Casino Royale

Casino Royale

 
The first of Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels.  Bond is sent to a  casino in Royale-les-Eaux to disgrace the lethal Russian agent “Le Chiffre” by  ruining him at baccarat and forcing his Soviet spymasters to “retire” him, but  he soon finds that his quarry is not content to go without a fight.   Preferring to work alone, 007 is annoyed to be assigned a female assistant, but  his compelling attraction to the enigmatic Vesper Lynd only leads him into  further danger.
 
The 2006 film version is the first outing for Daniel Craig as the ultimate  secret agent.  The story line is topped and tailed with a contemporary  twist but the essential theme of the original remains and stands up well given  it was written only eight years after the WW2. The film also marked a welcome  change in emphasis for the Bond franchise introducing us to a new grittier  Bond.
 
LIVE AND LET DIE (1954)
 
Mr Big, a gold thief, Lord of the Black Widow voodoo cult and top SMERSH  operative is the next dangerous opponent Bond has to face. (SMERSH is a  contraction of Smiert Spionam which means Death to Spies and was the official  murder organisation of the Soviet government.) 007’s mission to track him down  takes him to the smoky jazz joints of Harlem, to the Florida Keys and on to the  lush tropics of the Caribbean.  He finds himself entangled with the  raven-haired fortune teller Solitaire, who Mr Big is holding prisoner and won’t  let go without a fight.  The battle of wills comes to a head in Jamaica’s  Shark Bay, where Bond must face the deadly teeth of barracuda if he is to  capture the biggest fish yet.
 
The 1973 film saw Roger Moore take on the mantle of James Bond after Sean  Connery’s departure from the franchise.  Sean subsequently made one more  Bond film – Never Say Never Again in 1983 – but that was for a different  franchise.  Moore, internationally renowned for his role of the Saint in  the cult TV series presents us with a suave Bond, an English gentleman, licensed  to thrill rather than kill.  The film broadly follows the book and is  regarded by many as Moore’s best Bond film.
 
MOONRAKER (1955)
 
At M’s request, Bond has gone up against Sir Hugo Drax at the card table,  on a mission to teach the millionaire and head of the Moonraker project a lesson  he won’t forget and prevent a scandal engulfing Britain’s defence system.   But there is more to the mysterious Drax than simply cheating at cards.   And once Bond delves deeper into goings-on at the Moonraker base he discovers  that both the project and its leader are something other than they pretend to  be.
 
1979 saw the film version hit the big screen. A staggering $30 million was  spent on one of the poorest Bond epics of the Moore era.  The original  novel was too dated to translate to the big screen so the film version only  retained the essence of the characters and the premise of a megalomaniac using a  space programme for his own ends.  It had uncomfortable nods towards the  Star Wars films but unlike early Bond movies of the Connery era followed fashion  rather than setting the standards for others to imitate.
 
DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER (1956)
 
Tiffany Case, beautiful, reckless and cold, stands between James Bond and  the leaders of a diamond smuggling ring that stretches from Africa via London to  the states.  Bond uses her to infiltrate this gang but once in America the  hunter becomes the hunted.  Bond is in real danger until help comes from an  unlikely quarter, the ice maiden herself.
 
1971 saw Sean Connery reprise his role as James Bond for the last time in  the Bond franchise following the mixed reaction to George Lazonby in On Her  Majesty’s Secret Service (1969).  For all the hype and anticipation the  film failed to live up to expectations although the theme tune and Connery’s  presence add weight to the movie.  Like many of the films it has a flimsy  attachment to the original book and is considered by many Bond aficionados to be  the worst of the Connery era Bonds.
 
FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE(1957)
 
Every major foreign government has a file on James Bond, British secret  agent.  Now Russia’s deadly SMERSH organisation has targeted him for  elimination.  They have the perfect bait in the irresistible Tatiana  Romanova.  Her mission is to lure Bond to Istanbul and seduce him while her  superiors handle the rest.  But when Bond walks willingly into the trap, a  game of cross and double cross ensues with Bond both the stakes and the  prize.  As one book critic put it “Mr Fleming is in a class by  himself.  Immense detail, elaborate settings and continually mounting  tension, flavoured with sex, brutality and sudden death”.
 
And the 1963 film starring Sean Connery certainly lived up to the  excitement of the book which it follows almost to the letter but introduces  SPECTRE (The Special Executive for Counterintelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and  Extortion.  The founder and chairman of this sinister organisation is Ernst  Stavro Blofeld).  Its a down to earth detective thriller, reminiscent of  the Third Man, without all the high tech gadgetry which became the hallmark of  most of the later films.  The fight scene on the Orient Express was graphic  for its time and the the menacing lesbian Rosa Klebb and her spiked poison shoes  will remain ever iconic amongst Bond fans.
 
