Death Is Forever

The Hero: James Bond; The Bond Girl: Easy St.John; The Villain: The Poison Dwarf; Supporting Characters: Harry Spraker, Monika Haardt, Praxi Simeon (Sulphur), August Wimper (Orphan); Axel Ritter; Locations covered: Frankfurt, Berlin, Paris, Venice, Calais, London; First Published: 1992

The deaths of two members of a spy group called Cabal has sent shockwaves through many of the services. The one that wants to find out the most about is the British Secret Service, MI6. They figure that the only man who can figure out what happened is Captain James Bond.

That is in a nutshell what happens in the opening of Death is Forever, the 1992 James Bond novel from John Gardner, one of the most explosive Bond adventures ever. It is probably one of Gardner`s best.

Anyways, to continue, CIA has also felt the pinch, and has sent over Elizabeth St. John to help 007 where ever she can. The two are assigned to Frankfurt, where the murders occured. In the scene with M, there is a small throw back to The Man With The Golden Gun.

M: “Russians haven`t used the cyanide gun in decades.”

Bond: “Yes, Sir. I distinctly remember one failed attempt.”

Once in Germany, Bond is paired a man named Axel Ritter who is posing as a Cabal agent named Harry Spraker. Bond, Axel and Easy get out of Germany, by train where Weisen has set a team to eliminate the two. Bond foils their plan, kills the two and exposes Axel.

Bond and Easy get to Paris, where they are picked up by a fake team of Cabal agents, pretending to be Praxi and the real Harry. Bond knowing better eludes them for enough time to make a call to Cabal, and get a hold of the two real ones. Bond and Easy are captured, but soon rescued from the fake spies who work for the villian, a former spy himself, Wolfgang Weisen. Weisen is also known by his nickname of The Poison Dwarf.

Bond is introduced to the group, which includes a spy known only as Bruin and the real Harry, nicknamed Tester. But, before he can improve his knowledge about what is going on, 007 runs i nto a small problem. He has to meet Weisen.

He meets Weisen in his home in Paris, but he breaks himself out, with the help of Cabal. When Bond escapes, he knows that Weisen is going to Venice, to finalise the plan that I will spill later. 007 then meets the supposed leak in Cabal, August Wimper, another spy known by the cipher of Orphan. James meets him and is told who is the real leak, Harry Spraker! Bond believes him, and helps him clear his name. But, by doing that, the rest of Cabal is captured by Weisen and the two are forced to break them out.

The two break in, get captured and have to break themselves out. By doing so, though, Bond gets Easy killed, by one of Weisen`s guards. He goes berzerk and kills the two guards as well as Harry, and goes after Weisen. He drugs him, and as they group is getting away, they are ambushed by more of Weisen`s men, who abduct him again, back to the right side, and kill eveyone except Bond and Praxi.

Bond, finally figures out that Weisen has a brilliant plan. He wants to destroy the Eurotunnel between Britain and France, killing political figures that are on the trip. Bond is the only one to stop them, and he is able to stop the train in time, but Weisen is determind to suceed, and he is able to blow up one of the tunnels, and in a fit of greed, Bond is able to electricute the Poison Dwarf.

Well, the novel doesn`t end here, but the very end is too suprising to spoil, but lets just say that the final pages are really close to From Russia With Love.

Amazingly, at least to me, is that John Gardner was really starting to take a hold of the James Bond character and craft it into his own type of character, and began a different take on the character.

Anyways, Death is Forever suprised me in many ways. First off, it has pretty much non-stop action, violence, death, destruction, and sex around every turn. But, who can forget, we are reading John Gardner, so we have the obligatory double crossers, and even a triple crosser. You get ten, fifteen pages of violence, followed up by ten pages of conversation, which will unmask a double, a scene where one of the ladies would like to become Bond`s `entertainment` for the evening, and so on. It is a little redundant, at first.

Luckily, about half way through, all of that stops, and we get down to business, with virtually non-stop action and violence all the way through. The novel is probably the fast moving that I have read from Gardner. It is also one of the best ones that he wrote. Don`t pass this one up, it is one of the best.

The only problem, seems to be those common to Gardner novels, that include too many characters, too many double crosses and triple crosses. Butm these aren`t enough to lower the rating. Grade: A-

Daniel George`s Untitled Parody


Quoting from Andrew Lycett`s book “Ian Fleming: The Man Behind The Mask”, Daniel George, the fiction reader at [Jonathan] Cape [Fleming`s UK publisher], who worked closely with William Plomer in preparing Bond for the reading public, produced the world`s first 007 parody.

This amusing literary morsel had Bond “pitched from Cy Nide`s supercharged, gravity-resisting helicopter: into a herd of elephants, looking for valuable radioactive mud. It is full of schoolboyish humour: “`Well,` he uttered, `I may have bitten the dust but I`m not stick-in-the-mud.` But the flash of his famous wit was too much for him. A dagger of pain transfixed him.” Bond has an exotic maiden called Topazia, whom he calls “My double-breasted dusky beauty”. He remembers that Plomer has warned him not to expect much of the Kikup tribe. Their females, Plomer had said, were unipapillate, steatopygous and retromingent. He has no idea what those words meant, but the development of the story shows them all to be true.

Eventually Bond has to be rescued by “a lank, lean, hard-bitten figure”, who comes crashing through the undergrowth with a profile like an Antonine emperor. “In his long prehensile arms he gathered Bond as tenderly as ever mother gathered babe, and plunged again into the jungle. `Thanks, Ian,` said Bond laconically. `Don`t go too fast for Topazia.” When at length, over their ammoniated stengahs, Bond recounted his adventures, Ian smiled wryly. `It`s no good, I`m afraid,” he said. `Cape`s would never stand for it.`”

Colonel Sun

The Hero: James Bond; The Villain: Colonel Sun Liang-tan; The Bond Girl: Ariadne Alexandrou; Supporting Characters: “M”, Bill Tanner, Niko Litsas, Major Piotr Gordienko, Von Richter, Evgeny Ryumin, DeGraff, Dr. Lohmann, Doni Madan, Luisi Tartini; Locations covered: London, Athens, Vrakonisi Island; First Published: 1968

Four years after the death of Ian Fleming, Kingsley Amis, author of The James Bond Dossier, was asked to try and continue the legacy of 007. Under the penname Robert Markham, Amis produced the unique Bond adventure Colonel Sun.

The story starts off one year after the events chronicled in The Man With the Golden Gun. The Bond we see here has spent his time trying to recover from his earlier adventures, but has the sense that he is slowing down, that he has lost the edge. While playing golf with his good friend Bill Tanner, Bond questions his easy lifestyle. We see a Bond who doubts himself, who doesn`t feel up to the challenge that his 007 status dictates. This is a very different Bond than that of Fleming`s writings. Later on, Bond is tailed by a car on his way to see M. Markham`s Bond shows a dulling of his sixth sense:

“Although he had been under close surveillance for over six weeks, Bond had noticed nothing out of the ordinary. When not on an assignment abroad, a secret agent does not expect to be watched.”

The Bond of Ian Fleming would. Old enemies like SPECTRE and SMERSH never limit themselves to missions abroad, and Bond would have been incredibly alert, no matter where he was.

Bond arrives at Quarterdeck – M`s home – to find M under heavy sedation and held hostage by a nameless group of thugs. Bond is able to escape, though he passes out in the nearby woods due to an injection that the thugs give him. When he comes to, M is missing, M`s staff is murdered, and one of the thugs Bond grappled with has been shot in the face. On his body, Bond finds a subtle clue that points to Athens, Greece. Everyone knows that it`s a trap, a planted clue that is meant to lure 007 to the chase. Bond, however, has no choice but to go.

In Athens, he is picked up by the beautiful Ariadne Alexandrou, whom Bond suspects to be part of the plot. However, her contacts are unfamiliar to her, and she and Bond fight together to escape. It turns out she works for the Soviet Union and reports to Major Gordienko. A Soviet summit conference is coming up, and Gordienko is in charge of security. He is suspicious of Bond`s presence in Greece at the same time as the summit, but both sides figure out that they are working against a common unknown enemy.

The plot becomes even more interesting when Colonel-General Igor of the KGB also finds out that Bond is in Greece. His desire is to forever be remembered as the “man who killed James Bond”. He ends up contributing to the mayhem instead of being able to stop the real foe.

That real foe is Colonel Sun Liang-tan of the People`s Liberation Army of China. He is a master at the arts of torture. His plan is to lure Bond to his hideout on Vrakonisi Island – the same island where the summit meeting is to take place – torture Bond to the point of death purely for his own investigative studies, blow up the meeting, and frame Bond and M, whose bodies would be found amidst the rubble, along with some very incriminating evidence.

Bond ends up playing right into Sun`s hands. Gordienko and his staff are all gunned down, leaving Bond, Ariadne, and Ariadne`s longtime friend Niko Litsas to rescue M. From a gunfight at sea with Sun`s thugs to a boat exchange that causes an innocent man and his son to be ruthlessly murdered, the action in this story is definitely present. In the end, though, Bond and his colleagues are all captured by Sun. It seems as if there is no escape possible for Bond. Markham does a wonderful job of bringing the reader to the last final shreds of dispair; then dumping the most descriptive torture scene I`ve ever read in a Bond story right on top!

The story, overall, is a very well-written and entertaining adventure of espionage; yet throughout the book, I found myself reflecting upon the adventure as more of a Magnum P.I. story rather than a Bond one. Markham is a very detailed and descriptive writer, which unfortunately slows down the plot between the action sequences in a way that no Fleming book ever did. In addition, we never lose sight of the Bond who has doubts about his abilities, a Bond who simply is not in control of his being. With this sense about him, he almost has no choice but to become the pawn in Sun`s game. We know Bond won`t die in the end, but he has no ability whatsoever to save himself. He must rely on a surprisingly secret ally to save the day.

Markham`s Bond doesn`t even have the characteristic Bond-isms about him that Fleming readers have come to expect. Never once does Bond order a martini; in fact, although everybody still seems to know his favorite drink, that drink is whiskey rather than the martini. In addition, Markham presents no Bond gadgets, no technical surprises that typically help the flair and sophistication of a Bond adventure. In the 1993 reprinting of the story, Amis makes note of this side of his Bond in his introductory remarks:

“But the James Bond of Dr. No or Goldfinger would have needed far more in the way of technical expertise than I could supply. . . . No hovercraft, no helicopters, no rockets, and no double portions of Beluga caviare served in candlelit restaurants by white-jacketed waiters. He finds no use for the picklock and baby transmitter and the rest of the gadgets supplied by Q Branch on his departure.”

Thus, what we end up with is a James Bond story that doesn`t at all read like a James Bond story. The story is good, to be sure, but dedicated fans can spot the differences in a second. I have heard that the novel was not well received as a result, though I must confess I wasn`t old enough to have been concerned at the time. I did actually enjoy it, and as different as it is, I feel it is a must for any Bond story collector.

Ironically enough, Markham shows an incredible amount of insight into world politics at the end of the story. A Mr. Yermolov of the Soviet Union thanks Bond for a job well done, and in doing so, leaves us with this little piece of prophecy:

“`I`d like you to know that what you`ve done is extremely important. It`s helped to show my bosses, not just who our real enemy is – we know much more about Chinese ambitions than your observers do – but who our future friends are. England. America. The West in general.`”

In 1968, these words were written. In 1989, the Berlin Wall came down. Not a bad bit of prophecy, wouldn`t you say?

cold (Coldfall)

First Published: 1996 The Hero: James Bond; The Bond Girls: Beatrice Maria da Ricci, Toni Nicoletti; The Villain: Brutus Clay; Locations Covered: Washington D.C., Italy, Idaho, Geneva, England; First Published: 1996

*Known as COLD in U.K. editions.

This was John Gardner`s last Bond novel and probably his best. It`s sloppy and isn`t as sturdy as his first three, but it`s sprightly and the best writing is unusually taut. There are many human moments and a curious sense of finality (Gardner probably knew from the outset that this would be his last).

The book`s structure is unusual. Slightly more than the first half is set in 1990, the rest in 1994 (the UK edition inexplicably omits the years). Women from Bond`s past flit in and out of the story in an effective “dance to the music of time”: Sukie Tempesta (“Nobody Lives Forever”), Freddie von Grusse (“Never Send Flowers”, “SeaFire”) and Beatrice Maria da Ricci (“Win, Lose or Die”).

The book has a whirlwind pace – it has more zip and zest than his previous Bond novels, though it rushes from one highlight to the next without regard to proper story construction.

A plane explodes on arrival at Dulles airport, yet there are too many people on the inaugural flight for it to be credible. Miss Moneypenny loses a friend; Sukie Tempesta is supposed to be on the flight. Two FBI agents are supposed to extradite a member of the mob. Worse, in Chapter 16 we learn that a British agent, blackmailing COLD, was also on that flight, an unbelievable plot convenience.

(Gardner also outsmarts himself. There`s no reason why Bond should think that Sukie wasn`t killed on the flight, but the illogic is easily glossed over and plays better than expected.)

M is kidnapped in Chapter 9 – it`s not spoiler information to reveal this; instead, it softens such incongruous plotting, otherwise those who remember and admire “Colonel Sun” might give up on the book. (The US edition briefly refers to “Colonel Sun”, but not the British edition. Why?) Chapter 17 has everybody rushing in to save Bond and it`s sloppy – the plotting is also muffled.

Chapter 14, “Interlude”, ties up some loose ends before the story jumps forward to 1994, but it`s almost too rushed, especially in the UK edition: an important scene between M and Bond is cut.

The action sequences are exciting and similar to what the Bond films offer. Chapter 9 has a great water-ski chase, and Chapters 12 and 13 feature a great helicopter chase through mountainous terrain – Gardner opens Chapter 13 with a dry, Fleming-like explanation about the loss of power in a fixed wing aircraft: it`s excellent writing.

There are details and passages that, astonishingly, *do* sound like Ian Fleming: In Chapter 8, in spite of Bond`s attempts to amuse the women with stories of life in England, and suitable jokes, the dinner drags. In Chapter 11, Bond reflects on the Swiss-like aspects of Washington State, contemplates retiring there, but decides that it would eventually pall (recalling “The Man With The Golden Gun”) because he`s essentially a European – the entire paragraph is great. In Chapter 18, Bond says that he`d still like to see Americans play a part in world affairs, even if they do it badly – a nice jab at them. M`s subsequent comments about Zurich, Berne and Geneva are pure Fleming.

Details about COLD (“The Children Of The Last Days” – a militia-like organization led by General Brutus Clay) in Chapter 6 are nice, i.e. the “church” flashback, the explanation of COLD`s motives and associations.

The Italian locations (Chapters 7 through 9, and 21 through 25) have much flavour. Elsewhere, the American west is well presented – it`s surprising that Gardner only developed a feel for location so late in the series.

It`s also Gardner`s darkest Bond novel. Chapter 4 is one of the best in the book, and is unusually restrained for Gardner (the police interview Bond after a friend of his is killed). Except for a silly bit about Bond not wanting to be called “Jim”, the writing is taut.

There are other great details. Chapter 3`s last sentence is excellent writing and heartfelt: Bond catches a glimpse of snow starting to fall after he hears tragic news. In Chapter 4 Bond examines a blackened piece of metal, the letter “T” entwined with an “S”. Bond asks the cops if he can reach into his pocket without them getting trigger happy. At the end of that passage Bond asks, “Why don`t we all go back and I`ll buy the coffee.” Even a throwaway bit, Bond saying that he`s beginning to feel chilly, is appropriate and lifelike.

There are other dark moments: Toni`s death (Chapter 16) is only referred to in a matter-of-fact manner, but the passage of time – it`s been a year since her death – makes it more powerful. Likewise, in Chapters 13 and 14, another female character`s death is discussed, and it`s also restrained and heartfelt.

Chapters 23 through 26 have many excellent passages. The last chapter is unusually powerful. M resigns and asks, “The question is did I fall or was I pushed?” then changes the subject. Is Gardner commenting on his own situation? The last paragraphs have much feeling, even a throwaway bit like, “A shade chilly for this time of the year,” Bond said, but neither man answered. Their job was to bring him in for a dressing-down from the new boss.” (The subsequent Churchill quote is nice and has much feeling.)

Gardner was usually terrible writing about women, but Sukie is well-drawn. She`s goofy and charming precisely because she`s not the typical parody of how Gardner sees women. (She has a nice moment early on in Chapter 2, she says: “To hear is to obey, O master.” which is cute.)

Beatrice is also one of Gardner`s stronger women; in Chapter 22 she defends Bond against a woman who labels him a sexist “who leaves the ladies feeling lonely and used.” In Chapter 18, Beatrice`s “small voice” is a sensitive detail. In Chapter 17, Bond wonders why he didn`t fight harder to keep Beatrice when they first met in 1989, and asks what kept her away – both this and her answer are sincere.

In Chapter 22 we learn that a character whom Bond trusted, even cared for, is a villain, and unlike Gardner`s other Bond novels where this twist is silly, here it`s inevitable, and surprisingly sad; sad because it`s true to life. (The writing in the revelation scene is excellent.) The character is off-kilter to begin with and Gardner properly sets up her child-like qualities. He writes about “The sly child stirring deep in her eyes.” (Chapter 22) which is excellent writing – no rhetoric whatsoever and effective for that reason. “It was you, wasn`t it, James? It was you who shot my lovely General Brutus Clay out of the skies?” – this is vivid writing. The character`s explanation how she faked her own death is brilliant, and psychologically clever – an Ian Fleming trademark. She became friendly with a girl, who worked as a chambermaid on the floor where her room was situated. “I could see that she`d be easy. She had that look. You know, the look that says “Why should she have it all? Why has she got money? Why can`t I get a better job and make more than they pay me here?”. There are other excellent details atypical of Gardner: how the maid is cajoled into the plan; the maid asking when can she leave, management not being pleased, how the Dulles plane was destroyed.

Other brilliant moments deserve noting (Chapter 22):

“She gave a vulpine grin. “Well, there was that, of course, but you see, we wanted to bankrupt Bradbury, and we did. What happened to him by the way? You never hear anything about Harley Bradbury these days.”

“He`s making a come-back, actually. Some people are like that, they drop to rock bottom and then claw their way back.”

“Good for old Harley.”

People talk this way in real life. It also shades the female character – she`s more human and repellant for it. It also enhances the tense revelation scene.

In Chapter 15, Bond recognizes the handwriting of a young woman that he`s been attempting to avoid for some time now – a lovely detail. In Chapter 18, Beatrice removes listening devices from the room, crushes them under her foot then flushes them down the toilet. She speaks quietly, but clearly into a device to the listeners.

In Chapter 23, Beatrice says that Bond`s blue boxers go well with his eyes, which makes him feel uncomfortable. She also repeatedly asks if her hat goes well with her suit. Normally this would flounder in a Gardner Bond novel, but it works here.

Gardner was too often glib, and there are silly moments that should have been cut, but there is some wonderful humour. In Chapter 8, Bond meets Guilliana Tempesta: “Oh, what a large mouth you have. All the better to eat you with.” Several pages later, she ravages him: “He [Bond] struggled for a moment, then thought, “Well, I`d better lie back and think of England.” In Chapter 2, “She [Sukie] cocked one eyebrow. “I think one of their wives was in bed with him.” The sly look once more. “Literally?” “Is there any other way?” The passage also shows just how well Gardner draws Sukie. In Chapter 23, Beatrice gets groped more than patted down.

Roberto, one of the Tempestas` men is well drawn and human. He only appears in Chapters 23 and 25 but his scenes are lively and he gives the book a boost. There are nice details: Roberto`s dialogue, Bond trying to get him drunk. Roberto`s reasons for changing sides are believable, and at the end, Bond wonders if Eddie Rhabb can use Roberto back in the United States – a nice human moment.

There are badly written passages, though. Gardner often writes “a couple of” when he means “several”. In Chapter 2, Bond hopes (in the US edition, he “prays”) that death was quick for all the people killed on the flight when a fireball ripped through the cabin. Duh. From Chapter 5, “Prime cracked ANOTHER of her RARE smiles.” (capitals mine) even though Bond has just met her. Better to have written, “Prime smiled again, something she did infrequently” which is more Fleming-like. From Chapter 7, “almost a shock” is like being partly pregnant; Gardner should have struck the entire sentence and gotten to the point. He also writes that Luigi`s “disconcerting eyes appeared to alter again, this time becoming like dangerous grey lava.” A maladroit attempt at Fleming`s “glint of red” – Gardner doesn`t even have it in his blood. In Chapter 13 he writes, “She wore a name badge which said Patti”. Why not just write, “Her name badge said “Patti.” Chapter 15 begins very badly – it picks up where “SeaFire” ended, and seems jinxed by that book (i.e. “her face broken and battered” which is dreadful writing) – it`s one of the worst written chapters. The scenes with Doctor Sanusi (Chapters 15, 16, 26) are terrible. In Chapter 23, Luigi tells Beatrice that “you`ve probably already realized, Ms da Ricci, that your new room is escape-proof. You cannot have failed to notice the bars on the windows, and the fact that the door is made of steel.” Beatrice must be stupid, because it should have told her something. It`s also terribly written. Just cut to the point. In Chapter 25, Bond freezes in shock. What else would he freeze in? The Tempesta Brothers stare with utter hatred at Bond. This is verbose, though the American edition cuts “utter”. Why not just write, “glared at”?

He also gets Fleming details wrong. In Chapter 13, Bond remembers a girl covered from head to toe in gold paint, but I don`t believe that he saw this in the book, just the film. Bond didn`t see the bullets ripping into Tracy in the book “On Her Majesty`s Secret Service” either. (How did Glidrose let these errors through?)

The British and American editions have curious differences:

In the US edition (Chapter 14), M mentions the code name “Tiny Dancer”, which sets up a plot twist later on, and discuss Elton John`s music. “I had a sense that whoever this Tiny Dancer was… Well, I had a sense that he, she or it was there…” “In the house?” “Either in the house or close by. Maybe a woman. Caught a whiff of scent, but I suppose that could have been aftershave.”* This is inexplicably cut from the UK edition. Why?

One indecent joke is cut from the American edition (Chapter 10):

*”And hello to you, Toni.”
Twenty minutes later he asked, “Do you come here often?”
“Not as often as I`d like.”
“Then you must visit me in London.”
“She snuggled close and made him promise to come back safely from Idaho.”

This nice throwaway moment appears in only the US edition (Chapter 21):

“Knew a nurse called Betts once,” said Bond apropos of nothing in particular.
“Good for you, James.” Eddie was slowly catching on: even passing him.”

There are nice observations in Chapter 11 comparing Bond`s relationships to ships passing in the night – this passage has feeling, but unfortunately it`s truncated in the US edition:

“On occasions – like the short time he had spent with Sukie at Dulles International – they would meet again, slake their mutual thirsts, and exchange whatever wisdom they had learned in the period spent apart. His whole life seemed to have been filled with a memory of women: sometimes a wilderness of them.”

The entire passage is heartfelt (why couldn`t Gardner always write this well?), though the US edition thankfully cuts “He saw tears start in her eyes, and wondered at his act of sentiment” after Bond quotes from “The Song of Solomon”.

The US edition also cuts (Chapter 24) the following:

Clay says that his hostages may well come in very useful and his audience applauds, Bond whispers [sic], “Author! Author!”.

Bond aficionados might want to compare both versions as it`s one of the better Bond novels.

Casino Royale

The Hero: James Bond; The Bond Girl: Vesper Lynd; The Villain: Le Chiffre; Supporting Characters: Felix Leither, Mathis, “M”, Moneypenny; Locations covered: Royale-les-Eaux, France.

Casino Royale was the first 007 novel ever written by Fleming, but after reading the book, you get the feeling you`ve known the character for such a long time. Bond is definitely a creature of habit, and Fleming breeds a familiarity between character and reader very quickly.

Casino Royale starts off with “M” having received some intelligence that a French SMERSH operative, named Le Chiffre, is almost bankrupt. That information is particularly important to British intelligence for several reasons: one is that the Communist Le Chiffre and SMERSH are believed to be responsible for the deaths of British agents Donovan, Harthrop-Vane, Elizabeth Dumont, Ventnor, Mace, and Savarin. Two, it`s come to the attention of the Secret Service that Le Chiffre took funds given to him by his superiors at SMERSH, and embezzeled it, in order to invest in brothels that eventually went out of business. Now, Le Chiffre is in trouble. He`s 50 million francs in debt, and SMERSH will realize that he stole the money soon. Knowing what an exacting and ruthless organization he works for, Le Chiffre plans to do some high gambling at the casino in Royale-les-eaux to make up the shortfall.

The proposed counter operation:

“It would be greatly in the interests of this country and of the other nations of the North American Treaty Organization that this powerful Soviet agent should be ridiculed and destroyed, that his communist trade union should be bankrupted and brought into disrepute. (Assasination is pointless. Leningrad would quickly cover up his defalcations and make him into a martyr.) We therefore recommend that the finest gambler available to the Service should be given the necessary funds and endeavour to outgamble this man.”

Bond is, of course, assigned to the case, and his mission is to outgamble Le Chiffre, in hopes that SMERSH will get wise to Le Chiffre`s scams, and take care of one of their own.

In Royale-les-eaux, Bond meets his contact Mathis and a girl who will be his “companion” for the duration of his stay, Miss Vesper Lynd. Of course Bond would need a beautiful woman on his arm at the casinos. It would be unseemly for a man with his looks and charm to be without a companion. Also joining in the action is CIA agent Felix Leiter. The Americans are also interested in helping bring down Le Chiffre, and through Felix, have offered any support they can give.

About a fourth of the book takes place at the gambling tables of Casino Royale-les-eaux, yet Fleming doesn`t bore us. Each page is packed with tension, fear, anxiety, nerves and sweat. Bond must bankrupt Le Chiffre in order to accomplish his mission, yet 007 realizes that gambling is also one part luck, and he`s going to have to know when to rely on luck, and when to play conservatively.

