It’s with a heavy heart that this Bond fan reports that Ken Adam died yesterday at his home in London after a short time in hospital. Adam was greatly responsible for the look of many of the early 007 films with his sleek, expansive, futuristic sets at Pinewood. His first creation for the series was that sinister, sparse room with that net window where Professor Dent is orderd by an offscreen Dr No to pick up a spider and kill Bond with it, a brilliant example of economy which made as much use of a fairly meagre [at least by comparision to the later films] budget as possible, but by the time of Goldfinger he was allowed to recreate the interior of Fort Knox, an exercise where he had to rely entirely on his imagination because nobody on the production team would be allowed inside the real place. He knew damn well that blocks of gold wouldn’t be stacked up in piles, but it was more important that it all looked good. For You Only Live Twice he created the interior of a volcano replete with working monorail, while his supertanker interior for The Spy Who Loved Me was, at the time, the largest film set in the world.
That set was rumoured to have been lit by Stanley Kubrick, and it was for Kubrick that Adam did, in his own opinion, his best work, on Dr. Strangelove. Adam’s first credit as set designer is on the horror classic Night Of The Demon, and his extremely diverse resume also includes The Ipcress File and its sequel Funeral In Berlin, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Sleuth, Salon Kitty, The Madness Of King George and Barry Lyndon, the latter two winning him Academy Awards.
One of the few Germans who actually flew for the RAF during World War 2, Adam was once described by Roger Moore as having had a life that was a great deal more interesting than most of the films that he designed. His biographer Christopher Frayling said:
“He did more for production design than anyone else by the quality of his designs. They are normally treated as backroom boys but there was an ‘Adam look’. He was a brilliant visualiser of worlds we will never be able to visit ourselves – the war room under the Pentagon in Dr Strangelove, the interior of Fort Knox in Goldfinger – all sorts of interiors which, as members of the public, we are never going to get to see, but he created an image of them that was more real than real itself.”
RIP Ken Adam, visionary master.
One of my favourite movie sets of all time.