It is a salient fact that it is difficult to see very much of the influence of the work of the late Ian Fleming, creator of James Bond, in the Eon Productions film version of You Only Live Twice (1967). It bears virtually no resemblance to the Fleming penultimate novel of the same name, published in 1964, the same year in which Fleming died of a heart attack on 12 August. The first four films; Dr No (1962), From Russia with Love (1963), Goldfinger (1964) and Thunderball (1965) had all generally been quite faithful to their Fleming source material, although there was the noticeable intrusion of set pieces and outlandish gadgetry from the third film, Goldfinger, onwards. Despite this, the first four James Bond films would have been recognisable to any reader of the Fleming Bond novels as more or less straight adaptations from the page to the screen, with a few amendments in plot and dialogue and added action sequences and gadgetry. It probably appeared to Fleming aficionados that this pattern of relatively faithful adaptations of the James Bond novels would continue well into the 1960s, and this would have been true, had it not been for Eon Productions’ decision to discard virtually all of the content of Fleming’s 1964 Bond novel, extracting only a modicum of the elements of the plot. The first scriptwriter was Harold Jack Bloom, who replaced the usual Bond scriptwriter Richard Maibaum and he was credited with only “additional story material.” When Bloom left the project the producers hired a friend of Ian Fleming’s, Roald Dahl (the Welsh-born children’s author and purveyor of adult macabre tales with an ironic or blackly comic twist, of Norwegian descent), in place of the usual scriptwriter Richard Maibaum and to write a completely new script at extreme variance with Fleming’s original, admittedly rather odd and sadly un-cinematic, novel. Fleming’s original novel had concerned James Bond being sent on a diplomatic mission to Japan to retrieve a MAGIC 44 cipher (a literary example of Hitchcock’s famous MacGuffin – a faceless device used by the author to gain entry into the plot) vital to British interests from the Japanese Secret Service, in exchange for helping the Japanese with a rather curious and indeed bizarre problem in their own backyard.
Half of the novel is a travelogue around Japan and the customs and traditions of its evaporating culture as it entered into the 1960s and the increasing Americanisation of its society. Notably Fleming had, the year before, in 1963 published a book of collected travel writing entitled Thrilling Cities, from trips around the world reporting for the Sunday Times in 1959 and 1960. A large part of one chapter of You Only Live Twice simply listed, in botanical textbook-like fashion, no less than twenty-two different types of poisonous flowers, plants and trees with which a certain Dr Guntram Shatterhand had populated his “Garden of Death”, which surrounded his Japanese “Castle of Death”. This “Garden of Death” was the polar opposite of the Biblical perfect Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve before the Fall of Man, after they ate of the fruit of the forbidden Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. The purpose of this “lovesome spot” was to entice the notoriously suicidal Japanese population into a garden of suicidal delights, where there were also boiling mud fumaroles, poisonous snakes and piranha fish occupying the castle’s moat. It was a veritable anti-Eden; a dystopia of mammoth proportions, a Hell on Earth created by an evil genius that had tipped over into utter madness and insanity. James Bond’s task, taking his orders from ‘Tiger’ Tanaka, the Head of the Japanese Secret Service, the Koan-Chosa-Kyoku, is to “enter this Castle of Death and slay the Dragon within”. The plot of Fleming’s You Only Live Twice takes an unexpected twist when Dr Shatterhand and his female companion are revealed to Bond in police-held photographs to be none other than the internationally wanted Ernst Stavro Blofeld and Fraulien Irma Bunt. Blofeld was the head of the now defunct international criminal organisation SPECTRE and the murderer of Tracy Bond, Bond’s bride of just a few hours in the previous novel, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1963). Irma Bunt, who also appeared in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, is his dumpy lover, later seen by Bond in a Japanese suit of armour and with a resplendent butterfly net hat. Blofeld also appears in a full Japanese suit of armour, complete with samurai sword. The idea of wearing the armour is to protect the two villains from the many lethal inhabitants of their poisonous garden creation. James Bond’s mission to remove a thorn in the Japanese government’s side immediately turns into a vendetta against Blofeld and Bunt. Bond gladly takes on the mission with a renewed determination to avenge his late bride and to deal a fatal blow to the man who had been his enemy on two different missions, recorded in Thunderball (1961) and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1963). Bond succeeds in penetrating the poison garden and the castle and against the odds he kills Blofeld with his bare hands and leaves Bunt unconscious in the castle where he mechanically stops the underground lava eruptions, which occur at a point in the castle every fifteen minutes. Bond escapes the castle by cutting a foothold into the material of the warning sign banner attached to the castle with Blofeld’s sword and cutting its mooring so that he drifts away by hanging onto the helium balloon that held the sign in place. Bond is shot in the side of the head as he drifts away on the warning sign attached to the helium balloon. As a result of this, Bond loses his memory, and stays with the love interest in the novel, Kissy Suzuki, living the simple life of a Japanese fisherman called Taro Todoroki, until he realises his past life had a lot to do with Russia, and Kissy Suzuki sends him on his way there, with a brainwashed Bond returning to his old self after an assassination attempt on M in the next and final Bond novel in the series, The Man with the Golden Gun (1965).
