So there's a James Bond fan on your gift list and the $299 pricetag for "Bond 50," the new 22-film blu ray extravaganza, feels a trifle steep? Comsider "50 Years of James Bond," a tribute to Ian Fleming's superspy by the editors of Life magazine (Life Books, $27.95.) It's a handsomely designed coffee table book with the depth and quality you would expect from the flagship of photojournalism. Even inveterate Bond lovers will find images here they've never seen before. The pictures haven't been previously published.
There are breezy two-page entries on all the Bond films, including the non-cannonical 1967 "Casino Royale" and Sean Connery's 1983 return engagement,"Never Say Never Again." There's even a chapter on the sacriligeous 1954 CBS TV presentation of "Casino Royale," starring Barry Nelson as an Americanized "Jimmy" Bond. The essays are long on "hey, listen to this" trivia: Did you know that while singing the theme song for "Thunderball" Tom Jones held the last note so long he fainted? Or that in "For Your Eyes only," Roger Moore's Bond bedded a character played by Cassandra Harris, the real-life wife of Bond-to-be Pierce Brosnan? Don't know the connection between the Bond films and George Harrison's passion for the sitar? Learn about it here.
You shouldn't use this book to settle all your bar bets, though. It asserts that in "You Only Live Twice," "Bond did not pilot any kind of vehicle -- first time ever." How did they miss his airborne duel with four enemy helicopters at the controls of his gyrocopter Little Nellie? It declares that Moore's 007 used a Magnum handgun rather than the traditional Walther, a claim that even a cursory glance at the photos dispels.
Still, there's more to enjoy here than to criticize. There's a compendium of Bond imitators and satirists, nice biographies of the Bond actors and an inflation-adjusted tally of each film's box office take. Those who don't want to trawl the limitless seas of Bond information on the Internet will find this a handy field