Of course, 007 eventually wins the game. But it doesn`t come easy, nor without a price. Vesper ends up being kidnapped, which infuriates Bond, because up to this point, the mission was accomplished. Nothing else should`ve gone wrong.

“This was just what he had been afraid of. These blithering women who thought they could do a man`s work. Why could`nt they stay at home and mind their pots and pans and stick to their frocks and gossip and leave men`s work to men?”

Chapter 16, “The Crawling Of the Skin”, is a harsh and brutal glimpse into the use of torture by Le Chiffre to get Bond to divulge where he hid the money that he ended up winning from Le Chiffre. Without that 50 million francs, Le Chiffre is as good as dead.

Bond manages to get out of this as well, though the physical price paid is steep and severe. Vesper Lynd stays with James after the mission has been accomplished, to help nurse him back to health, so to speak. James has slowly fallen in love with Vesper, but Vesper is cool to return his love. It seems she`s concealing a terrible secret that could tear their romance apart.

Casino Royale lays the groundwork for what will become future hallmarks of the 007 book series. A gruff, stern, yet caring “M”. Witty flirtation between 007 and Miss Moneypenny, M`s secretary. Exotic locations. Beautiful and willing women. Ruthless villians.

Casino Royale also brings out a side of Bond that we see mostly in the novels. The dark side of Bond. A very dark side that drives 007 to stay emotionally cold and aloof to the opposite sex. A dark side that sends him drinking away his anxieties about being a killer. Incidentally, Casino Royale gives us some history on how Bond became a 00 agent. Page 109, Chapter 20 “The Nature Of Evil” goes into detail on how Bond attained his 00 status.

Casino Royale sets up the rest of Ian`s works quite nicely. Bond is a man for whom killing does not come easy. Regardless of the circumstances. Bond is a man of habit. He likes to eat the same foods, drink the same wines, and lodge at the same hotels. `Royale` is one of the darkest and most violent of the Bond series, but it`s also one of the best ways of getting into the mindset of James Bond 007.


The Hero: James Bond; The Villain: Brokenclaw Lee; The Bond Girl: Chi Chi; Supporting Characters: “M”, Ed Rushia, Bill Tanner, Anne Reilly, Grant, Bone Bender Ding; Locations Covered: San Francisco, Victoria B.C. New York; First Published: 1990

Brokenclaw succeeds as a modern day Bond novel due to largely familiar structure and content. Its villain is a charismatic figure who uses age-old religious fervour to instill fear and loyalty from his minions while our hero`s mission is to stop a foreign power – with China now taking over Russia`s role of old – from procuring the plans for a state-of-the-art defence system. Along the way 007 endures a torture which threatens his very manhood and faces a trial of fire at the climax, the like of which would send any normal mortal to an early grave. In effect, Gardner delivers his most pleasing and traditional Bond by returning to Fleming`s original methods.

In keeping with Gardner`s own view of Bond`s world, James is found to be battle-weary as the action kicks off, yet unlike many of the author`s other offerings 007 is central to the action, not the mere bystander of later novels. The universally condemned Armourer`s assistant Anne Reilly, or Q`ute as she is unfortunately known, has a thankfully token presence while M plays a major role, commanding the mission with an authority and irritability worthy of Fleming`s old man CIA contact, who uses his hillbilly charm to disguise an obvious competency, thus proving to be a fine replacement for Felix Leiter.

Of course good characterisation does not make a novel alone. Gardner never lets the reader grow bored as Bond and his new partner, Chi Chi, take on the personas of two couriers sent from China to recover secret information obtained by Brokenclaw Lee for a new method of tracking submarines. The suspense is piled on as the agents find themselves sinking deeper into a web of deception which constantly threatens to fall apart around them. Central to the danger is Brokenclaw himself, a man capable of callous acts unhampered by the niceties of modern espionage. He has no need for drugs to break a man, when good old-fashioned torture and a pack of ravenous wolves prove to be a far less complicated means to an end. In keeping with Fleming`s villains of yesteryear, Lee joins Dr No and Scaramanga in bearing a physical oddity to display his displaced humanity. As Bond notes:

“Lee`s left hand, palm open, had his thumb on the right side, as though at conception, the hand had grown from the wrist the wrong way round, so that with palms outstretched the thumb was to the right; when the palms faced down, the thumb was on the left.”

Brokenclaw proves that fans of Bond need not despair at the name Gardner and ignore the man who kept the franchise alive for fifteen years. While not all of Gardner`s ideas and changes to established Bond lore can be justified, there is no need to throw the baby out with the bathwater. By doing so gems like this will be missed.

Bond Strikes Camp

by: Cyril Connolly (1963)

A parody. Only published in the UK. M has the hots for Bond, orders him into drag, then tricks him into bed. Seriously. Features Bond, M, May, and Lolita Ponsonby (Bond`s secretary in the early Fleming novels; here she`s a Lesbian).

1963, London Magazine

1963, Previous Convictions
1984, Faber Book of Parodies

-Bond`s flat
-MI6 Headquarters
-Armoury (in basement)
-Studio off Kinnerton Street
-Local Cinema
-Kitchener Social Club, Lower Belgrave Mews, SW
-General Count Apraxin`s flat

General Count Apraxin (M) aka Vladimir Mischitch (“Just call me Vladimir; the accent is on the second syllable.”)

-subversive nookie

-The new hat-check girl from “the Moment Of Truth”
-Ms Loelia (Lolita) Ponsonby (aka Robin)

-a souped up Pierce Arrow: 31 open tourer with two three-piece windscreens

-child`s water pistol with a small screw-top ink-bottle full of some transparent liquid
-chestnut wig
-artificial eyelashes
-Large foam rubber falsies with electronic self-erecting nipples – pink for blondes, brown for brunettes, round or pear-shaped (“Round, for Christ`s sake!” “I bet you could give someone a good butt in the eye with those charleys.”)
-Black-moire brassiere (“There should be room for a guy to get his hand up under the bra and have a good riffle.”)
-slinky black lace panties
-black satin evening skirt with crimson silk blouse suspended low on the shoulder
-a blue mink scarf
-black stockings
-black shoes with red stilettos
-high heels
-evening bag
-couple of lipsticks
-pack of cigarettes (Senior Service)
-long cane holder
-costume jewellery
-charm bracelet
-membership card for the Kitchener Social Club
-pocket mirror
-tortoiseshell comb
-enamel compact
-box of eye make-up with a tiny brush
-black eye-shadow

-Miss Haslip (actually, just a confused man)
-Colin Mount

-Gerda Blond

-M`s assignment
-cinema (showing “La Dolce Vita”)
-General Count Apraxin`s flat
-taxi ride

-six eggs (five don`t boil right)
-thin finger of wholemeal toast
-Blue Mountain coffee
-Club sandwich
-Eggs Omdurman
-Sirdar Special (drink)
-Tattinger Blanc de blancs, `52
-Old Grandad

-“And if the pace gets too hot?” “Then you must pull out.”
-“That`s my comma.” “I`m afraid I make more use of the colon.”
-“If it had been anyone else I might have urged you to leave the country but with modern methods of eliciting information you would be blown in a day.”

-“And now perhaps you`d better leave me, 007; I shall have one or two reports to make.”

-And remember: “Do be careful in the loo. That`s where nearly all the mistakes are made.”

Blast From The Past

“The Fed Ex letter was delivered at 9:30. Bond signed for the letter and took it back into the sitting room. It was from “J. Suzuki” in New York. He opened it and read:


And with those words, Raymond Benson and James Bond are off, taking readers across the Atlantic into the streets of New York City to look for James Suzuki, Bond`s only known son.

“Bond had fathered the child while suffering from amnesia during a dark period of his life when he lived as a simple fisherman with Kissy on a small island in Japan.”

007 isn`t in New York for very long before he realizes the grim truth about the fate of his son- he`s dead. Enter Special Agent Cheyl Haven, assigned to investigate the mysterious surroundings of James Suzuki`s death. he clues lead them to a safety deposit box at the bank where Suzuki worked, and in turn a familiar looking bag lady, whom Bond is sure he`s seen before. He has, and she turns out to be a blast from his past with murder in mind. She`s rigged the safety deposit box to explode upon opening, and Bond give`s her full chase in a taxi cab:

An empty taxi cab was idling in fromt of a delicatessan about 100 feet west of them. The OFF DUTY light was on; the driver had stepped out and gone inside the deli. Bond sprinted toward it and jumped into the driver`s seat. Chreyl ran to the passenger side. As Bond drove off, the cabdriver ran out of the delicatessen, shouting.

“I`m not sure whay you just did was entirely legal,” Cheryl said.

“They do it in the movies all the time”, Bond said, speeding toward Fifth Avenue.
There`s some really witty humor in this short story. Benson does a nice job peppering action sequences with light humor to make them go by a little faster. I for one, don`t like reading long drawn out action sequences. Those are better left to the movies. Benson`s 007 even gets in some beautiful jabs at the villian, but I can`t quote them here, or it would give away the surprise of who the villian is.

Blast From The Past is like a Black Cat firecracker. Short, and small, but packs a powerful punch. The tale is tight, with no boring sequences or gaps of interest to go through. There are nice shades of “Phantom Of the Opera” sprinkled in, and references to other Bond adventures 007 took. You`ll have to sort of take the story with a grain of salt, and not think too hard about how old Bond must`ve been when he went to Japan way back when. The literary series is 44 years old now, and Benson has to fudge the timeline somewhat to give us such a nice and compact tale. This story is actually so good, i`d like to see it one day expanded into a full fledged novel. My only complaint with the story was the very last part, where Cheryl Haven offers 007 her breast. It was a bit crude, lacked any subtlety, and was really out fo place considering this was a story about Bond`s question for vengance for James Suzuki. Other than that, the story is great and should be added to any serious literary Bond reader`s collection.


Written by: Andrei Gulyashki
Reviewed by: Vladislav Pavlov

In the fall of 1965 the famous Bulgarian writer Andrei Gulyashki announced that he would write a new novel about Avakoum Zakhov – Bulgarian Secret Service case officer. By then Gulyashki had already written several Zakhov stories: The Momchilov Incident, Midnight Adventure, In A Rainy Fall, Sleeping Beauty, Tiny Night Music – they comprise the book The Adventures of Avakoum Zakhov. In these stories Avakoum Zakhov successfully fights spies from various Western Intelligence agencies.

Gulyashki said that in his new novel Avakoum Zakhov would meet a more formidable adversary – “Ian Fleming`s notorious James Bond 007 – the British Secret Agent”, and that Bond would work for a NATO Intelligence Department. Gulyashki also felt that Fleming`s creation lacked humanity, and that he would make James Bond a more realistic person.

Gulyashki wrote the book and intended to publish it, but the James Bond literary copyright holders – Glidrose Productions (later Publications) – barred him from using the name James Bond and the number 007. Gulyashki was forced to change it. That`s why the novel`s main villain – a British secret agent – has the number 07. BUT the NAME JAMES BOND is NEVER MENTIONED!!! Indeed there`s a British secret agent, and he`s Avakoum Zakhov`s main adversary, but he doesn`t have a real name, just the number 07 and various aliases.

Some words about 07: As I mentioned, Gulyashki thought that James Bond lacked humanity and was a very unreal character. One must understand that we`re talking about the Cold War era. In the Eastern Block, communist propaganda said that James Bond was a cruel, ruthless, killing machine without any human feelings. As we would now say, he was considered to be a really bad guy for Soviets… Nobody read the James Bond novels or saw the films. Some people didn`t even know his name, only the number – 007. And some people (at least in Russia) thought that the number of the “notorious secret agent” was 07 and found it ironic, because 07 was the dial-code for a distant call.

(By the way, there was a great Russian singer, Vladimir Vysotsky. He`s dead now but he once wrote a comic song about Bond. It`s called “James Bond”, but he uses the number 07 when referring to James.)

Gulyashki had no trouble showing his 07 as a really mean, cruel bad guy. For this, he didn`t have to study the Bond novels. His novel “Avakoum Zakhov vs. 07” is a kind of antipode to Fleming`s “From Russia, With Love”: communists are good and Western secret agents are bad. But unlike Fleming, Gulyashki is very serious when it concerns his hero`s enemy, so I didn`t have fun reading about 07 the way I enjoyed reading about General Grubozaboyschikov, Rosa Klebb and other maniacs in SMERSH.

Some words about Avakoum Zakhov: He`s a Bulgarian Secret Service case officer, a communist, of course. Rank: Captain of Counterintelligence. His real name is unknown. Height: 180 cm. Eyes: large, grey-blue. He has a long face, the high brow of a mathematician, and the fair, slightly curly hair of a romantic person, greying at the temples. He has a strong jaw-line, the fists of a boxer, but the fingers of a pianist. He has an athletic figure. His head and broad shoulders are tilted slightly forward, this almost undistinguishable stoop-shouldered look makes him look constantly ready for sudden danger. His cover: archeologist. He graduated from the Historical faculty of Sofia University. Zakhov`s deductive skills are similar to Sherlock Holmes`. As for his personal life, he`s a bachelor, but one can`t say that he has a diverse sex-life. The author doesn`t really touch on this subject. Women like Zakhov, but he ignores them. He loves a girl, but doesn`t dare open his heart to her. One can assume that Bulgarian Avakoum Zakhov is a real puritan.

About the Plot:

Hero: Avakoum Zakhov

Villain: the secret agent 07, alias Samuel Benasis, Rene Lefevre, Gaston Dex, Vadim Sergeev.

Villain`s henchman: Japanese Syao.

Heroine: Natalia Nikolaeva

Locations: London, Paris, Istanbul, Sofia, Varna (Bulgaria), Tangier, Atlantic Ocean, Antarctica.

Villain`s plan: kidnapping of a Russian scientist Konstantin Trofimov, who has invented a weapon more formidable than the atomic one – a new type of a powerful laser; its ray can penetrate any surface and neutralizes many different electromagnetic waves.

Villain`s employer: Intelligence Department of NATO (This department employs 07 – British Secret Service agent.)

Zakhov`s friends: General N, Colonel Vasilev, Captain Markov, professor Konstantin Trofimov.

07`s friends: Vera Belcheva; Metody Stanilov; the tanker crew: Captain Francois, second-in-command Robert Smith; radio-operator Hans; sailors);

Highlights: 07 loses tail on mountain road; assault on the Professor`s villa; Zakhov`s penetration on board 07`s tanker; shipwreck of the tanker.

Remarks: some parts of a plot are very naive; dialogue is slightly childish; beautiful descriptions of nature; final scenes in Antarctica are unreal.


NATO learns that Konstantin Trofimov – a Russian scientist – has invented a weapon more formidable than the atomic bomb – a new type of powerful laser. Its ray can penetrate any surface and neutralize many different electromagnetic waves. NATO knows that Trofimov will visit the International Conference of Physicians in Varna, Bulgaria. It`s the best place to kidnap him. For this, the Intelligence Department of NATO employs British Secret Service agent 07 (it`s mentioned that 07 worked for this Department before.)

07`s boss – Chief of Department A of British Secret Service – orders him to study Russian, which takes 07 eight to nine months. His chief then gives him his last briefing. He explains that 07 will be working under the Intelligence Department of NATO, and that the mission has nothing to do with the Secret Service. He says: “Remember, your actions have nothing to do with our Service, and you do not try to contact us:” (Wow, it sounds like Gardner!) There is no portrait of 07`s chief, but it`s mentioned that both he and 07 belong to an exclusive club in St. James Street (this would be “Blades” from Moonraker).

The orders are given, and 07 meets a contact, who tells him to go to Paris. There 07 gets a new passport in the name of Samuel Benasis – a businessman from Vancouver who sells wood as material for furniture. He then flies to Istanbul, where he ignores the city`s beauty. His previous visit here is never mentioned, so we can`t connect him to Fleming`s From Russia, With Love. In Istanbul he meets an American named Arthur. 07 and Arthur use funny passwords:

“Hello,” he [Arthur] nodded and stared at 07 through his glasses. “I heard you offered wood. Two bucks per cubic metre.” “Two bucks and twenty cents,” said 07…

Arthur gives him orders and a new passport. 07 becomes Rene Lefevre, Swiss, a reporter of a Lebanon telegraph agency. It`s suitable cover for getting to the International Conference of Physicians, where Trofimov will speak. Arthur orders 07 to go to Bulgaria where he will meet Vera Belcheva – 07`s connection. At the end of the briefing, Arthur says something interesting – I think Gulyashki hit the bullseye here.

Arthur to 07: “We would be very grateful to you if there was no shooting this time”.

Yes, it is James Bond!!!

07 goes to Bulgaria, although the Bulgarian Security Service knows that reporter Rene Lefevre is really the notorious British Secret Agent 07. The Bulgarians think his visit is directly connected to Russian professor Trofimov. 07 drives his Opel-record to Varna, but a car with Bulgarian agents tails him. He loses the tail on the mountain road; the car with the Bulgarian agents flies down the rock face. One is dead, two are hospitalized.

But the streets and buildings of Varna have eyes, and the Bulgarian Security Service soon finds 07. The Bulgarians arrange a stake-out in a Park, where 07 meets his connection – Vera Belcheva. Vera is very beautiful, but 07 doesn`t try to seduce her. Gulyashki writes:

“He [07] clearly realized that a man in his profession musn`t sleep with a colleague, and he almost never did since he knew it could be inconvenient and even dangerous. He was too much the professional. ”

The real James Bond would have bedded her:

Vera helps 07 contact top Bulgarian Physician Metody Stanilov at whose villa Russian Professor Trofimov will stay when visiting Varna, Bulgaria. The villa is well guarded by Security Service agents. It`s situated on the rocky coast and enclosed by a high fence. Security agents are fairly sure that the villa is impenetrable. 07 thinks the same.

Meanwhile, Stanilov realizes that only top Bulgarian Secret Service case officer Avakoum Zakhov can beat 07, and therefore must die. Stanilov organizes a birthday party at his own house; he invites guests, but before they arrive, he leaves, claming that he must go to the villa in Varna where the Russian professor will be staying. The guests arrive and find the house empty. Stanilov has left a message saying that the house is at their disposal and to enjoy themselves. He`s hidden the food and wine, which they should easily find. If not, they should call their friend the archeologist Zakhov (Stanilov and Zakhov know each other). Indeed, since the guests can`t find the food and wine, they have to call Zakhov. Stanilov gambled that only Zakhov would find it because of the latter`s Sherlock Holmes skills. Zakhov quickly finds the hidden food and wine, but his developed sense of danger tells him that something is wrong. Indeed, he soon finds a surprise waiting for him: a high-voltage cable secretly connected to the lock of a chest where wine bottles were stored. “Shocking, positively shocking.” Zakhov can`t prove anything, but now suspects Stanilov a possible enemy. Another surprise. The Chief of the Bulgarian Secret Service summons Zakhov back: British agent 07 is in Bulgaria. Zakhov is to keep an eye on 07 and uncover his plans. Zakhov`s chief tells him about 07:

“This agent is not a mindless pawn; one should keep an eye on him even when he plays bridge in his St. James Street club.”

Yes, the names are different, but it *IS* James Bond.


07 must find some way into the villa, even though he knows he`s under constant surveillance, so he acts natural. His daily programme is as follows: He gets up at 10 a.m. and has breakfast till 11 a.m. (His breakfast: half of fried chicken, with tomatoes and salad.) From 11 to 1 p.m. he swims along the coast. (Before swimming he puts on a rubber hat!) Then he returns to the hotel, changes clothes, and goes to the restaurant, dines in the company of other foreign reporters. (His dinner: crayfish, smoked sausages, oysters, fillet dressed with wine vinegar and olive oil and: a large portion of roast mutton with spicy sauce… no scrambled eggs?) 07 certainly likes eating. After dinner he rests on the terrace and flirts with the chambermaids. In the evening, he meets Vera Belcheva. They get a boat and row along the beach (near the Professor`s Villa). Their boat is also under constant surveillance.

07 pulls a fast one. The Bulgarian agents don`t know that he has an inflatable doll… (no, not that kind of inflatable doll!)… an inflatable doll of himself. While Vera sits in the boat with “an inflatable 07”, embracing and talking to it, the real 07, wearing an aqualung, explores the underwater rocks near the villa. 07 learned this trick in the USSR. He was on a mission, near Archangelsk and a Soviet soldier fooled him the same way. 07 nearly got killed.

07 eventually finds a secret tunnel leading straight to the villa`s garage…

It`s now the last day of the International Conference of Physicians. In the evening, Russian professor Trofimov, his secretary Natalia Nikolaeva and Metody Stanilov return to the villa. Meanwhile, 07 and Vera Belcheva sit in a rowing boat. 07 inflates his “rubber ringer”, puts on an aqualung and… kills his colleague – Vera Belcheva!!! He can`t have any witnesses. He kills her… with a poisoned knife blade, hidden in his shoe!!! (shades of Rosa Klebb!) He then enters the villa through the secret tunnel. Inside, he shoots several guards using his silenced pistol, and injects a strong drug into the sleeping professor`s and secretary`s veins and then carries them to the car. 07 goes to Stanilov`s room and wakes him up. Stanilov realizes that he`ll also be killed, so he begins arguing with 07. It turns into a fight, which 07 wins. He persuades Stanilov at gunpoint to get in the driver`s seat and drive. Throughout the ride, Stanilov feels 07`s gun muzzle pointed at his back. The car windows are curtained, so they successfully pass through the villa`s Exit Control. Stanilov drives to the rendezvous point where another boat waits for 07.At the rendezvous point, 07 kills Stanilov (using his poisoned shoe, of course) and disappears with the unconscious professor Trofimov and the professor`s secretary Natalia Nikolaeva…

Avakoum Zakhov has a single clue: a pair of intercepted and deciphered radiograms from 07 to 07`s HQ. He begins the quest.


Avakoum flies to Paris, where he learns that 07 (and also the Russian professor and his secretary) might be on board a ship that will stay at Tangier for several days. In Tangier, Avakoum learns that in this city 07 will pick up the German professor Paul Schelenberg. The professor, a former physician, is a wanted war criminal who experimented on Auschwitz prisoners during the Second World War.

Avakoum Zakhov introduces himself to the professor as one of 07`s men, then puts a strong sleeping-pill in the professor`s beer and goes to the rendezvous point, and meets 07`s real contact. Avakoum introduces himself as Professor Paul Schelenberg which gets him on board 07`s ship, a small tanker.

07 has persuaded Russian professor Trofimov that he is Vadim Sergeev, that they`re on a Russian ship, and that he – 07 – saved the professor from enemy agents.He says the ship is going to the ice-station in the Arctic (North Pole) where the professor planned to test his invention. However, 07 keeps the professor and his secretary under lock.

Actually, the ship is going South, to Capetown, South Africa. 07 is sure that Paul Schelenberg is real and asks him to befriend the Russian professor and learn more about the secret invention, which is why 07 needed the German professor. But it doesn`t work. The Russian professor clams up. Moreover, Zakhov can`t let on that he`s a Bulgarian secret agent, because of 07`s constant presence. Worse, Natalia ignores Avakoum because she`s under 07`s spell.

Avakoum Zakhov spends his free time playing bridge with the tanker crew. He can freely walk the decks of the ship, however the radio-room is the only taboo. Somehow, he must pass the ship`s coordinates to the Center. He accidentally discovers that 07`s henchman – the Japanese Syao – is a double agent, apparently working for Japan! (Wow!!! A colleague of 07 is a traitor! This is the second time that Gulyashki uses John Gardner`s methods!!! And the book was written in the 1960s!) Avakoum blackmails Syao and passes the ship`s coordinates and bearings back to the Centre and changes the ship`s course. 07`s ship now goes to the Antarctic Soviet ice-station “Mirny” (Peaceful). Soon 07 realizes that Syao is a double and orders the tanker crew to hang him. Afterwards, 07 and his crew have a party and drink rum.

The rest of the book somewhat resembles Alistair MacLean`s sea-novels, but the Antarctica scenes aren`t realistic. The frosts and winds of Antarctica don`t seem to bother anyone in the novel.

The ship gets into the ice trap and wrecks. At the last moment 07 sends their coordinates to his HQ. The only survivors are Avakoum Zakhov, 07, professor Trofimov and Natalia Nikolaeva. They are in Antarctica. Now every person knows who is who. Natalia Nikolaeva isn`t under 07`s spells any more; Zakhov is now her hero.

07 and Zakhov don`t try to kill each other, but they frighten each other, and 07 is shown as a miserable coward. Zakhov tells 07:

“…If “Franklin” comes first, I will strangle you, that`s for sure!” He said these words calmly, firmly, with a cold confidence. 07 shivered, he felt the chill running down his spine, as though someone had touched him with a piece of a hard blue ice. ”

Avakoum Zakhov waits for a Soviet helicopter from the ice-station “Mirny”, while 07 waits for the American Icebreaker “Franklin”. Who will arrive first? Waiting for help, the survivors spend the night in Antarctica. Zakhov, Trofimov and Natalia build a snow house. 07 builds his own shelter. However, as I mentioned before, the frosts and fierce winds of Antarctica don`t bother them much.

Morning. The Russian helicopter arrives first. Avakoum Zakhov, professor Trofimov and Natalia Nikolaeva are saved, but 07 disappears. Zakhov wants to stay to capture 07, but the pilot stops him. The Pilot knows that the American Icebreaker “Franklin” will come for 07 within several hours. Avakoum Zakhov does not kill Agent 07!!! END.

