James Bond Primer

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James Bond
Part One: By Walt Opie

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British writer Ian Fleming died at the relatively young age of fifty-six on August 12, 1964. However, he left us a legacy that is still very much alive-the James Bond franchise. Undoubtedly the most popular fictional character ever to emerge out of the British Isles (with a nod to Sherlock Holmes), Bond is largely known as the focus of a series of blockbuster movies, but he originally appeared in a number of novels with the very same intriguing titles as many of their celluloid counterparts (though they sometimes stray far from Fleming's original stories): Casino Royale, Live and Let Die, Doctor No and Goldfinger, to name a few. ianfleming

Similar to the written tales, the James Bond films have always been a triumph of style over substance, as Bond's frequent black tie attire would seem to attest. Bond, a.k.a. Agent 007, will never win any humanitarian awards for his brand of public service-which in many ways is part of his charm. He isn't bound by the usual rules of civilized society. In fact, as a member of the British Secret Service, he officially carries a "License to Kill." He also drives only the sportiest of cars (e.g. the Aston Martin DB5), dresses impeccably, enjoys "a certain way with the ladies," and-perhaps most importantly-boasts an uncanny knack for getting himself into and out of harm's way. Bond breathes that rarefied air most of us can only dream about; he is above the law and beyond reproach (despite the occasional scolding from his boss, M).

The Bond Formula

The best Bond films tend to stick to the formula their built-in audience expects, without feeling too formulaic. They typically include the following elements:

  • A catchy theme song sung in a sultry voice;
  • exotic international locations spanning the globe, from Jamaica to Morocco to Japan;
  • lengthy underwater, airborne or snowbound action sequences (or all three);
  • dynamic car or boat chases (usually both);
  • casino gambling (he prefers baccarat and likes to introduce himself at the table as "Bond, James Bond");
  • the latest in tricky spy gadgets, a majority of them quite deadly, "loaned out" to him with impatience by a man in a white lab coat known only as Q (or R);
  • the drinking of tasteful alcohol (insisting that his vodka martini be "shaken, not stirred");
  • ultra-enticing women, often with outlandishly suggestive names like Honey Ryder or Pussy Galore;
  • and, of course, megalomaniacal villains who can't kill Bond unless it involves an elaborate, time-wasting method that gives the hero time to miraculously finagle his way out of it (not unlike Batman in the sixties TV series). Each main villain typically has a more psychotic and dangerous henchman, preferably with a memorable nickname like Oddjob or Jaws, who does the dirty work and nearly gets the better of Bond, always to nail-biting effect.

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