THE BOOK

Author: Ian Fleming

Date: 1956

THE PLOT

M assigns James Bond to infiltrate a diamond-smuggling operation, as it largely takes place on British territory, and is a danger to Britain's economy. Bond takes on the identity of Peter Franks, a new hire in the smuggling operation, whom Special Branch quietly arrests.

Bond, as Franks, tracks the pipeline forward from London to New York City to Las Vegas and backward to Sierra Leone. In the course he finds "the Spangled mob," led by American gangsters Serrafimo and Jack Spang, who run the smuggling pipeline. In London he meets Jack Spang, who goes by another name as a VP at "The Diamond House," but Bond doesn't discover his true identity until much later.

Disguised as Franks, Bond meets Tiffany Case at her London flat, an attractive woman who is nevertheless standoffish due to teenage sexual trauma. She takes orders from someone called "ABC" on the phone, who is also Jack Spang, though neither know it yet. She arranges the smuggling operation, and guards Bond on his trip to New York. She is also, it turns out, a dealer in Vegas for the Spangs. The readers (but not Bond and Case) learn both are watched on the plane to New York by Spangled gang members Wint and Kidd, torpedoes from Detroit who really enjoy their work.

Bond meets "Shady" Tree, the NYC boss for the Spangs. Tree is supposed to pay Bond $5,000 for smuggling the diamonds from London to NYC, but to launder the money, gives him $1,000 as a stake to "win" the rest at a fixed horse race in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.

Bond runs into Felix Leiter in NYC, now with the Pinkertons after his injuries in Live and Let Die, and discover they are both working the horse-racing fix in Saratoga Springs from opposite directions. Leiter's plan to cost the Spangs millions succeeds, but involves Bond paying off a jockey at the mud baths. Wint and Kidd (in black hoods) assault the jockey with boiling mud while Bond is helpless to stop them in his mud "casket."

"Franks" tells Tree he still wants his money, and he is directed to Vegas, where he "wins" his payoff at a blackjack table where Tiffany is the dealer. Bond's cover is blown (partly through his own efforts). He is kidnapped by Seraffimo Spang, who has his men beat Bond close to death on a mint 1880s train in a refurbished ghost town. He is rescued by Case, Seraffimo pursues, and Bond kills Seraffimo. Both are then rescued by Leiter.

Bond heads home on the Queen Elizabeth, where he and Case admit their feelings for each other. They (obliquely) discuss marriage and have sex. Afterward, Bond discovers Wint and Kidd are also aboard, and have kidnapped Case. He climbs down a rope made from bedsheets to their stateroom porthole, swings in and kills them both.

In the final chapter, Bond travels to Sierra Leone where he and some Army chaps surveil the dentist at his rendezvous. Jack Spang himself arrives on the helicopter — it's implied he killed the regular pilot — and kills the dentist. The smuggling racket is bust, and Spang is covering his tracks. Bond calls for Spang to surrender, but he tries to escape on the helicopter. Bond reluctantly shoots him down.

We are told that this ties up the last end of the diamond smuggling ring, as all the principals are dead and most of the Spangled Gang have been rounded up.

Random Bullets:

In the first chapter, when we meet the Sierra Leone dentist who is smuggling diamonds out, we are given the unnecessary information that his cover story is sex with a black woman who wants his "fine white body" once a month. Ick, on so many levels.

This assignment seems to support the theory on this board that Bond isn't a spy or secret agent at all, but instead a sort of policeman who fights crime abroad instead of at home. He does, in fact, tell Tiffany Case that he is a "civil servant," although that's probably meant as a joke.

There is no reason for "Shady" Tree to be a hunchback, but he is. I guess to make him memorable? But it's weird, especially since he disappears from the narrative quickly.

The rigamarole of Bond having to win his payoff is a bit silly. Mob people pay people off in cash all the time. And if "Shady" Tree is going to give him $1,000, why make him "win" the other $4,000? Just give him the lot and be done with it. Whatever excuse Bond's going to use for the $1,000 (if he's picked up by the cops) would work, or not work, identically for $5,000.

Also, someone as high up in the organization as Tree would pay off Bond with a cut-out.

Leiter and Bond bumping into each in New York is such a wild coincidence it's almost farcical. For one thing, Leiter's assignment is in Sarasota Springs.

Bond agreeing to play bagman for Leiter is a stretch. And when part of that agreement is Bond being bound up in a box full of hot mud where he is helpless, I simply can't believe it. Nobody, agent or not, would agree to that as part of a mission or as a favor to a friend.

Leiter could have paid off the jockey some other way, or with some other cut-out, or he could have done it himself. But that would require following Leiter for a chapter, and it occurs to me that the books never do that. The narrative follows Bond, and only Bond, and if someone else experiences something important where Bond's not present, he is simply told about it (with us listening in) later. Or, as sometimes occurs, Bond imagines what happened in his mind's eye.

This is the second book where Bond/Fleming muses that Americans have to deal with race issues right away in school, while Brits can ... what, ignore them until adulthood? Ignore them altogether? I don't want to follow this thought any further.

TIffany Case has a flat in London, but works as a dealer in Las Vegas. She must smuggle a LOT of diamonds to justify going back and forth. Given that her boss is the same in both jobs, I suppose they arrange her schedule to suit. Still, heckuva commute.

Tree tells Bond specifically, and more than once, not to gamble in Vegas after "winning" his payoff at the blackjack table (where Bond is impressed with Case's card-sharking). But he does so anyway, winning big at roulette, because he is tired of being a passive participant, and being ordered around by people he doesn't respect. This draws Seraffimo Spang's attention, who has Bond kidnapped. It is soon after Bond is snatched that Spang gets word from London from his brother that the real Franks has been arrested and violence ensues. But if Bond hadn't already been kidnapped, he'd have had a fighting chance against Spang's gunmen. This act is gobsmackingly reckless.

If people could win at roulette as easily as Bond does, casinos would go out of business. And why is he a civil servant instead of a professional gambler?

