Bond #15: 'Colonel Sun'


Year: 1968

Author: Kingsley Amis (as Robert Markham)


Bond teams with a young Soviet agent and a Greek Resistance veteran to rescue a kidnapped M in Greece, only to discover a false-flag operation planned by the mysterious Colonel Sun — an operation in which Sun has planned a starring role for Bond.


Bond arrives at “Quarterdeck” to visit M, who is convalescing. He arrives to find the housekeepers murdered, and when he checks on M, kidnappers holding him. M is drugged, and the kidnappers drug Bond, too, but he escapes into nearby woods before passing out. The kidnappers can’t find him, and settle for M.

When Bond is recovered, he tells MI6 that the kidnappers were very professional. Also ruthless. One of them was killed on the scene by his fellows, because his face was too damaged in the fight with Bond to travel without notice.  Various clues point to Athens.

This was a pretty good action scene. But why is it so easy to kidnap the head of MI6 on British soil? Are there no guards at Quarterdeck?

We’re introduced to Colonel Sun Liang-tan of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army, on a Greek island with his cronies. He is keeping tabs on another group on a nearby island, who are Russians. He is tall, brilliant and inscrutable. Everyone’s afraid of him, and he likes to torture. We meet his crew, comprised of a discredited doctor, two Albanian prostitutes, an ex-KGB Russian and soon, a Nazi war criminal and his underage male assistant, referred to as his “boy-toy.”

He is Fu Manchu in almost everything but name. That strikes me as odd. I was alive in 1968, and I remember us being more worried about the Japanese than the Chinese. But maybe that was just my neck of the woods. And Hammer released a Fu Manchu movie in 1965, which may have influenced Amis. But he's too much like Fu Manchu — and too much like Doctor No. I'd have preferred a more original villain.

Sun also strikes me as an incredibly racist creation. And Amis doesn't stop with slandering the Chinese, whose chief characteristics he describes as having no more regard for human life than insects, and delighting in torture. Amis, like Fleming, has never found a foreigner he doesn't like to bash. Turks, Albanians, Koreans, Russians — you name it, they have deficiencies defined by their race. All of Sun’s assistants are described in nasty racial stereotypes. While I usually took Fleming's garbage in stride, this book's casual venom kinda shocked me now and then. And, naturally, even the evil bad guy recognizes how wonderful the British are.

We learn of Sun’s plot, which unlike Fleming, isn’t too over the top or complex. Sun plans a false-flag operation in which Sun will blow up the conference on the nearby island, a secret meeting held by the Soviets hosting representatives of various Middle Eastern and African states. Sun will pin the bombing on the British by torturing M and Bond to death, leaving their bodies amid the bomb debris and tinkering with the forensic evidence to make it look like M was building a bomb that went off accidentally. (Sun doesn’t have Bond yet, but he’s confident that, with the clues he’s left, Bond will come to him.) Then China will sit back and watch the two super-powers go at it, waiting to pick up the pieces.

I have some problems with this plan:

  • Why would 1968 China do this?
  • Why are the Soviets holding this meeting in a NATO country instead of one of the Soviet republics or a satellite country? There are plenty of Mediterranean islands in Albania, for example. This strikes me as writer’s fiat, in that the field of operation is one in which Bond has more access, allies and latitude, whereas the Soviets, who are holding the meeting, have less.
  • The way that Sun plans to convince the world of British perfidy is pretty incredible, in the worst sense of the word. Who would believe the head of the British Secret Service would leave his safe office, travel thousands of kilometers to Greece, personally build a bomb and clumsily set it off? And if Bond is there, why wouldn’t that be his job, leaving M out of it altogether? This struck me as preposterous, and just writer's fiat to get Bond involved.
  • And surely there are easier ways to pin this on the British — faked signals, having a Bond lookalike leave a trail from London to Athens, etc. And just Bond, please — there's no need for M to be there. He can be implicated with fake signals and paperwork. It probably wouldn't fool the security services, but it would muddy the issue in the press. And M is sidelined through the rest of the book, so he simply doesn't need to be there.

Bond goes to Athens, assuming he will be kidnapped, and doesn’t have long to wait. He’s picked up by a young, beautiful Greek girl named Ariadne, who wants to take him somewhere secluded, the Acropolis at closing time. But when the kidnappers show up, the girl indicates they are not the ones she expected, and they fight their way out.

She takes him to her chief, the head of the KGB cell in Athens, and Bond likes the man immediately. But the mysterious kidnappers return, and it turns into a running gun battle where only Ariadne and Bond survive. Bond discovers MI6’s Section A has been wiped out as well. The pair decide to team up to fight the mysterious third party, each checking in with their respective organizations.

I accept this alliance as the "whatever it takes" to get the mission done. But I am uneasy at how quickly Bond accepts Ariadne’s chief as a friend and ally, basically because he has the traditional “firm, dry” handshake. And he is blithe about Ariadne’s politics; she is a true believer in Marxism and does not waver in that, despite falling in love with Bond. It felt out of character for Bond and his politics, but I let it go. As it turns out, my instincts were on the money.

