Which film adaptations are the most faithful to the Fleming novel or short story?

BirdlesonBirdleson San Jose, CA
edited December 2015 in Literary 007 Posts: 21,895
My ranking most faithful film adaptation to least (and what was taken from the novel) :

1. ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE - Some minor changes, but the bulk of the novel remains intact.
2. FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE - SMERSH becomes SPECTRE, a few minor changes, but very close.
3. THUNDERBALL - The addition of Fiona to the film seems to be the biggest difference. Other minor changes.
4. GOLDFINGER - Some of the fates of the characters are switched around, Goldfinger's scheme is altered (for the better), events are moved around, but most of the key scenes are there in some form.
5. CASINO ROYALE - Most of the novel is in the film, there is just plenty more added to the film, mostly action. We get Quantum (unnamed at that point) instead of SMERSH, we get Texas Hold 'Em instead of Baccarat and a far more elaborate death for Vesper. The book ends with "The Bitch is dead."
6. THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS - The short story is pretty much the bit we get after the Title Sequence. It's compressed to one evening from three, and Sender becomes Saunders, but even most of the dialogue is intact. The rest of the movie is unrelated.
7. FOR YOUR EYES ONLY - The location of the original short story of the same name has been transplanted from Upstate New York to Greece. It's basically the same story of revenge, but I preferred in the book where it is M who requests Bond's involvement for personal reasons. Far more close is the adaptation of the short story RISICO (from the same collection), which takes up the bulk of the film. A lot of bits are added, but much of the page shows up in the film. We also get the scene from the book LIVE AND LET DIE, altered, where Bond and Solitaire (here it's that Havelock woman) are pulled over the coral.
8. DOCTOR NO - The first two thirds are fairly spot on, but Dr. No himself is a different character, both physically and in voice. The master plan and the death of the villain are also quite different. The death trap that Bond must escape from is far more elaborate in the novel.
9. LIVE AND LET DIE - The early parts of the book in New York are fairly accurate, as is Bond's relationship with Solitaire. Mr. Big is shown to be a much richer and more impressive character in the novel. Major scenes showed up in the films FOR YOUR EYES ONLY and LICENCE TO KILL, years after the film LIVE AND LET DIE omitted them.
10. YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE - The film being set before OHMSS already trips up Bond's motivation. We get Tiger Tanaka and Henderson, we get Bond turning Japanese and living with Kissy, but that's about it. The book ends with Blofeld and Bunt dead, Bond amnesiatic and Kissy with Bond's child.
11. DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER - The early scenes, the characters of Windt and Kidd and Tiffany Case are about all. Blofeld and Willard Whyte were not in the novel.
12. THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN - EON really missed out by not using the beginning of the novel. That would have been a great Pre-Title Sequence. So we end up with Scaramanga (a far different character in his literary form), he does use a Golden Gun, but in the book it's a revolver that doesn't disassemble. He does have the same origin story (his elephant was shot when he was a boy). And we have Mary Goodnight. That's about all.
13. OCTOPUSSY - Very briefly, Octopussy recounts the favor Bond did for her father , that was basically a synopsis of the titular short story. We get an auction scene that somewhat recreates the one from the short story THE PROPERTY OF A LADY, from the same collection. The film SPECTRE contains the back story of Hannes Oberhauser, from Fleming's short story. The major change being that in the SPECTRE Hannes is killed by his son Franz aka Ernst Stavro Blofeld (a character that is not named in the short story, we are simply told that Hannes Oberhauser had a family), rather than by Major Dexter Smythe (who spawned the character Octopussy in the film of the same name), as he was in the original Fleming.
14. MOONRAKER - Just the title and a villain named Hugo Drax. Much of the plot, characters and dialogue from the novel was reworked into the film DIE ANOTHER DAY, though much of it is unrecognizable in the final product. Colonel Moon/Gustav Graves', from the film, origin and plan run several parallels to those of the literary Hugo Drax. The film's Emma Frost was original going to be named Gala Brand, after the novel's main Bond girl.
15. THE SPY WHO LOVED ME - As per Fleming's request, just the title. Though the killers Jaws and Sandor are loosely based on Mugsy and Horror from the novel.
16. A VIEW TO A KILL - The short story FROM A VIEW TO A KILL takes place in Paris, there is a scene in the film in Paris.
17. QUANTUM OF SOLACE - Title only. Though the post-climax bit does bring out some of the elements of the very short story 007 IN NEW YORK.

