Ernst Stavro Blofeld

All great heroes require an arch enemy - Sherlock Holmes has Moriarty, Batman faces the Joker and Bart Simpson frequently comes up against Sideshow Bob. Meanwhile, Bond has one Ernst Stavro Blofeld, the founder of SPECTRE.

Blofeld in the novels
Ernst Stavro Blofeld first appears in Ian Fleming's ninth novel, "Thunderball", as the mastermind behind the Special Executive for Counterintelligence Revenge and Extortion, or SPECTRE. Blofeld was born in Gdynia, Poland, to a Polish father and a Greek mother on 28 May 1908 (this was also Fleming's birthdate). He studied economics and political history at the University of Warsaw and then engineering and radionics at the Warsaw Technical Institute. At the age of 22 he started work in an administrative post at the Ministry of Posts and Telegraphs. Here he gained access to many secret communications, especially with Poland on the verge of war. This lead to his first scheme, selling this information to overseas secret services. He soon moved to Sweden, and when it became clear which side was going to win the War he started selling his information to the Allies. He finished the War wealthy and with decorations from the British, Americans and French. He then slipped away to South America, where he started to formulate the plans for SPECTRE - "a private enterprise for private profit".

It is interesting that although Blofeld is popularly characterised as being bald and frequently petting a white Persian cat, these were both inventions of the movies. In "Thunderball" he is described as a large man with a black crewcut and a cruel face. There is also no indication of a feline obsession.

Bond and Blofeld do not actually meet during "Thunderball" (in fact he only appears in two chapters); however the authorities are aware of his existance and the next book, "The Spy Who Loved Me", is set during Bond's hunt for him. The two men finally meet in "On Her Majesty's Secret Service". Blofeld has changed his appearance slightly - he has lost weight and has long white hair. Blofeld then returns in "You Only Live Twice", in which he is killed by Bond.

Blofeld in the movies
Blofeld's movie debut comes very early in the film series, even before the dramatisation of the so-called "Blofeld trilogy". This comes in From Russia With Love, where a change in emphasis from the novel meant that SPECTRE were now the villains (the organisation had previously been mentioned in Dr No). Blofeld is presented to the viewer as a shadowy figure, guiding events from his luxury yacht moored near Venice. His face is not shown - just his hands (provided by Dr No's Anthony Dawson), seen petting the white cat. Blofeld also wears a ring, depicting a white octopus. Blofeld's voice was provided by Eric Pohlmann, who made the character softly spoken and sinister. The character's name is not given in the film itself (he is referred to simply as "Number One"), but it is stated in the credits (although just as Ernst Blofeld). The actors playing him are obscured by a question mark, emphasising the mystery behind the character.

The shadowy Blofeld returned two films later in Thunderball, controlling SPECTRE from its headquarters in Paris. The character was excluded completely from the credits this time around. He is again only referred to as Number One.

The audience did not have much longer to wait for their first proper look at Blofeld, since it came in the next movie, You Only Live Twice. However, the early SPECTRE scenes cleverly followed the previous films by refusing to show Blofeld's face. It is only when Bond finally meets him that the audience finally finds out what the head of SPECTRE looks like. However, Blofeld ended up looking very different to how he was originally envisaged. Czechoslovakian actor Jan Werich was cast in the part and had actually filmed a number of scenes before illness forced him to retire from the production. Donald Pleasence was cast as a replacement, establishing the now popular image of Blofeld as a small bald man, parodied in films such as Austin Powers. Blofeld is revealed as having a deep scar over his right eye. This make-up was added to Pleasence in an attempt to make the character more memorable; rejected alternatives included giving him a hump, a limp or a lame hand.

His physical appearance aside, Pleasence's Blofeld is not exactly consistent with the character featured previously. The softly spoken menace of earlier films was replaced by a childish petulance with a Blofeld quick to lose his temper.