For the record, the Ariadne of myth helped Theseus escape the maze after he killed the Minotaur on Crete. There are a couple of different endings for this myth, but in both Ariadne is betrayed by Theseus and either hangs herself, or marries Dionysus.

Ariadne leads bond to her father's friend Litsas, a veteran of the Greek Resistance in World War II, who, unlike her, is loyal to the West. The three take Litsas' boat out to the island where the Russians are, in order to warn them. The Russian chief, who is depicted as gay and possibly pederast, does not believe her.

This is the second gay character in the book (if you don’t count Sun, who is probably more asexual anyway), and another unpleasant one.

They then take the boat to Sun's island to sneak in. To disguise their approach, assuming Sun knows what Litsas’ boat looks like, they swap boats with an innocent sailor — who ends up, with his son, being killed by Sun’s men. They are easily captured.

This is not one of Bond's finest hours.

Sun loves to torture British people, whom he considers superior basic material for his "art." (Americans will do in a pinch.) He begins his torture of Bond, with M on deck.

Fleming loved his torture porn, so this scene is not surprising in a book trying to ape his style. But there's way too much of it for me, and way too much detail. It’s kinda sickening.

Bond is saved by one of the Albanian prostitutes, who slips him a knife.

Again, not his finest hour. And it's never addressed how Bond gets up and walks away unharmed after having his eardrum violently penetrated and septum carved up. Ariadne notices he's "talking funny" but that's it. And there’s no follow-up medical care that we know about.

After the good guys win, the book winds up with Bond and his British masters and Ariadne with her Soviet masters at some sort of official get-together, celebrating British success in preventing deaths at the conference. Bond is offered the Order of Lenin but turns it down.

A number of unbelievable things happen here.

The Soviets acknowledge that the Brits saved their bacon (they would never do this). Let me say it again: The Soviets of 1968 would never do this, nor would Putin's Russia do it today. Instead, they would claim all the credit for the KGB, and say that the West was working against them the whole time, and were likely behind the whole thing. They certainly wouldn't offer a medal to the hero of From Russia, with Love!

Bond is sad because he's breaking up with Ariadne. She is going to the Soviet Union for further training as an intelligence officer. She is sad, too! But both know that duty to country overrides personal interests, which Bond respects.

Excuse me?

Bond doesn't even try to talk her out of going to work for the KGB. That isn't like going to work for the Moscow phone company! She will be working for the opposition, which could well mean death for some of his colleagues. Nope, it's fine, bye-bye Ariadne, have fun learning to kill me and destroy everything I've worked for!

But the reason for this, and the earlier team-up is made clear here. Kingsley Amis thinks the British and Soviet Union should team up against Communist China. 

I say "Kingsley Amis" because there is nothing in the plot or the real world to suggest this. The Chinese were no threat in 1968 to anybody, turned inward with the Cultural Revolution. And it was the thick of the Cold War between the U.S. and Russia in 1968, with the Soviets invading Czechoslovakia in August of that year. Britain and the Soviet Union were mortal enemies in 1968, and any rapprochement would be decades in the future, during “glasnost,” and short-lived. This is beyond wishful thinking. So I say it's the author talking.

The book ends like that, too, with the thaw between the two countries virtually fait accompli. Sure.


While this book goes for the spirit of Ian Fleming, it fails in some regards. Bond is entirely humorless, for example, and the prose lacks Fleming's zest. Plus the politics are wrong for Bond and MI6, who were not buddies with the Soviets.


  • This is the first James Bond novel not written by Ian Fleming.
  • World War II connection: Von Richter is a former Nazi, Litsas is a former Greek Resistance fighter.
  • World war I connection: Von Richter's name is suggestive of Von Richtofen, a famous German flying ace in the first world war.
  • The story takes place in Greece and not Jamaica. Thank you for that, Kingsley Amis!
  • Amis, like Fleming, used a vacation abroad (to the Greek islands) to inform his setting.
  • Amis, like Fleming, used real-world names for his fiction. "Legakis" and "Papadogonas" were people he met on vacation in Greece; the doctor who treats Bond in chapter two bears the name of Amis' real doctor, and the boat "Altair" was lifted from the Greek vacation.
  • Altair, or Al Tair, is a star in the constellation Aquila, translating to "The Eagle" in Arabic. It was referred to as Al Nesr Al Tair ("The Flying Eagle") by Arab astronomers as far back as the 17th century, but the name goes back to the Babylonians, or even further. It's astronomic nomenclature is Alpha Aquilae. This has nothing to do with Bond, but I think it's kinda cool.
  • A Guardian review said "Amis channels Fleming ... as a connoisseur of ethnicities." As my wife said, "Fleming never met a stereotype he didn't like."
  • The movie Spectre uses a torture scene lifted from Colonel Sun. Blofeld uses some of Sun's dialogue from the chapter titled "The Theory and Practice of Torture."
  • The movie The World Is Not Enough uses the M-kidnapping plot from Colonel Sun.
  • The movie A View to a Kill uses the scene of Bond being offered the Order of Lenin.
  • The movie Die Another Day features a Korean villain named Colonel Tan-Sun Moon, a jumble of sorts of Colonel Sun Liang-tan, the Chinese villain of Colonel Sun. The producers found they would have to pay royalties for the actual name, so they swapped it around a little. I don't believe Chinese and Korean names are constructed the same way, but I didn't look it up.



