Newest Review: ... this one is quite good fun and of a high standard. It is unavoidably dated though and very Brosnancentric in terms of its images and... more
Devil May Care
James Bond: The Secret World of 007 - Alastair Dougall
Member Name: Jake Speed
James Bond: The Secret World of 007 - Alastair Dougall
Advantages: Quite good fun
Disadvantages: Nothing terribly new here
James Bond: The Secret World of 007 was published in 2000 and written by Alastair Dougall. This is yet another illustrated coffee table Bond book but a good one and one that can be picked up quite cheaply these days as it only goes up to 1999's The World Is Not Enough. The book has a slightly strange but enjoyable approach where it acts as if James Bond was a real person ('The real 007 has never disclosed which actor he feels has captured him the best!') and we are being offered a top secret glimpse into his world. The Secret World of 007 runs to 144 pages and is lavishly illustrated. There are three sections in the book, the first of which is The Bond Dossier which looks at MI6, his gadgets, his women, his allies, the villains - plus the clothes and habits that make up a suave superspy. 'The Missions' looks at Bond's task in each film with much detail about the more famous vehicles he has owned or used and a wealth of illustrative information about the villains various headquarters, from Blofeld's hollowed out volcano in You Only Live Twice to Stromberg's undersea Captain Nemo style base Atlantis. The final section looks at the films that have been made about Bond, from Dr No to The World Is Not Enough, with details about the five Bond actors.
While there won't be much new here to people who already have some of these big illustrated Bond guides already this one is quite good fun and of a high standard. It is unavoidably dated though and very Brosnancentric in terms of its images and general feel. The book was sanctioned by EON (the company who makes the Bond pictures) and they do tend to overegg whoever is Bond at the time when they release books like this. You can buy a 2008 version of this now featuring Quantum of Solace but I'm not that fussed myself. I'd rather forget Quantum of Solace even exists! Because this is EON sanctioned and MGM had yet to acquire the rights to it, the 1983 renegade or 'unofficial' Bond film Never Say Never Again with Sean Connery (it's a very long long story how this film got to be made but it all had to do with a producer called Kevin McClory writing some of Thunderball with Ian Fleming) is not featured here which is a slight shame. Never Say Never Again is not a great film but it is interesting to look at in any capacity.
The stuff here on the villain 'lairs' is great fun with some detailed analysis of how they they work and where all the rooms and functions are. Obviously, it would probably be a bit difficult to build a headquarters out of a volcano or decamp to a space station with your followers like Hugo Drax but this book is quite amusing in the way it pretends this is all real and suspension of disbelief is a big part of James Bond films. Some of the stuff I quite enjoyed here was a look at the big battle sequences that frequently used to close out the more vintage Bond pictures. The Ninja attack on Blofeld's volcano in You Only Live Twice, the Alpine helicopter attack on Piz Gloria in On Her Majesty's Secret Service, the huge ending to Goldfinger in Fort Knox, the attack on Carl Stromberg's Atlantis base in The Spy Who Loved Me, and so on. This tradition seems to be a thing of the past now and the series seems to have long since lost that gargantuan sense of scope and mayhem that Cubby Broccoli always had a knack of doing so well. Although The Secret World of 007 is a decade old now (well this version at any rate) it only misses out three Bond films and the trawl through some of the more vintage entries in the sixties and seventies are always entertaining however many times you've seen them on television or read profiles about them in books like this.
Another section I quite liked was about fights and chases on or involving vehicles. The two famous train punch-ups in From Russia With Love and The Spy Who Loved Me for example and all the various cars, planes and vehicles deployed by Bond to escape. There is a breakdown of the more general fights too and a reminder of some good ones. The fight between Necros and a security guard at the MI6 safehouse in The Living Daylights was an excellent one but it tends to get overlooked now, perhaps because it didn't actually feature Bond. It's only in the last section that the book really deploys photographs of Connery, Lazenby, Moore and Dalton when it looks the films. For most of the book Pierce Brosnan is used as the image of Bond which is understandable I suppose as he was the current 007 at the time and looked set for a lengthy stay (although he only did one more film after this). I haven't seen the revised edition but it wouldn't surprise you if Brosnan has been airbrushed out of his central role in the book given his acrimonious and slightly bitter parting of the ways with EON.
Although I enjoyed this book and it's very well designed and put together, I don't think I would have been willing to pay much for it as there are dozens of Bond books like this already on the market. I tend to wait until these are a few years old and pick them up for a nominal fee. Something like The Incredible World of 007 will give you much more text to read and a subjective analysis so, overall, I prefer books like that, but this certainly scores very highly on the picture front. So while The Secret World of 007 is fun to flip through and has been put together with a great deal of care and affection I don't think this is an essential purchase and only one to pick up at a bargain price. You should bear in mind that you can pick a 2008 edition of this book too. While it doesn't bother me not having the newer version of this others might prefer to go for that one. This book is pretty good on the whole but unavoidably does tread very familiar ground in the crowded Bond illustrated guide market.
Summary: Not bad
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