009 of the best Bond villains: Jaws, Blofeld, more

Posted on 14 September 2014
By Jawa
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With the sad news that Richard Kiel aka ‘Jaws’ has gone to the great Moonraker in the sky, it seemed appropriate to cast Emilio Largo’s one good eye over the best ne’er do wells to have featured in the 50 years of Bond films.

So, here are my 009 top Bond villains

001: From Russia With Love – Ernst Stavro Blofeld/Rosa Klebb/Donald “Red” Grant

From Russia With Love is the second feature in the Bond cannon, and for me, perhaps the best. Goldfinger is generally hailed as the template against which all great Bond films are judged, however From Russia takes the griping and glamorous foundation of Doctor No and steps it up another level.

From its brilliant pre-credits sequence to its classic conclusion, this film has an intriguing and intelligent plot, dramatic and stunning moments of action, tension and spectacle.

It can’t be overlooked in praising this film that it features the debut of Bond’s greatest opponent and nemesis Ernst Stavro Blofeld. However, From Russia is so deep in villainy that we are also introduced to the unforgettable and unbearably creepy Rosa Klebb, her of the poisoned shoe. Also worth a mention is the sinister and brutal henchman Donald “Red” Grant, brilliantly played by Robert Shaw, unrecognisable from his role as Quint in Steven Spielberg’s Jaws.

Eight men have contributed to playing Blofeld on screen. Initially Blofeld’s villainy is made all the more daunting by him remaining hidden from view with only his hands visible and voice audible. In From Russia With Love and Thunderball his hands were portrayed by Anthony Dawson and his voice by Eric Pohlmann.

In 1967’s You Only Live Twice Ernst Stavro Blofeld was finally revealed in all his bald glory and was portrayed by Donald Pleasence. 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service saw Blofeld return again this time played by Terry Savalas and in 1971’s Diamonds Are Forever by Charles Gray. He made his final appearance in an official Eon Bond film with a cameo in 1981’s For Your Eyes Only.

In a moment similar to his early appearances, no face is revealed as John Hollis donates his hands and Robert Reitty his voice to bringing James Bond’s greatest villain to the screen. He has made one more appearance played by the legendary Max Von Sydow in the unofficial Never Say Never Again.

002: Goldfinger – Auric Goldfinger/Oddjob

Goldfinger, hailed by many to be the greatest Bond film, features an unforgettable villain with one of the most notorious henchman and perhaps the most quoted line of dialogue from the entire series of Bond films.

Auric Goldfinger, played by Gert Fröbe, is a successful businessman who, I suppose, utilising his name as a form of double bluff, smuggles gold. Having his Rolls Royce fitted with body work made of gold panels, he has the vehicle shipped across boarders and then the panels removed and re-smelted. Despite being a successful businessman Goldfinger is also sociopathic, megalomaniac, and as such devises sadistic methods to kill his enemies, be it an automated room filling with gas, a laser cutting a man bound to a table in half or tasking his henchman Oddjob, played by Harold Sakata, with decapitating people using his bowler hat.

These two make one of the most memorable and entertaining combination of villains bent on world domination, and henchman willing to silently, without question or hesitation cut down anyone standing in his boss’ way.

003: Diamonds Are Forever – Mr. Wint & Mr. Kidd

Diamonds Are Forever saw the return of Bond’s nemesis Ernst Stavro Blofeld with plans to build a giant laser, destroy Washington DC and hold the world to ransom. If you’re wondering why Diamonds are forever, it’s because they are used to magnify the strength of Blofeld’s laser weapon but I think in thrush they are just a MacGuffin.

Bond is initially dispatched on a mission to break up a diamond smuggling ring but soon becomes entangled in the machinations of Blofeld and his quest to take over the world. However, it’s not the return of Blofeld that puts this film on the list, it’s the henchman double act that steals the film completely.

Mr. Wint & Mr. Kidd, played by Bruce Glover and Putter Smith respectively, are Blofeld’s henchmen. Like a cross between Penn and Teller with Kenneth Williams and Charles Hawtrey, the pair are vicious, camp and deadly. Killing off more people than anyone else in the film and providing a conclusion to Diamonds Are Forever that had every schoolboy in my year laughing until they cried.