Blofeld escapes the destruction of his Japanese base and ultimately of SPECTRE itself at the end of You Only Live Twice. He is clearly a wanted fugitive and Bond spends the next two years looking for him prior to On Her Majesty's Secret Service (a mission called Operation Bedlam). Blofeld is finally located masquerading as a Count in Switzerland while planning his latest extortion plot. Blofeld is now played by Telly Savalas; he is still bald but the scar is absent. The change in his appearance is not remarked upon (but then again, neither is the fact that Bond looks difference). This Blofeld seems tougher than previous versions and joins his troops searching the Alps for Bond - something one can't imagine the Pleasence incarnation doing.

Blofeld's scheme is foiled but he again escapes. This time he wreaks vengeance on Bond by being ultimately responsible for the murder of his new bride (it is Irma Bunt who actually pulls the trigger; Blofeld is driving).

Bond is then somewhat keen to track down Blofeld. When he finally does, at the start of Diamonds Are Forever, he finds yet another version, played by Charles Gray. Blofeld now has hair and sounds English, exhibiting a wry sense of humour. He is even seen disguised as a woman at one point (and this is something which one can't imagine of the Savalas version!). Blofeld's change of appearance is again not mentioned, although he is seen dabbling in plastic surgery, creating disposable doubles in order to foil potential assassins such as Bond. One wonders why this is necessary, given his apparently chameleon-like abilities.

His scheme again foiled, Blofeld attempts to escape in a submersible. However, Bond gains control of the crane which is supposed to be launching it and smashes it around. As such, Blofeld's fate is left ambiguous, presumably to allow the character to return. However, given the fact that this was the last proper appearance of Blofeld this makes for a somewhat disappointing end to Bond's arch enemy, especially given his responsibility for the death of Bond's wife.

However, Blofeld did almost return. Early drafts of The Spy Who Loved Me featured both Blofeld and SPECTRE, with SPECTRE itself being outwitted by another terrorist organisation. However, the consequences of the manner of Blofeld's creation for "Thunderball" came into play. Ten years had elapsed since the film version of SPECTRE's debut novel and Kevin McClory, who had the screen rights to the book, was theoretically free to refilm the story. As such, an injunction was sought against EON for copyright infringement. Rather than face a lengthy legal battle it was decided that SPECTRE and Blofeld should be removed from The Spy Who Loved Me.

But still the Blofeld story does not end. The pre-credits sequence to For Your Eyes Only featured Bond being menaced by a bald-headed cat lover who is after revenge. Early versions of the script referred to it being ten years since his last encounter with Bond (Diamonds Are Forever was 1971; this was now 1981). The character was not named, but it is clear who we are supposed to think it is, and as such perhaps we can consider the true death of Blofeld resulted from him being dropped down a giant chimney stack.

Of course, Kevin McClory did film "Thunderball" as Never Say Never Again. This featured Max Von Sydow as Blofeld, a smart bearded gent. Strangely enough, he retained the character's familiar white cat, despite this being the invention of earlier screen interpretations. McClory is attempting to make another version, and it is likely that this would again feature the head of SPECTRE. We may not have heard the last of Ernst Stavro Blofeld...

those movie Blofelds in full
1.   Anthony Dawson, providing the body of the unseen head of SPECTRE in From Russia With Love and Thunderball.

2.   Eric Pohlmann, voice of original unseen Number 1 in From Russia With Love and Thunderball.

3.   Jan Werich, the Blofeld we never saw in You Only Live Twice.

4.   Donald Pleasence, bald and childish in You Only Live Twice.

5.   Telly Savalas, bald and tough in On Her Majesty's Secret Service.

6.   Charles Gray, the English cross-dresser in Diamonds Are Forever.

7.   John Hollis, the body of the Blofeld-a-like in For Your Eyes Only who wants to buy Bond a stainless steel.

8.   Robert Rietti, who provided the voice of the Blofeld-a-like in For Your Eyes Only.

9.   Max Von Sydow, cool, calm and bearded in Never Say Never Again.

The Bond Film Informant was compiled by Matthew Newton. © Copyright MJ Newton. No part of this site may be reproduced without permission unless otherwise stated.

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