James bond

A calculated insult to the viewer: Channel 4’s The Princes in the Tower – The New Evidence reviewed

Major spoiler alert: if you don’t want to know the ending of The Princes in the Tower: The New Evidence, skip the next paragraph. Still with me? Good. The answer is no, Richard III did not order the killing of the two princes. That was just Tudor propaganda. Both boys, the sons of Edward IV, survived, and escaped to Europe. Thence, supported by their aunt Margaret of Burgundy, they made separate, ultimately unsuccessful attempts to regain the throne for the Yorkists, one under the name Lambert Simnel, the other as Perkin Warbeck. I’m telling you this not to be a spoilsport but to spare you 82 minutes of valuable life.

The astonishing truth about 007

The novel as a form is a fundamentally capitalist enterprise. It was invented at the same time as capitalism – Robinson Crusoe tots up his situation in the form of double-entry bookkeeping. Its interests dwell on the disparate and unequal natures of human beings and feed off rivalry, social transformation, moneymaking, profit and loss. No rigid feudal society has managed to create an effective school of novelists; and having once struggled through Cement, Fyodor Gladkov’s classic of socialist Soviet literature, I would say that systems dedicated to forcible equality also struggle.   Evident, astonishingly, is just how much in the novels is based on events Fleming had witnessed or engineered

No one wants a more sensitive James Bond

Men do not come to see James Bond movies for the sensitive brooding of an ageing spy. They come for the car, the bikini and the volcano. This is apparently lost on some people in Hollywood – the same people who occupy the unfortunate position of actually making James Bond movies. The Daily Telegraph reports: ‘The next James Bond films will have bigger roles for women and a more sensitive 007, according to the producers.’ Variety quotes producer Barbara Broccoli saying ‘Bond is evolving just as men are evolving’, adding: ‘I don’t know who’s evolving at a faster pace.’ I have a difficult time believing that any fan of James Bond ever expressed a desire

The secret spy films made by MI6

Those attending the premiere of No Time to Die this week would perhaps be surprised to learn that the Bond films were once considered to be a national security threat. In the 1960s, with the image of Cold War espionage increasingly becoming shaped by films like Dr No, and TV series like Danger Man and The Avengers, MI6 feared that campy pulp fiction would drown out the real threat of Communist subversion. ‘The biggest single risk to security at the present time,’ one Whitehall report argued, ‘is probably a general lack of conviction that any substantial threat exists.’ ‘The master spy’, the intelligence services complained, ‘seems as much a part

How boredom begat James Bond

It is sobering to think that if Ann Rothermere had been a less enthusiastic painter, James Bond might never have existed. In January 1952, Lady Rothermere and Bond’s creator Ian Fleming were on holiday at Goldeneye, his house in Jamaica. Tension crackled in the air. He and Ann had been lovers since 1939. Her husband, Viscount Rothermere, chairman of Associated Newspapers, had recently divorced her. The news had reached the gossip pages of the Daily Express. The scandalous couple had discussed marriage — with some urgency because Ann was pregnant — but Fleming’s expectations of marital bliss were slim. ‘I can promise you nothing,’ he told her. ‘I have not an

How to holiday like James Bond in Sardinia

Posing as a marine biologist and with Soviet agent Anya Amasova posing as his wife, James Bond checked into Hotel Cala di Volpe in the The Spy Who Loved Me (1977). Their mission: to gather intelligence aboard super-villain Karl Stromberg’s secret underwater lair, somewhere in the Tyrrhenian Sea between Sardinia and the Italian mainland. In the meantime, they stay in a spacious suite with exposed wooden beams and open ocean views (where Amasova also vows to kill Bond when the mission is over). When I stayed at Cala di Volpe this year, I saw no villainous marine lair, just Tommy Hilfiger’s super yacht. The hotel has retained its Bond glamour through

James Bond and the Beatles at war for Britain’s soul

‘Better use your sense,’ advised Bob Dylan: ‘take what you have gathered from coincidence.’ John Higgs is a master of taking what he can gather from coincidence – or, as he would insist, synchronicity. From the filigree of connections and echoes in the KLF (Discordianism through the lens of 1990s pop provocateurs) to the psychogeography of Watling Street to more recent deep dives into William Blake, he confronts the modern Matter of Britain: who wields power, and who resists it? Love and Let Die starts with another perfect coincidence, namely that it was 60 years ago – to be precise, 5 October 1962 – that saw the first Beatles single

What does ice cream have to do with ‘late capitalism’?

