To celebrate the birthday of Ian Lancaster Fleming, a reminder of Susan Omand's reasoning that there is still an Ian Fleming novel out there that needs to be turned into a Bond film...
Did you know 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 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 The Paragon Panther. AKA Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.
Image - IMDb