1982: Kingsley Amis rags on Gardner, 007 films

Kingsley Amis

Kingsley Amis

Kingsley Amis, a novelist who enjoyed more prestige than Ian Fleming, was a fan of the latter’s James Bond novels.

Amis (1922-1995) wrote  The James Bond Dossier , a 1965 book that seriously analyzed Fleming’s 007 works. Of course, Amis wrote the first James Bond continuation novel, 1968’s Colonel Sun, under the pen name Robert Markham.

The Times Literary Supplement unearthed  and posted Amis’s 1982 review of John Gardner‘s For Special Services. It was Gardner’s second 007 continuation novel in which Gardner brings SPECTRE back into the picture.

In taking a look at that review, Amis comes across as crabby not only with his Bond continuation novel successor but with the world of 007 in general.

First, an except about For Special Services:

(T)he present offering is an unrelieved disaster all the way from its aptly forgettable title to the photograph of the author – surely an unflattering likeness – on the back of the jacket.

Meow! Still, Amis is just getting warmed up.

Here, Amis unloads on the James Bond films:

Over the last dozen years the Bond of the books must have been largely overlaid in the popular mind by the Bond of the films, a comic character with a lot of gadgets and witty remarks at his disposal.

Still, Amis mostly writes about For Special Services. Here, Amis is a golfer and For Special Services is the golf ball. Here he describes Gardner’s women characters:

The first is there just for local colour, around at the start, to be dropped as soon as the wheels start turning. She is called Q’ute because she comes from Q Branch. (Q himself is never mentioned, lives only in the films, belongs body and soul to Cubby Broccoli, the producer.)

Nor is Amis impressed with the novel’s main female character.

Bond scores all right with the third of the present trio, Nena Bismaquer, née Blofeld and the revengeful daughter of his old enemy, a detail meant to be a stunning revelation near the end but you guess it instantly.

In this regard, Amis was rather prescient. In 2015’s SPECTRE, it was supposed to be a “big reveal” that the head of SPECTRE would be revealed to be Ernst Stavro Blofeld, a “reveal” that surprised nobody. The more things change, the more they stay the same, and all that.

Before he ends the review, Amis really, really makes it clear he’s not a fan of the films.

Amis writes the 007 movies “cover up any old implausibility or inconsistency by piling one outrage on another. You start to say to yourself ‘But he wouldn’t –’ or’“But they couldn’t –’ and before you can finish Bond is crossing the sunward side of the planet Mercury in a tropical suit or sinking a Soviet aircraft-carrier with his teeth.”

Amusingly, years after his death, a portion of Amis’s Colonel Sun novel was used in 2015’s SPECTRE — specifically the torture scene. Amis got a backhanded credit, deep in the end titles, where “The Estate of Kingsley Amis” got a “special thanks” credit.

It was the first time Eon Productions utilized the continuation novels in any way, shape for form. Previously, Michael G. Wilson, Eon’s co-boss, has criticized certain continuation novels (Gardner’s in particular).

As for Amis’s 1982 article, you can judge for yourself by CLICKING HERE and reading it for yourself..

007 bloggers, website editors weigh in on SPECTRE

SPECTRE LOGO

The James Bond Dossier SURVEYED MORE THAN A DOZEN bloggers or editors of James Bond-related websites about SPECTRE.

Those participating (and this blog was among them) provide a variety of opinions on different subjects. Among the ground covered: what you liked best about SPECTRE, what you liked least and what surprised you in the film? David Leigh, editor of The James Bond Dossier, did the survey by e-mail.

To read the complete story, CLICK HERE.

SPECTRE reviews: 2nd weekend edition

SPECTRE teaser image

SPECTRE teaser image

Some additional SPECTRE reviews were published toward the end of last week. So here are some more review excerpts.

U.S. reviews will start appearing in the next few days, ahead of the official Nov. 6 opening. For the moment, the 24th James Bond film has a 77 percent rating at the ROTTEN TOMATOES WEBSITE.

The newest excerpts follow. We’ve tried to keep plot details out but the spoiler adverse may want to avoid anyway.

GREGORY WAKEMAN, CINEMA BLEND: “At the top of Spectre’s crowning achievements is Daniel Craig, who with his fourth outing as 007 gives the most complete, beguiling yet still complex portrayal of the spy yet. Those of you looking for proof that the average-sized, blonde-haired and blue-eyed Daniel Craig is genuinely the definitive Bond will now forever be able to present Spectre as the definitive piece of evidence. Those of you who are still doubtful probably need to question all of your previous life decisions.”

