31 Dec 2015

In loving memory - Remarkable members of the Bond family

As the year is coming to an end, we have to conclude that 2015 was a very sad year for the Bond family and the fans across the world as several notable Bond actors has passed away.

Louis Jourdan (1921-2015)

On 14 February 2015, one of the best Bond villains in the series, Louis Jourdan, passed away at the age of 93. The French actor was born in Marseille in 1921 and will always be remembered for his portrayal of the exiled Afghan Prince Kamal Khan in Octopussy in 1983.

              "You have a nasty habit, of surviving..."

Jourdan is the Bond villain that, probably more than any other villain, is most like Bond when it comes to being a gentleman. Jourdan provided one of the more notable performances in the Bond series and is also a personal favourite of mine. In addition to his numerous film performances, Jourdan was part of the French resistance during WWII.

Robert Rietty (1923-2015)

On 3 April 2015, the British actor Robert Rietty passed away after a career that spanned over 70 years including several Bond films. He actually only appeared on screen briefly in On Her Majesty's Secret Service in 1969 and in Never Say Never Again in 1983, but his notable voice appeared in several other films.

Rietty played the Baccarat official in the casino in On Her Majesty's Secret Service where Tracy loses 20 000 Francs.

                     "A bank a vingt mille! Vingt mille a bank!" 

In addition to his on-screen appearances, Rietty became largely involved in the post-production of many films, ultimately becoming the "King of dubbers" and the "man of a thousand voices", providing the voice of several roles in the Bond series, including Strangways in Dr. No, Tanaka in You Only Live Twice, Blofeld in For Your Eyes Only and the fantastic voice of Emilio Largo in Thunderball. 

Rietty was of Italian heritage and was knighted for his contribution to the Italian entertainment industry. He starred in hundreds of films and TV series and a few minor roles include i.a. The Italian Job, The Persuaders!, The Avengers and more recently Hannibal.

 Sir Christopher Lee, CBE (1922-2015)

Sir Christopher Lee, probably one of the most famous and renowned actors in the world, passed away on 7 June 2015 at the age 93. It is of course impossible to try to summarize his career but for the Bond fans he will always be remembered for the role of Fransisco Scaramanga in The Man With the Golden Gun in 1974. He had earlier become famous for the role of Dracula and played villains frequently. He ended his career with, among several other films, the trilogies of Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit. 

                "You see, Mr. Bond, like all great artists I want to create one indisputable masterpiece. The                   death of 007, mano a mano, will be mine..."

His military record during WWII is almost as extensive and diversified as his acting career. Lee joined the RAF, became both a flying officer and an intelligence officer and served in Europe, Africa and India before retiring from the RAF in 1946. Lee was knighted for his services to drama and charity in 2009. He spoke numerous languages fluently (besides French and German) and spoke Swedish to his co-stars Maud Adams and Britt Ekland during the filming of The Man With the Golden Gun. 

Christopher Lee remains one of the coolest actors in the world and is probably one of the few Bond villains who actually has killed another man in real life. 

Patrick Macnee (1922-2015)

Patrick Macnee passed away on 25 June 2015, 93 years old. Although he became famous for his role as the secret agent John Steed in the British television series The Avengers (with i.a. Honor Blackman and Diana Rigg as co-stars), it is as Bond's ally Sir Godfrey Tibbet he will be most remembered to the Bond family. Posing as Bond's valet and chauffeur, they infiltrate the horse auction of Max Zorin together to find out more about Zorin's activities.

Macnee starred in several TV and film productions throughout the decades but it was with the bowler hat and umbrella in the Avengers that he is mostly associated. They were the key elements of John Steed's persona together with the slightly mysterious demeanour and the suave, flirting tone with ladies, not completely unlike Bond.

                                  "We're on a mission."

Among some of Macnee's more notable achievements, he was expelled from Eton for selling pornography and being a bookmaker for his fellow students.

Gabriele Ferzetti (1925-2015)

Less than a month ago, on 2 December 2015, the Italian actor Gabriele Ferzetti died after appearing in over 160 films, stage plays and television series throughout his career. Ferzetti will of course always be remembered for the role of Tracy's father, Marc Ange Draco, in On Her Majesty's Secret Service in 1969.

