Wednesday, 30 January 2019

Bond By Design

The Art Of Bondage

Bond By Design -
The Art Of The James Bond Films

Dorling Kindersley
ISBN: 978-0241185995

Bond By Design - The Art Of The James Bond Films is a tome I wanted primarily because I knew it had some of the storyboards from the movies in it, including the beautifully painted acrylic and watercolour storyboards used for the production of From Russia With Love. Indeed, it turns out there are a lot more panels of the speedboat chase from that film included than I actually remembered seeing in real life in the various exhibitions they have turned up in over the years so, if you are into those kinds of things, this is an excellent book. Well, it’s an excellent book all round, to be honest.

When I was given this as a Christmas present I was surprised by the actual large size of it and, it has to be said, it looks really beautiful as a thick, coffee table hardback in a handsome slipcase which details some of those aforementioned speedboat chase storyboards on the front and a Ken Adam set sketch for the volcano lair in You Only Live Twice on the back. When you pull the hardback loose, there’s a lovely contrast with the sleek white covers boasting two more Ken Adam felt tip sketches in all their glory.

The other surprising thing, for me, was finding that the book is published by Dorling Kindersley. Now I’ve never had a bad word to say about DK (as they are now apparently, officially branded?) and they’ve always produced quality books which show off illustrations to their best. However, I’ve always kind of associated them with being publishers of purely children’s books so, the fact that they were involved with this project is going to make me rethink their contribution to the adult marketplace, methinks. But, back to the book...

The volume has no general introductory text, which threw me quite a bit and made me feel like I was going in naked. Instead it jumps straight in at Dr. No with a chapter for each of the productions up to SPECTRE (using the typography associated with the relevant poster design as the chapter title). Each chapter starts as a double page spread and on one of these pages you get a little spiel about the film and the designers working on it, before getting on with the rest of the section with various, almost randomly chosen pieces (it seemed to me) ranging anywhere from set designs (many of the famous Ken Adam ones are covered here, naturally), logo designs, prop designs, costume designs, vehicle designs and, yes, even a smattering of storyboards... all of which have small captions telling you as much information as the publishers could glean.

Now, I don’t want to say anything too negative because, for sure, it’s a lovely book and absolutely essential for someone like me to have perched on a bookshelf but, one of the things I did feel was missing from this was photographs of the finished products. It’s all very well showing us the designs of how a set was supposed to look or how, say, the rocket pack from Thunderball was supposed to look both in that movie and in its reappearance in Die Another Day (a Bond film I’ve tried to blot out of my memory, along with the Daniel Craig movies) but it would be really nice to have seen a reminder of how those designs and sketches finished up in the final film. I don’t think there’s actually a single photograph from any of the Bond movies actually in this book, to be honest. However, most Bond fans will know the movies well enough, I’m sure, that they won’t really need that aide-mémoire to give them the required perspective.

My other complaint might be that this book only covers the EON Productions Bond films... so you won’t find the previous two versions of Casino Royale in here other than the third version with Daniel Craig in it. Neither will you find films like the Thunderball remake Never Say Never Again (although that one is at least mentioned in relation to Octopussy) or the second time George Lazenby took on the role of 007 in The Return Of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. So... yeah... The Art Of The James Bond Films is a bit of a misleading subtitle, it has to be said.

However, as I said, there are some lovely pages in this book. Alas, there weren’t too many pages devoted to two of my favourite Bond movies... On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and The Living Daylights but what there is in the book is mostly gold. So you can see a storyboard of Bond in ‘Little Nellie’, his autogyro from You Only Live Twice and then, a while later, be perusing the diagrams made of ‘wet nellie’, his submarine converting Lotus Esprit from The Spy Who Loved Me. There are also some interesting items here in that you can work out just who had and who hadn’t been cast in some of the films by the time the storyboards were made. It’s sometimes very obvious if an actor or actress was a late arrival or not.

Of the 300+ pages that make up this, truly, excellent book, I’d say I was familiar with at least two thirds of the stuff in here from various exhibitions I’ve been to see in London over the last three decades or more. Similarly, there’s design work I’ve seen at various exhibits and displays which are somewhat absent from this tome but, limiting themselves to just over 300 pages couldn’t have been an easy editorial job, I would guess.

So that’s a short review for a book that doesn’t’ contain a lot of text but which is definitely a feast for the eyes. If you’re into James Bond and you like any of the main production elements such as set design or costumes then you’re in for a treat if you acquire this book. Personally, I could have done without the Craig films because the digital world has taken over from the more interesting and expressive (it seems to me) hand drawn world and... hyper-real digital computer mock ups of what things should look like just don’t seem as interesting to me. That being said, Bond By Design is a nicely designed and presented gem of a book for any Bond film afficionado and you should snap it up instantly while there are still a few new copies left on Amazon. Really pleased with this one.

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