Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Top Five: James Bond Villain HQs

The Bond films are renowned for their memorable and unique villains.  These villains are often characters with weird physical quirks (like Dr. No’s mechanical hands), and they employ weird and fearsome minions (like Jaws, Oddjob and Nick Nack).  

But no matter how strange the villains or their soldier goons, you have to give it to them for one area of success: they have really great bases of operation.

Since 1962 and Dr. No’s base on Crab Key, the Bond villains have made their homes in some of the strangest and most picturesque locations imaginable.  These headquarters have been underground, in the sky, and even in outer space. 

Without further ado, here are top my five favorite villain headquarters.

5. Whittaker’s House, The Living Daylights (1987). 

The military poseur, Brad Whittaker (Joe Don Baker) – a pretty clear corollary for Oliver North -- owns a gorgeous home in Tangier.  But it’s not just any home, it’s a veritable museum dedicated to war, and the history of war.  The entrance hall features a row of statues that physically resemble Whittaker, but wear the garb and uniforms from various historical conflicts. 

Then there’s Whittaker’s play room, where he has on display several dioramas with miniature soldiers.  Here, he obsessively replays famous battles.   Beneath these displays, Whittaker can open and shut slim automatic drawers (with a handy remote control) filled with state-of-the-art weaponry and ammo.  The film’s climax finds Bond trapped in Whittaker’s diabolical play room, battling (live) antique cannons and 21st century “machine” pistols at the same time.  Although this villain’s HQ is not as vast or as intricate as many in the Bond canon, I have a soft spot for it because I too am a collector (of sci-fi toys, not war toys…), and so I enjoy seeing how Whittaker’s personality is expressed in terms of his “man cave” or surroundings.

4. Piz Gloria in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969). 

Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Telly Savalas) has lived in some great headquarters over the years (in Thunderball, You Only Live Twice, and Diamonds are Forever, to name a few of the films), but Piz Gloria, a mountaintop “allergy clinic” feels like a nice winter vacation home for the psychopath, maniac, and leader in exile of SPECTRE.  

The headquarters at Piz Gloria is inaccessible except by helicopter (and dangerous mountain climbing…), and boasts a suite of rooms much like a modern hotel. There’s also a gorgeous, multi-windowed “Alpine Room” for taking in the sunset or sunrise.   Beneath the attractive exterior, Blofeld maintains a laboratory for generating bio-weapons. 

Another perk: Save Piz Gloria comes fully equipped with the most gorgeous international beauties you could imagine, including Catherine Schell (Space: 1999).  One of the great Bond action scenes also occurs on the exterior of this mountaintop hideaway, as 007 (George Lazenby) slides across a sheet of ice, mowing down SPECTRE soldiers with his machine.

3. Atlantis in The Spy Who Loved Me (1977).

This is the headquarters of Stromberg (Curt Jurgen), and a vast complex that can survive underwater (in case of nuclear war), but also rise to the surface occasionally.  Atlantis is to be the castle of a new, underwater fiefdom when its new lord and master Stromberg brings about the destruction of the world.

In terms of design, the tripod-style base is quite imposing.  In fact, it seems to be created entirely for fearsome effect, like a weird metal sea bug or something.  Any future underwater colonies or domes would stand in its shadow, with Stromberg and his monstrous headquarters looming over them. 
Inside Atlantis, meanwhile, Stromberg enjoys a lush office with aquarium windows on all side. Just watch out for the elevator, though: a trap door leads right down to the shark tank.

2. Drax’s Space Station in Moonraker (1979). 

As I’m sure other critics have noted many times, Moonraker is approximately the same movie as The Spy Who Loved Me.  Just substitute Drax (Michael Lonsdale) for Stromberg and an orbiting space station for Atlantis, and voila, instant Bond spectacular. 

In this case, Drax has manned his impressive space station with perfect men and women, “models” who will re-colonize the Earth after he de-populates it using a deadly toxin.  The space station is the most inaccessible of all Bond villain headquarters because it is perched in space, but also capable of defending itself from attack. 

Like Stromberg’s Atlantis, the station was designed to dominate a new breed of man.  The young Adams and Eves on Earth would conceivably look to the sky above and know that their “master” (A God?”) is watching over them…for good or ill.  The space station is a great design, reminiscent of Gerry Anderson’s work, and it’s a shame to see it get blown up at film’s end.

1.Blofeld’s Volcano headquarters in You Only Live Twice (1967).

This base is the prototype or trend setter for all future Bond films.  In You Only Live Twice, Blofeld (Donald Pleasence) operates out of a vast subterranean base inside a dormant volcano in Japan.  The outer walls are impregnable, and entrance can only be gained to the post via a sliding door that resembles a mountain lake.

The interior of this base, replete with monorails, command deck, and a rocket launch station, dwarfs just about any set in the Bond canon.   It’s an amazing creation, and yet one that seems wholly believable, if spectacular.  Blofeld even has a nice piranha pool (and collapsible walkway) leading to his roomy office.

You Only Live Twice is the 007 movie that really established SPECTRE as a world menace capable of interfering with the Eastern and Western super-powers in a big way.  The interior set reflects the grandeur of Blofeld’s vision…and evil.


  1. Oh, yeah. The volcano HQ in YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE is the ultimate.

    1. Hi Le0pard13,

      Couldn't agree more. That's the headquarters that set the pattern for all future ones, in my opinion. The breadth of that set is amazing. And just think -- no digital effects!

  2. Anonymous11:25 AM

    John as far as Bond villian's bases I think it has to be both Blofeld's dormant volcano base and Drax's space station. I loved the extensive use of the Space Shuttle Orbiters two year's before the real NASA launch of the Columbia.


    1. SGB:
      Yes, indeed. Drax's station is just an awesome design. I'm not sure how "Bondian" it is, but I love that laser battle in space at the end of Moonraker, with the astronauts fighting above the space shuttles. Just a cool moment in sci-fi cinema, because, as you note, the shuttle was in the offing, but hadn't launched yet. Very awesome indeed.