Added note: There has yet to be a film using the title of the original Fleming short story THE HILDEBRAND RARITY, but the character name Milton Krest, as well as a form of "The Corrector", were used in LICENCE TO KILL. Furthermore, a nod is given to the title in the film SPECTRE, when M and Company meet Bond and Madeline Swan at a safe-house (an abandoned book store) we see on the front window that it had been called Hildebrand Prints & Rarities.

Added note: Though, not an original Ian Fleming novel, Kingsley Amis's (written under the pseudonym Richard Markham) 1968 continuation novel COLONEL SUN has bona fides that the later ones do not (he knew, worked with and, by some accounts, edited Fleming, it was published directly after the original run and he had written several books discussing the literary phenomena of Bond). Though the title has never been used, bits of the novel have shown up in EON films. The name of the main villain was altered and given his counterpart in the film DIE ANOTHER DAY. Here he is now North Korean, rather than Chinese, and his full name is Colonel Tan-Sun Moo (he later, through genetic therapy, takes on the anglo identity of Gustav Graves). Also, the scene in the film SPECTRE where Blofeld tortures Bond is mainly lifted form this novel as well. In the book, Sun tortures Bond using thin needles, rather than an automated electric drill as Blofeld does in the film. Much of the dialogue in that scene is taken directly from Amis, except that in the film it is Blofeld speaking, mainly, to Madeline Swan, in the novel it is Sun talking to Bond. One of the final ending credits in SPECTRE is a thank you to the estate of Kingsley Amis.
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Comments

  • ThunderfingerThunderfinger The 0,07 %
    Posts: 26,310
    Great work! You might argue that the PTS in AVTAK is inspired by FAVTAK, even though in different surroundings and context.
  • BirdlesonBirdleson San Jose, CA
    edited February 2014 Posts: 21,895
    Great work! You might argue that the PTS in AVTAK is inspired by FAVTAK, even though in different surroundings and context.

    Thanks. Maybe my memory is off, but I don't get the similarity. Isn't FAVTAK the one about the motorcycle assassin?
  • ThunderfingerThunderfinger The 0,07 %
    Posts: 26,310
    Yes, the motorcycles have been replaced with skis, but the courier and secret documents angle is there. I like to think that inspired them ever so little.
  • BirdlesonBirdleson San Jose, CA
    Posts: 21,895
    Possibly. I hadn't thought of that.
  • ThunderfingerThunderfinger The 0,07 %
    Posts: 26,310
    Anyway, I agree with your list.Although I have not read the short stories since the 80s, so do not remember them as well as the novels
  • BirdlesonBirdleson San Jose, CA
    Posts: 21,895
    I reread all of Fleming last year. I also listened to them read in digital form about four years ago. It was great reading them in order, because before that I had read them in the '70s in whatever order I could find them in.
  • ThunderfingerThunderfinger The 0,07 %
    Posts: 26,310
    I think the reason why FRWL and OHMSS are the most popular films is precicely because they are so true to Fleming.
  • RC7RC7
    edited February 2014 Posts: 9,025
    I think the reason why FRWL and OHMSS are the most popular films is precicely because they are so true to Fleming.

    Always a bonus. With OHMSS, the novel is already quite cinematic. After the James Bond of the Secret Service/Thunderball period and the success of DN, I think Fleming was definitely influenced by the expansion of the character and his world. OHMSS being a bi-product of this.
  • ThunderfingerThunderfinger The 0,07 %
    Posts: 26,310
    He even said that for his last three novels he envisioned Connery while writing, so yes.
  • Posts: 2,341
    He even said that for his last three novels he envisioned Connery while writing, so yes.

    Not bad for a man who was not thrilled when Connery was selected to play his protagonist super spy.

    That being said, you are pretty spot on. I just want to add that in GOLDFINGER Tilly has larger role and is a better developed character. She does not meet her end until near the end of the book. Pussy Galore has a female gang of cat burglars and is one of the gangsters invited to take part in Goldfinger's grand scheme.
  • BirdlesonBirdleson San Jose, CA
    Posts: 21,895
    OHMSS69 wrote:
    He even said that for his last three novels he envisioned Connery while writing, so yes.

    Not bad for a man who was not thrilled when Connery was selected to play his protagonist super spy.

