Saturday 22 September 2012

Fleming memes in the Skyfall trailer

Any Ian Fleming fans who have wondered whether Skyfall would include any elements from the James Bond novels are likely to have been reassured when viewing the main Skyfall trailer. In it, the words in Bond's obituary that we see M write are taken almost verbatim from M's obituary in the novel, You Only Live Twice. That Skyfall evidently includes Bond's 'death' and, as Bond himself puts it, his 'resurrection', suggests that some of the themes of Fleming's penultimate novel, if not its actual episodes, have been mined for ideas for the film.

The trailer appears to show another nod to Fleming. Javier Bardem's villain, Raoul Silva, tells Bond, 'She sent you up to me, knowing you're not ready, knowing you would likely die. Mommy was very bad.' I love that line. To me, it perfectly evokes the spirit of Fleming's writing. In particular, it brings to mind the torture episode in Casino Royale.

As the naked Bond is strapped to the chair and threatened with a carpet beater (chapter 17), Le Chiffre tells him, 'You are not equipped, my dear boy, to play games with adults and it was very foolish of your nanny in London to have sent you out here with your spade and bucket'. Both the delivery of the lines and the chilling allusion to childhood convey the villains' sense of absolute dominance over Bond and the confidence that their plans will prevail.

Perhaps, too, the reference in Silva's line to M as 'mommy' is an allusion to Fleming's nickname for his mother, Eve. In letters he wrote to her when he was a child, he occasionally called her 'M', and this in turn may have had some influence on the naming of Bond's chief.

Come October and November, Fleming aficionados will be carefully watching Skyfall to identify elements of the Bond novels. Just from the trailer, though, it is unlikely that they will be disappointed. We already know that Sam Mendes and Daniel Craig re-read Fleming before embarking on the film, and the result appears to be that Skyfall has inherited several memes from the books.


Lycett, A, 1995 Ian Fleming: The man behind James Bond, Turner

Thursday 20 September 2012

James Bond cookbook now available to download

You know what James Bond drinks, but do you know what he eats? What is his favourite food? What is his favourite meal of the day? How does he like his steak? How does he take his coffee? 

This cookbook, the eBook edition of Licence to Cook published in 2010, is full of exciting recipes inspired by the food described in Ian Fleming’s novels. The recipes I've devised are modern, but have a period twist. 

The cookbook is intended for anyone who wishes to recreate the flavour of James Bond’s gastronomy. If you’re preparing a romantic meal for two or planning a Bond-themed party, or if you’re simply curious about the sorts of food Bond eats, this cookbook is for you. Eat like Bond throughout the day, breakfast, lunch and dinner.

The eBook is available for £4.99 ($8.09) from Lulu Marketplace

For iPhone, iPad and other Apple device users, download the book direct from iBooks. Just go to iBooks and search for 'Licence to Cook'. 

Licence to Cook is also available on NOOK from Barnes & Noble. Click here to order

Note about downloading:

Apple users can download the book onto their devices through iBooks simply enough. For Lulu customers, the ePub-formatted book can be downloaded onto any ePub-reading device, including Apple devices. You don't need to download Adobe Digital Editions. I successfully imported the book myself into Aldiko (a free e-reader app) installed on my Android phone. The whole process was very quick and I can now read my book on the move. 

Sunday 16 September 2012

Book review - James Bond: 50 years of movie posters

The James Bond posters have been instrumental not only in advertising the Bond films over the past 50 years, but also helping to spread Bond iconography, such as the 007 gun symbol and the gun barrel motif. They have also introduced elements, such as the classic Bond pose seen on the poster for From Russia With Love, that have been perpetuated on subsequent posters and imitated for marketing campaigns of other films.

Fifty years of movie posters is not the first book to celebrate the rich archive of James Bond posters (up till now, Tony Nourmand's James Bond movie posters has been the key reference), but it is probably the most attractively-presented and comprehensive collection now available. Its coffee-table-book-in-sturdy-slip-case format apart, what differentiates this book, written by Alastair Dougall, from those it follows is that it approaches the posters from a design perspective; after all, the volume's consultant, Dennis Gassner, is a production and poster designer, whose most recent credit is Skyfall.

Thus, each of the 25 sections – one for each Bond film, including Casino Royale (1967) and Never Say Never Again (1983) – begins with a summary of the principal design concepts and how they were adapted for different markets, and continues with a selection of posters that are accompanied by captions that highlight further points of design.

No doubt the poster selection is not as complete as one might have wished – I would like to have seen more non-US/UK posters – but there is still much that is new to the Bond aficionado or otherwise rarely seen, particularly the unused poster concepts, and the lobby cards, which often show unusual publicity photos or occasionally hint at scenes left on the cutting-room floor.

There are other aspects of the posters that I find especially fascinating. The Australian posters of the earlier films, including Dr No and Goldfinger, carried the warning, 'Not suitable for children'. As I suggested in a recent article, Bond films have always been intended for more mature audiences, despite generally being regarded as family entertainment.

