27 Jun 2013

Hai Fat's residence - part 2

After a short visit to Hong Kong in The Man With the Golden Gun, Lt Hip brings Bond over to "Thailand" and the estate of the industrialist and multimillionaire Hai Fat, who lives on a mountainside just outside of Bangkok. The Bangkok scenes start immediately after the briefing with M in Hong Kong and no establishing shots of Thailand or of a plane leaving Hong Kong are provided by director Hamilton (as usual). You almost get the feeling that Bond and Hip haven't traveled very far... This feeling would prove to be correct because they are still in Hong Kong for the filming of the scenes at Hai Fat's. The estate is called The Dragon Garden, and the exterior and a brief background was covered in an earlier post. Bond, disguised as Scaramanga (equipped with a fake third nipple), breakes in to the estate hoping that Hai Fat and Scaramanga have never met.
Bond stumbles in and finds a naked girl swimming in the pool, before Hai Fat interrupts with his guards. Once, it was the biggest outdoor swimmingpool in Hong Kong, and it can still be found on the estate. This is the pool where Chew Mee was swimming. Despite the rather poor condition of the pool today, the length markings, in feet, can still be found on the edge of the pool. It appears to be 60 or 65 ft long. The markings can be recognized from the film, as can the statues in the corner.
Unfortunately, the estate has been under renovation for several years and is not anywhere near its former glory. But fear not, at our last visit, the renovation was well underway with several workers active, so one can only hope that they will get the garden in shape fast and open it up for interested visitors. The place is still rather well guarded with a gatekeeper and at least one watch dog and the place appears to be run by an incorruptible foreman, so it's probably not worth your while to try and get in without consent from the owner.

"-Good morning, how's the water?
                        -Why don't you come in and find out?
-Sounds very tempting miss..?
                        -Chew Mee!"
          -Bond to Miss Chew Mee-

Another well recogniced feature in the garden is the big dragon. It is filmed with Hai Fat's guards walking around and in the background you can see the white bridge that Hai Fat is crossing later. The dragon, which probably was put in to justify the name, or a ground for it, can still be found on location, although its present working condition is a little unclear.

The dragon can be found just above the path that Bond is walking down in his white dinner jacket later in the evening.

We were lucky enough to see as much of the garden as we did. Apparently the rest of the grounds are in very poor state and not safe to walk around. Probably an excuse, but we weren't allowed anyway. Apparently the Dragon Garden charitable trust is working hard to raise funds for the restoration, but I have no idea when it will re-open. Some of the other garden locations, such as the bridge and the rest of Grizzlyland will be covered later.

The Dragon Garden is definitely the most interesting location in Hong Kong, after the Peninsula of course. It is truly beautiful, despite the poor condition, and one can imagine how the place must have looked in 1974 with the pool filled. The most striking thing is that, much like Danila village in Corfu, this place has been untouched for decades. For us location fans it is always better to find a place untouched than renovated beyond recognition.

16 Jun 2013

Countess Lisl's beach house

"I have champagne and oysters in the fridge. Why not come in for a bite?"
In For Your Eyes Only, Bond picks up Countess Lisl von Schlaf at the Corfu casino. They spend the night in her beach house after three bottles of champagne in front of the fireplace. In the morning, they take a walk along the beach before Loque interrupts them in a beach buggy. Lisl gets killed but Bond is saved by Colombo's men in last minute.

Western Corfu has a rather rough coastline but occasionally you can find some sandy beaches. Probably the longest beach in Corfu, Issos beach in Agios Georgios, is located in the south western part of the island and is the place of Lisl's untimely demise.

The Countess' beach house was built for the film and did not exist. Today however, there is a beach bar around the same place where I can imagine the beach house once stood. The bar is about the same size and there is a small road that leads up to it. I don't think it is completely unimaginable that the bar is built around the same spot.

Countess Lisl's beach house, constructed for the film.

