Episode 18 – Sex, Sadism, and Snobbery

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 “No, Mr. Bond. I expect you to die!”

Mike and Casey are shaking (but not stirring) their martinis and hoping a plane to Montenegro to sit at the baccarat table and trade barbs with Greg Hatcher of Comic Book Resources’ Comics Should Be Good! blog and game designer Ryan Chaddock. Our mission: to discuss the origins, movies and the cultural phenomenon that is James Bond.

We dig into the nature of 007’s morality, celebrate his penchant for battling outlandish supervillains, and we delve into why this super spy never seems to go out of style.

Music: 
“James Bond Theme” from Dr. No  by John Barry

11 thoughts on “Episode 18 – Sex, Sadism, and Snobbery

  1. Yet another great episode. Not the biggest Bond fan, but I still thoroughly enjoyed it, and learned a few things, or at least gained some new insights. For one, I never before thought of the Bond mythos as some kind of updated medieval knightly tales, but damn it if that doesn’t make sense.
    Also, Greg’s enthusiastic review of the “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” novel has got me seriously considering the possibility of picking up a Bond book for the first time since I was a teen (when I was a BIG Bond fan, but I could only get through three of the novels before I threw in the towel – I found them very tedious).
    I was also amused by Ryan’s observations about the Brosnan films – I’ve never seen any of those; was Brosnan the Roger Moore equivalent of his time?
    And despite the fact that I think Moore was not a good Bond, I have to agree with Mike: “Live and Let Die” is probably my one of my favorites, right after one or two of the Connery films.

    • I find the novels pretty much hit and miss (even as a teenager); but, there are streaks of good ones. Casino Royale and Live and Let Die are a good one-two punch, for the start of the series. Goldfinger has its moments; but, it’s pretty darn pulpy (not that that is bad), and I find it works better as a movie. From Russia With Love and Dr. No are another great one-two punch. Then, you have the SPECTRE novels, which exist in a class by themselves. I love them all, but On Her Majesty’s Secret Service most of all. I always found it to be the best one written (not necessarily the best, but that it has the best writing), with some better character parts than a lot of the others. You Only Live Twice is the weakest of the three, for me; but, there is enough to love that I can forgive the weak stuff. I like most of the short stories and feel that Fleming was underrated, in that realm. I have never liked Diamonds Are Forever, and Man With the Golden Gun is a mixed bag. Moonraker is another very pulpy one and is a little hard to swallow. Spy Who Loved Me just doesn’t work, for me. I can see why Fleming banned its adaptation.

      OHMSS probably has the best character interaction of all of the books and I find that it holds up really well, as does the film. I always felt George Lazenby got a bad rap. He got a big head; but, the producers spent more time on his look than his acting, which could have elevated things if they had tried. As it was, he was good in a lot of his scenes; but the gimmick of dubbing him, while masquerading as Sir Hilary Bray, was beyond silly.

      I thought Brosnan was a good Bond who was let down by weak scripts (created by committee). I pretty much felt the same about Dalton. each started well, with a mostly great film, though Brosnan got a stronger villain. After that, it goes down hill. Brosnan gets stuck with too many mediocre villains, bad lead actresses, or just overly convoluted plots. Dalton never really got a chance.

      • The first Bond book I read was Casino Royale (yes, like a good little completist, I decided I’d read them in order of publication), and I barely finished it. I really found it deathly boring. But I soldiered on through Live & Let Die and then From Russia With Love, both of which I thought were just all right. I started to read a fourth, I don’t even remember which one, and just put it down after about 20 or so pages and never looked back. Fleming’s writing just never did it for me. Even so, I may give OHMSS a chance…

        • You do have to adjust to Fleming’s style. I would get a bit bored with his descriptive passages of the locales, what Bond is wearing, though I would get very hungry during the scenes with Bond dining. However, I could usually get into the action afterwards. Raymond Benson, in his excellent James Bond Bedside Companion, had a nice chart of the Bond books, showing the structure of things, like how he would set the exotic location, the love interest, the “sacrificial lamb,” the bad guy, etc..; same with the movies. There was a definite formula.

          Fleming was no Len Deighton or Alistair McLean; but, he was a good pulp writer. You can definitely see his journalistic background in the location descriptions (Benson called it the Fleming Sweep, if I recall).

          I would say give OHMSS a chance. It’s one of the ones where the movie stuck close to the source material and it has some good stuff in there. Everyone’s literary experience is different, though.

