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Coming s007n: “I thought I saw the spectre of defeat” ~ James Bond versus SPECTRE

October 25, 2015

The octopus and the pussycat… did not go to sea in a beautiful pea green boat; together
they became (the former as a ring) the emblems of SPECTRE, 007’s enemy on eight occasions

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Oh yes, that’s right. We’re now just one single, solitary day away from the release of the next, the 24th, Bond film. And surely for the vast majority of people out there casually or seriously excited by the prospect of 007’s return to the big screen, there’s one big question on their lips. Not ‘will Daniel Craig do another one?’ or ‘can anyone but Bond pull off wearing a white tux?’ or even ‘why’s Judi Dench not in the trailer?’. No, the primary poser for all and sundry simply has to be… what is SPECTRE? And, come to that, just what is its relevance to James Bond and his world? Now, if you’re one of those out there wondering those very things, then this blog post, my espionage-flick-friendly peeps, is undoubtedly the Bond-themed reading for you.

In short, SPECTRE – or, if you prefer, S.P.E.C.T.R.E – is an acronym, a shortened version of the name  for the global criminal organisation dreamt up by Bond creator Ian Fleming when he got tired of pitting his hero against the Soviets in his novels. The full title for the evil collective then is Special Executive for Counter-Intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge (and) Extortion. And it’s headed up by another (possibly) familiar name, the one, the only Ernst Stavro Blofeld, whose ubiquity in the arguable golden era of Bond movies of the mid- to late ’60s era could be said to make him 007’s arch nemesis.

But, I now hear you clamour to know, which movies did SPECTRE actually appear in? What did it get up to? And why was it so brilliantly despicable that it looks like it’ll be returning in, yes, Spectre (2015)? Well, now we come to the heart of the matter. For in this (apologies, admittedly very long) post, we’ll be looking back on and rating the organisation in each of the movies in which it’s appeared – specifically, for the quality of its operatives, its plan, its threat to the world, its effectiveness, its stylishness, how quotable it is and how much Blofeld’s-cat-action it (evil hairball-like) coughs up. In short, we’ll be considering just how SPECTRE-ly it is in each movie. Which then means we can – megalomaniac masterplan-like – discover just which SPECTRE flick is, yes, the SPECTRE-est of all.

So, without further ado, let’s get down to it as, all trussed up in our white dinner jackets (and sadly not looking anything like as at ease as Bond does when he wears one), we turn our spy binoculars to…

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Dr No (1962)

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Operatives

Dr No, top SPECTRE operative (Joseph Wiseman); Professor Dent, SPECTRE double-agent (Anthony Dawson); Miss Taro, SPECTRE double-agent (Zena Marshall); Sister Rose and Sister Lily, SPECTRE ‘soft’ prison wardens (Michel Mok and Yvonne Shima); the ‘Three Blind Mice’, assassins in Dr No’s employ (Anthony Chinn, Charles Eghill and Henry Lopez); numerous minions populating Dr No’s lair

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Plan

In its first despicable scheme, SPECTRE sets its sights high – bringing down the United States’ Project Mercury space program. Using an atomic-powered radio beam controlled from a base (masquerading as a bauxite mine) on the island of Crab Key off the coast of Jamaica, the organisation’s top twisted freelance genius Dr No aims to radio-jam the latest American rocket launched into space from Florida’s Cape Canaveral. Why? To unsettle the Americans? Make them wonder whether the Soviets have somehow done it? Or the Chinese even? Or someone else? It’s the Cold War, things are balanced on a knife-edge and SPECTRE wants to see if it can start a ripple that pushes a superpower near and maybe off that edge and exploit the results, the naughty, naughty rascals.

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Threat to the world

As suggested above, being this is the early ’60s, we’re in the murkiest depths of the Cold War (Dr No opened in cinemas just a week before the Cuban Missile Crisis, which we now know was an even darker episode than the US Government let on to the public of the time). Therefore, any devious action that might tip the scales in a decisive manner, and the crippling of the US space program of the era definitely falls into that category, would have certainly been dangerous. Could it have led to nuclear annihilation? It maybe wouldn’t have been that many tumbling, terrible steps away from it. Truly.

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Effectiveness

Had the incredibly tenacious 007 not managed to escape from his cell in Dr No’s lair, got through all those surreal torture-like obstacles in those ventilation tunnels, half-inched one of those transparent, perspex radiation suits and hoods and bumped that burly bloke built like a Kiwi rugby forward out of his way so he could flood the reactor in the lair’s control room, the evil megamind’s masterplan would have been realised. Indeed, Bond only managed to topple his opponent’s rocket-topping ambitions mere seconds away from their realisation.

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Evil but cool?

You betcha. Dr No might have the most negative (albeit medical) name possible, but he makes sure that, in the style stakes at least, SPECTRE kicks-off very much in the affirmative. Yes, his HQ is rather a drab, rusty-orange metal monstrosity, but inside it’s supremely sleek, tubular and edgily-angled. Plus, of course, there’s the baddie’s utterly irresistible living quarters, with that magnificent mix of the pre-20th Century and mid-century modern, an aesthete’s paradise, and its owners predilection for beige Nehru jackets and flame-thrower-equipped tanks tarted up to look like fire-breathing dragons to frighten away curious locals and foxy female shell-seekers.

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Oh-so quotable?

