The “Blofeld Order”: a Better Way to Watch the Bond Films
Light serialization is nothing new for the 007 franchise. Neither is questionable continuity. Part of the fun of the series, for me anyway, is trying to make the movies work together consistently, apart from the awkward fact that Commander Bond the World War II vet now globetrots the post-9/11 world without any signs of aging.
The four Daniel Craig movies are a reboot, a purposeful break from the past, but that doesn’t stop me from trying to link them to what came before. Craig’s movies purport to show James Bond’s first missions, so they go at the beginning of the 007 timeline. It is now possible to watch the Bond series in a new order, with Craig’s films first, just as the Star Wars prequels made it possible to watch that series in a coherent sequence other than release date — depending on one’s definition of “coherent,” anyway.
Then came the latest 007 entry and a head-scratching continuity challenge by the name of Ernst Stavro Blofeld.
Ignoring external factors like technological advancements (Craig’s Bond uses a cell phone, Sean Connery’s dials rotary) and geopolitical circumstances, nothing in the reboots seemed to present an intractable problem for the Bond arc. Then came the latest 007 entry, SPECTRE, and a head-scratching continuity challenge by the name of Ernst Stavro Blofeld.
The Craig movies have not been shy about creating their own internally-consistent continuity and about probing Bond’s little-explored backstory. SPECTRE benefits from that impulse during the first half, when Bond receives a message from the previous M (Judi Dench, who almost certainly cannot be portraying the same M she played when Pierce Brosnan was Bond.) Revealing all previous Craig villains as members of the evil syndicate SPECTRE is a nice touch, too. Unfortunately, SPECTRE takes its world-building conceit too far in the second half by dredging up a minor figure from the already-forgotten Quantum of Solace and by reimagining criminal mastermind Blofeld as Bond’s long-lost adoptive brother.
In spite of the highly unlikely backstory by which Blofeld is transported to the rebooted Bond universe, and the unsatisfyingly claustrophobic suggestion that Bond himself may be the only reason the SPECTRE organization exists, SPECTRE is a fun movie that exhibits the classy look and quasi-comical feel of the early 007 flicks. SPECTRE’s dim, gilded boardroom full of vicious, double-crossing hoods is as spectacular as it is familiar, and even Blofeld’s white Turkish Angora cat is present in the crime boss’s desert lair. This movie certainly has a place in any Bond story arc. But how can this latest iteration of Blofeld, who knows Bond intimately, be reconciled with the old Blofeld, who doesn’t? How can Bond movies be watched consecutively without highlighting the contradiction?
There must be a better solution, even if it has to be unofficial, fan-made one.
In hashing out a “Blofeld Order” for the Bond series, help comes from a couple of earlier, weirder quirks in the Blofeld saga. Bond and Blofeld meet face to face for the first time in You Only Live Twice (1967), but act as though they shouldn’t recognize each other when they meet again in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969) — a movie in which both characters were played by new actors. Even stranger, Blofeld loses his signature scar and acquires, loses, and reacquires the need for a neck brace over the course of three non-consecutive movies.
It’s one thing to suppose, as some do, that “James Bond” is a codename for a series of different spies (as if 007 were not codename enough). It’s a bridge too far, though, to imagine a series of different megalomaniacs each using the name Ernst Stavro Blofeld. There must be a better solution, even if it has to be unofficial, fan-made one.
At last there is! After [too] much thought, I have come up with a logical, story-based sequence for the seven most Blofeld-y Bond films. I call it Blofeld Order as a hat-tip to the internet-famous Machete Order for the Star Wars films. To take Blofeld Order for a spin, queue up the following Bond flicks:
This has to come first. There’s no way around it short of subscribing to the lazy nihilism of multiple Bonds and multiple Blofelds. In SPECTRE (2015), Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Christoph Waltz) is the nom de guerre of a man who knew Bond as a child and then became a murderer bent on world domination partly because he was jealous of little Jimmy. At the end of the movie, Blofeld acquires a large scar over his right eye. He only sported that mark in one other Bond film, but thanks to his Austin Powers doppelganger Dr. Evil it has become a familiar part of Blofeld’s identity.
SPECTRE on Flickchart
- Global ranking: 2319
- Wins 53% of matchups
- 483 users have ranked it
- 5 have it at #1
- 25 have it in their top 20
2. From Russia With Love
The organization Blofeld heads, SPECTRE, is first mentioned in Dr. No, the inaugural Eon Productions Bond film, but the man himself makes his introduction in the next movie, From Russia with Love (1963). In it we hear him harangue his miserably incompetent agents, Number 3 and Number 5, in an unnaturally deep voice provided by actor Eric Pohlmann. Blofeld is mostly obscured except for a pair of hands petting a white cat and feeding some fish — Blofeld’s fixation on animals is “introduced” in SPECTRE when the character discusses the behavior of cuckoo hatchlings. There are some glimpses of his head, as well; it is the head of actor Anthony Dawson, who had appeared in Dr. No as a different character. The fact that this Blofeld has hair used to conflict with his subsequent, more recognizable appearance as a bald man with a scar, but since Waltz has both the hair and the scar at the end of SPECTRE, the hair in From Russia with Love is unsurprising.
