Thursday, September 8, 2011

Octopussy & The Living Daylights - Ian Fleming

Cover of the first edition.
 Well that is it then!! I've now seen every Bond film, and read every Bond novel....well the ones Ian Fleming wrote anyway. They are the ones that really count right??! This particular edition contains four short stories, namely Octopussy, The Living Daylights, The Property of a Lady, and 007 in New York. When released in 1966 first editions only contained the first two stories. The Property of a Lady was added into the first paper back editions in 1967, and 007 in New York wasn't published with the three until 2002 editions.

 Of course the novel was published posthumously. The title is sometimes know just as Octopussy, with the story itself first serialised in the March and April editions of Playboy in 1966. Even though Fleming wrote the stories after many of the novels, it is believed there is a chronology to them. For instance The Living Daylights comes just after Thunderball. Octopussy supposedly follows The spy Who loved Me, then 007 in New York and The Property of a Lady, before On Her Majesty's Secret Service. Fleming is believed to have done so to keep Bond's age at roughly 37.

 Of course both Octopussy and The Living Daylights are names of two Bond films. But like several other Bond films, the stories have little in common with their namesakes. Octopussy is based in Jamaica and is about an ex soldier, Major Dexter Smythe. He is implicated in a murder and theft of two gold bars at the end of WW2. Bond only appears in a few pages, with the story  told through flashbacks from Smythe's point of view. He is a dying alcoholic. Instead of returning to England to stand trial,  he dies after being stung by a Scorpion fish, and then drowned by an octopus. In this story Fleming yet again uses his personal knowledge of diving, and the sea life around Jamaica.

 The man Smythe had murdered had been a friend of Bond's. He had taught him to ski before the war. In the film of the same name a female protagonist is introduced. She is the daughter of the man just to tie the film and novel closer together.

 The Living Daylights sees Bond sent to Berlin to kill a Russian sniper ( code named 'trigger' ). Trigger is assigned to kill a British agent, '272', who is trying to get back to West Berlin. Bond is morose and unhappy about the job. He views it as murder. He watches the kill zone for several days and has a fantasy about a beautiful cellist he sees on the other side. On the night of the escape attempt Bond sees that the girl is in fact 'Trigger', and instead of killing her, shoots her through the hand. He hopes 'M' will sack him for intentionally disobeying his orders to actually kill 'Trigger'. This story was adapted to the film of the same name, and Timothy Dalton plays it much as the novel plays out. He even mutters the novel's line from which the title is taken, ' I must have scared the living daylights out of her'.

 The Property of a Lady was adapted into the Octopussy auction scene. Much of the story is played out in the film. The Faberge Egg and the Sotheby auction are the same. But in the novel Bond is there to identify a Russian agent. Interestingly the idea of the novel's double agent was incorporated into Rosamund Pike's character, Miranda Frost, in Die Another Day, and M's body guard, Craig Mitchell, in Casino Royale. 'The Property of a Lady' was to be the title of third Dalton film, which was to be released in 1991. I've read around and about that it may be considered as the title for Daniel Craig's third film.

 The final story is a few pages long and sees Bond flying into New York. He muses on what he does and doesn't like about the city. In all reality it is Fleming's own views of course. His mission is to warn a female British MI6 agent that her boyfriend is actually a KGB agent. In the story a character 'Solange' is mentioned. This name was adapted into a character in Casino Royale. Also the female agent would be adapted into Quantum of Solace, but instead she would be Canadian, and her boyfriend working for 'Quantum Corporation'.

 Like previous Bond novels Fleming delves into his prejudices. In The Property of a Lady one character is tagged as homosexual, just on the way he dresses!! And in The Living Daylights Fleming lives out his misogyny within a novel Bond reads. The female character is used and abused 'most thoroughly'!! God he was a prick, and one thing I won't miss about the novels is his dis-tasteful views.

 All four stories are well written, and if anything 007 in New York is the only Bond story/novel that includes a humorous air. The first story Octopussy isn't really a Bond heavy one. But the next two are and are very strong stories. I liked both immensely because they were adapted so well into the films, and were still identifyable to the original source.

 The amazing thing is that with only 14 Fleming books to work from, and all of the novels titles used up, the producers of the films can still tap into Fleming. But it must be said the well is now dry, and all future Bond films will be without any Fleming influence at all.

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