Christopher Wood who penned the screenplay for Roger Moore’s The Spy Who Loved Me, also took it upon himself to write the novelisation, with the expanded title, ‘James Bond, The Spy Who Loved Me’ in order not to be confused with the original Ian Fleming title.
The adaptation is a curious blend of the Bonds we know, as Wood tries to find a balance between the more literary, small scale Bond and the bigger than life superspy he’s become in the films. Some of it works, and it’s also interesting to see how things changed as the screenplay progressed, or if they were choices made by Wood for the novel’s format.
Some of it doesn’t. Fleming’s Bond was always interested in sex, and while Fleming was more than happy to describe the cut of a woman’s figure, and the desire Bond would have for them, Wood’s writing when it comes to this angle of the storytelling devolves into the crude, and seems completely out of place with the literary style forged by Fleming for the universe he created.
The bare bones of the plot are the same, Russian and an English nuclear sub have gone missing, orchestrated by Sigmund (no longer Karl) Stromberg, with a towering steel-toothed giant at his side, and 007 has been assigned to track the villain down, aiding him is the beautiful Russian agent, Anya Amasova, who definitely has a spark with the English spy, but focuses on revenge when she learns that Bond was responsible for the death of her lover.
There are some changes that stand out as well, Stromberg’s Atlantis while still near Sardinia, is actually tucked into a little cove that used to be a volcano instead of out at sea. There are changes in some of the action sequences as well, and despite Wood’s best efforts, there’s no way the Lotus Esprit submarine sequence plays well against the literary version of Bond. But he plays it as well as he can.
For the most part, the novel version of the film works, and is in fairly close line with the preceding novels, but for the handling of the sexual content, and I like that Bond recognises that Anya may be someone he could actually fall for, and Tracy Bond’s name is mentioned a few times because of it.
Both Q and Moneypenny are missing from this tale. Q doesn’t show up a lot in the original novels, but he’s a hallmark of the film series. And despite trying to embrace the novels as well as the film, Bond’s best friend Tanner, M’s Chief of Staff barely warrants a mention.
It’s an interesting experiment, and I’ll be curious to see what Wood does with Moonraker, as he also adapted his screenplay to novel form, which is next up in the series for me, as James Bond Will Return…