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Blofeld (classic film continuity)

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Blofeld: "James Bond. Allow me to introduce myself. I am Ernst Stavro Blofeld. They told me you were assassinated in Hong Kong."
James Bond: "Yes, this is my second life."
Blofeld: "You only live twice, Mr. Bond."
―Blofeld introduces himself to 007. — Gnome-speakernotesListen (file info)[src]

Ernst Stavro Blofeld is the fictional founder and head of the global criminal organisation SPECTRE. Based on the literary character created by Ian Fleming, Blofeld appears in six James Bond films during EON Productions' classic (1962-2002) continuity: From Russia with Love (1963), Thunderball (1965), You Only Live Twice (1967), On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969), Diamonds Are Forever (1971) and For Your Eyes Only (1981). An alternate-universe version of the character also appeared in Electronic Arts' 2004 spin-off video game GoldenEye: Rogue Agent.

Initially a partially unseen character portrayed by Anthony Dawson and Eric Pohlmann (Voice), Blofeld was subsequently played on screen by Donald Pleasence, Telly Savalas and Charles Gray. A final depiction of the character (unnamed for copyright reasons) appeared in the pre-title sequence of For Your Eyes Only, portrayed by John Hollis and voiced by Robert Rietty. Following years of litigation over the ownership of the character, Blofeld was later re-invented for the Daniel Craig continuity of James Bond films (2006-2015), portrayed by Christoph Waltz.

Film biography

From Russia with Love - Thunderball

"SPECTRE is a dedicated fraternity whose strength lies in the absolute integrity of its members."
― Ernst Stavro Blofeld — Gnome-speakernotesListen (file info)[src]

During the classic continuity of 007 films, very little is revealed about the enigmatic Ernst Stavro Blofeld. Referred to initially as 'Number 1', Blofeld makes his first appearance during the events of From Russia with Love; operating out of a luxury yacht. His face is not seen and only his lower body is visible as he strokes his trademark white cat, discussing a plan to avenge the death of SPECTRE member Doctor Julius No by setting a trap that will put Bond and Russian agent Tatiana Romanova in a position where it will appear that they killed each other while escaping to escalate tensions in the Cold War. Consequently, Number 1 puts Rosa Klebb, an ex-SMERSH operative and the organisation's Number 3, in charge of Kronsteen's plan to manipulate the spy into stealing a Lektor cryptographic device from the Soviets. Upon hearing the news of the operation faltering, Number 1 summons Kronsteen and Klebb to remind them that SPECTRE does not tolerate failure, before having Kronsteen executed. Klebb, given one final chance to complete the mission, is instructed to get back the Lektor before Bond returns to Britain.

Thunderball - SPECTRE lair 8

Blofeld sitting behind shutters and glass, as seen in Thunderball (1965).

After being absent from Goldfinger, Blofeld returned in Thunderball. Again, his identity was concealed, this time behind shutters and glass, as he chairs a meeting of the upper echelons of SPECTRE at their secretive board room in Paris, France. As each operative accounts for their respective projects to raise money for the organisation, Blofeld uncovers embezzlement involving two of the men and ruthlessly executes the guilty party by electrocution. With business dealt with, he invites Number 2, Emilio Largo, to brief the assembly on the organisation's scheme to steal two atomic warheads for the purpose of extorting money from the United Kingdom. In both early appearances he wore a black business suit, rather than the Nehru jacket or Mao suit he would later become associated with. In addition it can be seen he has a full head of dark hair.

You Only Live Twice

Blofeld introduces himself to 007 (You Only Live Twice)

Blofeld introduces himself to 007, as seen in You Only Live Twice (1967).

"As you can see, I am about to inaugurate a little war. In a matter of hours when America and Russia have annihilated each other, we shall see a new power dominating the world."
― Blofeld to James Bond. — Gnome-speakernotesListen (file info)[src]

During the events of You Only Live Twice, Blofeld personally oversees SPECTRE's scheme from a large rocket launch facility located inside a dormant volcano on an island in the Sea of Japan. On behalf of an unnamed third party (implied to be Red China), Blofeld attempts to ignite a war between the United States and the Soviet Union by hijacking their respective space capsules. As the crisis escalates, Bond manages to infiltrate the volcano lair and attempts to board SPECTRE's spacecraft. However, a minute error catches Blofeld's attention, and he orders Bond to be brought to him, instead sending a reserve astronaut in his place. Meeting the saboteur face-to-face, Blofeld reveals his name and plans to Bond, whom he intends to kill after he captures the final space capsule; sparking a global conflict by destroying the spaceship. As 007's allies attempt to storm the crater from above, Blofeld orders the use of the facility's firepower on the intruders.