Year: 2002

Director: Lee Tamahori

Writers: Ian Fleming, Neal Purvis, Robert Wade

Starring: Pierce Brosnan (James Bond), Halle Berry (Giacinta "Jinx" Johnson), Rosamund Pike (Miranda Frost), Toby Stephens (Gustav Graves), Rick Yune (Zao), Judi Dench (M), John Cleese (Q), Michael Madsen (Damian Falco), Will Yun Lee (Col. Moon), Kenneth Tsang (Gen. Moon), Emilio Echevarria (Raoul), Michael Gorevoy (Vladimir Popov), Lawrence Makoare (Mr. Kil), Colin Salmon (Charles Robinson), Samantha Bond (Miss Moneypenny), Ben Wee (snooty desk clerk), Ho Yi (Mr. Chang), Rachel Grant (Peaceful Fountains of Desire), Madonna (Verity), Vincent Wong (General Li), Joaquin Martinez (elderly cigar factory worker), Simón Andreu (Dr. Álvarez), Deborah Moore (airline hostess), Mark Dymond (Mr. Van Bierk), Oliver Skeete (concierge at fencing club)

Significant Music: The title song was co-written and co-produced by Mirwais Ahmadzai and performed by Madonna. It was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Original Song and the 2004 Grammy Award for Best Dance Recording, but also for a Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Original Song of 2002. I didn’t care for it.


James Bond is sent to investigate the connection between a North Korean terrorist and a diamond mogul, who is funding the development of an international space weapon.


 Bond breaks up a terrorist bazaar in North Korea, where a general’s son, Col. Tan-Sun Moon, is trading conflict diamonds for nuclear weapons. Bond appears to kill Moon, who goes over a waterfall in a hovercraft. Bond is captured and tortured for 14 months by the North Koreans. He is traded for Moon’s right-hand man, Zao, whose face is now imbedded with diamonds.

This was a well-done action scene. And it’s pre-credits, when in previous generations of Bond, the pre-credits scene had little to do with the rest of the movie. These scenes are pertinent, as are the torture scenes played out behind the opening credits. This is a serious movie.

Bond is suspended under suspicion of having given up information under torture, and under arrest because — as M says — he is “of no use to anybody.” Bond breaks confinement and goes after Zao in Cuba. There he finds a gene-therapy clinic that gives new faces and bodies to criminals, and meets NSA Agent Giacinta "Jinx" Johnson (Halle Berry). They mutually seduce each other.

These are more well-done scenes, and Berry’s character comes off well as a female Bond. (No-strings sex? Sure!)

Zao escapes them both. He leads them to British billionaire Gustav Graves, whose assistant is Miranda Frost (Rosamund Pike), who is secretly MI6. She appears to loathe Bond, and responds to his suggestive quips by basically saying “not if you were the last man on Earth.” Bond and Graves have a swordfight that gets progressively more lethal until Frost puts a stop to it.

Graves, or the way the actor plays him, is easy to dislike. He’s supposedly based on Richard Branson and Uday Hussein. (???) And if anybody in the audience doesn’t know that Frost is a double agent, and will become the Bad Bond Girl that is bedded and killed, they aren’t paying attention.

Graves has created a satellite called Icarus that focuses the sun’s rays on a given spot, promising year-round agriculture and other benefits. The presentation is in Iceland at the ice palace. Bond is reinstated and given a new Aston Martin (that can turn invisible) and both he and Jinx turn up in Iceland for some quick badinage.

Frost quickly falls into bed with Bond, but betrays him to Graves. Graves tries to kill both Bond and Jinx, using Icarus to melt strategic spots. Bond kills Zao, and saves Jinx from drowning in the melting ice palace.

More good action scenes, albeit a tad over the top in places. It’s almost funny, but makes perfect sense, that the bad guy has a car just as gimmicked up as Bond’s. The invisible car is a bit much at first, but they show how it might actually work, and not work, under the right circumstances. I thought Jinx should have saved herself, and if the movie were made today, she would have.

John Cleese is Q, and has too little screen time for my money.

Frost changes her mind on sleeping with Bond waaaay too fast, so if you didn’t know she was up to something before, you do now. Bond should have realized that, too, but you can argue he’s too accustomed to women falling into his bed.

I doubt there’s anybody reading this that doesn’t know that Icarus is the boy who flew to close to the sun in Greek myth.

