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Here’s Why the Next James Bond Film Is Called Spectre

J ames Bond is headed back to the big screen next year, and the new film finally has a name: Spectre . Bond superfans are giddy about this title. Here’s why.

Luckily, Spectre is easier to decipher than some, more difficult past Bond titles like Quantum of Solace . Spectre, or rather SPECTRE, stands for the Sp ecial E xecutive for C ounter-intelligence, T errorism, R evenge and E xtortion, a global terrorist organization that plays a major role in the Bond stories. (You have to give them credit for stating their intentions openly with that acronym.) Many Bond villains count themselves as members of Spectre, including Dr. No ( Dr. No ), Emilio Largo ( Thunderball ) and, of course, Ernst Stavro Blofeld ( From Russia With Love , Thunderball and Diamonds Are Forever , to name but a few).

Spectre (the British spelling for specter, meaning ghost) was originally conceived by Bond novelist Ian Fleming in 1959 for the novel Thunderball as a villainous organization that could pose a threat to the British government even as the Cold War ended and political alliances shifted. (A savvy move: 56 years later, Spectre still lives on.)

Spectre is a commercial organization led by Blofeld—you may know him as the guy with the fluffy white cat, played amongst other actors by Donald Pleasence, Telly Savalas and Max Von Sydow—that recruits its members from criminal groups all over the world like the Gestapo, the Mafia and a fictional Soviet counterintelligence agency called SMERSH. In short, Spectre is not messing around: Members who fail to meet directives—like, “Kill James Bond”—face death.

In From Russia With Love , Blofeld explains using Siamese fighting fish as a metaphor (typical long-winded Bond villains!) that Spectre’s main objective is to create conflict between two superpowers, wait until they are both vulnerable and then strike. The organization has no alliances and will blackmail both good and evil rulers alike.

Its assassins also tend to be pretty ruthless: From Russia With Love’ s Red Grant practices murdering real people wearing Sean Connery Bond masks; the same movie’s Rosa Klebb stabs people with a poisonous needle at the tip of her shoe; in Diamonds Are Forever Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd drown a schoolteacher and then joke about sending pictures of the body to her students.

Blofeld, however, is the most evil villain of them all: Pleasence’s take on the bald-headed criminal mastermind with a scar over his eye in You Only Live Twice has inspired many an action villain, including the parody Dr. Evil in Austin Powers . At one point Blofeld even murders Bond’s wife in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. (Yes, Bond got married at one point, though he wasted little time after she died hopping back into bed with the various Bond girls.)

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Blofeld disappears after For Your Eyes Only because the filmmakers lost the rights to the character. (He even goes unnamed in that last movie, killed by Bond before the opening credits by being unceremoniously dropped down a smokestack from a helicopter.) The producers only just sorted out the legal issues in the past few years, which means that the Bond series can once again use the character Blofeld and the organization Spectre. In short, the return of Spectre has been highly anticipated, which is perhaps why the filmmakers opted to use the organization’s name as the title.

Some fans thought that perhaps Spectre would be behind the events in 2006’s Casino Royale : Bond tracks down a then-nameless criminal organization at the end of that film. But in the sequel, Quantum of Solace , audiences learn that the organization’s name is, in fact, just Quantum (though it has many Spectre-like elements). Spectre’ s new, vague synopsis suggests that Daniel Craig’s Bond will only just discover Spectre for the first time in the new film. (Remember, Casino Royale rebooted the Bond franchise, so Craig’s Bond has not yet met Blofeld or any other of the Spectre villains.)

But can the new Bond film live up to Spectre’s reputation? Hopefully. Filmmakers have announced that Christoph Waltz and Andrew Scott have been cast in the film—both of whom are known for playing particularly popular and formidable villains, Waltz as the Nazi Col. Hans Landa in Inglourious Basterds and Scott as Moriarty in BBC’s Sherlock . Might one of them turn out to be Blofeld? That’s what Bond fanatics are hoping.

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Write to Eliana Dockterman at [email protected]

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  1. Here's Why the Next James Bond Film Is …

    SPECTRE also serves as the primary antagonist of the film, orchestrating a plan to humiliate and kill James Bond as revenge for the death of Dr. No. After being absent from the third film, Goldfinger (1964), SPECTRE returns in the fourth film, Thunderball (1965), which closely mirrors the events of the novel, and …