Further Remarks:

It wouldn`t be surprising if Gulyashki hadn`t read a single Bond novel to understand the character. He certainly saw the movie “From Russia, With Love”, and read some critical articles about Bond. Yes, Gulyashki`s “07” is indeed a British secret agent; he`s devoted to his country, he`s got a similar number to 007, he has various secret weapons, he`s a sharpshooter, a good driver, he lives in Chelsea, likes to play cards… Somebody would say: hey, it`s James Bond alright!.. But Gulyashki has made Bond a cruel, ruthless, killing machine without any human feelings other than meanness and greediness.Gulyashki`s knowledge about the background of Fleming`s creation is very poor. 07 and 007 are different as far as it concerns their thoughts and tastes. Gulyashki shows us a “decadent but handsome agent of a corrupt Western power.” And he successfully makes this agent look ridiculous and miserable.

As a Bond-fan, I try to be impassive while writing this article. Nevertheless I`ll say that this book is an offence to Mr. Bond. Gulyashki`s book isn`t a friendly pastiche and I can understand why Glidrose barred Gulyashki from using James Bond`s name and number.

Alligator By I*n Fl*m*ng

By I*n Fl*m*ng (Michael K Frirth and Christopher Cerf)
First published: November 1962, Vanitas Books (US only)
Reprinted: January 1963 (US only)

Bibliographic notes and trivia bonus: Frirth and Cerf co-created the tv show “Sesame Street”. Frirth later co-created the children`s show “Fraggle Rock”. Cerf was also one of the judges on the much-maligned Random-House list of this century`s 100 best novels.

Hero: J*mes B*nd 007 (trade cover: World-Wide Import & Export Ltd)
Heroine: Anagram Le Galion
Villain: Lacertus Alligator (steel toothed; face purple from heart condition)
Villain`s Employer: TOOTH (ex-Nazis) and SMERSH
Villain`s Project: Steal British Parliament buildings, kidnap Queen for ransom
Minor villain(s):

-Mr Kynstondi, Mr Pazardzhik (both deaf mutes)
-unnamed gigantic mute Korean
-Heinrich (an alligator)
-Kapitan Hammerstein

Bond`s Friends:

-M (head of the British Secret Service)
-Llewylla (Bond`s housekeeper)
-Bill (Chief of Staff)
-Lilly Postlethwaite (Bond`s secretary)
-Miss Pennyfarthing
-Lord Dingletump (Glades Chairman)
-Felix Ronson (CIA Agent who lost an arm and a leg to a shark in Florida on a previous mission with Bond)
-Squabble (black native, i.e. Quarrel)


-Card game
-Anagram`s backstory (Chapter 13)
-Bond hears the chimes and sees Parliament
-Alligator`s backstory
-Bond disguised as PM, chase up Big Ben


-London, England
-Glades (Club)
-British Parliament Buildings

Summary: (Note: even though the villain`s name is Alligator, several alligators (reptiles) appear in the story. For example, Bond shoots a reptile in Chapter 13, not the villain. Also, there`s no point writing “B*nd” for “Bond” and “*” for “M”, though the chapter titles are kept intact.)

1: Table 14
Bond bored, contemplates his lethargy in a bar. Alligator and his entourage, including a blonde (Anagram Le Galion) and two deaf mute henchmen, enter. Bond also notices Alligator`s steel teeth [see quote]. One of the henchmen, on Alligator`s behalf, invites Bond to their table.

2: A Spray Of Violets
Alligator spray-paints Bond`s face purple; Alligator loves the colour. Bond and Alligator discuss drinks and Bond explains how his own drink is made, then christens it the “Anagram”. Alligator goes to the washroom. Anagram begs Bond to take her away, but once in her car, she has second thoughts and asks Bond to leave.

3: “Give Oop This Life O` Yourn”
Bond`s Welsh housekeeper Llewylla wakes a cursing Bond up. Bill, the Chief Of Staff, phones. Bond drives to work. Ms Pennyfarthing tells him every London bridge has collapsed.

4: Interview With *
M asks Bond about Alligator. Bond says he`s already met the man. M explains Alligator`s background, how Alligator became one of the world`s richest men, and that he cheats at cards.

5: The Man He Loved And Obeyed
M continues. Alligator cheats at the card game “Go Fish”. The Glades chairman didn`t want a scandal, so he asked M if any of his men could catch Alligator out. Bond prepares two decks of cards at home, picks M up and drives to Glades. Bond and M work out a signal: Bond will propose a toast when he`s cracked Alligator`s system. Once inside Glades, Bond becomes excited at the prospect of doing battle with Alligator.

6: “What`s Your Limit, Alligator?”
Glade chairman Lord Dingletump, whose face has been spray-painted purple, introduces Bond and M to Alligator. Alligator promptly spray-paints their faces purple too. Bond and Alligator agree on terms and sit down to play cards.

7: “J*mes, Go Fish”
Bond regrets the terms he`s just made with Alligator; if he loses 8 sets, it`ll cost him more than triple his annual income. Bond plays badly, Alligator keeps winning. Bond notices the two deaf mutes who stand behind him and realizes they`re using sign language to tell Alligator what cards he has. Bond throws his chair back, knocking one of the deaf mutes over.

8: “Gentlemen, The Queen”
Alligator is ready to collect his winnings, but Bond challenges Alligator to a rematch for double the stakes. M reluctantly says that he`s good for Bond`s losses when Alligator asks. Before the rematch begins, Bond toasts the Queen, throwing his glass into the fireplace. Alligator tosses his and knocks Dingletump on the head. Bond switches cards with his doctored pack when Alligator spray-paints Dingletump again. The remaining deaf-mute signals Bond`s cards to Alligator. However, before Alligator does anything, Bond toasts the Queen again, and while nobody looks, slips both doctored “7s” from his sleeve into his hand, replacing them with his “kings”. Alligator asks for Bond`s kings and is surprised when Bond doesn`t have any. Bond proceeds to demolish Alligator and win almost half a million pounds. Alligator writes out a cheque and says that if I were you I`d cash this quickly.

9: The Still Vexed Bermoothes
In M`s office the next day. Apparently a purple crocodile killed the head of Station B; M wants Bond to investigate. (M also thanks Bond for donating the “Go Fish” winnings to the White Cross which benefits families of service agents killed in duty.) Bond, rather annoyed that M has sent him on a routine investigation, flies to Bermuda, where he happens across Alligator and Anagram at the Coral Beach Club. (Bond is annoyed to find American currency in as much use as British.)

10: A View From The Terrace
Bond lunches with Alligator (who spray-paints Bond`s face) and Anagram (who decides that Bond reminds her of Hoagy Carmichael). Alligator leaves to use the washroom; Anagram begs Bond to come to her room tomorrow evening where she will explain everything.

11: T.O.O.T.H.
Bond gets M`s cable next morning: the criminal organization T.O.O.T.H. has stolen the Parliament buildings, floating them down the River Thames, with the Queen, the PM, and other notables on board. T.O.O.T.H. demands one hundred million pounds ransom. Bond`s friend and former CIA agent Felix Ronson sneaks up on him; thinking it might be an enemy, Bond overpowers him and Ronson lands in scrambled egg. In between good-natured banter a la Fleming`s originals, Felix explains that he`s down here investigating an alligator smuggling ring.

12: An American Chap
Bond meets Bermuda`s Governor, who explains that Alligator bought one of the Bermuda Islands, and built a replica of Parliament painted purple on it. That evening, Bond dines with Anagram.

13: Things That Go Bump In The Night
Bond and Anagram go for a late night swim, where he discovers that Alligator hypnotized her, then painted her torso and nether regions purple. Back in his room, they slide into bed, and an alligator hidden beneath the bedspread lunges at them. Bond throws Anagram to the floor and shoots the alligator five times in the mouth. Soon afterwards, a bellboy knocks on the door and says that Felix Ronson is dead, chewed up by an alligator. Anagram tells Bond her backstory. SMERSH kidnapped her lover, Roger Entwhistle (004) and told her that they would kill him if she didn`t spy for them. They subsequently gave her to Alligator who made the same conditions. Alligator expected her to entice men whom he could feed to his alligators. Alligator would say, “I have to go to the bathroom”, his signal that he wanted her to entice the man, thereby explaining her previous inconsistent behaviour with Bond. Anagram had told Alligator that Bond had changed his mind that day in the restaurant. Alligator retaliated by supposedly having Roger killed. He also blackmailed her about her part in the deaths in case she tried leaving him or telling anybody. She also explains that Alligator`s favourite Alligator, Heinrich, killed the Head of Station B and Felix Ronson, both of whom had been nosing around. Bond decides to visit Alligator`s island base.

14: Alligator`s Lair
Squabble brings the diving gear, and the three of them head for the coast. Alligator, in his car, passes them on the way, and pulls a lever releasing ambergris (whale vomit). Squabble, Bond and Amber`s motor-bicycles skid. Squabble`s goes over the cliff, killing him. Bond and Anagram continue on to Alligator`s lair.

15: Death Of A Frogman
They swim to Alligator`s island; a frogman attacks and a CO2 spear barely misses Bond. The two men struggle and Bond kills him. A whirlpool vortex sucks a struggling Bond and Anagram into Alligator`s lair. Alligator knocks Bond unconcious.

16: The Pleasure Of His Company
Bond comes to, shackled to a chair, and notices an invite to dinner and a menu list. Bond lists how he wants his food prepared. The building vibrates and lists from side to side; Bond realizes that the building has become water-borne like a boat.

17: The House Of Usher
Bond hears two sets of chimes, each apparently four hours apart, and realizes that Alligator stole the Parliament buildings. Stormtroopers march him out at gun point onto a boat which takes him to the real Westminster Hall several hundred yards away; the replica is then sunk.

18 Pandora`s Box
Bond realizes that Alligator intended to float the real buildings out to where the replicas stood so that nobody would be the wiser. Alligator greets him, spray-paints his face purple, then takes him to see the Queen and the PM, the House of Lords, Lord Snowdon (Princess Margaret`s photographer ex-husband), whose faces have also all been spray-painted purple, inside the House of Commons chambers. Two debates are under way, both concerning Britain`s entry into the Common Market. At dinner, Mr Pazardzhik`s fake right arm shoots two darts out of his index finger into a Winston Churchill portrait; each of the darts was dipped in philopon, a Japanese murder drug. When Bond calls Alligator a maniac, Alligator counters that he considers himself an artist and compares himself to Hitler, Alexander The Great and Napoleon. Alligator also implies that Anagram is still a loyal operative, making Bond wonder if Anagram led him into this trap. Alligator tells his life story over dinner: from humble origins, through alligator smuggling, to his current plan and beyond. Several distractions let Bond swipe utensils and Alligator`s spray-paint can off the dinner table when no one is looking. Alligator further explains that he`ll turn on Russia and that the world will be his. An unnamed mute gigantic Korean comes in and karate chops Bond unconscious.

19: Do Not Puncture Or Incinerate
Bond comes to in the Parliament building`s fourth sub-basement. Alligator and a naked Anagram, painted purple from neck to knee, stand there. Bond curses himself for trusting her. Alligator threatens torture and a painful death if Bond doesn`t say who he`s working for. When Bond doesn`t respond, Alligator bites Bond`s calf with his steel teeth. Bond knocks his chair forward, overpowering Alligator. Alligator presses a button and Bond drops through the floor into an alligator pool. The alligator bites, inadvertantly cutting the ropes that bind Bond to the chair. Bond uses the weapons he stole from the dinner table to injure the alligator, ultimately killing it: Bond jams the spray-paint can into the alligator`s mouth. The alligator chomps down on it, the canister explodes, a shard lodges in the reptile`s windpipe. The trap door reopens, Bond vaults out and sees Anagram tied to an overturned chair; she had been on his side all along. Since Alligator`s men don`t suspect her loyalties, Bond wants her to get the MPs out of the ballot room.

20 Noon G.M.T. – Saturday
The MPs debate each other. Anagram cons Kapitan Hammerstein into believing that Alligator wants to see him and his men, and that he`s to give her the gun to keep watch over the British politicans. Bond joins her, and asks for the PM. Mr Pazardzhik shoves a note under the door asking the PM to see Alligator. Bond puts on the PM`s wig and robe, and carries the mace (the ceremonial metal object, not the spray), and goes to see Alligator. Steps away from Alligator, Kynstondi recognizes Bond and Mr Pazardzhik lifts his dart hand to fire. Bond knocks the arm off with the mace, then crushes Mr Kynstondi`s head. Alligator makes a run for it; Bond shoots him and chases him up the stairs to Big Ben. Alligator crumples and falls into the clockwork.

21 “When`s Supper?”
An injured Bond in M`s office. The PM had offered Bond a VC, but M had to explain that the service doesn`t go in for that sort of thing. The PM has told newspaper editors that what happened was a test run for moving the Parliament buildings in case of enemy attack. M offers Bond two weeks leave. Bond finds Anagram waiting for him in his home. They kiss.

Remarks: The famous Harvard Lampoon parody of Fleming`s James Bond novels is actually less a parody than a slavish imitation of Fleming`s originals.

Scenes and details are obviously copied (read: plagarized) from Fleming`s originals. I`m surprised that a plagiarism suit didn`t follow – the authors would never get away with it today – and it probably explains why the book only went through two printings and hasn`t been reprinted since.

It`s also at times a respectable Bond novel in its own right and this works in favour of including it in the series: it comes closer to Fleming`s style and tics (good and bad) than any post-Fleming Bond novelist.

The novel also has one major advantage over Fleming`s originals: it`s only 77 pages long and stapled like TV Guide Magazine, and perhaps no more than 32,000 words. Fleming sometimes went on a bit, and parts of Doctor No and most of Thunderball would have benefitted from being chopped in half.

Kingsley Amis complained that it was too close to the original and I assume that the authors marked down particular scenes from Fleming`s novels, changed them slightly and put them in a new order to create the novel. Compare two sets of examples:

1A) Every country in the world has its favourite bird, a creature which is pointed out with pride to foreigners and whose habits are followed lovingly by the natives. In Bermuda this bird is the long-tail, so called because nine-tenths of its twelve inches consist of two, long, graceful, black-tipped, white features. High above the beautiful stretch of pink sand six of them whirled, their white bodies flashes of light in the now setting sun, their tails meteor trails behind them. Their soft mewing punctuated the sound of the waves as they dipped and soared over the ebbing tide, their tiny bright eyes alert to the slightest movement indicating some hapless sea-creature left behind by the waves. Below them all but a few stragglers had left the beach.

1B) The most beautiful bird in Jamaica, and some say the most beautiful bird in the world, is the streamer-tail or doctor humming-bird. The cock bird is abut nine inches long, but seven inches of it are tail – two long black feathers that curve and cross each other and whose inner edges are in a form of scalloped design. The head and crest are black, the wings dark green, the long bill is scarlet, and the eyes, bright and confiding, are black. The body is emerald green, so dazzling that when the sun is on the breast you see the brightest green thing in nature. In Jamaica, birds that are loved are given nicknames. Trochilus polytmus is called “doctor bird” because his two black streamers remind people of the black tail-coat of the old-time physician.

2A) He had not wished to embarrass the Governor, who seemed to him an easily embarrassable man, and it could in fact have been unwise to give him knowledge of a felony which might easily be the subject of a question in the Legislature Council. […] He had known the purpose of Bond`s visit to the Colony, and that evening, when Bond had shaken him by the hand, the dislike of a peaceable man for violent action had been communicated to Bond by something constrained and defensive in the Governor`s manner. […] Not that Bond had anything against the Governor. He belonged to a routine type that Bond had often encountered round the world – solid, loyal, competent, sober and just: the best type of Colonial civil Servant. Solidly, competently, loyally he would have filled the minor posts for thirty years while the Empire crumbled around him; and now, just in time, by sticking to the ladders and avoiding the snakes, he had got to the top. In a year or two it would be the GCB and out – out to Godalming, or Cheltenham or Tunbridge Wells with a pension and a small packet of memories of places like the Trucial Oman, the Leeward Islands, British Guiana, that no one at the local golf club would have heard of or would care about.

2B) Bond and the governor had disliked each other immediately. It was the instinctive reaction of a man of peace to a man of action, each realizing the necessity of the other`s job, but disagreeing with the principle behind it. To Bond the governor was a typical civil servant, holding on until he could retire on a nice pension to a little farm in the south of England and grow roses. To the governor Bond was the sort of person who caused embarrassing incidents, and his job was to avoid embarrassment. The meeting had been brief. Bond was assured of the full support and cooperation of government forces should he need them, and he in turn had assured the governor that there would be little likelihood of that.

I`ll leave it to the reader to decide which from each set Fleming wrote.

The authors also copy other details. Bond`s hand was scarred by SMERSH. Felix has a hook instead of an arm and the book refers to the Florida incident where Felix was injured. In Chapter 2, Bond notes that Anagram drives like a man and uses blinkers to indicate turns. After she leaves him, he calls her a “bitch”; compare what Bond says at the end of Chapter 11 in Thunderball after he`s met Domino. The novel also relies heavily on Moonraker: the card game; the last chapter when M tells an injured Bond that the service doesn`t go in for awards, gives him a leave of absence, and explains how the government and the press will cover up the mishap. Mind you, future Bond films and novels also copy from it (i.e. the villain has steel teeth like Jaws; the henchman`s hand shoots a dart into a picture; an exploding compressed air canister kills a villain).

There`s not that much humour. What little there is, is more of the “throwaway” kind (and some of the more over-the-top humour is rather strained): A large sign proclaimed “World-Wide Import & Export Ltd,” and few knew this was the headquarters for HM Secret Service. Bond thought of the few innocents who occasionally wandered in trying to import or export something. They were taken to the dummy offices on the fifth floor where they were politely, but firmly, shot.” Actually, one of the funniest things in the book is the publisher`s blurb about the other Vanitas Books by I*N FL*M*NG being sold out. Or in Chapter 11, Bond says about M: He had always called Allen Dulles whenever there was a difficult situation and it was difficult to convince him that Allen Dulles was no longer in charge of the CIA.

The novel is at it`s best when it tries to be an exciting thriller in its own right. The 14% through 36% section of the novel features an exciting card game which has what others call the “Fleming sweep”. It`s terrific, exciting, with ingenious bits: Bond cottons onto the deaf-mutes` gambit, he realizes that Alligator asked for tens because the deaf-mute must have splayed his fingers out when Bond knocked him over. This is great, though Bond`s toast reeks of parody and seems straight out of the 1967 Casino Royale parody. Notwithstanding this, it`s these clever exciting parts that make me argue that the book should be counted as a legitimate series entity.

There are also wonderful details about Alligator`s background in Chapter 4: people threw baby alligators into the sewers, the alligators grew in size, and Alligator befriended them – which is a strikingly Fleming touch, one that doesn`t rely on the originals, and this is how the authors should have written the novel. M says, “Then when they got too big or their owners became bored with them, they flushed them down the toilet. In the sewers they just went right on growing. Thrived there. Apparently he grew very attached to them and they to him. Found he could do a very good business selling them to zoos, and of course he could sell the baby ones for conversation pieces.” In fact, if I didn`t know any better I would have thought that Fleming had written this passage.

Chapter 6 has a nice bit about stupid Bulgarians which sounds like Fleming but works on its own. Besides there were the two deaf-mute Bulgarian bodyguards. Bulgarians, B*nd had always known, are inherently stupid and muscular. Lacking the intelligence to be criminal masterminds in their own right, they usually ended up as hired thugs. He remembered that while he had been working on the Casino case in France, the Deuxieme Bureau had uncovered a whole pool of Bulgars expert in sabotage and murder jobs. Alligator had probably hired his bodyguards from just such a pool.

In Chapter 12, the Governor explains that Alligator bought a Bermuda Island, and built a purple replica of the British Parliament on it (reminiscent of Doctor No). There`s also a nice, believable (until you think about it) explanation about water shortage, which is probably a parody of Fleming`s poor research. (Mind you, even if it isn`t, it`s detailed and fascinating the way Fleming can be.)

Chapter 13 is one of the book`s best chapters, and has some good writing: “Does Smersh mean anything to you?” “I`ve heard of it,” he replied shortly. Or when Anagram explains Alligator`s “washroom” cue; though parody, it`s nicely done. In fact, up to that point I thought Alligator`s penchant for going to the washroom was amateurish. I read her explanation and thought, okay, that`s good writing. The authors convinced me.

Anagram`s background and predicament is a high point and though it copies Vesper`s situation in Casino Royale, it`s good, strong writing and dramatically effective, perhaps more than Fleming`s original. In the same chapter Anagram mentions that her mother wrestled with her conscience for 9 months (after becoming pregnant); this is Fleming-like and also good writing.

In Chapter 16, Bond, captured, is invited to dinner and given a menu list. Bond specifices exactly how he wants his meal prepared and it`s parody, but it works (and is funny); Bond notes that the shrimp should be de-veined before being cooked. It`s also good, effective writing; it would work well in a regular Bond novel. I suppose a crucial element of a successful parody is for the scenes and details to work as parody and non-parody.

In Chapter 17, Bond hears two sets of chimes and realizes that Alligator stole the Parliament buildings; it`s a nice bit and exciting and has the same charge you get from the high points in the other novels.

Chapter 18 is another fine chapter, with funny details: (it`s presumably a parody of the dining scene in Doctor No) Bond swipes almost everything off the dinner table to use as weapons and nobody notices. There`s one deft, funny bit: he blows the candle out and tucks it in robe.

The same chapter is clever: the kidnapped politicians debate England`s entry into the Common Market. It`s funny and yet entirely logical and it works. Think about it, what else are they going to do? They`ll have to debate it at some point so why not now? It`s brilliant because it`s so believable. It`s off the wall, yet expected.

Also in Chapter 18, Alligator explains that, “With the help of the Detroit Purple Gang, to whom my aesthetic intuition led me directly, I entered the field of international alligator smuggling: my already substantial income increased fourfold, and I was able to expand my Nazi youth group into a sort of special executive for counterintelligence, terrorism, revenge, and extortion [Note the initials: s.p.e.c.t.r.e] – in short, The Organization Organized to Hate, or, simply, T.O.O.T.H.” There are other clever details: Alligator explains his Russian connections (or “connexions”, Fleming`s way of spelling the word): three of their agents stole an atom bomb (Thunderball), and a fourth, Gary Powers (though he`s not actually mentioned), allowed his plane to be forced down over Russia. One of several ingenious Fleming-style details. (It makes it even less understandable why John Gardner never had the knack when Frirth/Cerf got it downpat.)

The finale is exciting and clever (and at these times it forfeits the label parody): Bond disguises himself as the PM and approaches Alligator. It builds in intensity and is probably more exciting than Fleming because the book is so compact.

However, I never thought I`d say this in regards to Fleming`s writing, but Fleming is more stylish than Frith and Cerf. It copies Fleming`s style, but it doesn`t have the same sturdiness or exuberance. Alligator keeps saying “chum” and botching Bond`s name; these tics are actually more annoying as the book goes along and he isn`t a great villain. The novel is also structurally flawed; the story takes an awkward turn at the 40% mark when it shifts from the card game to the Bermuda plot. It also slows down immediately after the card game and takes several chapters to work itself back up. Chapter 11 awkwardly shoehorns news about the disappearing Parliament buildings, and at other times the novel is too rushed (i.e. Felix Ronson is a walk-on/get-killed part) and needed fleshing out.

Chapter 19 probably features the book`s worst scene. Bond fights an alligator which keeps biting chunks out of him. It`s presumably meant to parody the obstacle-course sequence from Doctor No, but it`s sloppy and doesn`t work. It didn`t bother me as much re-reading the novel, but it would have worked better had it been less stupid. However, there`s one inspired bit of writing: B*nd was not a religious man, but at that moment he gazed toward the black ceiling and uttered a silent word of thanks. As if in answer, a flash of blinding yellow light appeared from the ceiling. The trap door had reopened.

Should Alligator be considered a “real” Bond novel? Yes, even though Glidrose doesn`t own the copyright. John Gardner tended towards parody at his worst and the most ludicrous moments in his novels aren`t that far removed from the parody here. It also fits in more easily with the books than the 1967 Casino Royale does with the Bond films. There are moments straight out of that film (during the toast, Alligator throws his glass back and dings Dingletump on the head, Chapter 8), but it`s actually very Fleming-like. It also has the crucial ingredient that, for example, John Gardner never grasped: the situations can be ridiculous but the author must be absolutely straight-faced and treat almost everything with the utmost tongue-in-cheek seriousness. The authors take themselves very seriously. It`s part of the book`s charm and explains its popularity.

TWINE and AVTAK: An Appreciation

James Bond must stop a villain who plots to destroy a strategic area of the globe, which will then allow said villain to control the supply of a needed commodity. Also involved is a lovely lady with oil in the family’s veins.

Sound familiar? These are plot points from the 1999 James Bond film, The World Is Not Enough a blockbuster heralded by fans and the general public. These plot points are also present in the 1985 James Bond film A View To A Kill, widely considered among the Bond cognoscenti as a tired and lackluster 007 flick.

Apropos of the 15th anniversary of the release of A View To A Kill, 007 Forever reevaluates Roger Moore’s last Bond film with the goal of rehabilitating its standing in the James Bond film series. Particularly interesting is to compare A View To A Kill and The World Is Not Enough. Now that the hype and excitement has leveled off, we can take a cold-eyed view of the 19th 007 film and in comparison to A View To A Kill, see if it comes up short.

The Caper
The similarities of the villain’s caper in The World Is Not Enough and A View To A Kill serves as a jumping off point for our comparison. In A View To A Kill, computer industrialist Max Zorin plots to destroy California’s Silicon Valley to corner the world microchip market. In The World Is Not Enough, oil industrialist Elektra King plots to destroy Istanbul in order to control the flow of oil out of the Caspian Sea.

Neither one of these plots is particularly original, In fact, the plot of A View To A Kill has been criticized as an update of Goldfinger which also involved a villain out to make an economic killing as a result of a disaster. Also present in the A View To A Kill plot is a healthy dose of the plot of Superman which involved Lex Luthor’s destruction of California via an earthquake.