004: Live and Let Die – Dr. Kananga (Mr. Big)/Baron Samedi/Whisper/Tee Hee Johnson

Live & Let Die, released in 1973, saw the debut of the divisive Roger Moore. It may well be his finest outing as the sex-obsessed spy, with a superb soundtrack, great action sequences, just the right blend of danger and humour, the hugely appealing Jane Seymour, Bond in the new setting of Harlem, and a gang of brilliant villains in Dr. Kananga (Mr. Big), Baron Samedi, Whisper, and Tee Hee Johnson.

From the opening titles sequence reminiscent of a classic adventure story in the deepest darkest Africa, like something from an Indiana Jones adventure where we meet the enthralling yet terrifying Baron Samedi, to the memorable henchman paring of Tee Hee and Whisper. A crucial element in making a memorable villain is the way in which they are defeated, ie meet their deaths, and in the case of Live and Let Die, Bond’s opponents are dispatched in some of the series’ most gruesome and hilarious ways.

005: The Man with the Golden Gun – Francisco Scaramanga/Nick Nack

The Man with the Golden Gun maybe a controversial choice as it certainly isn’t the best Bond film. However, with mysterious Asian island bases, third nipples and the brilliant combination of Christopher Lee as Francisco Scaramanga and his unforgettable henchman Nick Nack, played by Hervé Villechaize, I say this instalment is not one to be dismissed.

Scaramanga and Nick Nack make a comical little and large pairing, but Lee is so intimidating and Villechaize so sinister that they become some of Bond’s most memorable opponents. The film’s plot is built around the apposite at the time theme of an energy crisis. With Britain gripped in reality by an energy crisis, the film had much relevance to modern issues; although that is pretty much where any mirroring of real life ends. Everything else in here is extravagant, overblown ridiculous and spectacular. Which for some, is the reason this move is often regarded as the worst of the series, but for me makes it one of the most entertaining.

At the beginning of the film there is seemingly no connection between Scaramanga and the energy crisis. He only becomes a part of the plot after he bizarrely draws attention to himself and sends a golden bullet with 007 etched on it to MI6 headquarters. After this ostentatious manoeuvre Bond is sent ‘unofficially’ to investigate famed assassin Francisco Scaramanga. From here we find that lo and behold, Scaramanga is tied into the energy crisis threatening the free world and Bond must defeat him, his plans and his henchman Nick Nack, who like so many of the Bond henchmen, actually outlives his supposedly superior boss.

006: The Spy Who Loved Me – Karl Stromberg/Jaws and Moonraker – Hugo Drax/Jaws

The Spy Who Loved Me & Moonraker, released in 1977 and 1979 respectively, featured different slightly weak and uninteresting villains but the same henchman who is vastly more entertaining and memorable than either Karl Stromberg or Hugo Drax.

This henchman is Jaws played by the recently deceased Richard Kiel. Roger Moore himself is just under 6”2 which gives you an idea just how huge Kiel and his character Jaws was. He made Moore’s Bond look like a child in fight scenes as he towered a full foot over him, standing at just under 7”2, and physically became one of our hero’s most threatening opponents.

He tossed Bond all over Egypt, Sardinia, Brazil, Stromberg’s sea base, and Drax’s space base. He was so popular that he was one of the only characters on the side of villainy to appear in more than one film, and has in fact returned to the character more than once in non-Bond films.

So popular was he that the writers felt inclined to give him a happy ending as Jaws avenges the death of his boss from The Spy Who Loved Me then assists Bond in defeating Drax and saving the world. In fact he even gets himself a Bond Girl or Jaws Girl if you will.

007: A View to a Kill – Max Zorin/May Day

A View to a Kill was released in 1985 as Roger Moore’s last outing as Bond, and sadly the years of wear and tear were starting to show. The kissing of nubile young ladies is even more unsettling and the fight scenes less believable as Moore was 58 at the time.

