JAMES BOND IS BACK ... TO BACK! screamed the ads and the marquees. Dr. No and From Russia with Love, both less than three years old, were being double-billed across the U.S. In the New York area, they jammed 26 theaters, grossed $650,000 for the week. The same crowds, the same large grosses in Boston, Buffalo, Chicago, Los Angeles and Washington; at the drive-ins, traffic rivaled the commuting hour.
What makes the box-office figures the more astonishing is that both films are grossing nearly as much the second time around as the first. Sparking the revival is the success of Goldfinger, the third Bond film, still finishing its first run and heading for a gross that now seems likely to reach $30 million. Nor is Bondomania restricted to the U.S. In England, all three films broke box-office records, and Ian Fleming's last book, the posthumous Man with the Golden Gun, has already climbed to the top of the bestseller list.
$100 Million Take. There seems to be no geographical limit to the appeal of sex, violence and snobbery with which Fleming endowed his British secret agent. In Tokyo, the queue for Goldfinger stretches half a mile. In Brazil, where From Russia broke all Rio and Sao Paulo records, one unemployed TV actor had only to change his name to Jaime Bonde to be swamped with offers. In Beirut, where Goldfinger outdrew My Fair Lady, even Goldfinger's hat-hurling bodyguard, Oddjob, has become a minor hero.
To date, in hard cover and paperbacks, Bond books have been read by some 30 million, and United Artists estimates that 25 million have seen Bond in reel life. By the time all three current Bond films have been milked dry, the take may top $100 million.
Gadgets Galore. The fact that James Bond has developed into the biggest masscult hero of the decade has given serious pause to such as Britain's Novelist Kingsley Amis who ranks Fleming "with those demigiants of an earlier day, Jules Verne, Rider Haggard and Conan Doyle"; and to Columbia's Jacques Barzun, who deplores "the studies by academic critics who have argued over Fleming's morals and philosophies."
British Columnist Malcolm Muggeridge is also appalled. While admitting that Bond's "instant appeal to attractive women, his dash and daring and smartness combined with toughness, make him every inch a hero of our time," he also notes that "insofar as one can focus on so shadowy and unreal a character, he is utterly despicable: obsequious to his superiors, pretentious in his tastes, callous and brutal in his ways, with strong undertones of sadism, and an unspeakable cad in his relations with women, toward whom sexual appetite represents the only approach."
What Fleming's literary critics overlook is that in transferring Bond from fiction to film, and endowing him with all the attributes of Scottish-born Actor Sean Connery, a new twist has been added. Says Chief Scriptwriter Richard Maibaum in the current Esquire: "The common denominator is deadpan spoofing. We know it, the audience knows it, yet they are perfectly willing to alternately believe and disbelieve what is happening on the screen." To help illusion along, there are not only gadgets galore Bond's tricked up Aston-Martin is now a main attraction at the New