“SPECTRE. Special Executive for Counter Intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge, Extortion. The four great cornerstones of power headed by the greatest brains in the world” / “Correction: criminal brains” / “The successful criminal brain is always superior. It has to be” (Dr No and Bond) / “The Americans are fools. I offered my services, they refused. So did the East. Now they can both pay for their mistake”/ “World domination. Same old dream. Our asylums are full of people who think they’re Napoleon. Or God” (Dr No and Bond) / “I was curious to see what kind of man you were. I thought there may be even a place for you with SPECTRE” / “I’m flattered. I’d prefer the Revenge department” (Dr No and Bond) / “One million dollars, Mr Bond. You were wondering how much it cost” (Dr No on his lair) “Tell me, does the toppling of American missiles really compensate for having no hands?” (Bond to Dr No)

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Pussy galore?

Sadly, SPECTRE’s most Machiavellian of animal mascots is completely absent here (basically because the only actual glimpse of the criminal organisation we get is through Dr No himself – no Blofeld, folks). However, there is that dastardly tarantula that crawls about on Bond’s (very hairy) body in the middle of the night. An evil arachnid assassin for hire? You better believe it.

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SPECTRE score

49/ 70 (70%)

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Literary equivalent

Dr No’s source material, the original novel by Ian Fleming published in 1958, isn’t enormously different to the movie. That said, there’s no mention of SPECTRE at all (the villain is entirely independent, but also grotesque, being 6’ 6” tall and with metal pincers for hands). Moreover, he’s killed by falling into a giant pile of guano (bird sh*t) from his mine and Bond has to fight a giant squid at the end. Don’t let anyone convince you the Bond movies are always more fantastic than the novels.

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From Russia With Love (1963)

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Operatives

Rosa Klebb, SPECTRE #3 (Lotte Lenya); Donald ‘Red’ Grant, SPECTRE assassin (Robert Shaw); Kronsteen, SPECTRE tactician (Vladek Sheybal); Morzeny, SPECTRE operative and training-school chief (Walter Gotell); Ernst Stavro Blofeld, SPECTRE #1 (Anthony Dawson/ voice: Eric Pohlmann); several minions at SPECTRE Island’s training school and a pair of helicopter-occupying assassins

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Plan

Having poached sadistic KGB colonel Rosa Klebb, SPECTRE big-wig Ernst Stavro Blofeld puts her in charge of a twisted plan to entrap and do away with 007 himself, in revenge for the latter thwarting Dr No last time out. The brainchild of grand chess master Kronsteen, the scheme will force beauty Tatania Romanova, whom works at the Russian Embassy in Turkish capital Istanbul (thus recruited by Klebb, which makes the former believe she’s working for Mother Russia), to seduce Bond into stealing a Lektor code-breaking machine from the embassy in exchange for enabling her to defect to the West. Little does our man or the delectable Tatiana know, though, SPECTRE will film their amorous rendezvous and, following the murder of the pair aboard the Orient Express (as they make their escape with the Lektor) at the hands of psychotic assassin Red Grant, the film will be leaked to the press, thus discrediting the dead Bond and MI6, while the organisation will pick up the Lektor 007’s handily appropriated ‘for them’.

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Threat to the world

On the surface, embarrassing British espionage and acquiring from the USSR a Lektor (which is a hang-over from WWII spy technology, after all), doesn’t seem very dangerous on a world scale, but then consider the fact that were this scheme to succeed it would mean no more 007. Is that really such a big deal – he may be James Bond, but he isn’t the West’s only secret agent, is he? Actually, though it is. For, following this mission, our cinematic hero (arguably) saved the world at least half a dozen times. Were he rubbed out here in 1963, just who on Earth would pop up to prevent the despicable globally endangering plans of SPECTRE (see below) and other megalomaniacs to come?

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Effectiveness

The trouble with the genius Kronsteen’s scheme is that it all hinges on unhinged killer Red Grant convincing Bond, when they meet aboard the aforementioned train, he’s his MI6 contact who’ll safely get him across a particular border, thus then be able to overpower and kill him. Unfortunately for the bad guys, Grant isn’t up to the task; he proves a physical match for 007, sure (the latter getting the better of him in a fantastically brutal fight via smarts more than anything else), but he’s not a good enough con artist, so the canny Bond’s on his guard from the get-go. Once Grant’s out the picture, the game’s pretty much up for SPECTRE – not least as Klebb’s desperate attempt to rescue things in Venice falls flat when she’s shot dead by the vengeful Romanova. Not such a genius after all, that Kronsteen then.

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Evil but cool?

Is it cool locating the HQ of your global criminal organisation on a yacht in the middle of an unnamed sea, so the meetings you hold with your chief operators are always swaying this way and that, underlining the eerie degeneracy of your villainy? Er, yes, of course it is. Even cooler is it ensuring all your minions are dressed in black and either walk around carrying waist-high machine guns or pilot helicopters to fire on errant UK secret agents getting away with Lektor decoders. And even cooler than that is training your top assassins on a secret island on which they undergo all manner of tests – hand-to-hand combat and firing guns and flame-throwers and lobbing grenades and the such. I mean, come on, there’s a reason why ‘SPECTRE Island’ is wonderfully randomly referenced in Wayne’s World (1992).

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Oh-so quotable?

