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Nobel prize winning poet Derek Walcott dies; his thoughts on Bond

18 March 2017 - 07:26 PM

Walcott, a Saint Lucian poet and playwright, won the 1992 Nobel Prize in Literature.

His obituary in case any one cares:


He wrote a bit about Bond and appears to have been a quasi-fan in the early days. For what it's worth, Fleming and Walcott not only shared the same British publisher - Jonathan Cape - but also the same editor - William Plomer. In fact, Plomer appears to have gotten Walcott his first major publishing contract.

Remembered Mountains [Trinidad Guardian, Sun Apr 11 1965: p.7-8]

The mountains and the mountain roads are Hearne and Mais country, but not the lavish, soporific resorts of the North Coast, the winter retreats, which are Fleming's Jamaica. (There is a book by that title to appear soon.) One of the worst droughts in years had parched the hillsides to tinder, and the light here, one had forgotten, is subtler.

...Of TV, Bond, and Fanny Hill [Trinidad Guardian, Wed Dec 18 1963: pg. 5]

Bond, the impeccable, was around again last week, but I didn't have the gall to catch him a third time. Hamlet, Henry V, yes. Those are art, the other is sublimation, and who has measured the difference? Ian Fleming has fixed on the perfect name. The associations are infinite. Bond Street, stock and bonds, my word is my, whisky in bond, even Bond and Brand in there. Lithe, dependable, affluent, tested, tireless, awry and exportable, Travels well. James is right too. It's a butler's name, a chauffeur's. "Bring the Bentley round, James." There's that quality to our man, too, not really Establishment, but a self-made public servant.

Cloak and Dagger [Trinidad Guardian, Sun May 3 1964: pg 15]

Spies are the heroes of the Cold War. The literature of intelligence receives serious attention because its melodramatic complexities are confirmed by headlines. Romance is underlined by fact. Progress and organizational methods have made the lonely, anarchistic figures of the cowboy and the gangster as obsolete as the knight, so the spy emerges, another question-figure, purposeful and with the power of death.

As with other forms of this symbolism, we are fascinated by the primitive ritual of the game, the obstacles to be avoided, the captivity (through magic drugs, witches, or simply being gagged and beaten) from which there is one secret escape, the final confrontation of pure evil, and the triumph. The formula, like incantation, must be adhered to, because repetition is part of its hallucinatory result. Its standard interpreter is Ian Fleming, whose twelfth Bond book repeats the pattern of its predecessors exactly. Only the dragons change. The knight cannot.

Bond's armoury has always had the irresistible power of those charms, scarves, amulets or consecrated swords with which the knights of fable set out on their journeys, except that the magic is in the perfect beauty of its function, like the suitcase in From Russia With Love; yet is is a law of medieval romance that the devices of Evil must be even more ingenious, leisurely and diabolical. The instinct to good, by these canons, is reflexive: to rescue, to react at any price to the cry of distress, while the genius of Evil is calmer, more deliberate. The super-villain of such fables, from custom, always indulge in lengthy philosophical disquisitions about Purpose, which gives the hero time enough to achieve his Triumphs. it is the deadlock between Will and Service, between the Ego and the Ideal. During all this, the bonds are loosened. There's always an object forgotten within the arena. A loose knot, or, as it is in this book, the slave of a ninja expert lying around in the medieval or baronial room of Dr. Shatterhand's Japanese fortress. During Shatterhand's apologia, Bond reflects:

"It was always so. When they thought they had got you where they wanted you, when they knew they were decisively on top, before the knock-out, even to an audience on the threshold of extinction, it was pleasant, reassuring to the executioner, to deliver his apologia - purge the sin he was about to commit. Blofeld, his hands relaxed on the boss of his sword, continued. The tone of his voice was reasonable, self-assured, quietly expository."

