30 Mar 2012

Body Worlds, Miami - Ministry of transport, Prague

In Casino Royale, Bond tails Alex Dimitrios from Nassau to Miami after kissing off Solange with a bottle of Bollinger Grande Année. Dimitrios is supposed to deliver a bag to a terrorist at The Body worlds exhibition in Miami.
All the Miami scenes were shot in the Czech Republic and the exterior of "Miami Body worlds" can be found in Prague. The building is really the Czech Republic Ministry of transport which was brilliantly converted to a Miami location, complete with palm trees and American cars in front. Unfortunately the building is not lit up in the evenings. The entire building feels like a relic from the cold war and a reminder of the Communist rule in Czechoslovakia. It is amazing how they could make it look like an exhibition center from the sunshine state, and even though it only features for a few seconds it is worth a visit if you are in Prague and on your way to Danube house.
The Ministry of transport -- Ministerstvo Dopravy České Republiky -- can be found on Nábrezí Ludvíka Svobody 1222 Praha 1 - Nové Mësto just off the Vlatava river and only a 10 min walk from Dryden's office aka Danube house, that is seen in the pre-title sequence of Casino Royale.

The interior scenes were also shot in Prague but on a different location, namely the National Monument on Vitkov hill. This national monument was built between 1927 and 1932 in honor of the foundation of the former Czechoslovakia and of the Czechoslovak legionaries who served in WWI.

The exterior of the National monument
The building was used by the Nazis during WWII as an arsenal and after the war it became a Communist mausoleum. Three of the Communist presidents are buried here and it is also the tomb of the unknown soldier. Today the building houses a museum on Czech twentieth-century history, a communist monument to the fallen of WWII and on top, a café with magnificent view over Prague.
It is hard to recognize the interior but some details can be found in the film. Notice the pattern on the windows. The stairs below can also be seen in the background with people walking up and down in a few scenes. Even the stone floor can be recognized in the film and the metal garland seen next to Craig in the picture above can also be found on this location. Even though the location features for a very short time in the film and the interior is hard to recognize it is well worth a visit. It is a nice walk up to the monument and you almost have a 360 degree view over the city from the café.
The monument on Vitkov hill can be found on U Památníku 1900, Praha 3. Národní památník na Vítkove. Vitkov hill is conveniently located near both Danube house and the Ministry of transport.

25 Mar 2012

Air India - a palace in the sky

Our tail followed him to Heathrow where he caught a plane to Delhi...
-Bond to M-

In Octopussy 1983, Bond has to fly to Delhi in pursuit of Kamal Kahn. He arrives in Udaipur (in the state of Rajasthan) by helicopter after flying over the Taj Mahal. Since Udaipur is a rather small town (only 450 000 people) you can't fly there non-stop from London. This is the reason why Bond is arriving in a helicopter. 
The name on the helicopter says "Air Charter", thus Bond has flown to New Delhi and there changed to a local helicopter shuttle. It makes sense since the distance between New Delhi and Udaipur is approximately 650 km and Bond is not likely to spend 6-8 hours on a train in India. (It is possible however that he did take a train to Jaipur and there jumped on the helicopter to Udaipur.) The helicopter is an Aérospatiale SA 316 Alouette III 
But the most interesting and previously unknown fact about Bond's choice of airline can be found in the scene at M's office. Here we get a brief glimpse of Bond's plane ticket. On the ticket jacket that Moore is showing to M you can clearly see the name "Air India". One would have thought that Bond should fly British Airways when going to India but apparently Bond wanted to delve into the local treasures. 

                            "-Book yourself on the next flight out! 
                                    -Well, I have 55 minutes to catch that flight sir." 
                                      -M to Bond-

In 1971 Air India took delivery of its first Boeing 747-200. This coincided with their introduction of the new plane livery and branding "a palace in the sky". This livery featured the paintwork around each aircraft window, in the arch style of windows in Indian palaces, a design that also can be seen on Bond's ticket. One could imagine that the palace in the sky-service was something that caught Bond's attention in 1983. 

Since 2006 Air India has faced multiple problems, including escalating financial losses and poor customer service. The Indian government has bailed out the airline on numerous occasions and it is probably not an airline that Bond would choose today. Air India also has a record of 6.82 fatal events per million flights.*

A vintage Air India ticket jacket. Even though it is not the same as Bond's you can clearly see the resemblance. The ticket feature the "palace in the sky" design 

*information from wikipedia*

21 Mar 2012

Mi6 Headquarters, Vauxhall cross

As filming of SkyFall is well underway in the United Kingdom and Turkey it is appropriate to look at one of the locations that will appear in the new film. Earlier this year, Dame Judi Dench were shooting on location at Vauxhall bridge, just outside the iconic building of Mi6 headquarters. The building has featured in some of the previous films during the Brosnan era and will now make a long awaited reappearance.