The film version of You Only Live Twice, released just three years after the publication of the novel in 1967, bears very little resemblance to the plot of the novel. In fact, it is one of the most divergent James Bond films from its source material, along with The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) and Moonraker (1979). Both films were like You Only Live Twice, also directed by Lewis Gilbert. Part of this was due to the fact that the producers of the film, Cubby Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, found that the feudal Japanese did not built their castles near the sea as they were prone to damage from typhoons coming in from the coast – rather they had built them inland. This meant Blofeld’s Garden of Death and Castle of Death were now a dead letter, and using a recognisance flight they looked for another suitable location such as the volcanoes of Japan. From You Only Live Twice onwards (with the exception of the faithful adaptation of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service in 1969) the James Bond films of the 1970s became ever more divergent from their Fleming source material, and with the increasing budgets from the studio, the stunts and action sequences and gadgetry became ever more extravagant and outrageous in nature and less and less recognisable to the Fleming reader. As a character construct James Bond became less and less the focus of attention but merely a catalyst for the outlandish plot of the villains and for the breathtaking stunts. The new scriptwriter Roald Dahl wrote an entirely new story, replacing the bizarre plot of the novel with something Bond film-going audiences would find more familiar. Dahl is on record as saying that Fleming’s You Only Live Twice was “tired”, “bad” and “Ian’s worst book.”1 Dahl also said “You Only Live Twice was the only Fleming book that had virtually no semblance of a plot that could be made into a movie. The concept of Blofeld patrolling his garden of poisonous plants in a medieval suit of armor [sic] and lopping off the heads of half-blinded Japanese was ridiculous. When I began the script, I could retain only four or five of the original novel’s story ideas. Obviously, the movie had to take place in Japan. We kept Blofeld and Tiger Tanaka and Bond’s pearl-diving girlfriend, Kissy Suzuki. And we retained the Ninjas – those masters of oriental martial arts who use their talents to raid Blofeld’s hideout. But aside from those bits, I had nothing except a wonderful Ian Fleming title.”2
The plot of the film version of You Only Live Twice concerned the hijacking of United States and Soviet space rockets using a rocket which opened up at its nose and swallowed them like a space age shark, bringing the rocket and the crew back into a hollowed out dormant Japanese volcanic lair in an effort to start World War III. The international criminal and terrorist organisation SPECTRE (the Special Executive for Counterintelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion) is behind the scheme for world domination, with the (presumed) backing of the communist government of Red China (a world nuclear power since October 1964). Red China had much to gain from pitting the two world superpowers, the United States and the Soviet Union, against each other to provoke a nuclear war with the inevitable outcome of mutually assured destruction (or MAD for short) and with Red China becoming an ascendant new superpower arising in the East to dominate world politics and to plan world condominium. SPECTRE was the vassal for hire through which Red China pitted the two remaining world superpowers were set to destroy each other in a nuclear war, in much the same way as the Quantum organisation was for hire to restore dictatorships and organise “regime change” in the new series of James Bond films starring Daniel Craig as Ian Fleming’s secret agent. The film version of You Only Live Twice has only basic elements taken from Fleming’s novel, such as the characters of Kissy Suzuki, ‘Tiger’ Tanaka, Dikko Henderson and Ernst Stavro Blofeld. The Japanese location is of course used, as are Tiger’s ninjas and the idea of the oubliette Bond falls down as he runs after Japanese secret agent Aki, in his first meeting with ‘Tiger’ Tanaka comes from the one in Blofeld’s “Castle of Death”. The Japanese castle is replaced with a hollowed out volcano containing a military base, a rocket launching pad and a space rocket capable of swallowing other space rockets, conveyed into place by a monorail. The rocket is able to return to its volcano base with either the United States or Soviet rocket inside it. Roald Dahl had taken his plot from the newspapers of the day, with the Cold War heating up again with the contemporary Space Race, replacing the Arms Race, between the United States and Soviet Russia well under way.