I think Fleming was trying to flesh out Tiffany Case like he did Gala Brand, which I applaud. Unfortunately, he still doesn't seem to have any idea how women actually talk. And she ran so hot and cold I nearly got whiplash from watching her alternate between kissing Bond and snarling at him, both in the same scene. I get it — he's trying to show that she's tough, independent and not to be trifled with. He's just not good enough a writer to pull that off. Fortunately her actions told us more about her than her dialogue. She showed plenty of agency and saved Bond's life at least once.

Seraffimo Spang's refurbished ghost town is called Spectreville, after the nearby Spectre Mountains. Of course, it's the Specter Mountains, because this is America. As my wife keeps saying, "These books could really have used a good editor." I guess Fleming likes the word "Spectre," because I know from the movies it comes up again.

I'm going to forgive Bond (on his last legs) and Case being found by Leiter on a Nevada highway and whisked away for medical help. I'm sure Fleming had absolutely no idea how big Nevada is, and how preposterous it is to find a couple of pedestrians by driving randomly on the network of highways that cross the Nevada desert. Let's just call that one "luck."

Every time Bond has sex with Vesper Lynd, he retired to his own room afterward. In this book, Tiffany Case retires to her own room after sex in Bond's. (Solitaire and Bond don't separate after sex, but they are on a train and nobody has a separate room.) Is this a thing in England? Or is just narratively useful?

The "my darlings" were broken out again in this book, but surprisingly, Bond was really into it. They were metaphorically discussing marriage before the kidnapping. This is new!

Bond shows reluctance to kill Spang, and remorse for all the bodies he's left behind him on this case. If I didn't know there were 10 more books to go, I'd say he was considering retirement, along with marriage to Case.

THE MOVIE

Date: 1971

Director: Guy Hamilton

Screenwriters: Richard Maibaum, Tom Mankiewicz

Starring: Sean Connery (James Bond), Jill St. John (Tiffany Case), Blofeld (Charles Gray), Plenty O'Toole (Lana Wood), Jimmy Dean (Willard Whyte), Bruce Glover (Mr. Wint), Putter Smith (Mr. Kidd), Norman Burton (Felix Leiter), Bruce Cabot, (Albert R. Saxby), Joseph Fürst (Dr. Metz), Bernard Lee (M), Desmond Llewelyn (Q), Leonard Barr (Shady Tree), Lois Maxwell (Miss Moneypenny),

"This is such a great movie!" — Joan Carr, January 2023

THE PLOT

A prologue shows James Bond (Sean Connery) infiltrating a facility dedicated to transforming henchmen into lookalikes for Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Charles Gray). Bond kills a lookalike and then Blofeld (or so he thinks).

When he returns to London, M (Bernard Lee) assigns Bond to the diamond-smuggling case seen in the book. Mr. Wint (Bruce Glover) and Mr. Kidd (Putter Smith) have killed the African dentist and the helicopter pilot, and these deaths lead M to believe (somehow) that someone intends to dump diamonds and depress the market, or hold the market to ransom by threatening to do so.

WInt and Kidd are shown taking the diamonds they got from the helicopter to the next link, a first-grade teacher in South Africa named Mrs. Whistler (Margaret Lacy).

Back in London, known smuggler Peter Franks (Joe Robinson) is arrested at Heathrow and Bond takes his place. Bond flies to Amsterdam, where he sees Mrs. Whistler pulled from a river, another victim of Wint and Kidd (unbeknownst to Bond). Presumably Mrs. Whistler had already succeeded in giving the diamonds to the next link, Tiffany Case. Bond, as Franks, meets Tiffany (Jill St. John) at her Amsterdam apartment, where they flirt, make plans and he leaves.

The real Franks escapes Special Branch custody. Alerted, Bond catches up to Franks just as he's arriving at Case's apartment, and kills him. Bond and Case fly to Los Angeles with the diamonds hidden in Franks' body, where Felix Leiter (Norman Burton) awaits, disguised as a customs agent, to wave them and the coffin through.

Bond is picked up by thugs, who take him to a funeral home that is a front for the mob, and he gives the diamonds to "Shady" Tree (Leonard Barr), a Vegas comic and diamond smuggler. Wint and Kidd show up and try to assassinate Bond, but he is rescued by Tree, who has discovered the diamonds Bond gave them are paste (Bond and Felix switched them), and he wants the real ones.

Bond goes to the Whyte House in Vegas, a casino owned by reclusive multi-millionaire Willard Whyte (Jimmy Dean), where Tree and Case both work. Wint and Kidd have already been there, and Tree is dead. (His actual murder is a cut scene.)

Bond and Case hook up, and she is told to get the diamonds from the Circus Circus casino (concealed in a teddy bear). She changes her mind and sends them on to the Whyte House manager, Bert Saxby (Bruce Cabot). She changes her mind again and helps Bond follow the diamonds to a laboratory run by Dr. Metz (Joseph Fürst) who is using the diamonds to power a satellite laser. Bond is uncovered and he escapes in a moon buggy used to train future astronauts.

Bond rides an outside elevator to near the top of the Whyte House (on top of it, rather than inside), and climbs the rest of the way. He is captured, and discovers the still-alive Blofeld has been impersonating Whyte and using his resources. He kills a fake Blofeld, but then is gassed and put inside an oil pipeline under construction by Wint and Kidd.

Bond escapes, and he, Q and Leiter trick Saxby into revealing where Whyte is being held. They also raid Metz's lab and discover that Blofeld has built and launched a satellite with a powerful laser that he uses to blow up a Soviet nuclear submarine and nuclear missiles in both the U.S. and China. He makes demands of the world's governments and sets a deadline.

Whyte identifies an oil platform off Baja California that he doesn't own, and Bond goes in alone. Tiffany is there, apparently having switched sides again. Bond tries to sabotage the satellite controls surreptitiously and succeeds. But Tiffany, showing her true colors, tries to do the same and accidentally reverses Bond's sabotage.