As a feigned last request, Bond requests that he be allowed to smoke. Blofeld grants the request, not realizing that the cigarette is a weapon, which 007 promptly uses to escape his captors and open the launch doors of the facility for his allies. Initially believing himself to be safe from the attackers, Blofeld soon realises that he needs to escape. He leaves the control room with Osato and Bond, holding the latter at gunpoint. On his way out, Blofeld shoots Osato in front of Bond, demonstrating how SPECTRE rewards failure. He climbs into a monorail car and attempts to shoot Bond, but is prevented by Tiger Tanaka, who sends a throwing-star into his wrist, causing him to drop his firearm. The car quickly hurtles off along the track. Arriving at an isolated part of the base, Blofeld activates the base's self-destruct mechanism before fleeing.

On Her Majesty's Secret Service

Blofeld explains his scheme (On Her Majesty's Secret Service)

Blofeld explains his scheme to 007, as seen in On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969).

"In a few hours, the United Nations will receive a Yultide greeting. The information that I now possess the scientific means to control, or to destroy, the economy of the whole world. People will have more important things to think about than you."
― Blofeld to James Bond. — Gnome-speakernotesListen (file info)[src]

Now the subject of an international man-hunt by the British Secret Service titled Operation Bedlam, Blofeld establishes a clinical allergy-research institute atop Piz Gloria in the Swiss Alps. James Bond investigates the office of Swiss lawyer Gumbold, and learns that Blofeld is corresponding with London College of Arms' genealogist Sir Hilary Bray, attempting to claim the aristocratic title "Comte Balthazar de Bleuchamp". He ventures to Switzerland posing as Bray to gather intelligence on Blofeld, who has went to the lengths of having his earlobes surgically removed to back-up his claims of nobility. There he learns that Blofeld secretly plans to contaminate and ultimately sterilize the world's food supply using biological warfare, carried by his brainwashed Angels of Death. Blofeld claimed he would not carry out his plan if all his past crimes were pardoned and he is recognised as the current Count de Bleauchamp. Bond tries to trick Blofeld into leaving Switzerland so that MI6 can arrest him without violating Swiss sovereignty. Blofeld refuses and Bond is eventually caught by henchwoman Irma Bunt. Blofeld reveals that he identified Bond after his attempt to lure him out of Switzerland, and tells his men to take the agent away. Bond eventually makes his escape by skiing down Piz Gloria while Blofeld and his men give chase.

Aided by his future wife, Tracy, the next morning their flight resumes. However, they are intercepted by Blofeld, who sets off an avalanche; resulting in Tracy's capture, while Bond is buried but manages to escape. M tells 007 that Blofeld's ransom will be paid and forbids him to mount a rescue mission. Bond then enlists Marc-Ange Draco and his Unione Corse forces to attack Piz Gloria, while also rescuing Tracy from Blofeld's captivity. The facility is destroyed, and Blofeld escapes the destruction alone in a bobsleigh, with Bond pursuing him. The chase ends when Blofeld becomes snared in a tree branch, ripping him out of the bobsled and apparently killing him. Subsequently, Bond and Tracy marry in Portugal and pull over to the roadside to remove flowers from the car. As they converse, Blofeld (wearing a neck brace) and Bunt commit a drive-by shooting of the couple's car - with Blofeld driving, and Bunt firing the gun. Bond survives, but Tracy is killed in the attack.

Diamonds are Forever

Blofeld, posing as Willard Whyte (Diamonds are Forever)

Blofeld posing as Willard Whyte, as seen in Diamonds are Forever (1971).

Blofeld Double: "You killed my only other double, I'm afraid. After his death, volunteers were understandably... rather scarce."
Blofeld: "Such a pity. All that time and energy wasted, simply to provide you with one mock, heroic moment."
―Blofeld reveals himself to Bond. — Gnome-speakernotesListen (file info)[src]

Once again pursued by a vengeful 007, Blofeld begins creating identical decoys of himself using plastic surgery. Bond eventually tracks down Blofeld's operations to a cavernous facility where his look-alikes are being created. After drowning a test subject, Bond is confronted by and kills a second decoy (who he assumes to be the real Blofeld) by plunging him into a superheated mudbath pool. The real Blofeld continued to evade capture, kidnapping and taking the place of reclusive billionaire Willard Whyte. Now operating out of Whyte's hotel penthouse and with the industrialist's considerable resources at his disposal, Blofeld set about construction of a laser satellite; with which he intended to blackmail the world's governments - auctioning off nuclear supremacy to the highest bidder. For construction of its weapon he set-up a diamond smuggling pipeline, which transported South African diamonds to Willard Whyte's Techtronics Plant in California.

