Bond, James Bond - The One That Got Away


As part of our look back at the films of James Bond, ahead of the SPECTRE release, Susan Omand believes there is still an Ian Fleming novel that needs to be turned into a Bond film...

SPECTRE is looming on the horizon and we’ve been enjoying Barnaby and Stuart’s look back at all the films that have come before but there is an Ian Fleming original story that has, as yet, not been made into the Bond film that it is so suited for. It was written just after Thunderball but suffered from being delayed by major legal wrangling, with screen-writers Fleming had previously collaborated with, over the copyright of some of the names and ideas in Thunderball so, unfortunately, Fleming didn’t live to see the publication of this new book, far less a film.

In the novel, the retired Royal Navy Commander, his female companion and her children foil the plot of gangsters in the north of France, having crossed the Channel in a unique and powerful gadget filled hovercraft/car, the Paragon Panther. Landing on a beach near Calais, they find a cave booby-trapped with some devices intended to scare off intruders. At the back of the cave is a store of armaments and explosives, which they detonate and flee in the car, that is now back as a car – think of the submarine Lotus Esprit from The Spy Who Loved Me and you have the idea. The henchmen of the Big Bad, who owns the ammunition dump, arrive and block the road in front them as they try to escape and they threaten the car’s occupants, but a flick of a switch turns the car into an aeroplane and they take off, leaving the bad guys in helpless fury and they head back to their hotel. That’s not the end of the story though. The bad guys get their revenge as the henchmen break into the children's room, kidnapping them and taking them off towards Paris. With a fancy tracking device in the car, the Commander and his companion head off in pursuit.

They catch up with Big Bad and his men as they are carrying out a heist in a famous Parisian building, using their hostages as a decoy. The bad guys are unaware though that the owners have been pre-warned and, after a final battle, the Commander hands them over to the authorities, having prevented their escape.

Sounds like it could make a decent film doesn’t it? There has actually been a film adaptation although, in the true sense of Bond book to film translations, it doesn’t stick very faithfully to the original story and has been dumbed down quite a bit. However I think it could stand a remake as a “proper” Bond film much in the same way as Casino Royale did after the David Niven spoof fiasco.

The film adaptation as it stands, made in 1968, works more like Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade, as there is a lot of involvement with the Commander’s father in the plot (yes, I know, Bond canon says his parents were both killed when he was young – it’s not my film). It is also the Commander who has the children (they live with his father) and he meets his companion after some drama when an industrial site that her family owns is over-run and he saves the day, as usual. We also see the car being fitted out, quite unusual for a Bond film, and learn some of the secrets in it, so it is no surprise that it’s the car that is the focus of the megalomaniac bad guy, a foreign Baron, who was actually played in this film by the same actor that played Auric Goldfinger, who wants to steal the technology for himself and the first chase of the film involves an attack by some of the Baron’s henchmen on a beach, the car turning into a power boat and they manage to escape the Baron’s yacht. The Baron sends spies, to capture either the car or its creator, and they capture the Commander’s father, taking him away in an airship to the Baron’s lair, a fortified castle high in the mountains, where he is held, threatened with torture and forced to divulge the car’s secrets, but he bluffs his way through it – industrial espionage at its best.

The Commander, his companion and, for some reason, the children, follow the airship in the, now flying, car to rescue his father and are hidden by a local man in the town who becomes their ally while they make their plans, much like the Greek, Columbo, did in For Your Eyes Only. However the car is discovered by the Baron’s henchmen and is taken to the castle. While the good guys are searching for the Commander’s father, more hostages, in the form of the children, are taken by the Baron’s wonderfully evil second in command. A plan is hatched to rescue all the hostages and recover the car and, in the final epic battle with guards and henchmen throughout the banqueting hall of the castle, they capture all the major bad guys and return victorious to the town.

So yes, all the elements for a great Bond film are there. The Commander himself, a strong-willed leading lady, a great car and really good gadgets. There’s also an interesting plot with the industrial espionage angle from the current film, the gun-running from the book and the kidnapping (although it would be preferable to lose the family angle for a “proper” Bond film). Add in a superb bad-guy Baron and THE scariest henchman in the history of film and there you have it...

The James Bond film - Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

Image - IMDb
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