U.S. Army helicopters (under Leiter's command, somehow) attack the platform. Bond and Case escape in the confusion, but not before Bond kills Blofeld (again).

Bond and Tiffany then head for Britain on a cruise ship, where Wint and Kidd pose as room service and attempt to kill them. Bond kills them instead.

Plot Differences

Where to begin? It's like Eon Productions took a lot of the elements of the book and put them in a blender.

The book begins with a description of a scorpion killing a beetle, and being killed in turn by a rock wielded by the dentist-turned-smuggler. In the movie, Wint and Kidd drop a scorpion down the back of that dentist, killing him.

In the book, a jockey is scalded with hot mud, almost killing him. In the book, Bond dispatches one of Blofeld's decoys in hot mud.

In the book, Bond's "Peter Franks" cover is blown when ABC sends a message to Seraffima Spang that Franks has been arrested in London. In the movie, Franks is arrested at the airport, but escapes, which threatens to blow Bond's cover.

In the book, Bond provokes the Spangled mob by playing roulette against orders. In the movie, he plays craps with demonstrable facility, impressing Plenty O'Toole.

In the movie, Wint and Kidd blow up the helicopter with a German pilot in Africa. In the book, it's Bond, and the smuggler is the big man, ABC.

In the movie, Bond climbs into Willard Whyte's penthouse by daringly "mountaineering" up the building. In the book, Bond gets into Wint and Kidd's stateroom by daringly mountaineering down the side of the Queen Elizabeth.

Also:

Early in the book, M says, "Most of what we call 'gem' diamonds in the world are mined on British territory and ... 90 percent of all diamond sales are carried out in London." That was true in 1956, but not in 1971. So why the diamond-smuggling ring is a problem for the British Secret Service isn't really explained.

This is much like Live and Let Die, where Jamaica was a British colony when the book was written in 1954, but was independent when the  movie came out in 1973. So the movie had to invent reasons for Bond to have an adventure that took place entirely in the U.S. and the Caribbean.

The book focuses on the diamond smuggling start to finish, but in the movie it leads Bond to Blofeld's true scheme, holding the world's governments to ransom using a diamond-powered satellite laser. I guess the producers didn't think smuggling was exciting enough. But that means all scenes not connected to the smuggling operation are invented for the movie. That includes all the Blofeld scenes, all the Whyte House scenes, all the Circus Circus scenes, Metz's lab, the Las Vegas car chase, the moon buggy chase, anything involving Willard Whyte and the climactic battle on an oil rig.

It also includes Wint and Kidd killing everyone in the smuggling pipeline. In the book they were killers working for the Spangs, but they weren't killing the people in their own network! In the movie they are killing everyone in the network, which I read somewhere was because Blofeld thought it was drawing too much law-enforcement attention and he had all the diamonds he needed. I don't believe the movie ever makes that clear — 13-year-old me thought Blofeld and the smugglers were rival criminal gangs.

The non-Regency's Park London scenes in the book are omitted in the movie, in favor of scenes set in Amsterdam. The New York scenes are omitted as well, transplanted where necessary to Amsterdam, Los Angeles or Las Vegas.

Tiffany Case has another long international commute, this one from Amsterdam to Las Vegas.

Action scenes

Earlier movies had more memorable action scenes, but this movie had some good ones.

The Las Vegas car chase was well done, especially when you consider it was entirely practical effects. Some like to point out that Bond drove his car into the alley on the two left wheels and came out of the alley on his two right wheels. I don't really care, as the whole scene was implausible. Why couldn't he have switched to the other wheels?

My wife said nobody could drive on two wheels like that, and I pointed out that it was a practical effect, which meant somebody actually did it. But it no doubt took days of set-up, practice, logistics and more, so it's laughable that Bond could do it on the fly. So, again, if he can do the impossible on the left two wheels, I can swallow that he miraculously switches and does the same on the right ones.

The oil platform scenes were good, too. Tiffany Case vibrating herself into the water by trying to shoot a machine gun made me laugh out loud twice, 50 years apart.

It must be noted that this scene had its problems, too.

For one thing, the helicopters didn't need to put themselves in danger; they could have hovered out of range and used missiles. Ah, but it's a movie and we need helicopters to blow up.

Also there's no reason for Bond to go in alone. The military could have blown up the platform without him being involved at all, and given the gravity of the situation, should have. They don't even have to use those flimsy helicopters; it was said earlier in the film that two submarines were lurking near the base, and bombers could have taken it out rather easily.

Ah, well. We needed Bond to have a piece of the action, didn't we? And subs and bombers wouldn't have blown up as spectacularly as those choppers.

The battle with Bambi and Thumper was ... weird. Why did Whyte have bikini-earing gymnasts as bodyguards? Were they supposed to be gay, as to be a lesbian counterpart to Wint and Kidd? Was it empowering or demeaning for women?  I'm not sure what that scene was supposed to convey. Maybe nothing.

Once again I have to point out that Bond didn't need to go in alone. The CIA could have just stormed the place (which they eventually did) and Bambi and Thumper would have been irrelevant. But it's a Bond movie, so Bond has to do something.

The final scene with Wint and Kidd was excellent. The buildup had been the whole movie, and the ways they were trying to dispatch Bond inventive. His turning-the-tables seemed plausible enough, especially by recognizing Wint's aftershave, which was set up in the oil pipeline scene with Bond talking to a mouse ("One of us smells like a tart's handkerchief. I think it's me. Sorry, old boy."). It was satisfying to see them get their, uh, just desserts.

The books also had action scenes that didn't quite live up to their predecessors, but were pretty good.

The mud-baths scene was chilling, although it took a lot of writers' fiat to set up.

And the final standoff with Wint and Kidd wasn't as good as the movie, but it was riveting in a low-tech kind of way. That's actually what I enjoy most in Bond books, when the hero uses the tools of the time in practical but inventive ways to achieve his goal.

