Suave, sexy and utterly deadly, James Bond looks like a human embodiment of the Alps, the Mountains licensed to kill and have no mercy for the faint-hearted. Here are 007’s escapades in the Alps that brought glory to both parties and ensured comfortable well-being of those left behind after the filming was done and the bombastic crews of stuntmen faded away in thin air.
Watch James Bond opening scene on YouTube.
A man falling into the stone abyss, his life hanging on a slim rope… it is not a suicide scene from an incidental CCTV capture. It is the one of the best stunts in film history – the opening scene of GoldenEye, the 17th Bond movie shot in 1995, the first to star Pierce Brosnan, the first to change M into a girl, and the first to have its own story independent from Ian Fleming’s books.
Speaking about the latter, GoldenEye did not to take the story elements directly from Ian Fleming’s books, the script was conceived and written by Michael France with later collaboration by other writers.
Another modern hack was to recast M, now magnificent Judi Dench stepped into the scene becoming the first female M. She replaced Robert James Brown who had carried that banner for 12 years. Judi Dench has definitely spiced up the action bringing what I would call a cameo role to the next level. She is my beloved M, playing it 1995 – 2012.
With the budget of $58mln, the film managed to earn six times as much, the box office running at over $352.2mln.
As I’ve said, the film opens up with a heart-gripping bungee jump of James Bond at Archangel (I bet the name should have been Archangelsk, one of the northern cities in Russia, but for ‘political-correctness’ reasons it must have been changed into a more glorious version. I still like the name Archangel as in Russian it is one of the angels’ highest ranks in celestial hierarchy).
The scene was shot at the Contra Dam (1961-1965), commonly known as the Verzasca Dam and the Locarno Dam. It is located in Ticino, Switzerland. The dam is known by its second name because it blocks the Verzasca River in the Verzasca Valley. This arch dam also creates Lago di Vogorno 2 km of Lake Maggiore and supports the 105 MW Verzasca Hydroelectric Power Station.
The dam came to full glory after the stunt, actually performed by the Brit, Wayne Michaels. In a 2002 Sky Movies poll, it set a record for the highest bungee jump off a fixed structure. The wise dam owners caught the whiff of the money coming and started to lease access to the dam to a commercial bungee jump operator. The ultimate adrenaline rush at Lago di Vogorno is now called 007 jump or .
You can lose your head here from Easter to the end of October every weekend, mid-July to mid-August also Wed-Sun in the afternoon. For groups every day is possible, also outside the normal opening hours (April until October). Price: 1 jump p.p. CHF 255- Adults, CHF 195.
P.S. The Contra dam was also used as a location and an enduring test for how much people love each other in the Amazing Race reality TV game show, in the 14th season people had to jump off it as a Roadblock task.
Bollywood is no stranger to this location as well, the movie Dhoom 3 was shot here.
Sean Connery got me on his radar when keeping his British calm on a winding serpentine of a road to the Furka Pass. No wonder he was cool as a cucumber pushing Pussy Galore’s car off the road with the wicked gadgets he had at his disposal. This is actually what the third Bond movie is famous for: the extensive cutting-edge technology, promotional licensed tie-in items (a toy of Aston Martin DB5 car became the biggest selling toy of 1964), and tongue-in-cheek humour. It was also the first Bond film to win an Oscar.
Furthermore, was the first Bond blockbuster, with a budget equal to that of the two preceding films combined. With the input of $3mln, it generated $124.9mln revenue (that is 41.6 times as much as the original investment! Few modern blockbusters can boast of such an explosive growth.)
So, the Furka Pass (2,429m or 7,969ft a.s.l.) is a mountain pass connecting Gletsch, Valais with the Realp, Uri, By the way, Uri was the only canton where the children in school had to learn Italian as their first foreign language. They changed it into English, as in most other cantons, only in the school year of 2005/2006.