Graves is secretly Moon, who did not die in Korea and had gene therapy to become, among other things, white. He is going to use Icarus to blow up the minefield in the Korean demilitarized zone, so that the North can easily invade the South — especially with Icarus carving up the southern defense forces. He reveals himself to his father, who wants peace with the South. So Moon kills him. Icarus tears up the minefield as Moon tries to escape in a plane, but Bond and Jinx slip aboard and manage to kill him.

Another series of action set-pieces. It’s a bit much sometimes. And I’m not sure how the threat of Icarus is ended — yes, it can be shot down now that it’s not in operation, but now that the tech exists, somebody could just build another one. I suppose we have to take it on faith that somehow this will be prevented.

The American NSA chief is portrayed as arrogant and doltish throughout. He gets a mild comeuppance here, but not as much as he deserves.

Gen. Moon is portrayed throughout as the Korean equivalent of Russian Gen. Gogol, who in previous Bond movies was the “good” Russian who wanted peaceful co-existence with the West. There are no such generals in North Korea, who do exactly what Dear Leader tells to do, believe what Dear Leader tells them to believe and say what Dear Leader tells them to say. If not, they are shot (or worse).

A pacifist North Korean general is beyond fantasy. In a way, it corresponds to the fantasy detente of Colonel Sun.


 A very good movie, I thought, and a much more serious one than anything Roger Moore ever did. I think it would be improved with more characterization scenes and less action. I’d like to see Rosamund Pike have more time to pretend to fall for Bond’s charms, for example, so that it’s not so abrupt as to telegraph to the audience (and presumably to Bond) that she’s faking it. More screen time for Halle Berry and John Cleese would have been appreciated. And we could always use more time with steel-spined Dame Judi Dench (M).

Pierce Brosnan, I think, was a very good Bond. He never smiles. He has a piercing gaze. He has athletic grace (or his stunt double does). He delivers those awful one-liners deadpan, which is the best you can hope for. If the screenwriters had written the Brosnan movies more like they wrote the Daniel Craig movies, I think he’d be remembered as up there with Craig and Connery.


  • This was the fourth and last Pierce Brosnan movie.
  • Brosnan does a title drop in all four of his movies.
  • I like Samantha Bond’s Moneypenny. She shows the right amount of self-regard but hopeless infatuation with Bond. She’s not so young or so old for it to be icky. This plot device has gotten a little rickety, but Sam Bond does as much with it as the times allow. Her portrayal, I daresay, is bittersweet.
  • As part of the 40th anniversary of Bond films, Die Another Day includes references to each of the preceding films. I didn't spot many of them, but Rosa Klebb's switchblade shoes and the notorious jetpack were hard to miss.
  • This is the first movie since Dr. No that didn't feature Desmond Llewelyn as Q. Llewelyn had died in a car accident three years prior to the movie's release.
  • Reportedly 20 companies paid for product placement, a record at the time, for which the film was criticized.
  • Madonna, who sings the title song, has a cameo as a fencing instructor. She won a Razzie for her appearance, which I thought wasn’t really notable enough to comment on.
  • Deborah Moore, Roger Moore's daughter, has a cameo as an airline hostess.
  • Colonel Tan-Sun Moon has facial reconstruction to become British billionaire Gustav Graves, as does a Nazi war criminal in Moonraker to become British billionaire Hugo Drax. 


Year: 1999

Director: Michael Apted

Starring: Pierce Brosnan (James Bond), Sophie Marceau (Elektra King), Robert Carlyle (Victor "Renard" Zokas), Denise Richards (Christmas Jones), Robbie Coltrane (Valentin Zukovsky), Desmond Llewelyn (Q), John Cleese (R), Maria Grazia Cucinotta (Cigar Girl),  Samantha Bond (Miss Moneypenny), Michael Kitchen (Bill Tanner), Colin Salmon (Charles Robinson), Serena Scott Thomas (Dr. Molly Warmflash), David Calder (Sir Robert King), Ulrich Thomsen (Sasha Davidov), Goldie (Bull/Bullion), John Seru (Gabor), Claude-Oliver Rudolph (Colonel Akakievich), Judi Dench (M), Patrick Malahide (Lachaise), Gary Powell (submarine crewman).

Significant Music: The eponymous title song was written by David Arnold with Don Black and performed by Garbage. I didn’t care for it.


James Bond uncovers a nuclear plot while protecting an oil heiress from her former kidnapper, an international terrorist who can't feel pain.


The kidnapping of M, and the plot to blow her up along with a whole lot of other people, is the tangential connection to Colonel Sun. I won’t go through the whole movie just for that. But I do have a few comments.

Like with Miranda Frost in Die Another Day, Sophie Marceau’s Elektra King is obviously going to break bad. We’re to assume it’s Stockholm Syndrome, but actually she’s the villain — the first female villain in the Bond films.

Elektra in the Greek myths was the daughter of Agamemnon, who helped her brother Orestes kill her mother Clytemnestra and her mother’s lover to avenge the murder of her father. I guess we were supposed to think that Elektra was out to avenge or honor her father, but then ironically turned out to be the one who killed him.