Starting with GoldenEye, Bond's office has been housed in the real Mi6 building at Vauxhall Cross in London. 1995 was the first time the building was seen in the series. The previous film Licence to kill had featured the exterior of the old war office building in Whitehall as M's office.

Mi6 seen from Vauxhall bridge
In Tomorrow never dies 1997 Bond meets with M at the Ministry of Defence instead of Mi6, hence the exterior was never seen. The establishing shot of the Ministry was filmed at Somerset house (doubling for the Ministry) and Bond later gets his assignment as he travels around London in M's Daimler. But the Mi6 location would make a comeback two years later in Brosnan's third outing.


The world is not enough

In The world is not enough 1999 Mi6 played the biggest part to date, when it comes under attack in the pre-credit sequence. A suitcase of money that Bond has brought back from Spain explodes and blow a hole in the left wall.

"King, the money!"

Since the filmmakers were not alloved to blow up the real Mi6 they constructed a model. Another example of the brilliant production design from the Bond series. It is an excellent model almost impossible to distinguish from the real building.

Because of the attack, the entire Mi6 have to move to Scotland while the building is being renovated. Hence, the HQ is set in a Scottish castle for the rest of the film.


Die another day

The year 2002 was the last time before Skyfall that the building featured as the exterior of Mi6 Headquarters. It featured twice in Die another day, both in the middle of the film when Bond returns to Q-branch and just before the final scene before Moneypenny is found with the virtual reality glasses at the end.

In the film, Q-branch is located under ground (supposedly an abandoned station), and during Bond's meeting with Q, you can read "Vauxhall Cross" on the wall.

Vauxhall Cross refers to the real location of Mi6 which is located right next to the Vauxhall tube station. The names of the stations seen behind John Cleese, except for Vauxhall Cross, are all located along the blue Piccadilly line (South Kensington absent). Vauxhall Cross is not a station along that line and why these stations were used is unknown. These scenes were  naturally shot in studio.

"An abandoned station, 
       for abandoned agents..."
Mi6 seen for the last time during the Brosnan era in 2002

In both Casino Royale and Quantum of solace Bond never visits M's office. Even though M has a few scenes behind her desk in those two films the exterior is never seen.



After 10 years, the real Mi6 finally returned as Bond's headquarters in SkyFall. M's office is blown up by Silva in the beginning of the film and M has to relocate Mi6 to Churchill's old bunker under ground. In the first scene after the main title sequence, M is writing Bond's obituary in her office.

Later, after her first meeting with Mallory, her car is stopped on Vauxhall bridge just before her office blows up.

The last scene pictures Bond on the roof of a building in Whitehall, namely the Department of Energy and Climate Control, overlooking the Old War Office building, indicating that the new Mi6 HQ again has been moved to Whitehall and will be located here for the next film. The Old War Office was the location of Bond's HQ in both OctopussyA View to a Kill and Licence to Kill.

In the final scene of Skyfall Mallory has assumed office and a painting of the "old" Mi6 hangs behind his desk. This picture is not present in Spectre.


Read the entire article on the Vauxhall filming and everything else about SkyFall on the website mi6-hq.com, one of the best Bond fan sites to date:
Link to Mi6-hq - The road to Mi6

The reconstruction of the Vauxhall building started in 1989 after the property had been bought by the Government and it was finished in April 1994. It was Prime Minister Margret Thatcher who approved the purchase of the building in 1988 due to the need of a modern building that could accommodate new technology and IT connectivity for the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS), also known as the Mi6. The building was officially opened in July 1994 by Her Majesty the Queen.* It was therefore brand new when it featured in GoldenEye for the first time.

M's office in Skyfall is located just behind the flag.

*Source: Wikipedia

15 Mar 2012

Old fortress and the Maitland rotunda - Corfu town, part 1

When Bond arrives in Corfu he meets Melina at the monastery in Pontikonissi, where she tells him that she has to go shopping for the crew. They walk through Corfu town and some typical Greek sights are pictured. Just outside the city centre lies the old fortress (covered earlier). The building seen in the picture above is the church of St George, built by the British, and is perhaps the most characteristic part of the old fortress. This is the only church in Greece built in the style of an ancient Doric temple. When you walk towards the viewpoint, where you can see the church, you pass the Esplanade. Here you can still watch games of cricket being played, a reminder of the time when the British ruled the island of Corfu.

The white church of St George at the old fortress 

Bond and Melina also walk past the famous Maitland rotunda. It was built in 1816 in memory of Sir Thomas Maitland, the first British governor of Corfu during the colonial era.