RYAN GILBEY, NEW STATESMAN: “Should Craig play Bond again, he could scarcely push his minimalism any further. He is pared down to samurai essentials: striding and scowling, he is frugal even in violence, never throwing two punches where one will do. …But then the emphasis in Craig’s four outings has been on the psychological. Sam Mendes is not the only director to have been called back for multiple assignments in the (Craig era of the) series but he may be the first to have nurtured a theme over consecutive films. Skyfall was essentially a dysfunctional family drama where M betrayed one of her former spies (or sons). In Spectre there is more domestic scar tissue…. It’s a support group waiting to happen.”

DAVID LEIGH, THE JAMES BOND DOSSIER: “To cut a long story short, I enjoyed it a lot…Visually it is a joy to behold.

“However, while SPECTRE works well on a number of levels, it also fails on others. Although it contains some classic Bond elements, it is not a classic Bond movie. The screenplay appears to have been written around the action scenes and there is a sense of frantic racing from one set piece action scene to another.

“I did truly enjoy SPECTRE and can’t wait to see it again…However, it isn’t the kind of Bond film I want from EON Productions.

“And I still feel they have never made a classic James Bond film that wasn’t based closely on an Ian Fleming novel.”

ROB CARNEVALE, INDIE LONDON: “Daniel Craig’s fourth outing as 007 may just be the most complete Bond movie yet. Spectacular, stylish, dark but still amusing, Spectre is a thrilling entry that combines the best of Bond movies old and new.

“Returning director Sam Mendes has taken the best elements of the flawed but entertaining Skyfall and created a follow-up that delivers almost two and a half hours of show-stopping action and genuinely satisfying intrigue.”

DEBORAH ROSS, THE SPECTATOR: Spectre is the 24th film in the Bond franchise, the fourth starring Daniel Craig, the second directed by Sam Mendes, and the first at not much of anything. Nothing new to report, in other words. It probably delivers what the die-hard fans want, but it is not like Casino Royale or Skyfall (no one talks about Quantum of Solace, by the way, because it’s assumed everyone involved was drunk) as it doesn’t deliver to those of us who never liked Bond, but then discovered that we did. Where has Bond’s interior landscape gone? Where is his woundedness? Where is the emotional heft? Who might we actually care about here?”

LIAM DUNN, POPOPTIQ: “Enjoyment of Spectre really is a matter of perspective. A love of classic Bond and of Craig’s portrayal of the character will service audiences well here, but any hopes of a more fulfilling thematic experience will be dashed. Bond has come through the crucible of the 21st Century and has emerged as a more streamlined version of his older self. It’s great to see Craig finally having a bit of fun and the series playing to its strengths (gone are the woeful double entendres). Of course, like all Bond films it is overlong and perhaps suffers from one set piece too many, but if this is Craig’s swan song he should be happy to go out on this one. Mendes too has set the bar for whoever follows him, crafting what could possibly be the modern Bond film’s Goldfinger by installing the template that will be followed going forward. Not to say that Spectre is on par with that film, but it does finally put a lot of the elements in place that are quintessentially Bond; it’s brash, bombastic, silly and thoroughly entertaining.”

James Bond Dossier surveys 007 sites about Bond 24

Bond 24 logo

The James Bond Dossier surveyed a number of 007-related fan sites and Bond enthusiasts about Bond 24 ahead of production.

The OPINIONS EXPRESSED vary quite a bit so there’s variety. Disclosure: this blog was among those approached. But don’t let that stop you from checking it out. The list of those surveyed includes Mark McConnell, author of Catching Bullets — Memoir of a Bond fan; Marketto of James Bond Brasil; Edward Biddulph, author of the blog, James Bond memes; and Matt Sherman of BondFanEvents.com, among others.

One of highlights was from Edward Biddulph who posted one answer before recent media reports that a certain character may resurface in Bond 24. (Skip below the quote below if you’ve managed to avoid reading about it.) He responds to a question about what he’s looking forward to in Bond 24.

I’m looking forward to the Austrian scenes and the promise of some top skiing action, perhaps of the like we haven’t seen since For Your Eyes Only. Bond belongs on the slopes, and it was only a matter of time until Daniel Craig’s Bond got the opportunity.

I hope that the Austrian elements of Fleming’s Octopussy short story will be in the script. While the story itself isn’t snow-bound, there’s potential in the story, which I think is among Fleming’s finest writing, for snow-set action.

Other topics (and this isn’t a complete list) include what the respondents aren’t looking forward to so much; should the gunbarrel logo return to the start of the movie; was it a positive move expanding the characters of M, Moneypenny and Q in Skyfall and do you expect to see more of it in Bond 24; and how long the respondents expect Daniel Craig will stay around as Bond.

