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Customer Review

6 November 2002
An above-average book on the Bond series. In my opinion, the book's major lapses are when it tries to put the Bond films in historical context. The most notable howler here is a lengthy discussion of the effect of the 1973 OPEC oil embargo on the UK (page 139). This whole analysis is flawed because the UK was exempted from the OPEC embargo! The book also stumbles when it discusses the Thatcher government. For one thing, it claims (page 177) that the Thatcher government was elected in September 1979 (it was actually May 1979). Secondly, the book makes much of the fact that the same Defence Minister appears in the Bond films pre- and post-1979. The book claims (page 169) that for the character Frederick Gray still to be Defence Minister after the 1979 change of government, he "has pulled off the biggest party political defection in British history." In fact, it was not unheard for a minister to serve in both the late 1970s Callaghan Labour government and in the Thatcher government--for proof, see page 546 of Kenneth Morgan's book CALLAGHAN: A LIFE.
Another flawed discussion occurs when the authors claim that DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER "was very much ahead of its time" because "the idea of space-based lasers was not seriously mooted until US President Ronald Reagan's 'star wars' program of the 1980s" (p. 114). In fact, space-based weaponry was the subject of international diplomacy well before the 1980s--it was even covered by a 1972 arms treaty. Another space-related error occurs when the authors give the wrong year for the first space shuttle mission.
The book takes a decidedly rose-tinted view of Timothy Dalton's box office performance. You would not know from this book, for example, that all of the 1980s Roger Moore's 1980s Bond pictures scored higher US admissions than either of Dalton's films. More generally, the authors take a scattergun approach to the reporting of box-office results, sometimes reporting world grosses, sometimes only US grosses. Moreover, for both OCTOPUSSY and NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN, box office rentals are incorrectly given as box office grosses. Many of the other box office comparisons in the book are misleading because of the failure to adjust for inflation.
As far as the reviews themselves are concerned, I was pleasantly surprised to see some kind words said about A VIEW TO A KILL and some reservations about GOLDFINGER. Otherwise, the reviews report quite conventional views about the films; indeed, the opinions expressed here about the first eleven movies are virtually interchangeable with those in John Brosnan's classic book on the Bond series. Sometimes the influence of previous books, while understandable, is TOO intrusive. For example, Barnes and Hearn's judgement on THE SPY WHO LOVED ME in their book KISS KISS BANG BANG was that it was "a slick...'greatest-hits' package" (page 129 of 1997 edition); Smith and Lavington's judgement on the same film is: "A slick, pacy 'greatest hits' package" (page 154).
There are numerous misquotations from the films as well as misspellings of names of characters, cast members, and historical figures. Most of these errors are minor but avoidable. On other issues, such as the running time of ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE and how many of the Bond films are solo-scripted, the book's errors are more serious.
The Moore films are repeatedly criticised for making the James Bond character well-known throughout the world rather than a secret agent, ignoring the precedent for this in two Connery Bonds--Bond made the papers in YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE and was world-famous in DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER. (Barnes and Hearn's book on the Bond films was also guilty of this double standard.) Other inconsistencies appear to be a by-product of the book being written over a long period. For example, page 33 claims that "throughout" the Bond film series, Soviets were never Bond's main enemy--ignoring FOR YOUR EYES ONLY, which is acknowledged on page 176 as a film where the main villains are Soviet-backed. And the statement on page 177 that "politicians had been either anonymous or not obviously based on any one person" in the films before FOR YOUR EYES ONLY seems at odds with the authors' own account of the conclusion of GOLDFINGER: "[the] plane Bond is taking to meet President Johnson..." (page 41).
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