“Red wine with fish? Well, that should have told me something”/ “You may know the right wines, but you’re the one on your knees. How does it feel, old man?” (Bond and Red Grant) / “It must have been a pretty sick collection of minds to dream up a plan like that” (Bond to Red Grant) / “Tell me, which lunatic asylum did they get you out of?” (Bond to Red Grant) / “The first one won’t kill you; not the second, not even the third… not till you crawl over here and you kiss my foot!” (Red Grant to Bond) / “Training is useful, but there is no substitute for experience” / “I agree: we use live targets as well” (Klebb and Morzeny) / “Siamese fighting fish, fascinating creatures. Brave, but on the whole stupid. Yes, they’re stupid. Except for the occasional one such as we have here, who lets the other two fight. While he waits. Waits until the survivor is so exhausted that he cannot defend himself and then, like SPECTRE, he strikes!” / “I find the parallel… amusing” (Blofeld and Klebb)

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Pussy galore?

The debut of Blofeld’s white Persian pussycat is tip-top, indeed – in the first of its two appearances where it sort of projects its owner’s personality because we never see his face, only his hands, arms and snatches of his torso. The feline’s finest moment comes when it bites into the piranha fish it’s fed by its master. Yes, a cat eating a piranha fish. It’s Blofeld’s cat, though; of course it’s eating a piranha fish.

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SPECTRE score

56/ 70 (80%)

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Literary equivalent

Very much the same but also different on one enormous point – Fleming’s original tale features exactly the same plot, characters and climax, yet there’s no SPECTRE or Blofeld; the plan is all the work of the KGB, for whom Klebb and all the baddies work. Plus, in a closing cliffhanger, Bond may have been poisoned to death (spoiler: he hasn’t; he comes back for seven further novels).

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Thunderball (1965)

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Operatives

Emilio Largo, SPECTRE #2 (Adolfo Celi); Fiona Volpe, SPECTRE assassin (Luciana Paluzzi);
Count Lippe, SPECTRE operative (Guy Doleman); Angelo Palazzi, SPECTRE operative (Paul Stassino); Vargas, Largo’s right-hand man (Philip Locke); Ernst Stavro Blofeld, SPECTRE #1 (Anthony Dawson/ voice: Eric Pohlmann); Jacques Bouvar, SPECTRE #6 (Bob Simmons); other high-ranking SPECTRE operatives (including SPECTREs #7, #9, #10 and #11); Largo’s numerous minions

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Plan

Following the death of one of their most efficient killers Jacques Bouvar (at the hands of Bond, of course), the SPECTRE big boys congregate to hear flamboyant high-flyer Emilio Largo’s fantastical pet project. His scheme will see the hijacking from a NATO base of a British Vulcan bomber (via one of their operatives Angelo Palazzi swapping places with the real pilot, whose work will be overseen by assassin par excellence Fiona Volpe and would-be Brit charmer Count Lippe). The Vulcan will then be crashed into the sea just off the coast of the Bahamas and its cargo – two nuclear warheads – removed and stashed away, enabling SPECTRE to hold the British Government to ransom for £100 million in flawless uncut diamonds or see one of the bombs dropped on a major US or UK city. Eek!

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Threat to the world

Stealing a Royal Air Force bomber and acquiring its nuclear arsenal certainly sounds a seriously impressive criminal coup and strikes at the heart of the proud, punching-above-its-weight UK’s defences, but is it that dangerous a dirty deed on a global scale? Well, given that one of those bombs could be fired at Washington, D. C., New York City or London, leaving the other to be launched at, say, either Moscow or Beijing, then technically we could be talking the kicking-off of WWIII. If, that is, the world’s superpowers aren’t keeping one another in the loop – the West not informing the East of what SPECTRE’s got its mits on – which, as this is the mid-’60s, would be highly likely, let’s be honest.

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Effectiveness

To be fair, once Bond gets a wiggle on, it doesn’t seem to take him very long to locate the downed jet and, rallying with US Marines, find it that tough to get the better of Largo and co. – so much so, the latter’s then forced to revise his masterplan and target the bombs not on London, NYC or D.C. – but the much nearer and pretty inconsequential Miami Beach. Yes, Miami Beach. Moreover, by the end of the movie, 007 himself has eliminated four of SPECTRE’s highest-ranking – and so presumably most important – members, while Palazzi (killed in the cockpit of the submerged jet while posing as its pilot) and Lippe (offed by Fiona) are rubbed out by SPECTRE itself and a cartload of Largo thugs meet their maker, thus frankly, in losing so much twisted talent, the organisation takes a pretty bloody big hit this time out.

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Evil but cool?

Oh, good God, yes. Not only do we get the über-iconic, oh-so-sleekly minimalist, Paris-set room in which all the SPECTRE top brass meet in their leather chairs while Blofeld chooses which of them to fire – or rather electrocute – for greedy double-dealing, we also get Largo’s shark-pool-accessorised Nassau pad Palmyra and his cool-as-hell luxury yacht Disco Volante (which splits in two for fast getaways, the front becoming a speed boat-like hydrofoil). And, just to add into the mix, there’s the unfaltering sartorial style; Largo in his white tuxedos and diving gear and Fiona in her black motorcycle leathers, blue feather boas and, well, nothing-at-all bathwear. Plus, just an extra word on Volpe The Voluptuous – she is, without doubt, the coolest and sexiest henchwoman in all cinema. Yes, all cinema.

