About that ‘Chairman Mao’ 007 villain wardrobe

UPDATE: @SuperThunderFan on Twitter reminds us that Dr. No had a similar look in the movie of the same name, not to mention Bond himself (of course, those were borrowed clothes) as well as Kamal Khan in Octopussy.

ORIGINAL POST: Is it asking too much for a little variety? Let’s consider, the “Chairman Mao” look appears to have originated with the 1967 spoof version of Casino Royale.

The “dramatic reveal” (such as it is) is that Jimmy Bond (Woody Allen), the nephew of James Bond (David Niven), is the villain.

woody-allen-casino-royale-1967

Just a few months later, You Only Live Twice, the fifth 007 film produced by Eon Productions, debuted. It’s the first time we see Blofeld on screen. In his previous appearances (in From Russia With Love and Thunderball), Blofeld wore a suit. But not for this big reveal in the person of Donald Pleasence.

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This look for Blofeld would continue for the next two Eon films, including Charles Gray as Blofeld in 1971’s Diamonds Are Forever.

blofeldsmiles

Diamonds would be the final appearance by Blofeld in an Eon movie for a while. But, in 1973’s Live And Let Die, “Wardrobe by Blofeld” continued in the person of Dr. Kananga (Yaphet Kotto). And he had *nothing* to do with SPECTRE.

lald-yahphet-kotto

A couple of movies later, Bond did battle with rich/crazy guy Karl Stromberg and…oh, for crying out loud, couldn’t he afford his own wardrobe?

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Well, The Spy Who Loved Me was a huge hit. Producer Albert R. Broccoli was ensured the resources for an even bigger hit with 1979’s Moonraker — except for a new wardrobe for his villain, embodied by Michael Londale’s Drax.

moonraker-drax

We’ll skip ahead many years (leaving aside the question about whether that guy in the pre-credits sequence of For Your Eyes Only was Blofeld or not). It’s now 1997. It’s a new era.

So in 1997’s Tomorrow Never Dies….oh, for crying out loud! Apparently, Jonathan Pryce’s villainous media baron is cheap when it comes to clothes!

tomorrow-never-dies-villain

OK, let’s go further forward to the 21st century. The franchise has been rebooted. Oh, there’s a new version of Blofeld? Almost certainly, there’s no way they’d copy that campy, goofy 1960s version. Right? Maybe not.

blofeld-waltz

If the producers need a Blofeld for Bond 25, and Christoph Waltz is unavailable, they should perhaps consider one of the performers in this video. Joey Bishop and Sammy Davis Jr. are no longer with us. But Regis Philbin is still going strong.

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The official 007 Blofeld survey and the options not listed

Max Von Sydow

Max Von Sydow

When you have a long break between films, you need to engage the fans somehow.

So the official James Bond account on Twitter asked, “Who is your favourite Blofeld?”

However, given the weird history about Ernst Stavro Blofeld’s film rights, this question is more complicated, with some options understandably not listed.

The four choices are the Blofeld actors whose face could be seen onscreen in movies made by Eon Productions: Donald Pleasence (You Only Live Twice), Telly Savalas (On Her Majesty’s Secret Service), Charles Gray (misspelled Grey, at least when the tweet first went up, in Diamonds Are Forever) and Christoph Waltz (SPECTRE).

Not making the cut are the combination of Anthony Dawson (body) and Eric Pohlman (voice), used in From Russia With Love and Thunderball. On screen, we never see Blofeld’s face. The dialogue only refers to “Number One,” although the From Russia With Love end titles list “Ernst Blofeld” followed by a question mark in the cast of characters.

This version of Blofeld also dresses different than the others, wearing a suit and not the Nehru jacket-style top of the other four.

Also not listed is the stuntman (body) and Robert Rietty (voice) in the pre-titles sequence of For Your Eyes Only. Last year, the official 007 website carried a press release promoting a re-release of Bond movies featuring SPECTRE. The list included For Eyes Only. The villain in the pre-titles sequence was the only trace of SPECTRE in the movie.

At the time Eyes came out, the rights to Blofeld were in dispute and officially the character in the pre-titles sequence wasn’t Blofeld. In 2013, a settlement was reached with the estate of Kevin McClory, finally bringing Blofeld back into the Eon fold.

