Friday, February 03, 2006

Still minding the gap.

In a recent post, I bemoaned the fact that cultural knowledge I take for granted as one who grew up in the 1980's and '90's is apparently lost on today's high school students. Well, experiences since have helped restore my faith in the wisdom of modern youth. One such experience took place this afternoon at Scholastic Bowl practice. In response to a question asking for the name of a James Bond known for carrying a white Persian cat, one student called out "Charles Gray!" Told that the correct answer was "Ernst Stavro Blofeld," the teenage Bond fan admitted that he was wrong but correctly noted that Charles Gray had played Blofeld in Diamonds Are Forever. At this point, a couple other students indicated that they also recalled Gray's portrayal of Blofeld. Like these SICP students, I'm sure some readers will remember Gray's turn as an effeminate, petulant Blofeld who had a microchip implanted in his voicebox so he could sound like Jimmy Dean on the phone. Readers may also remember Gray as the Criminologist in The Rocky Horror Picture Show or as Sherlock Holmes' brother Mycroft in the 1980's TV series The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. Anyway, the fact that several contemporary high schoolers would recognize the admittedly obscure Gray was a pleasant surprise. On reflection, it occurs to me that I shouldn't have been so surprised given that Diamonds Are Forever and the rest of the James Bond canon are rerun almost constantly on Spike TV. Even so, I'm pleased to discover that kids born around 1990 are interested in Sean Connery-era Bond movies. There's hope for this generation yet. AMDG.


At February 04, 2006 7:30 PM, Blogger LilBucner said...

2 Blofeld-related items:

1. He was the character on whom Dr. Evil was based.

2. An early-90s Boris' Kitchen sketch, "James Bondage" featured a villian named "Ernest Stavros Blojob." Naturally.

At February 06, 2006 12:12 AM, Blogger Joseph Koczera, S.J. said...

"He was the character on whom Dr. Evil was based."

I thought about mentioning that in my post, but I decided not to as it would've entailed a lengthy discussion of the different actors who played Blofeld. Dr. Evil was based on the Donald Pleasance version of Blofeld from 1967's "You Only Live Twice," the first film in which Blofeld's face was shown. (The character was featured in "From Russia With Love" and "Thunderball," but he was always shown either with his back to the camera or with his face obscured by clouded glass; I always suspected that Dr. Claw from "Inspector Gadget" was inspired by the 'faceless Blofeld.') Pleasance portrayed Blofeld with the bald head, monocle, facial scar and sneer later captured by Mike Myers' Dr. Evil. Then there was the Telly Savalas version of Blofeld was "On Her Majesty's Secret Service." OHMSS is best known as the only film in which Bond was played by George Lazenby, and thankfully it was also the only one in which Savalas played Blofeld. Next came "Diamonds Are Forever," with the fey Charles Gray version of Blofeld that the Scholastic Bowl kids referenced. It's interesting that he's the one they remember even though the Dr. Evil character has arguably given the Donald Pleasance version of Blofeld much more visibility.


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