30 Apr 2015

The Basilica cistern - Bond and Kerim spy on the Russians

One of the most spectacular locations in all of Istanbul is, without doubt, the Basilica cistern. A gargantuan water cistern built in the 6th century under the rule of Emperor Justinian I. Its name in Turkish is Yerebatan Sarnıcı or Yarebatan Sarayı, which means the sunken cistern or the sunken palace. It was built to ensure the city's water supply.

In From Russia With Love, the cistern is a secret waterway under Istanbul. Kerim and Bond paddles through the cistern in order to get to the Russian consulate. Kerim wrongly claims that the cistern was built by Emperor Constantine, with no reference to Justinian, probably because the connection between the name Constantine and the city of Constantinople was more obvious.

"My daily exercise, eleven in the morning and three in the afternoon."

In the film, Kerim has access to the cistern from his office, through a hidden door. Bond and Kerim are walking down some stairs into the cistern where Kerim has a boat moored. This is where you still enter the cistern today. As a tourist you are walking down the same stairs, although the stairs have been renovated since 1963.

When Bond and Kerim arrive on the other side, close to the Russian consulate, they are walking down a low passageway. I am not sure whether this was shot on location or recreated in Pinewood.

Kerim has had a periscope installed through which he and Bond can peak into the Russian conference room through a mouse hole in the wall. The periscope has been a present from the British Navy.

The cistern is a magnificent location that of course is a must when visiting Constantinople, not only because of its historical Bond value but because it was built almost 1600 years ago and still stands. The underground chamber measures approximately 138 meters x 64 meters and is the largest of several hundred underground cisterns that are located beneath the city. It provided a water filtration system for the Great Palace of Constantinople and other buildings and continued to provide water to the Topkapi Palace after the Ottoman conquest in 1453 and into modern times.

It has undergone several renovations throughout the centuries, in recent times in 1968 and in 1985. There is considerably less water in the cistern today if you compare the water level with the water level from the film. The level is probably one meter lower.

During filming, another underground cistern was also used, namely the one that Bond, Kerim and Tania run through after blowing up the consulate. This second cistern is considerably less famous than the Basilica cistern, but nonetheless impressive, and will be covered here later.

Today, platforms have been built in the cistern allowing visitors to walk through the chamber. They were installed in 1985 and the cistern has been open to the public in its present state since 1987. It is located close to the Hagia Sofia and there is usually fairly long cue so be prepared to spend a few hours on this location.

18 Apr 2015

Kremlin Art Repository Moscow - London

In Octopussy, General Orlov is called to the Art Repository in the Kremlin. Lenkin, the curator has summoned the general when he realises that the reproduction of the Fabergé egg has been stolen by 009. General Orlov and Lenkin are working together with Kamal Khan to switch the Russian national treasures with reproductions, in order to sell the genuine jewelry in Switzerland. The exterior of the Kremlin Art Repository can however not be found in Moscow, but in a most unexpected place.

The building seen in the background is called Trafalgar Quarters
For obvious reasons during the cold war, none of the Russian scenes were filmed in Moscow. The building is located in the middle of England, namely in Greenwich, east London. The entrance can be found along College Way, in one of the buildings that belong to the University of Greenwich. The door leads in to part of the building that is called Chapel at the old Royal Naval College.

The small entrance featured in the film can be seen on the left building, with an identical door on the building to the right.  

The exterior sign with Russian soldiers seen marching in the background can also be seen later in the film, when General Gogol and the curator of the hermitage arrive to examine the Romanov star, although they are not seen entering the building.

Part of the scene where the two soldiers are saluting General Orlov as he enters, was for some reason cut from at least one of the limited edition DVD boxes.

The man playing Lenkin can of course be recognized from The Living Daylights, where he portrayed the pipeline supervisor at the Czechoslovakian plant. The man is Peter Porteous, who was British actor and his supporting roles in the two Bond films may perhaps be explained by the fact that he was married to Emma Porteous, who was the costume designer in OctopussyA View to a Kill and The Living Daylights.

8 Apr 2015

Ian Fleming in Istanbul

During the filming of From Russia With Love in 1962, Ian Fleming visited Istanbul as a guest of Director Terence Young. While on location, the film team took quite a few pictures of him in the city as well as in front of the Orient Express. One of the pictures features Fleming in front of a mosque.