The sub-plot of oil is what draws The World Is Not Enough closer to A View To A Kill than it does to Goldfinger or even Superman. Both A View To A Kill and The World Is Not Enough involve a leading lady whose family has been cheated out of their oil legacy. Stacey Sutton has to work as a state geologist to earn money to fight Max Zorin in the courts. Zorin had cheated Stacey out of her oil in a rigged proxy fight.

Elektra King also believes that her family has been cheated out of its oil. Elektra states that her father stole her mother’s rightful claim to the oil in the Caspian Sea. Fair enough, but it seems odd that this subplot should be used again in a Bond film.

The World Is Not Enough also adds the wrinkle of a female villain and the world’s greatest terrorist falling in love. All sorts of Freudian motivation of a father-daughter conflict are present (Elektra from Greek mythology – get it?) But the basic plot strands are the same.

For my money though, then execution of the villain’s caper is handled much better in A View To A Kill. The World Is Not Enough follows the recent tradition of murky Bond villain exposition. Elektra’s plot is explained in a few lines of dialogue when Bond realizes what the nuclear submarine is going to be used for. Then again, both plots from both films are explained as James Bond and the leading lady study a map. The “double earthquake” that will sink Silicon Valley seems more palpable than the whole business of irradiating the Bosphorous. Aren’t there any other ports in Turkey where the oil can be loaded onto the tankers? It seems a stretch that they are all located in Istanbul.

Femme Fatale
The comparison of the leading ladies in both A View To A Kill and The World Is Not Enough is also illuminating. I am not going to compare Tanya Roberts with Sophie Marceau because a blind person can see that Marceau is clearly the better actress. Then again, Sophie Marceau is really the villain in The World Is Not Enough.

This argument though is not so easily decided when you compare Tanya Roberts to Denise Richards. Both these American women are lovely to behold yet they both come up short in the acting world. Tanya Roberts is rightly knocked for her ditzy line readings of “James!” and for failing to see that blimp behind her.

Denise Richards as Dr. Christmas Jones is no improvement though. The nadir of Denise’s performance comes when she’s sopping wet in the submarine and says that “we could write off the whole city”, a cringe-inducing moment if there ever was one.

The biggest mistake with Richards’ casting is her age. Its just not believable that someone in her mid-20s has a PhD in nuclear physics. Period. Stacey Sutton on the other hand, is a State of California employee, a vocation that many Californians feel does not require a lot of brains. Therefore Tanya Roberts is more believable in her role and less of a distraction to her film.

Oscar Bond
When it comes to villains, A View To A Kill trumps The World Is Not Enough any day of the week. Why? Two words – Christopher Walken. Oscar-winner Christopher Walken has made a career out of playing psychopathic villains and anti-heroes. It’s a great thing to have an actor of Walken’s stature hamming it up as a Bond villain. Walken may not be the greatest Bond villain but dammit, its fantastic to have an actor this prolific associated with the Bond series.

Christopher Walken is as active now as he was in 1985, if not more so. Gert Frobe may be the greatest Bond villain of all time, but you could count all of Frobe’s other memorable roles on one hand. Not so with Christopher Walken. This man has added edge and darkness to scores of films from Annie Hall to The Deer Hunter to True Romance to Sleepy Hollow.

The double villains of The World Is Not Enough cannot touch the wattage of Christopher Walken. Sophie Marceau is not revealed as the true villain until well into the film. Robert Carlyle as Renard is woefully underused in the film. When he is present, Renard is saddled with “drama” scenes that are passable but really have no place in a James Bond film. Point to A View To A Kill.

What can be said of the locations in A View To A Kill as opposed to The World Is Not Enough? First and foremost is the fact that most of the locations in A View To A Kill are real. Many of the locations in The World Is Not Enough are faked. Following the trend of Goldeneye and Tomorrow Never Dies, The World Is Not Enough resorts to non-descript locations that double for Baku, the Caspian Sea and Istanbul. The viewer never feels that Bond is truly in these far-flung locations as they did with Japan in You Only Live Twice or Egypt in The Spy Who Loved Me to name some examples.

In A View To A Kill, Paris, Chantilly and San Francisco are all marvelously put to good use. Taking a bead from Alfred Hitchcock, famous landmarks are used in action setpieces. The Eiffel Tower in Paris and the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco feature prominently in memorable action sequences. The World Is Not Enough’s boring climax in a submarine under the Bosphorous seems waterlogged in comparison.

Secondary characters are also more interesting in A View To A Kill. Goldie’s Bull is an interesting sub-villain but is nowhere near as memorable as Grace Jones’ May Day. Gabor does not even rate. Robbie Coltrane’s Valentin Zukovsky is a fantastic foil for Pierce Brosnan’s James Bond. Coltrane is no Patrick Macnee though.

Patrick Macnee brings more of The Avengers cache to the James Bond series, following in the footsteps of Honor Blackman and Diana Rigg. How cool is that? The Roger Moore-Patrick Macnee scenes have a warm familiarity to them which serves A View To A Kill well. The accumulated James Bond-Simon Templar-John Steed charm of these two actors is wonderful. How wonderful that these two real-life friends were allowed to share some of their personal charisma with us in a James Bond film.

One element that puts A View To A Kill in a class above The World Is Not Enough is music. John Barry provides his penultimate score to the Bond series with A View To A Kill. The results are electric. Eschewing the murky atmospherics of Octopussy, Barry provides action music in A View To A Kill that is among his best. Barry’s electric guitar influenced ski-chase music is awesome. The music from the last third of A View To A Kill covering the execution of Zorin’s plot is also excellent. This music echoes Barry’s excellent music from On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

David Arnold’s music for The World Is Not Enough is functional but cannot touch John Barry. Compare the ski-chase music John Barry composed for A View To A Kill to the ski-chase music in The World Is Not Enough. Convinced yet? Arnold’s finest moment in The World Is Not Enough is the dance oriented boat chase music, an inheritor of the rock motifs Barry used in A View To A Kill and The Living Daylights.

The theme song of The World Is Not Enough has a superior pedigree to the song from A View To A Kill. David Arnold and Don Black created a fantastic song for The World Is Not Enough which was excellently brought to life by Garbage. The problem with this song though was that it died an ignominous death. I never heard it on the radio once, and I live in that small community with a shortage of radio stations called Los Angeles.

Say what you will about Duran Duran’s A View To A Kill, but that song rocked its way to the top of the charts in America. This was the last time that that has happened for a James Bond song. That’s no mean feat. I still hear A View To A Kill on the radio today. How cool is it to have a 007 song be a part of the retro-trendy 1980`s music revival?

Another element that sets A View To A Kill apart is the adrenaline of its action scenes. Need I remind you dear reader that action is what we go to a Bond movie for? You can stuff all the “dramatic” material. The World Is Not Enough had one too many scenes of Renard and Elektra emoting. Max Zorin and May Day did not sit around contemplating the vagaries of the heart. They just got on with the business of megalomania thank you very much.

Back to the action though. You have a ski-chase both in A View To A Kill and The World Is Not Enough. Which one is more memorable? The snowboarding chase in Siberia from A View To A Kill still gets the juices flowing. You need to light a match under my foot to get any response to the ski chase in The World Is Not Enough. The boat chase is the only thing that rocks in The World Is Not Enough. All of the other action sequences have a bloated, self-reverential air that ultimately undoes them.

The choreographed goofiness of the Seine car chase in A View To A Kill has more panache and style than the caviar factory sequence in The World Is Not Enough. These are the kind of things that makes us love Bond movies, not bad CGI effects of helicopter blades. We can forgive all the tacked on drama in the new Bond films but don’t mess with the action.

Summing Up
Let’s face it, A View To A Kill is a superior James Bond film to The World Is Not Enough. Sure it has its faults; an aging Roger Moore, some dubious acting, a slow moving second act, but the film is more than the sum of its parts. On the debit side though, A View To A Kill sets out to be an old fashioned James Bond caper involving a supervillain out to cause havoc for gain. The film makes no pretensions to being “dramatic”, we can watch American Beauty for those kind of thrills, give us a Bond movie please.

I am glad that the Bond series is still around and can be a box-office world beater. On the other hand though, I am saddened that a new Bond film cannot deliver the same type of thrills that films of the past could. Maybe I am growing up, but I know that the next time that A View To A Kill is fired up on video, a frisson of anticipation will shoot down my spine when the John Barry music kicks in on the frozen wasteland of Siberia.

Here’s to you, A View To A Kill. Happy 15th Anniversary!

–Greg Bechtloff is the American representative of The James Bond International Fan Club and Archive.

The Name Is Cranky, Mr. Cranky

(4 bombs) This is the last of the James Bond films to feature the apoplectic Roger Moore as the famed 007. If anything good can be said about the film,it`s that at age 57, Moore`s physical limitations had finally caught up with his acting limitations. There really is a truly spooky synchronicity happening in this film in which Moore manages to both move and emote as little as possible.

The film opens with a skiing sequence in which snowboarding is accompanied by the Beach Boys song “California Girls,” obviously the decision of a music director skunked out on laced weed. After Bond escapes in a styrofoam boat, we get to witness a good hour involving horses, horse racing, and microchips that make them run faster – an entire section of the movie that easily could have been excised given that Max Zorin`s (Christopher Walken) goal is to cause an earthquake and wipe out Silicon Valley. His henchman is played by Grace Jones. One has little idea if James Bond and the rest of the world`s secret agents were scared stiff by her, but certainly the world`s fashion designers must have been running for the hills.

“A View to a Kill” has the ugliest Bond girl in Jones and also the worst actress in Tanya Roberts, who plays a geologist and whose main function is to scream “James” about every five minutes. The rest of her lines are exhaled like an asthma sufferer in the middle of an attack.

Ignoring the non-existant direction, horrible dialogue, and mind-numbing acting, this Bond entry seems most notable for its unbelievable idiotic gadgets. Q`s (Desmond Lleewelyn) favorite toy is the robot from “Short Circuit” whose only role in the film is to catch Moore and Roberts in the shower together. In addition to that, there`s a poison butterfly on a fishing pole – who knows how Grace makes it hit anybody, something that looks like an old credit card swiper that shows James what was written on a check, and an electronic credit card that somehow manages to flip the hinge on an old window. Obviously, Q must have been on vacation prior to this mission.

However, my favorite moments in “A View to a Kill” are when Roberts is running down a hill at the end and Bond yells: “Stacy, behind you!” Next thing you know, Zorin reaches out of the window of his zeppelin and whisks her away. Also, Bond makes Stacy a quiche. Frankly, this Bond is so lame I`m surprised the producers didn`t have him suffer from some sort of erectile dysfunction.

For more of Mr.Cranky`s world famous reviews, visit

The Looking Rough Guide To A View To A Kill

Ian Fleming described the hero of his best-sellers as being in his forties, but fit as a fiddle. Roger Moore possibly fit this description in 1973, but mother nature can have her wicked way with anyone in twelve years and by the time he stepped onto the Bond stage for the last time, it was obvious that the only gadget he wanted was a Ronco Stair Lift.

Things don’t look too promising from the opening seconds, as our hero looks knackered just spinning round in the gun barrel sequence-perhaps the arthritis was already getting to his knees? However, this doesn’t seem to be too much of a problem as he goes on to systematically take on the entire Russian polar force, armed only with a pair of skis and many years of hard won experience. There is a down side to being around this long: everybody starts to recognize you. Even the Russian soldier he pulls off a snow bike shouts: “Aaargh! Roger Moore” as he disappears over a cliff.

Having escaped that little close shave, James retreats to his lavishly appointed submarine/bachelor pad and settles in for a long ride. How the Soviet airforce manages to miss something that looks like a hearse that’s been tarred and feathered we never discover. But at least Rog looks happy to be sitting down at last. For some reason, the British Secret Service have deemed it appropriate for him to be accompanied by a blonde nymphet in a Wilma Deering jumpsuit, and she steers him away from danger. All the controls are at the front, with the exception of a single lever that does nothing other than conveniently shake the sub around a bit. Was this installed at James’ own request? It’s all very well for him to get his nuts in the Arctic Circle, but the rest of us have to sit through the title sequence and marvel at the graphics so crap that Maurice Binder might have nicked them from the bin outside the TRON production office.

By this point in the series, the film proper always starts with a briefing scene in M’s office. Having circumvented the maiden aunt that is Moneypenny-presumably by promising to meet her later on at the bingo-James dares to question the integrity of Maximillian Zorin.

“Zorin?” barks the minister. “Impossible-he’s a leading French industrialist”. Rog is far too much of a gentleman to point out that this should obviously make him the number one suspect in any case-even if he had no connection to it whatsoever-and that’s exactly what he, and half the audience, are thinking. Plainly, he’s having none of it and has already decided he’s got his man. As soon as you see Christopher Walken, you know he’s right. Bleach blond, grinning insanely, accompanied by the muscular figure of Grace Jones in a massive red hat that she only abandons when she has to stare down a rearing horse-this is clearly a man who craves the anonymity required to be a genius megalomaniac. Walken is already chewing scenery and he’s yet to say anything. Rog even manages to uncannily predict the winner. Is this ESP? Gambling skill? Or has he just read more than his own pages for a change?

As it happens, the French take a bit of a kicking in this movie, as James follows a lead to Paris and meets up with the local contact, a detective names Aubergine. Vegetable by name soon becomes vegetable by nature when James is lulled into a coma by the quite spectacularly dull butterfly act and poor Monsieur Aubergine gets a fishhook in his neck. Taking off after the assassin, Rog once again doesn’t look too happy about this running lark and when his quarry starts to ascend the Eiffel Tower, he decides to take the lift instead. Hijacking a car from an outrageously French taxi driver (he’s drinking wine and eating a baguette, for God’s sake! Why not just give him a stripy shirt, beret and string of onions and be done with it?) He proceeds to deal out the sort of punishment to it only previously employed by Edward I to deal with William Wallace. As if this wasn’t enough, jumping out of his quarter car, Bond crashes in on a wedding cake and has to give up the chase as it becomes second priority to dealing with some cleaver-wielding chefs who evidently don’t care how far past its sell-by-date their food (or indeed the joke, for that matter) is. Lucky for him, the whole affair is simply covered by virtue of a massive bribe to the Parisian authorities. I wonder if this film did well in France?

Now, I don’t wish to suggest that Bond’s tactics are predictable, but you’ve got to wonder how many times he can get away with heading straight for the villain, letting him know he’s on to him, and then shagging his bird before someone realizes that all they have to do is kill him when he first arrives. For all his advanced years, Roger still can’t seem to keep it in his trousers, and engages in a little badinage with the lovely Jenny Flex:

“I expect you spend a lot of time in the saddle?”

“Yes, I love an early morning ride.”

“Oh, I’m an early riser myself.”

Initially, it looks like he may have gotten away with his, but a little exhalation from Alison Doody lets you know that hell would freeze over before she grabs granddad.

Still, the old guy packs a lot into a day; a fight with Big Ron Tarr is followed by vigorous sex with Grace Jones, from which he gamely manages to avoid being eaten alive, which is in turn followed by a confrontation with Zorin. Max Zorin is obviously an astute businessman who invests in nothing but the best equipment, as we can see from his state of the art ZX81 which picks Bond out of the KGB files in no time at all. Despite looking more like David Bowie by the second, it soon becomes clear that Zorin’s plan involves rather more than a giant glass spider and a pale blue suit; instead he plans to destroy Silicon Valley and cash in on the world shortage of computer chips by opening sweatshops in Scottish new towns. Well, that last bit was made up, but it’d explain a lot, wouldn’t it?

Offering a deal to the world’s leading computer businessmen, Zorin conveniently outlines his own plans to the audience. Quite apart from the cash to be made, everybody knows that you never turn down a Bond villain-he’ll always throw you out of an aeroplane, or crush you in a car, or feed you to the piranhas.

Whilst all this is going on, Rog is in San Francisco and seems to have no idea whatsoever that this is the AIDS capital of the world, getting it on with dodgily -accented Russian agents that get aroused to the banging sounds of Tchaikovsky (remember that when you send your daughter to ballet classes) and meeting up with the Chinese Detective of the CIA, who in a classic case of missing a golden opportunity, isn’t called Ferix Reiter…

With all this on his plate, why he should want to team up with Stacy Sutton is a mystery that will never be solved. The woman is so wet she should be wearing a sign around her neck that says: ‘No ducking, no diving, no petting and no pushing’. A lot’s been said about Bond cooking quiche in the film, but to me it’s obvious that it’s all part of a clever plan and he’s taking the opportunity to ply her with red wine; unfortunately she keeps her knickers on and he has to keep her alive, despite her frequently achieving vocal tones that only dogs can hear. It’s notable as well that she’s never actually seen eating the thing, only commenting on how wonderful it is. Not surprising as she probably burns the lettuce on a regular basis.

As if that’s not bad enough, when David Yip becomes nothing more than Sherbet Dip, Stacey Sutton graduates to the position of main ally and we have to endure scene after scene of her screaming ineffectually at James to rescue her while he goes off to do something far more important. Every time your hopes are raised, he goes back to get her-he must have misplaced his glasses…

Give her credit, the skank seems indestructible, as she is pulled out of a collapsing, blazing building without her white dress being even slightly singed or blackened, and is immediately plunged into a high speed chase which similarly fails to kill her. Sadly it now seems that James’ mental faculties must also now be brought into question-would you hand the wheel of a speeding fire engine pursued by police cars to someone who quite plainly doesn’t have the necessary HGV license? He doesn’t even switch over the tachometer! He’s a danger to himself…

Having followed Zorin to his secret mine facility, James provides us with another insight into his accelerated decrepitude: Why walk when you can ride? And he misses a tour de force of classic villainy whilst he searches for his bus pass. Zorin cackles maniacally whilst indiscriminately gunning down his own men, before escaping in a massive airship with his name on the side in eight foot high red letters. As if this wasn’t enough, he then decides it would be a good idea to kidnap rather than kill the main witness to his antics. By this point the audience is wondering why Bond hasn’t killed Stacy: this is pushing it just too far.

You’d have thought an airship, no matter how ostentatious-would provide ample opportunity to scamper to safety, but only if you remember not to leave any convenient ropes hanging about. D’oh! Even so, surely no one could hold on over a few miles and several obstacles, unless he was a top secret agent? D’oh! Never mind you can just smash him off the Golden Gate Bridge, no one could survive that, surely? D’oh!

Personally, I’m still pondering over whether or not a slipknot would really hold an airship, but Bond wastes no time in trying to get his bird bad. To Zorin’s credit though: small airship-big balls, as he climbs out onto the bridge and goes after Bond personally with an axe. He may finally have snapped.

This really can’t be much of a surprise-just look at his father figure. Not long after his beloved Max takes the long drop cackling maniacally the older codger magics some TNT out of the fridge and starts waving it about. I am compelled to ask: was this standard behaviour about the house? Did the young Max come back from school to find his dad hiding in a trench he’d dug at the bottom of the garden, occasionally blasting away at passersby? Ten percent genetic, ninety percent environmental. That’s what they say.

As usual with Bond films, the final scenes are played out over a background of cheese factor ten: for a start, the audience had long since forgotten about the robot dog that Q bothered them with at the start of the film. But, having spent more on this that the title sequences and Christopher Walken’s wig combined, Cubby wants his money’s worth.

However, it must have been plain even then that this was to be Rog’s final scene, and no entendres are spared in seeing him off. Moore always had an effortless knack of making the crap line into an art form, transcending the material written by mere mortals to achieve a level of godlike cool that Pierce Brosnan can only dream of. Most actors flounder when they come up against a poor script-Rog simply takes what he’s been given, adds himself to it and immediately makes it entertaining. I couldn’t name too many others that share the ability, not without mentioning the Evil Dead trilogy anyway.

It’s very quiet, but turn up the volume during the final moments and the following exchange becomes audible:

“Where’s the soap?”

“There it is.”

“Oh, I’ve dropped the soap.”

“I’ll get it.”

“That is not the soap.”

This all culminates with a final little chuckle from Rog, leading into the end credits, and that’s your lot. Our hero toddles off to a green leather armchair somewhere, Tanya Roberts limps her way into The Beastmaster and Christopher Walken continues his distinguished film career apace. Life’s like that sometimes.

A VIEW TO A KILL is desperately overlong. It has too many girls, too many sacrificial lambs, too many locations and crucially too many years since its lead was born. It’s the height of Bondian excess, in desperate need of an overhaul and streamlining, and thankfully this was just around the corner. Still, the old warhorse has its moments and I do still have a small soft spot for it somewhere in my heart. Somedays, when life’s just gotten too much for me, all it takes to cheer me up is to remember perhaps the most fantastically delivered line in Bond history. Take it away Chris.

“More. More power!”

And all I can say is more, more power to your elbow Chris. You’re a star.

The Cultural and Commercial Impact of A View To A Kill

Roger Moore`s last Bond film received the usual blitzkreig of merchandise and movie tie-ins around the world. Some of the sponsorship was obvious, some of it beneath the radar. The film`s longest lasting contribution to modern society may have been its impact on the resurgence of snow boarding.

In an article entitled HOT RESURGENCE, by Tom Conroy and Rob Sheffield for the August 20th, 1998 issue of ROLLING STONE, A VIEW TO A KILL is credited with the resurgence of snowboarding. Chris Ernst, founder of California`s Lord of the Boards series, concurred:

The troubles started around 1985, when the James Bond film A View to a Kill featured a Grecian Formula-slickened Roger Moore busting down the slopes on a single plank. Ever since, snowboarding has been jammed down our collective throat and has brought with it such scourges as tongue studs, tattoos, baggy parkas and any number of bad bands. Though no one asked, they`ve begun to rap.

Even musical artists have gotten in on the action. SHADZ of Lingo released the 1994 album A VIEW TO A KILL, while the punk/new wave band “Gob” did a thorougly forgetable 1997 remake of the title song.

The summer of 1985 had Duran Duran claiming the top spot of BILLBOARD`S Top 100 Singles. The song lasted three weeks at the #1 spot, and was the first time a James Bond song had reached #1 in the United States (though other songs came close). Duran Duran fever hit an all time high and James Bond was all the better for it.

Michelin Tires had their products tied into James Bond. Carefully note the brand of tire Bond sucks air from while underwater. Shots of The Michelin Man are also strategically placed in the scene where Tibbett gets the car washed. French car company Renault was giving away a Renault 11 Turbo along with 100 soundtrack cassettes for runners up.

Matchbox Cars released miniature versions of the Roll`s Royce Silver Cloud II as well as the Renault taxi. There was also an Action Pack put together that included a San Francisco Police Car and a Russian helicopter. The Action Pack was never released.

Lone Star Toys produced a gun and holster set to go along with the new movie. The set featured a cap shooting Walther PPK, and shoulder holster and strap. This set was never sold in America.

Chevron got in the act as well. When Bond “protests” Zorin`s oil pumping station, guess which kind of hat he wears? A Chevron Company hat. And when Stacey accidentally swings the fire engine ladder, with Bond on top, into a gas station, guess which gas station got demolished? Chevron.

A View To A Kill was also turned into a videogame for Angelsoft. It originally was published in the fall of 1985, for the IBM, Mac, and Apple IIc platforms and was developed by Bond novelist Raymond Benson.

By today`s standards of Bond cross promotion, A VIEW TO A KILL`s looks anemic. But it had its moment to shine and somewhere

Reviews To A Kill

In today’s Internet era, where everyone who has an opinion about something has a forum in which to share it, opinions on James Bond are a dime a dozen. But in 1985, we the little people, the regular movie going audience, had little choice but to read and accept the opinion of ego deficient cretins (otherwise known as professional film critics). They were the only game in town, they had a stranglehold on print and television media, and boy did they ever use it to throttle the latest James Bond epic: A VIEW TO A KILL! Condemnation of this film was nearly unanimous.

The most bizarre and out-of-left-field critique of the film came from Bond and Beyond: The Political Career of a Popular Hero , written by Tony Bennett and Janet Woolacott. Here, Ms. Woolacott’s strident feminist tendencies and anti-Bond sympathies come to light with this remark: May Day’s death, to put it bluntly, expresses the pious hope that both the women’s and black liberation movements might take themselves off somewhere into the California desert and blow themselves up.”

David Edelstein of The Village Voice took a less abrasive, but no less critical, view of the film: “After the virtuoso opening of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom-which featured Harrison Ford in a tuxedo, and which out-Bonded Bond-how can audiences accept these artless crack-ups and flaccid fisticuffs? Long, long ago, James Bond films had an edge. They were adventure stories told in elegant shorthand-all sleek, ironic, amoral thrills. When Roger Moore lumbered aboard in 1973, they went from the snazziest thrill machines to the flabbiest; they lost their silkiness, their irony and their zip. They went for cheap yucks suddenly-not just bad puns, but slapstick chases and Smokey and the Bandit stuff with sputtering sheriffs….A VIEW TO A KILL is pure tedium.”

Janet Maslin in The New York Times called the film “entirely forgettable” and “less than dynamic”. Janet even managed to get in a few cutting remarks about Roger Moore’s age: “The effort involved in keeping Roger Moore’s 007 impervious to age, changing times or sheer deja-vu seems overwhelming.”

Jack Kroll of Newsweek, May 27 1985. p. 74, said: In his seventh film as James Bond, Roger Moore seems tired out. A VIEW TO A KILL succumbs to all the cliches and conventions associated with its forerunners but lacks the spirit to compete. Hollywood Bond productions have come to sacrifice urbanity for exotic stunts and fast action. With the exception of an ingenious plot idea and the unconventional beauty Grace Jones as the Amazonian May Day, the film comes off as an insipid foil for a couple of brilliant stunt sequences. ….There are shots in A View to a Kill that make your heart go out to Roger Moore. In his seventh movie as James Bond, Rog is looking less like a chap with a license to kill than a gent with an application to retire. Moore is an extremely engaging fellow and an admirable professional, but when he turns on that famous quizzical smile, his facial muscles look as if they’re lifting weights.”

