(Ernst Stavro Blofeld)
President of the United States)
Based on the
CRITICS SPEAK OUT
Saltzman and Albert R. Broccoli
Big James Bond production
with first look at arch-nemesis Blofeld (Pleasence), Japanese
locales, but plot (SPECTRE out to cause major powers to declare
war on each other) and lack of convincing, clever crisis situations
are liabilities film can't shake off.
---LEONARD MALTIN'S MOVIE
& VIDEO GUIDE
Great location photography;
theme sung by Nancy Sinatra. Implausible plot, however, is a
handicap, even though this is Bond.
---VIDEO HOUND'S GOLDEN MOVIE
online seller offers the video in NTSC format. A DVD is also
offered in Region 1 format.
BEST VIDEO: Rental
service allows US customers to rent the NTSC video by mail.
BLACKSTAR UK: UK
based seller offers the video in PAL format. A DVD is also offered
in Region 2 format.
Dante's fan site devoted
to actor Sean Connery, the original James Bond, with a filmography,
photos, and more.
THE INTERNET MOVIE DATABASE: Cast
and crew information is available at this popular film database.
JAMES BOND, AGENT 007 OHMSS: Kimberly
Last's web site is arguably the most comprehensive James Bond
resource online: updated news, articles, links, and more.
MR. KISS KISS BANG BANG: Organized
by the Ian Fleming Foundation, this self-described "Premier
James Bond web site" is an excellent stop for the latest
THE OFFICIAL JAMES BOND WEBSITE: The
"official" web site for the James Bond film series
- sponsored by MGM/UA.
THE OFFICIAL ROALD DAHL WEB SITE: Fantasy
author Roald Dahl's "official" web site - sponsored
and maintained by the Roald Dahl Foundation.
ROALD DAHL FANS.COM: Kristine
Howard's excellent fan resource for Dahl with information galore.
SALUTE TO JAMES
Steven Birnbaum's shrine
to Sean Connery's rendition of 007 with photos of the actor,
his leading ladies, and his adversaries.
YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE
BOND & BLOFELD
An article by
In 1997, the hit movie Austin
Powers: International Man Of Mystery re-invented the famous silver screen
image of the bald villain plotting diabolical schemes all the
while calmly stroking his cat. In the creation of his 1960s retro
spy spoof, Mike Myers chose Donald Pleasence's rendition of the
James Bond series arch-nemesis Ernst Stavro Blofeld from You
Only Live Twice for the basis of his own twisted version
of the character, Dr. Evil.
Despite the enduring image he brought to the screen, Donald Pleasence
was not originally cast for the part of Ernst Stavro Blofeld
in You Only Live Twice, the first installment of
the series where the super villain's face would been seen by
the viewer. That distinction goes to co-producer Harry Saltzman's
own choice for the part, a Czech actor / playwright / Dadaist
/ comedian / artiste by the name of Jan Werich.
The usual 'official version' of events regarding Werich's brief
involvement with You Only Live Twice is that he
fell ill after less than two weeks of work on November 11, 1967
(Werich did later suffer from laryngeal cancer) and had to retire
from the production after filming a few scenes and posing for
some promotional stills.
An intriguing twist on the story though has now seen the light
given the recent DVD release of You Only Live Twice.
In the documentary featurette Inside You Only Live Twice,
the film's director Lewis Gilbert tells a different version of
the story, saying that Pleasence was brought
into the production as a sudden replacement when it soon became
clear that Werich did not fit the part.
According to Gilbert, he and producer Broccoli did not actually
see Werich until the day they began filming on October 31, 1966.
They soon realized that Werich looked too benign for the part
and was severely miscast, looking more like Santa Claus rather
than the evil mastermind bent on creating a new world order.
Gilbert's story does sound intriguing but his memory must be
hazy as to the exact events, considering there are publicity
photographs shot in late October 1966 with the entire cast and
crew (Gilbert, Broccoli and Werich included) inside Ken Adams'
colossal volcano set.
Donald Pleasence was then brought in on very short notice as
a replacement. Who actually
suggested Pleasence for the role is unknown (also unknown is
if Pleasence was their first choice or not), but Gilbert does
say that he felt that Pleasence always had a sinister quality
about his roles.
Pleasence himself said later: "They had already started
work on the film, and the Blofeld character was still open. They
said they wanted me to read the script and create a character
totally different to anything that had been done before, and
I think we achieved that." He experimented for about a week
at Pinewood Studios with humps, lame hands, and a beard - not
all at once, mind you - before it was decided the now-distinctive
scar would best convey the character's almost Himmler-esque quality
of villainy and thus born was one of the screen's most memorable
As Pleasence claimed during filming: "I finally took the
old French matron's advice to the young girl before she goes
on a date: look in the mirror and take something off."