Unfortunately, Corfu has changed from a tranquil jet-set island to a rather cheap vacation destination and at least the southern part of the beach is packed with tourists during the high season. You can also see that a lot of new hotels have been built south of the beach since 1981.

I can imagine that visiting this beach very early in the morning would be magical. A good idea is probably to avoid Corfu from June through August. The best time to go to Corfu is September, when the island has a nice temperature and fewer tourists. The olives are harvested from October.

Kristatos' men are coming up from behind the sand dunes in their beach buggies, trying to kill Bond. Unfortunately Lisl ends up in front of Loque, who shows no mercy. It is a hard location to scout since the dunes obviously have changed shape over the 30+ years that have passed...

"Goodbye Countess."

Countess Lisl is played by Cassandra Harris, who at the time was married to Pierce Brosnan. Pierce visited the set on one occasion during filming, and allegedly Cubby got the idea then, that he would make a good Bond in the future. Harris also appeared in several episodes of Remington Steele together with her husband. Sadly, Cassandra Harris got cancer in 1987 and died four years later, ten years after her appearance in For Your Eyes Only.

8 Jun 2013

The hotel lobby - Grand Hotel Pupp

"-Welcome to the Hotel Splendide, your name Sir? 
-James Bond, you find the reservation under Beech."

In Casino Royale, Bond and Vesper check in to the Hotel Splendide in Montenegro. A Daimler limousine from the hotel picks them up at the Montenegro train station and drives them through town. All the scenes in and around the Hotel was filmed at Grand Hotel Pupp in the Czech spa town of Karlovy Vary. The Grand Hotel Pupp complex is so large and houses so many different locations from the film that I will cover all of them on different occasions.

"You'll sign that dear? You represent the treasury."
The lobby looks just like in the film and hopefully they will not change it in the future. Unless the film team refurbished the lobby especially for the film, the hotel have replaced the green wall-to-wall carpet that featured in the film sometime after 2006.

The entire hotel is beautifully decorated and the lobby is no exception.

"Take the next one! There isn't enough room for me and your ego..."

After picking up his parcel at the front desk Bond and Vesper goes to the fourth floor to spy on Le Chiffre. The elevator can be found just behind the lobby to the right, the same place as in the film.

Production Designer Peter Lamont and his crew fitted the elevator with wooden panels instead of mirrors to make filming possible. Bond presses number 4 in the elevator, something that also was filmed on location.

2 Jun 2013

Pan American to Royale-les-Eaux

In Casino Royale 1967, Peter Sellers plays the Baccarat expert Evelyn Tremble, who is hired by Mi6 to play Baccarat against Le Chiffre. Conveniently he receives the name James Bond 007, like all other agents in the film, to confuse the enemy. (Not the only thing that was confusing in that film!) Just like Connery in Dr No and From Russia with love, James Bond, a.k.a. Evelyn Tremble, a.k.a. Peter Sellers is flying Pan American when on a mission for Mi6. Tremble is supposedly flying from London to the fictional town Royale-les-Eaux in northern France where he will meet Le Chiffre at the Baccarat table.

The plane is a DC-8, one of 25 airplanes that Pan Am ordered from the Douglas company in 1955. The Pan Am airplanes that featured in the official Bond films during the Connery era were Boeing 707s.

Royale-les-Eaux features in both Ian Fleming novels Casino Royale and On Her Majesty's secret Service where it is a seaside resort somewhere on the north-western coast of France. Formerly a fishing village but more of a fashionable tourist destination in the novels it is supposedly located just south of Le Touquet. At least according to Fleming's description in chapter 2 in On Her Majesty's secret service.
It is a little unclear where this scene was filmed, but one possibility, given the background is the Nice Côte d'Azur airport. It is not very likely that Pan Am would use a DC-8 only to cross the English channel and land in northern France given the fact that it was a long range aircraft, but nothing made sense in that movie anyway so...
A stewardess is briefly visible behind Sellers when he arrives at the customs/immigration counter at the airport. The uniform resembles the uniform Pan Am used during the 60's but the front is a little different.