Fortunately the film is saved by excellent set pieces, the usual spectacular stunts (done for real) and a pretty catchy theme tune. What really elevates this instalment in the Bond franchise though is another winning double act of villainous mastermind and dastardly henchman, or in this case henchwoman. Bond’s opponent in this feature is the sociopathic Max Zorin, portrayed brilliantly and terrifyingly by Christopher Walken.

Here, one of my favourite actors is allowed to unleash the beast and chew the scenery in a demented performance that is the highlight of the film. Unbelievably Walken was the third choice to play this role after David Bowie turned it down (perhaps explaining Zorin’s bleached blonde hair as maybe they had a couple of hundred gallons left over from a pre-order for Bowie) and Sting. Seemingly the producers were set on a platinum blonde villain and initially cast on hair colour rather than acting talent.

Fortunately, we ended up with Walken giving one of his most unhinged performances, and that’s saying a lot. His partner in crime is the equally demented May Day portrayed by the some would say typecast Grace Jones. She is a bodyguard and henchwoman possessing superhuman strength and a demented mind. She is able to wrestle and beat Bond, she can wrestle a horse and win, she can basejump off the Eiffel Tower, she can kill any man in a second and she has an authentic villainous laugh. All in all they make quite the team and pose Bond a determined threat that ends with a spectacular confrontation atop the Golden Gate Bridge.

008: GoldenEye – Alec Trevelyan (006)/Xenia Onatopp

GoldenEye from 1995 is Pierce Brosnan’s first and best outing as a James Bond. In this film Bond fights to prevent an arms syndicate from using the GoldenEye satellite weapon against London in order to cause a global financial meltdown. The film saw M played by a woman for the first time as Judi Dench joined the ensemble.

This female casting continued with one of the films villains being the classic and literal femme fatale Xenia Sergeyevna Onatopp, a Georgian-born former officer and pilot in the Soviet Air Force. Now she is a sadistic killer and member of the crime syndicate Janus. What makes Onatopp so memorable is her method of assassinating her victims. Seducing her targets she takes them to bed, takes them to heaven and then takes them to hell as she crushes her pray between her thighs, reaching her climax as they meet their maker.

Bond’s main rival in this mission is the leader of Janus. The identity of this man is kept secret until a great reveal as we discover that the villain of the piece is in fact Bond’s fellow agent 006, Alec Trevelyan played by Sean Bean. At the film’s beginning, Trevelyan is one of Bonds associates, a member of the small band of men known only by their double-O moniker. However, after a pre-titles sequence set in 1986, in which 007 and 006 infiltrate a Soviet chemical weapons facility during which 006 is apparently killed, we come right to at the time modern day 1995 and discover that Trevelyan had in fact survived and established the Janus crime syndicate with the intention of robbing the Bank of England, destroying its financial records and thus also destroying Britain’s economy, all as an act of revenge for the death of his parents during WWII, for which he blames the British.

009: Casino Royale – Le Chiffre

Casino Royale, released in 2006 saw the debut of Daniel Craig as Bond, and the first canonical depiction of the original Bond villain, Le Chiffre. The character had appeared before in the first screen depiction of James Bond an American 1954 television adaption for CBS’s Climax! anthology series. He appeared again in the 1967 spoof Casino Royale, played by Orson Welles.

The 2006 Casino Royale was the first time Le Chiffre had appeared in the official Eon Bond series. He is Bond’s first opponent and one of his most challenging. He is a super-intelligent, and thoroughly ruthless villain. Making his living as a terrorist financier, he hires thugs and killers to perform acts of terrorism around the globe, thus affecting the international stock market and allowing him to make huge profits by having prior knowledge of changes to share prices.

He’s a villain like many in the Bond series, who uses his mind rather than his fists, but of course he is the original and the others imitations. Portrayed here by Mads Mikkelsen in a sublime piece of casting that brings Le Chiffre to life as one of the most intimidating and sinister villains ever to grace the screen, let alone the Bond franchise. With his eye weeping blood, his cold calculating manner and his emasculating torture techniques Le Chiffre is one of the toughest and most brutal threats Bond has had to overcome. Plus he’s not bad at cards either.