Ernst Stavro Blofeld

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Ernst Stavro Blofeld
Character from the James Bond series
Blofeldpleasance67.jpg
Ernst Stavro Blofeld, as portrayed by Donald Pleasence in You Only Live Twice (1967).
Affiliation SPECTRE (Self-employed)
Portrayed by Anthony Dawson (uncredited)
Eric Pohlmann (voice, uncredited)
Donald Pleasence
Telly Savalas
Charles Gray
John Hollis (uncredited)
Robert Rietty (voice, uncredited)
Max von Sydow
Role Villain

Ernst Stavro Blofeld is a fictional character and a supervillain from the James Bond series of novels and films, who was created by Ian Fleming. An evil genius with aspirations of world domination, he is the archenemy of the British Secret Service agent James Bond. Blofeld is head of the global criminal organisation SPECTRE and is commonly referred to as Number 1, an official numerical position given to members of SPECTRE. The character was originally written by Fleming as a physically massive man, standing around 6 foot 3 and weighing 21.6 stone (about 300 pounds), and very powerfully built.

Blofeld appears or is heard in three novels: Thunderball, On Her Majesty's Secret Service, and You Only Live Twice; and six James Bond films from Eon Productions: From Russia with Love (1963), Thunderball (1965), You Only Live Twice (1967), On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969), Diamonds Are Forever (1971) and For Your Eyes Only (1981) (the pre-title sequence of which marks his final appearance and apparent death). He also appears in Never Say Never Again, the 1983 remake of Thunderball.

He was played on screen by Donald Pleasence, Telly Savalas, Charles Gray and Max von Sydow, among others. It was initially a convention of the films not to show Blofeld's face, only a closeup of him stroking his white blue-eyed Turkish Angora.

Many of Blofeld's characteristics have become clichés of supervillains in popular fiction, representing the stock character of the evil genius. In many versions, even the stroking of his white cat has been retained as a parodic allusion to Blofeld's character, as seen in the Austin Powers film series with the character of Dr. Evil and his cat Mr. Bigglesworth.

Character[edit]

Ian Fleming includes information about Blofeld's background in his novel Thunderball, though none of his past is ever revealed in the Bond films. According to the novel, Blofeld was born on 28 May 1908 (which is also Fleming's birthday) in the city of Gdingen, then part of Imperial Germany (now part of Poland and known under the name Gdynia); his father was Polish and his mother was Greek, hence the well-known Greek name Stavro. After World War I, Blofeld became a Polish national. As a young man, Blofeld was well-versed in the social science disciplines, but also in the natural science and technology disciplines. He first graduated from the University of Warsaw with a degree in Political History and Economics, and then from the Warsaw University of Technology with a degree in Engineering and "Radionics". He was then hired by the Polish Ministry of Posts and Telegraphs and appointed in a sensitive communication position, which he used for buying and selling stocks at the Warsaw Stock Exchange.[1]

Correctly foreseeing the coming of World War II, Blofeld made copies of top-secret wires and sold them for cash to Nazi Germany. Before the German invasion of Poland in 1939, he destroyed all records of his existence then moved first to Sweden, then to Turkey, where he worked for Turkish Radio and began to set up his own private intelligence organisation. During the war, he sold information to both sides. After the defeat of Erwin Rommel, he decided to back the Allied war effort, and was awarded numerous medals by the Allied powers after the war's end. Blofeld then temporarily moved to South America before founding SPECTRE.

In the John Gardner novel For Special Services, Blofeld is depicted as having had a daughter, Nena, with a French mistress.