Jet Magazine, June 24 1985. p. 56-8 chose to focus much of its attention on the interracial aspect of the film: “Grace Jones, described as “bizarre, beautiful, masculine, and feminine,” steals the show in her second film, the latest James Bond feature, A VIEW TO A KILL. A former fashion model and disco artist, Jones plays Christopher Walken`s accomplice, May Day. The two plan to destroy Silicon Valley to gain control of the hightech industry. Bond`s mission is to stop them. May Day is a woman who commits murder and makes love with the same degree of passion. The stunning Jones, who designed many of her own costumes for the film, had the chance to display her skills as a kick boxer, as well as her skills as a seductress. Despite the film industry`s traditional caution in dealing with interracial intimacy, Jones transcends race in her passionate scenes with two white men.”

Ralph Novak of People Weekly, June 17 1985. p. 16 said: “James Bond just isn`t what he used to be. Roger Moore, who portrays 007 once again in this film, is fifty-seven. His face shows a few wrinkles and some of the bounce has vanished from his step. The movie`s script appears about as tired as Moore does. A lackluster opening sequence is borrowed almost wholesale from The Spy Who Loved Me, and the film`s main action scene doesn`t measure up to those from other Bond films. Singer Grace Jones turns in a good performance as a villain, but the movie`s other actors don`t help the film any. Tanya Roberts plays Bond`s love interest with a thick New York accent and struggles with any line over three words long. Christopher Walken is a tad too laid-back in his role as the main villain. Maybe it`s time for producer Albert Broccoli to find a young 007, Jr.”

Time, June 10 1985. p. 83 said: “A VIEW TO A KILL is the fourteenth James Bond film, the seventh starring Roger Moore. Written by Richard Maibaum and Michael G. Wilson and directed by John Glen, the story begins with a familiar ski chase. From there, the plot moves on to pit Bond against villain Christopher Walken who wants to blow up the San Andreas Fault, so Silicon Valley will be swallowed up and he can control the microchip market. Grace Jones plays Bond`s bizarre femme fatale in this stale film.”

Perhaps the most damaging criticism came from none other than Sean Connery himself: “Bond should be played by an actor 35, 33 years old. I’m too old. Roger’s too old, too!”

But audiences had the last laugh. Box office was solid if not spectacular and the grosses were hefty enough that Roger was still a contender for the role when pre-production began on THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS in late 1985. Had he wanted the role, he probably could have held on to it for an inconceivable 8th time, but wisely he chose to resign himself from the running in a letter to Cubby Broccoli in December, 1985.

On The Set: 24 Hours On A View To A Kill

Set on the southern anchorage of the Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco`s Vista Point is a perennial tourist spot, but Ned Kopp is not a tourist, and he was not enjoying the view. Kopp, whose company handled the San Francisco logistics for A View to a Kill, was alarmed; the equipment hadn`t arrived at the location. “Well, we`re on a tight schedule,” a considerably calmer Kopp explained later, “a little bit because of weather, and a little bit because of the number of people involved. We had all kinds of maps, schedules, plans – all colour coded, and the people we probably paid the least attention to were the US guys – particularly the locals, San Franciscans, because everybody knows where the Golden Gate Bridge is – I can`t imagine anyone who wouldn`t. “Now the Golden Gate has a south end and a north end, which probably most people know. By the dumbest accident, the equipment ended up on the wrong end. So here`s the whole crew – all the UK guys, everybody who should not know where to be – all in exactly the right place, and more than a small group was at the other parking lot on the north side.” Fortunately, the Golden Gate can be crossed in a matter of minutes, so after a brief scramble, the trucks were directed to the proper site.

In that time, Kopp wasn`t the only one having anxiety attacks: “During that short period of time, the fog was coming in, and the UK people were getting very, very concerned that they were in the wrong place.” Learning fast, he made the incident and object lesson: “That happened to us on the first day, and after that, everybody got maps – even if they said they lived on the Golden Gate Bridge.” For Kopp and Nancy Giebink, who together form the core of Ned Kopp & Co., that was the beginning of a punishing, 21-day, $5 million dollar shooting schedule that saw them working around the clock for the entire shoot. The schedule – including five days of shooting 24 hours a day, with as many as four units filming at the same time – provided ample proof of Murphy`s Law. In addition to signing checks, Kopp and company`s responsibilities lie in the area generally referred to as “below the line” (i.e., variable with time). These assignments include below the line producing and packaging (i.e. the gathering of production personnel, including technicians, location scouts and managers, unit coordinators, etc), plus production management – all invisible to the viewer, but indispensable to the producer and director.

Although A View to a Kill was their first Bond picture, Kopp and Giebink brought formidable credits with them, having recently worked on Shoot the Moon, The Right Stuff, and just having wrapped Birdy, on which Kopp was the associate producer. Speculating on his involvement, he felt the two Alan Parker films (Shoot the Moon and Birdy) may have tipped the scales in his favour since both Parker and Eon Productions (the Bond Production Company) are based at Pinewood Studios outside London. In the fall of 1983, a full year before the San Francisco shooting, Kopp and Giebink held their first meetings with the Bond company. Heavily involved in preparing Birdy – then only two months from the start of production – their schedules didn`t permit a great deal of contact with the UK visitors, leaving much of the location scouting to associates Rory Enke, and Steph Benseman. After a week of scouting, and additional meetings, the Bond team left the Bay Area without having made a firm decision, in part because, at that time, a finished script didn`t even exist. While some general story ideas had been agreed upon, the final screenplay would be tailored to the specific locations selected; as a result, the location scouting took on far greater importance than in most other productions. Many months later, it would have a tremendous effect on Kopp`s work.

Birdy kept them busy well into August, when they moved over to A View to a Kill. Meanwhile, location scouting for the Bond movie continued at various sites around the world, the script remaining changeable. Six months later, a major accident had a huge impact on the San Franciscans` efforts. On June 27 a disastrous fire swept through the Bond sound stage at Pinewood, fed by exploding gas cylinders that had been used to fuel some campfires on a large forest set for Ridley Scott`s Legend, the blaze leveled the structure. Even though the Bond company had not actually planned to use the stage, the repercussions for A View to a Kill were enormous. Because the labor force at Pinewood is a permanent fixture that isn`t normally expanded with freelancers, the workers who otherwise would have been available to the Bond movie were withheld for the completion of Legend. Along with the shortage of labor, the designers now found themselves also confronted with a shortage of stage space of the planning and building of sets, putting a further crimp into the schedule of a picture that still did not have a locked down script.

Just over a month later, with Birdy wrapped, Kopp flew to London for a week of meetings on the Bond picture. Based on the scripts he had been sent and conversations with the principals involved, he had a general idea of the schedule that would be required. “Originally, they were going to shoot in the US and London at the same time,” he said. “They would shoot their first unit in London and they would have a second unit shooting plates, establishing shots, and things here. That second unit would then shoot dialog here with Roger Moore, Tanya Roberts and a few other people, then the principals would go back and the second unit would complete the chase. “So they`d send one foreign crew here, we would then hire another crew – or two, as necessary – and that group would then do everything. “At that time, we were planning on normal days. Normal being maybe 12-hour shoot days with an hour to get there, and an hour to get away – roughly 14 hours. That would be a week or so of first unit and a couple of weeks of second unit – chase stuff. It was about 15 days, and then probably a week or so of plates, backgrounds, pass-bys, and establishing shots – nothing with people, just all pretty pictures of the Bay Area. “That would all start around the end of September and go for three to five weeks. As it turned out, we went three weeks, because we went around the clock.”

Arriving in London in the first week of August, Kopp visited the production in progress. “They were already shooting first unit on the stage at Pinewood, so they`d been building sets for that for about a month or so. They were also shooting in Paris and they were either finishing up or still shooting in Iceland. “As I understand it, they`d started shooting in Iceland before they even had a finished script, but they had to do it, because that was the time of year when the glacier was going to do this, and the snow was going to do that… a lot of things were going to happen that they had to get going on.” Although some script changes were still being made by this time, the story was – more or less – settled, but unlike most projects, Kopp found more information in the storyboards, since they contained the action sequences that would not be changed.

Reading the script and looking at drawings, he realized that his work would play a major part in shaping the picture itself. “When I first read the script it said “a cable car chase,”” he remembered. “Well, the only time you could clear a cable car run – that is, shooting on the tracks – would be once the cable cars closed down. “You wouldn`t have a prayer of going to Muni (S.F. public transit) and saying, “Hi, we want to shoot on a Saturday afternoon, at the height of the tourist season, and we`ll just shut down your cable cars, and we`re going to control them for two or three days.” “But you do have a chance if you go to them and say, “We would like to do a cable car chase. It feels like it`s prestigious for San Francisco, and it`s going to show the cable cars in their best light. It`s going to show San Francisco in a very positive way, and we shoot it after you close down at night, from 12:30-1am to 4:30-5am, in the timespan of four or five hours, and instead of shooting it all in a day or two, we shoot it over three or four nights, do you see any problems with that?” Well, then the resistance is far less than even suggesting shooting it during the day.” Because of the logistics involved, Kopp made it clear that the stunt work – the bulk of the San Francisco shooting – would have to be filmed at night. This then had a “trickle down” effect that limited where the shooting could take place. “At one time – I wasn`t involved in it – Remy Julienne, the French stunt coordinator; Arthur Wooster, the second unit director; and Peter Lamont, the designer, came to San Francisco – on their own – and scouted, and they found places that they really loved for doing the chase. They found Broadway Hill, Divisadero, Filbert – all in Pacific Heights, where the Bullitt chase happened.” In addition to being one of the hilliest areas in San Francisco, Pacific Heights is one of the wealthiest and most established, with wide avenues and stately mansions. “When I went to Paris, and Remy showed me the photos of where they talked about a chase, I said, “well, you won`t have a prayer. We couldn`t possibly use that area. I think we could get you some pass-bys. I think you could get the fire engine coming down some of the hills and some police cars following it, but we`re not going to be able to block that off and tie up the area crashing cars.” “Then they asked when and what we could do, and I said, “we can control this at night, and do that at night…” which immediately ruled out Pacific Heights, because you can`t control it during the day, plus it`s residential, and you can`t be there after ten at night. If you got a waiver of any kind, then you could maybe be there to 10:30 or 11 o`clock – but then you`re dead. The police department stays pretty tight to that curfew – you can`t be in those neighbourhoods before seven in the morning. So as we saw what they said they wanted to do, we then tried to direct them toward the times of day and areas we felt we could clear.”

As scripted, the fire engine-led car chase began near city hall, further supporting the argument for night shooting. “You can never close Market Street (the main thoroughfare through downtown San Francisco),” Kopp explained. “City policy is you can never block streets. But if you go there at 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 o`clock in the morning, the buses are no longer running like they were – there`s one every half-hour or 45 minutes; the taxi-cabs are not busy. There`s much less traffic. “Downtown San Francisco is not a residential area, so if you stay away from the hotels then you can pretty well smash and crash and bang cars all night long and never interfere with the police or the fire department or whatever,” Kopp says. By the middle of September, matters had become so impacted that 24-hour shooting was the only solution. Still feeling the consequences of the fire, the production was forced into shuttling between the stages in London and various international locations just to keep shooting. “They went from Paris to Chantilly,” Kopp explained. “They then went back to London for two weeks, and then they came to the us. While they were in London, they had to shoot those particular sets – and finish with them, so that they could take them down. Then, during the San Francisco shooting, they`d build more sets.”

What made the marathon approach acceptable was that it had little impact on the budget. “These were always separate units,” Kopp said. “Now whether the separate units were in a line, or whether they all happened to be at the same time, 24 hours, didn`t really affect the numbers an awful lot. The day crews shooting the plates were going to cost so much, and the fact that we had a day crew shooting dialog at the same time we had a day crew shooting plates, at the same time we had a night crew shooting chase… all of those were budgeted by themselves, so it really didn`t change the cost.” What it did change, though, was the entire preparation for the movie. “What we did that first week is in effect, three different movies. It would be like you were prepping for three separate, complete, totally different operations. Three different crews, three different packages of equipment, three different cameras – each unit had two or three cameras in their unit, so we had nine to twelve cameras with VistaVision and separate odd pieces of equipment.” But while the budget may not have been affected, the production office, which had been set up in whirlwind fashion in early August, was. (In fact, the Bond office went up in less than two days. Kopp returned from London on a Saturday, joined Giebink and their staff in closing Birdy`s San Jose office on Sunday, and Monday morning they were already answering the Bond phone calls in San Francisco.)

Shooting around the clock meant the production office had to follow suit, as Giebink explained: “To keep the office open 24 hours a day, there were three production coordinators, and one of them would come in at 6 am, and work say, 6-6; the next one would come in around noon – it varied, 10 to noon, and then work `til 10 PM or midnight; and then the night shift would come in around 6 PM and go `til 6 am so that provided office coverage with the most people there during the late day, which is when most of the activity was going on.” Having begun compiling the shooting schedule from the multi-colored screenplay and the storyboards, an even more complete picture began to emerge after they received an early schedule from Waye. This too presented new challenges, for not only was it in a format neither Kopp or Giebink had ever worked with before it also covered the whole movie. “We spent quite a bit of time going through their schedule just trying to pull out of it what pieces were going to be shot over here, because it was for the entire picture,” Giebink related. “So that was a little confused, but eventually we took all the information and started stripping it out, and the way we boarded it was to take the three basic units and keep them on separate schedules.”

Although the Bond movies are noted for their gadgetry, the making of the San Francisco schedule was accomplished in the same manner that has been the backbone of production scheduling for decades: carefully transferring the information – by hand – to thin, colored strips of cardboard and then arranging them on large production boards. But even with the London schedule and the script in hand, Giebink found the storyboards far more useful. “Although we all read the script diligently,” she said, “in the end, all the shooting was based on the `boards. The first unit stuff was based on the script, because very little of that was `boarded out. But the second unit, the aerial unit, and the Golden Gate Bridge unit were all based on the storyboards, and so instead of numbering to the script, like we`d normally do, we numbered everything to the `boards. “Most heads of departments had sets of storyboards, and in a lot of ways it`s really very easy, because you make copies of them and do one frame per page, and you cross them off as you do them, instead of marking the script and keeping track of it that way. It`s almost like shooting a commercial. “Now for the second unit – and the third, aerial and plates – the directors of both of those had very specific shot lists as well. So first the “boards, and that`s how we did all the breakdown and the scheduling, and then the shot lists, which were even more detailed than the storyboards.” No matter how careful the preparation, though, reality has a way of ruining even the very best planning, and given the first unit`s dramatically shortened availability, complications increased. Having a rough idea of the shooting schedule since spring, Kopp now began the laborious task of finalizing dates and locations. “So it`s now the first week or two in September,” he related, “and you go to City Hall, and you start trying to make your arrangements. They are as accommodating as possible, but as careful as possible. And they say, “Okay, you can use City Hall,” then they go and look at their calender, and you find out that the ninth, which is Tuesday, they have a reception in the rotunda for six or eight hundred people, and you`ve got it scheduled for Monday and Tuesday. “”You cannot use City Hall on Tuesday, the ninth.” “”But Mr Moore is only going to be in California for eight days…” “Not only that, the crew is only going to be here for a certain amount of time, and you`ve got that schedule pretty absolute on that Monday and Tuesday, and they say you can`t shoot there on Tuesday. So now you have to move things around. We ended up shooting there on Monday and Wednesday. “Now it also got involved because another location said that we could only shoot there on Sunday – that was the mine over in Marin. Another location said we could only shoot there on Saturday – that was the interior of City Hall. So that took care of those days. Then the only day we could shoot at Japantown was on a Friday, so we really didn`t have a lot of choices as to how we could flop things around on the schedule.”

Even while Kopp stood waiting for the equipment at the south end of the Golden Gate Bridge things were still changing. “The jetty in Richmond was supposed to be later,” Giebink remembered, “but a ship was due to come in, so we had to flop the whole schedule. I think we flopped it the night before we were going to shoot it. That was supposed to be on Wednesday, but we couldn`t have it Wednesday, so we brought it up to Monday, and then moved everything else. It just sort of dominoed back from there.” Shooting with a firm schedule – without room for contingencies – is the cinematic equivalent of working without a net, and it was the cause for more than a small amount of stress. “We could only be at certain places on certain days,” Kopp said. “Had we missed on some of those, had we had a camera malfunction, or an actor`s problem, or something, some of those locations we could not go back to until maybe a week later – which Roger Moore and the first unit couldn`t do. For instance, if we hadn`t finished at the mine on that Sunday, we couldn`t have been back on Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday; we`d have had to wait another whole week. “Now that would mean we`d have had to keep all those people here with nothing for them to do for a week, so we had to hire enough crew to make sure we finished. This caused tremendous pressure on John Glen, the director.”

A reflection of how frantic the pace became after shooting began was reflected in the UK crew`s timetable. Arriving from London on a Saturday, their second unit was shooting on Sunday. After a day`s rest, the first unit also began shooting, and Kopp and Giebink now found themselves not only dividing their time between the production office and the locations, but among the crews as well. In general, Kopp stayed with the first unit, while Giebink remained with the third unit (aerials), which was shooting at the same time. With the start of night stuntwork on the third day, the schedule became a full, twenty-four hour circus. After monitoring all the daylight filming, Kopp and Giebink would then make their way out to the second unit, shooting the chase that night. Giebink described their work schedule: “There would sometimes be a period of time from 2 to 4 in the morning when neither Ned nor I were in the office, because maybe one of us was taking a nap, and the other was on the set. Ideally, both of us would be around, because different problems come up, and one set of problems needs him and another set of problems needs me. So there was a period when we were only getting two or three hours of sleep in twenty-four.” Keeping to the frantic schedule, the first unit and cast left San Francisco on a Tuesday afternoon and began shooting on the Pinewood stages the following Monday. Meanwhile, the second unit, which was shooting all the chase footage, was still in the US, facing 12 more nights of San Francisco filming. Still to be shot were the remainder of the City Hall fire, Bond (now a stunt double) hanging from a fire engine ladder and swinging through traffic, the engine being chased among the cable cars, and Bond`s escape by jumping the engine across a drawbridge. “We couldn`t go onto California Street with the cable cars until 1 am,” Giebink explained. “So on those nights, we had to shoot other things, and then do the move. We tried hard to get onto California lots earlier than 1 am but in the end, the schedules couldn`t be changed.

“We had a scheme,” she laughed, “where we were going to hire motorized cable cars and have them run Sacramento Street for the general public, and we could have California street, but the authorities didn`t think that was such a good idea. “That was probably the biggest scheduling restriction: how to get to and from California Street, because you didn`t want to be on the far side of two the night you had to make that move. So we shot around China Basin (about a mile and a half away), and then moved to the cable cars. We did that four nights. It`s a tough move, because you lose – you really lose – a couple of hours.” In other situations, those few hours might not have mattered, but once again; the production was racing the clock. “We could only shoot the cable cars from one in the morning to five in the morning – four hours,” Kopp said. “So that meant we had to find something to shoot at the beginning of the night, for four hours, make our move, somewhere in between there eat, shoot for four hours, and then get off the street before morning traffic started. So we shot other places in town the first part of the night. For instance, we shot up on Potero Hill a little bit – just some pass-bys, and some vistas of the bridge in the background and the fire truck going by, but those are residentials, and you can only be in those areas until ten o`clock at night. So we`d shoot those the first part of the night, then we`d shoot the cable cars. “The choice ended up being: did I want one crew to work an awful lot of overtime, or did I want a couple of crews to work pretty much straight time, and we ended up somewhere in the middle of that split. I had a crew coming in early and going home early, and a crew coming in later and going home late. We had to do that for four nights. The crew saved us; they were fantastic. “Now, not only does that involve personnel, but we had to find additional equipment: lighting, cranes, and cherry pickers. All the same cameras worked and some of the same lights; the same generators worked, because you just unplug them, drag them to the next place and plug them in again. But the lights are way up there on cranes and on roofs. People let us leave lights out on balconies, on fire escapes, and on rooftops, without much concern.”

While all the shooting was being done at night, Kopp and Giebink`s work hours were not significantly reduced. “Even when it was just down to the second unit, shooting nights, we wound up doing the same thing in hours, because a lot of the problems will happen at night, but all their solutions happen in the daytime, during business hours.” Giebink said. “It`s tough to do all your business at 2 o`clock in the morning, so you`ve got to be up during the daytime. “But I don`t think physically you could do that schedule for more than the time we did it. Three or four weeks… it`s pretty tough on you physically.” Kopp agreed, and said that the keys to surviving the ordeal were keeping the wrap date in sight, and having the right people. “I think it`s fairly easy if you can see the end, if it`s going to stop in a week,” he said. “I think it`d be tougher if you think you might have to do that for three or four months, then I`m sure there would be a stress point, or give-up point, or a point where you couldn`t muddle through a plan. “When you have a group of people, you have to be able to yell at those people and have them yell back. And if they – or you – get too nervous because someone`s yelling, you`ve got the wrong group of people. Your success or failure is with each other.” After shooting 21 days and spending $5 million dollars, the production wrapped. While openly admitting that luck played a factor in his company`s success, Kopp was justifiably proud of the job his group had done, and he summed everything up in seven magic words: “We finished on time, and on budget.” Russell Ito is a free lance writer based in San Mateo, California. His other skills include production stills photography.

24Hours On A View To A Kill was reproduced with the expressed written permission of American Cinematographer Magazine. Any further reproduction, transmission or duplication without the consent of American Cinematographer is strictly prohibited. For more information on American Cinematographer, visit their website at:

In Defense of A View To A Kill (Part 3 of 3)

There`s too much extraneous dialogue in the film`s second half telling us what we don`t need to know, already know, or can see with our own eyes. Does Bond need to tell Pola Ivanova, “Let`s get out of here”? Did Zorin and May Day have to say “out” and “back” to their helpers after stranding Bond and Sutton in the elevator? What would have been lost had it been omitted? The Golden Gate set-piece though brilliant, is probably the worst example, and gets a paragraph to itself later on.

The elevator sequence is hazy and Sutton`s screams are annoying. (I half expected Bond to tell her to shut up.) Yet, Bond climbing down the ladder is a crowd-pleasing moment and possibly the film`s first hint of any real tension precisely because it`s deliberate and drawn-out. John Barry`s music bears just the right mixture of tension and pride. The onlookers clapping are an unusually American touch.

Outside City Hall, the cop asks, “We found this gun. This yours?” “Yes, thanks.” Bond reaches for it, but the Captain pulls it away. Bond is surprised – he looks up – and the Captain says, “Turn around.” Moore is sincere; he doesn`t play it for laughs and actually appears concerned, especially after learning that Chuck Lee is dead. The timing of Bond reaching for the gun and being turned around is perfect, which is why it`s funny; I laughed watching it again to just write this article. The “Wait a minute. This is James Stock of the London Financial Times” “Well actually, Captain, I`m with the British Secret Service. The name is Bond, James Bond.” “Is he?” “Are you?” “Yes,” with just the right pause on Moore`s part is perfect, “And I`m Dick Tracy and you`re still under arrest.” “Is it true what he said back there, about the British Secret Service?” “Yes. I`m afraid it is.” A satirical jab at the British Secret Service. Mocking humour and easy to miss.

The fire truck chase is brilliant, operatic – one of the great Bond set-pieces – all those swirling, intoxicating reds, blues and whites, the light bouncing off everything and that beautiful shot of the smashed Chevron sign and all those loving close-ups. Though I`ve criticized some of John Barry`s cues in the film, the moment the music is introduced at the right moment and it`s exhilarating watching and hearing everything come together – quite literally. The swirling action theme perfectly matches the sequence, which wouldn`t have been as good without it. (The filmmakers were right not to use any at first – it gives the sequence room to develop.)

Like all the great Bond set pieces it keeps developing; the two-cop cars slam into each other, their fenders now locked, and when separated, one of them slams into the fire truck, knocking Bond and the ladder free. Knocking the top off the trailer, revealing the two lovebirds adds to our giddiness, since sex and the action sequences have the same exhilarating, tingling sense of discovery. The sequence gives us the giddy high we expect from Bond films. Bond climbing about on the ladder is fluid, though it`s a world apart from Sean Connery`s Bond, and I can partially see why some have qualms about the sequence without really understanding why they don`t like it. (Bond moaning as the ladder swings around is Bond by way of Woody Allen.)

Comic relief is an important part of any Bond film, and the release of tension as the cars comes skidding down the bridge is clever; notice how the bridge watchman closes his eyes as though the cop car is about to come down on top of him.

The last half-hour of the film is a problem. The film has already gone on too long and feels bloated. The underground mine scenes are haggard, although they play well enough on their own (they`re no worse than the crummy The World Is Not Enough, though that film does have Pierce Brosnan). I`m not sure why, but Moore is especially creaky in the mine scenes – perhaps because it`s a dark, tight enclosure? He doesn`t move particularly well or comfortably – we need a languid Bond, which Moore isn`t. He looks awkward in the mine clothes and Stacey`s footwear is awful (couldn`t she have found sneakers?); so are the designer clothes May Day`s assistants wear DOWN IN THE MINES. Sloppiness of this sort encouraged people to hate the film. Camp has its limits. May Day sees Jenny`s floating dead body and cries out to her; it doesn`t ring true. It`s also sometimes best to trust your actors and not write lines like “Get on, damn it!” It`s over emotive. Simply having her scream “Get on!” is good enough. May Day`s “Booby-trapped” line is badly delivered, and plays like a parody of blacks in old movies.