This location can be found on a well-known place. The minaret and the windows that are visible behind Fleming belong to the Nuruosmaniye Mosque, right next to the Grand Bazaar. The mosque is visible when Bond arrives at the bazaar in the Rolls Royce, covered here.

Several pictures of Fleming, Robert Shaw and Pedro Armendáriz off camera were taken outside the Grand Bazaar and the mosque. Fleming is standing on the street named Tavuk Pazari in the top picture, which leads up to the entrance gate of the bazaar.

When Bond is driven back to his hotel in the Rolls Royce, followed by Grant in the Citroën, they drive past the very location where Fleming must have stood when the picture was taken. This is still the main entrance to the Grand Bazaar, although there are no parking spaces in front of the mosque anymore and the traffic is restricted.

The first time Fleming arrived in Istanbul was in early September 1955, attending an Interpol conference as a member of Scotland Yard’s delegation. He stayed at the newly opened Istanbul Hilton hotel, which he described as “the most fabulous modern hotel in Europe”. During the filming of Skyfall, the producer Barbara Broccoli claimed that Istanbul was allegedly Ian Fleming's favorite city. However, Fleming's own description of Istanbul does not really support that theory. Almost all nationalities, races and countries, get rough treatment in the novels, with Fleming trusting no one but than the British. And Turkey was no exception.

Fleming describes Istanbul as “a town the centuries had so drenched in blood and violence that, when daylight went out, the ghosts of its dead were its only population”. It was a town Bond, “would be glad to get out of alive”. Unfortunately there is not enough room to further elaborate on the reasons for Fleming's judgement of Istanbul, so let's leave it at that. After all, Cubby Broccoli wrote in his autobiography, that Fleming, when he was in London, revealed very little of himself, but in Istanbul, he was in his element. He was his true self in Turkey, and not the reserved man he was in London -  "He loved the sounds, the spicy smells, the bazaars, the street merchants and the belly dancers. Especially the belly dancers."

From Russia With Love would be the last Bond film seen by Fleming as he died on 12 August 1964, little over a month before the premiere of GoldfingerFrom Russia With Love was also the last film seen by President Kennedy, during a private screening at the White House in late November 1963.

3 Apr 2015

Bond's apartment - First glimpse after SPECTRE teaser trailer

To celebrate the premiere of the teaser trailer last Saturday, I will take the opportunity to cover the first location from Spectre. The first scenes were shot in Pinewood studios on 8 December 2014 and the first picture released was a picture of Bond's bulldog, Jack, which he inherited from M in Skyfall. Jack can now be seen in the trailer, sitting on Bond's living room table. At the same time we get the first glimpse of Bond's new apartment.
21A indicates that this scene will take place very early in the film. Another one of the early pictures reveals that one of the books in the pile of books in the living room is 'The birds of the West Indies'.

Principle filming of Spectre began on Monday 8 December 2014, and a few days later, on the evening of 15 December, Craig was on location in Notting Hill, filming some exterior shots of Bond's apartment. Naomi Harris was also spotted on location and from the trailer and a few of the earlier photos we learn that Miss Moneypenny is on her way to visit Bond and to hand over a few personal effects that the Mi6 forensic team has recovered from Skyfall.

The address is No. 1 Stanley Crescent in Notting Hill, which is a district in Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. Notting Hill was once a cheap and alternative area of the city with low rents, but needless to say, the address today is located in a fashionable part of London.

This will only be the third time in the series that Bond's home has been featured in one of the films. The last time being Live and Let Die. In that film too, just like in Spectre, Miss Moneypenny came to see Bond at home. This is only one of many similarities between Live and Let Die and Spectre. The teaser poster features Craig in an outfit that is almost identical to what Sir Roger wore in his first outing in 1973.

The director, Sam Mendes, already on his second Bond film has stated that Live and Let Die was the first Bond film that he saw as a child, and it is obvious that Mendes, demonstrated by the success of Skyfall, now dares to go the hole hog. Several other Live and Let Die appellations can be expected.

It is apparent that Bond's partnership with Macallan that started with Skyfall will continue. Bond can be seen holding a glass of 18 year old Macallan in the trailer.