- "SPECTRE is a dedicated fraternity whose strength lies in the absolute integrity of its members."
- ― Ernst Stavro Blofeld
SPECTRE (an acronym of Special Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion) is a fictional global criminal organisation featured in the James Bond novels by Ian Fleming, the films based on those novels, and James Bond video games. Led by 007's nemesis Ernst Stavro Blofeld, the organisation first formally appeared in the novel Thunderball (1961) and subsequently in the movie Dr. No (1962). After a four-decade absence from the Eon film series the organization was officially reintroduced in the twenty-fourth Bond film, SPECTRE (2015).
Introduced in 1961, the organization effectively replaced SMERSH as Bond's primary antagonist. SPECTRE is not aligned to any nation or political ideology, enabling the later Bond books and Bond films to be regarded as apolitical. SPECTRE began in the novels as a small group of criminals but became a vast international organisation with its own SPECTRE Island training facility in the films.
In Ian Fleming's novels, SPECTRE was a commercial enterprise led by Blofeld. Their top-level members were 21 individuals, 18 of whom handled day-to-day affairs and were drawn in groups of three from six of the world's greatest criminal organisations—the Gestapo, SMERSH, Marshal Josip Broz Tito's secret police, the Mafia, the Unione Corse, and a massive heroin-smuggling operation based in Turkey. Their debut was in Thunderball. At the time of writing the novel (1959) Fleming believed that the Cold War might end during the two years it would take to produce the film, which would leave it looking dated; he therefore thought it better to create a politically neutral enemy for Bond. The organisation was next mentioned in The Spy Who Loved Me, when Bond describes investigating their activities in Toronto before the story begins. The organisation's third appearance was in On Her Majesty's Secret Service where Blofeld, hired by an unnamed country or party (though the Soviet Union is implied) is executing a plan to ruin British agriculture. Blofeld, with a weakened SPECTRE would appear for the final time in You Only Live Twice.
In the classic Eon films, the organisation had a more active role, often as a third party in the ongoing Cold War. The goal of world domination was only ever stated in You Only Live Twice, and SPECTRE was working not for itself but for an unnamed Asian government whose two representatives Blofeld speaks to during the movie; perhaps Red China, who earlier backed Goldfinger. SPECTRE's goals in the other films it has appeared in have always been less lofty. Its long-term strategy, however, is illustrated by the analogy of the three Siamese fighting fish Blofeld keeps in an aquarium in the film version of From Russia with Love. Blofeld notes that one fish is refraining from fighting two others until their fight is concluded. Then, that cunning fish attacks the weakened victor and kills it easily. Similarly, SPECTRE's main strategy was to instigate conflict between two powerful enemies, namely the superpowers, hoping that they would exhaust themselves and be vulnerable when it seizes power. SPECTRE thus worked with both sides of the Cold War.
In both novel and film, organizational discipline within SPECTRE was notoriously draconian with the penalty for disobedience or failure being death. As quoted by Blofeld on several occasions: "This organisation does not tolerate failure". Furthermore, to heighten the impact of the executions, Blofeld often chose to focus attention on an innocent member, making it appear his death is imminent, only to suddenly strike down the actual target when that person is off guard. Fleming's SPECTRE had elements inspired by mafia syndicates and organised crime rings that were actively hunted by law enforcement in the 1950s. The strict codes of loyalty and silence, and the hard retributions that followed violations, were hallmarks of U.S. gangster rings, Mafia, the Unione Corse, the Chinese Tongs/Triads and the Japanese Yakuza/Black Dragon Society.
In both the novel and official film adaptation of Thunderball, the physical headquarters of the organisation were located in Paris, France, operating behind a front organisation aiding refugees ("Firco" in the novels; "International Brotherhood for the Assistance of Stateless Persons" in the films). With SPECTRE's official reintroduction in the 2015 film Spectre, their base of operations were primarily centred around a data-gathering centre in the Saharan desert, with a separate meeting location (presumably intended to be temporary) in Rome.
Leadership & Hierarchy
- Main article: List of SPECTRE members
SPECTRE was headed by the supervillain Ernst Stavro Blofeld who usually appeared accompanied by a white Persian cat in the movies, but not in the books. In both the films and the novels, Emilio Largo was the second in command. It is stated in the novel that if something were to happen to Blofeld, Largo would assume command.
The members of the head board of SPECTRE went by numbers (e.g.: Number 1) as codenames. In the novels, the numbers of members were initially assigned at random and then rotated by two digits every month to prevent detection. For example, if one was Number 1 this month, he would be Number 3 next month. In the novel Thunderball Blofeld has been assigned "Number 2", while Emilio Largo is assigned "Number 1". This particular example of numbering was perhaps deliberately borrowed from revolutionary organisations, wherein members exist in cells, and are numerically defined to prevent identification and cross-betrayal of aims. By deliberately drawing attention away from the true leader of the organisation, he was protected by masquerading as a target of lower importance, and the structure of the organisation was also obscured from intelligence services. Conversely, in the classic film series the individual's number indicates rank: Blofeld is always referred to as "Number 1" and Emilio Largo, in the film Thunderball, is "Number 2".
