29 Mar 2018

Harry Palmer: Billion Dollar Brain - Helsinki

The Swedish embassy in the middle, the city hall to the left.

In the third Harry Palmer film, Billion Dollar Brain from 1967, Harry Palmer is sent to Helsinki by a mysterious voice on the phone, to deliver a package. Harry is meeting the treacherous Anya on lake Töölö after which she takes him to an island outside the city, to see Dr Karna. Harry and Anya are taking a ferry from the harbour in central Helsinki. Visible in the background, behind Harry, is the Helsinki City Hall (left picture below) and the Swedish Embassy (right).

Helsinki in January 2018

Helsinki harbour in 1967 - the Russian Orthodox Cathedral in the background

In first scene in Helsinki, we find Harry Palmer on Mannerheimintie, which is the large central boulevard along which several of the city's main buildings can be found. In the background behind Harry in the picture below, is the Finnish parliament visible.

Harry finds a phone booth on Mannerheimintie and then goes to the department store Stockmann, also located on Mannerheimintie. As Harry is dressed for the London weather he buys an overcoat and a fur hat to stand the Finnish winter. Stockmann is the famous Finnish department store, established in 1862 and their flagship store is located downtown Helsinki on Mannerheimintie, quite close to where Harry makes the phone call.

The department store entrance in 1967

The building and the entrance seen in the film has been kept pretty much unchanged since 1967.

Stockmann in 2018, 50 years after Michael Caine's visit

From the ferry Anya points Harry to an island which she claims is owned by her father. Through the snowy mist, the contours of Sveaborg is visible. Sveaborg was a Swedish fortification built in the 1740's and several other scenes were filmed at Sveaborg. One has been covered here earlier. It is of course not a private island, but an UNESCO heritage site open to the public. Although several scenes were shot on this location, the real name of the island is never mentioned in the film.

Sveaborg in 1967
"Now is the winter of our discontent."

Sveaborg in January 2018

18 Mar 2018

Bond and Small-Fawcett in Nassau

In Never Say Never Again, Bond goes to the Bahamas to track down the villain of the film, Maximilian Largo. In Nassau harbour, Bond meets with Nigel Small-Fawcett from the British Embassy, portrayed by Rowan Atkinson.

"Your going to jeopardise the tourist trade if you start going around killing people!"

"And take full advantage of the natural cover!

Bond and Small-Fawcett walk down a row of pillars in downtown Nassau as Small-Fawcett informs Bond about Largo. These columns can be found right by Prince George Wharf (the cruise terminal) and just north of Parliament Square in the very central part of Nassau.

Nassau in October 2017

"- Do I look like the sort of man who would make trouble?
- Well, yes frankly!" 
The entire film itself is, like Rowan Atkinson's character,  a joke and it is, should it be compared with the rest of the films in the official series, one of the worst Bond films made. The entire production was troubled with constant changes to the script, lack of funds and with Connery having to act as producer. The entire Bahamas section is uninspiring with boring and poor cinematography. 

Several of the lead roles were suggested by Connery himself, like Felix Leiter and the villain, Klaus Maria Brandauer, a renowned actor but probably one of the worst Bond villains in the series and completely wrong for the role of Largo. 

Due to the constant changes to the script, the reason for Bond's visit to the Bahamas is unclear and never really explained in the film. Bond does not do anything of relevance for the film there either, besides bedding two women and diving. Small-Fawcet informs him that Largo's boat has left for the south of France and Bond then takes the next British Caledonian Airways flight out of Nassau. 

Just as stupid as the film itself, is the performance of Klaus Maria Brandauer as Largo. I hope this video will convince you. Enjoy!

12 Mar 2018

Harry Palmer: Billion Dollar Brain - Helsinki

There is probably no-one who is more associated with James Bond, without ever having played a part in a Bond film, than Michael Caine. He was probably, alongside Connery and Moore one of the coolest guys on the planet in the 60's (and I think still is today). One of Caine's most notable roles in the 60's is the anti hero/anti-Bond character named Harry Palmer which he played in a series of films. The spy thrillers were produced by the famous Bond producer Harry Saltzman in the 60's and there are several other connections to the Bond series. Funeral in Berlin was directed by the renowned Bond director Guy Hamilton (known for i.a. Goldfinger), who recently passed away.

In the third Harry Palmer film, Billion dollar brain, Harry has his own detective agency and is sent to Finland on a mysterious assignment. In one scene, after meeting with his former boss colonel Ross, Harry is riding in a car through the streets of Helsinki. They stop outside a police station where the famous Helsinki cathedral is visible in the background.

Harry and colonel Ross arrive outside the police station

Helsinki in January 2018 from the street Sofiankatu
The Helsinki cathedral is one of the few famous sights in Helsinki and it is located at Senaatintori, the senate square, in central Helsinki. On the street Katariinankatu, parallel to Sofiankatu where the scene was filmed, is one of the city's secret bars located, Trillby & Chadwick, which is well worth a visit.

The film's plot is significantly worse than the two previous Harry Palmer films, The Ipcress file and Funeral in Berlin but the Helsinki locations are interesting. At one point Harry and his friend Leo Newbigen are found on a rooftop where Leo is going to assassinate someone outside the Russian Orhodox church. The Russian Orthodox church is located quite close to the harbour and right next to the presidential palace, only a stone's throw away from the cathedral at the senate square.

The cathedral is also seen in the background

At one point later in the film, Harry is captured by the Russians and taken to their military headquarters, supposedly located somewhere in Latvia, Soviet Union. These scenes were filmed at the UNESCO protected world heritage site Sveaborg, also known as Suomenlinna, which is a Swedish fortress built by the Swedes in the 1740's. Finland was then part of Sweden. Sveaborg is located on several islands in the waters just outside Helsinki. The boat ride takes about 20 minutes.

It was built during the Swedish era as a maritime fortress and as a base for the Swedish Archipelago Fleet. It was regarded as impregnable and even called "Gibraltar of the north".

Harry's meeting point when arriving in Helsinki is the lake Töölö, located a short walk from the city centre. Harry is supposedly meeting with Dr Karna by the lake but a woman shows up and gives him the password - "Now is the winter of our discontent".

4 Mar 2018

Slumber Inc. - Garden of remembrance, Las Vegas

In Diamonds are Forever Bond travels to LAX and on to Las Vegas with the dead Peter Franks in a coffin. Bond ends up at Slumber Inc., a mortuary and chapel supposedly located outside of Las Vegas.

After cremating Peter Franks, Bond receives the urn with the diamonds and is told by Mr Slumber that a private niche is reserved in their garden of remembrance. The location has remained more or less untouched since 1971 and the garden of remembrance is open to the public.

The scenes were filmed at the 'Palm downtown cemetery' at 1325 North Main Street in Las Vegas. It is located in downtown Las Vegas, quite off the Strip, approximately 1 km north of the Golden Nugget and the Freemont Street which is the classic part of downtown Vegas.

Mr Wint and Mr Kidd are arranging flowers at a nearby niche when Bond walks past. Wint and Kidd have been sent out to kill Bond, believing that he is Peter Franks.

After collecting his $50,000 from the niche with the chartreuse curtains Bond is struck down by Wint and Kidd and ends up in a coffin. Afterwards, Shady Tree collects the fake diamonds from the niche where Bond has left them in exchange for the money.

The exterior of Slumber's funeral parlor was not filmed on the same location as the garden of remembrance but at the Palm Henderson Mortuary in Henderson just outside of Las Vegas. The exterior has been covered here earlier.