Sleight of Hand

This is an important element of tradecraft with this Bond, which stands to reason, given he's a card shark. Bond's acts of legerdermain in the movie include:

  • Getting into Tiffany's apartment building with Peter Franks, by holding a random key up to the lock just as Tiffany unlocks it, as if he lived there;
  • Getting into Blofeld's HQ from the parking garage by pretending to swipe a card key with an empty hand, but using his hand and 6-foot-2 frame as cover;
  • Swapping his wallet with that of Franks, to fool Tiffany into thinking the dead man is Bond;
  • Sneaking into the back of Dr. Metz's minibus, while using Tiffany as a distraction; and
  • Swapping out the cassette tape that controls the satellite.

Moore's Bond doesn't seem this good at being sneaky.

The dialogue

This is worth mention, because Diamonds Are Forever made my wife and I laugh out loud multiple times. Since one of the screenwriters (Mankiewicz) is the same one who puts all those terrible sex puns in Roger Moore's mouth, it stands to reason that it's not the writing, but the delivery that makes the jokes work. Connery's deadpan delivery and Scottish burr land every one-liner perfectly. And he's not the only one — several characters land some good lines.

Some examples:

     Bond (pretending to be German in an elevator): "You are English? I speak English! Who is your floor?"

***

     Felix Leiter: I give up. I know the diamonds are in the body, but where?

     James Bond: Alimentary, Dr. Leiter.

***

     Plenty O'Toole: Hi, I'm Plenty.

     James Bond: But of course you are.

     Plenty O'Toole: Plenty O'Toole.

     James Bond: Named after your father, perhaps?

***

     James Bond: I tend to notice little things like that — whether a girl is a blonde or a brunette.

     Tiffany Case: Which do you prefer?

     James Bond: Well, as long as the collar and cuffs match ...

     Tiffany Case: We'll talk about that later.

(I confess I did not understand this joke at 13.)

***

     Mr. Wint: ... And for dessert, the pièce de résistance, La Bombe Surprise (which is an inside joke because it's a cake with a time bomb in it).

     Tiffany Case: Mmm! That's looks fantastic. What's in it?

     Mr. Wint: Ah, but then there would be no surprise, Madame.

***

     Blofeld: Tiffany, my dear. We're showing a bit more cheek than usual, aren't we?

     [Tiffany takes the cassette out from her bikini bottom and hands it to Blofeld]

     Blofeld: [to the guards] Take her below and lock her up with Mr. Bond.

     [the guards take her to a cell]

     Blofeld: What a pity, such nice cheeks too. If only they were brains.

***

     Bond: It's Saxby.

    Whyte: Bert Saxby?

     [The CIA kill Saxby]

    Whyte: Tell him he's fired!

    [Bond gives Whyte a priceless look.]

 

THE PLAYERS

James Bond: After two Roger Moore movies, Connery was a breath of fresh air. Not only can he deliver comedy lines better than Moore, not only does he flirt better than Moore, but when he moves, he moves like an athlete. Plus, his default expression looks like he's mad and someone's gonna get it. (Moore's default expression is "smirking.")

Both book and movie have Bond basically acting like a cop, infiltrating a diamond-smuggling ring to stop it (and in the movie, find out where the diamonds are going). Movie M calls this assignment "good, solid work" to the returning-from-vacation Bond. Movie Tiffany Case knows James Bond's name (although apparently not what he looks like). This all supports the "civil servant vs. secret agent" theory on this board.

Tiffany Case: Movie Tiffany is much like Print Tiffany: Tough, greedy and sympathetic in equal measures. She's also described as very attractive, which the movie producers spectacularly fulfilled with 30-year-old Jill St. John, who appears in a bikini for the entire third act. Personal note: Jill St. John is about all 13-year-old me remembered about this movie, as his brain basically stopped working the first time Ms. St. John appeared on the big screen at her Amsterdam apartment (in bra and panties).

In the book, Tiffany gets her name because her father wanted a boy, and when she came out a girl, he gave the mother a Tiffany case before abandoning the family. In the movie, Tiffany gets her name because her mother gives birth in the Tiffany showroom while shopping for an engagement ring (giving Bond the chance to quip that she's lucky her mother didn't shop at some other diamond store whose name I didn't quite catch, but it's long and complicated).

In the book, Tiffany's brusque manner and toughness are the result of a hard life, beginning with being gang-raped in her mother's brothel as a teenager. There's not much mention of Tiffany's background in the movie, but one must assume she didn't have an easy life.

M: The immortal Bernard Lee. "We do function without you, 007." He isn't as caustic in the books. But then, in the books Bond seems to adore him.

Miss Moneypenny: Lois Maxwell almost didn't appear in this movie, as contract negotiations with Eon weren't working out. But a breakthrough allowed Miss Moneypenny to appear, albeit briefly at Heathrow disguised as a flight attendant. She is more forlorn than usual, asking Bond to bring an engagement ring back from Amsterdam, but will settle for a tulip.

In the book, of course, she has "warm eyes" and is "desirable."

Felix Leiter: Norman Burton's CIA agent Felix Leiter is boring and absolutely forgettable. Not that he has a lot to do; the character functions almost entirely as support for Bond.

In the book, Leiter has more agency. He works with Bond on the Saratoga Springs case, and is instrumental in saving Bond and Case later.

Q: Desmond Llewelyn delivers his usual delightful performance. It's fun to see him in Vegas, more interested in how well his device works on the slot machines than either the money or Tiffany Case's considerable charms. He also replicates Blofeld's voice-faking machine on the fly. "I made one for the kids at Christmas."

"Q branch" gets referenced in the books, but I don't think a character of that name has appeared yet.

"Shady" Tree:  He's an old vaudeville-style stand-up comedian, who looks a bit like Jimmy Durante. The name of his act — "Shady" Tree and his acorns — is supposed to be a phallic joke, but it's not a very good one.

In the book he's the Spang organization's New York boss, and a ginger hunchback as well.