The plot of the film is pure science fiction fantasy with a megalomaniac villain trying to pit the two world superpowers together for his own nefarious ends. Fleming has the Japanese “Castle of Death” dissolve due to Bond’s turning on of the lava eruption lock valve below the stone floor of the castle in ‘The Question Room’, causing the necessary pressure to make a volcanic eruption occur, This in turn destroys the castle from inside with the resultant eruption of molten lava. Fleming describes how the castle “swayed in the moonlight and seemed to jig upwards and sideways and then slowly dissolve like an icecream cone in sunshine.”3 This ending of the novel mirrors Dahl’s decision to have Blofeld use a self-destruct lever to explode the inside of his volcano, thus triggering a volcanic eruption, when his volcano is compromised by Bond and Tiger’s ninja army. Piranha fish also appear in both the novel and film versions. The opening sequence also has James Bond apparently “killed” by some Japanese gunmen who fire into his upturned bed, perhaps inspired by Bond’s “missing, presumed dead” Times obituary written by M which features in a late chapter of Fleming’s source novel. Other Fleming elements that were retained in the film version of You Only Live Twice were Bond’s makeover to fit in as a Japanese citizen and the Ama fishing community with diving girls like Kissy. There were also nominal references to the traditional role of men and women in Japanese society and the use of the ON code of honour. Apart from these disparate elements, the finished film bore very little resemblance to Fleming’s source novel, being the first, and certainly not the last, to take the title of a Fleming Bond novel and very little else besides.
It is rather disappointing that Roald Dahl felt the need to divert the screenplay so far from the novel. Dahl was surely one to appreciate the macabre gothic horror aspects of Fleming’s fiendish imagination. You Only Live Twice holds the place of the darkest and most morbid novel, not surprising given Fleming’s poor state of health at the time he was researching and writing it Dahl took only some of the ideas from the script work already done by Harold Jack Bloom and wrote his own original script. However, such a divergent approach was probably inevitable. The previous film, the gadget-laden Thunderball had a plot concerning a hijacked British Vulcan bomber and its lethal atomic cargo. Following this with a screenplay about a Japanese suicide garden and castle would probably not have went down well with audiences in the firm grip of Bondmania. Roald Dahl’s blackly comic and ironical adult stories, later immortalised (and introduced by Dahl himself) in such television adaptations as the anthology series Way Out and Tales of the Unexpected, were in their own way just as bizarre and macabre as what Fleming’s imagination conjured up in You Only Live Twice. Fleming had given Dahl the idea for his famous short story called “Lamb to the Slaughter”, published in a collection in 1953, and which was later on several occasions adapted for television. You Only Live Twice is arguably one of Fleming’s finest novels, precisely because it is so uniquely different from the other Bond novels, and this is sadly what also made it so un-filmable in the late 1960s, as it would represent a formula piece of “the same mixture as before”. The lack of fidelity with the Bond novels of Ian Fleming notwithstanding, there has been a Fleming inspiration for the film version of You Only Live Twice which has never (as far as this writer is aware) been acknowledged, and which makes one feel that perhaps the plot of the film version of You Only Live Twice would surprisingly have met with some recognition from Fleming. It is impossible to know if Roald Dahl ever read Fleming’s non-fiction travel book Thrilling Cities (1963), but if he had they would surely have found inspiration for their plot about a rocket hidden in a hollowed out volcano with a man-made crater moving roof. In Thrilling Cities, in the chapter on the capital city of Berlin, Fleming (normally a Teutonophile) concludes his thoughts with the following passage:
“I left Berlin without regret. From this grim capital went forth the orders that in 1917 killed my father and in 1940 my youngest brother. In contra-distinction to Hamburg and so many other German towns, it is only in Berlin and in the smoking cities of the Ruhr that I think I see, against my will, the sinister side of the German nation. In these two regions I smell the tension and hysteria that breed the things we have suffered from Germany in two great wars and that, twice in my lifetime, have got my country to her knees. In these places I have a recurrent waking nightmare: it is ten, twenty, fifty years later in the Harz Mountains, or in the depths of the Black Forest. The whole of a green and smiling field slides silently back to reveal the dark mouth of a great subterranean redoubt. With a whine of thousands of horsepower, behind a mass of brilliant machinery (brainchildren of Krupp, Siemens, Zeiss and all the others) the tip of a gigantic rocket emerges above the surrounding young green trees. England has rejected the ultimatum. First there is a thin trickle of steam from the rocket exhausts and then a great belch of flame, and slowly, very slowly, the rocket climbs off its underground launching pad. And then it is on its way.
Yes, it was obviously time for me to leave Berlin.”4
As Fleming notes he had lost his father, Major Valentine Fleming MP in World War I in 1917 and his brother Michael Fleming in World War II in 1940, so one can understand his mistrust of the Prussian militaristic strain which then still existed in Germany (there are even worrying remnants of this type of Germany today, such as the neo-Nazis, as well as neo-Fascists in Italy). The idea of a whole green field sliding back to reveal the dark mouth of a subterranean redoubt and with a launch pad a missile aimed at England sounds remarkably similar to the film version of You Only Live Twice. Its plot concerns the crater of a Japanese volcano sliding back to reveal a subterranean base filled with armed guards, a control room and a launching pad for a rocket, which is capable of swallowing other rockets in space. The intention of this is to pit the two superpowers against each other in order to start a nuclear holocaust between the United States and Soviet Russia, leaving SPECTRE and their Japanese allies in charge of what is left of the world. The plot of the film version of You Only Live Twice is essentially of the same type as what Fleming describes as being in his nightmares – that of a resurgent Germany able to threaten Europe and the world again in the passage from Thrilling Cities. Whether Dahl ever read Thrilling Cities one can never know, but it is at least feasible that this interesting passage from Fleming’s travel book could have been at the back of his mind when he sat down to write the screenplay for a film that, at first glance, has so very little to do with the work of Ian Fleming.
