Friday, 27 October 2017

'Like something out of James Bond'

We often read stories in the papers or online in which aspects of the story have been likened to ‘something out of James Bond’. Take a recent case of a cigarette scam in Yorkshire, which was reported in various newspapers. The police uncovered a hidden room full of contraband goods, which the police described as a ‘James Bond-style room’. Reports about new technology rarely fail to mention James Bond. A new submersible vehicle designed by Aston Martin, for example, was inevitable dubbed, in another recent article, ‘James Bond-worthy’. References such as these have been made for decades, even before the Bond film series was launched, and sometimes in the most unlikely publications.
 

Farm and Country magazine is far removed from the world of James Bond, but a column ('Leaning on the gate') by farmer Peter Fraser in the edition published 27th April 1960 managed to include a reference to Fleming’s creation. The column offered Fraser’s view of farming in the spring, and described how two of his Jersey cows had died mysteriously. There was talk of magnesium deficiency, a drop in temperature and poor quality grass, but no one had really got to the bottom of it. ‘We need a new detective to solve this mystery,’ Fraser wrote. ‘Some new James Bond – we had better ring up Ian Fleming.’
 

An article by Lord Kilbracken ('Topsy and the treasure') that appeared in The Tatler on 27th September 1961 not only mentions Ian Fleming, but is about a subject that might have appealed to him. In the piece, Lord Kilbracken revealed an interest in the circumstances surrounding a fabled hoard of objects known as Rommel's Treasure. The treasure is said to have comprised priceless objects stolen by the German army in North Africa in World War Two and subsequently dumped in the sea off Bastia in Corsica. Lord Kilbracken had learnt of an underwater search for the treasure by 'a shadowy figure straight out of Ian Fleming', a Mr Helle. I agree - the story is well into Live and Let Die or 'Octopussy' territory.
 
Headline from the Aberdeen Evening Express, 29 July 1965
 

A more conventional story that alluded to James Bond appeared in the Aberdeen Evening Express in July 1965. The piece reported the trial of three people, 'including an attractive bus conductress', who had been charged with possessing Indian hemp. The legal representative of one of the accused is reported as saying: 'The whole story reads more like a James Bond thriller than a court case.'
 

These items reveal that, even before the film series, James Bond had become synonymous with intrigue and mystery and was sufficiently embedded into the cultural environment to be evoked in unrelated contexts. The piece in the Aberdeen Evening Express is particularly telling, as it suggests that the novels remained an important cultural touchstone after 1962, when Dr No was released, and that it took a few years before the film series overtook the novels in cultural significance.

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