It is commonly believed that the name Blofeld was inspired by the English cricket commentator Henry Blofeld's father, with whom Fleming went to school.[2] Henry Blofeld himself, offered on the BBC Radio 4 series Just a Minute that "Ian took my father's name as the name of the baddie."[3]

In novels[edit]

Blofeld makes three appearances in Ian Fleming's novels. He first appears in a minor role as the leader of SPECTRE in the 1961 novel Thunderball. The plot that he formulates is carried out by his second-in-command Emilio Largo. Blofeld is described physically as a massive man, weighing roughly 20 stone (280 lb; 130 kg), has black crew-cut hair, black eyes (similar to those of Benito Mussolini), heavy eyelashes, a thin mouth and long pointed hands and feet. He has violet-scented breath from chewing flavoured cachous (breath mints). A meticulous planner of formidable intellect, he seems to be without conscience but not necessarily insane, and is motivated solely by financial gain. Blofeld's lifestyle is described in one chapter in Thunderball: "For the rest, he didn't smoke or drink and he had never been known to sleep with a member of either sex. He didn't even eat very much."

Blofeld is absent from the next book, The Spy Who Loved Me, though its events take place while Bond is battling SPECTRE in North America. In On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1963) Bond learns that Blofeld has radically altered his appearance—he is now tall and thin; has reduced his weight to 12 stone (170 lb; 76 kg); sports long silver hair, a syphilitic infection on his nose and no earlobes; he wears dark green tinted contact lenses to hide his distinctive eyes. Perhaps less calculating than previously, he is notably saddled with the exploitable weakness of snobbery about his assumed nobility, indicating that he is losing his sanity. He is hiding in Switzerland in the guise of the Comte Balthazar de Bleuville and Bond defeats his vindictive plans to destroy Britain's agricultural economy. In the final sequence of the novel, Blofeld gets revenge by murdering Bond's new wife, Tracy.

In You Only Live Twice, published in 1964, Blofeld returns and is found by Bond to be in hiding in Japan under the alias Dr. Guntram Shatterhand. He has once again changed his appearance: He has put on some muscle, and has a gold-capped tooth, a fully healed nose, and a drooping grey mustache. Bond describes Blofeld on their confrontation as being "a big man, perhaps six foot three (190 cm), and powerfully built". It is indicated that Blofeld has by now become a madman, as he all but admits himself when Bond levels the accusation. Bond strangles him to death at the end of the novel. In both On Her Majesty's Secret Service and You Only Live Twice, Blofeld is aided in his schemes by Irma Bunt, who is clearly his lover in the latter and posing as Shatterhand's wife. Bond incapacitates her in their Japanese castle base before it blows up, killing Bunt. The final mention of Blofeld is in the beginning of the next book, The Man with the Golden Gun, published in 1965.

In films[edit]

Eon films[edit]

Blofeld in (clockwise from upper-left) You Only Live Twice (Donald Pleasence), On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (Telly Savalas), Never Say Never Again (Max Von Sydow), and Diamonds are Forever (Charles Gray).

In the film series Blofeld first appears in From Russia with Love, then in Thunderball. In these first two appearances, his face is not seen and only his lower body is visible as he strokes his trademark white cat.

Czech actor Jan Werich was originally cast by producer Harry Saltzman to play Blofeld in You Only Live Twice. Upon arriving at the Pinewood set, both producer Albert R. Broccoli and director Lewis Gilbert felt that he was a bad choice, resembling a "poor, benevolent Santa Claus". Nonetheless, in an attempt to make the casting work, Gilbert continued filming. After five days, both Gilbert and Broccoli determined that Werich was not menacing enough, and recast Donald Pleasence in the role – the official excuse being that Werich was ill.[4] Donald Pleasence appeared to use a Hungarian accent to portray Blofeld.

In the third, fourth, and fifth appearances – You Only Live Twice, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and Diamonds are Forever – he is the primary antagonist, meeting Bond face-to-face. During the opening sequence of Diamonds Are Forever, he reveals to Bond that some of his men have undergone plastic surgery to become decoy duplicates of him.

In the film version of On Her Majesty's Secret Service, he is not the actual killer of Tracy Bond. He drives the car from which Irma Bunt (Ilse Steppat) fires the fatal shots at Tracy, minutes after she marries Bond.

