Ernst Stavro Blofeld

For years, the world has been safe from Ernst Stavro Blofeld (above, played by Donald Pleasence in the first incarnation to show his face) and the evil SPECTRE organization, not because James Bond and his MI6 cohorts are just that good at their jobs, but because legal wrangling prevented recent Bond films from using the two villainous names.

But things have changed. Kevin McClory, who owns the names to those bad guys, passed away in 2006. A deal has now been struck between his estate and the Bond folks, giving Bond film producers rights to all of the McClory estate’s James Bond holdings. In other words, Blofeld is primed for his comeback.

Quick history: Blofeld and SPECTRE were born in the novel Thunderball, which became the film of the same name. But Ian Fleming didn’t come up with Thunderball on his own; he worked with a writer named Kevin McClory, with the story originally meant for a screenplay. Fleming didn’t initially credit McClory, and McClory ended up with a controlling interest in Thunderball. So EON Productions, Danjaq LLC, and the Broccolis haven’t been able to use SPECTRE and Blofeld, because McClory controlled those characters.

That’s also how Never Say Never Again came into being — as a producer McClory had remake rights to Thunderball, and he recruited Sean Connery to return to the Bond role in that non-EON remake. And it’s why EON introduced Quantum in recent years, as a SPECTRE-ish organization to oppose Bond.

What’s different now?

Here’s some press release text, via OHMSS:

Danjaq, LLC, the producer of the James Bond films, and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM), the longtime distributor of the Bond films, along with the estate and family of the late Kevin McClory, announced today that Danjaq and MGM have acquired all of the estate’s and family’s rights and interests relating to James Bond, thus bringing to an amicable conclusion the legal and business disputes that have arisen periodically for over 50 years.

The question now is how this happens. Did this resolution come about because there’s a desire to morph Quantum into SPECTRE in the next Bond film, and so someone drove a dump truck full of money up to the McClory house? Or is this simply nice timing? We don’t know, but given the way that the Daniel Craig Bond films have called back explicitly to the older installments in the series, it is very difficult to imagine Blofeld and SPECTRE not making their way into the modern Bond movies within a film or two.

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