Ferzetti's performance remains one of the best of the supporting cast in the Bond series and the scene where Draco reveals Tracy's life story to Bond in the beginning of the film is unquestionably one of the strongest scenes in the film (if not the series). Draco remains one of Bond's best allies and Ferzetti contributed to making On Her Majesty's Secret Service to the best Bond film in the series. Ferzetti's career peaked in the 1950's and 1960's but he remained active well into the 21st century.

"Do not kill me Mr Bond, at least not until we have had a drink..."

It is sad that so many notable actors, who all were with us in the beginning of 2015 now have left us. Nevertheless, all six actors that have played Bond are still with us.

James Bond locations will return in 2016. 
Happy New Year!

Her price is far above rubies, or even, your million pounds... 

15 Dec 2015

Orient Express from Istanbul - Sirkeci station

When Bond and Tania escapes from the Russian consulate with the Lector decoder, they follow Kerim through the secret tunnels beneath the consulate where he is waiting for them. Kerim has planned the escape route and they all come up through a hatch in the floor in a small shop, which supposedly is located just opposite the Istanbul train station. They are escaping Istanbul on the Orient Express train and arrive at the platform just as the train is about to depart.

The Istanbul train station is definitely one of the more interesting Bond locations in Istanbul, and the place is filled with history. It is from this very station that the renowned Orient Express departed for Paris, for almost a hundred years. The Orient Express began service in 1883 by the company 'Compagnie Internationale des Wagons-Lits'. In 1889 it started operations between Paris and Istanbul, the two cities that were the original endpoints of the service and that have most prominently become associated with the Orient Express.

When Bond and Romanova is running out on the platform in the station they are spotted by Commissar Benz from the Russian consulate. Benz is the Soviet security officer in Istanbul, also stationed at the consulate, who apparently watches the airports and train stations for defectors.

Commissar Benz is having tea with another man from the Russian consulate. He recognises Romanova and immediately understands that she is defecting to Bond. Before jumping on the train he orders his man to telephone the consulate and tell them that corporal Romanova has defected to England.

The cafe or restaurant where Benz is sitting is located on the platform and is part of the original station building. There is still a restaurant located in building today although the metal fence that screened off the cafe and the platform in the film has been removed. The facade of the building and the notable round windows are however still very recognisable.        

                       "- Telephone the Consulate!  
                               - Yes, yes! 
                        - Dear Corporal Romanova has defected to the English!" 
                                        - Benz and the other man (in Russian) - 

Even though the facade and exterior are very recognisable, the round windows are not seen in this first scene when Bond and Tania board the train, but later when the train makes the first stop in "Belgrade". Istanbul train station namely doubled for all the train stations in the film. The scenes both in Belgade, where Bond meets with one of Kerim's sons, and Zagreb, where Bond encounters Donald Grant for the first time (supposedly meeting with Captain Nash), were all filmed at this location. The different parts of the Sirkeci station that were used for the different train stations will be covered later.

"Now I'm sure Commissar Benz will have a much safer journey!"
                        - Ali Kerim -

Bond and Tania are entering the train station from the western entrance, which is located along the road Ankara Caddesi. Tania stops as she sees Benz at the cafe before Bond is pulling her away to the train.

The original Orient Express ceased already in 1977 but Belmond, a new private company still offers the original route from Paris to Istanbul today, with the original 1920's Orient Express carriages lovingly restored to its former glory. This Orient Express departs from Istanbul to Venice only once a year on the 2 September and a single ticket costs approximately €8500. This is probably the finest luxury experience the world has ever known.

It is obvious from the film that the train was rather shabby in 1963, at least by judging from the exterior of the train. How comfortable it really was back then is unknown.

8 Dec 2015

The Persuaders! - Èze viaduct and car chase

In the beginning of the first episode of The Persuaders!, starring Tony Curtis and Roger Moore from the early seventies, the two playboys are racing each other between Nice airport and Hotel de Paris in Monte Carlo. One of the more notable locations that featured prominently during this iconic car chase is the viaduct of Èze close to one of the most beautiful villages on the Rivera.

