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The Special Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion (SPECTRE) is a worldwide terrorist organization and a recurring evil organization in the James Bond series who serves as the general main antagonists of the entire franchise, while Quantum served as the secondary antagonists. In the novels, its first appearance was in Thunderball, while in the movies it appears right in the first movie, Dr. No. It was created and led by evil mastermind Ernst Stavro Blofeld, who seeks to conquer the world.
SPECTRE appeared as the main antagonists of the Sean Connery era James Bond films (excluding Goldfinger) and George Lazenby's sole film On Her Majesty's Secret Service, but due to legal issues between Ian Fleming and Kevin McClory, the organization did not appear after 1971's Diamonds Are Forever (save for an unnamed Blofeld appearing in the pre-credits of For Your Eyes Only). Thanks to the legal dispute being settled between EON Studios (the owners of the Bond films) and the McClory Estate, SPECTRE returned as the eponymous main villains of the 24th Bond film Spectre, once again led by Blofeld.
The Organization's History
In Ian Fleming's novels, SPECTRE was a commercial enterprise led by Blofeld. Their top-level members were 21 individuals, 18 of whom handled day-to-day affairs and were drawn in groups of three from six of the world's greatest criminal organisations—the Gestapo, SMERSH, Marshal Josip Broz Tito's secret police, the Mafia, the Unione Corse, and a massive heroin-smuggling operation based in Turkey. Their debut was in Thunderball. At the time of writing the novel (1959) Fleming believed that the Cold War might end during the two years it would take to produce the film, which would leave it looking dated; he therefore thought it better to create a politically neutral enemy for Bond. The organization was next mentioned in The Spy Who Loved Me, when Bond describes investigating their activities in Toronto before the story begins.
The organization's third appearance was in On Her Majesty's Secret Service where Blofeld, hired by an unnamed country or party (though the Soviet Union is implied) is executing a plan to ruin British agriculture. Blofeld (with a weakened SPECTRE) would appear for the final time in You Only Live Twice.
In the films, the organization had a more active role, often as a third party in the ongoing Cold War. The goal of world domination was only ever stated in You Only Live Twice, and SPECTRE was working not for itself but for an unnamed Asian government whose two representatives Blofeld speaks to during the movie; perhaps Red China, who earlier backed Goldfinger. SPECTRE's goals in the other films it has appeared in have always been less lofty. Its long-term strategy, however, is illustrated by the analogy of the three Siamese fighting fish Blofeld keeps in an aquarium in the film version of From Russia with Love. Blofeld notes that one fish is refraining from fighting two others until their fight is concluded. Then, that cunning fish attacks the weakened victor and kills it easily. Thus SPECTRE's main strategy was to instigate conflict between two powerful enemies, namely the superpowers, hoping that they would exhaust themselves and be vulnerable when it seizes power. SPECTRE thus worked with both sides of the Cold War.
In both the film and the novel Thunderball, the physical headquarters of the organisation were in Paris, operating behind the terrorist front organisation aiding refugees (Firco in the novels; International Brotherhood for the Assistance of Stateless Persons in the films).
Organizational discipline was notoriously draconian with the penalty for disobedience or failure being death. As quoted by Blofeld on several occasions: "This organization does not tolerate failure". Furthermore, to heighten the impact of the executions, Blofeld often chose to focus attention on an innocent member, making it appear his death is imminent, only to suddenly strike down the actual target when that person is off guard.
Fleming's SPECTRE had elements inspired by mafia syndicates and organized crime rings that were actively hunted by law enforcement in the 1950s. The strict codes of loyalty and silence, and the hard retributions that followed violations, were hallmarks of U.S. gangster rings, Mafia, the Unione Corse, the Chinese Tongs/Triads and the Japanese Yakuza/Black Dragon Society.
Leadership and Hierarchy
SPECTRE was headed by the supervillain Ernst Stavro Blofeld who usually appeared accompanied by a white Persian cat in the movies, but not in the books. In both the films and the novels, Emilio Largo was the second in command. It is stated in the novel that if something were to happen to Blofeld, Largo would assume command.
The members of the head board of SPECTRE went by numbers (e.g.: Number 1) as code names. In the novels, the numbers of members were initially assigned at random and then rotated by two digits every month to prevent detection. For example, if one was Number 1 this month, he would be Number 3 next month. In the novel Thunderball, Blofeld has been assigned "Number 2", while Emilio Largo is assigned "Number 1". This particular example of numbering was perhaps deliberately borrowed from revolutionary organisations, wherein members exist in cells, and are numerically defined to prevent identification and cross-betrayal of aims. By deliberately drawing attention away from the true leader of the organization, he was protected by masquerading as a target of lower importance, and the structure of the organization was also obscured from intelligence services.