A more general point about the posters produced for markets outside the UK and the US is the extent to which they were adapted to fit their respective cultural environments. One can identify posters from Japan even if the text was absent, since most designs employed the busy photomontage style so typical of that country. Swedish posters are also quite recognisable, as they often used a tricolour background. Occasionally the moral sensibilities prevailing in some territories forced Bond girls to cover up or be rendered less suggestively.

As mentioned with regard to lobby cards, the posters sometimes hint at plot details or character attributes which are absent or downplayed in the final cut of the film. Another example is an unused poster concept for The Spy Who Loved Me, which depicts Stromberg with obviously webbed fingers. In the film, little is made of Stromberg's fingers, although it explains why he doesn't like to shake hands. In the case of the poster, it is likely that the artist, possibly Bob Peak, relied on written plot details, rather than viewings of the film, when drafting the poster (indeed, this is supported by the fact that the characters don't resemble the actors who played them).

The book contains a few errors, although I have to admit that without having examined the text in great detail, I haven't spotted that many errors, but no doubt a longer list than mine has been prepared by other fans. However, even with the textual errors, the book brings together an amazing collection of posters, which surely everyone can enjoy.

Tuesday 11 September 2012

More on Mr Kiss Kiss Bang Bang

In an earlier article, I discussed the origin of the phrase, 'Mr Kiss Kiss Bang Bang'. The phrase, which became widespread around 1964/5, is usually attributed to the Italian fans or press, but I revealed that Ian Fleming had used a similar phrase. His version – 'bang, bang, kiss, kiss' - appears in an article based on a 1963/4 interview published in 1965.

In fact, we can place Fleming's usage some seven or eight years earlier. In 1959, The London Magazine published a tribute written by Fleming to his friend Raymond Chandler, who had died that year. In his article, Fleming presented a selection of correspondence between him and Chandler in which they discussed, among other matters, books, writing, and authors (they both admired Eric Ambler and Dashiell Hammett).

In a letter dated 27th April 1956, responding to Chandler's view that, despite his favourable review of the book, Diamonds Are Forever contained some bad parts, Fleming admitted that he probably didn't take his own writing seriously enough. Fleming suggested that while Chandler's novels were 'sociological studies', his were 'pillow fantasies of the bang-bang, kiss-kiss variety'. 

Of course, we needn't make a direct link between Fleming's 'kiss, kiss, bang, bang' phrase, and the later variant used in Italy. But the closeness of both variants points to something of a 'common ancestor' from which both originated. In other words, the phrase already had a degree of currency in cultural space, certainly before the phrase gained greater prominence with the release of Thunderball in 1965, and probably before Fleming put his words in a letter to Raymond Chandler in 1956.


Fishman, J, 1965 007 and me, by Ian Fleming, in For Bond Lovers Only (ed. S Lane), Panther
Fleming, I, 1959 Raymond Chandler, The London Magazine, vol. 6, no. 12

Saturday 8 September 2012

My holiday reading

Escaping the wet British summer, I went to south-west France for a holiday. I didn't totally neglect James Bond, though. I kept a look-out for Bondian material, and in Bordeaux's rue Sainte-Catherine found two Bond-related books in a bookshop specialising in the cinema and, inevitably for any French bookshop, bandes dessinées.  

One was James Bond: Belmondo & Cie: Le livre du cinéma européen, by Mario Cortesi. Published in 1983, the book is a French edition of an Italian book which traces the history of European film through its movements, actors, stunts and 'magic'. As the title suggests, the James Bond series features predominantly, being deemed sufficiently significant to have its own chapter: 'James Bond – Mr Kiss Kiss Bang Bang'.

In it, Cortesi describes the history of James Bond on the screen, from faltering starts on American television, to the global blockbusters of the Connery and Moore era (at the time of publication, Octopussy was the latest Bond film, and so dominates the selection of images from the films). The author attributes the rise of the Bond phenomenon to the efforts of producer Cubby Broccoli, strangely ignoring Harry Saltzman, who doesn't get a mention.

The author knows his Fleming, however, and makes several comparisons between the filmic and literary Bonds, naturally concluding that the then latest incarnation, Roger Moore's Bond, has little in common with the hero of Fleming's books. If there is some overlap, however, for Cortesi it is in the cold, mechanical execution of Bond's duties, which excludes emotion and the possibility of lasting relationships with women, a view that Cortesi may have revised in light of the portrayals by Timothy Dalton and Daniel Craig.

The second book, published in 1988, is the first volume of the collected Daily Express comic strips, translated into French. The volume curiously begins with strips published in 1966, and so comprises Lawrence and Horak's adaptation of The Man with the Golden Gun and 'The Living Daylights'. The introduction to the volume comprises a biography of Ian Fleming.

It is worth noting here another French book, which I bought in Montpellier in 2008. Goldmaker by Guillaume Evin gives a fuller account of the rise and evolution of the James Bond film series (up to Quantum of Solace) and attempts to explain its success.