This viaduct featured in the episode is the 'Corniche Viaduct' and is located along the Moyenne Corniche, when driving into Èze from the Nice direction. The viaduct can be found just before you drive into this small village beautifully situated high up in the mountains with a stunning view over the Mediterranean. From L'église d'Èze and the adjacent cemetery you have a nice view over the beautiful construction spanning over a deep ravine.

Lord Brett Sinclair (Sir Roger) is driving a Bahama yellow Aston Martin DBS and Danny Wilde (Curtis) is driving a red Ferrari Dino across the coastal roads of the Riviera. As Brett is dropping off three girls at Nice Côte d'Azur Airport and Wilde is arriving from the States, the two protagonists encounter each other at a stop light just outside the airport. The easygoing tone of the series is set just as they are speeding off and the brilliant song by Tony Hatch and Jackie Trent begins.

The surrounding landscape has obviously not changed notably since 1971. 

Eze is definitely the most spectacular village along the Nice-Monaco route and probably one of the most beautifully situated villages on the French Riviera. It is renowned for the view of the sea from its hill top. The Èze commune, extends from the Mediterranean Sea (Èze-sur-Mer) to the hilltop and its medieval village (Èze-Village).

In a previous scene, we actually see the two cars speeding through a curve outside of Èze. This curve is actually located outside of the village, on the opposite side from the viaduct of Èze. This means that the cars first would have had to drive across the bridge, before driving into this curve. The car chase actually has a few of these bloopers, but I do not find it particularly disturbing since the car chase nonetheless is one of the most enjoyable scenes in the entire series.

The song played in during the car chase is the masterpiece by Tony Hatch and Jackie Trent called "Gotta get away".

In GoldenEye, Bond is holidaying on the French Riviera, driving around his Aston Martin DB5 when Xenia is driving up behind him in her Ferrari 355. They are racing around the mountain roads above Monaco in a car chase that particularly resembles the Persuaders car chase. It is obvious that The Persuaders! has influenced director Campbell for the car chase in GoldenEye. Sadly, the GoldenEye car chase is partly ruined by the composer Eric Serra, who has made the worst soundtrack in the entire Bond series. As an example I have edited the car chase from GoldenEye slightly, and if you are a Persuades fan you will not be disappointed!

Once again the pleasure is all mine.

1 Dec 2015

Skyfall Embankment station - London

In Skyfall, Silva escapes from the custody of Mi6 and down in the London underground tunnels. Bond pursuits Silva on the tube which evidently is hard during rush hour. Silva gets off the tube, escapes though a service entrance and supposedly emerges at Embankment station, located at Northumberland Avenue. The entrance to Embankment is seen in the background as Silva is being picked up by two of his henchmen.

However, the notably round building doubling for Embankment station is in reality one of the entrances to Charing Cross station, which is located above the real Embankment tube station. Thus, the building is not an underground station entrance. On top of the round building is instead Charing Cross station and through the tunnel, visible to the right in the above picture, is the real Embankment station.

We are supposed to get the impression that the Embankment station is located close to M's public hearing which supposedly is taking place somewhere in Whitehall. However, the building that was used for M's hearing is in reality located at Trinity Square, covered here earlier. This building is located close to the Tower of London, and thus not at all within normal running distance from Westminster.

Silva is coming up from some kind of service entrance from the underground before getting into the police car. It is unclear where the steps lead to that Silva is coming up from. Seen through the fence, when Silva is coming out, is the beautiful park Whitehall Gardens.

A fictitious Underground sign was put up on the metal frame above the stairs.

Silva is coming up from some steps next to a small building located at the intersection of Whitehall Place and Northumberland Avenue right at the corner of Corinthia Hotel.

Corinthia Hotel is actually another lesser known Bond location. This was namely the hotel where the Spectre cast stayed when they were in London for the premiere. When visiting London for the premiere with some friends we were fortunate enough to have tea in the lobby at Corinthia and actually came across both Christoph Waltz, also having tea at the time, Lea Seydoux having some red wine with a few friends, and Craig (!) having neither tea nor wine but only rushing through the lobby...

It was a memorable afternoon tea I can assure you.