In the films the number indicates rank: Blofeld is always referred to as "Number 1" and Emilio Largo, in the film Thunderball, is "Number 2".
The SPECTRE cabinet had a total of 21 members. Blofeld was the chairman and leader because he founded the organization, and Largo was elected by the cabinet to be second in command. A physicist named Kotze and an electronics expert named Maslov were also included in the group for their expertise on scientific and technical matters. It was officially dismantled in Diamonds are Forever when their latest scheme of world espionage and domination failed.
This list shows the entire members of SPECTRE mentioned in the official Bond film franchise.
|Ernst Stavro Blofeld||1||From Russia with Love
Thunderball You Only Live Twice On Her Majesty's ... Diamonds Are Forever For Your Eyes Only
Eric Pohlmann (Voice)
|Emilio Largo||2||Thunderball||Adolfo Celi
Robert Rietty (Voice)
|Rosa Klebb||3||From Russia with Love||Lotte Lenya|
|Unknown||You Only Live Twice||Burt Kwouk|
|Count Lippé||4||Thunderball||Guy Doleman|
|Unknown||You Only Live Twice||Michael Chow|
|Tov Kronsteen||5||From Russia with Love||Vladek Sheybal|
|Jacques Bouvar||6||Thunderball||Bob Simmons|
|Helga Brandt||You Only Live Twice||Karin Dor|
Never Say Never Again
This list shows all SPECTRE board members mentioned in the unofficial films:
|Ernst Stavro Blofeld||0||Never Say Never Again||Max von Sydow|
|Maximillian Largo||1||Never Say Never Again||Klaus Maria Brandauer|
|Fatima Blush||12||Never Say Never Again||Barbara Carrera|
This list shows all SPECTRE board members mentioned in the Ian Fleming novel Thunderball:
|Ernst Stavro Blofeld||2||Leader and founder of SPECTRE.|
|Emilio Largo||1||Second-in-command of SPECTRE and designated by Blofeld to oversee all field operations for Plan Omega.|
|Fonda||4||An Italian who recruited Petacchi for the plot.|
|Pierre Borraud||12||A member of the Unione Corse; had sex with a girl that he kidnapped for ransom. As a punishment, Blofeld electrocuted Borraud and returned half of the ransom money to the girl's father as compensation.|
|Marius Domingue||7||Another Unione Corse man; highly trustworthy, but singled out by Blofeld for a lecture in order to throw Borraud off guard.|
|Strelik||10||A former SMERSH member; shot dead by Largo for questioning the loyalty of the other SPECTRE members.|
|Unknown||11||Another ex-SMERSH operative.|
|Kotze||5||Formerly known as Emil Traut; an East German physicist who defected to the West. Later defects to NATO and reveals all he knows about SPECTRE.|
|Unknown||6||Kills Lippe at the behest of Blofeld for being unreliable.|
|Unknown||14||A former Gestapo officer.|
|Unknown||17||Finds Domino scanning the Disco Volante with a Geiger counter in search of the stolen atomic bombs; reports her to Largo, who takes her prisoner and tortures her.|
|Maslov||18||Formerly known as Kandinsky; a Polish electronics expert who resigned from Philips AG.|
|Irma Bunt||?||Blofeld's matron at Piz Gloria who later becomes his wife in Japan.|
- Ernst Stavro Blofeld. Founder of SPECTRE and leader of the organization (Incarcerated)
- Emilio Largo. Second in command and successor of Blofeld (Deceased)
- Rosa Klebb (Deceased)
- Kronsteen (Deceased)
- Jacques Bouvar (Deceased)
- Clive Chez (Deceased)
- Helga Brandt (Deceased)
- Fiona Volpe (Deceased)
- Dr. Vogel
- Dr. Julius No (Deceased)
- Red Grant (Deceased)
- Irma Bunt
- Mr. Wint & Mr. Kidd (Deceased)
- Mr. Osato (Deceased)
- Hans (Deceased)
- Mr. Hinx (Deceased)
In the original Bond novel series, SPECTRE's first and last appearance as a worldwide power is in the novel Thunderball, published in 1961. In the novel, SPECTRE, headed by Blofeld, attempts to conduct nuclear blackmail against NATO. Apparently disbanded afterwards, SPECTRE is said to be active again in the next book, The Spy Who Loved Me, although the organisation is not involved in the plot. In On Her Majesty's Secret Service, the second chapter of what is known as the "Blofeld Trilogy", Blofeld has revived SPECTRE, and Blofeld's final appearance, sans SPECTRE, is in the final novel of the trilogy, You Only Live Twice.
