, let’s face it, Napoleon Solo is a lot cooler name than Edgar Solo. So U.N.C.L.E. fans still owe Fleming thanks for that.

Also, in the 2015 film version, one of Fleming’s ideas for Napoleon Solo (that he’s a very good cook) finally saw the light of day.

Play some baccarat: You, too, can go banco. In this day and age, you don’t even have to go to a casino. You can play baccarat online. Just remember to gamble responsibly.

 

A book about 007’s inspiration

Cover for Into The Lion's Mouth

Cover for Into The Lion’s Mouth

Author Larry Loftis has come out with a book, Into The Lion’s Mouth, about real-life World War II spy Dusko Popov, who was said to be an inspiration for Ian Fleming’s James Bond.

The blog had a chance to ask some questions of Loftis by e-mail. The exchange follows.

What interested you in the subject in the first place to do a book?

I was working on an espionage novel four years ago and I started researching “greatest spy ever.”  Dusko Popov’s name kept … ahem … popping up.  The more I read, the more intrigued I became. The man’s real life was more entertaining and thrilling than what I was making up. After reading my manuscript, my editor (Tom Colgan, famously Tom Clancy’s editor) remarked, “It’s a good thing this is nonfiction. This story is too incredible to be a novel.”

Over the years, different people have been argued to be the inspiration for Ian Fleming’s James Bond. What makes you sure your guy is the one?

The short answer is … read my book! :)  To fully explain, I’d need to include all 400 pages here. What I can say is that most people confuse two entirely different questions, namely: 1) Who was the model (or who were the models) for James Bond?; and 2) Who was the inspiration for James Bond.  Both questions can be answered with certitude. As to the model(s) from whom Fleming borrowed characteristics for Bond…there were numerous individuals. Fleming repeatedly stated this.

However, as to the man who inspired 007, there is only one name—Dusko Popov. He is the man we see in Fleming’s first novel, Casino Royale. Everything about James Bond (MI6 agent, playboy, handsome, charming, intelligent, daring, crack shot, etc.) matches Popov … and Popov only. And the famous casino scene? That came from what Fleming saw in Casino Estoril (Lisbon) when he shadowed Popov (MI6 agent “TRICYCLE”) in August 1941. For a short explanation, see my website (LarryLoftis.com or RealJamesBond.com).

Fleming, of course, couldn’t reveal a word about this. To do so would have landed him in prison for violating Britain’s Official Secrets Act.

Not a word was published about what MI5 or MI6 (working in tandem with Fleming’s Naval Intelligence department) had done during the war until MI5’s Double-Cross Committee chairman, J. C. Masterman, published his report in 1972, long after Fleming had died. Masterman only referred to agents by code names but MI5 nevertheless objected to the release (which was eventually published by Yale University Press).

Following Masterman’s book, others began to reveal tidbits of Popov’s activities through fictitious code names—BICYCLE, TALLYRAND, and IVAN (Popov’s German code name).

My book details exactly where, when, and how Popov and Fleming met, and what Fleming knew of him.  Suffice it to say that people in Estoril (especially at the Palacio Hotel) know that Popov was Fleming’s inspiration and, as you’ll see in my book, so does the Fleming family.

Since I knew that people would ask this very question, I have included in my book a chart which gives the men most often suggested as either the model or inspiration for James Bond, and how they compare to the Bond we see in Casino Royale. Only one man matches all categories—Dusko Popov.

After you began researching, what was the biggest surprise you encountered?

Just the sheer amount of data to process. There are thousands of pages on Popov in the U.K. National Archives, and an equal amount in the U.S. FBI files. And if you want to be thorough, you have to read primary sources about everyone involved: Fleming’s files in the National Archives, Admiral Godfrey’s memoirs at the Churchill Archives, FDR’s files in the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library, memoirs of key Germans, memoirs of MI5, MI6, and Naval Intelligence officers, and biographies of Popov, Fleming, Menzies (“C”), Godfrey, Hoover, Stephenson (BSC), and Donovan (OSS and later, CIA).

Then we have the secret police files and embassy information from Lisbon, the WWII information about Portugal, Spain, France, Switzerland, and Brazil … and on it goes.

What differences are there between your subject and Fleming’s literary Bond?

Most importantly, women. As Fleming told a BBC reporter, Bond typically romances just one girl per book.  Popov had two or three girls per city—London, Lisbon, Madrid, New York, Sun Valley. The MI5 archive files include numerous love letters written to him that were intercepted by British Intelligence. MI5 also asked the army if they had a female who could provide Popov “companionship” while keeping an eye on him.