The African dentist: Did we ever get a name for this character in either book or movie? A James Bond wiki  tells me he's Dr. Tynan, but I don't know if that's canon.

In the movie, he is the first person we see killed by Wint and Kidd, who drop a scorpion down the back of his shirt. He dies instantly. (It should be noted that most scorpion stings aren't fatal. Nor are they instantaneous.)

In the book he is killed by Jack Spang, for the same reasons as in the movie: To cover up the gang leader's tracks. (Blofeld in the movie, Spang in the book.)

Ernst Stavro Blofeld: While only appearing in three Fleming Novels (Thunderball, On Her Majesty's Secret Service, You Only Live Twice), Blofeld was all over the movie franchise. By the release of Diamonds are Forever, he had already appeared in four Bond movies (From Russia with Love, Thunderball, You Only Live Twice, On Her Majesty's Secret Service), had been played by Donald Pleasence,Telly Savalas and two unidentified men (one with a full head of hair) and been killed a couple of times. This movie introduces the idea that Blofeld has numerous Life Model Decoys duplicates, henchmen who undergo plastic surgery to look just like him. That helped the Li'l Capn, who was a comic book fan and therefore a continuity purist, put aside all the Blofeld contradictions (including being played by a fifth actor here, Charles Gray).

Wiki helpfully informs me that yet another Blofeld appears, and dies, at the beginning of For Your Eyes Only, played by John Hollis. D'oh!

Also, it should be noted that Blofeld's laser wouldn't work, because a laser would be refracted in Earth's atmosphere and not have the desired effect. The laser certainly wouldn't reach a submarine, as water refracts light even more than air.

Also, many lasers are red because light is amplified through a ruby. Blofeld's laser, amplified through blue-white diamonds, would have a blue-white color. Science!

All that being said, Gray gives us a good megalomaniac, and colors within the lines of the other versions: thirsting for world domination; affecting a sophisticated air, until his plans are foiled, resulting in immature temper tantrums; stroking a white cat; and never killing Bond outright. When people joke that action movie heroes are always strapped into elaborate death traps instead of just being shot, I believe it is Blofeld (or maybe Ian Fleming) we have to thank for the trope.

Blofeld does not appear in the book.

Plenty O'Toole: This is a basically a gag character, a big-busted opportunist at the casino who latches on to wealthy men in a low-cut top. She is thrown into a swimming pool in the first act, and is shown dead in one in the second.

A cut scene explains how Plenty O'Toole found Tiffany Case's house in Las Vegas: She returns from being thrown in the hotel pool to find Bond and Case in the sack, and quietly rifles through Case's purse, where she finds the address. So she gets to the house first, and is murdered by Wint and Kidd (unseen), who think she is Tiffany.

But I can't find any explanation for how Bond finds Tiffany's house, when more than 30 CIA agents can't track her down. When Tiffany arrives, she complains to Bond that he left her "freezing my butt off for more than two hours at a blackjack table." I have no idea what that means. I feel like I missed some dialogue or a scene where Bond and Case arranged a rendezvous that didn't work out, and a backup rendezvous at the house where Plenty is murdered. Anybody know? Or must we assume pillow talk?

"What's my black wig doing in the pool?" Ouch.

I didn't catch on when I watched the movie in 1971 that the dead girl in Tiffany's pool was Plenty. I realized it on this watch. (Bond confirms, but I couldn't understand his Scottish burr in 1971. Also, my Blu-ray has closed-caption!)

Anyway, as an adult Plenty's fate made me plenty sad. Plenty didn't seem like a bad sort, just one making the most of her assets, which our society frowns upon unfairly. She didn't deserve to die simply for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, and with no idea why she was being murdered. Did she have family? Is anyone wondering where she is? Or is she just another Jane Doe in the morgue?

But I will note that this time I watched the movie, the elaborately cruel method of execution said "Wint and Kidd" to me right away.

Plenty O'Toole has no book equivalent.

White cat: Amusingly, Blofeld not only has duplicate decoys of himself, but also has duplicates of his unnamed white cat, which all movie Blofelds seem to have. It took me a minute to realize that when Bond kicked the cat, he was not kicking it at the Blofeld on the couch (which is how it looked), but was kicking it to see which master it would run to, which would be the real Blofeld, and Bond would know which one to kill. The cat ran to Couch Blofeld, so Bond used his one trick -- his divot gun -- to kill that one. Turns out that was a decoy Blofeld, and that was the decoy's decoy cat, which is why it ran to him. That's why when the real cat comes out and goes to Desk Blofeld, Bond remarks, "Wrong pussy."

White cat has no book equivalent.

Willard Whyte: Played with over-the-top Texan gusto by Jimmy Dean (of Jimmy Dean's sausages), Whyte is a reclusive millionaire with his hands in a lot of industries, who never leaves his Las Vegas penthouse. It seems obvious Whyte is based on Texan and Las Vegas recluse Howard Hughes.

Willard Whyte has no book equivalent.

Bert Saxby: The manager of the Whyte House, he is a chief henchman for Blofeld. He doesn't really do a whole lot, functioning mostly as an exposition machine. His attack on the CIA at the end was spectacularly useless and ended anticlimactically.

Bert Saxby has no book equivalent.

Dr. Metz: Your standard mad scientist with a European accent. A stock character who is casually dismissed by Blofeld at the beginning of the third act and never seen again.

Dr. Metz has no book equivalent.

Fun Facts to Know and Tell

  • The Pinkertons, an 1850s security firm that gained fame for foiling the Baltimore Plot to assassinate Abraham Lincoln, is now owned by Securitas AB, a security services group based in Stockholm, Sweden. I had to look it up, because I wasn't sure if it still existed.
  • Jill St. John is the first American "Bond girl" in the series.
  • Plenty O'Toole is played by Lana Wood, Natalie Wood's sister. Wood and St. John have a lifelong dislike for each other, due to both dating Sean Connery at the same time on the set of Diamonds Are Forever, and then St. John marrying Natalie's widower, Robert Wagner, whom Lana blames for Natalie's death.
  • Jill St. John was born Jill Arlyn Oppenheim.
  • Sammy Davis Jr. was filmed in an extended cameo as himself, a performer at the Whyte House, but it was cut.
  • Mr. Wint is played by Bruce Glover, the father of Crispin Glover, who played George McFly (Marty McFly's father) in Back to the Future.
  • This is the last Eon Productions movie with Sean Connery as James Bond, but he will play the character again in Never Say Never Again.