What Blofeld, the villain from SPECTRE who murdered Bond's wife in the previous adventure, needs to justify is his suicidal Garden of Death, a walled-in area on a Japanese island that attracts and caters to the Japanese sense of honour, or on, landscaped with malevolent, fatal shrubs and fauna [rest of article unavailable]

Bond's Formula Still Irresistible [Trinidad Guardian, Wed Jan 19, 1966: pg. 5]

I'm as faithful a Bondsman as any, but his latest, Thunderball, ignores the man for the gadgetry. All of this nearly transfroms [sic] him into a robot. Even the wisecracks now sound like stock responses. The exotic setting, Nassau this time, has become too sleek and fashion-plated. Where Dr. No gave you, however exaggerated, a picture of what the fashionable life was like in Jamaica's plush resorts by contrasting it with its poverty and desperation, Thunderball presents you with a Bahamas that is pure Harper's Bazaar.

There were sequences where it resembled the preceding trailers of How to Stuff a Wild Bikini and Beach Ball. And Bond is becoming too much like a male deodorant ad. The technological sequences are superbly done, but they cross the frontier of plausibility. In From Russia With Love, we were amused at the armoured Aston Martin with its ejector seat, and by the Saturday afternoon-serial bits, but we were making allowances for a touch of practical fantasy amid all the too-high seriousness of the international espionage.

The Fort Knox sequences in Goldfinger also seemed possible, but Thunderball depends too much on gasps of admiration at the way its 'scientific' passages were filmed.

What is also missing from Thunderball was central to the other Bond films: the direct, old-fashioned conflict between forces. The moral of Bond is as simple as this. It springs from the same pop-comic confrontations as the fiendish Dr So-and-So versus the resolute but fallible hero, but a villain who is far too affable, who has no more frightening disfiguration than a Hathaway eyepatch. In the Bond series, the disfiguration need not be physical, but usually Fleming presents us with villains who have been maimed in some way by the world; or who may have a deep, vengeful inferiority complex because they are in some way different. They are kinky in the deeper sense: Dr No's mechanical, black-gloved hands, Goldfinger's obsession which is a sexual sublimation, and From Russia's perverted villainess. Thunderball lets its villain toss the odd minion to sharks, and, since he is merely an agent of SPECTRE, gives him no egotistical motivation.

But the Bond formula is still irresistible. What the makers of the series must worry about now is whether the public will find Bond's adventures too absurd, his sexual conquests too easy; and the way to avoid this is to return to the old formula of direct conflict, not in making their products more expensive to tie in with the tributary markets.

However naive it may have been, Fleming's books had a sense of evil on a demonic scale, and Bond's seductions werew often very hard work. high camp is difficult to achieve if it is self-conscious. Bond must becomes serious again.

Thunderball, for example, suffers by comparison with another serious spy film, The Ipcress File, both of which have come out of the mills of Jonathan Cape and Harry Saltzman. The Ipcress hero is an uncommitted, sometimes gauche hero, who plays his hunches at ruinous cost. But where Thunderball exposes its hand too early, The Ipcress File still keeps, as all thrillers and detective stories should, to the guessing game. As part of the tension, The Ipcress File, in addition to all this, stresses the boredom and patience that takes up so much of professional spying, as war is often a question of waiting. Its relentless recording of paperwork, leg-work and trial and error has some of the atmosphere of The Spy Who Came in from the Cold. No one wants Bond to be seedy or shot at the end, but he must drop into the office a bit more often.

The "BBC viral video dad" doesn't like Bond

16 March 2017 - 07:24 PM

By now, most of you - most of the world - has probably seen that ill-fated BBC interview with a chap whose children come barging in.


The interviewee, Professor Robert E. Kelly, has his own blog where among other things he discusses Bond.

1. Where are the Americans and Japanese? To my great surprise, we met very few Americans on the trip. Usually Americans are everywhere when one travels. Being a superpower with bases and businesses around the world, Americans are a fixture of the global tourism industry. So much that the term ‘ugly American’ came about – a vague caricature that we’re monolinguist rednecks, like Sheriff Pepper in the ‘Man with the Golden Gun.’ But I didn’t see too many. In fact, we scarcely saw any Americans. And we didn’t see any black American tourists at all. (I’m not quite sure what to make of that; all the western tourists were white.) Ditto for Japanese. 80% of the tourists we met were Europeans. There were 5 Koreans in our safari trip. And of course, we saw Chinese – not just from all the construction projects, but even tourists too. Chinese tourists, but no Japanese tourists? What a sea-change. Is this a sign of the bite of the Great Recession or disinterest, or what?


