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Playlist: Listen, my friends! ~ November/ December 2015

November 11, 2015

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In the words of Moby Grape… listen, my friends! Yes, it’s the (hopefully) monthly playlist presented by George’s Journal just for you good people.

There may be one or two classics to be found here dotted in among different tunes you’re unfamiliar with or have never heard before – or, of course, you may’ve heard them all before. All the same, why not sit back, listen away and enjoy…

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CLICK on the song titles to hear them

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Nancy Sinatra ~ The Last Of The Secret Agents? (1966)

Mary Hopkin ~ In My Life (1969)¹

The Small Faces ~ Collibosher (1969)

It’s A Beautiful Day ~ Let A Woman Flow (1970)

Johnny Paycheck ~ (Don’t Take Her) She’s All I Got (1971)

Quincy Jones ~ Theme from The Anderson Tapes (1971)

Shirley Bassey ~ Vivo Di Diamanti (1972)²

Barbra Streisand ~ I Won’t Last A Day Without You (1974)

Sammy Davis, Jr. ~ You Can Count On Me (1976)³

Giorgio Moroder ~ Too Hot To Handle (1977)

Odyssey ~ If You’re Lookin’ For A Way Out (1980)

Men Without Hats ~ Safety Dance (1982)

Ultravox ~ Dancing With Tears In My Eyes (1984)4

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¹ A sublime performance by the über-sweet folky chanteuse of John Lennon’s Beatles classic on US network ABC’s pop showcase The Music Scene (1969-70)

² A rare but, let’s be face it, fookin’ brilliant Italian-language version of La Bassey’s bombastic Bond theme par excellence

³ The incomparable entertainer’s pretty much incomparable lyrical take on the theme from kitsch but cool, classic cop show Hawaii Five-O (1968-80)

4 The hit that re-established Ultravox as a chart-friendly synth pop force (UK #3), its video memorably chose the Cold War-informed narrative of composer and lead vocalist Midge Ure racing home to be with his family before nuclear annihilation, the epilogue of which features would-be poignant home movie footage of Ure and his ‘wife’ in fantastically naff ’80s knitwear. Marvellous.

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Coming s007n… Bond returns: The dead are alive – and kicking? ~ Spectre (2015)/ Review

November 1, 2015

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Directed by: Sam Mendes

Starring: Daniel Craig, Christoph Waltz, Léa Seydoux, Ralph Fiennes, Monica Bellucci, Ben Whishaw, Naomie Harris, Dave Bautista, Andrew Scott, Rory Kinnear, Jesper Christensen, Stephanie Sigman
and Alessandro Cremona

Screenplay by: John Logan, Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and Jez Butterworth

Certificate: 12A; Country: UK/ US; Running time: 148 minutes; Colour

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Note: if you’re yet to see Spectre, this review is a tad spoilery; not too much, but a little…

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There’s a rule of thumb among Bond fans (well, when I say among Bond fans I really mean for this particular Bond fan; not many others tend to share it with me, but hey, their loss and all that), anyway, this ‘rule’ or, if you prefer, ‘law’ could be referred to as the ‘fourth Bond movie mis-step’. The idea goes that for actors who’ve enjoyed successful, long runs as Bond, their fourth adventure tends to be so big and brash that it’s simply overblown, thus a bit of an ill-conceived mis-step. To wit, Connery in 1965’s Thunderball (glamorous but very long with slow underwater bits), Moore in 1979’s Moonraker (aka ‘Carry On Bond In Space’) and Brosnan in 2002’s Die Another Day (Bond vs. Robocop). The question has to be then, does 007 d’aujourd’hui, Daniel Craig, fall into this quattro-Bond-picture trap with Spectre? Is he squids in or is this a tentacle too far? The answer, my friends, is he (along with his collaborators) pulls it off. In fact, you bet his perfectly formed arse he does.

The fundamental reason why Spectre doesn’t just work but heroically succeeds as a Bond film, following in the wake of its most recent predecessor, the extremely well received golden-anniversary-celebrating Skyfall (2012), is because it blends the ambitiously fantastical look, sound and general sensibility of that handful of truly epic Bond efforts from the ’60s and ’70s with the character-focused, pseudo-realistic philosophy of the modern 007 Craig era. It’s big, bold and extravagant and sleek dark, and hard.