In the sixth and final appearance – in the pre-credit sequence of For Your Eyes Only – he is an anonymous, bald villain trying to kill Bond once again. Blofeld remains unnamed and unlisted in this film’s end credits. The only clues to his identity are the trademark white cat,[5] similar clothes to his previous onscreen appearances, the dialogue indicating that he and Bond have met before, and the fact that the scene begins with Bond paying his respects to Tracy, often considered by the producers as a means of providing an "immediate continuity link" in the event of a new actor taking the part of Bond (although this was Roger Moore's fifth appearance as Bond).[6] The anonymity of the villain was due to the legal dispute between Kevin McClory and Eon Productions over the Thunderball copyrights.[citation needed]

Blofeld’s appearance and personality change according to the personifying actor:

He has a full head of black hair in From Russia With Love and Thunderball; a facial dueling scar in You Only Live Twice; no scar or earlobes in On Her Majesty's Secret Service; and silver-grey hair in Diamonds Are Forever. This metamorphosing matches Fleming’s literary portrayal of a master criminal who will go to great lengths to preserve his anonymity, including the use of radical plastic surgery. He often wears a jacket without lapels, based loosely either on the Nehru jacket or on the Mao suit, a feature which is used in spoofs like the Austin Powers series, though in his early two appearances on film he wore a black business suit.

On 15 November 2013, MGM and the McClory estate had formally settled the issue with Danjaq, LLC and MGM acquiring the full copyright rights to the characters and concepts of Blofeld and SPECTRE.[7] What the film studio intends to do with Bond's most noted recurring enemy in the James Bond media franchise is unannounced for now.

Never Say Never Again[edit]

Blofeld's last onscreen appearance was outside the Eon Productions series, in Never Say Never Again, the 1983 remake of Thunderball. Here, Blofeld is tall, thin, and bearded, with a European accent more in keeping with the character as presented in From Russia With Love and Thunderball.

Table of film appearances[edit]

Year Film series Actor and notes Status
1963 From Russia with Love Anthony Dawson, person, Eric Pohlmann, voice; both uncredited as only hands and back of head are seen; the end credits list a question mark instead of an actor’s name. Active/Indirect involvement in the field.
1965 Thunderball Anthony Dawson, person, Eric Pohlmann, voice (though other sources mistakenly claim that it is Joseph Wiseman[8]); both uncredited as only hands and white hair are shown; end credits do not list Blofeld. Active/Indirect involvement in the field.
1967 You Only Live Twice Donald Pleasence; initially unseen as previously, before a dramatic revelation. Injured in the hand; Escaped.
1969 On Her Majesty’s Secret Service Telly Savalas; appears with earlobes removed to back up claim to a noble title. Neck broken; Escaped; Was driver in the drive-by murder of Teresa Bond.
1971 Diamonds Are Forever Charles Gray; appears also as doubles, all created via plastic surgery. He attempts to escape in his mini-sub, but Bond gains control of it and crashes it into the Control Room.
1981 For Your Eyes Only John Hollis, person, Robert Rietty, voice;[9] Blofeld’s face is not seen close-up. Dropped into tall chimney stack from a helicopter and dies in the fall.
1983 Never Say Never Again (non-Eon) Max von Sydow Active/Indirect involvement in the field

Video games[edit]

Blofeld appears in the 2004 video game GoldenEye: Rogue Agent, this time with the likeness of Donald Pleasence, voiced by Gideon Emery.

Blofeld is a playable multiplayer character in the 2010 video game GoldenEye 007 for the Wii, with the likeness of Charles Gray.

Blofeld is one of the main characters in the 2012 video game 007 Legends, featured in the mission based on On Her Majesty's Secret Service, in which the character was an amalgamation of the three actors appeared in the official film series. Throughout the game, he is voiced by Glenn Wrage.

