Bond’s longtime nemesis and the head of SPECTRE, the enormous international crime syndicate introduced in Ian Fleming’s novel Thunderball. The novel was actually based on a film treatment by Fleming, screenwriter Jack Whittingham, and producer Kevin McClory, an early attempt to get a James Bond film adaptation off the ground. SPECTRE and Blofeld are also featured in the novels On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and You Only Live Twice.
In the movies, Blofeld is first featured with his back to camera in From Russia with Love (portrayed, uncredited, by Dr. No veteran Anthony Dawson). Eric Pohlmann portrayed Blofeld’s voice in both From Russia with Love and Thunderball (once again, you never see his face). He makes his on-camera debut in You Only Live Twice, with Donald Pleasence in the role, complete with an incredible scar supplied by the makeup department; according to film critic Alexander Walker, the character looked like “an egg that had cracked on the boil.”
In You Only Live Twice, Blofeld hatches a scheme to start World War III on behalf of the Red Chinese, building a secret rocket base inside an extinct Japanese volcano. From this enormous cavern, he launches his Intruder rocket—a spaceship that opens its jaws and captures Soviet and American capsules. When Bond (Sean Connery) invades the base with the help of an army of ninja warriors, Blofeld escapes to return in the next film, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, in the guise of Telly Savalas.
This time, Blofeld is sequestered in the Swiss Alps, posing as a world-famous allergist. In reality, he is developing a terrifying form of germ warfare that will destroy the agricultural and livestock production of the world’s leading nations. His agents are unsuspecting young, female allergy patients who have been brainwashed to distribute the toxin. Once again, Bond (George Lazenby) comes in to mess up the works. During a climactic chase on a bobsled run, Blofeld appears to have been killed when his skull is cracked by an overhanging branch—but he returns in the climax with Frau Irma Bunt (Ilse Steppat) to murder Bond’s bride, Tracy (Diana Rigg).
In the next film, Diamonds Are Forever, Charles Gray portrays a very sophisticated Blofeld, with smart tailored suits, a cigarette holder, and erudite quotations. Gray’s Blofeld is also the most fantastical version; his plot is nothing less than nuclear blackmail from outer space, thanks to his diamond-powered satellite and its laser cannon. Eventually, Blofeld gets trapped in his own bathosub, with Bond (Sean Connery) controlling the crane that lowers it into the water. The sub later explodes, but Blofeld’s body is never found.
Blofeld was supposed to return as the key villain in The Spy Who Loved Me, but the appearance was scuttled because of threats from Ian Fleming’s Thunderball collaborator Kevin McClory, who had won all rights to SPECTRE and Blofeld after a legal battle with Fleming back in 1961. McClory had teamed up with Eon Productions to produce the movie version of Thunderball, but by the mid-1970s he was attempting to mount his own James Bond film series, beginning with a project called James Bond of the Secret Service. Eon’s Cubby Broccoli had screenwriter Richard Maibaum change the The Spy Who Loved Me antagonist from SPECTRE’s Blofeld to a purely independent villain, Karl Stromberg (Curt Jurgens).
Eon did get away with featuring a Blofeld lookalike—never identified by name in the credits—in the pre-titles teaser of For Your Eyes Only. The bald-headed, wheelchair-bound, beige-suited figure, with his trademark white cat, is snared by the skid of the helicopter Bond (Roger Moore) is piloting and deposited in the nearest industrial smokestack—which would appear to be his final demise.
It would take a non-Eon Bond production to resurrect the SPECTRE chieftain, after Kevin McClory licensed the Thunderball rights to producer Jack Schwartzman and he produced a new adaptation of Fleming’s original novel as Never Say Never Again. Played by actor Max von Sydow, this film’s Blofeld resembles the never-fully-seen versions in the early 007 films: he simply announces the latest extortion plan and leaves most of the details to his field commander, Maximilian Largo (Klaus Maria Brandauer).
Today, all rights to SPECTRE and Blofeld are controlled by Eon Productions. Hence, producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson brought them both back for Spectre and No Time to Die. This time, however, the writers added a huge twist to the story. In this adjusted 007 universe, Bond (Daniel Craig) and Blofeld (Christoph Waltz) are revealed to be foster brothers. However, it’s hardly a friendly family relationship—Blofeld is still an international criminal, and he doesn’t hesitate to capture, torture, and attempt to kill Bond.
 John Brosnan, James Bond in the Cinema, 2nd ed. (San Diego: A. S. Barnes, 1981), 144.