Rumours abound that Christoph Waltz, tipped as a villain in the upcoming James Bond screen adventure, may play that most infamous of the secret agent’s adversaries, Ernst Stavro Blofeld. In keeping with the more grounded take of late, I hope that, if true, his Blofeld follows in the urbane footsteps of the Telly Savalas iteration from On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. It would be nice to have another mittle-European social-climber for 007 to trade Bon(d)-mots with.
“Your new lair is up and running.”
“Is it an alpine restaurant, full of dolly birds, like I asked for?”
For this Blofeld, money and power aren’t enough. He craves status. Much like the Blair’s and Bush’s of the world, “He wants to leave his mark.” While Blofeld expects his misdeeds to be pardoned and buried under the carpet, M tells Bond he seeks “official recognition of his title when he retires into private life as Count de Bleuchamp. He seems to set great store by that,” before ruminating on that curious affliction, snobbery. This of course, allows Bond (new boy George Lazenby) to infiltrate Blofeld’s mountain top lair, Piz Gloria (a real life restaurant sequestered by the James Bond movie machine) disguised as Sir Hillary Brand of The Royal College of Arms, to validate his claim.
“You’re a complete count, Blofeld.”
“To confirm, Sir Hillary. There’s no doubt of the truth,” the ego-maniac purrs. Blofeld’s new pad can’t be the retiring hollowed-out volcano of old (putting aside continuity defying logic in the order of stories and crossing of paths adapted so far from books to screen). His scheme, to contaminate the world’s food chain with Virus Omega, hinges on the impression that he is in fact curing its intended couriers; young women, in the rarified alpine air of his self-styled “Bleauchamp Institute For Allergies Research”. This Blofeld is a seemingly benign but firm father figure, an allergy fixing aristo, with a voice of hypnotic quality which subliminally “arms” his “Angels of Death”.
He is no longer the waddling, be-scarred, remote oddball of old. Not for him the detached leadership style of “You can watch it on TV.” He’s an urbane, confident, hands-on mastermind, quick to fling that obligatory white Persian moggy aside for a bob-sleigh bust-up. As Fleming noted in the novel Thunderball, he shares with Bond and other powerful figures “a quality of relaxation, of inner certainty… they exude a powerful animal magnetism.” Witness his unveiling of his plot to Bond, idly fiddling with a Christmas tree decoration, smoking insouciantly.
He locks the girls in their rooms at night, a fussy step Bond easily and randily circumnavigates. Sex seems off the menu for Blofeld – after all, his right hand woman is Irma Blunt, a fearsomely frumpy chalet matron from hell. That is, until he captures the formidable Tracy (Diana Rigg), and the soul of a poet struggles to break free from this Nehru clad thug, waving a cigarette holder. He positively skips around her in his sunken living room:
“I’ll make you a countess,” he coos, as she adroitly spins from his approach. “But I’m already a countess, ” she counters slyly.
If you love this film as much as I do, you’ll remember Tracy’s diversion, requesting to see the sunrise, quoting James Elroy Flacker’s Hassan, polished by additional dialogue scribe Simon Raven:
Thy dawn, O Master of the World, thy dawn.
For thee the sunlight creeps across the lawn.
For thee the ships are drawn down to the waves.
For thee the markets throng with myriad slaves.
For thee the hammer on the anvil rings.
For thee the poet of beguilement sings.”
Blofeld is no slouch either, paraphrasing William Butler Yeats’ Lullaby:
“What were all the world’s alarms
To mighty Paris, when he found
That first dawn in the arms of his Helen?”
This whole sequence, with their verbal interplay, inter-cut with the helicopter approach of Bond and Tracy’s father Draco against the dawn-tinged alps, is a sublime execution of pacing, mood(s), cinematography and menace, underscored by John Barry’s wonderful “Over and Out”.
I hope, much like James Bond, a fitting heir to Savalas’ Blofeld “will return.”