Fleming’s mistrust of the divided Berlin, a miniature model of how Germany was divided between the Allied powers and the Soviets reflected contemporary British public opinion. Even though post-war Germany was weakened and divided, the memory of the Blitz on UK cities by the German Luftwaffe in 1940-41 and the German V-1 and V-2 rockets aimed at London and other British cities in 1944-45 were still fresh in the minds of the British population in the late 1940s and early 1950s. In this backdrop, it was no surprise that Fleming wrote Moonraker, partly as a polemic against the Prussian militaristic side of Germany, which interestingly fell within the Soviet sphere of influence in East Germany. The film Seven Days to Noon (1950) was one of the first to deal with the fear of nuclear weapons in the post-war world, with a plot involving a nuclear device being planted in London by a mad scientist and the attempts of the authorities to track him and the atomic device down. Interestingly, the screenplay of the film was written by Paul Dehn, who later worked on the script of Goldfinger with Richard Maibaum. Though there is no evidence for it, Fleming may well have been inspired by Seven Days to Noon to write Moonraker, his third and arguably finest Bond novel, also involving an attempted nuclear attack on London. Fleming is on record as having said that the novel came from a film idea about updated V-2 rockets and the Blades gambling scene and other early parts of the novel were tacked onto this film idea, for which Fleming had written a film script. The novel Moonraker was the result of an adaptation of the film script into prose. Although Germany was weakened by the carve-up between the British, French and American controlled sectors on the West German side and the Soviet controlled sector on the East German side it was typical of the generation that had experienced the World Wars to be sceptical about a new peaceable Germany emerging. Fleming’s Moonraker was published in 1955, just ten years after World War II, the most destructive war in human history. Moonraker features a rabid Nazi, who sponsored by the Soviets, plans to target a nuclear missile, the eponymous Moonraker on the centre of London as revenge for the Allied victory over Germany in the last war. The supposed war hero, Sir Hugo “Hugger” Drax was revealed to be firstly a cad as a card cheat in the gentleman’s club Blades (the crime that brought him to the attention of the British Secret Service and M and Bond). Secondly, he is also revealed to be a lunatic Nazi, masquerading as a British war hero under the identity of a dead man, after his own German bomb destroyed his face and he feigned a loss of memory. In reality Sir Hugo Drax is Graf Hugo von der Drache, a German Count who had fought in World War II as a committed and now post-war embittered Nazi. This aspect of a Nazi con man pulling the wool over the eyes of the British establishment fitted in with the paranoia that the two World Wars had created in post-war Britain in the late 1940s and the 1950s. In Moonraker, there is an interesting exchange between James Bond (“die Englander”) and the newly revealed German Nazi Graf Hugo von der Drache after he had delivered to his captive audience his remarkable life story and explained his finely wrought plan to destroy London:
“You can spare us the jokes,” said Bond roughly. “Get on with your story, Kraut.”