To read the survey and all the responses, you can CLICK HERE. Thanks to David Leigh of The James Bond Dossier for organizing it.

James Bond and breakfast

"Are the scrambled eggs ready yet, Q?"

“Are the scrambled eggs ready yet, Q?”

Ian Fleming Publications this week disclosed A PROMOTION FOR THE UPCOMING 007 NOVEL SOLO. It involves the DORCHESTER HOTEL IN LONDON.

To quote the press release:

Breakfast is, of course, Bond’s ‘favourite meal of the day.’

To celebrate, from Thursday 26 September until Saturday 30 November 2013, (Dorchester) guests quoting ‘SOLO’ whilst making a breakfast reservation will receive a free copy of the book or can choose to listen to the audio version read by British actor Dominic West on an iPod over breakfast.

Indeed, in Ian Fleming’s original novels, we’re told a fair amount of Bond’s eating habits at breakfast. In novels and short stories, meals are a way for an author to work in a character’s internal thoughts and feelings. He or she can mull over events or other characters while eating.

Movies, of course, are a different medium. Internal thoughts have to be conveyed with an expression or a look. Eating also doesn’t always provide the best visuals. The 23 James Bond films produced by Eon Productions since 1962 don’t spend much time dealing with breakfast, even if it was 007’s favorite meal.

In Dr. No, Bond and Honey Rider are served breakfast by the villain’s staff but they pass into unconsciousness from drugged coffee before they can partake of the meal. In From Russia With Love, Bond puts in an advance breakfast order of green figs, yogurt and “coffee, very black,” for the next morning. In Goldfinger, 007 gets out of a planned dinner with Felix Leiter and sets up a breakfast meeting instead. In Live And Let Die, Bond only has time for some juice before investigating a key clue. Overall, the movies don’t deal much with James Bond and his breakfasts.

According to the Ian Fleming Publications press release, Solo author William Boyd wants to bring back the 007 breakfast tradition. “Set in 1969, the story opens to 007 treating himself to a typical Bond breakfast of `four eggs, scrambled with pepper sprinkled on top, half a dozen rashers of unsmoked bacon, well done, on the side and a long draught of strong black coffee’.”

Meanwhile, a number of 007 Web sites are providing tips about you, too, can enjoy a 007 breakfast. Check out posts by THE MI6 JAMES BOND FAN SITE and the THE JAMES BOND DOSSIER.

UPDATE: Got a reminder about Licence to Cook, which has receipes based on James Bond. For more information, CLICK HERE.

UPDATE II: The James Bond Memes blog provides the Dorchester TIPS HOW TO PROPERLY PREPARE A 007 BREAKFAST.

MAY 2011 POST:
OUR (NOT SO SERIOUS) BOND 23 PRODUCT PLACEMENT SUGGESTIONS

(A breakfast scene would offer some product placement opportunities.)

RE-POST: Happy 60th anniversary, Mr. Bond

Casino Royale's original cover

Casino Royale’s original cover


Originally posted April 1. Reposted for the actual anniversary.

Sixty years ago, readers sampled the start of a novel by a new author. “The scent and smoke and sweat of a casino are nauseating at three in the morning,” it began. The world hasn’t been quite the same since.

The novel, of course, was Casino Royale by Ian Fleming, published April 13, 1953. About 5,000 copies of its first edition were printed and it sold out quickly. Fleming combined the skills and experiences of two lives: his work as an intelligence officer during World War II and his experience as a journalist in spotting the right, and telling detail.

Casino Royale was a short novel. But it had an impact on readers. The story’s hero, British secret agent James Bond, first loses and then wins a high-stake game of cards with Le Chiffre, the story’s villain. Later, Bond is helpless, the victim of torture by Le Chiffre. But before Le Chiffre can finish the torture, he is dispatched by an operative of Smersh for being “a fool and a thief a traitor.” The Smersh operative has no orders to kill Bond, so he doesn’t. But he carves up the back of Bond’s right hand. “It would be well that should be known as a spy,” the killer says.

What seems to be novel’s climax happens less than three-quarters of the way through the story. But the new author had some other ideas to keep readers turning the pages until the real resolution. Bond is betrayed Vesper, a woman he had fallen deeply in love with. She commits suicide by taking a bottle of sleeping pills.

Bond, after all this, doesn’t collapse. He emerges more resolute, determined to “attack the arm that held the whip and the gun…He would go after the threat behind the spies, the threat that made them spy.”