Following the pipeline trail, 007 breaks into Willard Whyte's penthouse apartment only to be unexpectedly confronted with two identical Blofelds (who uses an electronic device to sound like Whyte). Bond kills one of the Blofelds, but he turns out to be a look-alike. He is then knocked out by gas, where he is picked up by Blofeld's assassins Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd and taken out to Las Vegas Valley where he is placed in a pipeline and left to die. Bond escapes and calls Blofeld posing as his right-hand man, Bert Saxby. He finds out Whyte's location and rescues him, but in the meantime Blofeld retreats to his oil platform off the coast of Baja California. In the process of escaping he abducts Bond's smuggler ally, Tiffany Case. With the satellite now in orbit, Blofeld destroys nuclear weapons in China, the Soviet Union and the United States, then proposes an international auction. Bond travels to the oil platform and is captured in an attempt to sabotage the weapon. Shortly afterwards Felix Leiter and the CIA begin a helicopter attack on the rig. In the ensuing chaos Blofeld attempts to escape using a midget submarine, but Bond gains control of the submarine's launch crane and crashes the sub into the control room, causing both the satellite control and the base to be destroyed.

For Your Eyes Only

007 toys with his nemesis (For Your Eyes Only)

007 toys with his nemesis, as seen in For Your Eyes Only (1981).

"I've looked forward to this moment, Mr. Bond. I intend to enjoy it to the full."
― Blofeld exacts his revenge on 007. — Gnome-speakernotesListen (file info)[src]

Blofeld resurfaced years later (dialogue in Marvel's comic adaptation would suggest 10 years after their last encounter) with a plan to exact revenge on his old adversary, James Bond, for foiling his plans and causing the downfall of his criminal organisation. Now wheelchair-bound, bald and wearing a neck-brace, Blofeld rigs a "Universal Exports"-emblazoned Bell 206 helicopter with remote control hardware and remotely electrocutes the pilot after he collects 007. Taking control of the aircraft over a London gasworks, Blofeld toys with Bond before attempting to crash the flying death-trap in a warehouse. However, 007 regains control of the aircraft and impales Blofeld's wheelchair on its landing gear, lifting the villain into the skies. After toying with his nemesis, Bond drops the pleading Blofeld down a tall industrial chimney stack, presumably to his death.

Alternate continuities

GoldenEye: Rogue Agent

Number One (GoldenEye - Rogue Agent) 1

Number One in a cutscene from GoldenEye: Rogue Agent (2004).

Referred to only as "Number One", Blofeld later appeared in the 2004 spin-off James Bond game, GoldenEye: Rogue Agent. Set in an alternate futuristic timeline, Number One is the enigmatic head of a powerful criminal organisation, strongly implied to be SPECTRE. In a bid to remove threats to the organisation, Number One manipulates an underworld feud between its two most influential members, Dr. Julius No and Auric Goldfinger, with the goal of having them ultimately destroy one another. He is assisted in his scheme by the organisation's 'technology pipeline', Francisco Scaramanga, who engineers the construction of GoldenEye's eponymous golden-hued cybernetic eye. After both rivals devour one another via GoldenEye, Number One turns his attention to a new threat of his own creation - Goldfinger's former golden-eyed enforcer.

Behind the scenes

The man behind the curtain

Beginning in 1962, the EON series of Bond films placed a far greater emphasis on the SPECTRE organisation, which effectively replaced Fleming's literary villains, SMERSH, as the primary antagonists of the early films. As a result of this move, SPECTRE's leader, Ernst Stavro Blofeld, also plays a more prominent role than he had in the novels. His appearance and personality change according to the personifying actor: He has a full head of black hair in From Russia With Love and Thunderball; a vicious facial scar in You Only Live Twice; no scar or earlobes in On Her Majesty's Secret Service; and silver-grey hair in Diamonds Are Forever. This metamorphosing matches Fleming’s literary portrayal of a master criminal who will go to great lengths to preserve his anonymity, including the use of radical plastic surgery. He often wears a jacket without lapels, based loosely either on the Nehru jacket or on the Mao suit.