Drax’s eyes blazed momentarily. “A Kraut. Yes, I am indeed a Reichsdeutscher – the mouth beneath the red moustache savoured the fine word – “and even England will soon agree that they have been licked by just one single German. And then perhaps they’ll stop calling us Krauts – BY ORDER!” The words were yelled out and the whole of Prussian militarism was in the parade-ground bellow.”5
This sums up the post-war consensus on Germany – that it had to be weakened and controlled by United States and Soviet occupation and de-nazified, to use the American expression. During World War II there were many rumours of the creation of a super weapon by the Nazis, most notably the attempts by the Germans to create a nuclear weapon by splitting the atom, using experiments with “heavy water” in Norway. There were also rumours in the latter stages of the war that the Germans had created a “Death Ray” or other fantastic weapon that would wipe out vast swathes of the Allied armies in its wake. There was also the suggestion that Hitler would attach a giant magnifying glass to an airship in order to magnify the sun’s rays and to harness this vast destructive power to destroy American cities with a “Sun Gun” and force the withdrawal of the Americans from the war (cf. Diamonds Are Forever in 1971, The Man with the Golden Gun in 1974 and Die Another Day in 2002). In the latter stages of the war, when the tide was turning against the Axis powers of Germany, Italy, Japan and their satellite allies, Hitler and his Italian ally Mussolini held on to the ludicrous hope that a “Death Ray” or some such other weapon, like the more credible nuclear bomb would be developed in time to destroy the approaching Allied forces. These weapons all smacked of science fiction and such rumours as the “Death Ray” proved to be unfounded examples of the now lunatic Hitler and Mussolini clutching at straws, although the belief in the possibility of such fantastic weapons in the age of the Blitzkrieg was rife in the British population also. There were also rumours in the aftermath of the war that Hitler was still alive, and rather than having committed suicide in the Berlin bunker on 30 April 1945 as he was surrounded by the Red Army, he had escaped by submarine to somewhere in South America. Hitler’s right hand man, Martin Bormann, had never been found when he escaped from the Berlin bunker shortly after Hitler’s suicide. There were rumours that he too had escaped Germany and also fled to South America (his skeletal remains were later found by workmen digging a hole in December 1972 and it is believed he was killed in May 1945 in an explosion from a Soviet shell.) In “The Eagle’s Nest”, the first episode of The New Avengers written by Brian Clemens there is a plot to revive the comatose body of Adolf Hitler using suspended animation after his body was recovered from a plane which crashed in 1945 on the lonely island of St Dorca containing “Germany’s greatest treasure”. The island contained Nazis wanting to create a new Third Reich, but of course the rather fantastic plot is foiled when Trasker, the main villain is shot and his finger pulls the trigger of the machine gun he is holding, with some bullets entering the comatose body of Hitler, thus dashing any hopes of a new Third Reich.6 The Boys From Brazil, a novel by Ira Levin and later a film mines similar territory, as does Robert Harris’ Fatherland, featuring the dystopia of a Nazi Germany that had won World War II and with Adolf Hitler celebrating his seventy-fifth birthday in 1964.
