k2/Emerald/Coin-Operated Boy (sushigrade) wrote,
k2/Emerald/Coin-Operated Boy

The Spy Who whaaaaa

Last year, bargain hunter that I am, I managed to snag the entire James Bond movie collection on Amazon for under $100, and darwins_fox  and I have been watching them in sequence every few weeks. Neither of us were ever terribly fond of the Roger Moore movies (though as a kid I always enjoyed seeing For Your Eyes Only pop up as the ABC Sunday Night Movie*), but one of the great things about the Bond collection was that Sir Roger Moore came back to do a commentary track for each of his Bond films. We’ve really been enjoying his stories of the people and places associated with him and his time as Bond. Our most recent viewing, The Spy Who Loved Me, always struck me as the quintessential Roger Moore-as-Bond movie: chock full of silliness, beautiful women, a discotastic soundtrack, ridiculous gadgets, and an over-the-top “save the world” plot. Time and a fondness for Moore’s reminiscences have actually softened my opinion of his Bond films; if you take them for what they are, artifacts of the 70s and the culture thereof, they’re quite well-done. Hell, even Moonraker isn’t too bad until you they start firing frickin' lasers.**

Recently, I re-read most of the Ian Fleming novels; I skipped The Spy Who Loved Me, as it’s easily the worst of the lot. It’s told from the perspective of the Bond Girl, and if you have ever read Fleming, you know that empathy for anyone who’s not a white male is not exactly one of his strengths. It has absolutely nothing to do with the eponymous movie. I was intrigued to find out that Christopher Wood, one of the screenwriters of TSWLM, did a novelization, and on a whim I picked up a copy for a buck on eBay, figuring that it couldn’t be any worse than Fleming’s book of the same name.

To my surprise, it is considerably better. Wood not only strips out all the cheese-and-cornball sensibility out of the movie, he actually does quite an astonishing job of writing it in Fleming’s style. It’s all there— M’s gruff briefing, the backstory of the villain’s fiendish rise to power, the loving descriptions of travel to exotic locales, the taut action, even Bond’s sexist ruminations. Hell, he brings back SMERSH, for pete’s sake. I’m sure that if copyright wasn’t an issue, he’d have made Stromberg a member of SPECTRE. I just started, really; I’m about nine chapters in, past the bit at the Pyramids and where Bond meets Major Amasova for the first time, and while the skeleton of the plot is the same, the story is a completely different animal. So far, the only concession to the silliness of the movie is the ski pole and the parachute jump of the teaser, and even these were written in as hard-boiled and straight-faced a manner as possible. He's not 100% Fleming; Wood tends to be a bit more brutal and sensationalist. ("Hey, let's throw in graphic descriptions of gory murder and torture!") But it’s made a strong enough impression for me to blog about it. Sure, it’s pure pulp, but pulp Fleming style— which is to say darn enjoyable.

Wood also wrote an novelization of his other Bond screenplay, Moonraker. It says something about how good and Flemingesque his version of TSWLM is that I’m actually considering hunting down his take on Moonraker.

* way to date yourself, dude.
** okay, so I forgot about the gondola hovercraft, which I'm sure was later ripped off by the European branch of M.A.S.K..
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