When it comes to bad-guy bases, no film series does it better. And the most magnificent of all is the hollowed-out volcano HQ in You Only Live Twice, the mod-cons of which include the following features…
Diving deep into Blofeld’s hollowed-out hideaway. Monorail included.
In the book, Blofeld’s lair is a castle on the coast. But during the last week of location scouting, production designer Ken Adam spotted a volcano below and a new plan took shape. The reality of building the set proved daunting. The hydraulic door was 70 feet in diameter to allow a helicopter through it, so the rest of the chamber had to be gigantic as well. “We looked at an old RAF hangar,” says assistant art director Peter Lamont. “They said, ‘The equipment must have copper faces, if there’s a spark the whole lot will go up.’ So we built it on the [Pinewood] backlot.”
One particularly complex touch to the $1 million set: the working helipad. Everyone was nervous at the prospect of a helicopter flying in the enclosed space, but fortunately it came off without a hitch. “There was a sliding roof, a bloody helicopter flies in, lands on a pad and that moves!” marvels Lamont now. “It was an amazing set.” But the white cat cast as Blofeld’s pet wasn’t a fan: it got so freaked out by all the noise that it ran away, but was later found hiding in the rafters.
No self-respecting megalomaniac would design an evil base without a functioning monorail. And Blofeld’s is a beaut, with pleasingly bubbleshaped cars powered by henchdrivers in red overalls. “There were no search engines around, so I ended up getting out the Yellow Pages,” Lamont remembers of getting its placement on track. “There was a place in West Drayton that did monorails for carrying cement. So they came and put in the basic shape and then Ken did his design on the back of that.”
Blofeld’s plan — to goad America and Russia into starting World War III by stealing their spacecraft — required the centrepiece of the set to be a massive gantry supporting SPECTRE’S rocket, Bird 1. The ceiling of the set had to be 120 feet from the ground, the set’s cavernous dimensions leading to some logistical problems. “We ordered some pieces of H iron, 108 feet long, but we couldn’t get them from Slough to Pinewood,” says Lamont. “There was no articulated lorry that could get down the narrow streets, so they had to be cut.”