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"...whatever movie he's in..."

Never Say Never Again.

I'm about 50 pages short of finishing From Russia, with Love

I can hardly wait!

I watched Dr. No, From Russia with Love and Goldfinger over the weekend in anticipation of your next three books. 

Bernie Casey was fairly well known in the early 70s for doing blaxploitation movies but ended up having a lengthy and varied career as an actor, including Never Say Never Again.

His imdb page.

Man, the things you miss out on when you've been away for awhile!

I finally took the time, yesterday, to get caught up here, and, wow, the conversations I wish I'd been following all along.  The only one I really had time to go over thoroughly was Cap's entries on the James Bond novels/teleplays.  The posts and the replies have made for some fascinating reading.

I'm not going to bother to post comments to each of Cap's reviews.  I'm just to to make my commentary on all of them here.  Most of what I have to say falls under a general heading, anyway.

It will surprise absolutely no-one here when I say that my conviction on Sean Connery's portrayal of James Bond equals my feeling on George Reeves as Superman.  To wit, Sean Connery is James Bond, and all of the other actors playing 007 are pretenders to the throne.

Jeff makes an excellent point, one, quite frankly, that had not occurred to me before:  that the nature of the Bond films was turning silly---Diamonds Are Forever is people's exhibit A---and Roger Moore was more suited for that kind of self-parody than Mr. Connery.  As Cap alluded, Connery always exhibited an undertone of menace; his Bond might be a nice guy, but you knew that, in a heartbeat, he could turn cold and merciless, if he had to.  Mr. Moore's Bond couldn't look menacing if you dropped him into a schoolyard carrying an Uzi in one hand, a grenade in the other, and clenching a knife between his teeth.

If Randy, or any other Moore-as-Bond supporters think I'm being unfair to Sir Roger, I'm not.  You see, I'm aware that the man could portray a deadly serious fellow.

I've never been able to sit through an entire viewing of a Roger Moore Bond film, but I have watched long stretches of them.  And from those, I assumed the writing and Mr. Moore's performance as 007 pretty much followed Moore's performance as the Saint, in the British television series of the same name.  At that point, I was going by my memory of The Saint.

But, it was last year when I realised that the Bond movies with Moore more closely echoed Moore's stint as Beau Maverick on the television show Maverick.

You see, it was last year when, after discovering a Roku channel offered it, I watched the entire six-season run of The Saint, and I saw that I had seriously underestimated his acting skill.  I had figured that Moore, like James Garner, had pretty much played any character of a film or television show in which he appeared as Maverick.  But it turns out that Sir Roger could effectively deliver a harder side when he had to.

Certainly Moore's Simon Templar is charming, insouciant, and, most of the time, never seems to take things too seriously.  But the show's plotlines are routinely serious and Moore's Saint is often such.  He's a skilled enough actor to provide the free and easy character he plays with an undercurrent of righteousness and deep moral conviction.  Sort of a steel knife in a chamois sheath.  And when those moments come out in an episode of The Saint, one is caught off guard by Moore's sincere delivery. 

So the fault of Mr. Moore's lightweight, difficult-to-take-seriously performances as James Bond is not the fault of the actor.  It's in the direction of the character that Cubby Broccoli and company wanted to take.  But I still don't like the Bond films by Moore.  If I want a spy spoof, I'll watch Get Smart.

Cap, I've absorbed your Bond reviews so far like a dry sponge in a rainstorm, they're that interesting and perceptive.  I'm probably not going to make you a fan when I state that I breeze by your social criticisms.  I didn't really notice the causes of them at the time, and most of them wouldn't register with me, now.  But that doesn't dim my enjoyment of the rest of your commentary.

I think your analysis of Bond, both as limned by Ian Fleming and as essayed in the teleplays is largely spot-on.  Especially in your review of Casino Royale.  You squarely point out the flaws in Mr. Fleming's presentation of Bond.  He tells us that Bond is a top-rank, coldly efficient agent.  But throughout the story, his actions and his thoughts to which Fleming makes us privy show that he's anything but.  That never occurred to me when I read the story some three decades ago, but I see it, now.

That's what a good reviewer does:  opens one's eyes to a different perspective.  It doesn't mean I have to agree with it, but in your analysis of Casino Royale, I do.

I also agree with your observations on the strengths and weaknesses of Ian Fleming's writing.  He can make a scene come to life like few other writers can.  But his plotting is, if not weak, shall we say---disjointed?  Often, and probably the most notable in your description of the novel Diamonds Are Forever above, there's no logic to Fleming's plot progression.  I suspect sometimes he just tossed in any convenient plot justification simply to get him to the next scene he wanted to write so vividly.  Despite the shakiness of his plots, I find Mr. Fleming's writing style damned entertaining.  His omniscient narrator has a strong, direct voice, something I find lacking in so many modern fiction writers.

Jeff of Earth-J said:

Speaking of NSNA, prior to Jeffrey Wright, I considered Bernie Casey to be the best version of Felix Leiter. 

The last two Bond films I've seen are Timothy Dalton's The Living Daylights and Licence to Kill.  (Sidenote:  I enjoyed Dalton as 007 very much; had Sean Connery never performed in the rôle, he would've been my favourite Bond portrayer.)  Of all the Bond films to that point, I thought Bernie Casey was the best depiction of Felix Leiter, as well.

No, he wasn't a lanky Texan white guy, but his Leiter came closest to the character's personality as presented by Ian Fleming.  Plus, he was the only Leiter whom one felt was genuinely competent on his own.