    That being said, you are pretty spot on. I just want to add that in GOLDFINGER Tilly has larger role and is a better developed character. She does not meet her end until near the end of the book. Pussy Galore has a female gang of cat burglars and is one of the gangsters invited to take part in Goldfinger's grand scheme.

    All true. Would any of you mix up the order of my list?
  • chrisisallchrisisall Brosnan Defender Of The Realm
    edited February 2014 Posts: 15,085
    Not much.
  • edited February 2014 Posts: 676
    I think that's a pretty good list. There are two other considerations. The first consists of the films not based on Fleming novels but which make use of Fleming, the most prominent being Licence to Kill and Skyfall. In some ways, LTK is a more faithful adaptation of TMWTGG than the actual film of TMWTGG. And in some ways Skyfall is more faithful to the themes of YOLT and TMWTGG than the films of those books.

    The more important factor is the issue of faithfulness to the spirit or to the letter of Fleming. OHMSS actually makes several major changes to its source. Unlike the novel, the film shows Bond and Blofeld directly confronting each other, out of their disguises. This increases the antagonism between the two and eliminates having to adapt the un-cinematic scene of Bond figuring out Blofeld's plan with M and the Man from Ag. and Fish. Another change is having Bond actually resign because M forbids him to hunt Blofeld (instead of threatening to resign because he's sick of searching for him), which creates the lovely scene where Bond and M thank Moneypenny.
    More importantly, the film has Tracy being captured by Blofeld and rescued during the helicopter assault. This ties together the two major arcs of the novel in a way Fleming didn't do until the end, and creates a full circle, more strongly tying together all the major characters.
    These changes deviate from the letter but not the spirit of the novel--they actually improve upon it, and one can imagine Fleming agreeing that if he had to write the book again, he would incorporate the changes from the film.

    CR on the other hand is a case of a film following the letter but somewhat betraying the spirit. All the essential parts of the book are there--the card game, the torture scene, and the revelation of Vesper's treachery--but they get watered down. Instead of baccarat (a simple game that can be explained in less than a minute of screentime) we get an endless poker match that has to explained to us by Mathis. Instead of a torture scene that takes Bond to the edge of endurance (and consciousness), we get Bond making wisecracks. Lastly, the quiet devastation of Vesper's suicide and betrayal is lost in the collapsing house's action-movie mayhem.
    I don't wish to excessively knock the film of CR--it's still one of the best Bond movies--but as an adaptation it's problematic.

    A few shorter notes:

    In the film of Thunderball, Domino's original character is split between her and Fiona--who gets all of the original Domino's spirit and fire, leaving the film Domino pallid and dull. The movie also suffers from the surgical twin nonsense, which pointlessly complicates the plot and makes an already long movie even longer. These changes drain spirit from the book, resulting in an adaptation that is close to the letter but sometimes lifeless.

    I like the film of TLD quite a lot, and it makes good use of Fleming, but I sometimes wonder if it would have been better to have featured Trigger--the KGB hotshot killer--instead of Karla. What if Bond was wrong, and his shot hadn't badly injured her? It would be fun to have Bond team up with the Russians' finest female assassin. The film could have also incorporated the tragic closing passage from the excellent comic-strip adaptation...
  • BirdlesonBirdleson San Jose, CA
    Posts: 21,895
    A lot of good points made.
  • BirdlesonBirdleson San Jose, CA
    Posts: 21,895
    There are still a lot of untapped plot points and scenes that can show up in future films. The bulk of TMWTGG has not been used, MR,, etc. Enough fodder for several more films.
  • Posts: 6,447
    There used to be a list somewhere that was really complete and it was completed with a list of coincidental moments which looked to be taken from the Gardner novels. Especially the 2nd one was quite an eye-opener.

    I was disappointed that SF did not use the opening of Flemings TMWTGG, if there ever was a chance to use it. But Mendes failed to use it even if it would have made the movie better and more Fleming. Guess he is just not that versed in the Fleming lore.
  • BirdlesonBirdleson San Jose, CA
    Posts: 21,895
    I never thought of that (the MWTGG/SF possibility). You're absolutely correct.
  • 007InVT007InVT Classified
    Posts: 893
    Great comments @Revelator.