Later, the John Gardner Bond novel, For Special Services introduces a revived SPECTRE led by Blofeld's daughter, Nena Bismaquer. Although Bond ultimately prevents SPECTRE from reforming, it continued, under the leadership of Tamil Rahani, to play a part in Role of Honor and Nobody Lives For Ever. The next Bond novelist, Raymond Benson, reintroduces Irma Bunt, Blofeld's assistant, in his short story "Blast From the Past", which is a sequel to You Only Live Twice.
Connery, Lazenby, and Moore Films
In the EON Productions James Bond series, which began in 1962 with Dr. No, SPECTRE plays a more prominent role. The organisation is first mentioned in Dr. No as the organisation for which Dr. Julius No works. This was changed from Fleming's novels, which had Dr. No working for the USSR. In the films, SPECTRE usually replaced SMERSH as the main villains, although there is a brief reference to SMERSH in the second EON Bond film,From Russia with Love. The film adaptation of From Russia with Love also features the first on-screen appearance of Blofeld, although he is only identified by name in the closing credits of the film. After being absent from Goldfinger, SPECTRE returns in Thunderball and subsequently is featured in the following films You Only Live Twice, On Her Majesty's Secret Service and Diamonds Are Forever. Following Diamonds Are Forever, SPECTRE and Blofeld were retired from the EON Films series, except for a cameo by Blofeld (not identified by name, but accompanied by the character's trademark cat) in For Your Eyes Only.
Daniel Craig Movies
In the Daniel Craig continuity of the Bond series, 007 uncovered an underground terrorist organisation similar to SPECTRE, known as Quantum. They first appeared unnamed in 2006's Casino Royale and reappeared in 2008's Quantum of Solace. It is interesting to note that in the Bulgarian subtitles of Quantum of Solace, the name Quantum was translated as SPECTRE, with the title changed to "Spectre of Solace" ("Спектър на утехата").
On December 4, 2014 it was announced that the title of the next Bond film would be titled Spectre and would feature the titular organisation. The film was released in the United Kingdom on October 26, 2015, and also featured the return of Mr. White (the representative of Quantum), revealing that Quantum was in fact a subsidiary of SPECTRE.
In 1983, MGM released Never Say Never Again, based on the same original source material as Thunderball. Not considered part of the official Bond series, the film retells the story of Thunderball and reintroduces both SPECTRE and Blofeld.
SPECTRE is shown, but never mentioned by name, in the game GoldenEye: Rogue Agent. Instead, it is referred to as a "powerful criminal organisation". It is depicted as being much more powerful than it was in any of the films or books, possessing a massive undersea black market known as The Octopus, resembling Karl Stromberg's lair from The Spy Who Loved Me, a large lair built into an extinct volcano akin to the films which is used as the main base of operations, and also the personal structures of its members such as Auric Goldfinger's Auric Enterprises and casino and Dr. No's Crab Key, also returning from the films.
Although the From Russia with Love video game mirrors much of the plot of the eponymous film, it uses an organisation called OCTOPUS rather than SPECTRE to avoid copyright issues. The game features a recurring symbol which could be thought of as SPECTRE's logo: a simple, marine-blue octopus with semicircular eyes and blade-like tentacles. This logo is at least seen printed on the walls of The Octopus black market and on Goblin grenades.
SPECTRE and its characters have been at the center of a long-standing litigation case starting in 1961 between Kevin McClory and Ian Fleming over the film rights to Thunderball and the ownership of the organization and its characters. In 1963 Ian Fleming settled out of court with McClory, which awarded McClory with the film rights to Thunderball, although the literary rights would stay with Fleming and thus allow continuation author John Gardner to use SPECTRE in a number of his novels.
In 1963 the producers of EON Productions, Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman made an agreement with McClory to adapt the novel into the fourth official James Bond film. The agreement also stipulated that McClory would not be allowed to make further adaptations of Thunderball for at least ten years since the release. Although SPECTRE and Blofeld are used in a number of films before and after Thunderball, the issue over the copyright of Thunderball, did prevent SPECTRE and Blofeld from becoming the main villains in 1977's The Spy Who Loved Me. In 1983, McClory released the unofficial remake of 1965's Thunderball, entitled Never Say Never Again.
Although McClory retained the film rights to Thunderball until his death in 2006, and his estate held them until 2013, the courts in 2001 awarded MGM with the exclusive film rights to the fictional character James Bond. This technically prevented McClory from creating further adaptations of the novel. On November 15, 2013, MGM and Danjaq, LLC announced they had acquired all rights and interests of the estate of Kevin McClory. MGM, Danjaq, and the McClory estate issued a statement saying that they have brought to an "amicable conclusion the legal and business disputes that have arisen periodically for over 50 years.