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Oh-so quotable?

“But of course, I forgot your ego, Mr Bond. James Bond, the one where he only has to make love to a woman and she starts to hear heavenly choirs singing. She repents, and turns to the side of right and virtue – but not this one!” (Fiona) / “You wish to put the evil eye on me, eh? We have a way to deal with that where I come from!” (Largo) / “This for heat, these for cold; applied scientifically and slowly” (Largo – on using a cigarette and ice cubes for torture) / “I thought I saw the *spectre* of defeat” [Ouch!] (Bond)

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Pussy galore?

Technically, all the perilous pussy’s appearances are cameos, but this one certainly is – just one scene and only a handful of close-ups as its owner ‘owns’ his SPECTRE meeting-room tête-à-tête.

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SPECTRE score

50/ 70 (71%)

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Literary equivalent

Extremely similar, actually – the Thunderball novel effectively started life as a screen treatment for a Bond film that never got made, a little before Eon Productions got hold of the literary 007 rights. It’s notable there’s no Volpe in Fleming’s version, mind you. Chalk one up for Eon then; most definitely.

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You Only Live Twice (1967)

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Operatives

Ernst Stavro Blofeld, SPECTRE #1 (Donald Pleasance); Mr Osato, SPECTRE #5 (Teru Shimada);
Helga Brandt, SPECTRE #11 (Karin Dor); Hans, Blofeld’s bodyguard (Ronald Rich);
hundreds of minions and a squadron of black-clad ace helicopter pilots

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Plan

“This is the big one, 007, thats why I’m out here myself”, declares M, Bond’s chief, when he briefs him off the coast of Japan about US and Soviet space rockets disappearing after being launched into orbit. The big one? He’s not wrong. It’s SPECTRE stealing the rockets, of course (via an elongated one of their own, whose nose opens up like a mouth and swallows them whole – no, really) because it wants to provoke the two super powers, whom blame each other, into nuclear war, thereby obliterating them off the face of the planet while an unnamed third power (heavily hinted to be China) takes over. And presumably SPECTRE makes a huge profit for its troubles and probably receives special treatment too. All this, and the plan’s properly masterminded and overseen by le grand fromage himself, Uncle Ernst.

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Threat to the world

Well, given it would see not just Washington, D. C. and Moscow, but gawd knows what else go up in smoke as the Cold War turns white hot, I think we can safely assume that for billions around the globe this plan’s success would have irrevocably changed the world as they knew it. Absolutely for the worse.

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Effectiveness

Five seconds. Just five seconds it was that Blofeld and co. were away from seeing this one successfully through to fruitition. That’s right, were it not for Bond and his cohorts (a crack band of Japanese SIS ninjas) besting all those SPECTRE baddies and getting five seconds late to the big red button that blew up the big bad rocket before it swallowed up the decisive final US rocket, we’d all be speaking Mandarin or Cantonese now. And Blofeld would be World President. Or something.

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Evil but cool?

Not only do we discover that Blofeld is bald, has a scar down his left cheek and so looks and sounds damned eerie (villainously cool), he also dresses in beige Nehru jackets (bloody cool); he also bases his operations in sizzlingly stylish ’60s Japan and so is aided by South East Asian allies and Japanese minions (freakin’ cool) and – and – this time he locates his cavernous but state-of-the-art HQ inside a hollowed-out volcano on a near impossible-to-find fishing island (blinkin’ off-the-chart cool).

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Oh-so quotable?

“Allow me to introduce myself, I am Ernst Stavro Blofeld”/
“As you can see, I am about to inaugurate a little war”/ “This organisation does not tolerate failure”/
“This is the price of failure, Mr Bond”/ “Kill Bond – now!” (all Blofeld)

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Pussy galore?

All present and correct. Plus, the kitty even tries to escape its owner’s clutches at one point as Blofeld’s lair comes under attack during the climax. The pussy that turned? Who knows…

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SPECTRE score

63/ 70 (90%)

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Literary equivalent

Very different. Blofeld’s set himself up in Japan and so Bond goes there too and trains as a ninja, but that’s where the similarities end. There’s no global threat or space stuff at all – instead, the master baddie’s enticing a worryingly high number of Japanese suicidees to a ‘garden of death’ in the grounds of a medieval castle he’s appropriated. It’s a far better read than it sounds. Trust me.

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On Her Majesty’s Secret Service

(1969)

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Operatives

Ernst Stavro Blofeld, SPECTRE #1 (Telly Savalas); Irma Bunt, Blofeld’s henchwoman (Ilse Steppat);
Grunther, Piz Gloria security chief (Yuri Borienko); the ‘Angels of Death’ (Angela Scoular, Catherine Schell, Joanna Lumley, Julie Ege, Jenny Hanley, Anouska Hempel, Mona Chong, Sylvana Henriques, Dani Sheridan, Ingrit Black, Helena Ronee and Zara); several goons in orange winter togs

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Plan

Secreting himself away in snowy Switzerland, SPECTRE head-honcho Blofeld is masquerading as the Comte de Bleauchamp (a noble title he’s hoping to prove is his) and running a clinic atop an Alp that’s supposedly conducting allergy research. It’s a cover, of course, as it’s really a science lab where the baldy baddie has created the ultimate weapon in bacteriological warfare – ‘Virus Omega’, which is capable of making any living organism infertile (plant, animal or human). Thus, having hypnotised allergy-afflicted patients who’ve visited the clinic (all of whom appear to be fashionable, attractive women – hey, this is a Bond film), Blofeld resolves to have them spread the virus once they’ve left, by tapping back into their hypnotic states via one-way radios hidden as make-up compacts. However, the dastardly one doesn’t actually want to destroy all food-supplying plants and livestock, instead he wants to hold the world to ransom for a pardon on all past crimes and, yes, recognition of his sought-after aristocratic title.