    I've given up on faithful Fleming adaptations. We down to locations, titles and character names only I fear.
  • I still hold out hope that Moonraker's Blades scene with Bond and M facing off against a villain over a game of cards will yet make it to one of the films.
  • chrisisallchrisisall Brosnan Defender Of The Realm
    Posts: 15,085
    Moonraker *MUST* be made reasonably faithfully some day!!!
  • chrisisall wrote: »
    Moonraker *MUST* be made reasonably faithfully some day!!!

    Agreed. I would actually be very happy if most of the unused elements from Moonraker (Blades, Gala Brand and how her whole story with Bond plays out, the cliffs of Dover, flushing Bond and Gala out with steam, the nail-biting countdown to destruction) make it into an original story that carries much of the feel of Fleming's Moonraker. No need to reiterate Drax or his story (which was basically used for both Alec Trevelyan and Gustav Graves anyway) or the Moonraker name, but the rest of it definitely needs to be brought to film some day.
  • WalecsWalecs On Her Majesty's Secret Service
    Posts: 1,688
    chrisisall wrote: »
    Moonraker *MUST* be made reasonably faithfully some day!!!

    In 2050 the book will be on public domain worldwide. But it's gonna be a long wait.

  • Posts: 3,109
    The Moonraker card game sequence is indeed one of Fleming's best works, and would theoretically make a great scene for a film. But it would be complicated to shoot. How would they explain the rules of bridge and Bond's very complicated card trick to the audience without slowing down the film drastically? After all the criticism I hear from people about the poker scenes in Casino being boring and difficult to follow, I sincerely wonder how they would make the far more complex game of bridge cinematically interesting. I do hope they will have a go at it at some point as it's a legendary piece of literature, but it might be that it's on of those sequences that work much better written than on the screen...
  • TheWizardOfIceTheWizardOfIce 'One of the Internet's more toxic individuals'
    Posts: 8,640
    jobo wrote: »
    The Moonraker card game sequence is indeed one of Fleming's best works, and would theoretically make a great scene for a film. But it would be complicated to shoot. How would they explain the rules of bridge and Bond's very complicated card trick to the audience without slowing down the film drastically? After all the criticism I hear from people about the poker scenes in Casino being boring and difficult to follow, I sincerely wonder how they would make the far more complex game of bridge cinematically interesting. I do hope they will have a go at it at some point as it's a legendary piece of literature, but it might be that it's on of those sequences that work much better written than on the screen...

    I think its one of my top 3 scenes in Fleming but its virtually unfilmable.

    In CR fleming actually takes a page to explain the rules of bridge to the reader but bridge is so much complicated he doesn't even try in MR.

    And that's in a book. To film this scene so that joe public in the audience, who has no idea of bridge, knows what's going on is practically impossible.
  • But the fact that Fleming doesn't explain to the reader how bridge works doesn't make the scene any less thrilling to read. The point of the scene comes across without any prior knowledge of how the game works and I believe the same effect can be executed on film. The card games shown in Thunderball, On Her Majesty's Secret Service, or GoldenEye are never explained either and yet those scenes are effective because of the dynamics at work between the characters involved. I understand that the intricacies of the game of bridge in the scene in Moonraker are far more significant than those examples I just provided, but you can work around the audience's knowledge (or lack thereof) by keeping them focused on and engaged by what's at stake and the performances of the actors. I believe this to be fully possible.

    Regarding Casino Royale (the film), I believe the poker wasn't particularly engaging (or nearly as engaging as it could have been) for a number of reasons. For one, the filmmakers pandered to the audience by having Mathis explain the rules to Vesper (did this tutorial seriously help anyone who didn't already know Texas Hold 'Em to understand the poker scenes any better?). They also changed how the final hands are usually displayed (again, presumably to help the general audience understand the scene better, but really this only makes the hands more confusing for those who actually understand Hold 'Em). Then there's the issue of pacing with several fragments of card playing spread out among a variety of other scenes, ultimately causing the poker game to feel like it was dragging on a bit by the end. None of these issues should be a concern with the Blades scene, particularly if they forgo trying to explain bridge to the audience and simply rely on the dramatic tension between the characters to drive the scene.
  • BirdlesonBirdleson San Jose, CA
    edited May 2015 Posts: 21,895
    I felt pretty good about this piece when I originally put it together, and I still do. But, after rereading it, I made several changes and additions. I thought I'd throw it back up here and see if you guys think it's pretty accurate.