DR NO (1957)
 
Dr No a sinister recluse with mechanical pincers for hands and a sadistic  fascination with pain, holds James Bond firmly in his steely grasp. Bond and  Honey Rider, his beautiful and vulnerable Girl Friday, have been captured  trespassing on Dr No’s secluded Caribbean island.  Intent on protecting his  clandestine operations from the British Secret Service, Dr No sees an  opportunity to dispose of an enemy and further his diabolical research. Bond and  Rider are fighting for their lives in a murderous game of Dr No’s  choosing.
 
Yes this is the film that began it all.  1962 – 50 years ago – and  Bond is still going strong today.  It is said that Sean Connery personified  James Bond with such perfection that even Ian Fleming, initially critical of the  choice of Connery for the role, admitted that it was difficult imagining anyone  else in the part.  Fleming’s description of Bond is as follows:- “Height  183 cm, weight 76 kg, slim build; eyes: blue: hair: black; scar down right cheek  and on left shoulder; all round athlete; expert pistol shot, boxer, knife  thrower; does not use disguises.  Languages: French and German. Smokes  heavily (nb: special cigarettes with three gold bands); vices; drink; but not to  excess, and women.”  The film closely follows the book and was the surprise  run away hit at the box office in 1962.
 
GOLDFINGER (1959)
 
Auric Goldfinger – cruel, clever. frustratingly careful. A cheat at Canasta  and a crook on a massive scale in everyday life.  The sort of man James  Bond hates.  So it’s fortunate that Bond is the man charged by both the  Bank of England and MI6 to discover what thi , the richest man in the country,  intends to do with his ill gotten gains and what his connection is the  SMERSH.  But once inside this deadly criminal’s organisation, 007 finds  that Goldfinger’s schemes are more grandiose and lethal than anyone could have  imagined.  Not only is he planning the greatest gold robbery in history but  mass murder as well.
 
The film version reached the big screen in 1964 and was the first Bond film  to be classed as a box office blockbuster.  This film has it all – Connery,  a gold painted girl, the Aston Martin DB5; Pussy Galore and her Flying Circus  and of course Odd Job - and set the scene for the Bond films to follow.  It  also has one of the most memorable Shirley Bassey theme tunes.
 
FOR YOUR EYES ONLY (1962)
 
Sudden emergencies and beautiful girls who aren’t quite what they seem are  the stock-in-trade of James Bond. And when 007 is on the case there’s only one  thing you can be sure of – the result will be thrilling.  Whether he’s  dealing with the assassination of a Cuban thug in America, the destruction of an  international heroin ring, or sudden death in the Seychelles, Bond gets the job  done in his own suave and unmistakable way.
Bond fans will also recognise that the chapter headings in For Your Eyes  Only provided the film makers with non Fleming titles for the later films such  From a View to a Kill (1985) and Quantum of Solace.
 
The 1981 film version bears no relation to the book.  Starring Roger  Moore and following criticism of Moonraker being too far fetched, this film is  far more believable.  It also boasts Moore’s best performance as Bond. Its  all about the sinking of a British trawler – in reality a spy ship – in Albanian  territorial waters.  It had on board a top secret device involving Polaris  submarines.  The British want it back and the Soviets want to get their  hands on it first. Bond is assigned to get it back from the wreck.  The  film has two villains –Kristatos and Columbo- and a cross bow expert –Melina  Havelock – out to avenge her parent’s murder.
 
THUNDERBALL (1961)
 
When a stranger arrives in the Bahamas, the locals barely turn their heads  seeing another ex-pat with money to burn at the casino tables.  But James  Bond has more than money on his mind.  He’s got less than a week to find  the whereabouts of two stolen atom bombs hidden among the coral reefs.   While acting the playboy, Bond meets Domino, the sultry plaything of secretive  treasure hunter Emelio Largo.  In getting close to this gorgeous Italian  girl Bond hopes to learn more about Largo’s hidden operation.
 
The big screen version of Thunderball hit the screens in 1965.   Interestingly, it was originally intended to be the first Bond movie.  It  follows the book reasonable well and sees Connery at ease with the role and at  his athletic best although he complained that the character was being swamped by  the gadgetry.  The underwater special effects won an Oscar.
 
THE SPY WHO LOVED ME (1962)
 
Vivienne Michel is in trouble. Trying to escape her tangled past, she has  run away to the American backwoods, winding up at the Dreamy Pines Motor  Court.  A far cry from the privileged world she was born into, the motel is  also the destination of two hardened killers the perverts Sol Horror and the  deadly Sluggsy Morant.  When a coolly charismatic Englishman turns up, Viv,  in terrible danger is not just hopeful, but fascinated.  Because he is  James Bond 007 the man she hopes will save her; the spy she hopes will love  her.
 
