And where has it been all this time?
After fifty years, the James Bond series has become its own genre. However, a hero is only as good as his villains and Bond has had some classic ones in his time. Perhaps none have been as classic as the criminal organization SPECTRE that served as the major antagonists during the Connery era films.
However, Bond fans may have noticed that after Connery left the role SPECTRE and its leader Blofeld suddenly stopped being featured in Bond films. Sure, Blofeld had a cameo in the teaser for Roger Moore’s For Your Eyes Only, but his name was never spoken nor his name spoken. The whole affair was due to an unfortunate rights dispute, which ended up being resolved in time for the organization to be used in the latest film.
But what exactly is SPECTRE and why are they so dangerous? We’re here to tell you, so you can be prepared just in time for Daniel Craig’s next film.
[Updated 11/13/15] We’ve added to the section “How will SPECTRE appear in the Daniel Craig film?” with information about the new film!
What is SPECTRE?
SPECTRE is an acronym, standing for Special Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge, and Extortion. Their first appearance was in the Ian Fleming novel Thunderball, though their on screen debut was in the very first Bond film Dr. No.
In the novels, SPECTRE is a nefarious commercial enterprise spearheaded by the arch criminal Ernst Stravo Blofeld, who also owns an iconic white cat he keeps by his side all the time. Made of twenty one officers, from across various organizations of the era such as the Gestapo, SMERSH, and the Italian Mafia, they made it their goal to control world events for their own profit.
In the films, SPECTRE was used as a villain instead of Soviet organizations such as SMERSH in order to avoid ruffling political feathers. Dr.Julius No, for example, originally worked for the USSR in the books but is a top SPECTRE operative in the film Dr. No. They were very much the same organization as in the books, even using many of the same schemes.
What kind of operations do they conduct in the films?
In Dr. No, SPECTRE plans to disrupt a US space shuttle launch using an atomic powered radio beam, though Bond manages to stop the operation and destroy the facility. In From Russia With Love, SPECTRE sends operatives to humiliate and kill Bond for revenge for his actions in Dr. No during his mission to steal a Soviet cryptographic device.
Though absent from Goldfinger, in Thunderball Emilio Largo, the second in commander of SPECTRE, steals nuclear weapons and holds the world for ransom. Bond stops their plans, of course, and finally meets their leader Blofeld in You Only Live Twice while thwarting their attempts to start a war between the US and the USSR by disrupting their space programs.
The George Lazenby led film, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, has Bond teaming up with a crime syndicate to stop SPECTRE from sterilizing the world’s food supply. As revenge for spoiling his plans, Blofeld murders Bond’s wife Tracy on their wedding day. The following film, Diamonds are Forever, shows Bond on a quest for revenge that ultimately dismantles SPECTRE for good.
Blofeld himself was killed five films later in Roger Moore’s For Your Eyes Only, though as stated before the cameo appearance neither named the character nor showed his face.
How will SPECTRE appear in the Daniel Craig film?
Well, because the producing and writing teams that originally created the first few Bond films split apart, the rights of SPECTRE have been in dispute and therefore have not been used in any Bond films for decades. As a result, it’s pretty obvious that Quantum in Quantum of Solace was an attempt to recreate it in spirit.However, given the middling response to the film it seems plans to keep Quantum as a recurring villain were dropped in favor of a standalone adventure with Skyfall.
*SPOILERS FOR SPECTRE*
[Updated 11/13/15] In latest Bond film, SPECTRE is very much the organization of old. Le Chiffre (Casino Royale), Dominic Greene (Quantum of Solace), and Mr. Silva (Skyfall) were all SPECTRE agents and inf act all wore the same ring. It’s also established that Quantum and Mr. White were affiliated with SPECTRE as well. SPECTRE is most interested in obtaining information as a means of control rather than forcing wars between countries. Their scheme revolves around financing an intelligence coalition between nine major companies as a front so all the major intelligence organizations of the world will be feeding all their secrets directly to SPECTRE.
In addition, Blofeld is still the leader of the organization and has an obsession with hurting Bond. It turns out Bond earned the affections of Blofeld’s father when he was young, so Blofeld killed his father and has made it something of a personal mission to tear Bond’s life apart.