Finally, and most significantly, there’s Max Von Sydow, who played Blofeld in 1983’s Never Say Never Again, the McClory-Jack Schwartzman remake of Thunderball. It, of course, is not part of the Eon series and there’s no way the 007 Twitter account would include Von Sydow.

Still, Von Sydow is a great actor and his casting was a major plus for the movie. Unfortunately, he doesn’t get that much screen time. Von Sydow’s Blofeld does have a cat (like Eon’s Blofelds) but wears a suit.

The tweet about Blofeld is embedded below. Click on it to see the complete image.

UPDATE (10:10 p.m. New York time): Over on the official James Bond Facebook page, that version of the post does include the Dawson-Pohlman duo.

It should be noted that you can’t actually cast a ballot either on Twitter or Facebook.

The Chronicles of SPECTRE Part IV: You Only Live Twice

You Only LIve Twice poster

You Only LIve Twice poster

By Nicolas Suszczyk, Guest Writer

Based on Ian Fleming’s penultimate novel, 1967’s You Only Live Twice features the SPECTRE organization as the main villain plus the same Japanese locations and characters as in the 1964 book.

Still, scribes Roald Dahl and Harold Jack Bloom went further and discarded the darkness of the novel by bringing the protagonist and the antagonist on the same setting, but with a more extravagant and actual plot: the Space Race, very much like the first Bond film, Dr. No.

While James Bond fakes his death as part of a staged MI6 operation, America blames Russia for the abduction of a space capsule, an operation executed by a mysterious spacecraft with the USSR insignia.

British intelligence noted echoes of that spacecraft coming down in Japan, where the “deceased” 007 is sent to investigate. Bond will discover that, of course, SPECTRE was behind it all, and this time, he comes face to face with the organization’s leader.

Bond’s contact with SPECTRE comes through the corrupt Japanese businessman Osato (Teru Shimada), who provides chemicals for SPECTRE and has the organization’s Number 11 Helga Brandt (Karin Dor) posing as his secretary.

Captured while investigating Osato’s Ning-Po vessel in Kobe, Bond seduces Helga and manages to escape with her help, but she betrays him and, unsuccessfully, tries to kill him.

Soon, we get to see the new SPECTRE headquarters –- inside an inactive volcano in Japan! Clearly, the organization has made a lot of money from its criminal and terrorist activities conducted in the two years between Thunderball and You Only Live Twice.

As SPECTRE’s Bird 1 spacecraft captures a Soviet capsule and imprisons its astronauts (or “cosmonauts”), we meet again with Number One. Once again, we only get his hands stroking his cat.

He has a bank account in Buenos Aires and asks some money in advance from two of his clients who would benefit after the war is broken between the U.S. and the USSR. Number One he observes how his piranha fish can eat a man to the bone in 30 seconds. He provides a demonstration. Helga Brandt is feed to the piranhas after she failed to kill 007, much like Largo’s henchmen Quist in Thunderball or Kronsteen in From Russia with Love.

First the U.S. blamed Russia, now Russia blames the US. The clock is ticking.

With the aid of his “wife,” Japanese agent Kissy Suzuki (Mie Hama), James Bond investigates a cave where an ama fishing girl was mysteriously killed. He eventually reaches the volcano and, observing a helicopter went landed inside it, the team decides to investigate.

As Kissy seeks the aid of his boss of Japanese intelligence, Tiger Tanaka (Testuro Tamba), Bond gets inside the volcano base, rescues the astronauts and tries to sabotage the Bird 1, but he is discovered by Number One.

“Allow me to introduce myself, I am Ernst Stavro Blofeld,” the leader introduces himself to the captured Bond, showing the face of the first credited actor to portray him: Donald Pleasence.

Despite the frightening scar around his right eye, Pleasence’s Blofeld seems less threatening than the mysterious Anthony Dawson/Eric Pohlman character that ordered death sitting on his throne.

Blofeld still has some memorable quips towards Bond as he shows him how the hidden machine guns in the crater terminate some of Tanaka’s ninja men. “You can watch it all on TV, it’s the last program you’re likely to see.” He also seems to be intellectual, by quoting Shakespeare’s Macbeth as he says his hideout is “impregnable”.

But, just like Macbeth, his hideout isn’t impregnable enough when Tanaka’s men get to infiltrate the volcano and a fantastic battle ensues, where 007, after beating Blofeld’s bodyguard Hans (Donald Rich), manages to destroy the Bird 1 spacecraft seconds before another American craft is captured.

