25 Feb 2013

Las Vegas car chase - Downtown Vegas

Las Vegas in 1971

In Diamonds are forever Bond finds himself driving a Mustang along with Tiffany Case in Las Vegas. The car is wanted by the sheriff's department and when the sheriff spots the car in downtown Las Vegas they get pulled over, right in front of the Golden Nugget Casino. Hotel Fremont and the Pioneer Club are visible in the background. Bond is coming in from N Main Street and turns left into Fremont Street, where they get spotted by the Sheriff.
The Fremont as well as the Golden Nugget are still up and running in Vegas, but the Pioneer Club ceased to operate in 1995 and is now a souvenir store. But the vintage Pioneer cowboy sign, called Vegas Vic, still exists on the exterior of the building.

Bond drives off from the Sheriff and a classic American car chase with screaming tires and sirens begins. But, despite a nice location in downtown Vegas, the chase lacks music and is remarkably unexciting. It ends up with Bond just driving around and, as always, a bunch of police cars getting smashed. The highlight of the chase is of course the ending where Bond drives into a dead end and in order to escape has to do a two-wheel stunt through the alley. This could have been a magnificent finale, but it is ruined by one of the biggest bloopers in the Bond history, where the car goes into the alley on two wheels, only to come out on the other two... This was due to the fact that the scene where the Mustang comes out was filmed at a much later date than the entry and with a different crew. Another less conspicuous blooper is the fact that Bond and Tiffany drive by the Golden Nugget Casino from different directions several times during the chase.
Fremont Street, almost 40 years after Connery
Today this part of Vegas has been transformed to "The Fremont Experience", a pedestrian mall and attraction that occupies the westernmost five blocks of Fremont Street. The attraction is an overhead roof where different light shows take place. The Fremont Experience was finished in 1995 and the section was closed for car traffic for good, so it is no longer possible to drive the same way as Connery.

The Golden Gate sign, with its turning letters, is also visible in the film. The sign is located at the very beginning of Fremont Street, at the intersection of South and North Main Street. This sign along with Vegas Vic are the only two still existing signs that are recognizable in this area and even though Golden Nugget is located in the same place, the exterior has been changed quite a lot since 1971.

        "-Relax I've got a friend named Felix who can fix anything.
               -Is he married?"
                                -Bond and Tiffany in the Mustang-
The film itself is another story, but I'll make you no secret that I hold it in much less regard than its illustrious predecessors and successors.

17 Feb 2013

Hai Fat's residence, Bangkok / Dragon Garden, Hong Kong - part 1

In The Man with the golden gun, Bond is trying to locate Francisco Scaramanga, the hit man who killed the solar energy expert, Gibson, in Hong Kong. Bond assumes that who ever hired him could afford a million dollars and his interest is drawn to Hai Fat, the multimillionaire that Gibson worked for. He learns that Hai Fat lives outside of Bangkok on a mountainside surrounded by guards. Bond accompanies Lieutenant Hip to "Bangkok" where Hai Fat lives. They are scoping out his residence and Bond jumps the wall. Posing as Scaramanga himself he reveals his fake third nipple, supplied by Q, for Hai Fat who seems convinced that Bond is Scaramanga and invites him to dinner. 

The Dragon Garden in 2012
Even though the action is supposed to take place in Bangkok, the Hai Fat estate is located in the New Territories in Hong Kong, where the film team was based in April 1974. The estate is called The Dragon Garden and was built in the 1950's. It was designed by an industrialist and philantropist called Lee Iu Cheung and it once housed the largest private outdoor swimmingpool in Hong Kong (the pool where Chew Me is swimming). Notice part of the red Chinese gate behind the main building in the left picture. The gate is found just in front of the mausoleum where Hai Fat is talking to Scaramanga.
The lack of letterbox in the door indicates that it's not the main entrance

When Bond returns the same evening, dressed in black tie, we get to see the entrance. The red doors with the yellow balls are still the same and even the letterbox is visible earlier in the film when Bond is escorted out. The word ´Letters´ is briefly visible in the film. Sadly the original metal plate, seen in the left picture, has been replaced with a new one at the main door, carrying Chinese characters. Behind the main door is the path that Bond is walking down in the film, leading up to "Grizzlyland".

The name is Scaramanga, Mr Fat is expecting me.

Hip drops off Bond outside of Hai Fat.
In the film there are two doors next to each other. However, there is only one door at the main entrance today and it is not very likely that a second door was put up just for the film, so the surrounding wall has probably been changed since 1974. There are still two separate entrances, but they are much wider apart than in the film. It is possible, but very unlikely, that they recreated the doors in Pinewood but most likely has the high wall been changed.
Along the front side of the Dragon Garden runs the same wall that Bond and Hip are looking over in the first scene. They are probably standing at the very left part of the surrounding wall.
The exterior of Dragon Garden in 2012. The main entrance to the right.

The Dragon Garden is currently undergoing renovation and it is not easy to get in touch with anyone in charge. It appears to be a slow process, probably due to the lack of funds, but things are going in the right direction. So far, the front doors have been given new paint. The estate is still privately owned by the Cheung family and it is not accessible for the public. We have had the fortune of a quick tour of some parts of the garden but that will be covered later. The estate is guarded by dogs and a security guard, although not as heavily armed as the Hai Fat guards.