And, let’s not be flippant about this, that’s one hell of an achievement. All right, Spectre isn’t perfect (no Bond film so far has been and this one may not be the series’ tippermost, toppermost high), but it scales the heights for sure; so much so, it could almost reach the summit of an exclusive clinic-toting Austrian Alp. Or of a giant skeletal figure to be seen during a bacchanalian Mexican festival. Or of that new, eerily onerous glass tower that’s sprung up out of nowhere on London’s Vauxhall Embankment.

And why has that sinister, shiny glass tower been built right next to the burned-out shell that was once the HQ of the UK’s MI6? The ‘00’-Section (especially its relatively new inner team – returning from Skyfall – Fiennes’ M, Whishaw’s Q, Kinnear’s Tanner and Harris’s now desk-bound Moneypenny) certainly want to know. But they’re left horrified when they learn it’s to be a new home for a combined MI5 and MI6, the Centre for National Security, under the leadership of Scott’s young, cocky new boy Max Denbigh (codenamed ‘C’ – now what could that stand for?).

But what of Bond? He’s got other things on his mind, much to the chagrin of M (whom rebukes him for, pre-titles, going AWOL) and to the consternation of both Q and Moneypenny, whom our man ropes into his clandestine mission. Which has all come about because of a mysterious message he was left just after the events of Skyfall concluded… The basis of Spectre’s plot then is the standard paranoiac stuff of post-millennial espionage fiction (including, of course, the first three Craig Bond movies); where the film significantly departs from its series’ most recent entries, though, is in style and tone.

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There are dinner jackets and there are dinner jackets, this is the latter: a white-tuxedoed Craig and Seydoux appear to approve of Spectre’s rich and glamorous aspirations – and nods to Bond of old

In the style stakes, this is a stonker of a 007 escapade. So colouful and luxuriant is much of the cinematography that the film’s visuality often feels as rich as an entire box of Ferrero Rocher chocolates (DOP Hoyte van Hoytema, you’re definitely spoiling us – Academy take note, if Roger Deakins before him deserved a nom, then Hoytema deserves one too). Austrian Alp vistas fill the screen with pure white or misty, snowy  lakes; Central American carnivals come off so vibrant and brilliant they dance right out of the screen; Rome at night feels like Fellini’s La Dolce Vita (1960) made colour (all burnished browns and slivery silvers); and the Sahara Dessert looks positively paradisical, an oasis of golden sand. Composer Thomas Newman (a Skyfall alumnus) deserves recognition too for delivering a score that, although not as dynamic and distinguished as his last one, contains some excellent cues and rises and soars to meet the visuals’ most epic moments.

And in terms of tone, don’t doubt it (you may have been misled by the trailers here) Spectre is, for the most part, of the entertainment-first school of Bond film; more a Goldfinger (1964) or Thunderball, a You Only Live Twice (1967) or Spy Who Loved Me (1977) – with all of which it shares its epic aspirations – than a Living Daylights (1987) or Casino Royale (2006). It’s grandstand stuff, chock-full of action involving helicopters, aeroplanes, speedboats, trains, brand new Aston Martins and villains’ lairs (yes, you read that right, villains’ lairs!); all fast, frisky, violent and explosive, cemented to that lavish colour palette.

Special mention here must, indeed, go to the pre-title sequence, which although it kicks things off is arguably the flick’s tour de force. It’s truly a visual and sonic feast, set in the midst of Mexico City’s Dia de Muertos (Day of the Dead) celebrations, opening with a breathtakingly long Touch Of Evil (1957)-esque tracking shot and developing into a genuinely edge-of-the-seat action set piece. It’s the series’ best pre-title sequence yet. Honestly.

Also, Spectre is the funniest Bond film we’ve had for some time. Continuing the trend of a return to obvious humour, sprinkled here and there in scenes, started in Skyfall, this time satisfying comic moments come between Bond and his MI6 cohorts, when the gadgets he’s supplied with (yes, gadgets plural) don’t work as well as they might or work just fine and when he’s asserting his 007-ness in the face of hapless jobsworths, outclassed minions and beautiful Bond Girls. Is this old-school cinematic Bond we’re talking then? Oh yes. At times, it might even be Roger Moore-eyebrow-raising-worthy.

Yet, let’s not get too carried away. As I mentioned above, Spectre is still a Daniel Craig Bond film; it’s not all fun and games. There’s a serious, hard-edged, even arty undertow that every and now again, pleasingly, spurts up and out over the proceedings like a stream of cruel and, yes, crude oil. For, that hard-nosed Fleming influence, which has been apparent in all of the blonde Bond’s outings is here too, all right (Christensen’s Mr White makes a plot-driving return; female leads Léa Seydoux and Monica Bellucci are souls as haunted and damaged by ‘liars and killers’ as our hero and the baddies Bond’s up against are as sadistic, violent and as emetically twisted and evil as any he’s recently encountered).