It could be said that Moonraker, with a plot involving a German Nazi posing as a successful English businessman and philanthropist, seemingly donating a test rocket with nuclear capability called the Moonraker for the defence of the realm, fed into this hysteria. In some ways it was the British equivalent of the “Reds under the beds” Communism scare initiated by Senator McCarthy in the United States in the McCarthyism over-the-top conspiracy theories of the 1950s. Instead of the Moonraker rocket’s expected test flight with the tip of the rocket containing harmless flight test equipment, Drax had instead covertly placed a Soviet atomic warhead in the rocket nose. The flight test equipment had in exchange been couriered to the Soviets who, as a former combatant against Nazi Germany are ironically now employing the ex-Nazi Drax to make a nuclear strike against the Unites States’ key ally in Europe. Drax’s intention is to decimate London and its environs with a nuclear missile strike in revenge for Germany’s defeat at the hands of the British and Americans. It is also Drax’s personal revenge, as a half-English, half-German man who was embittered as one of his own German planes had bombed him and he had been taken, in his British uniform disguise to the hospital he had planted a bomb at, which then exploded with him in it, causing his face to be so badly destroyed that he had to receive rather botched plastic surgery. Medical procedures such as plastic surgery had become more advanced sadly de to necessity as a result of the turning point of the war itself and the horrific injuries military and civilians received. Fleming is almost poetic in his language when he is referring to the potential nuclear catastrophe that awaits the population of London:
“There the gleaming rocket stood, beautiful, innocent, like a new toy for Cyclops.
But there was a horrible smell of chemicals in the air and to Bond the Moonraker was a giant hypodermic needle ready to be plunged into the heart of England. Despite a growl from Krebs he paused on the stairway and looked up at its glittering nose. A million deaths. A million. A million. A million.
On his hands? For God’s sake! On his hands?”7
Fleming’s sixth Bond novel Dr. No (1958) featured a plot involving the attempted toppling of American space rockets by a mysterious half-Chinese, half-German called Dr Julius No who operated from the island base of Crab Key off Jamaica. This novel formed the basis for the first James Bond film released in Britain on 5 October 1962, just over a week before the events of the Cuban Missile Crisis, which was the hottest that the Cold War ever got between the United States and the Soviets. It is interesting that the producers chose Dr. No as the basis for their first film, after they had rejected Thunderball (1961) due to intellectual property legal wrangles surrounding the novel involving Fleming, Jack Whittingham and Kevin McClory. These legal wrangles were not properly resolved until a High Court case in the following year, where McClory received the film rights to the 1961 novel, on which Fleming, Whittingham and he had contributed ideas when it had originated as a James Bond film script in 1959. Fleming claimed that he had merely written the novel that the film was to be based on. As a result, Dr. No became the first James Bond film and, with the possible exception of Goldfinger (1959) involving a raid on the gold held at Fort Knox, it was one of the most outlandish of all of Fleming’s Bond novels. It featured Bond going through a human endurance test, through tunnels containing spiders, vast heat and in the end up a fight with a giant squid. Although the budget of Dr No was too small to allow of such extravagances, it helped to set the Bond films on their more outlandish path. This eventually led to the producers and scriptwriters feeling that they had to constantly outdo the last James Bond film in terms of set pieces and daring stunts. It also led to the fantastic plots like attempting to start World War III (the