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Threat to the world

Let’s be honest, Blofeld’s plan is seriously silly but, when you stop to think, its success also seems eerily possible. In which case, were the world not to agree to his demands or our man 007’s interference not succeed, then the threat to the global food supply could be truly devastating. The poorest parts of the globe would suffer first, of course, but soon the way of life in the overly food-rich West would be seriously threatened too. Potentially, old Blowers could literally starve the Earth to death. And, lest we forget, ‘Virus Omega’ is also supposed to be capable of making humankind infertile – if he so desired, what would genuinely stop him from going all Children Of Men (2006) on us all?

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Effectiveness

This time, the flaw in Blofeld’s scandalous scheme is where it’s located. For while all those girls are spread about the globe ready to spread the beastly virus via their perfume canisters, they have to be ordered to do so and that requires Blofeld to be sitting in his recording studio-like nook in his HQ with all its bulky ’60s tape technology to make hypnotic contact with his lovely unwitting accomplices. And, owing to the fact this HQ is located on top of an Alp (which Bond’s alreadily handily escaped from), it proves relatively easy to re-find, reach with helicopters, storm with a hired band of heavies – courtesy of the crime lord who’s 007’s soon-to-be father-in-law – and blow to kingdom come. Had evil old Ernst hidden inside another volcano, under the sea or even, say, in outer space, his ever resourceful foe may have found this a far harder case to crack. Especially as it comes right on Christmas.

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Evil but cool?

Can you get much cooler than Piz Gloria? Not really. It possesses a big dining room with a breathtaking panoramic view (the ‘Alpine Room’) and glorious guest rooms, all of which are beautifully fitted out in pine-dominated mid-century modern design, then offers a down-inside-the-Alp laboratory area with busy charlies in white coats, bubbling test tubes and rocky walls. Plus, it’s got a cable car room with big, onerous wheels and gears in which to incarcerate pesky spies posing as kilt-wearing heraldry experts. Owing to its awesomeness, Piz Gloria isn’t just this movie’s primary location (it’s actually a real-world ski resort restaurant), but Blofeld’s only base of operations. But who needs anything more? You might say, like the villain’s plan and ambition this time out, it’s small but perfectly formed.

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Oh-so quotable?

“Merry Christmas, 007” / “I’m Sir Hillary Bray” / “No, no, no, Mr. Bond. Respectable baronets from the College of Heralds do not seduce female patients in clinics” (Blofeld and Bond) / “It takes more than a few props to turn 007 into a herald” / “It’ll take more than cutting off your earlobes, Blofeld, to turn you into a count” (Blofeld and Bond) / “No one is coming to your rescue, Mr. Bond. In a few short hours, the United Nations will receive my yuletide greetings – 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 Bond) / “Now, now, now, now, Mr Bond, you must learn to be absolutely calm before we can accept you back into polite society” (Blofeld to Bond as the latter’s subdued by guards) / “A grave deep enough, I think, to prevent even 007 from walking” (Blofeld) / “Amnesty. A full pardon for all past crimes. Official recognition of his title when he retires into private life as Count de Bleuchamp. He seems to set great store by that. A very curious thing, snobbery” (M on Blofeld’s demands)

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Pussy galore?

The hirsute’s one’s only appearance comes when Blowers’, er, on the blower and, owing to the fact Bond’s just escaped the Alpine compound, is dumped from his lap as the latter rushes off to pursue 007, which draws an understandable screech from our feline; what callous behaviour towards such an otherwise spoilt cat (remember that tasty piranha he was fed in Russia?)! Moreover, unlike its master, the snowy moggy doesn’t get to do any skiing, which is just unfair – for everyone concerned, surely.

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SPECTRE score

54/ 70 (77%)

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Literary equivalent

Blofeld’s role, his plan, its execution and failure are all very similar. However, Bond’s doomed bride Tracy (whom, in both the book and film, he marries before she’s offed by Blofeld and Bunt) doesn’t feature in any of the Swiss-set stuff, so isn’t captured by the villain for the novel’s climax, as she is in the flick.