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Vandal in the wind: Bond hunts a punk-inspired, enigmatic evil in the now abandoned former MI6 HQ

Much credit for this fine mix of the light-cum-epic and the much grittier ‘authentic’ must go to director Sam Mendes. Unlike with some of his previous dabbles as a movie director (for me, say, 1999’s American Beauty and maybe even Skyfall at times), it doesn’t feel like we’re signpost-like seguing from one tone to another in Spectre; scenes and sequences feel like they more seamlessly blend or sweep into one another. There’s a maturity, a highly confident feel to everything, which is set from the off with that (previously noted) bravura pre-titles opening.

Plus, fans well versed in Bond lore will recognise more than one or two nods to the cinematic 007 of times past (a villain’s old-fashioned Rolls-Royce? Attractive chattering snowboarding girls in an Alpine cable car? And, of course, our man in a red carnation-topped white tuxedo?). Moreover, continuity heads will likely appreciate the fact this adventure, narratively speaking, definitely makes its business to reference the events and mythos of the other three Craig outings.

Having said that, though, with his predilection for playing with different genres and cinematic tones, Mendes happily throws us a curve-ball in the shape of Spectre’s climax – rather like he did with the Straw Dogs (1971)-like finale to Skyfall. For this Bond movie’s London crescendo is, frankly, un-Bond-movie-like. And, it has to be said, feels pretty out of step with much that precedes it. It’s more reminiscent of one of those noir-ish Scandinavian TV detective dramas. And has something of a punkish, even ‘street’ vibe to it. Is that a bad thing? No, not necessarily. In its way, it could even be said to be sort of an updated Fleming-esque finish to a Bond adventure, thus defiantly in tune with the Craig era sensibility. But so strong and singular is it, it will surely colour people’s feelings towards the film as a whole (not least because it’s the thing’s climax).

Finally, worthy of more than note in this review, is the one constant in a movie that deftly steps in and out of the classic Eon template and the 007 of today; Bond himself, Daniel Craig. For, as did one or two long-running Bonds in their fourth outings before him (Brosnan in Die Another Day certainly; Moore in Moonraker arguably), Craig once and for all absolutely nails his interpretation of Fleming’s hero here. Yes, it is, as ever, very much his usual take on the role (pugnacious and physical, lugubrious and never one to suffer fools), but it’s also more relaxed, wittier and, frankly, cooler than ever before. As the Bond hullaballoo has grown around him (this time a $300m, two-and-half hour opus that premiered to glorious fanfare at London’s Royal Albert Hall), he’s simply grown in the role; so much so that his performance in Spectre almost feels like the culmination of his personal 007 journey.

Moreover, he enjoys sparkling chemistry with his main co-stars (Seydoux’s female lead is the best since Eva Green’s Vesper in Casino Royale – more a Fleming heroine than Bond Girl archetype – and Waltz’s villain, although deprived of screen-time and some oomph compared to Javier Bardem’s excellent Skyfall baddie, is still a highly enjoyable enigmatic, eccentric antagonist, whom also brings to the party, in the shape of Bautista’s man-mountain, the most memorable henchperson since Xenia Onatopp in GoldenEye). If this is to be Craig’s last outing in the tux then, it’s a worthy way to bow out. Undeniably.

And yet, I hear one or two of you clamour to know, what about SPECTRE? How is the classic criminal organisation worked into the whole thing (if it is at all, that is)? And Blofeld; does he appear? And the white cat? Etc. etc. Well, I don’t want to spoil things – too much – with this review, so suffice to say, the whole SPECTRE/ ‘Spectre’ deal is certainly dealt with – and in a way that may surprise some; it’s treated smartly, thoughtfully and intriguingly. All in all then, Spectre is pretty much a triumph of a Bond film. Another excellent entry in the modern 007 repertoire that entirely successfully returns to the series many of its most beloved tenets which some, whom may have felt the whole shebang had veered so far from them in recent years, believed were buried for good. Don’t believe it. Los muertos vivos están. The dead are alive. And kicking.

