Once again it is time for Fleming Revisited, the Last Movie Outpost quest to re-read all of Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels in order of publication and discuss them here. In doing Octopussy And The Living Daylights this time around, we are completely breaking our own rules and stepping slightly out of order, before we close out the series with The Man With The Golden Gun. Octopussy And The Living Daylights is Ian Fleming’s second collection of 007 short stories, after For Your Eyes Only.
So, as is customary before we deal with the book, how did Octopussy And The Living Daylights manifest itself from page to screen…
In 1983 Bond was in the fight of his life. The McClory legal issues that had dogged 007 since the days of Thunderball, and that we covered extensively in that edition of Fleming Revisited, returned once more to haunt the franchise. A rival 007 feature was being made, starring none other than Sean Connery himself. Never Say Never Again was to be released in the same season.
The thirteenth official outing, Roger Moore’s sixth time in the role, needed to be big. However, it nearly didn’t feature Roger Moore at all.
Following For Your Eyes Only, Roger Moore wanted to retire from the role. His original contract had been for three films, so he was out of contract by the completion of The Spy Who Loved Me. Moonraker and For Your Eyes Only had been negotiated on a film-by-film basis.
The producers were deep into their search for his replacement with Timothy Dalton being considered yet again, having been on the list before Moore got the role. Michael Billington, Oliver Tobias, and American actor James Brolin made up the pack. Brolin was rumored to have been hired and was actually on the point of moving to London in time for shooting.
However, knowing they were up against Sean Connery the producers knew they needed the established Bond back. Moore agreed, and the battle of the Bonds was set.
Michael G. Wilson, Richard Maibaum, and George MacDonald Fraser contributed to the script that was mined from several places in the short story collection. Octopussy gave some light backstory to the title character in the movie. The Sotheby’s auction scene with the Faberge Egg is taken from The Property of a Lady, while the backgammon game with Kamal Khan is adapted from the card game at Blades in the novel Moonraker.
India was to serve as the main location, as the series had not visited there, and the country remained mysterious and exotic to a lot of the world. An opening sequence set at the Isle of Man TT motorbike races was discarded. However, the infamous scenes with Bond hiding in a gorilla suit, and dressed as a clown, remained despite Albert R. Broccoli hating them.
In the end, this official entry beat out the unofficial Never Say Never Again and won the battle by several million dollars at the box office.
…and The Living Daylights
Separated from Octopussy by A View To A Kill, The Living Daylights was the second time the producers delved into this short story collection for inspiration. They finally got their man in the shape of Timothy Dalton after he had been considered several times before.
Roger Moore retired from the role and the hunt was on again. Sam Neill (Jurassic Park) was favored by some of the producers, but Cubby Brocolli wasn’t convinced. MGM put forward Mel Gibson, but Cubby declined him too.
Dalton kept turning them down. On the set of For Your Eyes Only Brocolli had met a young Irish actor called Pierce Brosnan via Brosnan’s then-wife Cassandra Harris, who played Countess Lisl. Brosnan had made an impression on Brocolli who offered him the role. Famously, Remington Steele was renewed on TV and Brosnan could not take up the offer.
They returned to Dalton who kept resisting. Then, when traveling, he had a chance to think about the role and decided to finally accept. He called Brocolli from the lounge in Miami airport to accept. To work out his interpretation he started his research and had an epiphany. Dalton said:
“I felt it would be wrong to pluck the character out of thin air, or to base him on any of my predecessors’ interpretations. Instead, I went to the man who created him, and I was astonished. I’d read a couple of the books years ago, and I thought I’d find them trivial now, but I thoroughly enjoyed every one. It’s not just that they’ve a terrific sense of adventure and you get very involved. On those pages I discovered a Bond I’d never seen on the screen, a quite extraordinary man, a man I really wanted to play, a man of contradictions and opposites.”
So, arguably the closest version of the character to Fleming’s Bond to be seen on the screen was born, direct from the pages of Octopussy And The Living Daylights.
Fleming’s Last 007
Octopussy And The Living Daylights was the 14th and final James Bond book to be written by Fleming. Like The Man With The Golden Gun, it was published posthumously by Jonathan Cape on 23 June 1966 following Fleming’s death. It was serialized in several publications in installments prior to the collection being issued as a book following Fleming’s death.
The stories themselves are a rich vein of Bond stories that have been mined continuously to provide elements for cinematic Bond over the years.
007 is assigned to apprehend a decorated Second World War hero who has since been implicated in a murder involving a cache of Nazi gold. Major Dexter Smythe is retired in Jamaica and spends his days snorkeling across the reef near his house, admitting the wildlife. Smythe is now an alcoholic, depressed, and in bad health. He interacts with the residents of the reef who he has named, including his favorite – large octopus that he calls Octopussy, that he feeds.
In Kitzbühel, Austria, after the war, Smythe found some Nazi gold with the help of a mountain guide and killed the guide to keep the gold for himself. The murder went undetected until fifteen years later when the well-preserved body of the victim emerged from a glacier. The dead man is Oberhauser, and Bond requested the case as this is the man who taught him to climb and ski, looking after him after bond’s parents were killed in a climbing accident. The man was a father figure to Bond.
This story thread and character name were, of course, adapted as a plot point in the Daniel Craig movie, Spectre.
Bond does not take Smythe into custody straight away. He gives Smythe the classic gentlemen’s way out – suicide – over a court-martial. While considering his options on what could be his final snorkel at the reef, he is stung by a scorpionfish. As the poison starts to take hold he is dragged beneath the surface by Octopussy
Bond views the death as a suicide but classifies it as an accidental drowning in order to spare Smythe’s reputation. This was mentioned in three or four lines in the Roger Moore version of Octopussy, where Smythe is reconfigured as Octopussy’s (Maud Adams) father. She is grateful to 007 for saving him from the shame.