I do agree with you Commander that the Moore films tended to be sillier and relied more on stunts and gadgets than the Connery movies (although those had their fair share).

I believe my first Bond Movie was likely Thd Man With The Golden Gun, which I would have watched on TV at the time. While it's not my favorite Bond film (Goldfinger is best made, but  The Spy Who Loved Me was my favorite), it's up there pretty high. Some excellent performances by Christopher Lee and Herve Villachaize plus a sense of menace that I thought was more Connery than Moore.

One of the other things that I think hurt the Moore movies was a lack of good villains. Outside of Villachaize and Lee (and Richard Kiel as Jaws) , most of the other villains were lackluster at best. Sure, they did villain type things, but the energy just wasn't there. No question Connery had better villains (it helped that SPECTRE was an omnipresent threat in all of Connery's movies.

Bernie Casey was fairly well known in the early 70s for doing blaxploitation movies but ended up having a lengthy and varied career as an actor, including Never Say Never Again.

I didn't know that.

When Blaxploitation was in full flower, I was just becoming an adult and was consuming every movie and every TV show in an omniverous fashion. I ate up Blacula and Poseidon Adventure equally with Room 222. It was only years later that I could make any judgments, and I know that all of that is colored by what I learned later. I don't think I have a genuine judgment. I listen to others eagerly.

Was Blacula a big deal? I don't know! It was a big deal to me when I was 14!

That being said, I don't know ANYBODY who acted in that stuff. Well, except for Gene Hackman in Poseiden Adventure, because I'd seen him somewhere before. (I can't tell you where.) But William Marshall, Red Buttons, Shelley Winters ... it was my introduction to all these actors, and I didn't remember them until I saw them later.

Man, the things you miss out on when you've been away for awhile!

That'll teach you!

It will surprise absolutely no one here when I say that my conviction on Sean Connery's portrayal of James Bond equals my feeling on George Reeves as Superman.  To wit, Sean Connery is James Bond, and all of the other actors playing 007 are pretenders to the throne.

It will surprise absolutely no one here that I agree. 

Jeff makes an excellent point, one, quite frankly, that had not occurred to me before:  that the nature of the Bond films was turning silly---Diamonds Are Forever is people's exhibit A---and Roger Moore was more suited for that kind of self-parody than Mr. Connery. 

I had never considered this idea before, either, and it's really making me re-evaluate my opinions. But it was Randy who woke me to the idea.

Also, having watched Live and Let Die and Diamonds Are Forever back to back, I disagree that the latter was a self-parody movie. DAF was less serious than the first two Connery movies, but it was still a serious Bond movie. LaLD was not (although it sometimes tried to be).

As Cap alluded, Connery always exhibited an undertone of menace; his Bond might be a nice guy, but you knew that, in a heartbeat, he could turn cold and merciless, if he had to. 

And he did! In both From Russia with Love and Diamonds Are Forever, Connery walked up to a woman he had slept with, grabbed her, and slapped her. In both instances, she said "that hurts" and he said "I'll do worse if you don't talk." And I believed him!

Mr. Moore's Bond couldn't look menacing if you dropped him into a schoolyard carrying an Uzi in one hand, a grenade in the other, and clenching a knife between his teeth.

Yep.

I've never been able to sit through an entire viewing of a Roger Moore Bond film.

When I was young, I watched the first Roger Moore movie, and said to myself, "I'm done with this." I had grown up with Connery -- I had seen every single one of his Bond movies in the theater, even when I was too young to have any idea what was going on -- and his Bond movies were appointment watching. Moore was just ... eh. I didn't watch another Bond movie until Timothy Dalton.

But, it was last year when I realized that the Bond movies with Moore more closely echoed Moore's stint as Beau Maverick on the television show Maverick.

OK, now YOU have pulled a Randy. I had never connected Moore's Bond with his Maverick.

He's a skilled enough actor to provide the free and easy character he plays with an undercurrent of righteousness and deep moral conviction.  Sort of a steel knife in a chamois sheath.  And when those moments come out in an episode of The Saint, one is caught off guard by Moore's sincere delivery. 

The Saint is now in my queue. (I just have to convince my wife to watch it.)

If I want a spy spoof, I'll watch Get Smart.

I did. Also Man from U.N.C.L.E., which wasn't technically a spoof, but ... well, you watched it, too.

I'm probably not going to make you a fan when I state that I breeze by your social criticisms.

Nor would I expect you to. Debating perspectives is what we're supposed to do here.

I think your analysis of Bond, both as limned by Ian Fleming and as essayed in the teleplays is largely spot-on.

I'm really glad to here that! I can't think of anyone on this board more than you who can come at me from a kinda-sorta Ian Fleming POV. If you think I'm hitting the mark, then maybe I am.

Especially in your review of Casino Royale.  You squarely point out the flaws in Mr. Fleming's presentation of Bond.  He tells us that Bond is a top-rank, coldly efficient agent.  But throughout the story, his actions and his thoughts to which Fleming makes us privy show that he's anything but.  That never occurred to me when I read the story some three decades ago, but I see it, now.

Jeff of Earth-J has said much the same. I have the advantage of never having read these books as a lad, so I can see things as a grown-up that people who read Fleming when they were in their formative years have a hard time seeing.

I read the ERB Tarzan books in my early teens, and that's the only way I can see them. If you were to read them now for the first time, as an adult, you would point out things to me I don't see, and probably can't see. Which is one of the things that drew me to this project. 

I also agree with your observations on the strengths and weaknesses of Ian Fleming's writing.  He can make a scene come to life like few other writers can. 

Yes. He only had a couple of scenes in Casino Royale where the professor in me said "Hmm, shows promise." Mainly the torture scene, which didn't exactly show his protagonist in the best light. But with each book he comes up with more and more riveting stuff.

But his plotting is, if not weak, shall we say---disjointed?

I thought the movies were doing that. Turns out, the source material was.

