The sky's the limit in third Bond thriller.
Ian Fleming's Moonraker is James Bond's third literary outing and it sees him trying to prevent the detonation of a loose nuke. If you've never read a Bond book, you may want to know that in addition to being thrillers they're hardcore car and food porn. Fleming takes pains to describe engines, exhausts, gearing; then he'll turn toward flavors, ingredients, and vintages. In Moonraker a chapter long car chase is a tour de force. A meal in a private club is almost as exciting. The rarefied world of three digit speed and three star dinners drew us in almost as much as the plot. But the main takeaway from this book for us is that it was absolutely murdered by United Artists when adapted for the screen. They left nothing but the title and the name of the villain. It's worth reading just to experience Fleming's original vision. This 1960 Signet edition has Barye Phillips cover art, and it's a bit different for him but very nice.
Frank McCarthy's hyper-detailed Bond painting requires a second glance.
Every James Bond movie has been exhaustively pored over online, which makes them not particularly discussion worthy for our website. But we're making an exception for You Only Live Twice for two reasons. First, because of the promo painting above. It's an amazing visual masterpiece created by the realist painter Frank McCarthy, and it was used in various types of promos, tilted to the left, as you see in the example just below. Looking at the painting oriented correctly, we see that Bond is actually defying gravity, and if you look super close you'll see he's wearing a pair of slippers and is managing to hang on using his strangely prehensile toes. The canvas is filled with intricacy, and within the whole there are various secondary set pieces. We've isolated a few areas below so you can see what we mean.
The second reason we decided to talk about this movie is because it has amas in it. Yes, we just talked about amas a couple of weeks ago when we shared a poster for Woman Diver's Beach: Red Pants. But if you missed that, we're referring to female Japanese skin divers who forage in shallow waters for pearls and aquatic delicacies. The entire concept of the ama was obscure at best in Western culture until they appeared onscreen in You Only Live Twice. They first appear in the film briefly when Bond looks at a surveillance photo, but later he goes undercover as a Japanese man (we know, we know) and has to pretend to marry an ama named Kissy Suzuki. The character is played by Mie Hama, who we've featured a couple of times. See here and here. Oh, and You Only Live Twice had its world premiere in London today in 1967. That's the third reason we decided to talk about it.
Madeline as hell and not going to take it anymore.
British actress Madeline Smith takes aim in this promo image made when she was filming the James Bond movie Live and Let Die. It's probably her best known role. She played Miss Caruso, an Italian agent who tumbled into bed with Roger Moore during the opening of the film. The photo is from 1973.
Bond is born in Ian Fleming's 1953 Cold War thriller.
We've read a few Bond novels, but not his debut in 1953's Casino Royale. When it comes to secondhand bookstores and yard sales you read what you find. But we decided to finally made a deliberate effort to go back to the beginning with an edition from Signet, which appeared in 1960 with Barye Phillips cover art. The debuts of franchise characters leave room for continuing adventures by design but we've never read a book that was so deliberately a prequel as Casino Royale. It's the essential novel for understanding Bond. You know the basics already: Cold War intrigue, opposing teams taking the field for a long struggle, a Soviet spy named La Chiffre who's dipped into funds not his and who hatches a desperate plan to restore them via the baccarat tables of a famous French casino, Bond dispatched to outplay him, break him, and ensure his downfall for stealing the money.
The book is fantastic from its opening, through its tremendously tense middle sections, and on to its brutal punchline of an ending. Bond is imperfect as both a spy and a man. He's sometimes kind, prone to sentiment, and philosophical about his work; he's also sexist, racist, and generally regressive. Casino Royale is designed to explain how the first three qualities were destroyed, making him a perfect spy. The latter three qualities remain. While in serious fiction many authors of the period were writing about racial equality and the essential sameness of people, Ian Fleming was declaring that Asians are terrible gamblers because as a race they lack resolve. None of this is a surprise because much is known about Fleming's personal views. Bond is an icon, but of a less enlightened era. We're readers, of ours. Yet we can meet on the page, and—with a tolerance Fleming never showed others—still manage to have a little fun.
When there's serious killing to be done.
We're reading a James Bond novel at the moment and it reminded us that a long while back we downloaded these shots of an amazing 1966 Aurora Plastics Co. model of Goldfinger bad man Odd Job. While the product is nice, as you see below, the box art is of astounding quality, the equal of what you'd see on most paperback covers. There's a reason for that—it was painted by Mort Kunstler. You can see his signature on the lower right. According to the back of the box Odd Job is suitable for ages eight to adult, so if you want to buy one of these—and we do—there's no shame. Aurora says it's fine! Not like they were trying to increase sales or anything. They also increase sales by failing to mention prominently that the model is plain white plastic. You have to paint it if you want the results you see below. But that at least offers the opportunity to customize. Blue hair? Sure. Whimsical curlicue mustache? His first name is Odd, after all. Unfortunately, the one we saw ran $150, which is quite a bit, but having it on our website is almost like owning it.
It's a big gun, but she's hunting big game.