    My ranking of the most faithful film adaptation of Fleming's Bond novels to least (and what was kept in) :

    1. ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE - Some minor changes, but the bulk of the novel remains intact.
    2. FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE - SMERSH becomes SPECTRE, a few minor changes, but very close.
    3. THUNDERBALL - The addition of Fiona to the film seems to be the biggest difference. Other minor changes.
    4. GOLDFINGER - Some of the fates of the characters are switched around, Goldfinger's scheme is altered (for the better), events are moved around, but most of the key scenes are there in some form.
    5. CASINO ROYALE - Most of the novel is in the film, there is just plenty more added to the film, mostly action. We get Quantum (unnamed at that point) instead of SMERSH, we get Texas Hold 'Em instead of Baccarat and a far more elaborate death for Vesper. The book ends with "The Bitch is dead."
    6. THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS - The short story is pretty much the bit we get after the Title Sequence. It's compressed to one evening from three, and Sender becomes Saunders, but even most of the dialogue is intact. The rest of the movie is unrelated.
    7. DOCTOR NO - The first two thirds are fairly spot on, but Dr. No himself is a different character, both physically and in voice. The master plan and the death of the villain are also quite different. The death trap that Bond must escape from is far more elaborate in the novel.
    8. FOR YOUR EYES ONLY - The location of the original short story of the same name has been transplanted from Upstate New York to Greece. It's basically the same story of revenge, but I preferred in the book where it is M who requests Bond's involvement for personal reasons. Far more close is the adaptation of the short story RISICO (from the same collection), which takes up the bulk of the film. A lot of bits are added, but much of the page shows up in the film. We also get the scene from the book LIVE AND LET DIE, altered, where Bond and Solitaire ( here it's that Havelock woman) are pulled over the coral.
    9. LIVE AND LET DIE - The early parts of the book in New York are fairly accurate, as is Bond's relationship with Solitaire. Mr. Big is shown to be a much richer and more impressive character in the novel. Major scenes showed up in the films FOR YOUR EYES ONLY and LICENCE TO KILL, years after the film LIVE AND LET DIE omitted them.
    10. YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE - The film being set before OHMSS already trips up Bond's motivation. We get Tiger Tanaka and Henderson, we get Bond turning Japanese and living with Kissy, but that's about it. The book ends with Blofeld and Bunt dead, Bond amnesiatic and Kissy with Bond's child.
    11. DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER - The early scenes, the characters of Windt and Kidd and Tiffany Case are about all. Blofeld and Willard Whyte were not in the novel.
    12. THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN - EON really missed out by not using the beginning of the novel. That would have been a great Pre-Title Sequence. So we end up with Scaramanga (a far different character in his literary form), he does use a Golden Gun, but in the book it's a revolver that doesn't disassemble. He does have the same origin story (his elephant was shot when he was a boy). And we have Mary Goodnight. That's about all.
    13. OCTOPUSSY - Very briefly, Octopussy recounts the favor Bond did for her father , that was basically a synopsis of the titular short story. We get an auction scene that somewhat recreates the one from the short story THE PROPERTY OF A LADY, from the same collection.
    14. MOONRAKER - Just the title and a villain named Hugo Drax.
    15. THE SPY WHO LOVED ME - As per Fleming's request, just the title. Though the killers Jaws and Sandor are loosely based on Slugsy and Horror from the novel.
    16. A VIEW TO A KILL - The short story FROM A VIEW TO A KILL takes place in Paris, there is a scene in the film in Paris.
    17. QUANTUM OF SOLACE - Title only. Though the post-climax bit does bring out some of the elements of the very short story 007 IN NEW YORK.

    Added note: There has yet to be a film using the title of the original Fleming short story THE HILDEBRAND RARITY, but the character name Milton Krest, as well as a form of "The Corrector", both from that story, were used in LICENCE TO KILL.
  • ThunderfingerThunderfinger The 0,07 %
    Posts: 26,310
    Nice work, @Birdleson.
  • BirdlesonBirdleson San Jose, CA
    Posts: 21,895
    @Thunderfinger . Thanks.
  • chrisisallchrisisall Brosnan Defender Of The Realm
    Posts: 15,085
    Yes, that was pretty comprehensive! =D>
  • BirdlesonBirdleson San Jose, CA
    Posts: 21,895
    Thanks.
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