Contra Dam from “GoldenEye”Jul 15th, 2013 | By Lindsay | Category: Movie Locations
Sorry to have been M.I.A. the past couple of days. My dad had surgery last Wednesday and I spent the better portion of the remainder of the week in the hospital with him. He is having a follow-up surgery this upcoming Wednesday, as well, so this week will also probably be light on posts. I apologize in advance. Anyway, today, my stalking friends, IAMNOTASTALKER is going global! And a word of warning – if you are at all afraid of heights, you are NOT going to like this locale. When the Grim Cheaper and I were on vacation in Switzerland last month, my best friend, Robin (who planned our entire trip), took us on a little detour to the Ticino region to stalk the Contra Dam, which was featured in the iconic opening bungee jump sequence of the 1995 007 movie GoldenEye.
The Contra Dam, which is also known as the Locarno Dam and the Verzasca Dam, was originally constructed beginning in 1960 to support the Verzasca Hydroelectric Power Station, which is pictured in the images below.
The structure was designed by Lombardi & Gellaro Ltd. and took five years to complete. The pouring of the concrete alone (the arch-style dam is comprised of 23,000,000 cubic feet of concrete!) took a whopping 18 months to execute!
The dam’s stunning reservoir, which is known as Lago di Vogorno, began to load with water in August 1964 and the dam was finally completed a little over a year later, in September 1965, when the lake was filled to its maximum capacity. Oddly enough, the initial filling of Lago di Vogorno, which boasts a surface area of 400 acres, caused several earthquakes, which was apparently a side effect of the rapid speed with which the water rose. As a result, the reservoir had to be drained and refilled once again shortly thereafter.
Contra Dam, which is the fourth tallest dam in Switzerland, stands at 721 feet (220 meters), with its crest running a length of 1,250 feet (381 meters).
This shot gives me vertigo just looking at it!
Don’t look down!
With my Swiss family on the dam.
A permanent bungee jump station is now located in the middle of the dam, where those who are so inclined can do their own 7.5-second, 721-foot jump.
Robin bungeed from there a few years back, loved it, and tried to convince the GC and I to do the same. And while I was not at all keen on the idea to begin with, once I found out that jumps cost about $270 per person, I informed Robin that, for that price, I would much rather buy a pair of new shoes.
The Contra Dam appeared only once in GoldenEye, in the opening scene in which James Bond (Pierce Brosnan) is shown bungee jumping off of the dam and eventually latching onto the top of Russia’s Arkangel Chemical Weapons Facility, which is supposedly located below.
Some amazing shots of the dam were shown in the sequence and its appearance, although brief, was pretty darn striking.
In reality, Pierce Brosnan never set foot on the Contra Dam during filming. The scene was instead performed by a British stuntman named Wayne Michaels, who, incredibly enough, completed the stunt in a single take in front of six well-positioned cameras.
The jump was choreographed and coordinated by The Oxford Stunt Factory. So that Michaels would not hit the dam wall during the stunt, a special platform was constructed above and in front of the dam. You can see that platform in the screen captures below.
In 2002, a Sky Movies website poll deemed the jump the best movie stunt of all time. The feat also set the then world record for the highest bungee jump from a fixed structure. According to a BBC news website, of the jump, Michaels said, “It’s pushing the limits of what can physically be done. The body is travelling at such a high rate of speed that it puts a great deal of strain on you.” Um, yeah, that’s why I’d rather have a new pair of shoes!
Oddly enough, when Bond escapes from the facility at the end of the scene, he is in a different location entirely and the Contra Dam is no longer anywhere in sight.
You can watch the opening scene of GoldenEye by clicking below.
The entire time we were at the dam (and for quite a few days thereafter) I was constantly singing what I thought was the James Bond theme song. It was not until a few days after we returned home that the GC turned to me, while I was in mid-song, and said, “You do realize that you’re singing the Mission: Impossible theme, right?” Not my proudest moment.
The Contra Dam also appeared in the first episode of Season 14 of The Amazing Race, in which one member of each team had to perform a bungee jump as a Roadblock challenge.
After stalking the dam, we headed a few miles north to Switzerland’s Lavertezzo municipality where we visited the region’s famous Ponte dei Salti (which translates to “Bridge of Jumps”). And while nothing has been filmed onsite (that I know of), the place is just too beautiful not to share.
The double-arch Romanesque-style bridge was originally constructed out of stone during the 16th or 17th century, but was destroyed by a flood in 1906. It was eventually rebuilt in 1958.
Ponte dei Salti spans the Verzasca River, whose waters, as you can see below, are a spectacularly vivid shade of green.
It almost looks fake – like the water at Disneyland.
The area surrounding the bridge looks like it was ripped right from a postcard. Absolutely beautiful!
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Until next time, Happy Stalking!
Stalk It: Contra Dam from GoldenEye (which does not have an actual address) is located at the northern end of Via Valle Verzasca in Gordola, Switzerland. You can learn more about bungee jumping off the dam here. Ponte dei Salti is located just a few miles north in 6633 Lavertezzo.