April is the cruellest month: a day-by-day game (year 2)

Twenty-two years I have been haunting this website, or earlier iterations of it, and in those years I’ve seen many things stated that, were I in the mood, would cause me to gnaw my own face off.

Thought we might run another month-long game, a bit like the ones in December 2021 and April 2022. The statements below, which I have seen posted hereabouts on the wasteland over the years, are perhaps a little baity, a touch negative perhaps, and assertions rather than questions. I can’t say I agree with them all honestly, but might pose that I do. Several I vehemently disagree with.

All of them interest me, though. How about you?

First batch below; more to come.

April 1: Dr No was the wrong film to start a series with. As with the book, it depicts Bond more as a general investigator than as an elimination agent with a licence to kill.

April 2: Given that it has Bond subjugated to a wartime enemy, with WW2 recent memory for his readers, had You Only Live Twice been set in the then West Germany, it wouldn’t have been published.

April 3: :Less is more; the offshoots such as Young Bond, the 007 Store, 007 Road to a Million, basically harm it and they really shouldn’t bother. Occasional film, occasional adult Bond Book; that’s enough. The “brand” is strong enough without all this… tat.

April 4: Removing some if not all of the racially suspect commentary and comments from the Bond novels will only serve to emphasise the currently questionable material that then remains, and must therefore backfire.

April 5: Killing Bond at the end of No Time to Die sensibly draws a line under that era, and all its callbacks to earlier eras, leaving Eon totally free to clean-slate things. Although they won’t.

April 6: Given his propensity for (ahem) “borrowing” material from other sources, “Going back to Fleming” means copying the styles of others and other genres; accordingly, in spirit the most Fleming-like period of the films (post the notionally direct adaptations) was the 1970s.


Logic would assume to start with the first book in the series rather than going out of sequence. However Dr No is a good choice to start because it gives an instant smorgasbord of what the established Bond brand is all about. He’s a British agent, but his heart lies in Jamaica where Fleming wrote the books. He’s a spy who collects information and kills when he has to, and that happens a number of times. That grounded nature contrasts against the fantastical elements that appear later in the story, which provided a launchpad for the film series to grow into the phenomenon it is today.


What he said


April 1st
I recall reading once that Cubby had wanted to start with Thunderball but the legal issues surrounding it prevented this. Casino Royale was off the table as the rights were elsewhere. I can’t imagine Live and Let Die was the most appealing prospect for launching the Bond series. After that the novels are reasonably self contained so you can in theory start anywhere.
Given that Dr. No was a success and the series went onto bigger and better things I’d say history is on the side of it being the right choice.


Not sure if our profiles still exist (been a member long enough that I should know these things) but I did once put that DN was my “favorite” (ooooh…) novel. I say (oooh) because my favorite is another now, and willl be yet another when “then” comes around. So favorite (oooh) is a quite malleable form…

So all that said…I think it is a good novel to start with, in that it’s a relatively straightforward adventure in a “generic” way. It’s not CR, which one could argue is pretty dark for “family” fare; it’s not FRWL which doesn’t have much of Bond for a hundred pages. It’s not LALD, and I’ll leave that parked right there. It’s not DAF which I still contend is a pretty miserable literary experience.

It’s perfect for a relatively “faithful” film adaptation - other than the big finish it’s pretty easy (and cheap) to film. Dump the squid and the death due to dump, and it’s the basis of some solid pulp entertainment. Which it turned out to be. Not too many characters to follow, and as filmed, a relatively straightforward plot. A touch of exotic (space program!) to add a sense of intrigue to the “investigating” part of it. And let’s face it, it’s not as if it’s Murder on the Orient Express…

I might be inaccurate chronologically but you could have gone with TB - another great read. But all the military and underwater stuff would have been an expensive gamble for a cinematic debut on a budget. MR - maybe? But keeping Bond in London, and you’ve got Bulldog Drummond, no? Sending him abroad and it’s Biggles (separate best “B” hero discussion for another day).

As for Bond - he’s blank enough in DN (he’s not yet bored Bond, surly Bond, or broken Bond) to be a template for someone to make something of him in a cinematic sense. And so they did.

I’m all for alternative history (Lewis Collins anyone?) but in this instance, I think they got it right.


And by the way, the esteemed Jim has reminded me that April is the BEST month at CBn!!!


His job is actually a hybrid of the two: he needs the skill of an investigator and based on what he unearths, he is given the latitude to kill those he considers enemies of the state, without checking in at the office first or running it up the chain of command. Which is to say, Bond has a “license to kill,” not a “directive to kill.” As he says in SF, a double-oh needs to know when to pull a trigger and when not to; otherwise MI-6 could just send in a drone. He’s not just a hitman, nor – despite his own label – a “blunt instrument.”

None of the early films really present Bond as “an elimination agent.” In FRWL, he’s assigned to retrieve the Lektor, with no human targets assigned at all. Next up, he’s ordered to investigate Goldfinger for smuggling. No one says, “find Goldfinger and kill him.” In fact, when he does hint he’d like to kill him, M threatens to take him off the case for losing his objectivity. Then in Thunderball, Bond – and the rest of the Double-Ohs – are sent to find the missing bombs. That’s more “detective work.” They’re not told, “go find people and kill them,” but due to the sensitive nature of the crisis, it’s a good bet they may end up having to kill someone at some juncture. But first they have to figure out who it is that needs killing, and that requires some sleuthing.

So no, DN is not the wrong film to start the series with on those grounds. Bond is an investigator, just on the most ticklish and potentially explosive of cases.


Perfectly stated.

