Monday, 25 July 2011

Some James Bond parodies

During my time as a student at UCL, one of my lecturers wrote and produced a short comic play every Christmas. I had minor roles in two of them, the Prisoner of Zenda and Dracula. I preferred to write, though, and in 1995, after the release of GoldenEye, I wrote a James Bond pastiche, called Goldenthigh. The play was not performed in the end, but I was rather proud of my effort. James Bond investigates the loss of top secret documents within secret service headquarters and tracks down a double agent. His only clue: the traitor has a peculiar birthmark, a golden thigh. Being a comedy, the piece featured an elderly James Bond, an ever-irascible M, an exasperated Q, who gives Bond just a simple pen with which to write his reports, and a Miss Moneypenny, who still adores Bond, but also yearns for adventure herself.

Both the James Bond books and films provide material ripe for pastiche. The earliest parodies were in response to the success of the film version of Dr No, released in 1962, although they also drew on aspects of the novels. The same year saw, for example, the publication of Harvard Lampoon's Alligator. In it, J*mes B*nd pursues the eponymous villain, who steals the Houses of Parliament and floats them down the Thames. Another early parody was Sol Weinstein's Loxfinger. Published in 1965, the book was the first adventure to feature the Jewish secret agent, Oy-Oy-7.

'Bond Strikes Camp', written in 1962 by Cyril Connolly, was a more literary effort, and if we remove the camp plot – M persuades Bond to dress in drag in order to effect a honey trap, but actually takes the role of the target so that he can be picked up by Bond – we are left with a fair facsimile of Fleming's style. Connolly parodies the personal aspects of the relationship between M and Bond that Fleming describes in Moonraker, the short story 'For Your Eyes Only', and others, and, in what would become a staple of any spoof, has Bond visit the Armourer (the story pre-dates Q).


Starting with the Harvard Lampoon, humorous and satirical magazines have long been the vehicle for Bond parodies. For example, Alan Coren wrote one for Punch. 'Doctor No will see you now' imagined Bond as a pensioner, who wore bi-focals and dentures (made bespoke by Charles Fillibee of Albemarle Street), had arthritis (requiring a specially-adapted trigger guard to be fitted to his Walther PPK), and a fading memory (he carries a slip of paper with his code number written down at all times). Hardly the Bond of the films and novels, but a very funny caricature nonetheless.

Other parodies have appeared in newspapers usually in response to a new film, book, or Bond actor. When Daniel Craig was revealed as the new James Bond, he was reported as saying that Casino Royale would feature an updated Bond. The Sunday Times wondered what an updated Bond would look like ('For you Mr Bond, it's PC Galore'). He'd need to attend gender equality awareness training, fill in a health and safety questionnaire, participate in a seminar on diversity in the workplace, and brief the outreach officer about a series of school visits.

No review of parodies would be complete without mention of Sebastian Faulks' effort. No, not that one; I'm referring of course to his earlier effort, 'Ian Fleming thinks that even James Bond goes shopping', which was published in his collection of pastiches, amusingly called Pistache (2006). Faulks takes Bond to the supermarket, where Bond silences an employee who tells him not to smoke, and prepares to kill a shelf-stacker who recommends the wrong wine. Like Cyril Connolly's piece, Faulks hints at the style of Fleming, and exaggerated it, but unlike Connolly, his Bond, with his faultless knowledge of wine and arched eyebrow, parodies the Bond of the films.

From this short examination of Bond parodies, we can recognise a few common aspects, such as M's testy interview with Bond, a visit to Q, Bond's experience of growing old and unfamiliarity in everyday situations. While the books and films continue to provide riches source material, the real and contemporaneous world intrudes. In 'Bond Strikes Camp', allusion was made to the traitor Guy Burgess. In the Sunday Times parody, the joke was also on the Press's preoccupation with 'political correctness gone mad'. Each parody is very much of its time.

5 comments:

  1. Have really been enjoying your Bond mems! I'm doing some research ahead of next year's 50th anniversary of the film of Dr No. Can I contact you directly pls? Naomi McKee

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi Naomi,

    Tried to contact you via facebook but it didn't seem to work. I'm trying again (or at least my wife is, as I'm not on facebook), but if that doesn't work, I'll risk it and give you my contact details via this blog.

    All the best,
    Edward

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  3. Just had a thought: follow this link: http://thehumanjourney.net/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=344&Itemid=213

    and either send an email to the address given, or replace the 'oasouth' with edward.biddulph. I should get the email somehow.
    Edward

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  4. Nice blog (I do something similar for a different source -- books of Charles Schulz's Peanuts.)

    Anyway, thought you might be interested in knowing that we've reissued all four novels in the Israel Bond, Agent Oy-Oy-7 series, with a new editorial polish by the original author. Details at http://Oy-Oy-7.com

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  5. Thanks for your comment, natstv. Glad you like the blog. Thanks for the tip about the Israel Bond reissues. I've checked out the website - the new editions look great. A good opportunity to complete my collection.

    ReplyDelete