You take the Furka Pass if you are trying to get away from the dire threat of Matterhorn or very pleasant Bernese Alps where you’ve enjoyed your Alpine Trinity Experience (Eiger, Mönch, Jungfrau mountains) and want to enjoy the somewhat more gentle Urner Alps with Dammastock (3,360m) being the highest peak lying north of the Furka Pass. You might move on to the Glarus and Lepontine Alps to test our newest app – PeakVisor. There it would work like a miracle allowing you to decipher the chain of six minor groups of mountains in the Glarus Alps or enjoying Monte Leone (3,553m), Monte Generoso (1,704) and the glaciers while driving to Lake Como or Lake Maggiore in the south of the Lepontine Alps.
Should you wish to enhance your traveller’s experience, take a cogwheel steam railway that takes you from Realp (1,546m. a.s.l.) in the canton of Uri via Gletsch to Oberwald (1,365m. a.s.l.) in the canton of Valais and back. Beware that some days there is only one train running, whereas on others (usually weekends) there are two or three trains per day. The journey is about 2 hours, depending on whether the train is steam or diesel (runs once a day on certain dates). For more information, check out the Furka Pass Steam Railway Adventure site, pay attention to the schedules.
Spoiler alert! We are planning an extensive pool of articles on trains; they would provide comprehensive data on fast trains as well as scenic and historical railways on all five continents, Europe being the starter.
Location of the Furka Pass: Uri/Valais, Switzerland
Coordinates: 46°34′21″N 08°24′54″E
On her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)
OHMSS is probably the most successful Bond movie if we speak about wise product placement. Rolex watch, Savile Row suits, but most important – Piz Gloria, a panoramic revolving restaurant at the summit of Schilthorn mountain (2,970m. a.s.l.) overlooking the valley of Lauterbrunnen in the Swiss canton of Bern. Piz Gloria was portrayed as the fictional clinic and actual headquarters of James Bond’s nemesis Ernst Stavro Blofeld, the head of SPECTRE.
When the production manager Hubert Fröhlich found this location, the restaurant was still under construction, but the producers decided to finance it. It allowed providing electricity and aerial lift to make the filming possible. There were also some problems with the weather, low temperatures (sometimes -25C to -35C) and occasional snowstorms hampered the shootings, so the filming ended up running 56 days over schedule.
Nowadays, nothing like that can stop you from enjoying James Bond experience. In Piz Gloria, you can have breakfast a là Bond or the coffee the way he liked, or buy some souvenirs in the 007-merchandise shop. There is a permanent Bond World 007 exhibition or a new “007 Walk of Fame” as well as a James Bond Bar. In the new interactive movie museum, a wannabe MI6 agent can simulate bobsled and chopper shootouts. You can stay in the nearby Hotel Alpenruh, where the shooting crew and the stuntmen lived and had good parties after arduous shoots.
Schilthorn provides a magnificent 360-degree panoramic view of the “Swiss skyline” including Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau. The expansive Alps stretch toward the horizon in dazzling sunshine. A splendid, pristine panorama of 200 ivory peaks (if you don’t know the name, PeakVisor app will be at your service) reach for azure skies, unsurpassed, as in Swiss sublimity. Since 1967, the aerial cableway makes its way from Stechelberg in the Lauterbrunnen valley up to the summit in four legs. Unusual and truly bottomless perspectives open up on the “Skyline Walk” and the “Thrill Walk” at the intermediate stop Birg.
Let’s go back to James Bond himself. OHMSS is the only film for George Lazenby, an unknown actor and model at that time. To date, he is still the youngest actor (29 y.o.) to have portrayed the secret agent. Lazenby is also the only Bond actor to receive Golden Globe recognition for his performance.
Lazenby arrived at the audition dressed for the part by sporting several sartorial Bond elements such as a Rolex Submariner wristwatch and a Savile Row suit, which had been ordered but not collected by Connery. The position was consolidated when Lazenby accidentally punched a professional wrestler, who was acting as stunt coordinator, in the face, impressing Broccoli with his ability to display aggression.
