Kiss Kiss Bang Bang - The Bond Files 

The Bond Files: The Unofficial Guide to the World's Greatest Secret Agent was compiled and written by Andy Lane and Paul Simpson and first published in 2000 by Virgin. This is a fascinating 400 page guide to all things James Bond from novels, films, comic strips, graphic novels, cartoons to television, copycats and unproduced projects. The guide is split into nine different sections with the books and films naturally taking up most of the space. 'This book,' goes part of the introduction. 'Is as far as we can tell, the first one to cover Bond in all his different incarnations, the first to list the comics, the first to mention the role-playing game and the first to go into any detail at all on what is perhaps the only true continuation of Ian Fleming's legacy - the newspaper comic strips. It's unique. It's definitive. It's also not authorised, either by Gildrose or Eon Productions. That means we don't have to be nice.' The Bond Files then begins with a timeline that notes everything Bond related released from 1953 to 2000. 
The guide to the various books is constructed so that we get a passage on the plot and then some subjective 'Observations' about the novel from the authors. Each analysis ends with a fun section where categories like 'Sadism', 'Lines to Flick Past', 'Villainess Foibles' and 'Bond's Past Life' get a line or two. The Fleming books, with their wonderful escapism, occasional inconsistencies and sometimes eccentric lines ('With the anger balling up inside him like cat's fur') are nicely covered on the whole. Another nice thing about The Bond Files is that it also discusses lesser known works like The Authorised Biography of 007 by John Pearson and RD Mascott's The Adventures of James Bond Junior 003½ before moving onto the continuation novels by John Gardner and Raymond Benson. Benson is given a mild roasting at times with his 1999 effort High Time To Kill full of 'solecisms, errors, bad phraseology and clumsy lines'. The authors seem particularly bemused when Benson has Bond interested in 'ballroom dancing' and 'big band swing' in one book! 

The section on the films is very readable and enjoyable for any Bond fan. We get with each film categories like 'Tag Lines' and 'Relevance of Pre-Title Sequence' before 'Theme Song', 'Plot', and 'Observations'. Like the book section, each film ends with a few comments under titles like 'Lines To Rewind For', 'Sadism', 'Single Entendres' and 'Patronising Lines'. 'James Bond Fashion Victim' includes a few thoughts on Bond's more eccentric outfits. One thing I always find fascinating about the Bond films are the titbits about who was screentested and considered to play 007 in the various films and The Bond Files is full of these details. In the guide to the films, the authors repeat the suggestion Ian Fleming favoured David Niven or Roger Moore to be the first ever big screen Bond and that Cary Grant and Patrick McGoohan were approached but not interested in the role. Other actors considered to be Bond for 1962's Dr No were Richard Burton, George Baker, Michael Redgrave and Richard Johnson according to The Bond Files. 
When Connery left prior to On Her Majesty's Secret Service, George Lazenby won the role but not before the producers had - we learn here - apparently considered Batman star Adam West, future Simon Templar/Saint Ian Ogilvy and offered the part to Roger Moore and a 25-year-old Timothy Dalton - who declined on the grounds that he felt he was far too young to take over from someone of Sean Connery's stature. Before Roger Moore finally become Bond in 1972 for Live and Let Die the producers had already considered future Sherlock Holmes actor Jeremy Brett, Michael Billington of Gerry Anderson's UFO television series and none other than Burt Reynolds. United Artists liked the idea of a Hollywood star like Clint Eastwood or Steve McQueen taking over but Cubby Broccoli felt Bond would be better served by a British actor.  

The Bond Files goes on to consider the forgettable and ho-hum nineties James Bond Junior animated cartoon series and the various comic strips and graphic novels. A chapter called 'Spoofs, Influences and References' is quite good fun and touches on everything from Operation Kid Brother starring Sean Connery's brother Neil to the Austin Powers films. They also discuss a strange and little read 1985 Bond novel called The Killing Zone by Jim Hatfield which provoked some debate over whether or not it was commissioned and then suppressed or merely a work of fan fiction. It was in fact a vanity novel privately published by Hatfield with no permission from Gildrose - the company that owns the literary rights to James Bond. The authors set forward various reasons why the book should have been rumbled, including the fact that it contained characters who were purely created for the film series and was never published in a hardback edition.
Also fun to read about are the big plans that never actually made it to the screen. The authors discuss how Kevin McClory originally intended to produce an unofficial Bond film with his Thunderball rights in 1976 which would have been called Warhead. In the unused screenplay/treatment - which McClory, Len Deighton and Sean Connery all worked on together - for Warhead, Shrublands was a scuba-diving training school for intelligence agents rather than a health farm and the story would have featured robotic sharks and Blofeld threatening to destroy New York. It was also interesting to read - and this was new to me - that McClory's 1983 renegade Bond film Never Say Never Again was originally intended to have a pre-credits sequence set at a medieval pageant involving a knight with a metal-bladed tipped lance that would have ended with with an exciting steeplechase across a car park. It was deemed too expensive though ultimately and never filmed.
The Bond Files is a lot of fun on the whole. The book is quite chatty in style and one you can dip in and out of at random points and always find something interesting to read. A good little present or buy for anyone interested in James Bond. 
- Jake 


c 2010 Alternative 007