Sunday, November 1, 2015

Don't Make a Scene: Thunderball

The Story:  As the poster to the right lists, this would be in the "Look Out!" category.  

You think life at most corporations is brutal? Try getting a job at SPECTRE, the Evil Empire that was the nemesis of James Bond (in lieu of any country—like, say, *cough* Russia, that might accept a movie distribution deal) during the uneasy days of the Cold War in the 1960's. 

It's a joke, of course-satire. All the Bond Films, at their core, are. And this scene, set in a stainless steel, efficient Ikea nightmare of a corporate boardroom, has one of the best "jokes" in the series. The brain-child of Ken Adam  (the design of which was so simple, it frightened him), the SPECTRE boardroom is its own version of his designs for Bond's killer car, the Aston Martin DB5. That was conceptualized after a particularly stressful and maddening commute with everything a road warrior would need to take out the idiots on the through-ways—cal it "The Road-Rage 5000."

And this room is a CEO's power fantasy, perfect for business functions...and the occasional barbecue. Where I work, they merely escort you out of the room and you're never heard from again. At SPECTRE, they'd be missing an opportunity to send a message about its incentive program: perform or die. In The Right Stuff, Gordon Cooper's wife laments the life of an astronaut's wife as compared to her friends with Madison Avenue husbands: "I wondered how they would have felt if each time their husband went in to make a deal, there was a one in four chance he wouldn’t come out of that meeting." 

This is that corporate nightmare made manifest.

Unless, of course, you're "King of the Castle"...and the dungeon. In this case, "Number One" is Bond's arch-nemesis, Ernst Stavro Blofeld. His organization had been mentioned in the first Bond film, Dr. No, and he'd made an appearance in the second, From Russia With Love, doing the same thing he's doing here, pontificating for awhile, griping about business, then giving one of his subordinates a dressing-down, then killing someone else—the real culprit—leaving the survivors to wonder if they'd brought a change of clothes. He'd do the same "bait-and-switch" in the next film, You Only Live Twice, where Blofeld is revealed for the first time, in the diminutive form of Donald Pleasance (who would be the one-off inspiration for Austin Powers' Dr. Evil).

Ernst Stavro Blofeld. Not the best guy in the world to work for.

Despite the "bring-your-pet-to-work" policy.
This week, the new James Bond movie SPECTRE will be opening up, and now that the Broccoli family owning EON Productions has re-acquired the rights to Blofeld and SPECTRE, the time has come for the organization that dominated the early Bond films to return to the series. It will be interesting to see what they keep and what they do away with...after all, "doing away with" is a SPECTRE specialty.

The Set-Up: The criminal organization S.P.E.C.T.R.E. (The Special Executive for Counter-Intelligence, Terror, Revenge and Extortion) is having its regularly scheduled meeting presided over by its head (Ernst Stavro Blofeld) in its headquarters tucked away in the back of the offices of The International Brotherhood for the Assistance of Stateless Persons in Paris, France. We follow its No. 2, Emilio Largo (Adolfo Celi) as he makes his way inside. He is late. One wonders what the tardiness policy is.


Checking to make sure he is unseen, Emilio Largo takes a remote switch and opens an outer door.
A second switch opens an armoured inner door... 
...and he steps inside.
An amplified, filtered voice fills the room as he makes his way to an empty seat, bowing to the leader presiding. 
ERNST STAVRO BLOFELD: Sit down, Number Two. We will discuss...
BLOFELD: ...your NATO project later. 
BLOFELD: I regret to inform you all of the death of SPECTRE Number Six. Colonel Jacques Bouvoir was killed by an unknown assassin.
BLOFELD: His services will be greatly missed. 
BLOFELD: We will now proceed with the area of financial reports. 
BLOFELD: Number Seven? 
NO. 7: Blackmail of the double agent Matsou Fujiwa. 
NO. 7: Unfortunately, only 40 million yen. 
NO. 7: All the man had.
BLOFELD: Number Ten? 
NO. 10: Assassination of Pillange, the French anti-matter specialist who went over to the Russians. Three million francs from the... 
NO. 10: ...special department of the Quai d'Orsy.
BLOFELD: Number Five. 
NO. 5: Our consultation fee for the British train robbery: £250,000. 
BLOFELD: Number Eleven. 
NO. 11: Distribution of Red China narcotics in the United States: Two million three hundred thousand dollars. 
NO. 11: Collected by Number Nine and myself. 
BLOFELD: "Two million three?" 
BLOFELD: Our expectations were considerably higher, Number Eleven. 
NO. 11: Competition from Latin America. Prices are down. 
BLOFELD: I anticipated that factor. 
BLOFELD: Are you sure all monies have been accounted for...
BLOFELD: yourself and Number Nine? 
NO. 11: To the penny, Number One. 
BLOFELD: On the contrary. 
BLOFELD: I have satisfied myself that one of you is clearly guilty of embezzlement. SPECTRE is a fraternity... 
BLOFELD: ...whose strength lies in the...
BLOFELD: ...absolute integrity of its members. 
BLOFELD: The culprit is known to me. 
BLOFELD: I have decided on the appropriate...
BLOFELD: ...action. 
Blofeld throws a remote switch...
...and "Number Nine" is immediately electrocuted in a flash of sparks and smoke. 
As the criminals react to the shock, Blofeld throws another switch, and the chair containing the dead Number Nine is discretely lowered below the floor.
And emerges again, empty, but no less scorched. 
BLOFELD: Let us now proceed with new business. We will hear from Number Two, who is in charge of our NATO project, the most ambitious SPECTRE has ever undertaken.
BLOFELD: Your report, Number Two. 
EMILIO LARGO: Thank you, Number One. 
LARGO: Our intention is to demand a ransom from the North Atlantic Treaty powers of 280 million dollars. A hundred million pounds.  
LARGO: I have sent SPECTRE agent Count Lippe to the South of England 
LARGO: ...where he is making the necessary preparations. 
LARGO: He is at a health clinic... 
LARGO: ...conveniently located near the NATO air base.


Words by Richard Maibaum and John Hopkins (after "James Bond of the Secret Service" written by Kevin McClory, Jack Whittingham and Ian Fleming)

Pictures by Ted Moore and Terence Young

Thunderball is available on DVD from MGM Home Entertainment.

Yeah, Yeah, I can't step away from this without showing the scene from Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery—a direct steal from the Bond films. It always annoys me that Mike Myers is considered a comic genius, when all he's doing is "cribbing." And he's merely made obvious what the Bonds (especially during the Roger Moore era) were sneaking in every movie. It's why the Daniel Craig Bond's have gone so serious, relatively.

and of course, there's this, a rank sequence making fun of SPECTRE rank:

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