Here is last week’s excerpt as they filmed it for On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969):
We were told there would be avalanches…?
I thought I’d outgrown Fleming a long time ago, but while watching that ski chase via a link in a Cracked article (warning: Cracked is a satirical website that sometimes uses offensive language/imagery), many other long-forgotten scenes from the books came back with the same adrenaline-charged clarity in which they had been drawn.
It’s too bad that the movies and actors who brought James Bond to the screen (and then ran away with him) have overshadowed Ian Fleming’s skills as an author.
His James Bond is a British archetype. Bond also has universal appeal, not through rugged good looks, brutality and sex (though those are prominent parts of him), but rather because Fleming made him a paradox.
In the books, James Bond is a grownup child, frightened by turbulence during a commercial air flight (Diamonds Are Forever) but able to think calmly and make good decisions while under fire and racing an avalanche (and in the book, Blofeld’s gunmen are also firing from above, riding the ski lift).
During quieter times, his internal paradox keeps Bond unbalanced, always trying to establish control over himself.
…Goldfinger could not have known that high tension was Bond’s natural way of life and that pressure and danger relaxed him.
It’s irresistible to anyone in whom childishness and adulthood still mingle, i.e., most adults. It was especially intoxicating for me to read the Bond tales as a teenager on the cusp of adulthood.
Once he had a good character, Fleming put him into high-stakes situations (not always as literally as in Casino Royale) and then described the action through Bond’s eyes, using a crisp and detailed style that was every bit as good as a camera.
Sadly, the movie On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, which was a return to Fleming’s original concept after Sean Connery’s departure, didn’t do as well at the box office as the others had.
Connery eventually returned, of course, and then passed the 007 mantle to others as the very successful “Bond franchise” took on a life of its own that still continues today.
It’s that franchise that I’ve outgrown, as it turns out, not Fleming’s original work. I wish he had lived longer and had written more, but his days certainly were not a waste.
My favorite film of Fleming himself isn’t from any of the interviews. Rather, it’s his appearance in Night Train to Munich.
This picture went all out to tweak Nazi noses with British wit even though, outside the theater, it was 1940, Auschwitz had just opened for real, and European countries everywhere were falling under the jackboot.
Now at this point Fleming was personal assistant to the Royal Navy’s Director of Naval Intelligence. The world, and perhaps Fleming himself, had never heard of 007.
This wasn’t his first movie cameo, but Fleming’s presence at that time in such a spirited film certainly gives Night Train To Munich a lot of weight, if not overt official blessing.
Watch below as he enters a room filled with Britain’s top spies who are disheartened by the loss of the MacGuffin (in this movie, a scientist). Fleming starts wittering about pickling walnuts and then hangs around as the others come up with a crazy plan (exactly the sort of planning Fleming himself was doing at the time).
Categories: Thursday Lit