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  3. My Bond experience is more in line with Greg Hatcher, given the nearness of our ages. I first discovered Bond on ABC, through the broadcasts of the Bond films. Moonraker was the first film I saw in the theaters. As a kid, I was all about the cool gadgets, epic villain lairs, and the climactic mayhem. I have been forever lamenting the loss of the third act commando assault that is a part of so many of my favorite Bonds. My favorite Bond film, storywise, is On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. I don’t think Lazenby is as bad as he has been criticized; but, yes, he could have been better. I agree with Greg that Dalton would have really been great in that film (a shame his films never rose to those levels). My favorite Bond film, period, is You Only Live Twice. It’s got everything and the kitchen sink: beautiful women, an epic villain, the volcano fortress, ninja commandos, the US and USSR on the brink of World War III, more believable space stuff than Moonraker, Little Nellie, Peter Maivia, and Sean Connery being deadly and throwing off great lines. The fight between Connery and Maivia is as brutal as the battle with Robert Shaw, in From Russia with Love, except that Connery hits Maivia with a couch!!!!! And that doesn’t stop him!!!!!!!!!!!!! It is the Bond film that informs the classic Jim Steranko Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD, as well as the equally awesome Master of Kung Fu, at Marvel Comics. It is probably the one people think of when you say SPECTRE or Bloefeld.

    Like Greg, the films brought me to the books, though I had to get them commercially. My neighbor had the majority, that he acquired at a yard sale. He sold them to me for a couple of bucks, and I devoured them. I then went out and bought the Jove Press editions, which were the current publications, for the missing ones. Like Greg, I believe that OHMSS is, technically, the best, though I would say From Russia With Love has the most intrigue. Dr. No is pure pulp, with a Fu Manchu villain (complete with a modern Fu Manchu-esque scheme). As Greg says, they are greatly informed by medieval tales, as well as pulp detective fiction. There is little of what you would call “espionage.” Fleming was a journalist and it really shows in his descriptive passages. he always set the locale in exacting detail, then Bond’s hotel, his attire, and his meal. They had that journalist’s eye for detail. The villains were “wizards,” much like their pulp forefathers. The women had exotic names (the movies went overboard with that facet) and always had amazing figures. They were sexual creatures, either directly or latently.

    It is a decidedly masculine world, which, in turn, informs much of the ultra-masculine forms of entertainment, like the men’s adventure novels, Playboy (which went hand and hand with Bond, printing excerpts and shorts stories), adventure travel, action films, and the like.

    I wanted to add to two points. One, Kevin McClory. McClory was involved in developing a potential Bond tv series, James Bond of the Secret Service. This is where SPECTRE was born. The tv series didn’t come off; but, Fleming took some of the ideas and wrote Thunderball. McClory sued, since he was involved in creating those ideas, especially SPECTRE and the nuclear hijacking. The final judgement gave him the rights to the script material and Fleming the right to use Blofeld and SPECTRE in his novels. McClory tried to get a new Bond film for many years, under the title Warhead. There were many updates in Starlog, before Never Say Never Again was filmed. Those rights were still in competition and a new series was proposed, before the rights were finally purchased, bringing all of the Fleming Bond under Eon.

    Casino Royale had been optioned separately, which is why they didn’t go there. It premiered on Climax Mystery Theater, on tv, as a drama, with Barry nelson as American agent Jimmy Bond, and Peter Lorre as Le Chifre. It’s not bad, as far as these things go, though it is entirely set in a studio and feels more like a Bond play. Prior to that, Bond had appeared as a radio dramatization in South Africa. That separate option led to the spoof film, so Eon didn’t have the rights.

    The second point is Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Most people have no idea that it was written by the man who created James Bond; but, listen to the names: Cractacus Potts, Truly Scrumptious, Jeremy and Jemima; pure Fleming. The film was produced by Harry Saltzman, Cubby Brocolli’s partner on the Connery-era Bonds. In fact, Saltzman also was responsible in bringing the anti-James Bond to screen: Len Deighton’s Harry Palmer (he is unnamed in the books), with Michael Caine. Those films delight in the administrative drudgery that Bond never touches. Can you imagine Bond doing paperwork?

    A couple of books to try, if you want to explore more: The James Bond Dossier, ghost-written by Kingsley Amis, along with his novel Colonel Sun (written as Robert Markham) and The James Bond Bedside Companion, written by Raymond Benson, who took over the novel series, after John Gardner. I have to disagree with Greg on Gardner, on the first novel, License Renewed. I liked that one and it felt somewhat Bondish. I only read the next three and liked each less than the one before. That first one, though, is a decent work.

    • For those who aren’t aware, Peter Maivia was a Samoan professional wrestler, who plays the Japanese SPECTRE muscle that Bond fights at the Osato Chemical offices, at night. Maivia was a fairly big name in the 1970s, in pro wrestling, headlining matches at Madison Square Garden and the Cow Palace in San Francisco. He was also the promoter of wrestling in Hawaii. His greatest claim to fame, these days, is that he is the grandfather of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.

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