In the original Bond novel series, SPECTRE's first and last appearance as a worldwide power is in the novel Thunderball, published in 1961. In the novel, SPECTRE, headed by Blofeld, attempts to conduct nuclear blackmail against NATO. Apparently disbanded afterwards, SPECTRE is said to be active again in the next book, The Spy Who Loved Me, although the organisation is not involved in the plot. In On Her Majesty's Secret Service, the second chapter of what is known as the "Blofeld Trilogy", Blofeld has revived SPECTRE, and Blofeld's final appearance, sans SPECTRE, is in the final novel of the trilogy, You Only Live Twice.
Later, the John Gardner Bond novel, For Special Services introduces a revived SPECTRE led by Blofeld's daughter, Nena Bismaquer. Although Bond ultimately prevents SPECTRE from reforming, it continued, under the leadership of Tamil Rahani, to play a part in Role of Honour and Nobody Lives For Ever. The next Bond novelist, Raymond Benson, reintroduces Irma Bunt, Blofeld's assistant, in his short story "Blast From the Past", which is a sequel to You Only Live Twice.
Connery, Lazenby, and Moore Films
In the EON Productions James Bond series, which began in 1962 with Dr. No, SPECTRE plays a more prominent role. The organisation is first mentioned in Dr. No as the organisation for which Dr. Julius No works. This was changed from Fleming's novels, which had Dr. No working for the USSR. In the films, SPECTRE usually replaced SMERSH as the main villains, although there is a brief reference to SMERSH in the second EON Bond film, From Russia with Love. The film adaptation of From Russia with Love also features the first on-screen appearance of Blofeld, although he is only identified by name in the closing credits of the film. After being absent from Goldfinger, SPECTRE returns in Thunderball and subsequently is featured in the following films You Only Live Twice, On Her Majesty's Secret Service and Diamonds Are Forever. Following Diamonds Are Forever, SPECTRE and Blofeld were retired from the EON Films series due to a legal battle over the film rights to Fleming's Thunderball. Blofeld (not identified by name, but accompanied by the character's trademark cat) is written out in the opening of For Your Eyes Only.
Due to the embargo placed on the series as a result of the copyright dispute, the rebooted series introduced a new terrorist cell known as Quantum, which is later revealed to be a subsidiary of Spectre. Starting with Casino Royale, it is revealed Le Chiffre and a reluctant Vesper Lynd are part of the group, serving under the mysterious Mr. White. Quantum of Solace elaborates the eponymous group, presenting Quantum as an amalgam of powerful business people and government operatives. It is worth noting that in the Bulgarian subtitles of Quantum of Solace, the name Quantum was translated as SPECTRE, with the title changed to "Spectre of Solace" ("Спектър на утехата").In 2013, EON Productions re-obtained the rights to the usage of the character Blofeld and SPECTRE. It is not until the release of Spectre that the organization makes an appearance in the rebooted series, placing Quantum as a subsection of the wider organization with Blofeld (Christoph Waltz) the mastermind behind previous films—including Raoul Silva's vengeful rampage in Skyfall—taunting Bond with his previous failures and setting up a more traditional rendition of the Bond mythos for future instalments. Spectre presents the organisation as a conspiracy of legitimate businesses and organised crime, moving to become a private intelligence agency.
In 1983, MGM released Never Say Never Again, based on the same original source material as Thunderball. Not considered part of the official Bond series, the film retells the story of Thunderball and reintroduces both SPECTRE and Blofeld.
SPECTRE is shown, but never mentioned by name, in the game GoldenEye: Rogue Agent. Instead, it is referred to as a "powerful criminal organisation". It is depicted as being much more powerful than it was in any of the films or books, possessing a massive undersea black market known as The Octopus, resembling Karl Stromberg's lair from The Spy Who Loved Me, a large lair built into an extinct volcano akin to the films which is used as the main base of operations, and also the personal structures of its members such as Auric Goldfinger's Auric Enterprises and casino and Dr. No's Crab Key, also returning from the films.
Although the From Russia with Love video game mirrors much of the plot of the eponymous film, it uses an organisation called OCTOPUS rather than SPECTRE to avoid copyright issues. The game features a recurring symbol which could be thought of as SPECTRE's logo: a simple, marine-blue octopus with semicircular eyes and blade-like tentacles. This logo is at least seen printed on the walls of The Octopus black market and on Goblin grenades.
SPECTRE and its characters have been at the center of a long-standing litigation case starting in 1961 between Kevin McClory and Ian Fleming over the film rights to Thunderball and the ownership of the organization and its characters. In 1963 Ian Fleming settled out of court with McClory, which awarded McClory with the film rights to Thunderball, although the literary rights would stay with Fleming and thus allow continuation author John Gardner to use SPECTRE in a number of his novels.
