30 Oct 2012

Arriving in Hong Kong - The Macau Ferry pier

In The man with the golden gun, Bond travels back to the British territory of Hong Kong after a quick visit in Portuguese Macau. So basically Bond is traveling within Europe. He arrives at the 'Hong Kong - Macau ferry pier' in the Sheung Wan district on Hong Kong Island.

The only building that is still recognizable and that makes it possible to identify the place is ''The Western Market'' along Connaught Road Central. This building is one of the oldest surviving structures in Sheung Wan and the oldest market building in the city. Originally consisting of two blocks, the South Block, built in 1858, was demolished in 1980 and replaced by the Sheung Wan Complex. But the North Block is of more interest for us, since this is the building seen in the film. It was built in 1906 in an Edwardian style that was popular in England in the early 1900's.
It was a food market until 1988 and it was declared a national monument in 1990. Today the Western Market houses various souvenir shops, cafés, fabric merchants and a big restaurant on the top floor. The building is located at 323 Des Voeux Road Central, facing Connaught Road and occupies a whole city block.
This is what has happened to Hong Kong during the past 30+ years
It is an understatement to say that Hong Kong has changed since 1974... Apart from not being a British colony anymore, the entire city has been filled with skyscrapers and bigger roads. The Connaught Road Central is today an elevated highway that runs through the Sheung Wan district. But you can still find some gems from the past, for instance The Peninsula Hotel, that still keeps the British end up!

The red taxi Bond is getting into is a Datsun 200C. Today they have been replaced by the Toyota Crown Comfort taxis but they are still red in central Hong Kong and Kowloon. The central bus terminal that is seen behind Mary Goodnight (just opposite the terminal entrance in the film), has been moved to the left of the ferry terminal just by the water. The man powered rickshaws, seen in the background (and outside the bottoms up) exists nowadays only as a tourist attraction and are extremely expensive.

The sight of a British flagged hydrofoil is gone forever. 
Bond follows Miss Anders from Macau on the Jet Hydrofoil. The boat carries of course the red ensign of the British Empire and passes one of the outlying islands between Macau and Hong Kong. Which island, is yet to be confirmed. The route Hong Kong - Macau is still served several times a day by the boat companies TurboJET and First Ferry. I strongly recommend the 'super class' tickets when traveling to or from Macau. For an extra HK$100 you get a light meal, free beverages, coffe/tea and you get to sit on the upper deck of the hydrofoil.

When traveling from Macau you can either arrive at the the Macau ferry pier in central on Hong Kong Island or to the terminal in Kowloon. The terminal on Hong Kong Island is still located in the same place as it was in the film but the exterior has changed for obvious reasons. Today the ferry terminal is housed in a big shopping mall and the entrance is not as modest as it was in 1974. If you are in a hurry and have an extra 2000 HK$ to spare you can use the helicopter service available between Hong Kong and Macau. The flight takes about 15 minutes.

The company name ''Hong Kong Macau Hydrofoil Co. Ltd.'' seen on the sign above the entrance is a subsidiary of 'Shun Tak - China travel shipping investments Ltd.' and operates under the name TurboJET so the same ferry company used by Bond is still around today, though under a different name. The name Shun Tak can now be seen on the ferry terminal entrance, a nod to the old sign seen in the film.

Again, Director Guy Hamilton fails to show the beautiful parts of Hong Kong and the only establishing shot we get is the sign of the ferry company. Even the few minutes in Die Another Day is more appealing than the entire section of The man with the golden gun.

                    "Ahead you can now see Kowloon. And on your right, Hong Kong Island."
                                                 -Hydrofoil steward-

The tallest building in Hong Kong, ICC, is located on the Kowloon side and the skyscrapers to the right are located on Hong Kong Island. 

Welcome to Hong Kong Mr Nymberg...

25 Oct 2012

Skyfall - The World premiere

The time has come for the World premiere! Tonight Skyfall goes up on the big screen across Europe. Four long years are over. 
The Royal premiere took place in Royal Albert Hall on October 23, in attendance of the cast, crew, Bond celebrities and His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall.

16 Oct 2012

Back from the African job - Apollo Airways

"Any higher Mr Bond, and my ears will pop..."
When Bond is returning from a mission in the pre-title sequence in Moonraker, he is sent home in a private plane from Apollo Airways. M calls it "the African job" and we get the impression that Bond is flying back from Africa. The plane appears to be chartered by the villain that Bond supposedly has dealt with during the African job since both the pilot and stewardess are working together to kill Bond. Furthermore, Jaws is on board to make things even harder. Before the action starts Bond is 'on his last leg' with the stewardess, enjoying a glass of Bollinger. Two bottles of wine can also be seen in the cabin, one red and one white.

