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Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Spymaker: The Secret Life of Ian Fleming; Connery's Son Plays 007's Dad

The Secret Life of Ian Fleming (1990) Poster

Warner Archive's recent DVD release of the wonderfully campy 1990 TNT original movie "Spymaker: The Secret Life of Ian Fleming" is the most fun that you will have while savoring martinis that are shaken, not stirred, all summer. This telefilm depiction of roughly 10 years of the life of James Bond creator Ian Fleming includes a plethora of insights regarding the inspiration for 007's awesome attributes.

Sean Connery's dreamy son Jason does a good job as the creator of the character who made his dad an international film legend. The younger Connery has a great GQ face and some acting talent. The primary deficit is that his performance is less enthusiastic than one would hope and lacks his father's elan. 

Overall, "Spymaaker" is a good made-for-television movie from an era in which TNT and other basic cable channels were just getting into that business. It also would have made a decent large-screen release that would have been worth seeing at a $1 theater or renting on VHS from Blockbuster.

The opening scene of "Spymaker" introduces us to a very young Fleming playing with cast-iron toy soldiers that he will continue valuing into adulthood. His widowed aristocratic and domineering mater interrupts his playtime to declare from a literal pedestal that she has decided that he will go away to school.

This scene not only establishes the pattern of Mrs. Fleming dictating the course of Fleming's life through his early 20s but is very reminiscent of how matriarch Angela Channing of "Falcon Crest" rules her roost. The shamefully belated review of the DVD release of the third season of that '80s prime time soap will be posted next week.

We next see a late teens Fleming in a compromising position with his current love interest. His highly inventive wingman Quincy, who apparently inspires the character "Q" from Bond lore, tries to offer an early warning system regarding a threat of being discovered in the act. A malfunction leads to Fleming being caught with his pants across the room and subsequently expelled from Eton.

The next several segments involve Fleming moving onto the next stage of his life that his mother dictates. In true Bond style, Fleming continues to be his usual irrepressible and world-class horndog self.

While a cub reporter for British news service Reuters, Fleming begins what turns out to be a long-term playful and flirtatious relationship with a secretary who clearly inspires the Miss Moneypenny Bond character. The editor for whom the secretary works equally clearly inspires the character of spymaster M for whom Moneypenny works.

An adventure that Fleming experiences while assigned to cover a Moscow trial of British nationals is presented as Fleming's introduction to international intrigue. The depiction of Fleming's professional life over the next several pre-war years further establishes the inspirations for Bond, including the origin of Bond's preference for martinis that are shaken.

Recruiting Fleming for the British spy agency MI5 at the beginning of World War II sets things in high gear and results in Fleming leading a commando raid, but no information is provided regarding whether team members wear under garments, on an important Nazi facility. In true Bond fashion, Fleming has a personal grudge against a Nazi officer at that facility.

The depiction of that era of Fleming's life also includes a storyline regarding Fleming's romantic relationship with fellow spy Leda St. Gabriel, played by Kristin Scott Thomas. The course of that courtship additionally inspires elements of Bond.

The final element of this debriefing is that Fleming is not only directly responsible for one of  pop cultures most enduring characters; he is also indirectly responsible for the hilarious Mel Brooks '60s sitcom Bond parody "Get Smart." (As an aside, every component of the "Get Smart" complete series DVD set make it an all-time top choice for a set to own.) Either accomplishment of Fleming warrants spending 90 minutes to sit down and learn more about his genuinely interesting life.

Anyone with questions or comments about "Spymaster" is welcome to email me.