Bond continuation author Raymond Benson considered Octopussy to be a morality tale, with greed and a past evil bringing repercussions years later to the main protagonist. Fleming’s own melancholy about his ill health may be reflected in the character of Smythe, who both exists in the same surroundings as Fleming, and shares a similar wartime experience.
Blanche Blackwell was Fleming’s neighbor and later his lover. Blackwell had given Fleming a coracle called Octopussy, which he took for the name of the novel.
Bond only appears very briefly in the story, and like in the short story Quantum Of Solace, is used purely as a trigger for a story told largely in flashback.
The Living Daylights
This short story finds a very morose, reflective Bond tiring of some aspects of his job. He is spending time shooting thousands of rounds with a sniper rifle at Bisley, the National Rifle Association, considered home to some of the finest shots in the world. He is getting his skills up, and unusually, practicing the timing of his shots precisely to match some music. Why?
He has been assigned sniper duty to help British agent 272 escape from East Berlin. 272’s cover is blown and Bond is to safeguard his crossing into West Berlin by killing the KGB’s top sniper who will be lying in wait for 272’s crossing, intending to kill him as he crosses the no man’s land between East and West Berlin. An orchestra is practicing in the East German hotel next to the crossing point and Bond intends to use the music to mask his shots.
He has waited for three nights, getting progressively more annoyed with his spotter, the officious Captain Sender, who Bond considers a prig and civil servant drone. He distracts himself by fixating on the beautiful blonde cellist of the orchestra who he sees arrive every day.
Once 272 starts to cross the border, Bond sees the KGB assassin set to kill him is the cellist. He adjusts his aim at the last moment to injure her instead of killing her. Bond admits to Sender that he missed deliberately and almost hopes that M will strip him of his 00 number for it. The story ends with the final line, that was included wholesale in the movie:
“Whoever she was, I must have scared the living daylights out of her.”
In the movie, the assassin is worked into the intricate plot as a decoy and an enabler of Koskov’s escape from Bratislava. Dalton’s portrayal in the scene mirrors the Bond of the book. The theme of disobedience is raised in The Living Daylights. A more jaded Bond refers to what he has to do as “murder” and seems to show no regret at his actions, even if they cost him his double-0 number. This is common through a lot of the Fleming novels and forms the basis for both Dalton and Craig in their approach to 007 in the movies.
As background research to the story, Fleming liaised with Captain E.K. Le Mesurier who was secretary of the National Rifle Association at Bisley to include specialist knowledge on the art of sniping.
Bond using the music of the orchestra to cover his shots was inspired by Pat Reid’s escape from Colditz prisoner-of-war camp in WWII. Reid and his companions ran across a courtyard under the cover of the noise from an orchestra.
The conductor of the Colditz orchestra? Ace pilot Douglas Bader, who played golf with Fleming on a number of occasions. The blonde assassin was inspired by Amaryllis Fleming, Fleming’s half-sister, who was a concert cellist with blonde hair.
The Property of a Lady
Maria Freudenstein is a double agent, and the Secret Service knows it. As their employee, they have been using her to funnel incorrect information to the KGB. She is bequeathed a valuable item of jewelry made by Peter Carl Fabergé, a Fabergé egg. She will auction it at Sotheby’s. M tells Bond it is actually her payment from the KGB for betraying Britain. Bond suspects that the rezident director of the KGB in London will attend the auction and underbid for the egg, to drive the price up to the value needed to pay Maria for her services.
Bond attends the auction under-cover and identifies the man, giving the Secret Service what they need to have him expelled from London as a persona non grata, therefore inflicting a blow to the KGB.
In the movie, it is the fake Fabergé egg in the dead hand of 008 that starts the story, and the KGB resident is replaced by villain Kamal Khan at Sotheby’s.
Property of a Lady was actually commissioned by Sotheby’s for use in their annual journal, The Ivory Hammer, it was later reprinted in Playboy. Sotheby’s then-chairman Peter Wilson is mentioned by name in the story.
Fleming disliked his finished article, feeling it was not up to standard. He wrote to Wilson and refused payment for the story. It was not published in a paperback form until it was included in Octopussy And The Living Daylights after Fleming’s death.
007 in New York
The final entry in Octopussy And The Living Daylights is a very, very short story in which Bond is in a car, en route across New York City, on his way contact a female MI6 employee and warn her that her new boyfriend is a KGB agent. This aspect was taken for the closing scene in the movie Quantum Of Solace and adapted to work in Vesper’s “boyfriend”.
Bond considers his favorite, precise, recipe for scrambled eggs, which is based upon the recipe given to Fleming himself by May Maxwell, the housekeeper to his friend Ivar Bryce. It was her name that Fleming took for Bond’s own housekeeper, May.
Fleming was commissioned by The Sunday Times to write a series of articles based on world cities, and he wrote this short story while in New York for that assignment. He was not a fan of New York, being scathing in both Thrilling Cities and in 007 In New York.
In the story Bond also reminisces about a lady he has enjoyed the company of already on this trip. Solange works in Abercrombie and Bond muses that she is:
“…appropriately employed in their Indoor Games Department…”
Solange became a character in Casino Royale (2006).
A Farewell To Arms
So that was Octopussy And The Living Daylights. The last of Fleming’s Bond work to be published, chronologically. Next time will be a very sad entry in Fleming Revisited, as it will be our final edition. We will cover the last full Bond novel written by Fleming. One that follows on directly from the end of You Only Live Twice.
Fleming Revisited will return with… The Man With The Golden Gun.
Interested in our complete rundown and ranking of all the 007 movies? Check it out here. With No Time To Die the final outing for Daniel Craig, we check out the runners and riders to take over the mantle of 007.