James Bond’s epic car chase in a Citroën 2CV in Corfu

One of the all time favourite James Bond movies, For Your Eyes Only, duration 127 minutes and directed by John Glen, was released on July 2nd 1981. Worldwide it made 195 million US dollars and effectively saved United Artists from financial ruin. When British actor Roger Moore – in 2003 knighted by Queen Elizabeth II – had become Sir Roger Moore he would clearly remember which car he liked best in the seven Bond movies he played in: “The Citroën 2CV was my favourite.”

So where did he drive the 2CV? Corfu was one of the primary locations in For Your Eyes Only. We see James Bond and Bond-girl Melina Havelock (French actress and model Carole Bouquet) in sceneries ranging from the Agios Spyridon church, the Old Fortress and the Mandraki marina in Corfu Town, to the Vlacherna monastery and Kanoni island, Danilia village, the Achilleion casino, and Agios Georgios beach. And the narrow, winding roads of course that turn the odd car chase into something else!

Yellow Citroën 2CV
Let’s watch Bond and Melina being chased and gunned at in a yellow – no, not a submarine – but a Citroën 2CV through the rough terrain of olive groves. They end up in the narrow streets of the village Pagoi (in Corfu’s hilly northwest, between Palaiokastritsa and Agios Georgios). Melina driving escapes from running straight into a bus by turning the car upside down, near a café. Bond to Melina: “Take the low road… not too low.”

Bystanders rush in to roll the car upright again and on goes the epic chase, now with 007 behind the wheel: “You don’t mind if I drive, do you?” Next thing we see is bus nr. 44 continue its journey to… Madrid – as this part of the movie story is taking place in Spain. (Are you still with me?)

Roger Moore (1927-2017) lived to be almost ninety years of age. Carole Bouquet (playing the character of Melina Havelock) was only 23 when the movie was shot, being thirty years his younger. She is acting to this day.

Spiros Bond 007 Café Bar
Want to visit the café opposite the spot where the famous yellow 2CV went upside down? Spiros Bond 007 Café Bar does not just provide a terrace with a (virtual) view of that spectacular film scene, inside you will find many photographs, posters and memorabilia reviving For Your Eyes Only. You will find the café (actually a restaurant as well) in Pagoi, on the provincial road Arkadades-Agios Georgios. Want to stir up your appetite and see the car chase (4min. 40 sec.)? Follow this link to YouTube.

The interior of the café, not ‘for your eyes only’

An afternoon on the film set, Corfu Town, September 1979


In the beginning of August 1979 I got off the ferry from Brindisi, Italy to set foot in Corfu for the first time. Unaware I was to stay for seven weeks, camping in an olive grove near the beach of Kontogialos, beneath the hill of Pelekas. The beach life agreed with me so well I literally had to drag myself up the 272 metres high hill once in a while to get on the bus to Corfu Town. To sniff some culture.

According to my travel diary on Thursday September 13th I found the Archeological Museum closed until 4 o’ clock, for the lunch break. I wandered past the Old Fortress – closed as well – and near the Esplanade slipped into the shade to watch a cricket match. Just then a buzz of voices and shrieking car tyres drifted around the corner. Before I knew I walked into a film set and found myself on a narrow sidewalk surrounded by crew, actors, shop owners, residents and tourists like myself.

Annie Girardot
For the next hour and a half we would watch this dusty Renault taxi hit a three-wheel moped loaded with cardboard boxes, then crash through a newspaper stall and cause a pick up truck to send its entire load of watermelons all over the asphalt. Over and over again. With intervals of around fifteen minutes, needed to rehearse the scene and glue all the pre-cut watermelons together again etc. It was during such a break I spotted Annie Girardot.

Philippe Noiret
Or at least I thought I recognised the most popular French actress of the seventies, hiding beneath a white summer hat. Or maybe I just read her name, scribbled on an assistant’s scrapbook, along with Philippe Noiret’s, another favourite actor of mine. Just two years earlier Annie had won her first César for best actress, while Philippe scored that success a year before her. Through all the excitement I don’t really remember what I did and did not see.