Although not present in the novel, Blofeld makes his first on-screen appearance in From Russia with Love, portrayed by Anthony Dawson and voiced by Eric Pohlmann. Both men remained uncredited, the end credits listed a question mark instead of an actor’s name. In this appearance his face is not seen and only his lower body is visible as he strokes his trademark white cat, discussing a plan to avenge the death of their member Doctor Julius No by setting a trap that will put Bond and Russian agent Tatiana Romanova in a position where it will appear that they killed each other while escaping to escalate tensions in the Cold War. After being absent from Goldfinger, Blofeld returned in Thunderball.

Allow me to introduce myself...

Jan Werich Blofeld

Czech actor Jan Werich on the set of You Only Live Twice (1967).

Czech actor Jan Werich was originally cast by producer Harry Saltzman to play Blofeld in You Only Live Twice. Upon his arrival at the Pinewood set, both producer Albert R. Broccoli and director Lewis Gilbert felt that he was a poor choice, resembling a "poor, benevolent Santa Claus". Nonetheless, in an attempt to make the casting work, Gilbert continued filming. After several days, both Gilbert and Broccoli determined that Werich was not menacing enough, and recast Blofeld with Donald Pleasence in the role – the official excuse being that Werich was ill.[1] Pleasence's ideas for Blofeld's appearance included a hump, a limp, a beard, and a lame hand, before he settled on the scar.[2] He found it uncomfortable, though, because of the glue that attached it to his eye.[3]

Ambiguous final appearance

10th anniversary (For Your Eyes Only, comic)

Blofeld celebrates the 10th anniversary of their last meeting.

Blofeld's final appearance would be during the pre-title sequence of For Your Eyes Only (1981). The character is deliberately unnamed due to copyright restrictions with Kevin McClory, who at that time owned the film rights to Thunderball, which supposedly included the Blofeld character and other material associated with the development of Thunderball.[4] EON productions disputed McClory's ownership of the Blofeld character, but decided not to use him again: the scene was "a deliberate statement" by producer Albert R. Broccoli "of his lack of need to use the character."[5] Director John Glen referred to the villain's identity obliquely: "We just let people use their imaginations and draw their own conclusions ... It's a legal thing".[6] Clues to his identity include his white Angora cat, grey Nehru jacket and dialogue indicating that he and 007 had met before. Notably, Marvel Comics' comic book adaptation of the movie contains a more explicit hint to his identity in the form of Blofeld's comment "I thought we should celebrate the tenth anniversary of our last meeting". An apparent reference to 1971's Diamond Are Forever.[7]

Right before Blofeld is killed, he begs to Bond to spare him, and cryptically bribes him with a delicatessen in stainless steel. This line had been added in by the producer of the film, Albert R. Broccoli, as a throwback to Mafia slang for a very cushy bribe used during the time and place he was growing up in (as at the time, having a delicatessen in stainless steel was considered luxurious especially if the owner was a street vendor).

Appearance in video games

Blofeld head render (GoldenEye - Rogue Agent)

Pre-release Blofeld head render with the likeness of Donald Pleasence, GoldenEye: Rogue Agent (2004).

The classic depiction of Blofeld has appeared in a number of James Bond video games as a playable multiplayer character. His first appearance was in the 2004 first-person shooter video game GoldenEye: Rogue Agent, developed by EA LA and published by Electronic Arts. During its development official footage of character renders released by the publisher featured the terrorist leader 'Number One' holding his Persian Cat, with the likeness of Donald Pleasence. Likely due to legalities, in the final product the character's face is obscured, shot from behind and from the neck downwards. Number 1 was voiced by actor Gideon Emery using a similar intonation to Pleasence's portrayal of the character.

Henchmen & associates

Gallery

References

  1. Production Staff. (2000). Inside You Only Live Twice: An Original Documentary [Television]. MGM Home Entertainment Inc.
  2. Ian Nathan. "Unseen Bond", Empire, October 2008, p. 100. 
  3. (2000). You Only Live Twice Commentary track [DVD]. MGM Home Entertainment Inc.
  4. Boshoff, Alison. "Double agent Bond held hostage in studio wars", 22 October 1997. 
  5. Smith, Jim (2002). Bond Films. London: Virgin Books, p.178. ISBN 978-0-7535-0709-4. 
  6. (2001) Kiss Kiss Bang! Bang!: the Unofficial James Bond Film Companion. Batsford Books, p.137. ISBN 978-0-7134-8182-2. 
  7. (October 1, 1981) James Bond: For Your Eyes Only #1. Marvel Comics, p.2. 

See also

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