27 Jun 2012

Buckingham Palace - London, England

"I'm sure you understand we can't keep Her Majesty waiting anylonger"
                       -Miranda Frost-
As the Olympics is about to begin and it coincides with Her Majesty's diamond jubilee it is appropriate to look at one of the most classic locations in London - Buckingham Palace. Even though the Queen has been visible on portraits and mentioned in several of the films it would take until 2002 and Die another day before Buckingham Palace would become a real Bond location. Gustav Graves is about to be knighted and Bond is watching his grand entrance while blending in among some reporters.
The scene outside Buckingham Palace was filmed on an early morning in april 21, 2002.

Buckingham Palace is of course the official residence and office of Her Majesty the Queen as the British Monarch. Being one of the most popular tourist attractions in London, the changing of the Guard is watched by numerous thousands every week. The Union Flag, 'Union Jack', is flown above Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle and Sandringham when The Queen is not in residence. When the Queen is in residence at Buckingham, the Union Standard is flown instead of 'the Jack'. 

"What did you expect, a knighthood? Why don't you read it..."
                          -Moneypenny to Bond, On Her Majesty's secret service-

The press are waiting just outside Buckingham Palace in front of the Canada Gate, which is an entrance to Green Park, one of the four central London "Royal" parks. 

Graves is walking through the gates and two Range Rovers are driven up. The gate is normally locked but was open especially for the film and bears the emblems of the seven Canadian provinces of the early 1900. It was presented to London by Canada as part of a vast memorial scheme dedicated to Queen Victoria, who had died in 1901. Commissioned in 1905, along with the gates for Buckingham Palace and two other similar gates presented by Australia and South Africa, it was completed in 1911. 

"I'm sure Her Majesty will be fascinated!"
                            -Defense Minister Frederick Grey-

14 Jun 2012

Checkpoint Charlie - where east meets west

"Remember 007, you're on your own..."
In Octopussy 1983, Bond is meeting with M in West Berlin to get a new ID and travel documents in order to travel to East Germany in pursuit of Octopussy's circus. Bond is driven across the border at 'Checkpoint Charlie', the famous crossing between East and West Berlin. This was one of only a few crossings into East Germany that was open to non-German citizens and members of the allied forces and embassies. During the Cold War the checkpoint was a symbol, representing the separation of east and west.

Checkpoint Charlie was located on the border between the American and Soviet sectors of Berlin at Friedrichstraße 43-45. (The other two allied sectors being the French northern and the British center sector.)

Bond's Mercedes is coming in from Rudi-Dutschke Straße and turns right on Friedrichstraße where the allied guard house is located. They are driving past the well-known sign, stating that 'you are leaving the American sector' and in to East Berlin. The film crew could not actually film inside East Germany, so the Mercedes was only driven into No-man's land and just before the East German border, back into West Berlin after the take had been ordered 'cut' by director Glen.

"Here's the ID you'll need: Charles Morton, manufacturer representatives from Leeds, visiting furniture factories in East Germany. Carl will take you in..."
               -M to Bond-

Since the fall of the eastern bloc and the reunification of Germany, Checkpoint Charlie has become one of the most popular tourist attractions in Berlin, complete with a replica of the allied guard house and the american flag. The only thing missing is the watchtower and and some East German guards at the other side of the border. The famous sign, even though it is a replica, can still be found on location, not to mention on postcards all over the city.

For obvious reasons the location has changed a lot since the Cold War and the differences between east and west is not apparent anymore. The buildings on the former east side are renovated or new and there is little to distinguish this street from any other in Berlin. Sadly the iconic watch tower on the east side, seen in the top picture, was demolished in 2000 to make way for new offices and more shops but the poor financial status of Berlin has not yet resulted in any new buildings at the site. There is also a museum just opposite the checkpoint guardhouse (on the former west side) and a smaller 'open air exhibition' with pictures and a piece of the wall to the right (on the east side).

The Berlin Wall was erected in 1961 due to the fact that almost 20 % of the population in East Germany (DDR) had fled to the West. Many attempts to escape and several incidents did occur during the 28 years of separation. Throughout Berlin you can find various memorial sites over people who were killed trying to escape as well as a line through the entire city, marking the original route of the wall.

The only tribute paid to the fact that Bond was here on location in 1982 can be found in the lunch restaurant 'back-factory' on Friedrichstraße where an entire wall has been dedicated to Octopussy and Sir Roger, with a big screen TV showing the film and a model of Acrostar hanging from the ceiling. Here you can have a quick lunch with a nice view over the place that once was the center and very symbol of the Cold War.

Ian Fleming is also writing about this area in The Living Daylights. In his novel, similar to the film, Bond is watching over a defection from the east. Unlike the film all the action takes place in Berlin. Bond is hiding in a building located where Kochstrasse meets Wilhelmstrasse and the man who is defecting is coming supposedly from the eastern side of Wilhelmstrasse. Of course all the rubble and old buildings that Fleming described in the novel are gone...

4 Jun 2012

The heart of London

In honor of the diamond jubilee I celebrate the Queen and Empire with one of the most British sites in the world - Big Ben and the houses of Parliament.

The facade has probably been given a good clean since 1964
When establishing London or introducing 'Bond back at the office', various London sites have often been used throughout the series. For these establishing shots, Big Ben have been used on a few occasions. The first time we get a good look on the "London trademark" is in Goldfinger 1964 (I disregard the very dark skyline over London, first seen in Dr No).
The outstanding view from 'London Eye'
Following all the Fontainbleu action in Miami and the gold covered Jill Masterson, Bond heads back to the office in London for debriefing. As an establishing shot, the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben is pictured to show that Bond is back in dear old England. Even though it is one of London's most famous buildings it has been used rather sparsely and it would take two more films and another 6 years before Big Ben would be seen again in the series.

On Her Majesty's secret service
The first scene in the pre-title sequence shows Big Ben reflecting in the entrance sign of Universal Exports, the cover name for Mi6. This means that Mi6 would be located in the heart of Westminster, perhaps opposite the white building in the picture below.
Before On Her Majesty's secret service the Mi6 HQ had not been pictured or given an exact position (apart from the exterior in Dr No that possibly portrays the Mi6), hence this is the first time we get an approximate location of Bond's office. Nevertheless this is the only time that Mi6 has been located here. A summary of the other Universal Exports locations can be found here.  After On Her Majesty's secret service it would take another 30 years before Big Ben and The Houses of Parliament would be visible in a film again, namely during the boat chase in The world is not enough and briefly in Die another day, both will be subject to a later post.

Casino Royale

In Casino Royale Big Ben was pictured as an establishing shot over London and the next scene features M and Villiers supposedly coming out from a meeting with some ministers of the Government. A contradiction in itself since that scene actually was filmed at the Strahov Monestary Library in Prague. Casino Royale 2006 was the last time Big Ben was seen in the series but the pictures and trailer of Skyfall shows Craig in action around Westminster and Whitehall. The trailer shows that Big Ben will make a welcomed comeback on the big screen in October. The filmmakers are probably eager to portray the most well-known sites of London as well as returning to the old Bond formula following the poorly executed Quantum of solace.  

Craig in action in front of Westminster Abbey and the Parliament
The best view over Big Ben can undoubtedly be found when riding on the London Eye. But another Bond location where you get a good look over the complex is the "Lazenby lamp post" to the left of Westminster bridge. This location was used for publicity shots of George Lazenby prior to the filming of On Her Majesty's secret service.