Georgy Lazenby and his partners in the movie did most of the stunts themselves due to the high number of close-ups. Take for example his escape from the clinic, when Bond is skiing down Schilthorn while Blofeld and his men give chase. This famous black ski run starts at the summit and leads down to the Engetal below Birg. Quite a number of scenes in the film were photographed by cameraman John Jordan, hanging below a speeding helicopter.
As to the money spent and earned, with the budget of $7mln, the total box office was 11.7 times as much, bringing the producers $82mln worldwide.
Information on Schilthorn Bond experience:
Arrival: Train from Interlaken Ost to Lauterbrunnen, then by PostBus to the valley station Stechelberg
Timetable: Operates year-round, from Stechelberg in 30-minute intervals Travel duration to summit: 32 mins from Stechelberg
Attractions: “Bond World 007”, “007 Walk of Fame”, “Skyline Walk” and “Thrill Walk”
NB: Holders of a Swiss Travel Pass benefit from full coverage for excursions on Rigi, Schynige Platte and Pilatus. (+ add links to the article on Pilatus mountain). Many more mountain railways offer up to 50% discount.
The usual scene, isn’t it? The man works his butt off to save a girl and all he gets is a ‘Don’t-touch-me!’ There seems to be little love lost between those two, unlike the Bond and the Alps. That affection is burning bright with the latest 007 film.
Bond and the Mountains, an almost traditional alliance is continued in Sölden, Austria. The world famous winter destination has a lot to offer: BIG3 – three ski mountains higher than 3000 meters (Gaislachkogl 3,048 m, Tiefenbachkogl 3,250 m, and Schwarze Schneide 3,340 m) – plus 145 slope kilometres, yearly held Ski World Cup Opening, Adrenalin Cup, culinary peak pleasures at the Ice Q gourmet restaurant, unique après-ski fun, top concerts and event highlights scheduled all winter.
You can also visit the Inferno here! Just take part in the race.
For this 24th Bond film the main action scenes were taken in Sölden's mountains and glacier areas in the rear Ötztal valley, Tirol/Austria. To be exact, the locations were
- Gaislachkogl Middle Station: triple rope mountain gondola terminal,
- Gaislachkogl: the ice Q restaurant and mountain summit (3048 m), and
- Glacier: Road Tunnel connecting Rettenbach and Tiefenbach Glacier and adjacent Glacier Road
To shoot that glory, it took a 600-men crew, 80 trucks with high-tech equipment, 80 minivans, 50 Pickups, 45 Range Rovers, 2 Britten-Norman Islander aircrafts, and a giant storage area covering several thousands of square meters for the trucks, trailers and technical equipment in close vicinity to the base station of Gaislachkogl mountain gondola.
The most legendary of those locations was definitely the ice Q peak restaurant, a purist-delight square impressive glass structure of 900 m² is again represented as a futurist hospital, named Hoffler Clinic, where villain Christoph Waltz pursues his devilish plans (nothing new here, Piz Gloria was used in the same manner). The start director Sam Mendes called Sölden a "fantastic place" and in the end-titles he even says special thanks to his main contact person Jack Falkner (Managing Director of Bergbahnen Sölden) and the whole team in Sölden.
With the budget of $245-250mln, the outcome was $881mln, still a worthy investment.
Other merits include the Academy Award for the Best Original Song and the corresponding Golden Globe, given to Sam Smith for the theme song ‘Writings on the Wall’. And one more plus is Lord Voldermort (Ralph Fiennes) becoming a good guy again. He is now the honourable M.
On a final note, James Bond is a walking ad for the newest fancy gadgets developed by the Secret Service mechanics. If a new film were to be shot now, Bond would be surely endorsing the PeakVisor app, helping him to find the perfect location and probably another Bond-girl. You can do it as well and feel yourself in Bond’s shoes, with the PeakVisor to guide you through the Alpine snow-capped mountains and deep gorges.