Sunday, 7 July 2013

Savalas as Blofeld

Eon Productions had a long build up to their reveal of Fleming's Blofeld, introducing him in, From Russia with Love but keeping his features off screen. The incessant attention to his cat and his plummy voice the only clues to the character of this genius of evil, until he was finally revealed in, You Only Live Twice. The actor chosen for this denouement was Donald Pleasence, who was brought in as a replacement,  when the actor who originally portrayed Blofeld in the earlier films was judged to lack the menace to portray the character in full. Pleasence did a passable job as Blofeld, preserving the impassive menace of his earlier incarnation. Indeed that portrayal a passed into cinematic iconography but the Blofeld that really resonates with me is the one portrayed by Telly Savalas.

Telly Savalas was a rather under exploited character actor who's probably best known for the 70's TV series Kojak, which was waning from its height of popularity when I first sneaked out of school early to catch the early evening double bill. Unfortunately this didn't stop the cat calls of, "Who loves ya baby?" on almost every screen entrance. Thankfully a selective memory filters these trivial details from my recollection of the experience, aided no doubt by the numerous occasions I've re-watched OHMSS. Savalas's Blofeld is rather different from that which preceeded it, Savalas is urbane, occasionally sardonic with a hint of the effete about him as he indulges in curious affectations, such as the manner he holds his cigarettes. I'm reminded of Gorshin's Riddler to some extent, as Savalas's Blofeld displays obvious satisfaction, if not glee, as he torments Bond with the revelation of his dastardly doings. Savalas's Blofeld is no clown though, Blofeld's amusement is a dark and chilling indication of his callousness and brutal conviction, as casually he jokes about the murder of Bond's colleague.

In this scene, George Lazenby doesn't come off too well against Savalas, it's probably his weakest in the film even though it's a key scene. You'll notice that when Savalas is framed the camera is angled up, a cinematic device to infer menace or potency, while it's either level or angled down when Lazenby is the focus of the scene. Lazenby's Bond seems vulnerable and impontent, which is a reasonable way to portray the scene and relfects Connery in Dr. No but Lazenby lacks Connery's veiled agression, his demeanour of a cornered animal looking for an opportunity to strike out.

It's interesting to note that OHMSS was the story that Fleming wrote for Connery but when it came to film it, he'd left the franchise, albeit temporarily. Fleming even filled in some of Bond's biography to reflect Connery, who's portrayal of Bond he admired. Anyway, here's the, let me tell you all about my plan to conquer the world scene from OHMSS and see what you think.


  1. It's interesting that, having met each other in the previous movie, neither one seems to recognise the other in this one.

    1. M mentions Blofeld's plastic surgery but I can't see how that makes him 10" taller. It's pretty close to the novel but it precedes You Only Live Twice instead of following it, In fact they take the revenge bit from ...Twice and put at the beginning of ...Service. Calling it a prequel doesn't work either because during Bond's scene at Whitehall he's musing on past adventures, I'm pretty sure including those in ...Twice. Best forget continuity in this one, I think.