Secret Agent - The James Bond Story
The James Bond Story is a 1999
documentary film all about Fred Dibnah and the amazing world of steam.
Of course it's not. This is a 52 minute (mean with the running time)
gaze at the arena of James Bond with narration by Miranda Richardson of
Did you know that Jane Seymour
was cast in Live and Let Die when the producers saw her in The Onedin
Line? That Man with the Golden Gun star Christopher Lee was a cousin of
Ian Fleming? That George Lazenby convinced the 007 producers he was the
man to replace Sean Connery when he misjudged a punch during his
screentest and bloodied the nose of a stuntman? That Cubby Broccoli
invented the Pot Noodle?
Bond fans will already know
most of what this documentary flings in their direction and have longer
and more extensive documentaries on the shelf with the James Bond DVDs
they own. Shortcomings aside, and to clutch at straws, there is some
good archive material on offer and it is worth blowing the dust off the
cover and switching on your DVD player for this reason.
The documentary (which only goes
up to The World Is Not Enough) is completely out of date but you are
spared any mention of the Jason Bourne reboot of the series. It's bad
enough listening to Barbara Broccoli on the old Bond DVDs talking about
the Pierce Brosnan films as if they masterpieces rife with ingenious
The James Bond Story is broken
into ten short sections - Origins, Bond, James Bond, Sex, Violence,
Right and Wrong, The Original Spy, True Brit, Gadgets, Weaknesses, and
The Future. The origins part is reasonably interesting with some
footage of that very refined duo Ian Fleming and Noel Coward.
Coward was Fleming's neighbour
at GoldenEye in the West Indies where he wrote the books and would
often pop round for a Jammie Dodger and cup of tea. When deadlines
loomed, and Ian Fleming hadn't been to Sainsburys, they had to make do
with Bourbon Creams.
Coward believed that James Bond
was Fleming's fantasy version of himself. He did, as the documentary
touches upon, imbue Bond with some human qualities. He was more
interested in hard boiled American pulp than old fashioned British
adventure heroes like Biggles. Bond is a drinker, gambler, womaniser,
and hopelessly addicted to Bingo.
There are interviews with Sean
Connery, George Lazenby, Roger Moore, and Timothy Dalton plus a few
snippets with Pierce Brosnan as the documentary was released as part of
the campaign for Michael Apted's The World Is Not Enough. Brosnan is
required to ponder how Bond has been modernised for the nineties and
seems bored by questions he's probably been asked before.
Timothy Dalton comes across as
the most intelligent and thoughtful speaking about the character. He's
the one that you believe wasn't fibbing about reading all the books and
had an understanding of what Ian Fleming was about. Not that it did him
much good in the end.
Dalton did more of his own
stunts than any other Bond actor but modestly said it was only because
he didn't want to look like a wimpy idiot in front of the macho stunt
crews. Roger Moore is his usual deprecating self and as usual
entertaining company. I enjoy his reccurring joke that he only did the
Bond films for so little money because it involved traveling around the
world and mingling with beautiful women.
Sean Connery can be a cold fish
but it's never less than engaging to hear him talk about his time as
James Bond because of the unique ringside seat he had at the inception
of the franchise. The James Bond films shook up the cultural landscape
at a time when musicals and romantic comedies were still a relatively
large staple. Cinemagoers in 1962 had never seen anything quite like Dr
There are interviews
(through archive or shot for the documentary) with Lewis Gilbert,
Michael G Wilson, John Glen, Jane Seymour, Andrew Lycett, Terence
Young, and, um, Mariella Frostrup, that world famous authority on all
things James Bond. Frostrup speaks movingly about the ten long years
she spent renovating the slide whistle from The Man with the Golden
Gun's bridge jump after finding it abandoned and unloved in a muddy
field near Tunbrigde Wells.
Archive interview snippets also
include Diana Rigg, Christopher Lee, and Donald Pleasance, plus many
more wittering heads. The flaw is that the modest running time of the
film doesn't allow much time for anyone to say much. Eon's vaults are a
treasure trove that you want to explore.
The behind the scenes footage is
fascinating but you might have seen parts before in other
documentaries. Like how the croc stunt in Live and Let Die went wrong
with the first take and one of the crocs managed to snag the stuntman's
shoe. While I'm here I'd also like to complain about the crappy DVD
cover picture montage, which looks like it was thrown together in ten
minutes by someone on a VIC-20.
The extras are hardly worth
bothering with. Web links, filmographies, and trivia. The James Bond
Story has some very interesting footage but there have been far better
(and longer) 007 documentaries than this on television. It's a long way
from the definitive James Bond documentary.