Some thoughts on Casino Royale and Ian Fleming's James Bond

Thursday, November 16, 2006 Craig Grobler 0 Comments

I have been getting some emails about whether I have seen Casino Royale yet, what I thought of it.

Photo collage showing the Casino Royale Bond pack:
- tickets to a premiere (back & front)
- Casino Royale water shaken not stirred
- chocolate chips & cards. These are finished :-)
- Casino Royale poker pack. With authentic Casino Royale chips and cards as seen in the film.

Yes, I saw Casino Royale last week. It's good. Go see it. Support Daniel Craig and they'll make more good Bond films.
Ok so to truly understand Bond we have to accept that all males (I can only speak for males in this instance) have an inner voice that guides them through their everyday. No I'm not speaking about the voices that tell you to do bad things, those voices not covered in this entry.

Most males decision making is guided by an inner voice. A sort of what would "X" do when faced with this. Some people hear the voice of a:

- religious figure e.g. "turn the other cheek"
- iconic seminal male figures show up constantly such as Elvis (as visualised in True Romance - if you could not understand why Val Kilmer kept popping up in the film dressed in gold and giving Clarence advice or motivation on his next move. Be confused no more. In fact, True Romance stole this directly from "Preacher" whose guide was John Wayne.)
or David Beckham, Tyler Durden, Donald Trump, some guy in a film etc.
The voice could be that of complete reason such as a father, teacher, lecturer etc. Or even a comic character such as Wolverine, Batman or Superman.

My inner voice happens to be James Bond on occasion. So next time you ask me a stupid question and I look like I'm about to pistol-whip you, down a Vesper (Vodka martini) and drive through the streets recklessly at high speed. You know why.

Ok, so I'm introduced to Sean Connery around 1974/5. He is an elderly, bitter, arrogant, misogynistic, women beating, aggressive, funny dressing (this was South Africa and I was about 5 years old) villain. What! oh, he's the hero of the piece. Well, actually I thought he was worse than Auric Goldfinger he matches the criminal on all counts, deviousness, cunning and viciousness. Except he works for the Government.

What is this new kind of filmmaking it's definitely not Disney? Oh it's British. Aahhh. Those Europeans so brutal. So real

By 1977 I was taken with the casual swagger of Roger Moore's secret agent. He was dashing had cool gadgets and cars and was by far the most American Bond I had seen. My favourite Bond film at the time was The Spy Who Loved Me. Then Moonraker was released. Wait a minute -it's the same film, the same formula, even some of the same characters - just in a different setting.

Well, this goes on for a couple of years by the 80's I was starting to appreciate that the franchise had become a parody of itself and it forced me to revaluate some of the early Bond cinema. Dr. No, Thunderball. Whoa new favourites, these were the business. A couple of the Bond books found themselves on my reading list.

Fast forward the Bond series:

Sean Connery - the original
George Lazenby - The Australian surfer never really got a chance. The producers tried too many new things and didn't allow Lazenby to find his feet. Although OHMSS was more about Bond than any of the previous films
Roger Moore - suave, sophisticated, spoof
Sean Connery (again), we like you but let it go. Please Medicine Man
Timothy Dalton - Trying to recapture the old Sean Connery Bond but failing at the box office
Pierce Brosnan - Brings back the spoofs and the explosions
Daniel Craig - Spot on, closer to Ian Fleming's blunt thug with a little Connery shaken in.

Ok so here we are 2006 - 007 is back in Casino Royale. Ian Fleming's first James Bond book.

The film is relatively well adapted. A lot more than other Bond films. Daniel Craig is good - young, more dynamic (than imagined) and unafraid. Everything a Bond should be. In the absence of Sean Connery indelible impression. I would say the best. All the books characters are here. The girls, villains, sidekicks and allies. The film has been admirably updated to a contemporary setting.

It really is James Bond: Year One - Casino Royale. This is a technique made popular by comics. They reinvigorated a lot of the story arcs by reengineering the origins of the characters, updating them and adding additional bits of motivation and hero mythology. The gadgets have been toned down. Not gone, just toned down. Loads of Sony product placement.

The locations are different - the South of France is now Montenegro.
Texas Hold'em replaces Baccarat.
Bonds relationship with M is fleshed out and definitely not what you would expect of a professional relationship.

