The Special Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion (otherwise known as SPECTRE) was the somewhat hyperbolic name given to an independent terrorist agency. It was founded by Ernst Stavro Blofeld, who remained its leader and guiding light. The organisation troubled Bond both in the books and in the films.

SPECTRE in the novels
Fleming's early novels generally featured villains from the Soviet intelligence agency SMERSH. However, in developing the film treatment for what was eventually "Thunderball", Fleming and his collaborators determined that Russian villains may date the story so they created an independent terrorist agency - SPECTRE. Hence, "Thunderball" features SPECTRE's Plan Omega, involving blackmailing NATO with stolen atomic weapons.

SPECTRE was founded by Blofeld as a "private enterprise for private profit". It is based in at No 136 Boulevard Hoaussman in Paris, behind the cover of an organisation called FIRCO which locates people who served in the French resistance during the War. SPECTRE has been in existence for three years prior to the events of "Thunderball", but it has clearly been discrete since no one in the intelligence communities have heard of it prior to Plan Omega.

The "Special Executive" basically consisted of Blofeld, its Supreme Commander, his deputy, Emilio Largo, and twenty members. As well as two scientists, Kotze and Maslov, this group consisted of cells of three from six national groups. Hence there were three Sicilians from the Mafia, three Frenchmen from the Union Corse (the organisation headed by Draco in "On Her Majesty's Secret Service"), three former members of SMERSH, three surviving members of the Gestapo, three Yugoslavs formerly of Tito's secret police, and three highland Turks. There are then other operatives working for each section.

However, the failure of Plan Omega effectively brought about the end of SPECTRE. Blofeld himself reappeared in "On Her Majesty's Secret Service" and "You Only Live Twice", but here he was operating independently rather than with the organisation as SPECTRE. However, SPECTRE was to play a more important part in the films...

SPECTRE in the movies
When adapating Fleming's novels in the 60s, the producers followed the approach pioneered by "Thunderball" and considered that it would not be appropriate to vilify the Russians as villains. As an alternative they turned to SPECTRE. Hence, Dr No was working for SPECTRE rather than SMERSH in his attempts at toppling American rockets in the first film. However, the reference to SPECTRE is very small and makes little impact on the film. For instance, there is no indication as to why the scheme is taking place (although the presence of Chinese army guards in No's headquarters perhaps hints at which nation is paying SPECTRE to undertake the activities).

It was in the second film, From Russia With Love, that SPECTRE started to take an important role. Whereas the original novel concerned a Russian plot against Bond, the movie featured SPECTRE playing the British and Russians against each other, partly in an attempt to gain revenge on Bond for the death of Dr No. We are introduced to more SPECTRE personnel, including Blofeld himself, who here is operating from a luxury yacht which is moored near Venice. SPECTRE also has an elaborate training camp based around a stately home in an unidentified location (referred to as "SPECTRE island"). This film introduces SPECTRE's logo - an octopus, as seen on Blofeld's ring and the note passed to Kronsteen during his chess match (the various SPECTRE operatives in Thunderball also wear a ring with this sumbol).

Although SPECTRE's plot to kill Bond and gain possession of the Russian Lektor decoding machine is foiled and a number of their operatives are killed, the infrastructure of the organisation remains intact. SPECTRE is absent from Goldfinger but is then back in action in the film of Thunderball. Even before the start of their "NATO project", SPECTRE have been making a nuisance of themselves. In particular, one of their operatives, Jacques Boitier, murdered two British agents before himself being killed by Bond in the pre-titles sequence to the film.

As in the novel, SPECTRE is based in Paris, but here their cover is philanthropic organisation called the "International Brotherhood for the Assistance of Stateless Persons". Blofeld appears again, here chairing what appears to be SPECTRE's central committee consisting of representatives having responsibilites for different areas of the world. There is also a reference to an explicit Executions Branch of the organisation, which is represented in Thunderball by Fiona Volpe.

