In the pre-title sequence of 1981’s For Your Eyes Only, James Bond (Roger Moore) fights for control of a helicopter after it has been hijacked by an unnamed villain, meant to be a fake Blofeld. The would-be assassin is, for all intents and purposes, Ernst Stavro Blofeld, the leader of the terrorist organization SPECTRE. Due to a lengthy legal battle taking place off-screen, however, Blofeld is not referred to by name, and the actors portraying him were uncredited. The battle for Blofeld spanned more than 50 years and resulted in one of cinema’s most iconic villains disappearing from the big screen for almost 35 years.
Xanadu Productions was founded by James Bond author Ian Fleming, filmmaker Kevin McClory, and two others in 1958 with the intention of adapting Fleming’s work. McClory hired screenwriter Jack Whittingham, and in 1960 the pair provided Fleming with a finished script. Growing weary of McClory and the project, Fleming changed the script’s name to Thunderball and secretly reworked it into his ninth novel. Whittingham and McClory filed a plagiarism lawsuit against Fleming in 1963, claiming ownership of Blofeld and SPECTRE. Fleming, due to ill health, settled out of court, and the rights to the Thunderball screenplay, as well as subsequent film and TV rights, were awarded to McClory.
In the 1950s Albert “Cubby” Broccoli purchased the rights to Casino Royale adaptations and Harry Saltzman bought the rights to the James Bond books. The two film producers went into business together and created Eon Productions and its parent company DanJaq. In 1962, Eon Productions released the first James Bond film, Dr. No. Two years later they licensed the rights to Thunderball from McClory, with the stipulation that he would make his own adaptation in 10 years. During the 1970s, Eon would continue to develop Bond films, and McClory would try to get his own adaptation into production, resulting in the two frequently butting heads, leading to the fake Blofeld in For Your Eyes Only.
For Your Eye’s Only’s Fake Blofeld Explained
In 1981 Eon Productions took the opportunity to vent their frustration with McClory. During the pre-title sequence of For Your Eyes Only, Roger Moore’s Bond is trapped inside a small helicopter that is being remotely controlled by “Blofeld.” The cackling villain is credited as “Bald-headed man with white cat” and Eon chose to film the character in quick cuts, never showing his face. The representation of Blofeld in this scene is similar to the character’s early appearances, with the focus being on his voice, as well as his cat, hands, and body via extreme close-ups. In those earlier films, this provided Blofeld with an air of menace and mystery, but in For Your Eyes Only the exaggerated nature of Robert Rietti’s vocal performance, paired with Blofeld’s farcical death, borders on parody. By dropping Blofeld into an industrial smokestack and killing him so nonchalantly, Eon Productions sent a clear message to Kevin McClory: they didn’t need Blofeld.
Why Daniel Craig’s James Bond Could Use Blofeld
In 2013, seven years after McClory’s death, production company MGM (which is now owned by Amazon) and Eon Productions secured the rights to Blofeld and SPECTRE from his estate. This subsequently paved the way for the villain’s return in 2015’s Spectre. Blofeld, now played by Christoph Waltz, was revealed to be the mastermind behind the Daniel Craig era’s overarching narrative and would play an important role in Craig’s swansong, 2021’s No Time To Die. Lawsuits look to be a thing of the past for the Bond franchise and the story of the fake Blofeld in For Your Eyes Only will go done in copyright history. It is a complicated tale of betrayals, rivalries, and greed worthy of any Bond adventure.