The Unseen Blofeld

A correspondent asks the following:

I am just curious if you know why Eon didn’t simply show Anthony Dawson in the Bond films where Blofeld appears and dub his voice again by Eric Pohlmann for the sake of continuity and consistency. After all, they have often used actors seen as other characters in different roles, like Charles Gray.

In the earliest films, Eon did care about consistency. We see this in FRWL, the second Bond film; Kronsteen references Dr. No by name. In Goldfinger, the third film, there is a reference to the gadget-briefcase from the previous film. However, Goldfinger is also the first departure from continuity; the replacement of Jack Lord as Felix Leiter. Lord wanted too much money, and Eon discovered that a replacement actor did no harm. So blame Jack Lord for the rotating hat of actors like Charles Gray.

Back to Blofeld. From the beginning, Broccoli & Saltzman had a vision of a continuing series with a continuing nemesis for Bond. SPECTRE is introduced late in the books—in Thunderball, the eighth of Fleming’s twelve novels. In the novels, Blofeld then returns for OHMSS and YOLT. But Eon wanted a thread of consistency, an overarching menace, and Blofeld fit the bill perfectly.

But menace can’t be introduced all at once, or it’s not menacing. Jacques Tourneur understood this in 1942, when he filmed Cat People without ever showing the titular monster. Now, I don’t have my reference materials in front of me, but I believe that it was Terence Young who put a cat in Blofeld’s lap, but it was the producers who decided that Blofeld’s face would not be seen. Undoubtedly, these film professionals were very familiar with a classic like Cat People, and understood that a tease is as important in creating fear as it is in creating arousal. To this day, many fans are disappointed by Donald Pleasance’s appearance in YOLT, and wished that Eon had sustained the mystery. However, by 1967, there was a huge fan outcry for Blofeld’s face to be revealed: Which is proof that the shadows had worked their magic.

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15 Responses to “The Unseen Blofeld”

  1. Zippertuck Says:

    Would have been nice if EON could have waited to show Blofeld’s face until OHMSS instead of YOLT. That would have made Telly Savalas’s excellent portrayl of Blofeld so much more exciting and believable. By DAF the character of Blofeld is simply a cartoon.

  2. Deborah Lipp Says:

    I absolutely despise Savalas’s performance. I know mine is a minority view, but to me, Blofeld is elegant, and Savalas is a gangster.

  3. Donald Pleasance’s appearance in YOLT was hardly elegant either. How did the books portray Blofeld?

  4. I thought Savalas was terrible also. Actually, Gray should have been Blofeld from the start. He fits Fleming’s description in the novel OHMSS.

  5. Deborah Lipp Says:

    Well, Blofeld had extensive plastic surgery in the books, so that his appearance was different in Thunderball and OHMSS. In Thunderball…

    [his]physical appearance is extraordinary..a quality of relaxation, of inner certainty, and…[he] exude[s] a powerful animal magnetism.

    Blofeld’s own eyes were deep black pools surrounded—totally surrounded, as Mussolini’s were—by very clear whites. The doll-like effect of this unusual symmetry was enhanced by long silken black eyelashes that should have belonged to a woman. The gaze of these soft doll’s eyes was totally relaxed and rarely held any expression stronger than a mild curiousity…

    The skin beneath the eyes…was unpouched…large, white, bland face under the square, wiry black crew-cut. The jawline, going to the appropriate middle-aged fat of authority, showed decision and independence. Only the mouth, under a heavy, squat nose, marred what might have been the face of a philosopher or a scientist. Proud and thin, like a badly healed wound, the compressed, dark lips, capable only of false, ugly smiles, suggested …cruelty…[N]othing about Blofeld was small.

    Blofeld’s body weighed about twenty stone. It had once been all muscle…but in the past ten years it had softened and he had a vast belly that he concealed behind roomy trousers and well-cut double-breasted suits…Blofeld’s hands and feet were long and pointed.

    In OHMSS, he has lost a great deal of weight, his nose is hawklike, and of course he has no ear lobes.

  6. Yes you are right, he did have plastic surgery. I don’t remember Blofeld ever being bald, though, like they portray him in YOLT and OHMSS. If I am not mistaken he also has hair in OHMSS.

  7. Deborah Lipp Says:

    Yes he does.

  8. So then who is your favorite Blofeld?

  9. Deborah Lipp Says:

    Max von Sydow. I’m so sorry he was in such a bad movie, but NSNA’s true strength is its cast.

  10. Okay I am getting a bit off topic, and maybe making myself seem a bit ignorant, but where do we stand in the cronological order of James Bond at the moment in relation to the films? I am a bit confused as to exactly when CR takes place and wondering, even though he was shoved down a smokestack in FYEO, if Blofeld could ever return for an more appropriate death? Never ever liked how Bond never truly got to avenge the death of his wife in true Bondian fashion as happened in the novel YOLT. Also, how does EON deal with the fact Bond has been around for nearly fifty years in film, but never ages?

  11. Deborah Lipp Says:

    Another one that deserves a whole post, Zippertuck. I’m going to start writing it now!

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  13. I hated casino Royal it left-out Q and Moneypenny )and if you don’t like those YOU ARE NOT A BOND FAN!!!). All the gagets and moneypenny’s little crush seperates the from outher spy movies. Also there was no JAMES BOND THEME that is the icieing on the cake that is what makes a Bond film a Bond film. It was also boring who wants to watch a poker mach for an HOUR. It had some action but not enough. Here is what makes a great bond film BOND THEME, GAGETS, Q, MONEPENNY, HIS, ATITUDE, HIS LOOK, ALMOST IMPOSSIBLE STUNTS, O AND DID A SAY THE JAMES BOND THEME. O and by the way the screewsd the crap out of the story line. Bond 22 better be better

  14. Deborah Lipp Says:

    Well, James Bond, you are entitled to your opinion, but most Bond fans loved CR. You are wrong to say that if you don’t love this or that, “you are not a Bond fan.” Bond fans have diverse opinions, and while we may disagree with one another, we should always respect one another’s sincere love of 007.

    Finally, you are wrong that CR lacked the Bond theme. It was played at the very end.

  15. Man where did James Bond come from?!? A little touchy if you ask me. Has he obviously never seen Dr. No? No Q in that. Obviously James Bond has never read his namesake’s books. Compared to him I loved CR.

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