SPECTRE’s plans went from toppling space rockets to trying to provoke World War III. Its base of operations expanded from a building in Paris (in Thunderball) to a hidden volcano in Japan. Much of the same characteristics remain: a beautiful female agent (Helga Brandt) and a well-built henchman (Hans). The price for failure of betrayal is still death and nobody is forgiven.

But the most important aspect of You Only Live Twice regarding the organization is that, from now on, SPECTRE loses identity. SPECTRE is now Ernst Stavro Blofeld and the leader assumes the role of the villain more than the organization.

As a matter of fact, we’ll see how in the two other remaining films (On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and Diamonds Are Forever) the organization is barely mentioned and Blofeld takes the lead as the main nemesis.

In the following entry we’ll see Bond getting personal with Blofeld as George Lazenby took over the role of Ian Fleming’s spy in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, released in 1969.

Blofeld and Strucker: masterminds separated at birth?

Blofeld in 007 Legends


This year, as part of the 50th anniversary of the film James Bond, there’s a new video game where Daniel Craig’s James Bond participates in storylines from five 007 films before the actor ever took up the part. The writer of the video game is Bruce Feirstein, who helped script three 007 films in the 1990s, starting with GoldenEye and running through The World Is Not Enough.

But something else caught our eye — the video game’s Ernst Stavro Blofeld looks awfully familiar but only if you’re familiar with a certain comic book spy.

The makers of the Activision video game instead of using the likeness of an actor who actually played Blofeld (Donald Pleasence, Telly Savalas, Charles Gray and Max Von Sydow), did a little mixing and matching. The 007 Legend’s Blofeld combines the facial scars of Pleasence’s version with the more physical Savalas version).

Baron Wolfgang Von Strucker menaces Nick Fury, courtesy of writer-artist Jim Steranko


Interestingly, and perhaps by coincidence, the 007 Legends Blofeld resembles Baron Wolfgang Von Strucker, the leader of the group Hydra that bedeviled Marvel Comics’ Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD.

In fact, the Strucker character was originally created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby for the World War II comic, Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos. Writer-artist Jim Steranko devised the idea that Strucker survived World War II and now was the chief of Hydra in the 1960s SHIELD story.

Steranko began drawing the SHIELD version of Nick Fury with Strange Tales No. 151, while Stan Lee was still writing the title. Kirby provided rough layouts, essentially an outline for Steranko to follow.

Steranko eventually took over all of the art responsibilities and later began writing the SHIELD stories also. At the end of Strange Tales No. 156, Steranko produced a two-page spread revealing that Strucker, Fury’s World War II arch-enemy, was Hydra’s leader Strucker had a facial scar very much like the Pleasence version of Blofeld.

Meanwhile, here’s a preview of 007 Legends that was upload to YouTube:

Here are the opening credits for 007 Legends:

YOLT’s 45th anniversary: Twice is the only way to live

With You Only Live Twice, which marks its 45th anniversary this month, the James Bond film series made a big turn — it was the first time that Eon Productions felt it should, or at least could, jettison Ian Fleming source material in favor of its own plot.

In doing so, Eon’s fifth 007 movie also became the first time the sum didn’t equal the sum of its impressive parts. Twice included one of John Barry’s best scores. It featured some of production designer Ken Adam’s most impressive work (considering the sets he designed for Dr. No, Goldfinger and Thunderball that was a tall order) and it included photography by Freddie Young, one of the greatest cinematographers in British film history.

And yet….

Eon faced a daunting task in adapting Fleming’s 1964 novel. It was the follow-up to the author’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service novel, where Bond gets married but loses in bride at the end. Originally, producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman intended to follow Thunderball with OHMSS but changed their minds and did Twice instead. Essentially, the story was tossed out and Eon did a Thunderball in Japan.

Thunderball had an Italian femme fatale with red hair (Luciana Paluzzi) while Twice had a German femme fatale (Karin Dor) with red hair (thanks to hair coloring). Thunderball had a big underwater fight with good guys versus SPECTRE. Twice had a big fight in SPECTRE’s volcano headquarters with Japanese ninja good guys versus SPECTRE, with guns and explosives substituted for spear guns and knives. Thunderball had SPECTRE conducting nuclear blackmail. Twice went one better and had SPECTRE trying to start World World III between the U.S. and U.S.S.R. for the benefit of a client, presumably China.