There are virtues. There`s a beautiful shot of the bomb, like an egg against the sacks, after the clock has ticked down to 1194 (though of course Glen clips it). When May Day lowers Bond into the pit to get the ticking bomb, there`s a beautiful raging, muted fire in the background, like something out of Dante`s Inferno, so enticing. It`s easy to overlook, but positioned just right. When Conley protests, “But May Day and my men!” Zorin replies, “Yeah, a convenient coincidence” – Walken`s line reading and his mannerisms are perfect. Notice also how Scarpine lowers his head as he walks into the shot and hovers around them, ready to knock Conley out, his head down, pretending not to notice. After Zorin turns the bomb switch, his head shakes, anticipating the blast. Zorin machine-guns his own men, impassive at first, then in close-up he`s laughing, and it`s cross-cut with the mine office collapsing, his men being shot in close-up, their jackets bearing red bullet holes, and it`s effective. Scarpine firing the last bullets is like the gag in movies that has the henchman echoing his master`s threats for greater emphasis. In a marvel of timing, Zorin pauses, walks about, looks at his watch, nods his head and says “Good, right on schedule,” and doesn`t give the mass carnage another thought. The way Zorin says “exactly” and embraces Mortner in the dirigible is another small moment that gets lost in the film.

A shot of water rushing through the mines towards the viewer then cut to Bond and May Day, no longer fighting. The shaking tumbles them down into the water. Freeze-frame the shot, if you can, on Bond and May Day`s astonished faces, her mouth open. The shot should have been great but Glen (and his editors) clip it too fast and it`s badly framed. When Bond yells at Stacey in the mines, “Keep going!” May Day`s hateful look would have been better had Glen done a tight close up on her face. Too often Glen`s framing is haggard and imprecise; he primarily used short focal-length lenses and they lack the crispness and immediacy that telephoto lenses offer. (At City Hall, Bond says, “Why don`t you enlighten me… Zorin.” If you look closely Moore`s eye open wide, he`s being sarcastic, but it`s clipped, and it should have been a tight close-up.)

Criticisms that May Day shouldn`t have joined Bond`s side don`t stand up either. Whatever the acting or writing in this scene (“I thought that creep loved me” thuds badly), the decision is logical and inevitable. Oddjob had no reason to switch sides and so therefore didn`t – I`m not even sure he would have even been capable of thinking about it. This is what good writing is about. (Though I`m wary about using that trendy catch phrase.) How would people act under such circumstances? She`s been betrayed, so it`s inevitable that she`d change sides. (I`m not so sure about blowing herself up.) Having gone to bed with Bond lays the groundwork, no pun intended. She`s slept with him – been “intimate” with him, though I`m not sure that`s the right word. These points would register better in a tighter, less overloaded film. Seeing her mourn Jenny explains her motive. Audiences aren`t stupid, well, maybe James Bond audiences are, but for general purposes, most intelligent people will get the point, understand her sudden change without sledge hammering it home. (In a similar vein, compare Bond`s monotonous one-note retaliation in Licence To Kill with Connery`s subdued, matter-of-fact approach in the Diamonds Are Forever pre-credit sequence, which is more believable and artistically superior.) Her final moments are tense, John Barry`s music is appropriate, and her energetic wave, “Get Zorin for is just right.

Her impassive enigmatic expression when she looks up at Zorin in his dirigible just before she blows up is another shot worth freeze-framing. What is her character thinking?

Much has been said against the film and Stacey Sutton that she couldn`t hear or realize that there was a dirigible behind her when she ran across the field to Bond. Apart from how beautifully poetic the scene is – let`s not mince words – fools often use this to prove how bad A View To A Kill is. Given the earth-shattering explosion that just occurred, she`d be hard-pressed to hear her own voice. Any explosion strong enough to knock her off her feet is loud enough to impair her hearing. An ear doctor I spoke to confirmed that under those circumstances her ears would be ringing the Bells of St Mary`s -, which is one up for me. Even if she could hear the dirigible, she`s doing what you`d expect: she`s running away from it. Moreover Stacey DID SEE THE BLIMP. Back your tape up; it occurs in between crosscutting to May Day pulling Bond up from the mineshaft with the ticking bomb.

Play the entire sequence with the volume off and soak in the glorious detail and editing, the horrified facial expressions, the care and sensitivity to detail, which is what cinema should be and what the Bond films are at their best. The entire sequence is great cinema and has the same power and ingenuity as the early 1920`s German expressionist silent films and should be taught in film schools as an example of great mise en scene and editing. Even Walken`s laughs, which are unnecessary and sledgehammer the point home, play well with the volume off (further proving that the sequence was conceived like silent cinema).

The tight shot of her raptured face, cut to her running to Bond, and Barry`s bittersweet music, is a moving human moment. Walken quickly unstrapping himself, staring at Stacey, his mind on one thing only – his eyes don`t blink and notice the hatred in them. Bond`s eyes open wide in panic, he`s running harder, faster, and he`s more tense and life-like than Connery`s Bond. It develops a painful urgency like an unfolding tragedy involving real people. Bond chasing after the blimp, John Barry`s music pushing forward to something momentous, possibly even tragic. It`s intensely operatic, and it`s in these moments that the film develops great weight and power. It`s a treat to watch Moore`s facial expressions in slow motion or even on freeze-frame. In fact, Moore is excellent at showing compassion, fear and anger; Connery would and could look bored, and had little in way of facial expressions.

Part of this sequence`s brilliance is the surfeit of clever directorial touches. Bond grabs onto the mooring rope, but it`s not until the shot of the dirigible coming over the trees like an ominous figure (will it make it over?) that we see Bond hanging on.

The beautiful, establishing shot of Golden Gate bridge is fairly quiet except for background city sounds. It`s a fine example of when not to use music and it`s great preparation for what follows. Zorin laughing, Scarpine concerned, the traffic below, the cap falling off, the cop`s head down, all of this is excellent. The filmmakers are clearly in charge of their material.

The shot of the police officer`s car getting rear-ended, his cap falling off, while Bond flies through the skies is a great human touch. It`s like a symphony in which an earlier, humorous flourish is brought back in support of the finale while contrasting it. It`s the film`s way of saying these are real people: they have lives, they`ll still exist even after the movie has finished, and you never know who you`ll run into – the Bond films should do this more often, though there`s a danger of overdoing unless it`s done subtly.

Much of this sequence should be studied in freeze-frame or slow motion. Study Walken`s excellent facial expressions looking down at Bond dangling onto the mooring rope, as they approach the bridge. “This will hurt him more than me” is great, though his laugh is unnecessary. The lighthearted comment is sufficient. Zorin`s hand flourish just before Bond bangs into the bridge is a great touch; Walken “plays it against the grain”.

The sequence builds inexorably to its powerful climax and has the same intensity that slow motion sequences do in Brian de Palma`s films. The filmmakers are completely in charge of their material, sitting back and toying with us (unlike what`s gone before). They`ve settled down and realize they`re onto something solemn and momentous.

The quiet after the dirigible gets entangled in the bridge is an effective calm before the storm. And like the fight in Stacey`s house, the intro to John Barry`s action theme is exhilarating – the tight close-up on Mortner trying to get out of his seatthen struggling with his seatbelt is excellent – but the main theme is inappropriate and overdone. Imagine how much more powerful the scene would have been without music (it also added a tick-tock regularity to the cargo bay fight, in the next Bond film The Living Daylights, making that sequence tedious). However, the sight of Bond carried through the skies on the mooring rope is one of the moments when John Barry`s score has great feeling and becomes suitably momentous.

There are flaws. Roberts` “James, Jameses” are bad. When she sees Bond across the plain, understandably her character is glad to see him, and it`s realistic enough – but they should have been cut. Zorin doesn`t need to say, “Only seconds away” in the dirigible. WE KNOW! Zorin doesn`t have to say “May Day” when she comes out on the cart with the bomb. We can see it with our own eyes. Bond`s instructions toStacey are also the only real fault in the Golden Gate Bridge set piece: e.g. “Get a foothold”, “Don`t move”, “Are you alright?”. She`s not going anywhere, doesn`t need to be told anything, and her final “James!” with Mortner on the warpath, is dreadful. I assume these lines actually appeared in the script, and were meant to flesh out the scene, but they only mar what could have been perfection. Little things like this do make a difference. Bond`s first line should have been “Stacey! Jump!” and his second, the quip about not finding a cab when you really need one.

However, I sat there on opening night, my back pressed tight in my seat horrified by the height. (Those who talk about the lousy rear-projection conveniently gloss over the even worse rear-projection in the OHMSS ski chase.) There`s much beautiful editing: Stacey leaps, cut to a shot of Bond and Stacey tumbling, cut to her going over the ledge, cut to Bond holding her hand. This resembles editing experiments in early silent and Russian films; it`s what film editing is supposed to be; Eisenstein would have been proud. There are also wonderful human touches. When Walken begins slipping on the pole, trying to get a better grip, barely hanging on, you feel yourself in his position, your own hands slipping against the metal. He smiles, like it`s alright and everything will be okay if he can just get a better grip, but then the sudden realization that it`s not okay and won`t be. Roberts` nervous laughter after Bond`s quip rings true. It`s the surprise people show after something traumatic – they have to laugh because they`re wired.

So why isn`t the film appreciated? (To which I can hear the less bright say, “Because it`s no good?”)

It`s too much of a good thing. The film has enough ideas and action for at least two films. There`s too much ingenuity and it`s exhausting – less can sometimes be more. It`s enthusiastic to a fault. The film has many brilliant sequences – broken up into twenty minute sequences it`s wonderful. It`s more a film to admire than actually enjoy, and it`s easier to take in short twenty-minute segments.

The night I typedthis, TBS ran Octopussy and the differences are instructive. Octopussy is calmer, more relaxed and orderly which explains why it was more popular. AVTAK is strident and overpowering. It has the feel of a film where the people who worked on it enjoyed themselves so much that it communicated itself onto the film.

Time will tell whether AVTAK gets the respect it deserves.

It`s an uphill battle. One obnoxious person said, “It seems to me I have every right to say to whomever, (and I would say it to their face), that if someone prefers “A View to A Kill” as a James Bond movie over “From Russia With Love”, then they know NOTHING of the world of James Bond.” (I`d argue that anybody who thinks Tom Mankiewicz directed Bond films knows nothing about the world of James Bond.)

I remember somebody who smoked ersatz American cigars telling me that when he finally got to smoke the real thing – Cuban cigars – he was disappointed. He had gotten so used to the imitation that the real thing did nothing for him. Something similar is at work here. The brand of seriousness Timothy Dalton`s Bond represents is the ham-fisted variety that the one-dimensional can digest. True seriousness, a Saul Bellow or a Patrick White novel (which in fact are quite light and not at all “serious”) are beyond them. They misguidedly believe that serious means quality, and that lightness or flippancy means a lack thereof. This is a middlebrow conceit. Perhaps because Bond is fluff, they overcompensate in the opposite direction and try to be overly-serious (one pretentious 007 website has cornered the market on people quoting Shakespeare – pretending that we don`t realize that of course they had to look it up – or invoking his name to sound more intelligent.) This must be avoided. Notice the smugness about those who prefer Timothy Dalton as Bond – and yes, they are smug – because he`s serious, which somehow means they`re more serious. Well, no. It doesn`t work that way. Then consider those who pat themselves on the back for preferring Timothy Dalton, would have us believe that Raymond Benson writes well or that Robert Ludlum is a serious writer. Water rises to its own level.

Whether people enjoy a film, or a book, depends on the work being cohesive, on all the pieces fitting together. If the pieces don`t fit together because viewers can`t see or appreciate them, or the pieces are too subtle, or even because the film is flawed or too rich, then it won`t work for them. This isn`t a problem with simple flat films like Dr No, From Russia With Love or The Living Daylights, which admittedly do have the hard edge that AVTAK lacks. I think something similar is a factor with the dreadful TWINE, which is sloppy and crude, and partly explains the acquaintance who turned back to ersatz American cigars.

As for AVTAK, only time will tell.

In Defense of A View To A Kill (Part 2 of 3)

The French estate scenes, especially the chateau-garden reception, are wonderful and the film suddenly becomes an intelligently satirical French comedy, which admittedly amplifies the film`s light-hearted, non-suspenseful feel. Much of the film`s first half has a delightful, light, sparkling, bubbly quality – which was bound to annoy Bond groupies and did. I can see why this wouldn`t necessarily be popular, since Bond types aren`t exactly known for attending Francois Truffaut film festivals. Bond meets Enchanted April. I criticize the film`s pell-mell pacing and editing, but here it`s perfect and measured.

The chateau-gardens reception is a delightful set-piece – among the series` best non-action sequences – it flows beautifully and is near perfect, marred only by a You Only Live Twice gadget pulled out of nowhere that increasingly reminds me of Leslie Nielsen`s film spoofs. Though seemingly light, the upper class lifestyle`s decadence is readily apparent. Moore often delivered stiff line-readings, but here he`s fluid and you sense he enjoyed himself; the dialogue is casual and life-like. Bond talks about his dotty old aunt, and it could very well have been improvised. The beautiful shot of Bond and Stacey on the bridge, with rowboats in the distance, is beautifully framed and it could have inspired any number of 19th century French painters; I suspect such points go unnoticed when “fans”, a term I use reluctantly, dismiss the even greater Bond film Tomorrow Never Dies as wall-to-wall action for the MTV set with no character scenes or depth – an absolute lie – or praise the crummy, graceless The World Is Not Enough which was badly photographed though I seem to have been the only person who noticed.

The exposition between Bond and Conley is perfectly handled and written. Plot details, such as the cheque and “Main Strike all set?” are nicely set up. There are other nice details: Walken`s seemingly jokey persona as he accompanies Stacey, while Bond and Tibbett watch from their balcony (John Barry`s music cue is nice, but it`s never heard again and doesn`t appear on the soundtrack). Moore`s hesitant, ingratiating smile after Mortner catches him coming out of the building. Bond snapping pictures has an edge to it and is subtle. Conley yelling, “Hi ya doc!” and Mortner`s cautious, formal reaction tells us exactly what the two think about each other without it being spelled out. And Mortner tripping over Bond`s cover name is just right for it to ring true.

When Mortner explains, “My principles apply equally to human beings” this isn`t a performance, it`s a real person, quietly proud. Walken deadpans about the “16th century duke who thought he`d be reincarnated as a horse” and it rolls off his tongue like he`s delivered that same speech before. The camera pans with Stacey, which is skilful direction, though when it cuts back to Moore, he`s looking too far over. Only his eyes should have flicked back. We`d have gotten the point. (You half-wonder why Zorin doesn`t look over his own shoulder to see what distracted Bond).

However Christopher Walken`s performance is uneven, and he`s too subdued. He`s not right for the film, which needed a boisterous actor. (Imagine if Jeroen Krabbe from The Living Daylights had played Zorin.) It`s been said that Walken`s performance would have worked better had Timothy Dalton played Bond in this film – a fair and valid argument: Dalton overacting, Walken underacting. Those who`ve seen Walken in the great film The Dogs Of War from Frederick Forsyth`s novel realize Walken`s talent is very much introspective, which isn`t completely at home in a Bond film. He has some great moments but they get lost in the melee – he needed a quieter film for his performance to completely work. When they can`t find Bond in his bedroom, he tells May Day “We must find him,” and he sounds like Peter Lorre. In a marvel of timing, after he machine-guns his men, he pauses, walks about, looks at his watch, and says “Good, right on schedule.”

He also has a wonderfully sleazy quality. He eyes Bond and runs his tongue around his lower teeth, while Bond goes on about “his dotty old aunt.” Zorin is like the kid from the Bronx made good who still eats with his mouth open. He tells Bond, “I`m neglecting my other guests, enjoy yourself, you`ll find the young ladies stimulating company”, and it`s a wonderful brush-off.

Walken is at his worst when he tries getting into the comic-book spirit of things. After the fixed horse race, he smugly brays, “You amuse me, Mr. Bond,” and it`s ungainly. His scene with General Gogol is awkward and almost embarrassing as though he doesn`t want to be in the film. His performance becomes unsteady, and he plays the scene broadly. His tendency to laugh is a mistake – when all he has to do is smile. During the Golden Gate Bridge lead-up he says, “This will hurt him more than me.” A nice touch, but the laugh is unnecessary. We get the point. His wonderfully wide insincere grin, when he says, “I`m happiest in the saddle” is great, but it`s marred by the laugh.

I discuss Tanya Roberts` performance in detail elsewhere, but occasionally when she seems weak, the fault lay elsewhere. The chateau-bridge scene is especially awkward, not because of Moore or Roberts, but because they seem to be performing in step with the Vivaldi music (Sutton`s archness works when you filter it through that prancing Vivaldi tune). John Barry`s music is incongruous and sledgehammers the point home – except for the cutaway to Walken and Jones, where the music has real feeling. Walken turns wonderfully sleazy, and it`s possibly his strongest moment. Zorin sees Bond chatting Stacey up on the chateau bridge; he takes May Day aside, by the arm, out of earshot, with Scarpine looking on: “Get her away from him.” The venom drips from each word – it`s from the heart. The rejection is real, which is probably why it`s such a strong moment and has always affected me. It`s a human moment. (At its best, despite it`s outre trappings, AVTAK has many human touches.)

AVTAK is often compared unfavourably to The Living Daylights. Vivaldi`s Four Seasons – which I don`t really care for – is sparkling and crisp. That deadweight The Living Daylights features the first movement from Mozart`s 40th Symphony (g minor), one of the great symphonic movements, and it dies on the screen. (It`s the orchestra scene immediately after the credits, before Koskov`s defection. Somehow I suspect most people won`t know this unless I mention it.)

Sharp satirical gags appear throughout: Bond, pointing to what he thinks are the stables, says to Scarpine: “Is that it?” “No, those are the servant`s quarters.” Moore`s rapid-fire delivery is excellent acting: “Oh there you are Tibbett, I wish you wouldn`t keep wandering off, there`s a good chap.” “I`m sorry, sir.” Scarpine: “Your driver may stay the night in the servant`s quarters.” “I`m sure that will be more than adequate for him. (turning) What do you say Tibbett?” Look closely at Moore`s throwaway gesture with his hand, his backwards glance at Scarpine, and his raised eyebrows. Moore`s handling of this material dispels a) that he was a bad actor, and b) that Timothy Dalton was better. Dalton would have killed the scene, unable to mimic Moore`s perfect rapid-fire delivery. (Imagine the scene being rehearsed and pretend you`re Moore given the scene to read and deciding how to play it.) Moore, in fact, gives one of his best performances; notice his sidelong grin when he says, “When you`re ready, Tibbett.” His eyes are perfect. Zorin`s computer says Bond is “EXTREMELY DANGEROUS”, an interesting perspective of Bond from the villain`s point of view, especially given Bond`s peculiar grin in the computer photo. (Earlier during M`s briefing scene, Q complains “If you ever bothered to read any memos” shaking his head as though answering for Bond. M`s straight-faced remark “You have exactly 35 minutes to get properly dressed,” and Bond`s reaction, like many other comic moments throughout the film, is played straight.)

The film`s comic timing is also frequently brilliant. Zorin asks Bond how he slept, and Bond quips, “A little restless, but I got off eventually”, Walken`s lack of a response is perfect (he simply nods, not caring about an answer, and motions for Bond to sit). After their laboratory sojourn, Bond tells Tibbett, “We better get back. The tape ran out five minutes ago. Good night.” (These kinds of lines Timothy Dalton killed dead. Moore, unlike Dalton, has the ability to deliver a funny line with the utmost seriousness and sincerity, which makes it funnier.) Or, when Tibbett brings Bond`s baggage into his room, Bond says, “Here, let me help you.” Bond takes the umbrella and Tibbett replies, “Oh thank you sir.” The point is later recapitulated when Bond asks Stacey to give him a hand with the Zorin truck driver he`s just knocked out and she takes the man`s hardhat.

Moore is vibrant and bubbly (perhaps too much so – his smile is occasionally bizarre), and in fine spirits. He`s extremely comfortable and his performance at times is surprisingly fluid (especially compared to Timothy Dalton`s). Except for some weak lines, he gives one of his best performances as Bond and fits the role like a glove. He seems to be having fun (though he hated the film). Compare how tired and haggard he was in For Your Eyes Only. Yet he becomes suitably serious after the film moves to San Francisco – appropriate given that Tibbett has been killed and what should have been an easy mission nearly cost him his life. His constant overworked smile is gone (until the journalist scene). If Moore`s performance can be faulted in one respect, it`s that at times he appears to be playing a well-paid actor enjoying himself on a film set. Occasionally he shows his age, and unfortunately, it`s these moments we remember.

The film is also overloaded and presumably the filmmakers didn`t want it running past 130 minutes. Bond`s fight with Zorin`s guards in the storehouse is unnecessary; it`s not even good and should have been cut so that we aren`t hit over the head with one action sequence after another. The horse race is good enough, despite weak rear-projection, but it feels soggy, less than it should be because of how it`s situated in the film. The dialogue between Bond and Zorin immediately afterwards is forced. There are still great touches: after Bond learns the horse`s name, he practically pivots his eyes on Zorin and he doesn`t even blink. And Bond smooching the tire is ingenious.

There are also moments that aren`t quite what they could have been: During the karate lesson, May Day`s hand comes into shot, then her face. She tells him to keep his guard up higher, and he gets up and bows, and it`s clipped. It`s a character-driven moment, but it barely registers. During their brief tussle May Day struggles like a wild animal; in a different film, where things developed calmly this could have been a fascinating sub-plot, but little is done with it. May Day becomes anxious while Zorin debates whether or not to answer the ringing telephone. He pulls away, her animal longings evident (hence the ease with which Bond gets her into bed). It`s symptomatic of the film`s problem: it`s too rushed. Glen seems to be his own worst enemy and clips shots and scenes too fast. He doesn`t know how to wait. In a nice shot, we see her reflection in mirror and then she walks in front of the camera, Zorin`s eyes tagging along with her, but the film is too impacted for such joys to be appreciated. (It`s like the gag about seeing an art gallery on roller-skates.)

May Day`s reaction when she finds Bond in her bed is a kind of a “Let me think about it” gliding glance and it`s nice; she`ll do it despite her better judgement. (How does Bond know where her room is? He saw May Day go in into it when Jenny Flex showed him to his suite.) At the Chateau reception, Bond follows Stacey and Zorin and almost walks into May Day. She glares at him, then points for him to turn around. She can`t take her eyes off him even while turning away slowly – she`s on the verge of remembering where she saw him before. Zorin kisses her hand, but she doesn`t respond, instead, she just stares at the sunken Rolls Royce with Bond trapped inside. It`s a nice touch, but like too much in the film it`s clipped too fast. (Her last shot is enigmatic and I discuss it in further detail in the mine/Golden Gate section.) During the chateau reception, May Day intervenes just as Bond is about to snap Stacey`s picture. Like much of what`s right in the film, it`s subtle.

As much as I admire John Barry`s music – his soundtracks are among the closet things we have to classical music being written today, and the soundtrack works quite well as a symphonic suite – it doesn`t always work in the film. Too often he lays it on thick. The score is bombastic and certain cues sledgehammer points home the scenes themselves have already made. The briefing scene in M`s office, Bond and Stacey on the bridge at the chateau reception, the fight in Stacey`s house, and possibly the ticking clock in the mine finale; all would have been better without Barry`s music, and I suspect it makes the film feel even more bloated than it already is. Tibbett`s death is suspenseful, but would have been better without music – especially on repeat viewings. The score screams out at us, This is a climatic moment, you`re supposed to feel tension. (It`s like a child who can`t eat anything without ketchup on it.) It only fits when it cuts to Bond and Zorin on the track, and that`s because Moore plays it light (“A little spirited, what`s his name?”). Imagine how bizarre it would have been without music, only background traffic noise, a la Hitchcock anticipating Tibbett`s death amidst tranquillity. Silence is golden.

AVTAK is oftencompared to Goldfinger, though I don`t understand how anybody can claim it`s a remake. (There are more similarities to Octopussy.) The boardroom scene on the dirigible is the closet link and it`s a good scene, but once again John Barry`s music is unnecessary since it sledgehammers the point home until Zorin and May Day look out at the Golden Gate Bridge.

The Taiwanese businessman who “drops out” is one of several spirited performers: “I want no part of it, thank you,” he says calmly. His head jerks up when Zorin says “confidential” and his eyes dart to and fro when Zorin asks him if he would wait outside. The look of good-faith in his eyes, and the business-like “Thank you,” brushing past the man clearing his throat are small pleasures that would have been more noticeable in a calmer, less jam-packed film. Zorin tells the dissenting businessman, “If you wish. Hmmm,” turning his head like he can`t understand why anybody would pass up the chance of a lifetime. May Day puts on glasses and it`s like the sun is about to appear. The descending staircase is imaginative, and in another small pleasure, Walken winks when May Day reenters the boardroom. “So does anybody else want to drop out?”

The transition from France to San Francisco is awkward; it doesn`t flow, nor is it causal. The horse-racing subplot doesn`t relate to the rest of the film, and the Russian subplot is poorly integrated, as though it was included at the last minute only because it worked so well in Octopussy. (Likewise, the film`s ending, where General Gogol, inexplicably, awards Bond a Russian medal, is indefensible.) Walken`s scene with General Gogol is weak. He`s diffident, where quiet tension would have worked. He can`t find the centre of his performance. It`s a bad scene. Scarpine, grinning, holding the gun, is the only nice detail. It`s the only time we see the character genuinely happy.

The film`s third quarter is awkwardly plotted and reminds me of Moonraker`s third quarter, but without that film`s connect-the-dots plotting. The oil rig set piece could have just as easily occurred after Bond follows Stacey home (in fact, I couldn`t for the life of me remember exactly which sequence it followed and had to double-check). It feels shoehorned, and the story progression is compressed. It introduces new characters, reminds us of the unnecessary Russian sub-plot, and the oilrig never reappears – the entire sequence could have been dropped (if I remember correctly, Judy Alexander`s children`s storybook based on the film omitted it.) Apparently, in a scene that was cut, Bond interviewed a fisherman on a boat. I suspect had it been kept, this part of the film would have played better and eased away the set-piece feel. Because the film is so compacted, viewers might not even realize until after multiple viewings that Gogol`s car follows Bond and Pola from the oil rig. There`s a nice visual touch: the Russian is sacrificed and the pump pressure falters as the valve chops him up.