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Diamonds Are Forever (1971)

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Operatives

Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Charles Gray); Mr Wint and Mr Kidd, freelance assassins (Bruce Glover and Putter Smith); Bambi and Thumper, penthouse guards (Donna Garrett and Trina Parks); Albert R. ‘Bert’ Saxby, Blofeld’s right-hand man (Bruce Cabot); Professor Dr. Metz, WW Techtronics scientist (Joseph Furst); Morton Slumber, diamond smuggler and funeral director (David Bauer); Shady Tree, diamond smuggler and comedian (Leonard Barr); Peter Franks, diamond smuggler (Joe Robinson); Klaus Hergesheimer, WW Techtronics physicist in ‘G Section’ (Ed Bishop); goons in orange-and-navy jumpsuits

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Plan

Having had extensive plastic surgery (or, at least, presumably so, as he looks – and actually sounds – very different to how he did in the last two movies), Blofeld is creating ‘clones’ of himself by also giving willing (?) volunteers plastic surgery make-overs. However, when Bond catches up with him (presumably, again, in revenge for the murder of his wife last time out) he seems to kill him and all that’s put to an end. Only it’s not. 007’s on the case when somebody appears to be stockpiling diamonds smuggled out of South Africa and so he enters the ‘pipeline’, taking him to Las Vegas where he discovers – quelle surprise – its bad old Blowers calling the shots again, now pretending to be the Howard Hawks-like tycoon recluse Willard Whyte, hanging out with another doppelgänger in Whyte’s penthouse at the top of the latter’s casino-cum-hotel (‘The Whyte House’) and using his space technology company (WW Techtronics) to manufacture and launch into orbit a diamond-using, light refraction-driven laser satellite capable of blowing up nuclear weapons. Thus, he plans to hold an international auction for nuclear supremacy – or, if the world no longer takes him seriously, blow up Washington, D.C.

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Threat to the world

Although this is a satirically wry, even fairly flippant, Blofeld and there’s no mention of SPECTRE at all, causing one to assume that by this time it’s collapsed (although it’s not clear it actually existed in OHMSS either), the über villian’s ultimate scheme is as dangerous as ever. Indeed, in order to demonstrate the capability of his space laser, he has nuclear missiles around the world destroyed where they stand – rather than just threatening to do it like he may have done in the past. Plus, in planning to sell the planet’s entire nuclear arsenal to the highest bidder (setting himself up as the seller because he could destroy them at the drop of a hat), whom could ultimately scoop them up? Its the early ’70s, warring nations without such weaponry surely wouldn’t have minded acquiring it (say, Isarel and Egypt ot India and Pakistan) and had they then used them, just what chain-reaction could have been the result?

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Effectiveness

Granted, Blofeld does make some nuclear missiles go pop, but that’s how close his batty plan gets to terrible success. Indeed, unlike on the last three occasions when 007 went up against SPECTRE and/ or his ferocious foe and required the aid of a band of allies (US marines in Thunderball, ninjas in Twice and a rival crime syndicate in Majesty’s), this time he does it all on his tod. And, although while he holds Willard Whyte hostage, Blofeld does manage to infiltrate every nook and cranny of the former’s diverse empire to fund and build his scheme, when it comes to the crunch, all Bond has to do is use his enemy’s escape submarine as a battering ram to destroy the operations room on his oil rig HQ, and that’s that. Furthermore, his only ally on the rig, bad-girl-turned-good Tiffany Case, is useless – she falls off it trying to fire a machine gun.

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Evil but cool?

It’s 1971 and the movie’s main locale is Las Vegas, hence sleazy Americana abounds. Moreover, as mentioned, Blofeld’s organisation is playing piggyback on that of a casino-owning, flashy and gaudy space programme-overseeing tycoon from the Deep South – aesthetically pleasing villainy that oozes sleek ’60s style then, this is not. Having said that, the interior decor of Blofeld’s ‘borrowed’ apartment on the top floor of ‘The Whyte House’ is rather lovely with its silver tubular- and roundelled-design and its mid-century modern touches dotted here and there, but the good marks he accrues here are well and truly lost when escapes from the former to his rig by walking out the casino at the bottom of the building in disguise, looking exactly like Dame Edna Everage. I kid you not.

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Oh-so quotable?

“Good evening, Mr Bond” / “Blofeld?” / “Good evening, 007” / “Double jeopardy, Mr Bond” (Blofeld, Bond and Blofeld’s double) / “Right idea, Mr Bond” / “But wrong pussy” (Blofeld and Bond when the latter shoots dead the wrong ‘Blofeld’ based on which of them the white cat turns to) / “If at first you don’t succeed, Mr Kidd…” / “Try, try again, Mr Wint” (Mr Wint and Mr Kidd) / “Good morning, gentlemen – ACME pollution inspection. We’re cleaning up the world; we thought this was a suitable starting point” (Bond, on arrival at Blofeld’s oil rig base) / “The satellite is at present over… Kansas. Well, if we destroy Kansas the world may not hear about it for years. Perhaps New York, with all that smut and traffic? Might give them a chance for a fresh start. Washington, D. C. Perfect. Since we have not heard from them, they will hear from us” (Blofeld)

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Pussy galore?

Of all the SPECTRE escapades there’s been, Diamonds gives us the best appearance – and performance – from the fiendish feline, bar none. From that jump-cut to the irate white furball – wearing its diamond-stud collar, as it does throughout the flick – at the the end of the pre-titles sequence as it forebodingly caterwauls (is its master really dead?) to that brilliant bit when Bond mistakenly kills a Blofeld ‘clone’ instead of the real thing because he mistakes a regular moggy for the – again, diamond stud-collared – genuine article (which then scares away the impostor), our cruel kitty’s as much a right-hand, er, cat as it is a crimelord’s quadruped mascot in this movie. Well played, Blofeld’s cat; well played.