There are many differences between Fleming’s novel and the film. One of the most subtle may best demonstrate the gulf between the two. In Chapter Six of the novel, Tiger Tanaka, the head of the Japanese Secret Service, explains why he addresses the British secret agent as “Bondo-san.”

“James,” he had said. “That is a difficult word in Japanese. And it does not convey sufficient respect. Bond-san is too much like the Japanese word bon-san, which means a priest, a greybeard. The hard consonants at the end of ‘Bond’ are also not easy for the Japanese, and when these occur in a foreign word, we add an O. So you are Bondo-san. That is acceptable?”

In the film, naturally, all that goes out the window and Tiger calls Bond “Bond-san.” A small touch but it amply demonstrates that preserving Fleming’s original wasn’t a high priority.

It didn’t help that Richard Maibaum, a screenwriter for the first four Bond epics, wasn’t available for Twice. Harold Jack Bloom was initially hired to do the script but departed in the midst of the project. Roald Dahl took over; he’d receive the sole screenwriting credit while Bloom was listed as providing “additional story material.”

Twice also wasn’t the happiest of productions. Sean Connery let it be known the fifth movie would be his last and he had to deal with many, many Japanese reporters and photographers. Also, the key role of Ernst Stavro Blofeld — where audiences would see his face for the first time — was recast in the middle of production, with Donald Pleasence getting the role.

Twice was the first time an Eon film failed to top its predecessors at the box office. The 1967 movie sold $111.6 million in tickets worldwide, almost $30 million less than Thunderball. Years later, HMSS editors in evaluating the film did not like it as much as the first four entries in the series.

Still, Twice is hardly a lost cause and many long-time 007 fans like the movie, despite its flaws. Last year, in Suffern, New York, the film was shown on the big screen to a packed house. Here’s a video by Paul Scrabo about the event:

What’s more, Twice would become the template for two future 007 films, The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker. Both would be helmed by Lewis Gilbert, the director of Twice. Many fans, whether they like their 007 serious or escapist, still enjoy the film.

007/Hawaii Five-O connections

Some James Bond connections to television shows are natural. There are ties between 007 and The Avengers TV series because both were filmed in the U.K. There are a lot of ties between 007 and The Man From U.N.C.L.E. But there are surprising number of connections between James Bond movies and the Hawaii Five-O TV series that ran from 1968 to 1980.

Here are a few:

Jack Lord: played the screen’s first Felix Leiter in Dr. No while also playing Five-O’s Steve McGarrett through the entire run of the series. Rose Freeman, widow of Five-O creator Leonard Freeman, told fans attending a 1996 Five-O convention in the Los Angeles area that Lord was cast only five days before production of the pilot began.

Soon-Tek Oh: played Lt. Hip in the 1974 007 film The Man With The Golden Gun. Five-O: appeared in at least eight episodes, including the pilot as one of arch-villain Wo Fat’s techicians and another Wo Fat episode (The Jinn Who Clears The Way) as a dupe of Wo Fat.

Yao Lin Chen (billed as Chan Yiu Lam): played badass Kung Fu guy Chula in Golden Gun that Roger Moore’s 007 is (unbeliveably) able to overcome. Five-O: appears as a doomed undercover Hong Kong police operative who gets hacked to pieces in the ninth-season episode (and another Wo Fat story) “Nine Dragons.”

Maud Adams: appeared in both Golden Gun and as the title character of Octopussy. Five-O: appears as a spy in the 1977 episode “Deep Cover.”

Luciana Paluzzi: appeared as SPECTRE hitwoman Fiona in Thunderball, arguably overshadowing the film’s lead actress, Claudine Auger. Five-O: appears as an opinionated Italian journalist in a 1978 episode, “My Friend, The Enemy.” At the end of the episode, Danno has asked her out for a date but McGarrett intends to pull rank and grab an evening with her for himself. Momma mia!

George Lazenby: The first screen 007 to follow Sean Connery in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Five-O: appears in the two-hour 11th season finale in 1979, “The Year of the Horse,” filmed in Singapore. This would also be James MacArthur’s final appearance in the series, with the actor deciding to exit the show.

Donald Pleasance: The first screen Blofeld to actually show his face in You Only Live Twice. Five-O: a German-born scientist working for the U.S. who is actually under the control of Wo Fat in the fourth-season episode The 90-Second War Part II, which had its first run in 1971.