Yet Stacey and the cheque plot-point is well set-up and developed. Her motives for not cashing it – which prevents Bond from finding her – ring true and are ingenious. The plot information overheard at the chateau reception is a marvel of exposition. And the chateau scenes themselves flow nicely.

Stacey Sutton is often criticized, despite being one of the best-written women in the series. Her background and current plight is excellent writing.

The fight scene in Stacey`s house is excellent, unfortunately John Barry`s bombastic music during the actual fighting section doesn`t fit. The intro is exciting and exhilarating and the portions in 3/4 time which work well should have been a clue how rhythmical the scene was to begin with. Watch it with the volume off. There are great touches, some easily overlooked: Bond`s buoyant somersault along the upper hall, accompanied by John Barry`s exciting music, and seconds later he jumps over the railing. Elsewhere, Stacey opens her upper window, and Bond hesitates, watching from offside, and it`s an effective throwaway moment. The tension increases after she`s threatens to call the police: Bond threatens to tell them about the five million-dollar payoff.

Except for the bad “stooge” line, Tanya Roberts does well in these scenes. Her performance received much bad press, and though her acting is uneven, she has some good moments. Her performance is a bit stiff, but Bond films don`t feature great female performances. She moves well, her facial expressions are good, she`s attractive to look at, and her calmer line readings are accomplished so she does well enough, though she and Roger Moore make an awkward couple, given Moore`s age and her little-girl voice, which is also a bit scratchy and hampers her line-readings. We don`t really believe that she`s a geologist and unfortunately the script saddles her with too much exposition. The part needed an actress who could communicate a kind of manic delight telling people about palaeotological rocks or for whom delivering dry information was a turn-on. Her “James, Jameses” are cringeworthy – especially in the elevator shaft and during the finale, though Diana Rigg`s in OHMSS were just as bad (Rigg`s strident English accent didn`t help). They could and should have been cut in post-production; little things do sometimes make a difference and this is probably her biggest flaw in the film.

Nonetheless, during the mine finale, she deciphers the San Andreas Fault map for Bond; her eyes don`t blink once and she`s intense. On the chateau-bridge, her defensive smile and the downcast eyes indicate that Bond should take the glass back from her. She turns the fire truck`s siren on, and her relaxed, off-kilter shrug is congenial; evens her “Jameses” during the chase are tolerable and work.

John Glen makes interesting directorial choices Occasionally he`s trying to be American. Benzali yells at Roberts from behind closed doors; she runs out, the door opens, Bond says, “What happened?” having been reading a newspaper – another subtle touch. The black secretary looking out at them closes the door. This could have been done in close-ups but Glen was clever. A nice human touch: she drops her papers, and Bond helps her pick them up, telling her to calm down. He doesn`t believe the sincerity in his own voice, but it`s all he can do, like a parent reassuring a child. “Maybe, just maybe, he`ll come up with a few answers.” The elevator door opens, he says “Here” and ushers her in, just as apprehensive. It`s life-like. I`m sure most of us have been in similar crises situations where a person did exactly what Moore does here. We feel worse for Bond because he shoulders the brunt of it.

Daniel Benzali plays Commissioner Howe and his performance is a small pleasure (he also appeared in the television series <i>Murder One</i>). His first scene is well written (both his scenes are) – it`s excellent exposition, and rings true: Benzali`s buffoonish grin and Moore`s wide-eyed smile perfectly capture how artificial journalism is. They both know they`re going through the motions, but go along anyway. (I suspect it`s too rich and satirical for Bond groupies.) Benzali`s scene with Tanya Roberts is worth studying for his impatience, Stacey being a drain on his time, his left hand extended, his “what is it now?” demeanor. After Bond tells him that he`s being used, his brown eyes flit back and forth unsure what`s really going on. His final line to Zorin: “But that means… I would have to be…”, then he`s shot – his close-eyed smile after he`s shot is typical of the details the film offers. Zorin`s line, “Intuitive improvisation is the secret of genius”, is great writing. Think the line through! This kind of line deserves to be quoted and remembered, and would be, in a calmer, sturdier film. I`m surprised self-help business seminars haven`t swiped it yet. Bond`s comment “Herr Doctor Mortner would be proud of his creation,” catches Zorin off guard. He nods, mulls it over and it`s a nice touch and fine acting. The line, “Don`t bother, Stacey, he`s a psychopath,” is childish. Moore does his best with it. His voice dies out at the end of the word, like it`s not even worth completing. Stacey`s line about “You can take your offer-” is bad. Was Zorin supposed to feel ashamed?

To be continued….

PREVIEW: In this series third installment, Nick Kincaid has harsh words for pseudo-intellectual Bond “fans” who would so easily dismiss A View To A Kill as pulp film-making.

In Defense of A View To A Kill (Part 1 of 3)

A View To A Kill is underrated. There`s no other way to put it. The time is right for a reappraisal. So why has it taken this long?

Reappraisals aren`t unheard of inthe Bond series. On Her Majesty`s Secret Service is probably the most famous instance, and it`s now regarded as one of the best Bond films. So why not A View To A Kill?

I admit it`s flawed. It`s overloaded and at times careless. The filmmakers seem to have been in a rush to pack as much into the film as possible, and then some. It`s an incredibly busy film, which is both a virtue and a flaw. It`s ambitious and unusually complicated in more ways than just the story. The filmmakers were trying something new so anything less than a sequence-by-sequence analysis does the film less than full justice.

The film opens on the Russian helicopter zig-zagging like a bumblebee. A great human touch follows – probably overlooked – backed up by John Barry`s sensitive, pain-ridden flute music: Bond opens a heart-shaped pendant and sees a photo of the dead man`s wife – girlfriend? – and baby. A throwaway moment, but crucial in Bond films. Bond flips the picture over and you can still see the woman and child`s image from behind, a subtle reminder that though 003 is dead, they live on, their grief is real. (Such touches prove that the Bond filmmakers are incredibly intelligent.) The microchip holds them down, a clever reminder of what took 003 from them. (It`s nice that the filmmakers had Bond bring the pendant back on board the submersible, but its dramatic weight is lost on Bond.) This is what people should look for in Bond films. Not whether he has his back to a window in Tomorrow Never Dies, an asinine, pointless observation.

The opening ski chase is great – perhaps the best in the series? New Yorker film critic Pauline Kael complained that the stunts were too crowded and didn`t give us the time to get that giddy tingle Bond stunts normally give us, and I felt that way about the ski-chase, but perhaps this is a clue to its superiority. Being so compressed, it stands the test of time like any great, complex work. It throws so much up at us that repeat viewings are required.

The great action theme by John Barry is very reminiscent of his OHMSS title song. If not as innovative, this version is more stylish, as befitting an older composer. The beautiful photography, those enticing colours, the intoxicating reds, blues, and whites are gorgeous and special. The Beach Boys music is just right – Bond is meant to be humorous; I`ve never understood why the 60`s Bond cultists get so uptight about broad humour in the series. There are other great touches: Bond`s unintentional somersault after he skis down a steep cliff; he hops on the skidoo, kicking off his one remaining ski; he steps off the makeshift surfboard and has to keep running; and after the fun and games, there`s that beautiful, menacing shot of the helicopter, this time gliding steadily through the air after Bond, with its single-minded purpose – cat and mouse – supported by John Barry`s driving music. The helicopter swirls through the air, spewing pinkish smoke, and, after it`s crashed, the shot of the raging black-tinged fire against the seemingly dirty snow and alps is intoxicating.

Maurice Binder`s credits feature wonderful neon images, and it`s one of his best. Alan Hume and Binder get beautiful accompanying images during their credits: that beautiful shot of people skiing down the mountain, the man flipping head over heals, the woman turning delicately, and the couple doing a slow motion synchronized twirl (unfortunately the return to regular motion is jerky). It`s beautiful, especially since it occurs during a heartfelt part of the song. I`m surprised that at least two books (Kiss-Kiss-Bang-Bang and The Bond Files) hated it. They`re wrong, of course. 🙂

Richard Maibaum and Michael Wilson`s script is both deft and annoying. Parts don`t connect. Bond is supposed to find out how Zorin`s anti-pulse computer chip wound up in Siberia, yet he investigates Zorin`s horses. (A link suggesting the two were somehow related would have helped. “003 had been investigating Zorin`s horses and the trail took him to Siberia.”) The plot twist – a double catalyst, quite common in the Maibaum/Wilson collaborations – is shoe-horned and doesn`t flow. The horse sub-plot doesn`t add up, but it`s an appropriate homage to Fleming`s novels (by way of John Gardner`s Licence Renewed). Like Fleming`s villains, Zorin cheats without any real motive, except his love of winning (how much money could a multi-millionaire make winning races?). When Zorin races Bond, there`s no real advantage; he intends to capture and kill Bond anyway. He cheats just for the sake of cheating.

The Ascot horse scene is visually delightful and the timing is razor-sharp, though perhaps it`s too precise and wears the audience down (Pauline Kael said something similar about the single-shot opening in Brian de Palma`s film The Bonfire Of The Vanities – another underrated film). The film is visually inventive: Moneypenny shouts at the horses: “Move your a–” then turning, asking about one of the horses, the camera pans to Bond and M who are faced the wrong way. Fast on the heels is another ingenious detail that most people probably overlook. Look behind M when he tells Bond that Zorin “speaks at least five languages”. The woman behind them looks around, wondering what they`re going on about, concerned she`s missing something, then deciding it`s nothing, turns back – the timing is perfect, the placement delicate, as though the director John Glen is saying, “Look, if you catch this, good for you, but if you don`t, no big loss.” The dialogue here, and in the following chateau scene, is perfect and casual enough to have an air of being improvised: “Who`s there with him under the hat, in the red dress?”

Elsewhere I discuss the insect motif tying the various strands together in the visually inventive Eiffel Tower sequence, but there are other gems. Aubergine: “I`m pleased you approve since you`re paying the bill.” He looks up and around as the waiter walks around him. Flighty as ever, Aubergine nods his head at the dancing butterflies, his head back, emphasizing his double-chin, struggling to focus on anything that close. “Perhaps we should add this butterfly to our collection, non?” Bond`s reaction, his polite smile, is skilled acting. Bond and Moore`s intelligence shine. May Day knocks the other black-sheathed person out. The butterfly girl, in the middle of her routine, looks over – her posture the epitome of professional confusion – half her mind is still on her routine (you`ll have to freeze-frame on her to fully appreciate this) – while Aubergine blathers on oblivious to his impending doom. (I can`t imagine anything that complicated or busy in The Living Daylights.) The photography inside the restaurant, and the chateau scenes are sumptuous and the last touch of real Bondian elegance until Pierce Brosnan and Tomorrow Never Dies. Peter Lamont isn`t my favourite Bond production designer – what is it with all those sculpted heads? – but his work here is perfect and it`s one of the best designed Bond films. (Trivia note: the music heard during the Eiffel Tower establishing shot comes from John Barry`s score for his 1984 film Until September.)

Pauline Kael complained that the stunts were too crowded, but that`s partially why the brilliant car chase works so well. Each shot has a new piece of information; compare it to the slightly limp pre-credit chase in The Living Daylights, which consists of the same shot over and over, back and forth. The gliding, graceful, practically slow-motion shot of the car driving onto the ramp, flying onto the bus, then off onto the ground, contrasts perfectly with that brutal smash cut as the pole shears the car`s top off. Though easily overlooked, that shot of Moore, grimacing and ducking in his seat tops it off. It`s obvious when the stuntman doubles for Moore – it verges on parody – especially immediately before and after the car is shorn in half (Moore`s eyes open in shock anticipating it, then he closes them and braces himself – this is excellent and without which, the stunt would have been impersonal) but the film is photographed in sharp clear colours. After Octopussy, shot in oily, washed-out colours, AVTAK is one of the best looking in the series. The gorgeous ski-chase, the Paris cafe and estate scenes, San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge fight are especially appealing; the film has some of the best location sense of the entire series. Only towards the end, down in the mine, does the film look hazy. I criticize John Barry`s action cues elsewhere, but here the Bond theme and the dixieland version of the theme song have just the right playful touch.

A View To . . . A View To A Kill’s Premiere

They started gathering at the dome of San Francisco’s famed Palace of Fine Arts early in the afternoon on May 22, 1985. By six o’clock–the planned beginning to the end of then Mayor Diane Feinstein’s officially proclaimed “James Bond Day”–hundreds were pressed against police barricades, many even spilling onto the access ramp of the Golden Gate Bridge. While they came in every size and shape, all had come to witness an event major even by California standards: The opening of A View to a Kill, the first 007 film in history to break with tradition by premiering outside London.

Scheduled to start at seven, the film was preceded by a ninety-minute champagne reception benefitting the Mayor’s Youth Fund. Champagne–offered from sterling trays by white-jacketed waiters– was not alone on the menu, naturally; no less than four open bars were equally spaced about the reception hall while mylar “hills” crowned by silver, helium-filled stars erupted from the floor, each covered in exotic cheeses, sliced fruit, imported crackers, or shrimp cocktail. The largest and center-most of these hills bore an ‘80s City favorite: Gourmet popcorn. Guests preferring something more substantial could take their pick from the buffets adjacent to each bar or from the hibachi staffed by kimono-clad chefs just off room-center. Grouped throughout the room were café tables draped in red (matching the hall itself), surrounded by white, slat-seat folding chairs.

Sharply contrasting the decor were free-standing posters and stills randomly distributed around the room as well as scatterings of Sharper Image catalogs and Whopper and Skittles candy dispensers, these three featuring …View…-based tie-ins or contests. Also on display–near the massive (and all too warm for May, even in San Francisco) stonework fireplace: A mountain of Bollinger, ranging from simple splits at the base to a massive Nebuchadnezzar at the top.

Dispersed throughout, of course, were the guests themselves. Clad primarily in classic black-tie or nostalgic prom gowns (neither worn exclusively by either sex; this was, after all, San Francisco), the crowd was surprisingly young, spurred, no doubt, by the presence of Duran Duran members John Taylor and–no relation–Andy Taylor

While the Fab Five performers were the evening’s biggest hit–their slightest action eliciting near-hysterical screams–they were not the only celebrities present, of course. Because he was easily recognized, newspapers the following day would report that former Avengers star Patrick MacNee was the first to arrive. Bond aficionados knew, however, that producer Albert R. Broccoli, step-son Michael G. Wilson, and screenwriter Richard Maibaum had been in attendance for some time. They were followed in quick succession by mammoth Walter Gotel–minus General Gogol’s Russian accent–director John Glen–looking extremely anxious–and an agitated Tanya Roberts.

With the exception of Ms. Roberts, all moved through the nearly one-thousand celebrants largely unhindered, though responded graciously to autograph seekers, MacNee being the most casually conversational of the lot. Former Charlie’s Angel star Roberts would later explain her brusque behavior as a reaction to the overwhelming crush of media and fan attention for which she was bewilderingly unprepared.

At one corner of the hall, a seriously overgrown ghetto-blaster continuously issued 007 title tracks until finally blaring the James Bond theme itself, thus heralding a belated start to the actual screening. With room lights strobing to the staccato beat, film-goers made for the adjoining theatre.

With the wide, shallow auditorium almost full, Mayor Feinstein appeared on stage to demonstrate her lack of either fashion sense (Feinstein’s dowdy, Queen Elizabeth-like wardrobe make the entire affair seem all that more authentic) or crowd control. Several minutes after the Taylors, Gotell, Roberts, and Glen as well as MacNee, diva-turned-actress Grace Jones, and the ever-eerie Christopher Walken had joined her en masse, Feinstein finally established some degree of order. Even then, however, the Mayor’s introduction of the players and their roles was repeatedly interrupted by squealing, prepubescent Double D fans. (Jones only abetted them by silently mocking Senator Feinstein’s schoolmarm admonishment of the audience.) Following the amenities, Roger Moore–absent thus far–appeared just long enough to say “Let’s roll the film” and made for his place alongside Broccoli, et al, who earlier took bows from their seats.

The movie itself was met by raucous applause and laughter, particularly those sequences highlighted by the afore-mentioned bridge and City Hall.

Audience members who slipped-out as the credits rolled stripped the reception hall of souvenirs: balloons, stand-up cutouts, and stacks of free posters. Those less fortunate were immediately set-upon by droves of television reporters–present from the start–asking that inevitable question, “So, is this the best James Bond movie ever?”

By now it was nearly eleven o’clock and time for the festivities to begin in earnest. While film stars and City luminaries alike headed for a cast party at Hard Rock Café*, others opted for the less exclusive–though still by invitation–birthday observation for Grace Jones (age undisclosed) at the members-only disco, Trocadero, long home to Jones the singer/performance artist.

Both parties were well-attended–some nine-hundred danced away the night at Trocadero–though neither drew the crowds of onlookers present for the premier. Jones appeared at both functions, making her Trocadero entrance around two a.m. on the arm of then boy-toy Dolph Lundgren, with whom she shared screen-time in …View… and “much more” on the pages of Playboy’s July ‘85 issue.

At dawn, time had come to crawl home, hang the Berns-Martin holster alongside the tuxedo, and resume the routine–the end of a day-long 007 celebration but, as we all know, James Bond would return …

*Curiously, neither of the day’s two major cast parties–Her Honor hosted a lunch at the prestigious Maxwell’s Plum on Fisherman’s Wharf–took place at locales original to San Francisco.

06/15/85 Review in “Magill`s Survey of Cinema” – a view to little irony

One of the least ironic in the James Bond series, A VIEW TO A KILL takes 007 (Roger Moore) from Ascot, Paris, and Chantilly to San Francisco as he pursues Max Zorin (Christopher Walken), a villainous international microchip industrialist, and his fierce bodyguard, May Day (Grace Jones). Having survived several near-fatal encounters with Zorin`s henchmen, Bond succeeds in obstructing the industrialist`s plan to dynamite the San Andreas fault and flood Silicon Valley so that he can gain control over the world`s microchip production. In a suspenseful finale which takes place at the Golden Gate Bridge, Bond blasts Zorin in his zeppelin.

Summary: The pleasure which viewers take in familiar forms is the very basis of a genre film`s survival, yet the most interesting among them– Westerns and musicals, for example–are also characterized by their capacity to reflect cultural shifts and social changes. In comparison, the James Bond films are defined by a carefully synthesized and carefully protected formula; nothing about them changes. Deciding who best embodies the mythic essence of Fleming`s hero, Sean Connery, George Lazenby, or Roger Moore, has been only one of two major sources of variation that the Bond films have offered since the series began with DR. NO (1962). The other variation has been a shift in tone: from straight and serious to parodic and absurd. The tone in A VIEW TO A KILL, however, is serious. In keeping with this mode, the prologue finds 007 (Roger Moore), in a display of bravado, skiing on an Alaskan snowfield, a squadron of Soviet soldiers to snatch an innocent-looking locket from the neck of an unknown corpse. Reminiscent of the opening sequence of THE SPY WHO LOVED ME (1977), the last-second rescue comes from an ice floe that pops open to reveal a Union Jack flying submarine, navigated by a captain in white mink overalls. No matter how predictable, even this opening sequence rewards the audience immediately with its impeccable editing (the film`s director, John Glen, has edited several earlier Bonds) and with its striking use of color against a white background (a common visual heritage from the pop-graphic style of the 1960`s).

Following the prologue, viewers find themselves in the London headquarters of Secret Service, where M (Robert Brown) and his staff fill one another in on a new superchip that was found in the locket of that corpse, which as it turns out was the body of a Russian. Everything indicates that this new technological miracle comes from the hands of a mysterious industrialist of international origins, one Max Zorin (Christopher Walken). Much to the regret of Miss Moneypenny (Lois Maxwell), only James Bond can find Zorin`s chips.

The search begins at the Ascot horse races, where the abnormally blond Zorin is sighted along with his right-hand woman, the stunning and ferocious May Day (Grace Jones), a black martial arts and logistics expert who sports leather-hooded outfits and six-inch heels. Then in Paris, while Bond is having dinner with the unpleasant Inspector Aubergine (Jean Rougerie), in an elegant restaurant in the Eiffel Tower, May Day attacks. Dressed in wasp-patterned yellow and black leotards, she uses a fishing rod of sorts, impaling on its fly Bond` s dinner partner, who is lecherously watching a woman perform a butterfly dance onstage. Like a spider, May Day then vanishes down the tower and escapes with the help of a parachute glider, which crashes onto a wedding party aboard a bateau-mouche in the middle of the Seine. It is in sequences such as these that the Bond films are at their most engaging: The insect motif (the fly casting, wasp, butterfly, and so on), insignificant as it may be for the film`s overall structure, tightens up the little episode; the gags are exotic in an inventive way, built more on wit than violence (pace Inspector Aubergine), and the stunts, carried out in the middle of Paris, make one admire not only their performers but also the film`s producer, Albert Broccoli, who managed to arrange all of this. Later on, the San Francisco City Hall and the Golden Gate Bridge, notoriously off-limits for commercial filming, are similarly granted this “location-as-star” treatment, lending almost the old-fashioned authenticity of a travelogue to this high-tech fairy tale.

The search for Zorin`s chips leads from Paris to an exquisite Chantilly chateau, where the villain is auctioning off some of his supernormal race horses. Here, Bond, succeeds in penetrating Zorin`s secret stable- laboratory and discovers that the superchip, with its ability to enhance the performances of living organisms to the capacity of a robot, is part of a worldwide biotechnological conspiracy. In the process of his search, Bond arouses Zorin`s suspicion, and even Bond`s strategically motivated seduction of May Day does not prevent a subsequent manhunt on horseback, at the end of which he is almost killed. As is customary for the Bond megavillain, Zorin`s monstrously perfect features make it clear that he is essentially nonhuman, a creature representing not simply an opposing political system but a threat to mankind. A child produced by Nazi genetic engineering experiments during World War II and bred to perfection in the U.S.S.R., Zorin has broken loose from his ideological commitments to his KGB supervisors and is now preparing to attack and monopolize the world`s microchip industry. Traveling in a zeppelin, Zorin, May Day, and their evil crew move on to San Francisco. Bond catches up with them, first competing with, and later helped by, the beautiful geologist and heiress Stacy Sutton (Tanya Roberts).

Surviving a suction pipe accident under a Zorin oil rig in the San Francisco Bay and then a spectacular city hall fire, Bond and Stacy uncover, just in time, Zorin`s demonic plan to reactivate the San Andreas fault through a series of enormous explosions. This, in turn, would devastate and flood the Silicon Valley industries and guarantee Zorin, Inc., complete control of the world`s microchip output. The mandatory large-scale showdown follows, taking place in a labyrinthine old silver mine located below the San Andreas lake, which is also Stacy`s beloved ancestral home. The sequence carries allusions to Fritz Lang`s subterranean masterpiece METROPOLIS (1927) and to the wild mine rides in Steven Spielberg`s INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM (1984). When May Day finally realizes the magnitude of Zorin`s diabolical plot, as well as his completely cynical attitude toward her, she shifts allegiance and throws her considerable body power behind Bond and Stacy`s efforts to prevent the catastrophe, sacrificing her life in the process. Zorin and his skeleton crew flee again in the blimp, taking Stacy as hostage, but Bond hangs on to one of the mooring ropes (metaphorically keeping taut the suspenseful plot line). The aircraft becomes trapped in the structure of the Golden Gate Bridge, and Bond not only saves Stacy but also rids the world of yet another megalomaniac when, cleverly relying on some basic laws of physics, he brings about the explosion of the high-tech wizard and his zeppelin.

Per the film`s formula, Bond proceeds to shun delightfully his civic responsibilities by hiding out in Stacy`s shower, avoiding not only M`s phone congratulations but also the KGB`s (which is grateful to Bond for having preserved Silicon Valley intact for yet another generation of Soviet industrial espionage). The main attraction of A VIEW TO A KILL is undoubtedly the irresistible Grace Jones. Graceful, fast, resourceful, and a little perverse, May Day finally seems to be the female alter ego Bond has been looking for since the death of his wife in ON HER MAJESTY`S SECRET SERVICE (1969); like her, she, too, must die so as to allow 007 to proceed unhindered to further adventures. It is typical that Bond`s love interest here has a degree in a hard science, but she remains as incompetent and witless as she is cute. A VIEW TO A KILL signals where the next major hurdle for 007 will emerge. The technology in which villains such as Zorin deal to achieve world control is so utterly impersonal that Bond`s old-fashioned craftiness and general education (even when amplified by Q`s special gadgets) may soon become obsolete. As long as he can count on encountering his enemies in falling elevators or burning ships, Bond is all right. In a world of data banks, video screens, and artificial intelligence, Bond will either have to “upgrade” to a full-time science-fiction hero or else withdraw to the sidelines, watching it all, amused, over a dry martini.

Review in 06/10/85 “Macleans”: A view to a kill!

MACLEANS June 10th, 1985
Directed by John Glen

Of all the modern formulas in the movie industry, the James Bond series is among the most pleasurable and durable. Lavish with their budgets, the producers also bring a great deal of craft, wit and a sense of fun to the films. Agent 007 is like an old friend whom an audience meets for drinks every two years or so; he regales them with tall tales, winking all the time. The 15th and newest Bond epic, A View to a Kill, is an especially satisfying encounter.

As Bond, Roger Moore takes on a brilliant but psychotic Russian named Zorin (Christopher Walken) and his lethal assistant, May Day, played by the astonishingly muscular and sleek Grace Jones. The villain`s plan, as in most Bond films, is nothing less ambitious than the takeover of the world, which he plans to do by controlling the international microchip market. Because 80 percent of the world`s microchip production comes from California`s silicon valley, Zorin simply has to close up the San Andreas fault with an explosion and bury the valley under a massive flood. Opening with a breathtaking ski chase in Siberia.

