The “Blofeld Order”: a Better Way to Watch the Bond Films

David Conrad

David is the author of AKIRA KUROSAWA AND MODERN JAPAN. He has a Ph.D. in history from the University of Texas at Austin and loves period pieces, classics, and arthouse. He has also read nearly every word J.R.R. Tolkien ever wrote. @davidaconrad

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7 Responses

  1. Personally, I’m entirely fine with there being different continuities within the Bond universe, but rather than bemoan your construction, I’ll play along.

    I recently bought the Sean Connery Collection, Vol 2 Blu-ray set and watched those three in release order, which meant watching Diamonds Are Forever after You Only Live Twice while skipping On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, and it plays a lot better that way, to be honest. The intensity of Bond’s manhunt for Blofeld in the first two minutes may be consistent with a post-OHMSS vendetta, but the rest of the film shows no sign that Bond has been affected beyond being angered in general, which can, as you say, be chalked up instead to post-YOLT professional score-keeping.

    It’s always bothered me that M scorns Bond: “May I remind you 007, that Blofeld is dead. Finished! The least we can expect from you now is a little plain, solid work.” That’s not just a cold thing to say to a grieving widower; it’s outright cruel. If, however, OHMSS hasn’t taken place, then at least it’s only baffling why M would be indignant that his agent has been fixated on, you know, tracking down the most wanted man in the freaking world.

    I would posit that you could start this order with:

    Casino Royale
    Quantum of Solace
    Dr. No

    The first three Craig movies are self-evident as to why they ought to be included, but then there’s Dr. No. Like Skyfall, it isn’t directly connected with the first two Craig Bonds. It’s also the first time that Bond meets anyone working for/with SPECTRE. Though Madeleine Swann is the one to tell Bond that’s the name of Blofeld’s organization later, I think it works nicely if Bond realizes at that moment that he’s already encountered someone from the group without even realizing what he had run into. Blofeld gloats about how often Bond had crossed paths with him over the years without knowing it, and even though the examples he cites are from the previous three Craig movies, it’s possible that Dr. No was another such operative.

    It becomes a bit murky why he’s meeting Felix Leiter for the first time again (they’re introduced in Casino Royale), but later in Thunderball the two of them have a pretty stupid exchange about Leiter almost “outing” Bond to a would-be assassin who already knows he’s there to kill James Bond, 007, so maybe pretending not to recognizing each other is part of their repartee for some reason.

    Which reminds me: I would actually swap out Thunderball for Never Say Never Again. I’ve already written a Reel Rumbles piece about why I favor the remake in general, but specifically in the context of what you’re doing, I would also point out that Blofeld is more prominent in that film than he is in Thunderball. True, there’s no scar on his face, but the trade-off is that you get Max von Sydow in the role!

    Also, I would follow For Your Eyes Only with Licence to Kill. As you mentioned, there is a direct reference to OHMSS in it, for one thing. I’ve said often over the last nine years that Daniel Craig has been praised (and rightly so) for doing what Timothy Dalton was panned for doing decades earlier. Licence to Kill holds up a lot better today than I think is generally admitted, and I think placing it in the context of this specific subset of Bond movies would highlight its strengths quite well. In that outing, Bond has basically deconstructed his world from geopolitical operations to caring about human beings again – in many ways, a full circle reversal from how he began in Casino Royale.

    • David Conrad says:

      A full resequencing would be fun to do, and as you say, most or all of the Craigs would have to come early. I’d never swap NSNA for Thunderball, because (as I mentioned) I love Thunderball, but to work both of them in somehow would be a pretty nifty trick.

      I think in full New Bond Order, not just in Blofeld Order, FYEO should come immediately after OHMSS so that we retain some sense of the revenge that is thought to motivate him at the beginning of DAF.

      I don’t think the LTK or TSWLM references to Bond’s marriage mean that those movies have to come *right* after FYEO; it might be nice to spread the references out. Plus, no Leiter films can come after LTK.

      Now I want to make a full 24-movie-plus list!

  2. Synthesizing with Fleming’s original novel sequencing, here’s my full sequencing. The best I could reconcile with supporting characters is if Bond starts in Casino Royale with Judi Dench’s M, who actually is the same M that oversaw Brosnan’s Bond. There are allusions to him having preceded her at MI6, and there’s a portrait of Bernard Lee in The World Is Not Enough, but these can be downplayed. In fact, if we rationalize that Ralph Fiennes and Bernard Lee (and Robert Brown) are all playing the same M, then it’s perfectly reasonable that the portrait in TWINE is of that character but doesn’t have to do with him having already been M. It’s on display at the fallback location in Scotland after MI6 had been attacked, so in some ways it actually becomes a clever bit of foreshadowing of Skyfall.

    Judi Dench as M
    Casino Royale
    Quantum of Solace
    Tomorrow Never Dies
    The World Is Not Enough
    Die Another Day

    Early Fleming stories
    Live and Let Die
    Dr. No

    The Blofeld Order
    From Russia with Love
    You Only Live Twice
    Diamonds Are Forever
    On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
    For Your Eyes Only

    Later Fleming Stories
    The Spy Who Loved Me
    The Man with the Golden Gun
    The Living Daylights
    Licence to Kill
    A View to a Kill

    • David Conrad says:

      Impressive, and I want to delve further into it, but off the bat I must differ with you on the matter of Judi Dench’s M. In the Craig movies she seems likely to be Bond’s first M, but in GoldenEye (as you know) she cannot be. (“Your predecessor kept a bottle…”) Unless we put GoldenEye before Skyfall (and we cannot, because he “meets” Moneypenny in Skyfall; Skyfall is stuck near the beginning no matter what), she must be playing two different Ms.

      I would agree that in addition to Judi Dench and Judi Dench, all other Ms are the same M; at least, there seems to be no reason to assume otherwise. Though I always liked thinking of Robert Brown as having been promoted to the position, since we see him serving in an official capacity prior to his succeeding Bernard Lee.

    • The Brosnan era is hardest to fit into things overall, which is one more key reason I disregard the idea of a singular continuity. I break it down to the Lois Maxwell era (Dr. NoA View to a Kill), then Brosnan, and Craig as being three different continuities. Dalton works as either a tag on the Maxwell era given the continuity of Robert Brown & Desmond Llewellyn and references to his marriage in Licence to Kill, or, given the age difference from Moore’s last outing to Dalton’s first, as the opening to Brosnan.

    • One other thing to keep in mind is that just because Bond wasn’t a 00 at the outset of Casino Royale doesn’t mean he wasn’t in MI6 before Dench’s M took over. We saw, for instance, her M sit down with Miranda Frost – definitely not a 00 – in Die Another Day, and interact with a lot of non-00 MI6 staff regularly in the Craig era. I *think* it’s ambiguous how long she’s actually been M in the Craig era. We know from Skyfall that she was in Hong Kong in 1997 and not M. She was the one who selected him to become a 00, and there’s nothing that I can think of offhand to exclude the possibility that he was already hanging around the office when she got there and that’s how he came to her attention.

      (How’s that for continuity gymnastics?)

    • David Conrad says:

      That had crossed my mind, but even if he *knew* a previous M from before he was a 00, she dies while he is a 00 and in the same adventure in which he meets Moneypenny. Brosnan (a 00 who knows Moneypenny; i.e. a post-Skyfall Bond) addresses Dench as a new M, so there seems to be no way for them to be the same M.