Cultural impact[edit]

  • The antagonist in the 1980 Bollywood film Shaan played by Kulbhushan Kharbanda was inspired by Blofeld's character.
  • Pleasence's incarnation as Blofeld in You Only Live Twice served as inspiration for Dr. Evil, the chief villain of the Austin Powers films, portrayed by Mike Myers, complete with facial scar, grey collarless suit and (later hairless) cat.
  • One of the earliest parodies of Blofeld was in Monty Python's Flying Circus, where the "Secret Service Dentists" sketch featured a Blofeld-like villain character stroking a white rabbit instead of a cat.
  • The Inspector Gadget cartoon series features a character named Doctor Claw, who was a parody of Blofeld, including signature shots of just the chair, and arms, similar to shots of Blofeld. Like Blofeld, who was head of SPECTRE, Claw was the head of a large criminal organisation, called MAD and had a cat ("Mad-Cat").
  • The Disney villain Monsieur D'Arque's first appearance is similar to Blofeld having shots of the chair and arms
  • In the TimeSplitters: Future Perfect and TimeSplitters 2 computer games, the character of Khallos is based on Blofeld. Khallos in Future Perfect also appears with a robotic white pet cat named Strudel.
  • In the Bruce Lee movie Enter the Dragon, villain Mr. Han (Kien Shih) cradles a white Persian cat while showing Roper (John Saxon) around his museum of weaponry. The film has been referred to as "a low-rent James Bond thriller",[10] a "remake of Doctor No" with elements of Fu Manchu.[11]
  • In the Danger Mouse cartoon series, the main antagonist, Baron Greenback, is also based on Blofeld. In his scenes, he appears stroking a white-haired caterpillar instead of a white angora cat.
  • Writer/animator Bruce Timm has cited Blofeld as an influence on the way Lex Luthor was portrayed in Superman: The Animated Series and Justice League: "In my mind, I always saw Luthor as being like Telly Savalas in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, one of my favourite James Bond movies, where he, in essence, portrayed Blofeld as a cultured thug. He was basically like this bruiser who wanted to be taken seriously and wanted to be treated like a baron and I thought that was like a good way to treat Luthor."
  • On an episode of the improvisational comedy show Whose Line Is It Anyway? performer Wayne Brady was made to perform a song entitled "Blofeld On My Mind" in the style of Broadway belter Ethel Merman. Brady, apparently slightly confused, sang a verse that went: "Well, I'm just chillin'/Blofeld, I'm assumin' he's a villain."
  • The video game Evil Genius allows the player to control a villain who is in command of a SPECTRE-like organisation. One of the player's choices of villain, Maximilian, is shorter but otherwise identical in appearance to Blofeld as he appeared in You Only Live Twice.

See also[edit]

External Links[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ The Bond Film Informant: Ernst Stavro Blofeld
  2. ^ Desert Island Discs, 30 November 2003
  3. ^ http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b038xmf6/Just_a_Minute_Series_67_Episode_3/ Just a Minute - Series 67, Episode 3. First broadcast on BBC Radio 4, 26 Aug 2013
  4. ^ Production Staff (2000). Inside You Only Live Twice: An Original Documentary (Television). MGM Home Entertainment Inc. 
  5. ^ MovieDeaths.com: Ernst Stavro Blofeld
  6. ^ The Bond Files by Andy Lane and Paul Simpson, published by Virgin in 1999
  7. ^ Vejvoda, Jim. "MGM, Danjaq Settle James Bond Rights Dispute With McClory Estate". IGN. Retrieved 16 November 2013. 
  8. ^ Andy Lane and Paul Simpson. The Bond Files. 
  9. ^ Cork & Stutz 2007, p. 40.
  10. ^ Pallot, James; The editors of CineBooks (1995). The Fourth Virgin Film Guide. Virgin Books. 
  11. ^ Hong Kong Action Cinema by Bey Logan, published by Titan Books, 1995

Bibliography[edit]