A View to a Kill is the fastest Bond picture yet. Its pace has the precision of a Swiss watch and the momentum of a greyhound on the track. There is a spectacular chase up and down the Eiffel Tower and through Paris streets, which Bond finishes in a severed car on just two wheels. But none of the action prepares the viewer for the heart-stopping climax with Zorin`s dirigible tangled in the cables on top of San Francisco`s Golden Gate Bridge. For all its similarities to earlier episode – deadly villains and gorgeous women – A View to a Kill is a little different.

It is less gadget-ridden, and Bond relies more on old-fashioned know-how: trapped underwater in a car, he escapes and breathes through the tire valve while waiting for his would-be assassins to leave. The world`s technological advances have caught up with Bond, but they never render him obsolete. The Bond movies operate on a level much deeper than their dazzling surfaces: they represent assurance in a world laden with global anxiety. And not only does goodness win out, it does so with style and humour. The movies are fantasies of idealism in which even the hero`s sins are turned into delicious double entendres. “Did you sleep well?” asks Zorin. “A little restlessly,” replies Bond after a night in May Day`s arms. “But I finally got off.”

Their comic-book characters, the good ones that is, are especially alluring – dashing, talented and impervious to danger. Most of all, Bond is a gentleman – a chivalrous knight who has time-travelled. When he saves the “good girl” of A View to a Kill and holds her in his arms on top of the Golden Gate, it is a sublime romantic gesture. It is true that Roger Moore is showing his age (57) in the role, but there are plenty of tunes left in his violin. James Bond is still a virtuoso, with a licence to thrill. -LAWRENCE O`TOOLE

AVTAK Review: 06/03/85 Review in “New Yorker”

NEW YORKER June 3, 1985 Pauline Kael THE James Bond series has had its bummers, but nothing before in the class of “A View to a Kill.”

You go to a Bond picture expecting some style or, at least, some flash, some lift; you don`t expect the dumb police-car crashes you get here. You do see some ingenious daredevil feats, but they`re crowded together and, the way they`re set up, they don`t give you the irresponsible, giddy tingle you`re hoping for. The movie is set mostly in Chantilly, Paris, and San Francisco, and it`s full of bodies and vehicles diving, exploding, going up in flames.

Christopher Walken is the chief villain; the ultra-blond psychopathic product of a Nazi doctor`s experiments, he mows people down casually, his expression jaded. And the director, John Glen, stages the slaughter scenes so apathetically that the picture itself seems dissociated. (I don`t think I`ve ever seen another movie in which race horses were mistreated and the director failed to work up any indignation. If Glen has any emotions about what he puts on the screen, he keeps them to himself.) All that keeps “A View to a Kill” going is that it needs to reach a certain heft to fit into the series.

As the villainess, Grace Jones, of the flat-top haircut and the stylized look of African sculpture, is indifferently good-humoured the way Jane Russell used to be, and much too flaccid, and as the Bond heroine Tanya Roberts (who has a disconcerting resemblance to Isabelle Adjani) is totally lacking in intensity – she goes from one life-threatening situation to another looking vaguely put out.

About the most that can be said for Roger Moore, in his seventh go-round as Bond, is that he keeps his nose to the grindstone, permitting himself no expression except a faint bemusement. It used to be that we could count on Bond to deliver a few zingers, but this time the script (by Richard Maibaum and Michael G. Wilson) barely manages a little facetiousness.

The film does come up with one visual zinger: in the small role of Jenny Flex, a stunning young model named Alison Doody comes up with a curvy walk that`s like sex on wheels.

A View To A Review: 05/24/85 Review in “Washington Post”

At the finale of “A View to a Kill,” James Bond (Roger Moore) dangles from a blimp, an almost painfully appropriate metaphor for the adventure series that is now bloated, slow moving and at the end of its rope. It`s not double-oh-seven anymore, but double-oh-seventy, the best argument yet for the mandatory retirement age. Bond`s adversary here is Max Zorin (Christopher Walken), a renegade KGB agent turned billionaire industrialist, who, in league with his lover/bodyguard May Day (Grace Jones), is plotting to corner the microchip market by destroying Silicon Valley.

Why is Zorin so evil, you ask? It turns out that he was “created” in the Nazi concentration camps by a Mengele figure experimenting with steroids on pregnant women. Most of the children died; those who didn`t survived with extraordinary intelligence and more than a touch of psychopathy. Bond first grows suspicious when one of Zorin`s horses, despite its inferior bloodlines, wins a major race at Ascot. Masquerading as James St. John Smythe, he attends a horse auction at Zorin`s Versailles-like estate, where he meets Stacey Sutton (Tanya Roberts), an heiress fallen victim to Zorin`s aggressive mergers and acquisitions practices.

“A View to a Kill” is nothing if not thorough – it rolls nazism, communism and merger mania into one. In between, the movie follows the usual Bond formula, except the gadgets are a cut less ingenious, the women a notch below stunning, the puns and double-entendres something besides clever. “I`m happiest in the saddle,” says Zorin. “A fellow sportsman,” says Bond. Nudge, nudge, wink, wink. There is some magnificent stunt work, which only underscores how inadequate Moore has become.

Moore isn`t just long in the tooth – he`s got tusks, and what looks like an eye job has given him the pie-eyed blankness of a zombie. He`s not believable anymore in the action sequences, even less so in the romantic scenes – it`s like watching women fall all over Gabby Hayes. And unlike “Never Say Never Again,” which made a theme out of Sean Connery`s over-the-hilleries, “A View to a Kill” never acknowledges Moore`s age.

We`re just supposed to take him at face value, and once again, the pound has declined. Jones looks terrific – with her powerful spindly limbs and hard polished skull, she`s a large, splendid driver ant – but the minute she opens her mouth, all the air goes out of her performance. She`s an icon, not an actress. And Roberts is an absolute howl as Stacey. When Bond fills her in on Zorin`s plans, she brays, “dat`s incredibewee dangerous!” and flounces off in a pink nightie. She is, by the way, an expert geologist. Walken wears a blond wig, a formidable contraption that lifts from his baldness in a simian sweep – he looks like Dr Zaius and talks like Joey Bishop. He`s trying to send up the material, but at this late date, Bond has moved beyond camp into irrelevance.

AVTAK 05/22/85 Review in “Variety”

May 22nd VARIETY A VIEW TO A KILL (BRITISH-COLOR) Lackluster 007 epic should earn okay b.o. Hollywood, May 21.

There is hardly a red-blooded American boy whose pulse isn`t quicker by the familiar strains of the James Bond theme and the first sight of the hero cocking a gun at any enemy coming his way. Unfortunately, A View to a Kill,” the 16th outing for the Ian Fleming characters, doesn`t keep the adrenaline pumping, exposing the inherent weaknesses of the genre.

Trading on the Bond name, outlook is good for initial business, but momentum is likely to falter, just as the production does. The potential for cinematic thrills and chills, what with glamourous locations, beautiful women and exotic locations, is still there, but in “A View to a Kill” it`s the execution that`s lacking. A traditionally big Bond opening, this time a daring chase through the Alps, gets the film off to a promising start but proves one of the film`s few highlights as it slowly slips into tedium. Basic problem is on the script level with the intricate plot never offering the mindless menace necessary to propel the plot.

First third of the pic is devoted to introduction of characters in a horse-fixing subplot that has no real bearing on the main action. Bond`s adversary this time is the international industrialist Max Zorin (Christopher Walken) and his love-hate interest, May Day (Grace Jones). Bond tangles with them at their regal horse sale and uncovers a profitable scheme in which microchips are surgically implanted in the horse to assure an easy victory. Horse business is moderately entertaining, particularly when Patrick Macnee is on screen as Bond`s chauffeur accomplice.

Action, however, jumps abruptly to San Francisco to reveal Zorin`s true motives. He`s hatching some master plan to pump water from the sea into the San Andreas fault causing a major earthquake, destroying the Silicon Valley and leaving him with the world`s microchip monopoly. Film sags badly in the San Francisco section when it should be soaring, partially due to Bond`s joining forces with American geologist Stacey Sutton (Tanya Roberts). Try as you might to believe it, Roberts has little credibility as a woman of science.

Her delivery of lines like “I`d sell everything and live in a tent before I`d give,” makes the obvious laughable. While Bond pics have always traded heavily on the camp value of its characters, “A View to a Kill” almost attacks the humor, practically winking at the audience with every move. Director John Glen, who previously directed “For Your Eyes Only,” has not found the right balance between action and humor to make the production dangerous fun. Walken, too, the product of a mad Nazi scientist`s genetic experiments, is a bit wimpy by Bond villain standards. With hair colored an unnaturally yellow he seems more effete than deadly.

As his assistant, Grace Jones is a successful updating of the Jaws-type villain. Jones just oozes `80s style and gets to parade in a number of sensation outfits (designed by Emma Porteous) giving a hard but alluring edge to her character. As for Roger Moore, making his seventh appearance as Bond, he is right about half the time, he still has the suave and cool for the part, but on occasion he looks a bit old for the part and his coy womanizing seems dated when he does. Other instances when the film strives to stake its claim to the rock video audience backfire and miscalculate the appeal of the material.

Opening credit sequence in MTV style is downright bizarre and title song by Duran Duran will certainly not go down as one of the classic Bond tunes. [Hmmm…Editors.] With all of its limitations, production still remains a sumptuous feast to look at. Shot in Panavision by Alan Hume, exotic locations such as the Eiffel Tower, San Francisco Bay and Zorin`s French chateau are rendered beautifully. Climax hanging over the Golden Gate Bridge is chillingly real thanks to the miniature artists and effects people (supervised by John Richardson). Production design by Peter Lamont is first rate.

Roulette, Mister Bond?

American and European versions of roulette use the same rules. The difference between the two versions is that the American machines have a zero and double zero for 38 compartments, and the European machines have only the single zero for 37 compartments.

Each player is given his own colored set of chips (except in France, where some problems arise since all players use the same colored chips). The chips have no face value; each player tells the croupier the value of his chips when he purchases them. The croupier keeps track of the value of each set of chips by putting a small check chip with this value on the stack of chips.

Half the 36 numbers for the compartments are red and the others black. The zero and double zero are neutral colors (usually green).

The croupier asks the players to place their bets. A player does not have to sit at the table to place a bet. Once all bets are down, the croupier spins the wheel clockwise and then flips the ball counterclockwise around the rim of the wheel. Eventually, the ball lands in one of the compartments and the bets are paid off.

The simplest bet is to place chips on a single number. This is betting Straight Up (Plein); if the ball lands in this numbered compartment, the player is paid off at a ratio of 35 to 1.

Chips can be placed to cover several numbers at once. The diagrams on this page show the American and European roulette tables. The chip marked A touches “14” and “17”; this is called Split Numbers (Cheval). If either of these numbers wins, the player is paid off at a ratio of17 to 1. The chip marked B is placed on the corners of 26, 27, 29 and 30; this is called a Corner (Carre) and pays off at 8 to 1.

A Trio (Traversale Plein) bet is on the three numbers in a particular row (chip C in the diagram is betting on 28, 29, and 30); this bet pays off at 11 to 1. On the American version only, a Five Numbers bet can be made (chip D in the diagram covers 0, 00, 1 ,2, and 3); this bet pays off at 6 to 1. A Six Numbers (Traversale Simple) bet covers two rows (chip E in the diagram covers 10, 11, 12 , 13, 14, and 15); this bet pays off at 5 to 1.

A Column Bet (Colonne) covers 12 numbers (chip F in the diagram) in a column, and pays off at 2 to 1. The European tables allow a Split Column (Colonne a Cheval) that covers two columns (24 numbers); it pays off at 1 to 2. A Dozen (Douzaine) bet covers 12 numbers (chip G in the diagram covers 1 through 12); it pays off at 2 to 1. The European tables allow a Split Double (Douzaine a Cheval) where a chip covers 24 numbers; this bet pays off at 1 to 2.

Players can make Even Chance (Chances Simples) bets where the number that will come up will be red (Rouge) or black (Noir), odd (Impair), or even (Pair) or low (Manque; low numbers 1 to 18) or high (passe; high numbers 19 to 36.) These bets pay off even money.

In the American version, if the number that comes up is a 0 or 00, only single bets made on those numbers win. All Even Chance bets are lost in this case. In the European version, a 0 means the croupier “imprisons” the chips (that is, the chips stay on that bet until the next roll) but the chips lose half their value.

Craps He`s Played, Just Once

Craps are played with two six sided dice. The player rolling the dice stands at one end of the table and must throw the dice so they bounce off the other edge of the table. There are usually three or more casino employees at a craps table, keeping track of the numerous bets that can be placed by as many players as can reach the table.

If the player rolling the dice, the shooter, gets a 7 or11 (a natural), on the first roll, he wins automatically. If the gets a 2, 3 or 12 (craps), he loses, Any other number that is rolled is called the “point”; if the shooter rolls this number a second time before rolling a 7, he wins, but if a 7 is rolled before the number, the shooter loses. The shooter continues to throw the dice until he loses on a 7, at which time the dice are passed to the player on his left. The shooter can bet against himself if he wishes.

The craps table is divided into a number of areas where bets are placed (see the diagram at the bottom of this section). Chip A is placed on the “Pass Line” on the table. in this case, the player making this bet thinks the shooter will either get a 7 or 11 or make his point; if the shooter wins, the bettor is paid even money. Chip B is in the “Don`t Pass” box; the player betting assumes the shooter will either get craps (except on a 12, which is a stand off and nobody wins) or not make his point.

Chip C is in the “Come” area. This bet is placed after the shooter has his “point” to make. If the shooter gets a 7 or 11, the bettor wins; on a craps result, the bettor loses. Also, if another number is rolled, the bettor has a “come point” and he will win if the shooter hits this point before rolling a 7. The “Don`t Come” area is played just the opposite; the bettor wins on a craps result and loses on a 7 or 11, or he wins if the shooter gets a 7 before hitting the “come point.”. Both these bets win even money.

A “Field” bet is made on one roll of the dice. If the dice result is a 3, 4, 9, 10, or 11, the bettor wins at even money, and if the result is a 2 or 12 the bettor is paid off double. The bettor loses on a result of 5, 6, 7, or 8 (the points that are most likely to be rolled). Chip D is in the “Big 6/8” box; and the bettor wins even money on a 6 or 8 and loses on a 7.

A bettor can choose to get number the “Hard Way”. If the bettor thinks that two 2`s or two 5`s will be rolled and bets on this, he wins at 7 to 1 (he loses if a 7 is rolled or if his number bet comes up in another combination). Likewise, the player can bid on double 3`s or double 4`s at 9 to 1 odds.

There are a number of other one roll bets. Chip E is in the “7” box, and the bet wins if the next roll is a 7 (payoff is 4 to 1). Other boxes are provided for “11” (paying off 15 to 1), “3 Craps” (paying off 15 to 1 that the next roll will be 3), “2 Craps” (paying off 30 to 1 on a roll of 2), “12 Craps” (also paying off 30 to 1 on a roll of 12) and “Any Craps” (paying off 7 to 1 on a roll of 2, 3, or 12). The bettor loses on any of these bets if the dice result is a number other than the one(s) he bet.

A bettor can also play “The Odds”. After a “point” or “come point” is made, a bettor can go for the Odds, betting that the specific point will be rolled before a 7 is rolled. The payoff is 2 to 1 if the point is 4 or 10; 3 to 2 if the point is 9 or 5; and 6 to 5 if the point is 6 or 8. A bettor can also play against the “point” or “come point”; payoff is 1 to 2 on a point of 4 or 10, 2 to 3 on a 5 or 9 point, and 6 to 5 on a 6 or 8 point. A bettor can withdraw an Odds bet before the dice are thrown.

Also, a bettor can make “Place Bets” by putting chips on the numbers 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, or 10.The shooter must hit one of these numbers before rolling a 7 for the bettor to win. (any other result is a stand off). The bets are paid off at 9 to 5 for a 4 an d10, at 7 to 5 for a 5 and 9, and at 7 to 6 for a 6 and 8.

Blackjack or “Vingt-et-un”

This game is also known as “Twenty One” and, in Europe, as “Vingt-et-un”. The house dealer asks for bets and then gives out one card face up to each player plus one for himself. Then he deals a second card face up to the players and himself. (Note that the dealing of cards face up or down varies from casino to casino) The object of the game is to reach 21 or come as close as possible without going over. The players can elect to take extra cards to get closer to 21.

An Ace in this game is worth either 1 or 11 (at the players choice); face cards (Jacks, Queens, and Kings) are worth 10; and the other cards are worth their face value. Thus, a combination of an Ace and a 10 equals 21 (this is called a “natural” blackjack and automatically wins, unless the dealer also has a natural blackjack in which case the player neither wins nor loses his bet).

If a player`s first two cards equal less than 21, he may continue to have the dealer give him extra cards (“hits”) one at a time until he elects to stand or goes over 21 (in which case he automatically loses). After all players have taken their extra cards, the dealer must give himself an extra card if his first two cards total 16 or less and he must stand if his total is 17 or more.

Any player who has a natural blackjack wins at the rate of 3 to 2 (unless the dealer also has a natural blackjack, in which case there is a tie). Any player whose card total is higher than the dealer`s wins at even odds. Any player who ties the dealer`s card total is in a tie and neither wins nor loses his bet. All hands that are less than the dealer`s total or that go over 21 lose.

There are several variations that may occur during a hand. A Split Pair occurs when a player`s first two cards are of the same value ( a pair of 9`s for example) or are both worth 10 ( a 10 and a Queen, or a Jack and a King). The player in this case can split the cards and play them as if they are two hands. Play proceeds as described above and the player can bet on both hands. If the player gets another pair, he can split up those cards for new hands, up to a maximum of 5 splits. The use of Split Pairs varies from casino to casino.

There are some limitations on Split Pairs. If Aces are split, the player receives only one card on each Ace. Also, if a player has an Ace and a 10 or picture card with a split pair, he does not have a “natural” blackjack` instead, the cards are worth 21 and if he wins, the payoff is at even money. These variations in Split Pairs differ from casino to casino.

A second variation is Double Down. When a player`s first two cards equal 9, 10, or 11, he can double his bet. In this case, he receives only one more card (the exception being that if his first total is 9 and he draws a 2, he can be given one more card).

A player may also place an Insurance bet if the dealer drew an Ace on his first card. Before anyone receives a second card, a player may bet up to half his original bet that the deal will get a natural blackjack with his second card. If the dealer does indeed get a natural blackjack, the player is paid off at 2 to 1; if the dealer does not make a natural blackjack, the player loses his Insurance bet.

Backgammon, Kamal Khan!

Backgammon is a game for two players, played on a board consisting of twenty-four narrow triangles called points. The triangles alternate in color and are grouped into four quadrants of six triangles each. The quadrants are referred to as a player`s home board and outer board, and the opponent`s home board and outer board. The home and outer boards are separated from each other by a ridge down the center of the board called the bar.

The points are numbered for either player starting in that player`s home board. The outermost point is the twenty-four point, which is also the opponent`s one point. Each player has fifteen checkers of his own color. The initial arrangement of checkers is: two on each player`s twenty-four point, five on each player`s thirteen point, three on each player`s eight point, and five on each player`s six point.

Both players have their own pair of dice and a dice cup used for shaking. A doubling cube, with the numerals 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, and 64 on its faces, is used to keep track of the current stake of the game.

The object of the game is for a player to move all of his checkers into his own home board and then bear them off. The first player to bear off all of his checkers wins the game.

To start the game, each player throws a single die. This determines both the player to go first and the numbers to be played. If equal numbers come up, then both players roll again until they roll different numbers. The player throwing the higher number now moves his checkers according to the numbers showing on both dice. After the first roll, the players throw two dice and alternate turns.

The roll of the dice indicates how many points, or pips, the player is to move his checkers. The checkers are always moved forward, to a lower-numbered point. The following rules apply:

To start the game, each player throws a single die. This determines both the player to go first and the numbers to be played. If equal numbers come up, then both players roll again until they roll different numbers. The player throwing the higher number now moves his checkers according to the numbers showing on both dice. After the first roll, the players throw two dice and alternate turns.

The roll of the dice indicates how many points, or pips, the player is to move his checkers. The checkers are always moved forward, to a lower-numbered point. The following rules apply:

1. A checker may be moved only to an open point, one that is not occupied by two or more opposing checkers.

2. The numbers on the two dice constitute separate moves. For example, if a player rolls 5 and 3, he may move one checker five spaces to an open point and another checker three spaces to an open point, or he may move the one checker a total of eight spaces to an open point, but only if the intermediate point (either three or five spaces from the starting point) is also open.

3. A player who rolls doubles plays the numbers shown on the dice twice. A roll of 6 and 6 means that the player has four sixes to use, and he may move any combination of checkers he feels appropriate to complete this requirement.

A player must use both numbers of a roll if this is legally possible (or all four numbers of a double). When only one number can be played, the player must play that number. Or if either number can be played but not both, the player must play the larger one. When neither number can be used, the player loses his turn. In the case of doubles, when all four numbers cannot be played, the player must play as many numbers as he can.

Hitting and Entering

A point occupied by a single checker of either color is called a blot. If an opposing checker lands on a blot, the blot is hit and placed on the bar.

Any time a player has one or more checkers on the bar, his first obligation is to enter those checker(s) into the opposing home board. A checker is entered by moving it to an open point corresponding to one of the numbers on the rolled dice.

For example, if a player rolls 4 and 6, he may enter a checker onto either the opponent`s four point or six point, so long as the prospective point is not occupied by two or more of the opponent`s checkers.

If neither of the points is open, the player loses his turn. If a player is able to enter some but not all of his checkers, he must enter as many as he can and then forfeit the remainder of his turn.

After the last of a player`s checkers has been entered, any unused numbers on the dice must be played, by moving either the checker that was entered or a different checker

Once a player has moved all of his fifteen checkers into his home board, he may commence bearing off. A player bears off a checker by rolling a number that corresponds to the point on which the checker resides, and then removing that checker from the board. Thus, rolling a 6 permits the player to remove a checker from the six point.

If there is no checker on the point indicated by the roll, the player must make a legal move using a checker on a higher-numbered point. If there are no checkers on higher-numbered points, the player is permitted (and required) to remove a checker from the highest point on which one of his checkers resides. A player is under no obligation to bear off if he can make an otherwise legal move.

Backgammon is played for an agreed stake per point. Each game starts at one point. During the course of the game, a player who feels he has a sufficient advantage may propose doubling the stakes. He may do this only at the start of his own turn and before he has rolled the dice.

A player who is offered a double may refuse, in which case he concedes the game and pays one point. Otherwise, he must accept the double and play on for the new higher stakes. A player who accepts a double becomes the owner of the cube and only he may make the next double.

Subsequent doubles in the same game are called redoubles. If a player refuses a redouble, he must pay the number of points that were at stake prior to the redouble. Otherwise, he becomes the new owner of the cube and the game continues at twice the previous stakes. There is no limit to the number of redoubles in a game. At the end of the game, if the losing player has borne off at least one checker, he loses only the value showing on the doubling cube (one point, if there have been no doubles). However, if the loser has not borne off any of his checkers, he is gammoned and loses twice the value of the doubling cube. Or, worse, if the loser has not borne off any of his checkers and still has a checker on the bar or in the winner`s home board, he is backgammoned and loses three times the value of the doubling cube.

The following optional rules are in widespread use.

Beavers. When a player is doubled, he may immediately redouble (beaver) while retaining possession of the cube. The original doubler has the option of accepting or refusing as with a normal double.

Automatic doubles. If identical numbers are thrown on the first roll, the stakes are doubled. The doubling cube is turned to 2 and remains in the middle. Players usually agree to limit the number of automatic doubles to one per game

The Jacoby Rule. Gammons and backgammons count only as a single game if neither player has offered a double during the course of the game. This rule speeds up play by eliminating situations where a player avoids doubling so he can play on for a gammon.


The dice must be rolled together and land flat on the surface of the right-hand section of the board. The player must reroll both dice if a die lands outside the right-hand board, or lands on a checker, or does not land flat.

A turn is completed when the player picks up his dice. If the play is incomplete or otherwise illegal, the opponent has the option of accepting the play as made or of requiring the player to make a legal play. A play is deemed to have been accepted as made when the opponent rolls his dice or offers a double to start his own turn.

If a player rolls before his opponent has completed his turn by picking up the dice, the player`s roll is voided. This rule is generally waived any time a play is forced or when there is no further contact between the opposing forces.

The Thrills of baccarat

Before his assignment to investigate Dr.No, Bond was challenged by Sylvia Trench. While playing chemin de fer at his favorite London casino, he enjoyed a startling run of good luck as the banker. Trench seemed determined to break Bond`s bank and called “Banco” over and over. It soon became obvious to the people around the table that this private battle had implications beyond baccarat.

After rescuing the Countess Tracy di Vicenzo, the daughter of Marc Ange Draco, from an apparent suicide attempt and then a kidnapping, Bond came to her salvation against at the Casino in Estoril, Portugal. Tracy had called “Banco” at chemin de fer and did not have the money to cover her bet when she lost. Bond gallantly stepped forward to cover her bet, which eventually led to their short but loving marriage.

At a casino on the island of Corfu, Bond was controlling the shoe at chemin de fer and playing against a perspiring gentleman named Bunky. After losing a number of times to Bond, the man decided to match only half the bank…that is until his nerve was questioned by the Countess Lisl Von Schlaf. He then matched the whole bank…and lost. (Lisl was schillng for the house.)

In the Casino de Monte Carlo (pictured left), James Bond plays a game of Baccarat against evil villainesses Xenia Onatopp. After losing the first hand, Bond battles back to overtake Xenia on the second hand, thus earning her eternal wrath.