Marceau managed some good “crazed eyes” scenes. She plays a psychopath well, especially in the torture scene.

M is sort of an idiot when it comes to Sophie. Maybe she does need to think with her balls more often. (I have forgotten which movie it is where someone tells her, “Maybe you don’t have the balls for this job,” and she responds, “That just means I don’t have to think with them.”)

I did not find Robert Carlyle’s Renard very compelling as a villain. He was so … small. Further, he lasted too long. He was basically Elektra’s top henchman, and usually the henchman dies before the villain.

Robbie Coltrane reprises his role as Valentin Zukovsky from GoldenEye, and I found him a welcome member of the ensemble. Too bad he died.

The world has already pronounced judgment on what a bad casting choice Denise Richards was as a nuclear physicist. You will get no argument from me. Disastrous.

Hugo Drax was going to blow up London with an atomic bomb. Blofeld was going to hold the world hostage with an atomic bomb. Kamal Khan was going to blow up a USAF base in Germany with an atomic bomb. Elektra King was going to blow up Istanbul with an atomic bomb. I sense a pattern.


Not as good as Die Another Day, mainly thanks to Christmas Jones and Renard, but another good outing for Pierce Brosnan. Consider my comments about his Bond in Die Another Day as a given here.


  • This is Pierce Brosnan’s third outing as Bond (of four).
  • This is Naomie Harris’ second outing as Moneypenny, one who is as much bodyguard and operative as secretary. A good upgrade for the character.
  • The title is the translation of the motto on the Bond family coat of arms, seen first in On Her Majesty's Secret Service (book and movie).
  • Q (Desmond Llewelyn) notes when he gives Bond his watch that it’s his 20th. This is a reference to this being the 20th Bond film.
  • This is the last film with Desmond Llewelyn as Q, as the actor subsequently died in a car accident.
  • Q’s last words to Bond are “That’s something I’ve been trying to teach you, 007. Always leave yourself an escape route.” Then he slowly drops out of sight on a hidden elevator, leaving Bond to be briefed by Q’s successor. I guess even the screenwriters knew it was his last time.
  • Sharon Stone and Vera Farmiga were considered for the role of Sophie.
  • Javier Bardem, who later played the villain in Skyfall, was considered for Renard.
  • Robbie Coltrane reprises his role from GoldenEye.
  • In the novelisation, the character "Cigar Girl" is given the name Giulietta da Vinci.
  • In this movie, a kidnapped M is going to be blown up in Istanbul. In Colonel Sun, a kidnapped M is going to be blown up in Greece.



Year: 2015

Director: Sam Mendes

Writers: John Logan, Neal Purvis, Robert Wade

Starring: Daniel Craig (James Bond), Christoph Waltz (Blofeld), Léa Seydoux (Madeleine), Ralph Fiennes (M), Monica Bellucci (Lucia), Ben Whishaw (Q), Naomie Harris (Moneypenny), Dave Bautista (Hinx), Andrew Scott (C, Rory Kinnear (Tanner), Jesper Christensen (Mr. White), Alessandro Cremona (Marco Sciarra), Stephanie Sigman (Estrella), Tenoch Huerta, Adriana Paz (Mexican couple in elevator), Domenico Fortunato (Gallo), Marco Zingaro, Stefano Elfi DiClaudia (Gallo’s accomplices)


A cryptic message helps James Bond uncover the existence of the sinister organization named SPECTRE. Bond learns the terrible truth about the author of all his pain in his most recent missions.


The tangential connection to Colonel Sun is the scene where Blofeld (Christoph Waltz) tortures Bond. It is adapted from Chapter 19 of Colonel Sun, titled “The Theory and Practice of Torture.” Though Blofeld replaced Sun as Bond's tormentor, much of Blofeld's dialogue in the scene was written by Amis for Sun, resulting in an acknowledgement to Amis' estate in the end credits, though no mention of the book itself.

Some other comments:

  • Christoph Waltz showed just how evil he could be in Inglorious Basterds, so I was glad to see him as the infamous Blofeld. You can’t pick a no-name to be Blofeld!
  • Unfortunately, I think he was wasted in the next (and final) Daniel Craig Bond movie, No Time to Die. As in You Only Live Twice, Bond throttles Blofeld with his bare hands, shouting “Die, Blofeld, Die!” But it felt unearned, and Blofeld was essentially helpless.
  • Audience familiar with Andrew Scott’s work were sure to guess that his “C” was going to be more than a foil for M. Why hire Andrew Scott to be a bit player? Answer: You don’t.
  • Lea Seydoux is gorgeous, and a fine actress, but the lack of chemistry between her Madeline Swann character and Craig’s Bond was such that I never expected to see her again. Hence, I was surprised that she turned out to be the love of Bond’s life, and the mother of his daughter, in No Time to Die.


Not the most memorable of Craig movies, but all them are pretty good.


