Last month we ran down 10-6 in our series on literary Bond that deserves more screen time. This week, we wrap up our list with 5-1. Let us know if you agree or would suggest more?
5. The Havelock murders in Jamaica and Vermont shoot-out scene in For Your Eyes Only
“For Your Eyes Only” begins with the murder of the Havelocks, a British couple in Jamaica who have refused to sell their estate to Herr von Hammerstein, a former Gestapo officer who is the chief of counterintelligence for the Cuban secret service. They are killed by two Cuban hitmen at the direction of their leader, Major Gonzales; all three work for von Hammerstein. The Havelocks turn out to be close friends of M, who served as the groom’s best man during their wedding in 1925.
The opening exchange between M and Bond is what we all want and expect out of their relationship. Professional but displays a paternal closeness and trust between the two hard men.
The story “For Your Eyes Only” was originally written as the third episode in the James Bond TV series, first titled: “Man’s Work”, later “Rough Justice” and “Death Leaves an Echo” before finally settling on “For Your Eyes Only.”
In the film ‘version’ the location has transplanted from Upstate New York to Greece. In actual fact, there is more adapted from the short story Risico (from the same collection), which takes up the bulk of the film.
In a reverse way, the film uses a scene from the book Live and Let Die, where Bond and Solitaire (here it’s Judy Havelock) are pulled over the coral.
Key set pieces from “For Your Eyes Only” were adapted into the movie version, but I agree that what we haven’t yet seen is the depth of the relationship between Bond and M. What’s most striking to me about the short story is
a) M’s struggle over whether or not to use Bond for a mostly – if not purely – personal mission, and
b) Bond’s generously, but inelegantly doing his best to let M off the hook for it.
Even if we don’t want to repeat all the main story beats of For Yours Eyes Only, it would be great to have a movie where M needs Bond for something personal and then we get to watch the two of them work through that.
4. The Bridge scene, the car chase through Kent, hiding in the rocket exhaust port, and getting rejected by Gala Brand in Moonraker
The car chase in Moonraker – 007 in his souped-up Bentley pursuing Sir Hugo Drax in his 300 S Mercedes – is one of the most thrilling scenes Ian Fleming ever wrote. Bond first chases Drax down Ebury Street – where Fleming lived and (where Sir Hugo Drax would also live) all the way onto the A20 to Dover, on which he loses his Bentley.
In the film, only the title and villain Drax’s name are used. Moonraker perhaps more than any novel, this provides the most unused material from the Kent setting to Gala Brand.
One of the most tense and brilliant scenes Fleming ever put to paper, was Bond and Drax in Blades playing Bridge. It doesn’t sound exciting on the face of it, which is perhaps why we have not seen it on screen; the poker scene in 2008’s Casino Royale came close though.
Because Moonraker was changed so dramatically for the film, there are tons of things that could be incorporated into other movies. One of my favorite moments is when Bond and Gala Brand are hiding from Drax in the exhaust ports for the Moonraker rocket. Drax suspects they’re in there and has the ports flooded with steam, one by one, listening for the screams of pain that will give them away. The tension builds as each port is flooded, getting closer and closer to Bond and Brand’s.
But the scene also highlights something else that I love about the book and that’s Gala Brand’s reaction to Bond. She’s clearly attracted to him, but she’s also unimpressed with his sexism. She asserts herself, but not in an annoying or strident way. She accepts Bond’s advice when it makes sense, but she also demonstrates numerous times that she also has great ideas that lead to the resolution of the case. And she’s smart enough to know that Bond isn’t relationship material.
There have been some great female characters in the Bond films, including some that he didn’t sleep with, but we haven’t yet seen him actively pursue a woman who turned him down because he’s bad news.
3. The entire Octopussy short story
Bond is assigned to apprehend a hero of the Second World War implicated in a murder involving a cache of Nazi gold.
Bond appears briefly in this story, which is told mostly in flashback and from the point of view of Major Dexter Smythe, the villain. Bond chooses not to take Smythe into custody immediately, but Smythe’s guilt drives him to commit suicide by allowing a scorpion fish to sting him and his “pet” octopus to attack him, bringing on a fatal heart attack. Fleming provides references to the Miscellaneous Objectives Bureau, which was a fictional version of Fleming’s own 30 AU unit.
The 1983 film ‘version’ of Octopussy takes the name from the short story alone but uses as a plot device the auctioning of a Fabergé egg at Sotheby’s from another short story form this collection – “The Property of a Lady”.
This short story serves as background for the movie Octopussy by filling in the details about the death of Maud Adams’ father. But since those details are left out of the film, they’re still there to be used and it’s some great stuff. We’ve seen Bond go on personal missions in the movies, so I don’t feel like that would be new, but the real story of “Octopussy” is Dexter Smythe’s cold-hearted pursuit of some Nazi gold. Instead of showing up years after it took place, it could be fun to see Bond inserted into that story as it’s happening.
With news that the new Bond film SPECTRE includes a character by the name of Hannes Oberhauser, it’s possible some of the original Octopussy will be alluded to or simply the name, as was done in the film version of Octopussy, which supplied the back story of the film’s title character (Maud Adams).
