James Bond: Behind the Movies

The Man with The Golden Touch: How the Bond Movies Conquered the World by Sinclair McKay was published by Aurum. Is it a case of just one more writer jumping on the marketing train of James Bond movies and its bandwagon of licensed and unlicensed merchandise (or would that be a bondwagon)? Not quite for once.

Every other year or so, a James Bond movie comes to cinemas around the world. We are all used to it and according to temperament adore it or ignore it. Like a meteorite, these movies are tailed by a trail of book publications, most of which aren't worth the paper they are printed on. Like stowaways, they take a ride on the train of fame of the movies while pretending to be part of the franchise.

In this book, Sinclair McKay tells the story behind the Bond movies. It is not a new story and others have done it before. It tells the story of producers Broccoli and Saltzmann. The two creative brains had the talent to find the right people for each job when building this powerful brand. Out of this, he builds a good case for the claim that without the movies Ian Fleming would be forgotten by now and his books out of print. Due to the recurring movies, his books are still found in book shops everywhere.

Sinclair McKay gives the full tour, taking readers through every movie produced up to Quantum of Solace. It is obvious that he knows them well, and facts presented are well researched. Having said this, I have to admit that I tend to disagree with him on most statements all the same. But that is a matter of opinion, not science. He is right, though, to attribute the timelessness of the movies to two sound producers. Broccoli and Saltzmann had the knack of concentrating on what mattered while ignoring the fads and fashions en vogue when producing each movie. Where most movies become hopelessly outdated after a few years, James Bond movies have aged in a dignified way.

I also agree with him that Thunderball was the most boring James Bond movie ever. But how he could have been so kind to ‘poor’ Lazenby beats me. Despite being nice, Sinclair McKay alleges Lazenby was selling minty chocolates before becoming an actor. It does say everything about Lazenby's acting talent. A further James Bond actor slitting opinion was Roger Moore. I for one violently disapproved of Roger Moore who should have played light comedy suited to his limited abilities instead. McKay on the other hand is highly appreciative of Moore, though he sees that the errors in taste in these movies were many. His list of atrocities committed is quite impressive, actually, and hugely entertaining.

Besides the producers and the actors, he pays tribute to the three men who set the style for Bond movies to this day, Adam, Barry, and Binder. I tend to think that the mixture of all these talents including Connery made the first movies so highly memorable. In a way, Quantum of Solace is still carried by these first movies despite the many years that have gone by. It is the very fact that the movies plagiarize earlier ones that makes the brand so strong.

The book makes a good read, maybe because there is nothing really new in it. McKay has done his homework on details, obviously, and writes a droll style. It’s well worth a rainy afternoon. If it’s worth its selling price of £18.99 I must leave up to you. I would rather wait for it in the library on a rainy day to enjoy it over a cup of tea.

Further reading