‘More to my taste is Trockenbeerenkapitalismus,’ said my husband with an intonation that indicated a joke. The joke was a play on the German Spätkapitalismus, ‘late capitalism’. There is also a German wine category called Spätlese, ‘late harvest’, and another, when the grapes are exposed to noble rot and allowed to wither on the vine, called Trockenbeerenauslese. Hence the joke. I do not encourage this sort of thing. But late capitalism deserves no encouragement either. It is generally used to mean anything thought unpleasant about life in western society. I’ve found the phrase attached to Black Friday, two-scoop ice-creams, low wages, James Bond film songs, Pret a Manger, Sinéad O’Connor,

What the Russians thought of James Bond in the 1960s

Last year I wrote a piece about James Bond for the ‘Freelance’ column of the Times Literary Supplement. All true Bond lovers — of the novels, I mean — know that he lived in a ‘comfortable flat in a plane-tree’d square off the King’s Road’, as Ian Fleming described it in Moonraker. Further internal evidence in Thunderball indubitably established that it was Wellington Square — but there was considerable mystery and doubt about exactly which house contained the Bond apartment. In my article I claimed to have identified it as No. 25, based on a certain amount of sleuthing and, I thought, convincing circumstantial evidence. No. 25 Wellington Square was

Fit for 007: the filmic destinations that feature in Bond

Birds eye shots of Aston Martins cruising along hairpin roads, steamy scenes on chalk-white beaches: the choice of James Bond filming locations has the power to put new holiday destinations on the map. Here we round up the best places to visit from No Time To Die – and rediscover old favourites from the archive. Puglia, Italy Some of the most nail biting scenes in the latest film involve Bond jumping from an aqueduct into a ravine to escape his pursuers then hurtling round the sidestreets of an ancient Italian town on a motorbike. Most of the scenes are shot around the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Matera in southern

The spy movies that rival 007

If No Time to Die and the inevitable 007 re-runs on ITV haven’t already sated your appetite for Bond-style espionage thrills, there’s a veritable smorgasbord of spy movies available to assuage your hunger. Some of the actors who portrayed Bond also essayed secret agents of a different stripe, with Sean Connery (The Russia House), Pierce Brosnan (The Tailor of Panama), Daniel Craig (Munich, Archangel) and Timothy Dalton (Permission to Kill, The Rocketeer) all dabbling in non-007 cloak and dagger roles. For such a long-lasting and successful franchise, it’s perhaps odd that the producers (Eon) haven’t yet contrived to release any 007 film spin-offs. To my knowledge, the closest the series

What James Bond and Aristophanes have in common

So James Bond is back, doing exactly what he always does, inviting the audience into a fantasy world for the pleasure of wondering ‘What if?’ In this respect, Bond films resemble the work of the world’s first recorded comic poet, the Athenian Aristophanes (c. 440-380 bc). His premise was that Athens’s problems could be solved only by little people of no importance, not the greedy, vain and incompetent leaders in the public eye. So the scene was set for the hero(ine) to put them firmly in their place. One favourite subject for his comic fantasies was the long war between Athens and Sparta (431-404 bc). Take three examples. In 421

The secret to wearing pink

It would be interesting to see what people would have turned up in had the Bond premiere not been of the Royal variety with a black-tie dress code. Perhaps Daniel Craig in Yeezys or Lea Seydoux all Parisian chic in a pair of jeans and sweatshirt, we can but wonder. It is a relief that people didn’t treat it like the Met Gala and turn up in anything but the dress code. The turnout was extremely good for the sartorially minded, including from the guests. Jason Momoa showing up in a Henry Poole tuxedo juxtaposed his hobo-rambler-surfer vibe. This came as less of a surprise to me as he is often

In defence of Marvel

The teaser for Spider-Man: No Way Home, out this Christmas, which had a record number of 355 million views in the first 24 hours of online availability, delivers three minutes of thrills. Tom Holland is back, in the titular role, with his girlfriend from the previous Spidey movie, his best friend Ned, references to Mysterion, jokes from Benedict Cumberbatch as master wizard Dr Strange, plus engagement with that most playful of Marvel concepts, the multiverse. Bring in the multiverse, and anything, everything, is possible. Are you old enough to recall that moment in Dallas when the shooting of JR was revealed to be a dream? Well, the multiverse does all

Which James Bond film made the most money?