  • This is the fourth (of five) Bond movies to star Daniel Craig.
  • This is the first movie after the long-running dispute over Thunderball was settled, and the first use of SPECTRE and Blofeld since Diamonds Are Forever.
  • This is Ralph Fiennes’ first appearance as M. The Judi Dench M died in the previous movie, Skyfall.

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  • It has been a number of years since I read Colonel Sun but I know I didn't care for it. Your points 3 and 9 hit the mark for what I do remember of the book.

    Like any fad I believe the general public had their fill of cloak and dagger by the late Sixties. Espionage inspired TV shows were being cancelled, the Bond wanna-bes on the big screen had dropped by the wayside and the Bond films themselves seemed to have peaked out. You Only Live Twice did not do as well at the box office as its two predecesssors. And Connery had abandoned the series. It may have taken 14 years for the Fleming estate to feel comfortable with reviving the novel series.

    • Didn't Get Smart run around this time? I sometimes wonder if a clever parody can mark the ending of a given trend, like once you've been shown the absurdity  of something, it's hard to take it seriously afterwards.

    • Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein comes to mind. 

      And I've never read Colonel Sun.

  • I sometimes wonder if a clever parody can mark the ending of a given trend, like once you've been shown the absurdity  of something, it's hard to take it seriously afterwards.

    It's been my opinion for a while that Maverick heralded the end of the TV Western, and Rockford Files heralded the end of private-eye TV shows. I don't know if it's true or not. And if it is true, then whether it's cause and effect, or no correlation at all. I don't know. 

    Espionage-inspired TV shows were being canceled, the Bond wannabes on the big screen had dropped by the wayside and the Bond films themselves seemed to have peaked out.

    That is how I remember it as well. It made me curious, mainly to see how many I could remember, so I did the research.

    UK's The Avengers (1961-69): I saw this show only intermittently, whenever it happened to be on the local WKNO station, and I happened to be flipping past Channel 10 on my way to Channel 13. (That’s the same way I’d occasionally see Doctor Who.) Loved the style, but wasn't sure exactly what was going on. (Were Steed and Peel a couple? What happened to Mrs. Peel's husband? Who did they work for?) These questions burned in the mind of the Li'l Capn, and went forever unanswered.

    The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (1964-1968): I thought Napoleon Solo (Robert Vaughn) was the least convincing spy/action hero I'd ever seen. I watched the show for Ilya Kuryakin (David McCallum), who was convincing. Even his Ukrainian accent was convincing to the Li’l Capn, even though he was an English actor.

    Honey West (1965): I never saw this show, but every time the Li'l Capn saw a photo of Anne Francis in it, he felt funny inside.

    Get Smart (1965-69): I was just the right age to find this show hilarious. I wasn't the right age to have a crush on Barbara Feldon, but I did anyway.

    Wild, Wild West (1965-69): Enjoyed this show, although it tended to be formulaic. I identified more with the No. 2, Artemus Gordon (Ross Martin), than the star, Jim West (Robert Conrad). They tried to disguise how short Conrad was, but it didn't convince the Li’l Capn, who enjoyed pointing out the scenes where Conrad was a foot shorter than someone, then he was eye to eye with them in the next scene.

    Secret Agent (1964-67): Loved this, although for some reason I never saw much of it. But Patrick McGoohan was very convincing. It was followed by ...

    The Prisoner (1967-68): Never saw much of this, either (were they both UK shows?), but what I did see had me appropriately intrigued.

    The Girl from U.N.C.L.E. (1966-67): Never saw this, either, but saw photos — and was she maybe in the parent show a couple of times? i seem to remember Stephanie Powers doing something spy-like.

    The Ipcress File (1965), Funeral in Berlin (1966), Billion Dollar Brain (1967): Never saw any of these, either, which starred Michael Caine as Harry Palmer, adapted from novels written by Len Deighton. I love Michael Caine, so I may have to seek them out.

    Our Man Flint (1966), In Like Flint (1967): I saw one of these on TV in the ‘60s or ‘70s, but I don't know which one. I don't remember much, either, except that it was a little silly. I’m not a huge James Coburn fan, so I probably won’t seek them out unless someone here recommends them.

    The Silencers (1966), Murderers’ Row (1966), The Ambushers (1967), The Wrecking Crew (1968): I never saw any of these, which starred Dean Martin as Matt Helm, adapted from novels by Donald Hamilton. I can’t think of anything I would enjoy less than watching smarmy and louche Dean Martin on the make, so I’ll probably never watch them. (And I can't imagine my mother driving me to a Dean Martin movie, as she despised him.)

    The Pink Panther (1963), A Shot in the Dark (1964), Inspector Clouseau (1968), The Return of the Pink Panther (1975), The Pink Panther Strikes Again (1976), Revenge of the Pink Panther (1978), Trail of the Pink Panther (1982): This series really parodied Hercule Poirot more than Bond, and was mostly a vehicle for Peter Sellers (even after he was dead), which is why I think it outlasted the spy fad. I watched a lot of them, because I thought Sellers was hilarious. The third one was a disappointment, as it starred the less-hilarious Alan Arkin, as was the last, which was filmed after Sellers had died, using outtakes from previous Clouseau films. Ghoulish, to say the least.