One of the plot devices for the film is that we are not introduced to SMERSH* or SPECTRE*. This will no doubt be rolled out throughout the new Bond series. Hopefully, Sony will not play their hand to soon and reveal the criminal network, or it's head Blofeld too soon. Rather Bond works his way through the organisation to reveal Blofeld over a couple of films. With occasional elusive partial appearances being made every now and then. There are clear parallels between Al-Qaeda and the mystery organisation behind events in Casino Royale.
*In the James Bond film series, Bond's archenemy became SPECTRE, first used in Ian Fleming's novel Thunderball (film-wise, SPECTRE is mentioned in the first Bond movie, Dr. No). Film versions of novels in which SMERSH was featured either substituted them with SPECTRE or made the villains independent operatives. In truth, SMERSH never really makes an appearance in the James Bond film franchise at all, although it is referred to twice. In the film From Russia with Love, Bond initially thinks he is fighting SMERSH, only to find that the villains are actually working for SPECTRE; this includes the villain Rosa Klebb, who was formerly a SMERSH operative, but who has secretly defected to SPECTRE.

The second reference to SMERSH in films was in the The Living Daylights (1987), which featured a faked re-activation of SMERSH. It was noted by General Pushkin, the then-current head of the KGB, as having been defunct for twenty years prior to the film. SPECTRE (SPecial Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion) is a fictional terrorist organisation featured in the British James Bond novels by Ian Fleming, and the flms based on those novels. Led by Ernst Stavro Blofeld, the organization first appeared in the novel Thunderball, and subsequently in a number of James Bond films including the very first, Dr. No. The organisation is the fictional spy's most persistent opponent and most famous antagonist. - Wiki
The novel, Casino Royale, breaks SMERSH down into five departments:

Department I:
In charge of counterintelligence among Soviet organizations at home and abroad.
Department II:
Operations, including executions.
Department III:
Administration and finance. - Lechiffre
Department IV:
Investigations and legal work. Personnel.
Department V:
Prosecutions — the section which passes final judgment on all victims.
This will be more important as the series continues as all the villains are in one of the above departments.


It's not commonly known but there are actually 8 Bonds:

Barry Nelson 1954
Sean Connery 1962 - 1966, 1971, 1982
David Niven 1967
George Lazenby 1969
Roger Moore 1973 - 1985
Timothy Dalton 1987 - 1989
Pierce Brosnan 1995 - 2002
Daniel Craig 2006 - ...

Although Casino Royale is Bond 21 there have been 24 Bond films. I have not included the original Casino Royale or should I say the original Austin powers.

* Casino Royale (TV program, 1954 starring Barry Nelson)
1. Dr. No
2. From Russia With Love
3. Goldfinger
4. Thunderball
5. You Only Live Twice
* Casino Royale (1967, starring David Niven and Peter Sellers)
6. On Her Majesty's Secret Service
7. Diamonds Are Forever
8. Live and Let Die
9. The Man with the Golden Gun
10. The Spy Who Loved Me
11. Moonraker
12. For Your Eyes Only
13. Octopussy
* Never Say Never Again (1983, starring Sean Connery)
14. A View to a Kill
15. The Living Daylights
16. Licence to Kill
17. GoldenEye
18. Tomorrow Never Dies
19. The World is Not Enough
20. Die Another Day
21. Casino Royale
22. "Bond 22" (2008)

As well as Goldeneye (1989) & Spymaker (1990), Bond'ified films about the life of Ian Fleming

Bond 22 is in pre production and promises to continue the action from Casino Royale. With Bond chasing the trail he beats out of Mr White. IF they are to follow the Fleming lead Live & Let Die would be next but rumour has it that
"The Ian Fleming short story from the "For Your Eyes Only" collection entitled "Risico" which was used for story elements for that movie is also being used as a story source for this one." - imdb

In much the same way as Bond begins was the working title for Casino Royale. Risico is the working title for Bond 22.
South African movie maker Roger Michell walked away from the chance to take charge of his first James Bond film after talks with producers fell through. "Creative differences" prompted the South African to give up on the project.

The James Bond books:

Ian Fleming:
Casino Royale| Live and Let Die | Moonraker | Diamonds Are Forever | From Russia with Love | Dr. No | Goldfinger | For Your Eyes Only | Thunderball | The Spy Who Loved Me | On Her Majesty's Secret Service | You Only Live Twice | The Man with the Golden Gun | Octopussy and The Living Daylights

Kingsley Amis (writing as Robert Markham)
Colonel Sun

Christopher Wood (novelisations)
James Bond, The Spy Who Loved Me | James Bond and Moonraker

John Gardner
Licence Renewed | For Special Services | Icebreaker | Role of Honour | Nobody Lives For Ever | No Deals, Mr. Bond | Scorpius | Win, Lose or Die | Licence to Kill | Brokenclaw | The Man from Barbarossa | Death is Forever | Never Send Flowers | SeaFire | GoldenEye | COLD (a.k.a. Cold Fall)

Raymond Benson
"Blast From the Past" | Zero Minus Ten | Tomorrow Never Dies | The Facts of Death | "Midsummer Night's Doom" | High Time to Kill | The World is Not Enough | "Live at Five" | Doubleshot | Never Dream of Dying | The Man with the Red Tattoo | Die Another Day

In case you had any doubts Bond is back.