2. Bond gets the SHAPE of SMERSH and meets Mary Ann Russell in “From a View to a Kill”
In the novel, Bond investigates the murder of a motorcycle dispatch-rider and the theft of his top-secret documents by a motorcycle-riding SMERSH assassin. The rider was en route from SHAPE (Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe), in Versailles to Saint-Germain in France. Since Bond is already in Paris, his superior, M, sends him to assist in the investigation in any way he can. Bond disguises himself as a dispatch-rider and follows the same journey to Station F as the previous rider, uncovers the assassin’s hidden base; as the assassin attempts to kill Bond, Bond kills him, only to be attacked and saved by fellow agent Mary Ann Russell later that evening.
There is very little in common with the film apart from a Paris setting. Motorcycle chases have frequently been utilized in the Bond films, but a faithful adaptation of this story could be a nice pre-title sequence and set up Mary Ann Russell as a strong character in the series. Like other short stories he wrote, From a View To a Kill appeared in a number of magazines, including Argosy in 1961 (as “Paris Courier”), and Fury Magazine in 1962 (as “A Nice View For Killing”).
According to Henry Chancellor’s James Bond: The Man and His World, “From A View to a Kill” was initially intended to be the backstory for Hugo Drax, the villain of Moonraker. The similar story would have taken place during World War II and featured Drax as the motorcycle assassin who crashes his bike and is taken to an American field hospital. Later the hospital is bombed leaving Drax with amnesia and a disfigured face.
One of the most memorable moments in “From a View to a Kill” is the introduction of Mary Ann Russell.
She breezes into Bond’s life as he’s unwinding in Paris after a failed mission. He’s having coffee in a café and wearily considering his prospects for the evening when a black, beat-up car roars through traffic and up to the curb. A beautiful woman gets out and walks up to him, ignoring the still-cursing motorists behind her. She confidently sits down and smiles.
“I’m sorry I’m late, and I’m afraid we’ve got to get moving at once. You’re wanted at the office. Crash dive.” And the adventure begins.
Sadly, the rest of the story doesn’t live up to that opening, but it’s quite an introduction and I’d love to see it set up a mission that’s worthy of it.
1. The Garden of Death in You Only Live Twice
After escaping Piz Gloria in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Blofeld has somehow positioned himself as a wealthy and respected botanist in Japan, living in a castle where the grounds are populated by toxic flora and fauna, making it appealing to people who wish to commit suicide. Blofeld as such is committing no crime as he is simply studying the toxicology of plants and animals on private property to aid pharmaceutical developments.
In the actual film version, Roald Dahl – a friend of Ian Fleming’s – was drafted in for script duty, but after many re-writes it barely resembled the novel. An odd choice in many ways. We get Tiger Tanaka and Dikko Henderson, Bond turning Japanese and living with Kissy, but that’s about it. The book ends with Blofeld and Irma Bunt dead, Bond rendered amnesiac and living with Kissy and their child. Blofeld’s Garden of Death encourages suicide, which may have been a touchy subject at the time to commit to celluloid in 1967, but the sheer originality of the set piece has been a firm favorite of literary Bond fans for years to be given justice on the big screen.
The Garden of Death and Bond’s infiltration of Blofeld’s castle are some of the strangest, most wonderful scenes Fleming wrote.
Not only does Blofeld live in a Japanese castle surrounded by beautiful, but lethal plants and animals, he also walks around them in full samurai armor.
There’s the tiniest nod to this in the film version with the piranha pool, but we haven’t seen the full Garden, not to mention Blofeld’s oubliette, Question Room, or Bond’s amazing escape by helium balloon.
Fleming wrote You Only Live Twice after the first couple of movies were made and it’s like he’s daring the filmmakers to top him.
Honorable Mention: The entire 007 in New York short story
The story “007 in New York“, sees Bond traveling as David Barlow to New York City. His mission is to warn a female MI6 employee who used to be a first class staff officer for the Secret Service, that the American authorities are getting close to finding out that she is cohabiting with a KGB agent. The agent is attached to the UN and M is sending Bond to tell her that the CIA is close to identifying her. The character of Solange in the film of Casino Royale seems to have come from this story.
“007 in New York” was published in 1963 and was originally titled “Reflections in a Carey Cadillac” but was subsequently renamed as “007 in New York” for the 1964 US editions of Thrilling Cities. It contains a recipe for scrambled eggs which came from May Maxwell, the housekeeper to friend Ivar Bryce who gave her name to Bond’s own housekeeper, May. In 1966, it was published posthumously as part of Octopussy and The Living Daylights
The audiobook of this short story was voice by Ian Fleming’s niece, actress Lucy Fleming.
There isn’t much action in “007 in New York,” but that’s not its purpose. It’s mostly just Bond’s musing over what he likes about New York City.
There’s certainly a seed for a great story there though and I’d love to see it developed on screen.
But what I’d love even more – since the story includes Bond’s recipe for them – is Daniel Craig’s making scrambled eggs for breakfast.
The Bond movies have been shockingly reserved in the way they present and photograph food and that needs to be corrected immediately.
Five great unfilmed scenes from the James Bond books by Edward Biddulph
Top 10 Moments from Ian Flemings Bond Novels (The Daily Telegraph)
Quantum of Fleming (HMSS Weblog)
Rare Fleming Short (SpyVibe)
More of Michael May’s writings can be found at:
Featured image by George Almond courtesy of www.007magazine.com