    A Man Named Flintstone, etc.: There were a lot of other parodies and homages in the ‘60s according to Wiki, but I never heard of most of them and certainly didn’t see them.

    It may have taken 14 years for the Fleming estate to feel comfortable with reviving the novel series.

    This was not an idea that had occurred to me, and sounds pretty likely. Colonel Sun was actually necessary, to secure the copyright, according to Wiki. After that was done, I guess they felt they could wait until the time was ripe for a revival.

    And I've never read Colonel Sun.

    How come?

    • UK's The Avengers (1961-69): I saw this show only intermittently, whenever it happened to be on the local WKNO station, and I happened to be flipping past Channel 10 on my way to Channel 13. (That’s the same way I’d occasionally see Doctor Who.)

      Both shows were created by Sydney Newman, interestingly enough.

    • Nice listing of the Bond parodies. I'd like to add a couple of really obscure ones.

      The Man from O.R.G.Y.: This is a film adaptation of a series of smutty pulp novels written by Ted Gottfried under the pen name "Ted Mark." "The Man" of the title is Steve Victor, and "O.R.G.Y." is the "Organization for the Rational Guidance of Youth", a one-man operation whose true purpose, Victor tells the reader, is its "an Organization to get Research Grants for Yours truly." With the grants, Victor finds himself on globe-trotting adventures with comely, sex-starved babes that make James Bond's escapades look like Hardy Boys novels.

      The 2nd Best Secret Agent in the Whole Wide World. The gent of the title is one Charles Vine, who is the man who gets the call when the Best Secret Agent in the Whole Wide World -- we all know who, don't we? -- is otherwise occupied. Strangely enough, the original title of this spoof was "Licence to Kill"!

    • I did not know about these movies. Now I do! Thank you!


      UK's The Avengers (1961-69) . . . Were Steed and Peel a couple? 


      The show played remarkably coy on this point.  Steed and Mrs. Peel had run of each other's apartments, and they knew personal information about each other that went deeper than that of typical colleagues.  But the show never provided any innuendo, not even a whisper.  No suggestive scenes such as one of them putting on his shoes while they were both in the bedroom or wearing of robes at breakfast.  Nothing of any sort like that.  But the jaunty badinage between the two, as well as their chemistry together hinted at something more than just a good friendship.

      I suspect the idea was to let the viewers draw their own conclusions.

      And, of course, no matter how personal the scene, in the very proper British manner, she always referred to him as "Steed", and he always called her "Mrs. Peel".

      Except at the end.

      In the tag of the episode "The Forget-Me-Knot", first aired on 20 March 1968, Diana Rigg makes her last appearance as Mrs. Peel.  As Mr. Willis points out somewhere on this thread, she's written out by having her husband, long believed dead in a South American air crash, turn up alive.  Mrs. Peel is giving up the "talented amateur" spy business to take up with him, again.

      Steed attempts to be lighthearted about it, but the expression on his face doesn't hold up its end of the bargain.  After Mrs. Peel says her final good-bye and kisses Steed lightly on the cheek, she starts out the door.

      That's when Steed softly calls, "Emma . . ."

      She turns to face him.

      ". . . Thanks."

      She gives him a sweet smile in response to him calling her by her forename for the first, and only, time.  She knew what that meant, and so did every other fan of the show.  It revealed more about how Steed felt about Mrs. Peel than anything else ever shown in their episodes together.




    In addition to the spy-centric television shows Cap mentioned, there were two which jumped on the espionage bandwagon at the height of the spy craze, in 1965.  One was a dismaying loss of quality; the other was so bizarre most folks don't believe me when I mention it.

    Burke's Law (1963-6, ABC) starred Gene Barry as millionnaire Amos Burke, who also happened to be a captain of detectives assigned to the Homicide Bureau of the L.A. P. D.  That allowed for a great many stylised scenes that allowed Barry to be his most urbane and sophisticated.  The show itself was highly stylised.  Every episode was titled "Who Killed _______?", and, like Columbo, Captain Burke and his two assistants, Sergeant Hart and Detective Tilson, strictly dealt with murders that took place among the upper crust.  They never dealt with killings at the bottom of the socio-economic ladder.  Be that as it may, it was an entertaining show.  Uncovering the killers was often tortuous, but the scripts always played fair with the viewers, and at least two that I can recall left me flabbergasted in their brilliance.

    The main attraction of the show, though, was the chemistry between the three main characters:  urbane and polished Captain Burke; world-weary veteran Sergeant Hart; and preternaturally effiicient Detective Tilson.  It was a fun show to watch . . . 

    . . . For the first two seasons.