From Russia with Love on Flickchart
- Global ranking: 418
- Wins 47% of matchups
- 10577 users have ranked it
- 15 have it at #1
- 287 have it in their top 20
Dawson and Pohlmann returned for the part of Blofeld in the fourth Connery Bond movie, and again his face is obscured. Nothing pertinent to Blofeld Order occurs in Thunderball (1965). This movie is frequently criticized for its slow pacing, but excellent Ken Adam sets and a revisionist, proto-feminist slant make it one of my personal favorites.
Thunderball on Flickchart
- Global ranking: 774
- Wins 41% of matchups
- 7086 users have ranked it
- 3 have it at #1
- 101 have it in their top 20
4. You Only Live Twice
Bond and Blofeld meet in person at the climax of You Only Live Twice in the SPECTRE leader’s Space Age headquarters inside a volcano. Gone is the modulated voice and the head of hair from the earlier Connery movies, but actor Donald Pleasence rocks the face scar and the Turkish Angora, so this is the same Blofeld we “first” met in SPECTRE. Pleasence’s Blofeld introduces himself to Bond, which is clearly redundant in light of their meetings in SPECTRE, but let’s chalk that up to his established penchant for rhetorical flourish and his excitement over his new bald look.
You Only Live Twice on Flickchart
- Global ranking: 909
- Wins 40% of matchups
- 6769 users have ranked it
- 3 have it at #1
- 79 have it in their top 20
5. Diamonds Are Forever
This 1971 title opens with Sean Connery, who returned to the role of 007 after the George Lazenby interlude of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, seeking information about Blofeld’s whereabouts. His search makes sense in release order because of the dramatic way OHMSS ended, but it works just as well in Blofeld Order as a follow-up to Blofeld’s narrow escape from the volcano in You Only Live Twice. Blofeld, now portrayed by Charles Gray, has regrown his hair and lost his enormous scar, but there is a built-in reason for his change of appearance: in the pre-title sequence it is revealed that Blofeld has created a number of fake Blofelds using plastic surgery, so it is no great leap to imagine that he also used the technique on himself. What comes next is a leap, but bear with me.
Diamonds Are Forever on Flickchart
- Global Ranking: 1385
- Wins 37% of matchups
- 7785 users have ranked it
- 4 have it at #1
- 84 have it in their top 20
6. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
If we watch this film in release order, we are asked to believe that after the events of You Only Live Twice Bond would don a pair of glasses and expect Blofeld not to recognize him. That might work for Superman, but Blofeld is supposed to be smarter than your average Daily Planet reporter. Blofeld is now played by Telly Savalas, bald but without a scar. There is no story-based reason to suppose that he had another round of plastic surgery, but it seems that Bond did! Why else would he think his thin disguise would work, whether we’re talking release order or Blofeld Order? To speculate that Bond had plastic surgery after the events of You Only Live Twice would be nonsense, but coming after Diamonds Are Forever it’s almost logical — it was a crucial part of Blofeld’s plans in that movie, and turnabout is fair play.
Moreover, plastic surgery for Bond would provide an in-universe explanation for George Lazenby’s breaking of the fourth wall in OHMSS’s pre-title sequence. When the Bond Girl, who by the end of the movie becomes Mrs. Teresa Bond (Diana Rigg), runs away from him instead of falling into his arms, Bond turns to the camera and says, “This never happened to the other fella.” It’s an out-of-character reference to Connery’s departure from the series, but taken at face value (no pun intended) this could be Bond’s way of joking about his new face. The joke is also cited in support of the Multiple Bonds theory, but one problem with that idea, apart from the fact that Connery came back for the next movie (in release order, not in Blofeld Order), is that both Roger Moore and Timothy Dalton’s Bonds are later said to have been married, and Moore’s is specifically seen at Teresa’s grave. Blofeld kills Teresa at the end of OHMSS, but he himself is seen in a neck brace after breaking his neck in a collision with a tree.
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service on Flickchart
- Global ranking: 1015
- Wins 45% of matchups
- 3496 users have ranked it
- 4 have it at #1
- 79 have it in their top 20
7. For Your Eyes Only
Moore’s Bond meets Blofeld for the only time after visiting Teresa’s grave in the pre-title sequence of For Your Eyes Only (1981). Blofeld is bald and in a neck brace — two things he was not the last time we saw him in release order, but was the last time we saw him in Blofeld Order. In an homage to the early Connery films, Blofeld’s face is not seen. His vocal performer (Robert Reity) is different from the on-screen actor (John Hollis). Incidentally, the bald man in the neck brace is never called Blofeld, thanks to a legal dispute between Eon Productions and Blofeld’s co-creator Kevin McClory.
For Your Eyes Only on Flickchart
- Global ranking: 1577
- Wins 37% of matchups
- 6170 users have ranked it
- 4 have it at #1
- 67 have it in their top 20
Blofeld Order resolves old inconsistencies and accounts for SPECTRE’s new information. With SPECTRE at the beginning and Diamonds Are Forever swapping places with OHMSS, a consistent arc is achieved for Bond’s most famous and frequent villain.
Give Blofeld Order a try on your next Bond marathon and let us know what you think.