Often, and probably the most notable in your description of the novel Diamonds Are Forever above, there's no logic to Fleming's plot progression.  I suspect sometimes he just tossed in any convenient plot justification simply to get him to the next scene he wanted to write so vividly.  Despite the shakiness of his plots, I find Mr. Fleming's writing style damned entertaining.  His omniscient narrator has a strong, direct voice, something I find lacking in so many modern fiction writers.

So far, I find I have to do the interstitial parts myself. I have to overlook how bad M and Bond are at their jobs. I have to ignore how far Belgrade is from Trieste. I have to roll my eyes at how quickly Bond breaks out the "my darlings" for girls who won't be in the next book. But, yes, the cool stuff is so cool I am more than happy to do the reader work to get there.

I have done this in comics my whole life, so it's not hard to do in prose. Most Batman comics are terrible. But the Batman concept is so cool, I stay on the ride for the occasional moments where a writer really hits the mark.

To me, James Bond (as written by Ian Fleming) is the same. It's a lot of drudgery sometimes, but when Fleming hits it, man, he really hits it. And that's worth waiting for.

Regarding Blacula, it was a pretty bog-standard vampire movie, and IIRC not terribly good.

That being said, It was a vampire movie in which the hero and villain resembled us, during a time when representation was limited. The days of Stepin Fetchit were still lingering, so to have movies like Blacula or Shaft or Dolemiteor Foxy Brown was important to us as a race.

And it's still true today. The audience in Black Panther when I saw it was mostly Black, and the joy was so overwhelming and contagious I nearly wept. My wife did weep in Captain Marvel, especially the montage where she keeps getting up. I am humbled and thankful that these movies are being made.

THE BOOK

To me the most memorable thing from the book is when the helicopter blows up and burns. The only things that survive are the diamonds on board.

You’ve been using the Penguin Books covers up ‘til now, so here it is:

The rigamarole of Bond having to win his payoff is a bit silly. Mob people pay people off in cash all the time.

I think casinos are an easy place to launder and skim money. AFAIK, the amount of money being bet and being paid out tend to obscure how much money is in their hands. Hiding drug money or hiding payoffs should be no big deal.

This is the second book where Bond/Fleming muses that Americans have to deal with race issues right away in school, while Brits can ... what, ignore them until adulthood? Ignore them altogether? I don't want to follow this thought any further.

I think they got away with ignoring it because, without seeing actual numbers, in the early 50s Britain’s non-White population was very small and was just part of the poorer areas on London. Over a period of time following WWII non-White British citizens from former colonies moved* to Britain in significant numbers. In the film To Sir with Love (1967), the class in a poor area of London had one black child and one Indian child. This was likely pretty accurate at the time. After WWII people from former colonies were encouraged to move to Britain because of the labor shortage. The current mayor of Greater London** is Sadiq Khan, whose parents were born in Pakistan. He was born in London and is a Muslim.

*There was also immigration and refugee settlement, but (like American citizens born in Puerto Rico) British citizens in former colonies can relocate to Britain if they can arrange transportation.

**Greater London is the County of London. The City of London within it is a tiny area.

Whyte identifies an oil platform off Baja California that he doesn't own, and Bond goes in alone. Tiffany is there, apparently having switched sides again. Bond tries to sabotage the satellite controls surreptitiously and succeeds. But Tiffany, showing her true colors, tries to do the same and accidentally reverses Bond's sabotage.

U.S. Army helicopters (under Leiter's command, somehow) attack the platform.

Since islands and oil platforms off Baja California would be under Mexican jurisdiction I don’t think U.S. helicopters would be involved.

The battle with Bambi and Thumper was ... weird. Why did Whyte have bikini-wearing gymnasts as bodyguards? Were they supposed to be gay, as to be a lesbian counterpart to Wint and Kidd?

I read this book before I met (AFAIK) any actual gay people. At the time it seemed to me that much is made of Wint and Kidd not being straight. This would fit in with Fleming’s other prejudiced leanings, although back then it was a predominant opinion in society.

M: The immortal Bernard Lee.

He was great.

Felix Leiter: Norman Burton's CIA agent Felix Leiter is boring and absolutely forgettable. Not that he has a lot to do; the character functions almost entirely as support for Bond.

It always tickled me that Felix was always (except maybe once) played by a different actor in every movie.

When people joke that action movie heroes are always strapped into elaborate death traps instead of just being shot, I believe it is Blofeld (or maybe Ian Fleming) we have to thank for the trope.

The only logical reason for a “horrible fate” death as opposed to simply shooting the person is to have a rumor start among subordinates that crossing the big guy will be truly horrible. “He’s gonna shoot you” doesn’t quite do it.

Tiffany's house, when more than 30 CIA agents can't track her down. When Tiffany arrives, she complains to Bond that he left her "freezing my butt off for more than two hours at a blackjack table." I have no idea what that means.

I’ve never been in a casino that wasn’t temperature controlled.

The cat ran to Couch Blofeld, so Bond used his one trick -- his divot gun -- to kill that one. Turns out that was a decoy Blofeld, and that was the decoy's decoy cat, which is why it ran to him.

Or the white cat, like all of its brethren, really likes couches.

Willard Whyte: Played with over-the-top Texan gusto by Jimmy Dean (of Jimmy Dean's sausages)

Their commercials featuring someone impersonating long-dead Jimmy are a little creepy. I’ll always associate him with his 1961 hit song Big Bad John.

Commander Benson said:

Mr. Moore's Bond couldn't look menacing if you dropped him into a schoolyard carrying an Uzi in one hand, a grenade in the other, and clenching a knife between his teeth.

Just before reading Commander Benson’s comments it occurred to me that Moore was playing Simon Templar (The Saint), not James Bond. Each episode of that show started with a halo appearing over his head and his looking up at it. That’s the only silly thing in the show. I watched a few recently. They’re serious private eye shows. As for Beau Maverick, I’m not sure I even saw him in it. My parents had control of the TV at the time. I think that when James Garner was replaced by his character’s relatives we lost interest.

 

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