shared “any old plot in a storm” linking You Only Live Twice, The Spy Who Loved Me and Tomorrow Never Dies) or to annihilate the entire human race on Earth and repopulate it from space in a neo-Hitler fashion (Moonraker). Space age science fiction style plots also feature in several other Bond films. Diamonds Are Forever (1971) had a diamond-encrusted satellite laser used to threaten the United States into nuclear disarmament. The Man with the Golden Gun (1974) similarly had a solar power cell weapon run by the MacGuffin the Solex Agitator. GoldenEye (1995) featured a stolen Russian satellite space weapon used to try to destroy London with an electromagnetic pulse. Die Another Day also featured a sun-powered satellite laser called Icarus, used to attempt to destroy the border between North Korea and South Korea, so that South Korea could be overrun by North Korean troops. The film is based on Moonraker, with a villain called Sir Gustav Graves, who is in fact the North Korean Colonel Moon, changed into a Caucasian Englishman with the help of cutting edge technology, in much the same way as Graf Hugo von der Drache was changed by explosions and botched plastic surgery into the English war hero Sir Hugo Drax.
It is interesting to note that even the most outlandish of the Bond films, such as You Only Live Twice, which is wildly divergent from its novel source, has a precedent in the imagination of Ian Fleming himself. This influence turns up not in a Bond novel, but in the most unlikely place of a non-fiction travel book, appropriately entitled Thrilling Cities. There is surely much else in the journalism of Ian Fleming from which one could tease out influrences in his later James Bond novels and the James Bond films. This is why an affordable version of Talk of the Devil (Queen Anne Press, 2008) released in Ian Fleming’s Centenary Year should be released, so that aficiandos can savour all of these hitherto unknown influences. This is also why Ian Fleming should never be overshadowed by the “Frankenstein's Monster” of the James Bond films. Fleming was the character’s progenitor and without his brilliant imagination there would be no James Bond in print or in film. The James Bond universe owes much to its creator and even in its most offbeat and outlandish elements the Fleming influence shines through. Of course the Bond films have long since eclipsed their creator and many of them bare very little resemblance to the work of Ian Fleming, but in every film there are at least a few elements which recall the creator’s work. An interesting case in point is the film version of You Only Live Twice. One feels that if Fleming had lived to see the film version of You Only Live Twice he would not have been so disappointed by it as one might imagine. Although the film and novel are wildly divergent, they are in their own way both part of Fleming’s vibrant imagination, whether in one of his fiction or non-fiction books. The film version of You Only Live Twice, for long thought of as the film which started the break away from the novels as source material for the Bond films has all along contained a Fleming link that has went unacknowledged for too long. This untold Fleming Thrilling Cities influence on the film of You Only Live Twice deserves to finally be acknowledged by Bond aficionados and scholars as an interesting footnote in James Bond film history.
TBB Article No. 2
© The Bondologist Blog, 2012.
1 Donald Sturrock, Storyteller: The Life of Roald Dahl, (Harper Press, London, 2011), p. 434.
2 Roald Dahl quoted in Steven Jay Rubin, The Complete James Bond Movie Encyclopedia, Newly Revised Second Edition, (Contemporary Books, Chicago, 2003), p.97.
3 Ian Fleming, You Only Live Twice, (Pan Books Ltd., London, 1965), p. 177.
4 Ian Fleming, Thrilling Cities, (Jonathan Cape Ltd., London, 1963), p. 148.
5 Ian Fleming, Moonraker, (Pan Books Ltd., London, 1961), p. 157 (hereinafter “Moonraker”)
6 Dave Rogers, The Complete Avengers, (St Martin’s Press, New York, 1989), p. 229.
7 Moonraker, p. 154.