Gilbert recalled that Pleasence was a very professional actor
for being so willing to put up with the discomforting facial
make-up. Another discomfort that Pleasence put up with while
on the set came in the form of his white Persian cat 'prop,'
which did not take too well to all the explosions on the set
and would relieve itself on Pleasence - resulting in the crew
allowing the actor to get cleaned up and into a clean change
Burt Kwouk (SPECTRE No.3) recalls in Inside You Only Live
Twice that one day they were filming with Werich in the
control booth, and then the next day he turns around and there's
a different actor sitting in Blofeld's chair.
Pleasence's own memories of You Only Live Twice
are relatively brief. Due to his last minute recasting in the
part and the hurried filming of his sequences, once his scenes
were completed and promotional stills were shot, he took leave
of the production. Pleasence was fully aware of Sean Connery's
decision to leave the Bond series, but he never brought up the
issue with Connery. Pleasence said "I did not discuss it
with him at the time but I could tell it was a delicate issue.
So I did my three weeks of intensive work, and took the money
and ran, as it were."
Pleasence's restrained, monotone delivery and the character's
calmness while under pressure harked many fans and critics back
to the Bond series' first villain, Dr. No. Writers and movie
critics, however, seem divided about Pleasence's portrayal of
Ernst Stavro Blofeld. Granted, Pleasence certainly does not resemble
any of the Blofeld characters as described in Ian Fleming's books
- but then again, in the books, Blofeld never had the cat either.
Some critics disliked his portrayal, denouncing him for either
being too wimpy or over-the-top - while others (some with hindsight)
felt his restrained performance was the best of any actor to
have played the part:
"Wimpy, shaky, personification of the slick, and devious
"Donald Pleasence's Blofeld has a memorably creepy softness,
but that's about it."
"Donald Pleasence is grandly grotesque as the evil genius
who would rule the world."
"Bond finally meets Blofeld and - with his staccato snarl
of 'Goodbye, Mister Bond!' - he doesn't disappoint."
"Blofeld is played with eerie, low-keyed menace by the
distinguished British character actor Donald Pleasence... Both
Telly Savalas and Charles Gray would portray Blofeld in the next
two Bond films, but Pleasence remains the most memorable of the
Pleasence was not brought back
as Blofeld for the following film, On Her Majesty's Secret
Service (1969). Apart from the re-occurring MI-6 staff,
the Bond series have rarely seen the same
supporting actors return to reprise roles. But there were other
reasons as well. Harry Saltzman's producing partner Albert Broccoli
suggested Telly Savalas to director Peter Hunt for the Blofeld
role in On Her Majesty's Secret Service. Hunt personally
did not care much for how Pleasence slithered about in You
Only Live Twice.
Also, in fairness, the Blofeld role had evolved into a more physical
part in On Her Majesty's Secret Service. It is
difficult to imagine Pleasence being a real physical threat to
Bond, which was definitely required for the new movie. As The
Essential Bond states, "Donald Pleasence had presented
a far more menacing and intriguing Blofeld in the preceding film,
but the thought of him battling with Bond in hand-to-hand combat
would have been ludicrous." Also, "...it would be difficult
to imagine Pleasence's Blofeld swooning like a love struck schoolboy
as Tracy waxes lyrical with lines like 'Thy dawn, O Master of
the world, they dawn...'"
Despite his brief association with the Bond series, Pleasence's
enduring legacy as the Blofeld character among Bond fans
still remains strong. In most Bond memorabilia, it is the Pleasence
rendition of character most often shown as Blofeld. And, when
Corgi Toys recently produced its line of collectible die-cast
Bond figurines, it was clearly evident they used Pleasence's
likeness as their model.
Article © 2001 David
Stewart-Candy. All Rights Reserved.
The following actors
have also portrayed Blofeld
in the James Bond film series.
Left to right:
Telly Savalas (ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE - 1969)
Charles Gray (DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER - 1971)
Max von Sydow (NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN - 1983)
Click on the photos
for more information on each actor!
Note: NEVER SAY
NEVER AGAIN is not considered an "official" Bond film,
because it was not produced by EON Productions.
of Tim Murphy, John Ellis, and Tom Ericksen
Photos © 1967 EON
PRODUCTIONS / UNITED
ARTISTS. All Rights Reserved.
DVD artwork is the property of MGM/UA HOME VIDEO. All Rights Reserved.