As Random Chatter’s Erik Blythe often says, ‘A hero is only as interesting as their villain is powerful’. Bond has faced many villains through his 24 films; some films even having more than the main villain, they also featured henchmen which Bond had to first defeat.
Many Bond villains were one-offs, but some villains and henchmen made repeat appearances. Let’s hit some of the more memorable ones:
Dr. No was the film franchise’s first villain. The character of Dr. No was of Chinese decent, although was portrayed by Joseph Wiseman, who was not Asian. This was an unfortunate time in cinema where Asian characters were often portrayed by Caucasians with some eye makeup. The character of Dr. No, however, got the ball rolling for Bond, introducing Bond and viewers to a larger criminal world. This was expanded upon in the next film, From Russia With Love.
The main villain in From Russia With Love was really Colonel Rosa Klebb, the strict Russian counter intelligence leader. From Russia With Love served to introduce an often re-visited cold war theme to the Bond films, even though we were to discover that the Soviet agents were really a cover for the international crime syndicate, SPECTRE. In From Russia With Love, viewers (although not Bond) are briefly introduced to the prolific character of Ernst Stavro Blofeld.
Blofeld appears in seven films throughout the franchise, portrayed physically by six different actors, perhaps most famously Telly Savalas in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service; and with his first two appearances (From Russia With Love and Thunderball) acted physically by Anthony Dawson but voiced by Eric Pohlmann. In these early films, Blofeld’s face was never shown on screen, instead there was only a closeup of him stroking his cat. Blofeld is presumed to be the head of SPECTRE and has a hand in many of the diabolical film plots we see across the franchise. Many of the villains we see as Bond’s main adversaries across a number of films are actually henchmen of Blofeld’s, even though Blofeld doesn’t appear in quite a number of films. Perhaps a topic idea for another blog post would be the parodies of Bond films. I will mention here, though, that the Blofeld character was lampooned most famously as Dr. Evil in the Austin Powers films (feat. Mr. Bigglesworth the cat) as well as Dr. Claw in the Inspector Gadget cartoon.
Another character who was portrayed by a physical actor and a voice actor was Auric Goldfinger. Despite Blofeld being so prolific in the franchise, Goldfinger is possibly one of the most famous Bond villains. Goldfinger was physically acted by Gert Frobe, a German actor whose English was too heavily accented, so Michael Collins’ voice was used. Two of Goldfinger’s henchmen (one actually a henchwoman) are quite famous within the franchise: Pussy Galore and Oddjob with his killer hat.
Christopher Lee played Francisco Scaramanga in The Man With the Golden Gun. While this film wasn’t received well, Lee’s portrayal as Scaramanga was. Interestingly enough, Christopher Lee is a step cousin of Ian Fleming’s.
Diamonds Are Forever featured the interesting henchman duo of Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd. These assassins had a morbid sense of humor and, in the films it was eluded that they had a relationship beyond just their work.
The infamous Jaws, played by Richard Kiel, appeared in The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker. The character was so famous, that he was featured in several Bond video games beyond these settings.
A View to a Kill brought us the villain and henchwoman duo of Maximillian Zorin, portrayed by Christopher Walken, and his bodyguard and assassin May Day, portrayed by Grace Jones. May Day’s popularity brought her into several Bond video games as well.
Moving into the Brosnan and Craig eras, I think many of the villains haven’t become as popular since they haven’t been in the lexicon for as long. That said, there are still a few worth mentioning. In Golden Eye, Alec Trevelyan was played by Sean Bean, often otherwise recognized for his roles in The Lord of the Rings trilogy as Boromir, and his short time in Game of Thrones playing Ned Stark.
Casino Royale’s Le Chiffre, played by Mads Mikkelsen, helped introduce Daniel Craig as James Bond. Le Chiffre gambled heavily with his clients’ money, and just as Bond thought he had Le Chiffre’s tell figured out, Bond was poisoned, narrowly surviving, only to be captured and tortured by Le Chiffre, who lost his life to an impatient SPECTRE before he could exact his revenge on Bond.
Javier Bardem played the role of Raoul Silva in Skyfall. This role was incredibly well played, portraying the ex-agent turned SPECTRE Silva as a mad but broken man, bent on destroying MI-6 publicly. Sadly Silva succeeded in killing M (Dame Judy Dench) before being killed by Bond.
A rapid-fire overview of some of the more popular villains and henchmen. I’m hoping to have a more in-depth analysis of some of these as the blog series continues.
Who is your favorite Bond villain or henchman?