The SPECTRE plot is again foiled, but Blofeld appears to be undeterred and is even more ambitious in You Only Live Twice. SPECTRE is now based inside a volcano in Japan from where they are orchestrating a plot to trigger a war between the USA and the Soviet Union. They are being paid in order to do this, although it is not explicitly stated by whom (although again it is implied that it is the Chinese). It is also mentioned that SPECTRE's allies supplied the hardware being used, perhaps explaining how SPECTRE have the resources shown given their recent run of failures.

The failures, of course continue, and the end of this scheme effectively brings about the end of the organisation. Blofeld himself escaped and returned to menace civilisation, but these were simply private schemes that did not use the SPECTRE organisation.

The fact that SPECTRE and Blofeld were created for "Thunderball" means that the legal rights to use them in films is confused. As such, they were removed from early drafts of The Spy Who Loved Me. However, SPECTRE did reappear outside of the main continuity of the films in the remake of its debut novel, Never Say Never Again. Here SPECTRE are based in an elegant headquarters in an unidentified location.

It is clear that SPECTRE is unlikely to reappear in the official series as movies, especially as they have been successful in creating their own villains. This in itself is a shame, especially as the Bond novels written by John Gardener in 80s illustrated the sort of direction that SPECTRE could be taken in. Gardener's second Bond novel, "For Special Services" featured the organisation being run by Nina, Blofeld's daughter. In two subsequent novels ("Role of Honour" and "Nobody Lives Forever") SPECTRE has been inherited by a wealthy business man called Tamil Rahani. However, that is all in the world of the books, which took opportunities which it appears the movies cannot.

the SPECTRE hierarchy
SPECTRE has a system where all of its operatives are numbered. In the novels each member's number rotates each month (during "Thunderball" Largo is No 1 and Blofeld is No 2). However, in the films the numbering seems more constant, perhaps acting as a hierarchy. The following designations have been featured in the EON series of movies:

No 1: Ernst Stavro Blofeld.

No 2: Emilio Largo (Adolfo Celi), who was in charge of the plot to steal British nuclear weapons and blackmail NATO. He was killed by his lover Domino Derval. (Thunderball).

No 3: Rosa Klebb (Lotte Lenya), formerly head of operations for SMERSH, the Soviet Intelligence organisation, who defected to SPECTRE and worked on the scheme to steal the Lektor decoding machine and gain revenge on James Bond. She was killed by Tatiana Romanova. (From Russia With Love). A later un-named No 3 (Burt Kwouk) acted as a control room technician in SPECTRE's Japanses headquarters. (You Only Live Twice - the designation is not used on screen but is given in the end credits).

No 4: An un-named control room technician in SPECTRE's Japanese headquarters. Played by Michael Chow. (You Only Live Twice - the designation is not used on screen but is given in the end credits).

No 5: Kronsteen (Vladek Sheybal), SPECTRE's Director of Planning and a master chess player. He was executed by Blofeld following the failure of his supposedly fool-proof plot against James Bond. (From Russia With Love). A later un-named No 5 (Philip Stone) was a member of the SPECTRE operating committee who provided consultancy to the Great Train Robbers. (Thunderball).

No 6: Colonel Jacques Boitier (Rose Alba/Bob Simmons), an assassin who killed two members of the British Secret Service before himself being killed by Bond. (Thunderball).

No 7: An un-named member of the SPECTRE operating committee who was blackmailing a double agent. (Thunderball).

No 9: An un-named member of the SPECTRE operating committee who assisted in No 11's drug-dealing scheme. However, he was embezzling funds and was executed by Blofeld. (Thunderball).

No 10: An un-named member of the SPECTRE operating committee (André Maranne) who organised the assassination of a French anti-matter specialist who had defected to the Russians. (Thunderball).

No 11: This number was originally held by an un-named member of the SPECTRE operating committee who was organising a scheme to sell Chinese narcotics in the USA. (Thunderball). However, the number was later assumed by Helga Brandt (Karin Dor), a SPECTRE operative who was working in Japan posing as Osato's secretary. She was executed by Blofeld for her failure to kill Bond. (You Only Live Twice).

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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