Italian actress Luciana Paluzzi looks convincingly lethal sporting a Remington 1000 shotgun in this promo shot from the James Bond thriller Thunderball—though she's so small we suspect if she fired it she'd somersault backward into the ocean. But in the film she handles the gun just fine as Fiona Volpe, a member of the murderous spy cartel S.P.E.C.T.R.E. Most Bond aficionados consider her one of the top femmes fatales of the series, and we agree. The image dates from 1965.
Last one there is a rotten ama.
If you visit Pulp Intl. regularly you know that ama movies, which focus on the tradition of female free divers who scour bay bottoms for valuable items such as abalone, clams, and pearls, are very popular in Japan. The divers, who in the past traditionally worked topless, occupy a place in Japanese culture similar to that of rollerskating female carhops in U.S. culture. Both are unusual and physical forms of work with mildly sexual components (at least in the male mind), both are steeped in nostalgia for a simpler past, and both are widely appreciated by men even though most have never seen one outside a movie.
The ama tradition is ancient. The first written mention of them dates from the year 927, but ama artifacts have been found on the sea floor and carbon dated to suggest the practice is something like 3,000 years old. It's difficult to know when the tradition peaked, but according to most accounts that would have happened during the early- to mid-20th century. Movies on the subject began appearing frequently from the mid-1960s through the 1980s, with the high water mark—ahem—of western interest occurring with the appearance of an ama (played by Mie Hama) in the 1967 James Bond movie You Only Live Twice.
We've talked about eight different Japanese ama movies on Pulp Intl. over the years, including two earlier this month, so we thought you might be interested in seeing a few historical photos. We have a collection of fifteen above and below, shot between the 1940s and 1980s. Sadly, like so many interesting cultural practices, ama diving is in danger of fading away. Most pratictioners are in their forties and older, with very little likelihood of being succeeded by younger women, who have moved on to less traditional occupations. And people say civilization is making progress.
Follow the links below to read about the ama movies we've discussed, and to see their beautiful promotional posters.
Zoku kindan no suna Ama bune yori: Kindan no suna
Manatsu no joji
When he was in med school we all called him Resident Yes. Time really changes people.
We ran across this interesting dust jacket for Ian Fleming's Doctor No, from a hardback edition published by U.K. based Macmillan in 1958. There have been so many James Bond covers over the decades it's almost impossible to find one that is less known, but we think this example is just a bit more obscure than others. The prominent octopus in the art by H. Lawrence Hoffman, in case you haven't read the book, represents a component of a diabolical torture Dr. No puts Bond through at one point. That didn't make it into the movie.
Always wear proper safety gear when handling firearms.
This is an irresistible little treasure, an image from a West German lobby card for Man lebt nur zweimal, aka You Only Live Twice, with Karin Dor in character as Helga Brandt. We like the helmet. Dor's focus on safety is admirable. But since she's eaten by piranha it does her no good at all. Side note: also appearing in the film is former Pulp femme fatale Mie Hama. Double side note: she also gets killed. These Bond girls never learn.
What lies underneath.
British actress Shirley Eaton appeared in about twenty films before her role as the ill-fated Jill Masterson in 1964’s Goldfinger made her one of the most iconic guest stars of the Bond series. Her turn as a woman who is murdered by being covered in gold paint is in fact so central to the 007 universe that it’s arguably the single most known moment from the series. These days you see many more photos of Eaton painted gold than in her own skin, so we thought we’d rectify that a bit with the above shot. It was made to promote The Girl Hunters and it dates from 1963. See a few more Goldfinger images here and here.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1953—NA Launches Recovery Program
Narcotics Anonymous, a twelve-step program of drug addiction recovery modeled on Alcoholics Anonymous, holds its first meeting in Los Angeles, California.
1942—Blimp Crew Disappears without a Trace
The two-person crew of the U.S. naval blimp L-8 disappears on a routine patrol over the Pacific Ocean. The blimp drifts without her crew and crashes in Daly City, California. The mystery of the crew's disappearance is never solved.
1977—Elvis Presley Dies
Music icon Elvis Presley is found unresponsive by his fiancée on the floor of his Graceland bedroom suite. Attempts to revive him fail and he's pronounced dead soon afterward. The cause of death is often cited as drug overdose, but toxicology tests have never found evidence this was the case. More likely, years of drug abuse contributed to generally frail health and an overtaxed heart that suddenly failed.
1969—Woodstock Festival Begins
The Woodstock Music & Art Fair, which was billed as an Aquarian Exposition, takes place on a 600 acre dairy farm in Bethel, New York. It would run for three sometimes rainy days and feature thirty-two acts performing at all hours of the day and night. Today the festival is regarded as one of the greatest events in popular music history.
1977—Radio Signal Arrives from Deep Space
An unidentified radio signal, nicknamed the WOW Signal for the notation a scientist made on a computer readout, is briefly detected by the SETI (Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence) project's Big Ear radio telescope. Despite a month of searching the same section of space, the signal is never found again.
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