The actor who played Blofeld in OHMSS would have been 86 today.
Archive for Blofeld
The Film Experience has an interview up with Max von Sydow, who is promoting his new movie, The Diving Bell and Butterfly. Starring as von Sydow’s son in Diving Bell is Mathieu Amalric, who has been strongly rumored, lately, to be the villain for Bond 22. I’ll let von Sydow tell the rest (emphasis added):
N: Were you familiar with Mathieu Amalric before making the movie?
MVS: I didn’t know him. I met him for the first time in front of the camera …which happens all the time. Unfortunately.
N: Then you really have to find that familial connection quickly.
MVS: This can be very absurd. I don’t like this situation. I’d rather be at least a little bit acquainted with actors I work with. He’s a very good actor. He has directed also. He’s done a lot of good work.
MVS: He’s directed films also. He’s going to be Blofeld in the next James Bond.
N: Oh! [editors note: Max von Sydow also played Blofeld in the 1983 James Bond film one-off Never Say Never Again with Sean Connery]
What? Blofeld? What?
In comments, Zippertuck asks:
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.
Great question. I’m going to deal with CR and chronology in a future post. For now, let’s talk about Blofeld.
In order to understand what happened to Blofeld in the films, you need a little bit of familiarity with the lawsuit over Thunderball. The short version is that Kevin McClory, Jack Whittingham, and Ian Fleming collaborated on a television screenplay, but it never went anywhere. Sometime later, Fleming used the abandoned screenplay as the basis for the novel Thunderball. McClory and Whittingham sued. As a result, McClory established ownership of the right to make movies out of Thunderball (which he exercised when he made Never Say Never Again; a remake of TB). (Whittingham signed over his rights to McClory.)
The settlement also gave McClory the rights to unique elements of the novel, including the character of Blofeld. When McClory couldn’t finance filming TB on his own, he made a deal with Eon to co-produce TB, and that deal prevented him from remaking the movie for twelve years. During those twelve years, Eon continued to use Blofeld and SPECTRE. Blofeld was slated to be the villain for TSWLM, which fell outside those years, and that was changed to Stromberg for legal reasons. That was the end of Blofeld in the Bond films.
When John Glenn directed his first Bond film, FYEO, he wanted to resolve the issue of Bond’s revenge upon Blofeld. Thus, the “Man in Wheelchair” character was introduced into the teaser, allowing Bond to kill an unnamed enemy clearly designed to be Blofeld. (Glenn’s memoir, For My Eyes Only, explains that Blofeld was in a wheelchair because he had been injured in OHMSS. I guess he forgot that Blofeld walked just fine in DAF. Maybe he doesn’t see the ones he doesn’t work on.)
Kevin McClory died last year. It is unclear where the rights now reside, but it seems unlikely that SPECTRE or Blofeld will ever return.
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.