Writer Jeremy Duns in an essay PUBLISHED IN 2005 argued “there’s a strong case to be made for it being the first great spy thriller of the Cold War.” Toward the end of his article, Duns writes, “Before Casino Royale, the hero always saved the damsel in distress moments before she was brutally ravaged and tortured by the villain; Fleming gave us a story in which nobody is saved, and it is the hero who is abused, drawn there by the damsel.”

For Fleming, Casino Royle was just the start. More novels and short stories followed. He lived to see two of his novels, Dr. No and From Russia With Love, turned into movies in 1962 and 1963 (following a CBS adaptation of Casino Royale in 1954). The author visited the set of the third film, Goldfinger, but died in August 1964, just before 007 became a phenomenon, spurring a spy craze.

Six decades later, the 23 movies of the Eon Production series (plus a couple of non-Eon films) are what most people think of when the name James Bond is mentioned. 2012’s Skyfall had worldwide ticket sales of $1.1 billion.

Oh, the Fleming books remain in print. Ian Fleming Publication hires a continuation novel author now and then (William Boyd, the latest continuation author, is scheduled to disclose his novel’s title on April 15). Periodically, there’s a new book about some aspect about the film series.

Fans can fuss and debate about Bond (and do all the time). But there is one certainty: without Casino Royale’s publication six decades ago, none of that would be possible.

UPDATE: Other 007 blogs and bloggers are noting the anniversary today, including THE JAMES BOND DOSSIER, BOND BLOG, MARK O’CONNELL, JAMES BOND BRASIL, FROM SWEDEN WITH LOVE and THE BOOK BOND You can also read an article in the Express newspaper by CLICKING HERE.

Finally, Spy Vibe, part of the COBRAS group of blogs, has a post including a graphic of various Casino Royale covers. You can check it out by CLICKING HERE.

John Logan’s (brief) comments about 007’s film future

Bond 24 writer John Logan

Bond 24 writer John Logan

The Financial Times on March 8 published A FEATURE STORY ABOUT WRITER JOHN LOGAN. The story is mostly about Peter and Alice, a new play he wrote with Judi Dench and Ben Whishaw. But the co-writer of Skyfall does have a brief comment about 007’s film future.

The FT’s Sarah Hemming writes that Logan, hired to pen the scripts for Bond 24 and Bond 25, in her words “hopes to build on Skyfall in examining the complexities of Bond’s character.”

“Fleming’s courage in showing Bond’s fear and vulnerability and depression was really interesting and something that a modern audience can accept,” Hemming quotes Logan as saying. “I think Skyfall demonstrated that they want more layers to that character. And those are the layers that Fleming wrote.”

To view the entire FT article (headlined “After Bond, Peter meets Alice”), just CLICK HERE.

Logan was brought into Skyfall by director Sam Mendes to rewrite a script by Neal Purvis and Robert Wade. All three scribes shared the final writing credit. Mendes said this week he won’t direct Bond 24.

Also, here’s a quick note of appreciation to The James Bond Dossier, where we found out about the FT story. You can read that Web site’s post on the subject by CLICKING HERE.

The literary James Bond and beer

The product-placement deal between Skyfall, the 23rd James Bond film, and Heineken has gotten some 007 fans worked up. Yahoo! Movie’s MovieTalk blog did an April 4 post summarizing fan reaction. An exerpt:

"Martini, James?"
"No. Make mine Heineken (R)."

“D**** you, Product Placement,” Doug wrote on Twitter in response to our update on @YahooMovies. Davey C simply tweeted “Screw ’em.” Dave Yakir echoed thoughts with a “what a load of crap” tweet, and Keith Williams typed, “Booooo!!!”

The James Bond of Ian Fleming’s original novels and short stories was no stranger to beer, though he didn’t drink it with the same frequency as martinis, bourbon, whiskeys and soda or champagne. But here is a sampling:

Diamonds Are Forever (1956): Bond and Felix Leiter are driving to Saratoga from New York City. The duo “stopped for lunch at The Chicken in the Basket, a log-built Frontier-style road-house with standard equipment…(T)he scrambled eggs and sausages and hot buttered rye toast and the Miller Highlife beer came quickly and were good.”

The Living Daylights (1962): Bond is in Berlin. One one of three nights a British agent will cross the border between East and West and 007 is to shoot a KGB assassin. During one afternoon, after a two-hour walk, has a meal in a restaurant. He has two Molle mit Korn, which we’re told is a double schapps “washed down with draught Lowenbrau.”

The Man With the Golden Gun (1965): Trying to get a lead on killer Fransisco Scaramanga, Bond stops by a brothel and orders a Red Stripe beer. The woman taking his order “deftly uncapped the bottle and put it on the counter besides an almost clean glass.”