Also, with Bond being rather straightforward and with no gadgets and too many quips, DN offered a trajectory to the more outlandish, so they could always say: we’re going back to Fleming… and even the first one had a maniac with a private island base, planning world domination, so…


The order of the film does ease an audience used to detective stories into Bond’s world of underground bases, megalomaniacs with metal hands and over elaborate, if vague, plans. It was the perfect place to start.


Bond is an investigator, first and foremost, with those special assignments happening two or three times a year, as it is pointed out in the first chapter of MR. The rest of the time, he’s a desk jockey, it’s not that he has to run around, save the world and kill people every fortnight. Actually, that first chapter of MR would have been an interesting way to introduce Bond. Would have been more of a Jack Ryan vibe, who we get to know as an analyst who then goes into action. Basically, Dr No is right: “You’re nothing but a stupid policeman.” :stuck_out_tongue_closed_eyes:

Fun fact: when they started showing Bond movies on German TV in 1984, they kicked off with FRWL (in June) instead of DN (which then aired in December), because in literature, FRWL comes before DN.


Having Bond’s reveal being at a casino table touches upon the first book and shows it’s an important part of his life routine. That was a smart move on their part, considering he wasn’t recovering from Klebb’s kick.


In the last decades Bond even got lesser assignments (sometimes only every third or fourth year), and he increasingly went rogue just to escape sorting out how to adapt to Moneypenny‘s new filing system.

He still was not cast as Pennywise.


Yes, and when M says the Beretta “jammed on you that last job and you spent 6 months in hospital,” I take it as a nod to the literary chronology, wherein Bond’s gun snagged on his clothing and led to him being stabbed with Klebb’s poisoned shoe knife, in FRWL.

Of course the problem with treating FRWL as the first film is that the whole Lektor scheme is devised as revenge for Bond killing Dr No.

So basically, to really go “back to Fleming,” EON would have to return to before 1962’s DN and start from scratch.

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Ah yes, the “back to Fleming” line, So casually racist and sexist and blatantly elitist?

I think they’re right to use that as nothing more than a sound bite.


West Germany? I think by YOLT Fleming could have had his hero hanging around a tea shop in Stoke Newington and it would have been lapped up by the publisher and the reader, such the demand for Bond by '64.

And if you take the novel for what it is - a jaundiced travelogue with a healthy dose of both racism and self-loathing, well, accompanying Herr Tanaka around a revived once-enemy would have been pretty much the same, though I’d argue that schnitzel is only as risky as blowfish if you forget to chew.

If anything, a YOLT set in West Germany might only have reflected badly upon the series itself - Le Carre already doing his Cold War thing, and Deighton’s Funeral In Berlin published the same year, and both I’d offer leaving Fleming looking a pale imitator with this “alternative” YOLT.

Would it have been published? Without a doubt. Would it have been panned by the critics? Well, I doubt they would have been kind. They weren’t that kind to the novel in its “original” form (at least according to my quick eye-over of the Wikipedia entry…!!! :slight_smile: )


Published, but maybe not in Germany. Even in the 80‘s shows like „Magnum P.I.“ were heavily edited with the protagonist’s Vietnam war past almost excised, and DIE HARD‘s Hans Gruber was dubbed into Jack Gruber.

Would Fleming have pulled it off, setting YOLT in Germany? I sure would have loved to read that.

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April 1st - Dr No was the best start point for the series, reasonably cheap yet exotic location. Primarily set in one area. The most filmic of Bond Women from the novels. The investigatory tone helpful to those not familiar with the books.
Great villain to put in screen. It’s all there.
Thunderball - would have looked cheap
GF - as above
FRWL - needed a prior episode to set it up.
LALD - plot wise the book was sound but probably dismissed as not right for the first.

Of the novels released at that point only MR or DAF could have reasonably been alternatives. But a first film set in England with a Nazi villain a bit niche


Published, yes, but maybe in a shortened version. You know what they did to MR back in the day: butchered because they thought the German audience wouldn’t want to read too much evil Nazi stuff…

My “favorite” example for things like this is Casablanca: when it finally came to German cinemas in 1952, it was about Norwegian Nuclear scientist Victor Larsen, who had invented some MacGuffin and had broken out of jail (they put him there because he destroyed his own invention, deeming it too dangerous). Captain Renaud became “Monsieur Laporte from Interpol” and all Nazi stuff was eliminated. Resulted in a movie that was 25 minutes shorter.
Officially, Germany didn’t learn until 1975 what this movie was really about, when an uncut and newly dubbed version was shown on TV…


Oh, yes. And to think that despite that “Casablanca” had been considered a true classic…

It´s like praising “Goldfinger” despite taking out the Fort Knox plan and sequence.

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I’m not sure what “subjugated” means in this case, but I guess it’s referring to the fact that Bond is working with/under Tanaka and the Japanese Secret Service?

I don’t know that a version set in West Germany wouldn’t have been published, but it’s not the story Fleming seemed interested in telling and, I’m betting, not one that would’ve interested readers as much, either. I can’t imagine Germany could have seemed as exotic to readers in 1964 as far-off Japan, and the surreal “Garden of Death” worked better in a land that already seemed vaguely mystical and fairy tale-like. Plus, Germany would have been one of the first places I’d look for an on-the-run Blofeld to hole up, compared to a remote Japanese castle.

If you’re suggesting audiences – particularly English audiences – were more prepared to “forgive and forget” Japan and accept Bond allied with an Asian partner/boss than they would have been with a German equivalent…well, maybe. The “you know, not all Germans are ex-Nazis” message would have been progressive and edifying, but it also seems beyond Fleming’s ken, to be honest. He always leaned hard into stereotypes and “German” was just too handy a shorthand for “villain” to toss it away, but he was quite comfortable throwing a bone to “different-colored folks with a strange culture but honorable in their own quaint way.”