6. The Cold War was just a Misunderstanding
Star Trek 6, Cold War-era James Bond movies
If there is any lesson to be drawn from Hollywood’s standard treatment of tough topics, it’s that it wants to offend or challenge no one, so as to insure that everyone will buy movie tickets. Hence the multicultural pluralist fluff of KoH or the gentle portrayal of the Japanese military junta in Pearl Harbor.
So god forbid Bond actually battle the KGB. Instead he usually hooks up (literally of course) with some hot Russian agent to battle a rouge financier, industrialist, general, whatever. Even in the Bond film about North Korea – the worst country on earth – the filmmaker didn’t have the guts to make the villain a part of the regime. Yawn. C’mon already. Even the DPRK gets a pass? We think the Bond movies are about the Cold War, but they really aren’t. Usually, the KGB is working with MI6 or the CIA. The real Bond meme straight from the antiglobalization movement – megalomaniac corporate leaders who want to take over the planet. Bill Gates as a psychopath, not Brezhnev, is the real enemy. Bleh.
Star Trek 6 follows the same silly pattern. The Cold War was really cooked up by military leaders on both sides who wanted to rise to power! And the Soviet-Klingons were really peace-lovers, defending their culture and loving their children too, just like Sting told us. Whatever…
7. Intelligence Work is Really Cool – Babes, Gadgets, Jumping out of Airplanes
Bond, Jack Ryan, Bourne
My students come to class with some of the most hair-brained ideas about world politics, because spy movies are so ubiquitous and so stupid. Blame Bond of course, but Jack Ryan – with a PhD no less! – has gotten more and more ridiculous too. I stopped reading Clancy novels after Ryan became POTUS. PhDs carrying guns and becoming prez? Gimme a break.
I have a few friends who work at the CIA, and they do a lot of what professors do – reading open source material, trying to draw conclusions, writing product. Certainly the literature on intelligence suggests this too. The most convincing film I saw on the CIA was The Good Shepherd, and the best film ever on intelligence work in the field is The Lives of Others. No one named Agent XXX or Holly Goodhead shows up.
Bonus all-time Bond idiocy: Denise Richardson with a PhD

Many of us will quibble with his claim that in DAD "the filmmaker didn’t have the guts to make the villain a part of the regime."

Our own Guy Haines has made the same argument about Bond & the antiglobalization movement.
Kelly has also released a statement about the "viral video" incident,

Alec McCowen, stage actor and Bond's 'other Q', dies at 91

09 February 2017 - 06:33 PM

Alec McCowen, stage actor and Bond's 'other Q', dies at 91


Some of you may remember him from Alfred Hitchcock's "Frenzy". He was the detective. "Mr. Rusk, you're not wearing your tie."

Did Fleming steal JB from novelist Phyllis Bottome?

10 January 2017 - 12:38 AM



Did a woman inspire Ian Fleming's James Bond?
8 December 2016

Miles Jupp

The author of Bottome's biography says the young Ian Fleming was "deeply troubled"

A BBC Radio 4 documentary to be aired this week casts a fascinating light on the early days of Ian Fleming and his most famous creation, James Bond. Its presenter, News Quiz host Miles Jupp, explains more.

James Bond has gripped our national imagination since he emerged from the scent and smoke and sweat of a French casino at three in the morning in 1953's Casino Royale.

The 30-something British agent with the lock of dark hair, the cruelly winning way with the ladies and the licence to kill has become one of Britain's most iconic fictional creations - and, thanks to a multi-million pound film franchise, one of our most successful cultural exports.

But was James Bond invented not by Ian Fleming, but by a lady novelist with a shock of white hair and the remarkable name Phyllis Bottome?