    I was surprised, when I turned to ABC at 2200, Wednesday night, for that first week of the 1965 television season in September, expecting to see Burke's Law, and, instead, was confronted with something called Amos Burke--Secret Agent.  It soon became an unpleasant surprise.  In the first five minutes, the old format is buried when Burke meets with a high government official on a jet plane and reports that he has resigned from the Los Angeles Police Department.  He is now a operative for an unnamed U.S. espionage agency.  Sergeant Hart, Detective Tilson, and their rapport are never seen, heard, or mentioned, again.  Instead, Burke is thrust into a retinue of mundane spy scripts.  Burke is still urbane and sophsticated, but without his old pals to bounce off, it's nothing special---Connery did it better and more realistically---consequently, all of Burke's espionage cases tend to blur together.


    The second show to shift to spy stories is so unlikely that any of you there who've never heard of it will, as I said, suspect I'm making it up.

    John Forsythe had been flailing around for a few years, after his successful situation comedy, Bachelor Father, concluded its five-year run in 1962.  Finally, in 1965, he returned to prime time with a new sitcom, eponymously titled The John Forsythe Show.  The premise was Forsythe, as Major John Foster, a recently retired U.S. Air Force pilot, inherits a private school for girls from his late aunt.  The humour is supposed to generate from the ladies-man Foster's unfamilariity in dealing with a student body of adolescent and pre-adolescent lasses and the traditional-minded faculty.

    Despite some quality casting---Elsa Lanchester, Guy Marks, Ann B. Davis---hijinx did not ensue.  At least, not sufficiently to make the show popular.  It's not unheard of for a floundering show to make some mid-season renovations, but no series has ever gone to the extremes that The John Forsythe Show did.  With its 21 February 1966 episode "Funny, You Don't Look Like a Spy", the pleasant-if-tepid sitcom became a spy series, with the premise shifted.  Now, Major Foster's position as head of the Foster School for Girls serves as his cover; his real business is going on espionage missions for the U.S. Air Intelligence Service.  Miss Lanchester's and Miss Davis' rôles were diminished to essentially walk-ons, and the students bacame nothing more than backdrop.  Only Guy Marks, as Ed Robbins, the school's handyman, remained as a steady character.  The old format had established Robbins as Major Foster's chief mechanic before he, too, had retired from the U.S.A.F.  So, in the new format, Robbins got pressed into service as Foster's spying sidekick.

    The show took its spy business seriously, but they were some rather straightforward missions.  It was definitely not "The Spy Who Came in from the Cold" sort of gritty drama.  But, despite the popularity of The Man from U.N.C.L.E.I SpyMission:  Impossible,and its brethren, the change to espionage didn't help Major Foster.  The show limped along for its last ten episodes of the season, never to be seen, again.



  • There were two which jumped on the espionage bandwagon at the height of the spy craze, in 1965.  One was a dismaying loss of quality; the other was so bizarre most folks don't believe me when I mention it.

    I believe you, but I am gobsmacked nonetheless.

    You also mention two shows I forgot to mention, so I'll add them to the list:

    I Spy (1965-68) featured Robert Culp as Kelly Robinson, an international tennis player, which was his cover for being a spy. Presumably for the U.S. I didn't see much of I Spy, and what I did I was probably too young to understand and don't remember much. My primary takeaway is that Culp's sidekick Alexander Scott (Bill Cosby) was the most interesting part of the show, and before long Culp had adopted Cosby's mannerisms and speaking style. That made Cosby a co-star, whether that was ever acknowledged as such, and the interaction between the two falling somewhere between charmingly amusing and laugh-out-loud funny. Of course, I was familiar with Cosby before the show from his comedy albums (which my brother bought), so maybe I was looking for Cosby to break out.

    Mission: Impossible (1966-73) long outlasted the spy fad, and I grew up with it. I remember it fondly. Of course, it was blessed (like Secret Agent and James Bond himself) with an utterly unforgettable, rousing theme song, which made me want to like it. It starred the aptly-named Peter Graves as James Phelps, the head of the MI task force, part of some unnamed U.S. espionage agency. Phelps would choose what MI members were suitable for each mission through the use of photographs, which I think inspired comic book covers like this one:


    I will never forgive the Mission Impossible film series for besmirching Phelps' memory. 

    Phelps always tended to pick the same people every week, which happily coincided with whomever the show had under contract. There was the Strong Guy (Peter Lupus), who carried everything, and the Electronics Guy (Greg Morris) who was always behind the scenes gimmicking elevators and such. Both were in virtually every episode, usually disguised as reparimen. There was the Hot Chick, who was Barbara Bain, then Lee Meriwether, then Lesley Ann Warren, then Lynda Day George. They had the Master of Disguise, who was Martin Landau, then Leonard Nimoy. Like any long-running TV show, you'd have the up-and-coming stars and character actors of the day guest, such as Sam Elliott, Steven Hill, Robert Conrad, Pernell Roberts, Mark Lenard and Gregory Sierra. I loved it, but I haven't watched it since I was 14, so I don't know how well it's aged.

    MI gave the world the unforgettable catchphrases, "Your mission, should you choose to accept it ...," "If killed or captured, the secretary will disavow all knowledge of your actions" and "this tape will self-destruct in 60 seconds."

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