Bond Producers Send a Message with Pre-Title Sequence: Killing Off Blofeld
In the world of James Bond, the villainous Ernst Stavro Blofeld and his organization SPECTRE are two of the most iconic elements of the franchise. However, due to a legal dispute with Kevin McClory, one of the original screenwriters of Thunderball, the rights to Blofeld and SPECTRE were in question for many years.
In response to this challenge, producer of the Bond films, Albert R. Broccoli, made a bold statement in 1981’s For Your Eyes Only, with the pre-title sequence killing off Blofeld in a creative way that sent a message to everyone involved.
Killing and making fun of Blofeld sent out a statement
The significance of this sequence goes beyond the legal disputes that had plagued the franchise. It also spoke to the creative direction of the Bond films at the time, which were moving away from the over-the-top spectacle of the 1970s and back to a more grounded, realistic tone.
Killing off and even humiliating Blofeld in the opening sequence was a way to signal this shift and show that the Bond films could still be exciting and entertaining without relying on larger-than-life villains.
The decision not to mention Blofeld’s name in the credits was another way for the producers to assert their creative control over the Bond franchise. By not crediting the character, the producers avoided potential legal issues and emphasized that this was a new take on the character, rather than a direct continuation of previous Bond films.
Killing off Blofeld was a bold move
In retrospect, the decision to kill off Blofeld in the pre-title sequence was a bold and creative choice by the Bond producers. Having been a key figure in many Bond films and played by several actors, most notably Donald Pleasence, Telly Savalas and Charles Gray, for legal reasons the Bond producers couldn’t use his name or ‘SPECTRE’.
Things were getting messy around the time and McClory, who owned the rights to Thunderball, Blofeld and SPECTRE ended up making a remake of the film: Never Say Never Again (1983), so Broccoli basically showed McClory the middle finger.
It showed they were willing to take risks and assert their creative independence, even in the face of legal challenges. It also signaled a shift in the franchise’s tone and direction, which would continue until a legal agreement was made in 2013.
A New Blofeld
After Blofeld returned, he was reimagined by the producers. Born Franz Oberhauser, the son of Hannes Oberhauser, who becomes orphan, James Bond’s legal guardian, making Bond and Blofeld adoptive brothers. Oberhauser grew to hate his father for showing favoritism towards Bond, and ended up killing him and changing his name to Ernst Stavro Blofeld, taking the surname of his mother’s family.
The new Blofeld was played by Christoph Waltz in both Spectre and No Time To Die, and it was a welcome return. There were some similarities, but many changes, but the same can be said about the Blofelds of the 1960s.
Casting and then ridiculing and killing off Blofeld in For Your Eyes Only was a bold move, but with the ongoing legal wranglings, it was probably the right move. As iconic as Blofeld is, there have been many other villains that have left their impression (Auric Goldfinger and Raoul Silva anybody?). That being said, it’s good to see Blofeld and SPECTRE back as an option and here’s to many more evil plots he has up his sleeve.