Why movie villains have the best houses

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The Chemosphere is a modernist house in Los Angeles, designed by John Lautner. The house was used in the 1984 film “Body Double,” directed by Brian De Palma. Page spread from “Lair: Radical Homes and Hideouts of Movie Villains” by Chad Oppenheim

Movie villains may want to blow up the planet. But they have great taste in architecture.

In “The Man with the Golden Gun,” James Bond goes to meet his nemesis Scaramanga. He lives in a palatial estate on his private tropical island. 

Hideouts such as this one were a big turn-on for Chad Oppenheim, founder of Miami-based Oppenheim Architecture + Design. It inspired him and his wife Ilona to produce the book “Lair: Radical Homes and Hideouts of Movie Villains.”


The 1968 Arthur Elrod House, designed by John Lautner and located in Palm Springs, is the fictional home of Bond nemesis Ernst Stavro Blofeld in “Diamonds Are Forever.” Page spread from “Lair: Radical Homes and Hideouts of Movie Villains” by Chad Oppenheim

The movie highlights some of the best homes of some of the worst movie villains. It includes classic Bond villains like Ernst Stavro Blofeld in “Diamonds Are Forever,” whose house of poured-in-place concrete and dramatic vistas is actually the 1968 Arthur Elrod House, designed by John Lautner and located in Palm Springs. 

Lautner homes make popular villain lairs. Brian De Palma’s 1984 erotic thriller “Body Double” is filmed in Lautner’s futuristic 1960 Malin House (better known as the Chemosphere house).

In Joel and Ethan Cohen’s “The Big Lebowski,” loan shark Jackie Treehorn lives in Lautner’s space-age 1963 Sheats House (now known as the Sheats-Goldstein residence) in the mountains overlooking Beverly Hills.

Lautner’s “work is very much about nature and architecture meshing together,” Oppenheim said. “What these lairs do [is] they show power, they show style, flair, they make the villain have this accessory that makes them seductive to all people and demonstrates their power.”


The set design for “Dr. Strangelove,” designed by Ken Adam. Page spread from “Lair: Radical Homes and Hideouts of Movie Villains” by Chad Oppenheim

The book highlights the work of production designer Ken Adam, best known for his set designs for the James Bond films of the 1960s and 1970s, as well as for “Dr. Strangelove.”

“He played around with notions of bunker modernism, high tech power, brutalism, and then mixing it with this sort of very comfortable domesticity,” Oppenheim said.

The War Room in “Dr. Strangelove” is effective for its simple geometry, overlaying a triangle table within a circle.

“I think you can really create a lot with very simple forms and simple shapes. And that's something that we draw on a lot from our own architecture. There is a tendency today to sort of let the computer do many, many aggressive things. But I strongly believe that this monumentality can be achieved with very simple and powerful geometries,” Oppenheim said.

 

Credits

Guest:
Chad Oppenheim - founder of Miami-based Oppenheim Architecture + Design. He’s the author of “Lair: Radical Homes and Hideouts of Movie Villains.”

Host:
Frances Anderton

Producers:
Frances Anderton, Avishay Artsy