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SPECTRE score

47/ 70 (67%)

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Literary equivalent

Fleming’s novel shares the diamond smuggling part of the plot – sort of – Las Vegas as a location and some of the characters, or at least their names (Tiffany Case, Wint and Kidd and Shady Tree), but little else is the same. There’s no Blofeld at all; instead Bond’s up against a pair of old fashioned gangster bros, the Spangs. Although, the climax does occur in a Western ghost town called… Spectreville.

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For Your Eyes Only (1981)

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Operatives

‘Ernst Stavro Blofeld’ (John Hoills/ voice: Robert Rietti);
‘Universal Exports’ helicopter pilot (George Sweeney)

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Plan

Quite simply, to kill Bond. To be fair, who the chap is who’s behind this assassination attempt is never explicitly made clear to the audience – we assume he’s Blofeld back for revenge after many years and movies away (he’s bald, looks old, is in a remote-controlled wheelchair and has the white cat in attendance, but it’s never actually spelt out; that’s actually because Bond filmmakers Eon Productions could no longer actually use the ‘Blofeld’ name, but that’s another story). Anyway, for the sake of totality let’s assume this is the same man whom in happier times led SPECTRE to glorious defeat after glorious defeat against 007 and, this time, he picks up our man in a helicopter, which has emblazoned on its side the legend ‘Universal Exports’ (the name of MI6’s cover organisation), from a graveyard where Bond’s been visiting the grave of his wife killed by Blowers back in OHMSS. From here, he takes 007 on a joy-ride, electrocuting the hapless pilot and controlling the chopper via a joystick on his wheelchair, ultimately with the intention of doing away with supreme secret agent once and for all.

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Threat to the world

Using the logic employed for this section when considering From Russia With Love above, then the potential success of a scheme whose sole aim is to kill James Bond surely would have dire consequences for the world – for whom else has saved it with such consistency? Having said that, though, with the Bond flicks – from pretty much this point on – adopting a general more down-to-Earth attitude, 007 tended to do less world-saving than in the past. Since and including Eyes Only, the biggest institutions our hero has saved from destruction have been Silicon Valley (in 1985’s A View To A Kill and the UK in 1995’s GoldenEye, as well as preventing a nuclear bomb exploding in West Germany in 1983’s Octopussy, the UK and China going to war in 1997’s Tomorrow Never Dies and the peace between North and South Korea being shattered in 2002’s Die Another Day). These are major rescue missions that Bond’s pulled off, for sure, but had he not been around and nobody else doing the business in his stead, would it have automatically resulted in WWIII? In the worst case scenario, the nefarious scheme in Octopussy may have; the others, not so much.

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Effectiveness

No question, old Blofeld has a good deal of fun taking Bond for a rather scary ride over the London skyline, but by the time 007’s managed to manoeuvre his way into the helicopter pilot’s seat and pulled out the cables ‘connecting’ the baddie’s joystick to the chopper’s controls, Blowers’ time is up – maybe literally. Because it now takes Bond mere seconds to espy his nemesis on a rooftop, giving him the chance to scoop him up with one of the copter’s skids and dump him down a factory chimney. And, indeed, this appears – in the ‘official’ Bond series  – to have been Blofeld’s final demise. So far…

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Evil but cool?

Well, the ultimate Bondian outlaw does possess rather natty wheels, you know, for a geriatric – his remote-controlled wheelchair furnished with the capability to pilot a real helicopter’s a bit special – but, aside from the now obligatory beigey-grey Nehru jacket and the furry sidekick in his lap, that’s about. You can’t exactly say hiding out around early ’80s abandoned warehouses is very stylish. After all, this is the big-screen Bond, not The Sweeney (1975-79) or The Professionals (1977-83).

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Oh-so quotable?

“Goodbye, Mr Bond, I trust you had a pleasant fright” (Blofeld) / “Really, Mr Bond, have you no respect for the dead?” (after Bond necessarily tosses the dead pilot out the helicopter) / “All right, keep you hair on” (Bond, teasing Blofeld, as he taps his bald bonce) / “Mr Bond… Mr Bond… we can do a deal – I’ll buy you a delicatessen in stainless steal” [say what?] (Blofeld, pleading for his life)

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Pussy galore?

You can’t have Blofeld without the equally evil feline, can you? Equally evil? Oh yes. As soon as it sees the helicopter and realises Bond now holds all the aces, it knows the game’s up and its owner’s toast, so it screeches and runs off, leaving Old Baldie to face his end alone. Face it, that white Persian you picked up from the cat shelter back in summer ’81 could have quite the checkered past.

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SPECTRE score 

23/ 70 (33%)

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Literary equivalent

There isn’t one, of course. In fact, not only does the original For Your Eyes Only short story offer no Blofeld-toting prologue, it also features little of what follows in the movie with which it shares a name – save a crossbow-armed lovely out to avenge the death of her parents at the hands of a Cuban hitman.

