- "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), stylised simply as Spectre in its 2015 film reboot, is a fictional global criminal and terrorist organisation featured in the James Bond novels by Ian Fleming and their official and unofficial film adaptations. 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).
When 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. Originally conceived of as a small group of professional criminals in the novels, SPECTRE became a vast international organisation with its own elaborate facilities and operations in the film series.
In Ian Fleming's novels, SPECTRE was primarily a commercial enterprise led by Ernst Stavro 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 (c.1959) Fleming believed that the Cold War might end during the two years it would take to produce a film adaptation, which would leave it looking dated; he, therefore, thought it better to create a politically neutral enemy for Bond.
In the classic James Bond films produced by EON Productions, 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 all novel and film depictions, organizational discipline within SPECTRE was notoriously draconian with the penalty for disobedience or failure being death. With the cinematic Blofeld stating 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). Similarly, in the unofficial 1983 film Never Say Never Again, SPECTRE meets in a secret underground meeting room beneath an unidentified French bank. With their official reintroduction and reimagining in the 2015 film Spectre, the organisation's base of operations were primarily centered around a data-gathering centre in the Saharan desert, with a separate meeting location (presumably intended to be temporary) in Rome, Italy.
Leadership & Hierarchy
- Main article: List of SPECTRE members In most of its iterations,
SPECTRE was founded and 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. Temporarily weakened in the story's aftermath, SPECTRE is said to be active again in the next book, The Spy Who Loved Me, where Bond describes investigating their activities in Toronto before the story begins. In On Her Majesty's Secret Service, the second chapter of what is known as the "Blofeld Trilogy", Blofeld is hired by an unnamed country or party (though the Soviet Union is implied) to ruin British agriculture. 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.
Classic film continuity
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 film series due to a long-standing litigation case starting in 1961 between producer/writer Kevin McClory and Ian Fleming over the film rights to Thunderball and its contents. 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. 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. Consequently, the producers chose to dispose of Blofeld (not identified by name, but bald and accompanied by the character's trademark cat), writing him out of the series during the opening sequence of For Your Eyes Only.
In 1963 the producers of EON Productions, Albert R. Broccoli, and Harry Saltzman had 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 after its release. In autumn 1983, after almost a decade of development and complications, Warner Bros. finally released Kevin McClory's unofficial James Bond film Never Say Never Again. Not considered part of the official Bond series, the film retells the story of Thunderball and reintroduces both SPECTRE and its leader Blofeld (Max Von Sydow).
Modern film continuity
Due to the embargo placed on the series as a result of the copyright dispute, the rebooted 2006 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").
On November 15, 2013, MGM and Danjaq, LLC announced they had acquired all rights and interests of the estate of the late Kevin McClory, who had died in 2006. 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." With the rights to Blofeld and SPECTRE in their possession, EON Productions officially reintroduced the organization into its rebooted film series with the release of Spectre in 2015. Retconning the poorly received Quantum of Solace, the film placed 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.
As with EON's official film series, the 007 video game series was also affected adversely by ongoing litigation prior to 2013. To avoid possible legal action, several video games hinted at SPECTRE without explicitly referencing them or their leader. They are first referenced in GoldenEye: Rogue Agent (2004), where it is implied to be the "powerful criminal organisation" behind many of the game's events. It is depicted as being much more powerful than any preceding iteration, possessing a massive undersea black market known as "The Octopus" (resembling Karl Stromberg's lair from The Spy Who Loved Me), a main base of operations built into an extinct volcano, and also the personal structures of its members Auric Goldfinger and Dr. Julius No.
In 2005, following actor Pierce Brosnan's departure from the role of 007, Electronic Arts released a video-game adaptation of a previous Bond adventure titled From Russia with Love. Given SPECTRE's prominence in the eponymous 1962 film, and the continuing dispute between United Artists/MGM and the now-deceased McClory, the organisation was renamed "Octopus" for the video game and appeared to lack a central leader in the same vein as Blofeld. The game features a recurring symbol which bears a close resemblance to SPECTRE's classic film insignia: a simple octopus outline with semicircular eyes and blade-like tentacles.
With EON's acquisition of the rights to Blofeld and SPECTRE in 2013, a mobile video game titled James Bond: World of Espionage was released to tie in with the 2015 James Bond film Spectre. The game was the first to explicitly refer to the organisation SPECTRE (notably capitalised).
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 location.|
- 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.
- The organization is consisted of almost 52 members and agents.