You’ll be hard pushed to find any Fleming in the  1977 film version of  The Spy Who Loved Me starring Roger Moore.  Submarines disappear and Bond  finds himself working alongside Russian spy Anya Amasova to defeat the villain  Karl Stromberg who rules an underwater kingdom called Atlantis.  The trade  mark Moore humour is more measured and mature and we meet Jaws and the well  equipped Lotus Esprit.  This is probably the best Bond film starring Moore  in terms of capturing a lot of the essence of the Connery era films even though  it does bear an uncanny resemblance to a stylish remake of You Only Live Twice  (1967).
 
ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE (1963)
 
From the moment he first meets Teresa di Vicenca – a reckless play girl  with a love of fast cars and danger – Bond is fascinated.  She also leads  him to new information on Blofeld.  In his alpine mountain base, Blofeld is  developing weapons that could threaten the whole world.  Only 007 with the  help of someone who can handle herself at speed can stop the evil genius.
 
The film version sticks closely to the Fleming source novel, which is one  of his very best, and plays down the gadgetry.  Quite simply it is one of  the best Bond movies ever made.  You have to feel sorry for George Lazenby  who had a difficult act to follow – Sean Connery – but looking back certainly  made a better fist of the role than some who followed him.
 
YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE (1964)
 
Shattered by the murder of his wife at the hands of Blofeld, Bond has gone  to pieces as an agent.  M gives him one last chance, sending him to Japan  for a near impossible mission.  There Bond is trained in the fighting arts  of ninja warriors and sent to infiltrate a mysterious fortress known as the  Castle of Death – places of nightmares with a lethal poisoned garden that  destroys all who go there – where he awakens an old terrifying enemy.
 
In the 1967 screen adaptation of Fleming’s penultimate full length 007  novel we see only a scant reminder of the original plotline.  American and  Soviet space craft are disappearing and the cold war super powers blame each  other not realising that a third organisation, SPECTRE, is behind it all.   Bond is sent to Japan to investigate.  Much parodied, the iconic rocket  base in the dormant volcano and the cat stroking, scar faced Blofeld wowed the  cinema audiences of the day.  The script by Roald Dahl is excellent and the  theme tune isn’t bad either.
 
THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN (1965)
 
A brainwashed Bond tries to assassinate M. Now he has to prove he can be  trusted again. His task is to kill of of the most deadly freelance hit men in  the world – Paco “Pistols” Scaramanga – the Man with the Golden Gun. But 007 is  no straightforward assassin and on finding Scaramanga in the sultry heat of  Jamaica, he decides to infiltrate the killer’s criminal operation to get his  results.  If he fails he might just be on the next on a long list of agents “retired” by the Man with the Golden Gun.
 
Considered by many to be the weakest Bond film when it was released –1974 –it starred Roger Moore (with a third nipple – honest) but a very creditable  Christopher Lee (a distant cousin of Ian Fleming) as the villain.  The plot  is pure hokum, containing little to commend it.  Bond is assigned to  recover a Solex Agitator which can convert sunlight into electricity and  encounters Scaramanga along the way who has a flying car....  The theme  tune is one of the worst with ridiculous lyrics sang enthusiastically by Lulu.  Britt Ekland is in it too – say no more!
 
OCTOPUSSY/LIVING DAYLIGHTS (1966)
 
Bond tracks down a wayward major who has taken a deadly secret with him to  the Caribbean.  He also identifies a top Russian agent secretly bidding for  a Faberge egg in a Sotheby’s auction room.  He also ruthlessly guns down an  unlikely assassin in sniper’s alley between East and West Berlin.
 
Just what any of the above has got to do with the 1983 film Octopussy  starring Roger Moore and the 1987 film Living Daylights starring Timothy Dalton  is anyone’s guess.  Octopussy is all about a renegade Russian General  wanting to attack NATO, forming an alliance with one Kamel Khan, an aristocratic  smuggler of gems.  Octopussy, another smuggler, finds that her exotic  travelling circus is unwittingly carrying a nuclear bomb to blow up a USA army  base.  Bond saves the day.  Living Daylights has an intriguing  plotline which takes our hero to Czechoslovakia, Afganistan and Tangiers.
 
In summary, all the Ian Fleming James Bond books are an excellent read  although it is evident that the plot lines became weaker towards the end of the  series.  Cinematically, the films that work best are arguably the ones that  stick as closely as possible to the original novels where character development  overrides the gadgetry.  One of the drawbacks is the fact that the films  did not not follow the chronology of the books which clearly follow on from one  to the other.  This distraction aside, the films also can confuse the  viewer – kick starting Daniel Craig with his first kills to earn him his 00  status for example.  There is now even talk of bringing Blofeld and SPECTRE  back!  Everyone has their favourite Bond.  It all depends when you  were introduced to the franchise and which Bond you saw first.  Whilst  Daniel Craig looks little like the character in the books, Ian Fleming would no  doubt instantly recognise his chillingly ruthless ultimate secret agent with his  license to kill!
 
Charles Walton


by for www.femalefirst.co.uk
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