In 1963 the producers of EON Productions, Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman made an agreement with McClory to adapt the novel into the fourth official James Bond film. The agreement also stipulated that McClory would not be allowed to make further adaptations of Thunderball for at least ten years since the release. Although SPECTRE and Blofeld are used in a number of films before and after Thunderball, the issue over the copyright of Thunderball, did prevent SPECTRE and Blofeld from becoming the main villains in 1977's The Spy Who Loved Me. In 1983, McClory released the unofficial remake of 1965's Thunderball, entitled Never Say Never Again.
Although McClory retained the film rights to Thunderball until his death in 2006, and his estate held them until 2013, the courts in 2001 awarded MGM with the exclusive film rights to the fictional character James Bond. This technically prevented McClory from creating further adaptations of the novel. On November 15, 2013, MGM and Danjaq, LLC announced they had acquired all rights and interests of the estate of Kevin McClory. MGM, Danjaq, and the McClory estate issued a statement saying that they have brought to an "amicable conclusion the legal and business disputes that have arisen periodically for over 50 years."
Henchmen working for SPECTRE or directly for Ernst Stavro Blofeld in (order of appearance):
Films (classic continuity)
Films (modern continuity)
|Cyanide cigarettes (Dr. No) - Cigarettes containing cyanide. Used by Jones, an operative of Dr. Julius No. In a bid to escape interrogation by Bond, he bites down on a cigarette and dies seconds later. Although it doesn't appear in the novel, Bond is sent a cyanide-laced basket of fruit by Dr. No.|
|Garotte watch (From Russia with Love) - A wristwatch from which a wire garrote can be drawn. It is used by Red Grant to strangle a fake Bond as part of a training exercise in the opening scene. He later attempts to strangle the real 007 in the film's climax, only to have it turned against him. Later seen in On Her Majesty's Secret Service when Bond cleans out his office.|
|Dagger shoes (From Russia with Love) - A shoe with a retractable, poison-tipped blade concealed in the toe-cap. In the film the poison caused death within seven seconds. Dr. No, the novel's sequel, notes that the shoe spike was coated with the poison tetrodotoxin. In the film they were worn by SPECTRE operatives Rosa Klebb and Morzeny, whereas in the novel they were worn only by Klebb. Seen again in Die Another Day.|
|Largo's remote control (Thunderball) - A remote control device disguised as a cigarette case. The device allows access to SPECTRE's Paris conference room, concealed in the 'Centre international d'assistance aux personnes déplacées' ('The International Brotherhood for the Assistance of Stateless Persons').|
|Electric chair (Thunderball) - With the flick of a switch on Blofeld's control console, any seat can become electrified, killing its occupant. The seat then drops down into the floor, disposing of the dead body. Blofeld uses this equipment to execute No. 9, who he believes is guilty of embezzlement.|
Lipstick gas grenade (You Only Live Twice) - A gas grenade disguised as a makeup applicator. While flying Bond in a light aircraft Helga Brandt catches the spy off guard by dropping the device, locking him in his seat and parachuting to safety. Within seconds the cabin is filled with a disorienting gas, leaving 007 fighting for his life in a pilot-less plane.
Piranha pool (You Only Live Twice) - Blofeld's trap door that he uses to dispose of failures to his organization and unwelcome guests. Operated by a foot pedal concealed behind Blofeld's desk, part of the foot-bridge over the piranha-infested pool collapses, sending the unsuspecting victim to his or her death.
Bo with retractable spear (You Only Live Twice) - Used by a SPECTRE assassin who infiltrated Tanaka's Samurai training school in an attempt to assassinate Bond.
|Blofeld's gifts (On Her Majesty's Secret Service) - Blofeld's gifts to the Piz Gloria girls; in reality they are transmitting devices which would enable the spread of his biological weapon.|
|Voice algorithm recorder (Diamonds Are Forever) - Used primarily by Blofeld to disguise his voice as that of Willard Whyte. Bond later uses a similar device (Courtesy of Q) to fool Blofeld into divulging Willard Whyte's loaction.|
- The James Bond spinoff animated series, James Bond Jr., featured a clone of SPECTRE called "SCUM".
- In the mid 80s, a highly successful James Bond tabletop RPG was released. With the films as inspirations, the stories were adapted for players. Minor changes to plots and villains were made. For example, Kidd & Wint were freelance assassins working for SPECTRE They in fact leased out services to other terrorist organizations and various crime syndicates. The most noted change was SPECTRE. It was later renamed TAROT and the face cards represented various departments. This was due to the copyright issues referenced above. Victory Games (the game's publisher) worked with Eon productions (the film producers) for the rights to Bond, and were told they were not allowed to negotiate with McClory for the rights to SPECTRE, hence the hasty renaming.
- ↑ Thunderball, Ian Fleming, 1961
- ↑ Johnson, Ted (November 15, 2013). MGM, ‘James Bond’ Producer End Decades-Long War Over 007. Variety. Retrieved on November 27, 2013.