"-This is where we leave you Mr Bond!
         -A little premature isn't it?"
Bond is travelling in a Handley Page HP 137 Jetstream, belonging to Apollo Airways. This was actually a Californian passenger and cargo charter airline that operated between 1975 and 1982 before it changed name to Pacific Coast Airlines. Founded in 1969, scheduled operations for Apollo started in 1975, serving southern and central California from Santa Barbara. By 1978 the airline served Sacramento, San José, Oakland and Las Vegas. Apollo entered into bankruptcy protection in 1981 and was reorganized by 1982, changing its name to Pacific Coast Airlines. The airline faced its demise and ceased operations in late 1985.
It is not a surprise that Apollo is a Californian airline, since the skydiving stunts in the pre-title sequence were performed in the United States. Maybe the filmmakers wanted to thank Apollo for the cooperation during the stunt sequences and therefore didn't change the livery on the aircraft to an airline operating in Africa. Although it is unlikely that Apollo Airways was well known outside of California and the name could probably be used without placing Bond in a specific country.
One of the 10 Jetstreams that was operated by Apollo Airways.
Used with kind permission of Richard Vandervord
Thanks to Willam Cox, a former pilot at Apollo/Pacific Coast Airlines, I have learned that the two pilots for the Jetstream in the movie were Dan Gray and Ron Whitfield. They had both joined major airlines at the time of the reconstruction. The parachute action was filmed near a jump school in Pope Valley in Napa, California. The lake seen in the film, the one that the plane is flying over (top picture) is Lake Berryessa, the biggest lake in Napa. The tail number of Bond's Jetstream is N5VH but apparently all the tail numbers were later changed and the specific aircraft that was used in the film received the tail number N2209 and was painted in the same colors as the plane in the picture above. This livery was also used by Pacific Coast Airlines.
The Bond Jetstream with the original livery
Many thanks to former Pacific Coast Airlines Captain William Cox for the information about the pilots and the location of the jump. It has been hard finding information about the airline and if anyone has more information about Apollo Airways or some nice pictures, just let me know!

5 Oct 2012

James Bond's 50th anniversary - S:t Cyrils monestary

"S:t Cyrils. Where we used to hide from the Germans..." 
Today we celebrate "Global James Bond day" - October 5 2012 marks 50 years since Dr No premiered on the big screen in 1962!

Celebrating the Golden Jubilee, we look at one of the most beautiful Bond locations in the world, namely the monasteries of Metéora, just above the town of Kalambaka in the Greek mainland.
In For your eyes only, Bond turn to his friend Columbo in order to find Kristatos who has disappeared with the A.T.A.C. transmitter. Columbo takes Bond to the Greek mainland and an ''abandoned'' monastery called S:t Cyrils, where Columbo and Kristatos used to hide out while fighting the Germans during the war. Kristatos is awaiting General Gogol, head of the KGB, in order to sell the British transmitter to the Russians. Bond has to rely on a few of Columbo's men and Melina's crossbow to infiltrate Kristatos' lair and get it back before it is too late.
While Bond has to climb up the right side of the cliff, which is away from the buildings, Columbo and his crew waits for Bond to send down a basket with an electronic winch. In reality there is a small cable car that connects the monastery with the adjacent cliff and steps cut into the rock on the left hand side.

"Only Kristatos would make an abandoned monastery his personal retreat."
The small shed with the basket and the electronic winch (later recreated in Pinewood Studios) 

Kristatos' is in fact hiding in 'The Monastery of the Holy Trinity', built in 1475. It is given the name "S:t Cyrils" in the film and lies on the very top of the cliffs, still inhabited by monks today. The monasteries are today a tourist attraction and there is a nice mountain road that takes you all the way from Kalambaka and around the different sites. The high cliffs standing alone in the landscape, combined with the surrounding mountains creates a stunning scenery and it is a good idea to park the car and walk around. The monasteries are sometimes open to the public and 'The Holy Trinity' is also possible to visit. You should check the opening days in advance if you only have one day on location. 

The filming of the scenes in Metéora were filled with problems since the monks did not like the presence of the film team and the commotion. Apparently they didn't know that Sir Roger was the saint... They tried to sabotage the filming by putting up big pieces of plastic and bed sheets on the roofs. The people down in Kalambaka understood the value of the filming taking place on location and at one point they were prepared to drive away the monks to help the film team, fortunately it never came to that! The film crew used the adjacent cliff and created a replica of the monastery where the exterior scenes were filmed. The rest of the monastery was recreated in Pinewood studios by production designer Peter Lamont and his crew.
The cliff to the right was used for the exterior shots. The big rock in the middle can be seen in the film.
*Metéora consists of six monasteries, all built on natural sandstone rock pillars and it is one of the largest and most important complexes of Eastern Orthodox monasteries in Greece, all built between the 14th and mid 16th century.* Wikipedia
The pictures do not do this magnificent location justice. It needs to be seen in real life, before you can fully understand the greatness of the landscape. It is definitively worth a visit and can easily be combined with a week or two in Corfu. From the town of Kalambaka you have a nice view of the surrounding mountains and it is a good idea to spend some time here and have a nice dinner or lunch. Driving to the west coast, and the Corfu ferry terminal, takes about two hours and you can either go via the new highway or drive through the amazing mountain roads (which takes approx. an extra hour).
View over "S:t Cyrils" from a restaurant in Kalambaka

"-We should have brought more of my people. 
                        -James is counting on surprise. 
-But we are only five men. 
                        -And one woman..."
Happy 50th Anniversary to James Bond and congratulations to Sir Sean Connery, George Lazenby, Sir Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig for 50 magnificent years! ...and 50 more to come!

Long may they live.