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Never Say Never Again (1983)

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Operatives

Maximillian Largo, SPECTRE operative (Klaus Maria Brandauer); Fatima Blush, SPECTRE assassin (Barbara Carrera); Ernst Stavro Blofeld, SPECTRE chief (Max von Sydow); Jack Petachi, SPECTRE double agent (Gavan O’Herlihy); Lippe, SPECTRE heavy (Pat Roach); several goons employed by Largo

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Plan

Under the leadership of Blofeld, SPECTRE attempts to steal two nuclear warheads from an American military base in the UK via a US Air Force pilot they’ve turned, whom manages to get access to the bombs via an iris recognition device that, thanks to an eye operation he’s had done, believes he has the same iris as the American President. Er, right. Once theyve got their mits on the warheads, SPECTRE entrust their safe keeping to millionaire playboy Maximillian Largo, while their flashily saucy assassin Fatima Blush rubs out all potential threats. Largo hides the hardware beneath a desert oasis off the Ethiopian coast, while his boss contacts the nations of NATO, asking for billions and billions in extortion. Now, many among you may be asking the question, haven’t we heard this before? Er, yes, because it’s exactly the same plan as SPECTRE implemented in Thunderball. Why? It’s a long story – read it here (clue: Never Say Never Again is basically an ‘unofficial’ remake of the former movie).

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Threat to the world

So, given this is the same diabolical scam that SPECTRE enacted 18 years before (although, admittedly, that was in ‘another Bond universe’ – probably), the global danger it poses’ll be just as great, right? Hold your horses. This 1983 not 1965 and the relationship between the world’s two superpowers isn’t the same as it was back then; the Cold War’s moved on. Or, actually, has it? For as soon as good old Ronnie Reagan got into the White House with all his neo-con advisers a bit over two years before, the US attitude to the USSR got decidedly frostier than it had been for much of the ’70s (remember Reagan’s proposed Star Wars space satellite defence system?) and we were still two years away from the emergence of Mikhail Gorbechev in the Kremlin and the real kicking-in of glastnost and perestroika. Hence, were SPECTRE to detonate one of their bombs on a choice target (Washington, D.C. or Moscow), who’s to say whether the balloon wouldn’t have properly gone up?

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Effectiveness

As in Thunderball (unsurprisingly, as this film pretty much shares that one’s whole plot) SPECTRE’s entirely successful at stealing and hiding away the two nuclear warheads, for which it certainly deserves brownie points here – if that’s really an appropriate reward for stealing nuclear warheads, that is. Where it’s less successful – again – is extorting dosh from the powers from which it’s nicked them or, should it not receive the oodles of cash, setting them off, causing mayhem. Indeed, just like in Thunderball – er, again – Largo, Blofeld and co. seem in no great hurry to get their plan over and done with, which allows Bond (again, as in… yes, you’ve guessed it) to swan about, shag some women and eventually get serious about finding the missing missiles and doing away with the baddies (Blofeld aside, whom remains his traditional shadows), which he doesn’t really break much of a sweat doing.

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Evil but cool?

It’s the early to mid-’80s, so cool means wearing dubiously patterned dark brown suede jackets (Largo) and dressing like Grace Jones on acid (Fatima Blush). It also means having a girlfriend (Largo), whom when she performs aerobics in the dance-room on your yacht with her teacher – an extra from Fame (1980)? – she has to wear a white-near-see-through leotard. And it also means that if you like mental puzzles and torture devices (Largo), you combine the two into an joystick-controlled arcade game-thingee that gives losers hugely powerful electric shocks. Plus, of course, you fill a casino you frequent with fruit machines and call your beautiful yacht, er, The Flying Saucer (Largo, again). Is all this stylish? Sure. If you also think big, ostentatious, red BMWs, sunglasses with lenses the size of cereal bowls and Olivia Newton-John’s Physical (1981) are, I suppose.

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Oh-so quotable?

“Oh, how reckless of me – I made you all wet” / “Yes, but my martini’s still dry” (Fatima and Bond) / “You know that making love to Fatima was the greatest pleasure of your life” / “Well, to be perfectly honest, there was this girl in Philadelphia…” (Fatima and Bond) /  “Now write this: ‘The greatest rapture of my life was afforded me on a boat in Nassau by Fatima Blush’. And sign it: ‘James Bond, 007’” / “I just remembered. It’s against Service policy to give endorsements” / “Write!” (Fatima and Bond, while she points a gun at him) / “Do you lose as gracefully as you win?” / “I don’t know. I’ve never lost” (Largo and Bond) / “Your weapons of deterrence did not deter us from our objective! A terrible catastrophe now confronts you. However, it can be avoided by paying a tribute to our organisation, amounting to 25 percent of your respective countries’ annual oil purchases. We have accomplished two of the functions that the name SPECTRE embodies: terror and extortion. If our demands are not met within seven days, we shall ruthlessly apply the third: revenge!” (Blofeld)

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Pussy galore?

And so, the menace to moggy society returns for its – so far – last movie. However, so identifiable to cinema audiences in suggesting Blofeld is it (along with his disembodied voice, hands and arms) that – in something of a meta-mistake (?) – it features heavily in the video that’s sent to and played in NATO HQ containing SPECTRE’s demands. And they seem to be in no doubt its presence suggests Blofeld’s – even though they’ve presumably never seen a Bond film (because, like, they’re in one). Spooky-dooky.

blofeld's_catblofeld's_catblofeld's_catblofeld's_catblofeld's_catblofelds_cat_xblofelds_cat_xblofelds_cat_x blofelds_cat_xblofelds_cat_x

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SPECTRE score 

39/ 70 (56%)

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Literary equivalent

If you’re counting the original Thunderball novel as NSNA’s literary equivalent then see above for its details, otherwise don’t worry about a Never Say Never Again novel, because there never was one. Although, it would have been kinda funny if they’d commissioned a novelisation, wouldn’t it?

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Spectre (2015)

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