Saturday, August 22, 2009

James Bond Daily: For Your Eyes Only

For Your Eyes Only is the only break in the novel-a-year pace of the Bond books; one wonders (without bothering to do any research) if Kruschev's real-world dismantling of SMERSH, Bond's overall nemesis, in 1958 might possibly have caused a novel to run onto the rocks and sink. (Or perhaps Fleming was caught up in one of the earlier schemes to make a Bond movie, or just took more time with the next year's Thunderball -- which was based on a screen treatment by Fleming and two others, after all -- or maybe there's some reason I couldn't even guess.) It collects the five Bond short stories that had been published to that point, which were:

'From a View to a Kill,' adapted from Fleming's teleplay of the same name for a never-finalized TV series, originally published in this collection in 1960 -- It's a full Bond plot in miniature, with evil Russians, a girl to be seduced, a bit of a puzzle to be solved, and some wet work before it's all done. From the title, I've always vaguely thought it was about Bond assassinating someone with a sniper scope, but it's nothing like that -- a Soviet cell has knocked off a dispatch rider with secret documents in the forests of Northern France, and Bond has to find and stop them.

'For Your Eyes Only,' another adapted teleplay -- This one, on the other hand, does see Bond at one end of a sniper rifle, as he goes to New York's Adirondack Mountains to kill some people pretty much unofficially as a favor for M. (Of course, they do need killing, as we American say.) There's a girl in this one as well; for the aborted TV show, Fleming seems to have been playing up the fact that Bond can always find some excellent sack-fodder.

'Quantum of Solace,' originally published in the May 1959 issue of Cosmopolitan, of all places -- The best of the stories in this book is a long story of infidelity and the death of love, as told by an aging colonial administrator to Bond over drinks late one evening.

'Risico,' the third and last adapted teleplay -- The title, I'm sorry to say, is one character's dialect way of saying 'risk.' Much of this story was incorporated into the movie For Your Eyes Only, though it only forms part of Act II and a piece of the plot armature there. Bond traces a narcotics pipeline through Northern Italy, and finds that the mastermind is not who he thought it was at first.

'The Hildebrand Rarity,' from the March 1960 Playboy, a much more expected home for a Bond story -- One of the ugliest of Fleming's rich ugly Americans offers Bond a ride on his yacht as part of a natural history hunt for the very rare title fish. One of them doesn't make it back, which pleases the rich man's young (and still awfully close to innocent) wife.

The two pieces that were written as stories are, unsurprisingly, better than the three adapted teleplays, which are decent adventures with some Fleming edge. The best thing here has the least Bond in it, and, in general, For Your Eyes Only is really mostly for Bond completests.

Listening to: Elvis Costello - Complicated Shadows
via FoxyTunes

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