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.
Italian thriller offers viewers an entertaining world of trouble.
It’s probably fair to say Duello dans le monde, aka Ring Around the World has been pretty much forgotten in filmdom, but maybe it shouldn’t be. With a good premise, groovy-jazzy soundtrack, and location shooting in global hotspots like Bangkok, London, Hong Kong, and Rio de Janeiro, this was better than we had any right to expect. Richard Harrison investigates a series of seemingly natural deaths only to find that they were murders—in reality an assassin has shot the victims with pellets made of a frozen concoction that induces heart attacks. The pellets of course then melt and leave no trace behind.
We were drawn to this film by the excellent French language promo poster above painted by Giuliano Nistri, but were surprised to find a semi-competent thriller in the vein of James Bond. Interestingly, there’s a skydiving stunt here that predated the famous Moonraker opening sequence by more than a decade. The stunt isn’t exactly the same, but the idea is close, done low budget. The movie is probably too goofy and cheap to be called good, but on the whole it’s worth a look, and as a bonus it co-stars the wonderful Dominique Boschero. Originally released in Italy in 1966 and called Duello nel mondo, it opened in France as Duel dans le monde today in 1967.
Change is inevitable—especially if you're dealing with Ian Fleming.
Ian Fleming was not an author to be trifled with. We talked about how he shifted the rights for Casino Royale from Popular Library to Signet. Well, here we go again. The above 1957 Perma paperback of Diamonds Are Forever with excellent William Rose cover art is rare because Fleming shifted the publishing to Signet after Perma changed the title of Moonraker to Too Hot to Handle. Since this happened after the Casino Royale fiasco you’d think the editors would have known better.
Perma: Ian, Moonraker is a terrible title. It sounds like a sci-fi novel.
Fleming: You listen here, you sniveling little pup—
Perma: This is my job, okay. I’m telling you a bad title hurts your whole brand.
Fleming: Well, I have an idea for a book called Goldfinger. I suppose you think that’s a bad title too?
Perma: Well, yeah...
Fleming: Why you rotten eel. And Octopussy? You don’t like that either?
Perma: Sounds pornographic. It’s ludicrous.
Fleming: You have two tin fucking ears is what’s ludicrous! And Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang?
Perma: The worst of the bunch, and pornographic. I’m sorry, Ian—
Fleming: Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang? Pornographic? That’s the last goddamned straw, you pimply little Yank!
Oh, stop being so melodramatic. What's the harm in picking up one hitchhiker?
Above are two rare Japanese posters for the 1977 Italian sexploitation thriller Autostop rosso sangue, aka Hitch-Hike. The woman with the rifle is Corinne Clery, who made her name starring in the softcore classic Histoire d’O, but is perhaps better known to American audiences for playing Corinne Dufour in the Bond film Moonraker. Basically, Autostop is the story of two embittered spouses who make the mistake of picking up a hitchhiker who happens to be a vicious bank robber. Vicious criminals always take a shine to unhappy wives, and so we know where this one is headed, but there’s oh so much more to the plot. Violent, gripping, and thoroughly sexual, we recommend this one for genre fans only. All others, maybe give it a pass the same way Clery and her husband should have passed by the hitchhiker.