Saturday, May 12, 2018

Next Up, 007 Sniffs The Undertaker’s Wind

Ben Macintyre, a London Times columnist and author of For Your Eyes Only: Ian Fleming and James Bond, and A Spy Among Friends: Kim Philby and the Great Betrayal, offers a clever and amusing column on what title the James Bond film producers will use for the next Bond film.

Daniel  Craig is to be paid $25 million for playing James Bond in the forthcoming film, which raises the 64,000-dollar question: what title to choose for 007’s next outing, his 25th?

The selection of a new Bond film title has become a familiar ritual of world culture that comes around every three or four years, surrounded by artificial mystery, simultaneously silly and commercially significant. It is also very tricky, because the titles are running out.

Ian Fleming wrote 12 Bond novels and nine short stories. There are just four short stories left that have not been made into films, all of which came from arcane corners of the novelist’s brain.

Risico, a story in the 1960 collection For Your Eyes Only, is Italian for risk, or a Dutch word meaning peril as in “Je loopt het risico te vallen”: You run the risk of falling. It doesn’t quite have the ring of Skyfall.

The Hildebrand Rarity was first published in Playboy, and refers to a fictional species of fish hunted by the criminal tax dodger Milton Krest: “A unique member of the squirrelfish family . . . caught by Professor Hildebrand of the University of Witwatersrand off Chagrin Island in the Seychelles, April 1925.” As a film title, The Hildebrand Rarity might cause as much bafflement among Bond fans as Quantum of Solace.

… The film-makers will probably have to fall back on the newer species of fabricated Bond titles (nine of the last 12), which sound pithy, glamorous, dramatic, often contain a reference to death and usually mean nothing at all.

In the Piers Brosnan era, the titles veered close to self-parody, by eliding a death reference with a familiar catchphrase. After Tomorrow Never Dies, Die Another Day, and A View to a Kill, the possibilities seemed endless: Once Bitten Twice Dead? You Only Die Twice, Tomorrow? Shaken, Not Dead?

The title of A View to a Kill was so odd (and grammatically dubious) that scriptwriters felt obliged to make some sense of it during an exchange between the villain Zorin (Christopher Walken) and his henchwoman May Day (Grace Jones). Her: “What a View!” Him: “To a Kill.”

The philosophical-sounding and essentially meaningless Bond film title reached its finest expression with The World is Not Enough (the Bond family motto, apparently derived from Alexander the Great’s epitaph). With Skyfall, the franchise returned to the blunt, compound-word titles of Thunderball and Goldfinger.

Fleming himself struggled with titles. His second novel, Live and Let Die, was originally entitled The Undertaker’s Wind, a reference to the wind that blows across Jamaica (where Fleming wrote). He thought it sounded romantic and eerie. It actually sounds like a mortician with flatulence. If he had stuck to his guns, the book would probably have bombed, and there would be no James Bond as we know him.

Dr No was originally The Wound Man. Goldfinger started out as The Richest Man in the World. From a View to a Kill was first entitled The Rough with the Smooth. The working title of For Your Eyes Only was Man’s Work, which definitely would not go down well in Hollywood today. He also toyed with calling it Death Leaves an Echo, which is rather good.

Fleming found it particularly hard to settle on a title for his third novel, about an evil financier who threatens to destroy London with a £10 million rocket. He rejected Wide of the Mark, Mondays are Hell, Out of the Clear Sky, and The Inhuman Element, before finally settling on Moonraker.

The character of James Bond was a mixture of the various adventurers Fleming had encountered while working in naval intelligence: “a compound of the secret agents and commando types I met during the war”. In the same way, his titles were gathered, magpie-like, from whatever came to hand. Diamonds are Forever was a direct lift from the De Beers advertising campaign slogan dreamed up by copywriter Frances Gerety in 1947. “You only live twice” was a phrase coined by the 17th-century Japanese poet Matsuo Basho.

You can read the rest of the column via the below link:

You can also read my Crime Beat interview with Ben Macintyre via the below link::

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