Her hands were lifeless in his. "My darling," he said. "Won't you tell me? Do you know, that first morning I was coming back to ask you to marry me. Can't we go back to the beginning again? What is this dreadful nightmare that is killing us?" At first she said nothing, then a tear slowly rolled down her cheek. "You mean you would have married me?" Bond nodded. "Oh my God,' she said. -- Ian Fleming'sCasino Royale

There are two serious love stories in the James Bond canon, nine books apart. The first, Casino Royale, is the inaugural Bond story. Thanks in part to an ill-conceived and boring parody film in 1967, Casino went 55 years before a serious effort was mounted to film it. The other, On Her Majesty's Secret Service, is story number ten, and pairs Bond with a brash young heiress and scion of a pan-European crime syndicate named Contessa Teresa di Vicenzo. Both stories have down endings, and fans of the film series often feel a sense of robbery with regards to the second, since Albert Broccoli waited until after Connery left to make a faithful adaptation of a superior Bond story. George Lazenby, despite being adored by some contrarian critics, was fairly assessed at the time as a failure. He was reportedly a terror to work with and his interpretation is so different from Connery's that the film almost stands outside the series. And now that Fleming's stories will no longer be used for forthcoming films, there's seemingly no chance for a re-do of On Her Majesty's.

That means the current film version of Casino Royale may have to stand as one of the only serious attempts to transmute Ian Fleming's idea of 'Bond drama' to the big screen. Not that it's a PBS piece or anything. The film is neatly cut in two, with one half faithfully adapting a present-day version of Fleming's novel (only 213 pages) and the other half devoted to big, wordless action set-pieces. You can't really expect anything more tame than that, with so much money at stake, I guess. But the interesting thing to note is that the drama in Casino Royale actually works, despite its sparsity. The origin of Bond's asshole-persona is resurrected as an epic origin tale of romantic treason, with the supremely gorgeous and worldly Vesper Lynd eating the young, naive spy for breakfast. The book ends on an abrupt quote, resurrected word-for-word in the film, that almost suggests (to me, anyway) that Bond may have been set up with Vesper as a final stage of his training. A necessary freezing process.