In 2006, the Brookston Beer Bulletin blog had a long post (CLICK HERE to read it; the post also has a longer list of other times the literary Bond had beer) that addressed the possibility 007 might have a Heinken in that year’s Casino Royale movie. The blog did not approve of that brand.

But Heineken? Not Heineken. Bond’s character would never drink such swill. He wouldn’t be a snob about wine, food, clothes, cars and practically everything else and then drink such a pedestrian beer.

(snip)

The fictional resort town where most of the (Casino Royale) novel takes place is supposedly near the mouth of the Somme River in the Picardie region, which is only about two hours from Belgium. So while France is not known for its beers, a good selection of Belgian beers would likely be available at the casino and area restaurants. That’s what a beer savvy Bond would order.

We suspect all of this will depend how the Heineken placement is handled. If Daniel Craig’s Bond has a Heineken while still having other drinks, no problem. On the other hand, if it’s handled like this recent Hawaii Five-0 episode with Subway, audiences may wince:

The proprietor of the James Bond Dossier was interviewed by the CBC about product placement and the Heineken deal. Just CLICK HERE to check it out.

UPDATE (April 8): The Scotsman.com Web site has weighed in on the subject and you can CLICK HERE to read it. The article starts off with an anecdote that appears to have been taken from the 1998 book Adrian Turner on Goldfinger. We say appears because the quotes are the same as the ones Turner got from interviewing Guy Hamilton. There’s no attribution of the quotes, however.

UPDATE II (April 9): Looks like the Web site of Bloomberg Businessweek also ran a short article on the subject.

IMDB poster “Liz” says she’s seen rough cut of Skyfall trailer

Hoax or genuine? On the message boards of IMDB.com, a poster calling themselves “Liz” claims to have seen “a very rough cut of the Skyfall Teaser trailer.”

We’ll get to the caveats in a moment. First, you can view the very long post from “Liz’ by CLICKING HERE. A few excerpts:

Will the description by Liz prove as accurate as the Fusible post that Skyfall would be the title?

The first shot of the trailer, besides the opening logo’s is a really dark shot of a tall office building. I think it was China but I’m not too sure. There was a voice over from Ralph Fiennes (Love that guys voice) talking about the cold war, and it’s repercussions within MI6. This was followed by what I think was a gas attack, people were running and screaming and collapsing. Then the whole friggen set just blew up! Judi Dench appeared. She looked really old and it is revealed that she and Fiennes character are talking. Fiennes says that he’s lost too many agents in the attack (Which I assumed was before), and he needs someone to overlook the case, and find it’s source. M mentions that she has an agent in mind, or something to that degree, but he’s resigned, and they’re unable to track him down. Fiennes says that he has to be found and brought back to duty.

(snip)

Daniel Craig looks awesome! Very cold eyes, brutal. There was one shot where everyone gasped, because it felt so real and brutal. Bond is overpowered and captured, and the next shot has Bond walking into what I assumed was his apartment. M’s standing there, and she apologises for the force she used to bring him to her. Bond says that he’s pretty much finished with the service. He’s seen loads of disturbing things and he doesn’t want to relive them. He then talks about the attacks, and M says something about her life being in danger, and Bond is the only person she trusts. She then goes on to tell him that the government is starting to collapse, and its being invaded by enemy agents.

We were debating whether to comment but information about the IMDB post is spreading. Bond23.net was either the first, or one of the first fan Web sites to write about it and noted IMDB’s accuracy is an issue. Also, The James Bond Dossier, in its post on the subject, raised another caveat, namely how would a media studies student get a chance to see this rough cut considering all the secrecy surrounding Skyfall (i.e. refusing to provide the name of some characters).

Regarding IMDB: It’s like Wikipedia and relies on users to input information on credits. Some users are really careful. Others will insert mistakes in things such as plot summaries. And this appeared in the message boards of IMDB, which are just like any other Internet message board. It really is caveat emptor regarding the accuracy of information.

On the other hand, solid information sometimes comes out unexpectedly. The Fusible Web site first reported the movie’s title would be Skyfall after finding various domain names that were registered in October.

If “Liz” is accurate, The James Bond Dossier points out that Bond quitting MI6 isn’t consistent with the end of Quantum of Solace. Here’s something else to consider (again if Liz is right): This doesn’t sound like it has the “magical Goldfinger feel” that Michael G. Wilson, co-boss of Eon Productions, promised in a December interview, nor other reports that Skyfall would lighten up compared with Quantum. We’ll see in a few months when the teaser trailer comes out.