He seduced enemy spies. He received letters from girls he couldn’t remember. In short, Popov’s irresistible charm, animal magnetism—whatever you want to call it—was well known throughout all British Intelligence (MI5, MI5, Naval Intelligence).  Without question, Fleming was well-aware of the incorrigible playboy who was Britain’s best spy.

Second, as impressive as Bond is, Popov excelled him in every way.  Bond speaks three languages in Casino Royale; Popov spoke five. Bond is highly intelligent; Popov had a doctorate in law; Bond is a crack shot; Popov won two snap shooting contests. Later, in Dr. No, we see that Bond’s cover is as an import/export businessman. Popov not only had that cover in WWII, he had to use it, and did. MI5 files reveal that Popov consummated a $14 million (in 1940s dollars!) shipping deal, for example, and numerous other transactions involving tons of turpentine, pewter, and other commodities. After the war he structured a $15 million bond deal between South Africa and Switzerland.

After your research, did your ideas about Ian Fleming change? If so, how?

Only slightly. As you’ll see in my book, Fleming himself couldn’t have been the model for Bond since he was never an agent and, as BSC’s William Stephenson said, Ian wasn’t a “man of action.”  Fleming was actually tested by Stephenson for his potential as an operative and failed. But while Ian lacked operative skills and disposition, he had administrative and planning skills in spades. Fleming’s boss, Naval Intelligence Director Adm. John Godfrey, was so impressed with Ian’s work that the admiral said that he, Godfrey, should have been Ian’s assistant and not the other way around.

After your research, did your evaluation of Fleming’s original stories change? If so, how?

Since I was only concerned with the inspiration and creation of James Bond, I only studied Casino Royale. I don’t want to spoil the reading of my book or Casino Royale for those who haven’t yet read it, but let me say that if you know 1941 Estoril—the Palacio and Parque hotels, the Cascais cliffs, and the casino—you will see that Casino Royale is a thinly-veiled re-creation of Casino Estoril.

A recurring theme, in both fiction and real life, is whether human intelligence is still important. What are your feelings on the subject after doing this book?

Unquestionably, yes. Case in point … During WWII, the Allies had two star double agents—GARBO (Juan Pujol) and TRICYCLE (Popov). Both were highly valued by the Germans and both were instrumental in deceiving Nazi intelligence about D-Day. Popov was the more valuable of the two because he was the only agent who actually met with—and was grilled by—seasoned Abwehr, SD, and Gestapo interrogators. It’s one thing to receive radio reports, or to intercept an enemy’s message and decode it; both sides did that. It’s quite another to interrogate for seven or eight hours someone who claims to have eye witness details. That’s what Popov did, often when the Germans almost knew for certain that he was doubling.

Is there anything you’d like to add?

Four things excited me about Popov’s story, and why I wrote the book: 1) the James Bond connection; 2) the fact that this man is probably the greatest spy ever; 3) the fact that the story is very much a thriller  (suggested by reviewers to have a Vince Flynn pace); and 4) Popov warned the FBI on Aug. 18, 1941 that the Japanese would be attacking Pearl Harbor (Hoover told no one).

As an aside, Popov made appearances on television shows in 1970s promoting his own book, playing up how he was Bond’s inspiration. One such appearance took place in an installment of the syndicated version of To Tell The Truth.

 

Thrilling Cities, the series?

Ian Fleming's Thrilling Cities book

Ian Fleming’s Thrilling Cities book

Actor Michael Weatherly’s production company is trying to turn Ian Fleming’s Thrilling Cities book into a television, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

The story is mostly about Weatherly’s impending departure from the popular NCIS television series and Thrilling Cities only gets a passing reference.

“In the meantime, however, Weatherly said he’s busier than ever with his production company, Solar Drive Productions, which is working on turning the book Thrilling Cities, from James Bond author Ian Fleming, into a possible series,” the story by THR’s Kate Stanhope reads.

Thrilling Cities was a non-fiction book by Fleming. It was based on a series of stories he did for The Sunday Times about important cities around the world.

“Fleming saw it all with a thriller writer’s eye. From Hong Kong to Honolulu, New York to Naples, he left the bright main streets for the back alleys, abandoning tourist sites in favour of underground haunts, and mingling with celebrities, gangsters and geishas,” according to a summary on the Ian Fleming Publications website.

