The James Bond Movies’ Biggest Changes to the Ian Fleming Books

For a while after that, DAF sort of follows Fleming’s novel: Bond goes after diamond smugglers, disguised as one named Peter Franks and meeting characters such as Tiffany Case, Shady Tree, the gay assassins Wint and Kidd, and finally the Slumber brothers, the movie version of the novel’s main villains, the Spang brothers. But once the film gets to Las Vegas, all bets are off: Bond discovers that the reclusive billionaire at the heart of the scheme, Willard Whyte, is being impersonated by Blofeld, who’s building a massive space laser with the gems to threaten the world.

That’s a far cry from Fleming’s rather gritty crime thriller, and the film series followed a similar template for the next movie, Live and Let Die. Fleming’s second novel put the British agent on the trail of Mr. Big, a Jamaican crime lord and voodoo practitioner who smuggles gold into America through his Harlem nightclubs to help fund Soviet intelligence operations in the U.S. Bond gains the trust of Solitaire, a young, virginal fortune-teller, and eventually battles Big in shark-infested waters.

The movie, Roger Moore’s debut as Bond, utilizes at least the opening idea of the Fleming book, a gangster named Mr. Big running a smuggling operation, as well as some of the Harlem-based action. But it turns Mr. Big into an alter ego for Kananga (Yaphet Kotto), the dictator of a small island nation called San Monique who is running heroin into the States. The voodoo angle of the story is represented by a Kananga henchman named Baron Samedi (Geoffrey Holder), who may or may not be an actual supernatural being, a first (and last) for the Bond franchise.

Solitaire (Jane Seymour) gives up her charms to Bond as in the novel, but two critical scenes in the book—Bond pal Felix Leiter’s mutilation by a shark and Mr. Big’s plan to drag Bond and Solitaire over a coral reef with a boat—are absent, although they would turn up in later films. Instead we get an exciting if rather silly speedboat chase, another pursuit involving a double decker bus, and the infamous scene of Bond escaping certain death by running along the backs of crocodiles. The book is quite gripping and rather grisly; the movie, as you might gather, is not a high point in the series.

The Man with the Golden Gun

Moore’s second outing as 007 was based on the 12th and last Bond novel that Fleming completed before his death in 1964, and it’s where the movies departed almost completely from the published canon for years. Fleming reportedly did not have a chance to put the final polish on the book before his death, so it reads kind of rough, strangely appropriate for its rather rough story as well.

In the book, Bond returns to MI6 after having suffered memory loss in Japan but along the way he’s brainwashed by the Soviets into attempting to kill M. Although M survives and Bond recovers, the former is not sure just how trustworthy his agent is anymore (this plot point would show up in the films Die Another Day and Skyfall). M sends Bond on a mission to Jamaica to take out the Cuban hitman Francisco Scaramanga, aka “the man with the golden gun,” who has a number of criminal enterprises in the works with both American gangsters and the KGB.


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