Kill Bond... Now!

(OR: The ties that Bond)

Usually in the world of movie-making, the concept of "continuity" is fairly simple: if, for example, James Bond walks into a phone booth wearing a blue suit, then he shouldn't walk out wearing a gray one. Pretty simple (although it doesn't always work out; remember the car in DAF that enters the alley on one set of wheels and comes out on the other).

In a larger sense, "continuity" is what connects one story to another to form a cohesive, consistent series. Comic book fans debate matters of continuity for hours on end ("How could Batman not recognize Green Arrow in Issue 421 when we all know they met back in issue 332?") as do fans of television shows with long and complicated histories, like Star Trek and the X-Files.

So what about James Bond? Well, in the novels, there's quite a bit of continuity. Bond drives his Bentley in several books, thinks back on girlfriends from previous novels (especially "Casino Royale's" Vesper Lynd), and even shacks up with Tiffany Case from the end of "Diamonds Are Forever" to sometime just before the events of "From Russia With Love." But the movies are another story. Believe it or not, for a series that's been around close to forty years, and which inspires trivia tests and in-depth studies by the score, there's very few tidbits out there to connect one Bond adventure with another.

m's office

Let's start with what does stay the same. In thirteen of the eighteen EON Bond films so far, we see the offices of MI6, where Bond usually receives a briefing on his latest mission. From Dr. No to The Living Daylights, M's office remains relatively unchanged, with lots of leather chairs and wood panelling in evidence, creating the atmosphere of a smoke-filled "gentlemen's club." Or perhaps more accurately, considering the various naval relics in evidence, an Admiral's cabin in an old ship-of-the-line.

No other sets endure. Bond has one apartment in Dr. No and a very different one in Live and Let Die (the only two films to show us James at home). And once he's on assignment, of course, the scenery changes constantly. Even Q's workshop is inconsistent. We can always tell when we're there, but if you line the scenes up next to each other, the workshop seems to change around and get bigger and smaller as the script demands. Of course, we might assume this is because Q's experiments result in the periodic destruction of his workshop, making it necessary to rebuild completely between films. Hey, it could happen!

moneypenny and

If there's little continuity in the sets, then how about characters? Well, we always have Bond of course, and his support team of M, Moneypenny and Q. The actors who play them may change, but the characterizations remain relatively the same. Their mere presence brings up fond memories of past adventures, which is just as well because it's usually the only connection we're going to get.

At no point does "M" say, "Now I don't want you running off half-cocked again like you did in that Goldfinger affair." Moneypenny never asks, "So whatever happened to Pussy Galore, anyway?" Q comes closest, with his remonstrations to "take care of your equipment for once," but even he never comes right out and says, "I'm tempted not to give you the BMW after what you did to the Aston Martin."

Of course, if the films WERE more overtly linked, you'd start running into trouble. Viewers would start asking, "Wait a minute, if he fought Goldfinger in 1964, how can he look so young today?" If Bond really busted up SPECTRE's Japanese volcano operation in YOLT, how can he not suspect Trevalyan's very similar hideout in Goldeneye? And so on. Whether intentional or not, EON has done well to keep continuity to a bare minimum, making it possible to watch the films in any order without getting confused, and keeping Bond a simple character without a lot of historical baggage.

Even so, there are indications this was not always the plan. Way back in FRWL, we see Bond on a date with Sylvia Trench, the gal he picked up in a casino in Dr. No. This makes her the only girlfriend to appear in two films, and it seems a deliberate attempt to tie the films together. When Bond's called to the office, Sylvia complains about the last time he went away, all the way to Jamaica! Later, SPECTRE agent Kronsteen says James Bond is the perfect victim for his schemes, since he's the one who destroyed SPECTRE's last operation and killed their agent, Dr. No. With the exception of Blofeld, this makes Dr. No the only villain to be mentioned in two films.

After that, there's few ties between films. One is the Aston Martin DB5. In Goldfinger, when Bond is presented with the car, he asks "Where's the Bentley?," referring his old car, seen briefly in FRWL. (Q tells him the Bentley's "had its day," which is a bit confusing as Fleming established the Bentley as Bond's personal car, not a government issue vehicle.) In Thunderball, the Aston Martin's back, but no overt references are made to the previous mission (like, "Hey, you can hardly see the dents where I hit the wall in Goldfinger's factory"). Later models of the Aston Martin appear in OHMSS and TLD, then suddenly the DB5 is back again in Goldeneye, with Pierce Brosnan at the wheel. Based on its appearance here and in TND, it seems the car is now Bond's personal vehicle, purchased perhaps as a souvenir of the Goldfinger and Thunderball missions. At which times, by the way, Brosnan would have been 11 and 13 years of age!

After Thunderball, It's not until OHMSS that continuity becomes important again. In an effort to remind us that this is indeed the same Bond we remember, George Lazenby goes through his desk and finds souvenirs from the Sean Connery era. As he regards Honey Rider's knife, Red Grant's wristwatch and his own underwater rebreather, music from Dr. No, FRWL and Thunderball play in the background. Even so, OHMSS also presents us with the most glaring instance of "anti-continuity," as Bond and Blofeld fail to recognize each other, despite having met in the previous film!

Bond the widower

The events of OHMSS also provide the one element that ties together Lazenby, Moore, Dalton and Connery; the death of James' wife Tracy De Vicenzo Bond. Lazenby gets to play the actual death scene, then in DAF, Connery picks up the thread, hunting down Blofeld in his thirst for vengeance. (At least those of us who saw the Lazenby film know why Sean's doing it. For the benefit of anyone who missed it -- and at the time there were plenty! -- no specific mention of Tracy is made.)

Just when we think James has forgotten poor Tracy, she comes up again in TSWLM. Roger Moore's normally invulnerable smirk takes a direct hit when Anya Amasova mentions his widowhood. With an uncharacteristic seriousness, he basically tells her to shut up. This is a remarkable moment of sobriety in a relatively light-hearted film. Two films later in FYEO, we see Moore's Bond visiting Tracy's grave before being whisked away to danger again. When the chopper lands to pick him up, he pauses an extra moment before leaving the grave, as if reluctant to go, or perhaps thinking how costly the call to duty can be.

In contrast to Moore, Timothy Dalton's Bond never seems to have much fun, and when he finally does relax at Felix and Della's wedding in LTK, he's brought crashing down to Earth again by Della's innocent mention of marriage. "He was married once," explains Felix sadly. "But that was a long time ago &" (No kidding! Try twenty years!)

So what's the point of all this? Hey, who said I need to have a point? But the concept of continuity does create another interesting lens through which to examine Bond film history. Besides, I think it's a pretty cool irony that OHMSS, the one film most often forgotten by the public at large and generally dismissed by the man on the street as "not really Bond," is the one film that connects four Bond actors, and features the only event in Bond's life that everyone seems to agree happened.

- David Morefield