IMDb
That is why I am really happy the unsurpassed IMDb (source for movie and TV content) filled me in on all the details about On a volé la cuisse de Jupiter (in English that would be something like They have stolen Jupiter’s buttocks, a rather unusual title. Quite French, I’d say). So I learned the movie was shot in Kalabaka (near the Meteora monasteries), in and around Corfu Town and – much to my surprise – in Pelekas, the village where I had jumped on the bus in the first place. And where I somehow missed all the film set fun during those weeks.

The comedy, directed by Philippe de Broca, was released in February 1980. Soon after that Annie Girardot (1931-2011) sort of withdrew herself from the screen, doing four films only during the eighties before she made a real comeback in the nineties. Her last part she played in 2007. Philippe Noiret (1930-2006) starred in a great number of French and Italian movies until an illness forced him to quit the scene in 2003.

Trailer
I am not sure wether to recommend On a volé la cuisse de Jupiter. IMDb rates it with 6,2 out of 10. For lovers of the scenery: at least the lighthearted comedy was filmed entirely in Greece, and mainly on Corfu. A three minutes trailer can be viewed here. You might still find me standing there on the sidewalk, watching the splashing watermelons.

Anthony Quinn, how Greek can you get?

Mexican actor Anthony Quinn (left) playing ‘tavli’ with a villager in Corfu’s Pelekas, during a break while shooting The Greek Tycoon in 1977

In 1964 the movie Zorba the Greek (and the soundtrack!) stormed and conquered the hearts of film fans around the world. ‘Zorba’ – based on a novel by Greece’s Nobel Prize winner for Literature Nikos Kazantzakis – won three Oscars. While much appraised leading actor Anthony Quinn had to satisfy himself with a nomination. Although surely his role as Alexis Zorba added enormously to his popularity.

Mexican born Antonio Rudolfo Quinn Oaxaca had played Greek characters before, like in Ulisse (1954) and in the hit The guns of Navarone (1961). Now by his acting and dancing (sirtaki!) in ‘Zorba’ he convinced many cinema visitors that he was at least partly Greek. More Greek in looks and behaviour than some Greeks anyway.

The Greek Tycoon
Still we would have to wait until 1978 to see multitalented Quinn (also film director, painter and sculptor) in his next Greek role. In The Greek Tycoon he is Theo Tomasis, a character based on Aristoteles Onassis. British actress Jacqueline Bisset plays Liz Cassidy, the beautiful widow of the assassinated president of the United States. So we are looking at a romanced account of the courtship and marriage of Onassis and Jacqueline (Bouvier) Kennedy. A relation that begun even before John F. Kennedy became president and lasted for almost two decades.

Negative reviews
The Greek Tycoon (budget 6,5 million dollars, running time: 107 minutes) was met with a lot of critical reception: “As witless as it is gutless” (The New York Times); “You have watched the headlines, now you can read the movie” (Variety). TV Guide rated the movie one star and had only one favourable comment: “If scenery, greenery and lavish living are what you like to see, you may enjoy The Greek Tycoon.” An positive exception is made for the final scene, in which Anthony Quinn’s once more shows his great sense for dance.

The scenery of Corfu
“The scenery” and “the greenery” was shot on location in Corfu and Mykonos. The Corfu landscape gets a fair and lavish share. And is anyone familiar with the the background of the photo above? It shows Anthony Quinn in a corner of the village square of Pelekas, entertaining himself during a break in the filming. In The Greek Tycoon you might recognize this setting when Tomasis gets out of a car and slowly walks towards the door of a café on the other side of the square. This café was no more than fifteen meters from Anthony’s playing table. In 1980, some three years after this scene was shot, the café was turned into a bar, known as the ‘Zanzibar’.

Today the Zanzibar is a bar with a both local and international clientele. It’s cocktail menu today proudly shows the photograph above. If even a footnote in the life and times of Anthony Quinn (1915-2001), an icon in the film industry, who twice won the Oscar for supporting actor but never for best actor. And who for a wide audience was more Greek than some Greeks. See for yourself in the final scene from The Greek Tycoon.

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