Scummy idea Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner called Tories ‘scum’ in a speech to activists at her party’s conference. The word, derived from a 14th-century Dutch word for foam, was first recorded in the sense of an insult in Christopher Marlowe’s play Tamburlaine, written in the late 1580s. Referring to Christian slaves kept by the Turks, Tamburlain says: ‘These are the cruel pirates of Argier, that damned train, the scum of Africa.’ Thereafter, the term tended to be applied to people of low birth rather than people who are of evil or ill intent — which is presumably what Rayner meant. Who’s had jabs? Are western countries hoarding vaccines and

The time is up for long films

‘Programme starts at 3.45, so the film will start at 4.15, and it’s two hours and 43 minutes long, so we’d be out just before 7 p.m.’ This is the No Time to Die calculation, and I think many of us are doing it and wondering: ‘Can I face it?’ A dark afternoon spent in a state of total surrender to the longueurs imposed on us by a self-indulgent director? Thirsty from too much popcorn, leg muscles seizing up, not allowed to look at your phone, pressure on the bladder, Daniel Craig never smiling and the end nowhere near in sight? After a year and a half of becoming accustomed

It’s time for James Bond to die

I saw the new James Bond last night, but after reading today’s reviews I’m not sure I watched the same film as the critics. Perhaps the glitz of the Royal Albert Hall and proximity to the stars make reviewers better disposed towards a film. Those of us watching in the Odeon, Leicester Square, eating Joe and Seph’s 007 Dry Martini popcorn (transmuted into caramel coating with five per cent vodka) were perhaps less carried away. The Bond of No Time to Die is, you’ll have gathered, terrifically in touch with his emotions. He’s got a vulnerable side; he’s angry and wounded; he’s empathetically good with a little girl (he feeds

No Time to Die is a compelling mess

Times being what they are, James Bond can no longer just be the main character in the Bond films. He’s also had to become a defiant metaphor for them. Since Daniel Craig took over the role, Bond has regularly been told that he’s badly outdated. Yet, by the closing credits, he’s once again proved how much the world still needs him. That this has been reflected at the box office is, I’d suggest, largely down to one neat trick: Craig’s Bond films have thrown in just enough gruff emoting to get people to go along with the pretence that his Bond is a radical reinterpretation, while still essentially sticking to

James Bond and the Beatles herald a new Britain

The word ‘magisterial’ consistently attaches itself to the work of David Kynaston. His eye-wateringly exhaustive four-volume history of the Old Lady of Threadneedle Street established him as a historian with a confident command of a huge body of information, as bloodless and dry as the subject was. Embarking on Tales of a New Jerusalem, a history of Britain from 1945 to 1979, he has undertaken another marathon and earned magisterial rank. Yet, from the first, Kynaston has shown that he is prepared to leave the bench to sweep the Ealing and Islington Local History Centres, Wandsworth Library, the East Riding Archives and especially that extraordinary resource, the Mass Observation Archive,

When will James Bond drive an SUV?

I once read that after watching a James Bond film men speed in their Honda Civics: they might do 35 mph in a built-up area. If this is so, it is due to the Aston Martin Bond has driven since 1964 (the DB5 in Goldfinger, a man with ‘a cold finger’). The DB5 has appeared in six Bond films so far; and some kind of Aston Martin has appeared in twelve Bond films. Is it, I wonder, contemplating Bond’s internal wasteland of sex addiction, murder and laundry, the only real home he ever had? Is it his wife? When the DB5 was revealed in Skyfall, waiting calmly in a garage, it