 "-Don't tell me you saw him?!
                   -He even invited me to dinner. He must have found me quite titillating!"
                                                    -Lt. Hip to Bond-

The Dragon Garden is located along Castle Peak Road in the New Territories. It's quite easy to find if you are driving along the Castle Peak Road but it is unlikely that the cab driver will know what you are talking about when you mention the Dragon Garden, so good luck getting there. The road running alongside the estate has been expanded quite a bit and probably rerouted since the 1970's and it is hard to know the exact spot where Hip parked his car.
Notice the still unpainted front door in early 2012. 

More information about the garden can be found on the website of the Dragon Garden trust. http://dragongarden.hk

7 Feb 2013

North Africa / Villefranche-sur-mer

Domino is brought out to be sold in "North Africa"
The stupid semi-ending of Never say never again takes place at Largo's residence 'Palmyra', supposedly located in North Africa. Bond is kept prisoner and Domino is being sold in some kind of town square below Palmyra. Some Africans are riding in to bid for Domino but she is rescued by Bond on a horse just before the most stupid chase in the Bond history begins.
Villefranche-sur-mer in the summer of 2010
The scenes were filmed in the south of France, namely Villefranche-sur-mer, between Nice and Monaco where the film team was based for about two months in the fall of 1982. The exterior of Palmyra is La Citadelle, a fortress built in the 1550's, just by the water in Villefranche-sur-mer. Today it is a parking lot where the podium was placed in the film. The fortress was in use until 1965 and was partially opened for visits in 1981.
Bond escapes with Domino on horse back
A lot of the scenes filmed in Villefranche have been covered earlier. The exterior of Fort Carré in Antibes was also used as the exterior in a few shots when we see Palmyra for the first time. The location of the horse back chase is hard to determine but it is fairly safe to assume that Connery at least didn't ride up on the Citadel himself.
When Bond escapes from Largo's prison cell he hangs out the window opening and pulls out one of the guards in order to escape through the door. This part of Palmyra can be found just behind the parking lot. It is fairly accurate since Bond looks out the opening and can see Domino from the cell, but in reality the facade is facing the wrong way. In the picture to the left you can see the small window opening and the fact that it isn't any water beneath it. Like most of the action, dialogue and the rest of Never say never again, these final scenes are very stupid and it's a mystery how they could end up with action like this. Not much in the film makes sense and if it would have the honor to be compared with the rest of the official films in the series, it would definitely end up last on the list (even though it is a close call with Diamonds are forever). That said, the film has a few memorable scenes, like the tango between Bond and Domino in Monte Carlo. Connery also appears to be more dedicated here and is definitely better looking than he was in Diamonds 12 years earlier.
Bond hangs out the window opening and waits for the guard to arrive
You get a very brief glimpse of the Citadelle from Largo's yacht when Connery drops in for lunch and the steward brings him up on deck. When looking back towards the Citadel from the water, like in the picture below, you get an overall view of the location.

The wall with the gate was built for the film and it is in reality just an opening towards the water. Even though the scenes from the French riviera are the most enjoyable to watch, the Citadelle is a rather boring location. However it is almost impossible to miss and Villefranche-sur-mer is a classic filming location featured in both The Persuaders and Ronin that is well worth a visit!
La Citadelle (Palmyra) to the right and Port de la Darse (where Fatima Blush gets the last bullet) to the left.  Largos yacht, the flying Saucer is anchored in the bay. 

2 Feb 2013

The Havelock bay - Kalami, Corfu

M/Y Triana anchored in the bay
In For your eyes only Bond catches up with Melina aboard the M/Y Triana in Corfu where her father's yacht is anchored. Sir Timothy Havelock, Melina's father, has been asked by the British government to locate the wreck of the British spy ship, the St. Georges, and is using the bay as a base for his secret research. The St. Georges is said to have sunk in the Ionian Sea off the Albanian coast, which is accurate since Corfu is situated right between Greece and Albania. A large part of Corfu extends above the Albanian territory.

Havelock has anchored the yacht in Kalami bay, approx. 30 km north of Corfu town. It is truly a beautiful drive along the coast and Corfu has a lot of memorable roads. When driving up the coastal road you should put on the appropriate music and enjoy the beautiful scenery because this is definitely a road to remember. In the very beginning we see Sir Timothy Havelock study some charts, marking a position in his daily log, and the charts on his desk show just this particular coastline of Corfu, including Kalami bay.
                 "Go back to the Triana and wait. I'll come strait to Corfu I promise..."
                                                              -Bond to Melina-

It is here that Gonzales kills Melina's parents aboard the Triana in the beginning of the film, just after dropping off Melina from his sea plane.

This small fishing village was home to the British novelist, travel writer and poet Lawrence Durrell, and his brother Gerald, who both lived here in the late 1930's. Their house is called "The white house" and is seen in the picture above, just by the water. The top floor, apparently where the Durrell brothers lived, is available for rent during the summer season. It can also be rented during the winter season on request. 
From Kalami bay you see straight over to Albania
Corfu provided a huge number of locations in For your eyes only and it is understandable why Sir Roger wanted to rush off to Corfu after his trip to Cortina d'Ampezzo. He probably wanted to warm up after all the snowy action in the Italian alps.
Even though Bond and Melina do some diving in Corfu all the underwater scenes were filmed in the Commonwealth of the Bahamas (apart from the close ups of Sir Roger and Carole that were filmed on a dry sound stage due to Carole's diving problems).