That's the extraordinary claim I explore in a documentary for Radio 4 titled The Woman Who Invented James Bond?

A fictional spy called Mark Chalmers may have provided the template for James Bond

Phyllis Bottome is not much remembered now, but she was a widely respected and prolific author in the early 20th Century.

She published her first novel aged just 20 and kept at it, producing well-reviewed books every year or two for more than half a century.

Her most famous novel, The Mortal Storm, was an attempt to wake British readers to the desperate plight of Jews in Germany. Published in 1938, it became a Hollywood film starring James Stewart two years later.

In 1946, Bottome published a novel called The Life Line. The spy writer Nigel West believes it is nothing less than a smoking gun.

"In 1946, Phyllis Bottome writes a James Bond book," West says. "He's not called James Bond, he's called Mark Chalmers, but he has every characteristic of James Bond."

Chalmers, the hero of Bottome's novel, is a 36-year-old, dark-haired master at Eton who is signed up to work for British intelligence by a friend, Reggie, who works at the Foreign Office.

After a meeting with "B", the head of British Intelligence, he is despatched to the continent with a mission to communicate with a British sleeper agent and a suicide pill in case it all goes wrong.

Chalmers is a keen aficionado of mountain sports, enthusiastic about fine food and wine and has an eye for a pretty girl. He also speaks fluent French and German.

Seven years later, the world would be introduced to a character named James Bond.

He's in his late thirties. He is sent to the continent after a meeting with "M", the head of British intelligence.

He is a keen aficionado of mountain sports, enthusiastic about fine food and wine and has an eye for a pretty girl. He also speaks fluent French and German.

There's nothing necessarily sinister about two books appearing some years apart with similar characters and themes.

But Fleming knew Phyllis Bottome. Indeed, the summer after The Life Line was published, Bottome and her husband Ernan Forbes Dennis holidayed in Goldeneye, Fleming's Jamaican villa.

The connection between Fleming and the Forbes Dennises went back to 1926 when Fleming was sent to Austria in some disgrace.

There he was enrolled in the Tannerhof, a school Phyllis and her husband ran in the Austrian Alps.

Fleming learned to ski, speak French and also, with Phyllis's encouragement, wrote his first short story.

'Hugely important'

Bottome's husband had been a spy and served as SIS station chief in Marseilles. It was an intoxicating atmosphere for the young Fleming.

"The Forbes Dennises were hugely important for Ian's development," says John Pearson, Fleming's biographer.

"As he said himself, without Phyllis and Ernan he would never have been able to get going and do his thing."

In a letter to the Sunday Times in 1962, Fleming generously acknowledged the positive influence that Phyllis Bottome and her husband had on him when he was a wayward youth.

But did his debt to Bottome go deeper than that? Did he take the idea for James Bond from his old mentor? It's a controversial thesis.

'Thief and victim'

Nigel West argues that the relationship between Fleming and Bottome is that of "thief and victim". But if so, the thief and victim seemed to remain on friendly terms until Phyllis's death in 1963.

Pam Hirsch, author of The Constant Liberal: The Life and Work of Phyllis Bottome, says the title of The Life Line was emblematic of her relationship with the young Fleming.

"Phyllis and her husband Ernan were a lifeline for a deeply troubled young man who might not have actually survived if he hadn't had all their care, their love, and their writerly attention as well."

Hirsch is reluctant to suggest Phyllis "invented James Bond". But she does say "she sort of invented Ian Fleming the writer".

Fleming's novels have sold millions of copies since 1953. Phyllis Bottome's The Life Line is not currently in print.

But could it have planted the seed that would flower into James Bond?

Documentary presenter Miles Jupp presents Radio 4's The News Quiz and has appeared in Rev

Spectre spoiler sub-forum?

22 September 2016 - 05:59 PM

Why do we still have a spoiler sub-forum for Spectre?

News flash! Blofeld and Bond are long-lost foster brothers.

...and Tracy is still dead.

Sorry, mods, I'm in an impish mood right now.