I was honoured to be invited by David Leigh of the James Bond Dossier website to contribute to a questionnaire which gauged the views of Bond bloggers and writers about the Bond 24 with questions such as “What are you most looking forward to on Bond 24?”. For the final question, “Is there anything else you’d like to add?”, I put forward my prediction for the title. The answer I gave was The Property of a Lady, but even as I made the suggestion, I wasn't convinced. In this post, I thought I'd explain my reasoning and consider other options. I should add that this post more or less represents a re-post of an article of mine written just before the title of Bond 23 (Skyfall) was announced.
I opted for The Property of a Lady, not because I thought it the best of the unused Fleming titles – indeed, I consider it rather weak – but because it seemed less likely that any of the others would be used. However, from a memetic perspective, I think two of the other titles are stronger.
Let's start with Risico. Till now, the title has remained unused apparently because of its meaninglessness. Indeed, it's been reported that Michael G Wilson dislikes Risico because the word is Fleming's invention. However, it is precisely its meaninglessness that gives it an advantage over the other unused titles and potentially makes it so useful. Risico is very adaptable. In a Bond film that obviously cannot now be based on Fleming's story of Risico itself, the title could be a corporation, an organisation, a code word, the name of an operation, or a personal name. The possibilities are endless. And if the word is meaningless in English, it is equally meaningless in any other language, which has advantages from economic and marketing points of view.
While I think there are good reason for using Risico, I do have a fondness for The Hildebrand Rarity. Admittedly, this title has the same awkwardness about it as Quantum of Solace. But it is an interesting title which might intrigue potential audiences (what is 'The Hildebrand Rarity'?), and, while it doesn't seem particularly Bondian, it has the ring of an old-fashioned, Cold War, spy tale, such as The Quiller Memorandum or The Internecine Project. Though elements of the original story was used for Licence to Kill, the central plot was not. It could still be filmed, but even if the title only was taken, The Hildebrand Rarity is reasonably adaptable, and could refer to a MacGuffin – a document or a piece of technology, perhaps – that Bond and others would be after.
Of course, it's quite possible, even likely, that Bond 24 will be given an original title. But there is merit in the unused titles of Ian Fleming, and if we are to see a significant element of Fleming's work (particularly Octopussy) in the film, then a Fleming title would be rather fitting.