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Coming s007n: Luciana Paluzzi/ Monica Bellucci: SPECTRE’s greatest

October 26, 2015

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Talent…

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… These are the lovely ladies and gorgeous girls of eras gone by whose beauty, ability, electricity and all-round x-appeal deserve celebration and – ahem – salivation here at George’s Journal

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Are you ready then? Have you been practicing ‘gunbarrels’ in front of the mirror for the past week? Trying to learn that vodka Martini recipe off by heart? And worrying whether you’ll squeeze into that tux again for the premiere (well, we can all dream, can’t we)? Yes, today’s the day, my friends, when Bond returns to the big screen in the shape of Spectre (2015). And, to mark the occasion, the anticipatory mini-season that’s been ‘Coming s007n’ is reaching its near crescendo with this post that, a pictorial tribute to two (ahem) perfectly proportioned Bond Girls hailing from the indubitable Italy, as it is, may threaten to create something of an early climax to the proceedings – as it were. So then, the ’60s sex bomb-and-a-half Luciana Paluzzi and sizzling star of the latest 007 adventure Monica Bellucci, eh? Yes, the’yre the latest double-entry in this blog’s Talent corner and – mamma mia! – you better believe it…

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Profiles

Names: Luciana Paluzzi/ Monica Anna Maria Bellucci

Nationality: Italian

Heights: 5’ 6”/ 5’ 7”

Professions: Actress/ Actress and model

Born: June 10 1937, Rome, Italy/ September 30 1964, Città di Castello, Umbria, Italy

Known for: Luciana – portraying the greatest femme fatale in cinematic Bond history, Fiona Volpe in 1965’s Thunderball. Having appeared in a host of Italian movies (many of them in the giallo genre), her brush with Bond proved something of a gateway to Hollywood with her going on to star in the Bond-inspired spy capers The Venetian Affair (1967), OSS 117-Double Agent (1968) and The Man From U.N.C.L.E. big-screen spin-off To Trap A Spy (1964), as well as the adventures Chuka (1967) and Captain Nemo And The Underwater City (1969), plus the Peter Sellers farce Carlton-Browne Of The F.O. (1959), the teensploitation ‘classic’ Muscle Beach Party (1964) and the racy sex comedy The Sensuous Nurse (L’Infermiera) (1975), in which she co-starred with fellow former Bond Girl Ursula Andress. Married twice and mother to one son, she also appeared opposite David Hedison (known to 007 fans as Felix Leiter in two Bond escapades) in the short-lived NBC spy drama Five Fingers (1959-60).

Monica – revered for the last two decades as the one of the world’s most beautiful women and becoming an idol of European (and at times) US cinema. Beginning a fashion modelling career that she maintains to this day at the tender age of 13, she became hugely sought after in both Milan and New York before taking the leap into film acting, most notably with a minor role in Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992). Since then, she’s mixed up her thesping with a diverse string of roles in the likes of The Apartment (L’Appartement) (1996) – winning her a César Award nom – Malèna (2000), Brotherhood Of The Wolf (Le Pacte des Loups), Irréversible and Asterix & Obelix: Mission Cleopatra (Astérix et Obélix : Mission Cléopâtre) (all 2002), The Matrix Reloaded and Tears Of The Sun (both 2003), The Passion Of The Christ (2004), The Brothers Grimm (2006), Shoot ’Em Up (2007) and The Sorceror’s Apprentice (2010). Perennially touted by 007 fans as potential Bond Girl, last year she was finally cast in the role of Lucia Sciarra in Spectre (2015), affording her the distinction of the oldest actress ever to be cast as a Bond Girl. She was married to French actor Vincent Cassel, with whom she has two children.

Strange but true: Originally intended to be Irish and named Fiona Kelly, Thunderball’s foxy villainess had her nationality switched to Italian and re-named Fiona Volpe when Luicana was cast as the character following her missing out on the movie’s main Bond Girl role (which instead went to Claudine Auger)/ as an international actress, it’s perhaps unsurprising that Monica can speak Italian, French and English, but apparently she can also dabble in a Persian too.

Peak of fitness: Luciana – in Thunderball when she’s caught scrubbing up in the tub by Bond, an encounter she’s actually slyly engineered, and then struggling to persuade him to pass her a towel, which is entirely understandable/ Monica – as a Mediterranean sex symbol who’s been making men throughout the globe hot under the collar for longer than many can remember, she’s never appeared shy when it comes to disrobing in front of a camera – and, frankly, there’s enough photographic evidence out there to prove that rather fabulous fact…   

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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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