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.

25 Feb 2018

Bond's shaving kit in Skyfall

The brush seen in the prop display is a hair brush from Geo. F. Trumper
The mystery of Bond's shaving kit Skyfall seems to have been solved by two dedicated Bond fans as was reported by Jamesbondlifestyle earlier this month. Identification was made possible thanks to a prop display at the Omega boutique on Regent Street in London. The two then managed to track down the different accessories from different shaving boutiques. The research appears to be quite extensive.

Pictures and the full article on the Skyfall shaving set can be read at the James Bond lifestyle website.
Dovo Solingen straight razor with buffalo horn
Black Geo. F. Trumper bowl, with Eucris scent.
The choice of Eucris fragrance in Skyfall, which was the 50th anniversary film, was probably deliberate by the filmmakers since Eucris is mentioned by Ian Fleming in his novel 'On Her Majesty's Secret Service' in 1963.

23 Feb 2018

Noble House: The Tai Pan's residence - The Peak, Hong Kong

In Noble House, the Tai Pan, played by Pierce Brosnan, is living in a grand house up on the Peak, the most expensive land in Hong Kong. Several scenes take place in and around the house, including the big party and a few of the final scenes when Quillan Gornt comes to see the Tai Pan in the early morning before the stock exchange opens. The house is called Victoria House and is located on one of the most prestigious addresses in Hong Kong. 

Victoria House in April 2017

Brosnan as the Tai Pan and John Rhys Davies as Quillan Gornt

Tai Pan receives a visit from Lando Mata in his Aston Martin Lagonda
The house is located at 15 Barker Road on The Peak. During the British rule of Hong Kong, this house was the official residence of the British Chief Secretary. The position was called "Colonial Secretary" up until 1976 when it was renamed Chief Secretary. As Noble House was filmed in 1988 one can imagine that it was quite easy for the film team to borrow the house for the filming.

The Tai Pan's residence in Noble House - 1988 
Since the handover in 1997 the house has been the official residence of The Chief Secretary for Administration, commonly known as the Chief Secretary of Hong Kong. The position currently held by The Honourable Matthew Cheung since since 16 January 2017. The house is, naturally, not open to the public.

A very nice way of getting to the house is by walking up the 'Central Green Trail', which is a nice walking path from Central in Hong Kong, all the way up to the Peak. The trail ends right below Victoria House and on your way up you will get spectacular views of the Hong Kong skyline as seen below.

18 Feb 2018

Nambutu embassy - John Watling's Destillery, the Bahamas

After escaping Bond through the construction site, Mollaka ends up at the Nambutu Embassy in Madagascar.

Even the scene where Mollaka runs up to the guards by the entrance gate was filmed on the same location as the rest of the exterior of the embassy action, namely at the John Watling's rum destillery, in Nassau, Bahamas. Formerly known as the Buena Vista estate in central Nassau.

The entrance gate to the Buena Vista estate is located on Delancy Street, only a few hundred meters from downtown Nassau. The gate posts are still the same as in the film even though most of the estate has been renovated and is no longer recognisable. The trees seen in the film in front of the embassy building however, can still be found on location.

10 Feb 2018

Water skiing in Nassau Harbour - Never Say Never Again

In Never Say Never Again Bond travels to the Bahamas to find Maximilian Largo, who Bond believes have stolen the nuclear missiles from NATO. Bond is having a Vodka Martini in the beach bar at his hotel when he notices Fatima Blush who is water-skiing in the harbour.

The bar was located at the same hotel where Bond also is staying in the film - the British Colonial Hotel - near Nassau Harbour. The bar used in the film was part of the British Colonial Hotel until 1999 when it supposedly was destroyed in a hurricane. The hotel is located on the only private beach in Nassau, on the site of the Old Fort of Nassau. The present hotel building was built in 1924 on the location of the former Old Fort of Nassau which had been built to protect the western entrance to Nassau Harbour.

Seen in the background are the cruise ships in Nassau Harbour

Cruise ships still arrive daily in Nassau harbour as seen in the film

"-How reckless of me, I've made you all wet!
         -Yes, but my Martini is still dry... "

The pier where the bar was located can still be found on location. According to some sources, the pier and the bar was built for the film and was then kept by the hotel. I have not yet found confirmation for this information.

A very brief glimpse of part of the British Colonial Hotel, its garden and the beach can be seen behind Bond through the bar

The long house which is seen through the bar, behind Bond in the picture above, is still part of the hotel and can be found on location today. 

The footage in Never is uninspiring and not even Nassau looks exotic or colorful in the film. The film itself is a rush job and one of the few favourable things about the film is the casting of Barbara Carrera as Fatima Blush, the Spectre agent number 12. Blush is water-skiing in Nassau Harbour and then skis up on a ramp into the arms of Bond.

Across the water is Paradise Island visible
The British Colonial Hotel - today known as the British Colonial Hilton Hotel has sadly lost its former glory and is not something that Bond would stay at today. Of course we know that he rather chooses The One and Only Ocean Club when in the Bahamas. However, the hotel has a long history and has been an important institution in Nassau described as "the most elegant and most expensive hotel in town".

The location of the original bar before being destroyed and Paradise Island seen in the background.