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In light of the news that a further James Bond continuation novel has been released, Kirsty Lee looks back on the success of this classically British franchise and explores why it has been so popular.
From humble beginnings back in 1953, little did Ian Fleming know that his series of James Bond novels would propel the secret agent film genre to produce the cultural legacy that is with us today. The news that a Bond continuation novel, ‘Solo’ by William Boyd, has been released shows how Bond doesn’t just hold a place in the cultural history of Britain but has also infiltrated further into contemporary culture, not just in films but in literature. James Bond has become associated with England itself, and his suave, mysterious demeanor is one that is respected and sought after by men around the world, providing a role model for many of all ages.
The iconic earlier films of the 60s set the benchmark for future James Bond releases, including features such as ‘Bond Girls’ and vodka martini’s that became recurrent throughout the Bond series and in turn became iconic in their own right. Bond’s catchphrases have managed to enter into everyday language, with ‘Bond.. James Bond’ currently ranked the 22nd greatest movie quotation in cinema history according to AFI’s 100 year series. Production designer Ken Adam created an elaborate visual style that was also repeated and became synonymous with the Bond films, making the franchise one that is a must-see at the cinema to take in the full visual effect and to make the most of the intense action sequences.
Fleming’s creation has even gone on to influenced the music world, providing an unmistakable theme tune that uses a surf rock style guitar riff to either introduce Bond, or in later films to act as an auditory clue that an action scene is about to take place. Monty Norman first created the original score with others adding their own style and personal twists to the piece as the films progressed. The films are also known for taking leading singers and incorporating original songs into the films, for example Adele with ‘Skyfall’, which won an Academy Award for Best Original Score.
James Bond has also infiltrated another layer of society, the party scene. People are having more and more themed parties, with a James Bond theme proving to be very popular. I recently experienced a 21st Birthday party that had a casino/James Bond theme that required formal attire. The music that played initially were all songs from the soundtracks of the James Bond films providing an atmosphere that made you think that you were in a Bond film yourself. Along with this there was the opportunity to play casino games to win cash prizes. The cake was made out of two dice with a gentleman dressed in a tuxedo sitting on top of the cake- most of the men at the party were also dressed in the same manner. There was a cardboard cut out of the shadow of Bond holding a gun in his iconic stance, which was used to take pictures so that his pose could be imitated. But what was the most unique part was the use of the numbers 007 to create an ice sculptor that was later used as part of a shot drinking game.
Bond’s cultural legacy is clearly ongoing in the form of ‘Solo’. William Boyd’s novel is said to contain the “classic ingredients” of a Bond novel, and he has tried to keep as close to the original characterization of Bond as possible. Boyd claims to respect the tradition of Bond, whilst still adding his own invention to the plot. It will be interesting to see how this will develop in the world of cinema, and indeed within the world of Bond. Hopefully Boyd will not let fans of Bond down and will provide a new and exciting story for readers old and new.