After walking through the town they reach the viewpoint at the Achilleon palace, which is at a completely different part of the island but filmed as though it would be in Corfu town. To sum up, these sights are some of the most beautiful and recognizable parts of Corfu.

7 Mar 2012

Back to Hong Kong

In Die another day, Bond is traded from a North Korean prison by Mi6. He is anaesthetized and when he wakes up he finds himself on a British warship in Hong Kong harbour. When M tells him he is going to their evaluation centre in the Falklands he jumps ship, in nothing but his pyjamas. The first view over Hong Kong shows the famous skyline, although with fewer buildings than today. A lot of new buildings have risen since 2002, including the Two International Finance Centre ''Two IFC'', the second tallest in Hong Kong. That building also featured in Batman - dark knight.

Bond emerges at the Hong Kong yacht club, which is a factual error since he is coming up on the Kowloon side. There is not a yacht club on this side and the famous 'Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club' is located on Hong Kong Island, consequently the other side. A deliberate mistake that is understandable since they probably wanted to picture the famous view over Hong Kong Island in the film. The real Hong Kong Yacht Club also played a small part in You only live twice 35 years earlier, when an enemy agent watched "Bond's funeral" from the club's terrace.
Brosnan was never anywhere near Hong Kong in the film since everything was shot in studio with a bluescreen. Even Bond's hotel in Hong Kong, the Rubyeon Royale hotel is a fake. The name refers to various contributions to the Bond history. Since Die another day celebrated Bond's 40th anniversary on the silver screen, you can find references from the previous 19 Bond adventures all through the film. The name of the hotel symbolizes the ruby (40 years) anniversary for eon productions, and Royale refers to Ian Fleming's first novel, which of course was Casino Royale.

3 Mar 2012

Corfu Casino / Achilleion Palace, Corfu

In For your eyes only 1981, Bond meets with Kristatos at the Corfu casino. After a game of Chemin de fer (Baccarat) where Bond wins a few hundred thousand Drachma from the sweating Lord Bunky, Bond and Kristatos have dinner at the casino restaurant. Theses scenes were filmed at what was then the real Corfu casino, housed in the Achilleion Palace in Gastouri.

The Achiellon Palace was built in 1890 by the Empress of Austria, Elisabeth of Bavaria. It was originally built as a summer recidence, designed with the hero Achilles as its central theme. Several statues of Achilles can be found in the palace garden. Elisabeth visited the palace until her passing in Geneva 1898. After her death, the German Kaiser Wilhelm II purchased Achilleon in 1907 and used it as a summer residence. During this time a lot of diplomatic activity took place in Achilleon and it became a hub of European diplomacy.

The restaurant scene was filmed at the back of the Palace. The locations has not changed much and you can still recognize the black and white tiles covering the back of the palace. The small statues filmed in the foreground are still here. In the lower part of the garden, two large statues of Achilles can be found, in accordance with the palace theme.

Kaiser Wilhelm visited the palace until 1914 and the beginning of World War I. During the war the palace was used as a military hospital and after the war it became the propery of the Greek state according to the treaty of Versailles. It was then used to house various government services and during World War II the axis powers used the palace as military headquarters.

In 1962 the palace was leased to a private company that converted the upper level to a casino and the ground floor to a museum. The lease was terminated in 1983 and the property was returned to the Hellenic tourist organisation. Thus, only a few years after the film, the casino closed down.

"-Aperitif please?
          -Ouzo for me please. 
    -Ena ouzo, ena whisky jorispago parakalo!" 
        -Bond and Kristatos to the head waiter- 

Bond orders an ouzo and Kristatos orders a whisky and specifies "no ice". Behind Bond and the head waiter you can see the large statues in front of the pillars still in place. On the other side of the courtyard you can sit and enjoy this wonderful location and you should really take your time.  The Achilleion Palace has a spectacular view over the coast. It is sad that the casino has moved to the Corfu Hilton and that the guests from the restaurant are gone. This would probably be one of the best places in the world for a restaurant.

"My father loved the view from here...
I can see why. Was Corfu your home?"
              -Melina and Bond-

Another beautiful location from the movie can also be found here. In the garden at the back of the Palace, you can find the view point where Melina becomes emotional when talking to Bond about her dead parents. From here you have a view over Corfu town and the coast. Unfortunately the palace and the garden is popular by tourists so you can't count on spending time here alone.

In the film this scene is not supposed to take place at the Achilleon palace but in Corfu town, since Bond and Melina are walking thru the centre of the town, ending up here. You get the feeling that this is located in the town centre, but is is easy to understand why the filmmakers wanted to use this location since it is the best view point on the island. Over the water you can see the Albanian coast.