Fleming’s short story 007 in New York was included in the U.S. edition of Thrilling Cities. The author had a harsh opinion about New York City and the short story was a bonus for American readers.

In 1962, there was an attempt to turn Thrilling Cities into a television series. The result, ended up being The Man From U.N.C.L.E. television series.

Craig Henderson’s 1962 page for his U.N.C.L.E. Timeline website notes that producer Norman Felton was asked to read galleys of the upcoming Fleming book concerning whether it could be made into a TV show.

At a meeting, “Felton rejects the possibility of developing a TV series from Thrilling Cities — but he’s inspired to ad lib an idea about a mysterious man who travels the world on sensitive secret missions,” according to Henderson’s website.

That was the genesis of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Fleming himself was involved with U.N.C.L.E. from October 1962 until mid-1963 before withdrawing under pressure from 007 film producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman.

Also of note, one of Weatherly’s co-stars on NCIS is David McCallum, who played Illya Kuryakin on U.N.C.L.E. Irony abounds.

 

Plants named for real James Bond, watch the puns fly

Bird expert James Bond

Bond, James Bond kept a bird’s eye view.

Ornithologist James Bond (1900-1989) has had four plant species named for him. Given that Ian Fleming took the name of the author of Birds of the West Indies as the name of his fictional hero, you might expect there’d be lots of puns used.

And you would be right.

Science magazine website: “There’s no word yet on how they’ll take their martinis, but a new subgenus of plants has been named Jamesbondia,…”

CNET (headline):  “Bondia, Jamesbondia: This plant likes its martinis shaken, not stirred.”

Fox News: “Scientists have christened a subgenus of plants with a killer name: Jamesbondia.”

CNN: “Sure, it’s not as exciting to Bond fans, but sometimes in life you get the Bond girl, and sometimes you get the Bond plant.”

Other outlets, while noting how Fleming took Bond’s name for a fictional character, were a little more straightforward in their descriptions. Here’s an except from SCI-NEWS.COM:

The four Jamesbondia plant species — Alternanthera costaricensis, A. geniculata, A. olivacea, and A. serpyllifolia — are mostly found in Central America and the Caribbean Islands.

Dr. Iamonico and Dr. Sánchez-del Pino have built on the research of Dr. J.M. Mears, who identified a group of Caribbean plant species as ‘Jamesbondia’ from 1980 to 1982 in unpublished annotations on Alternanthera specimens.

Molecular phylogenetic analyses and observations of the flower morphology justify the official separate naming of this group.

Peter Janson-Smith, Fleming’s literary agent, dies

Peter Janson-Smith

Peter Janson-Smith

Peter Janson-Smith, Ian Fleming’s literary agent and a behind-the-scenes figure in the success of the literary James Bond, has died according to multiple social media posts by friends and family members.

Janson-Smith, 93, helped raise the visibility of Fleming’s original novels and short stories during the author’s lifetime. After Fleming’s death, eventually he became the chairman of Glidrose, now known as Ian Fleming Publications.

In that capacity, Janson-Smith helped launch the 007 continuation stories penned by John Gardner and Raymond Benson than ran from the early 1980s into the early 2000s.

The literary Bond had its ups and downs after Fleming died in 1964. Kingsley Amis wrote Colonel Sun under the pen name Robert Markham. But that proved to be a one-off. In the 1970s, Fleming biographer John Pearson took a stab with a “biography” of Bond that was again a one-off. 007 screenwriter Christopher Wood wrote novelizations of the Bond films The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker.

It wasn’t until Gardner’s 1981 007 debut, Licence Renewed, that the Bond continuation novels began publishing on a regular schedule. After Gardner’s run, Janson-Smith helped recruit Benson, author of a non-fiction work about the 007 film and novels/short stories, to continue.

Benson wrote a 2010 article describing Janson-Smith’s life published on the Commander Bond 007 fan site.

Janson-Smith told Benson how the Christopher Wood novelizations came about.

“We had no hand in that other than we told the film people that we were going to exert our legal right to handle the rights in the books,” Benson quoted Janson-Smith as saying. “They chose Christopher Wood because he was one of the screenwriters at the time, and they decided what he would be paid. We got our instructions on that, but from then on, these books-of-the-films became like any other Bond novel—we controlled the publication rights.”

Near the end of the piece by Benson, Janson-Smith reflected on his career.

“At age eighty-seven,” Janson-Smith told Benson, “it is time to call it a day, but I am still a consultant where my experience has a value. I suppose you could say I’m on the ‘inactive duty’ list of the Double-O section!”

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