Sunday, April 19, 2009

A James Bond Retrospective - Henchmen



The term "Bond villain" carries behind it the weight of a half-century of cinematic evildoing; it conjures forth images of rogue billionaires, genocidal madmen, captains of industry, tyrants, masterminds, born leaders. If not for efforts of 007, the question isn't whether Bond villains would rule the world, but merely which one.

But probing further, it must be pointed out that with two or three exceptions most lead Bond villains have little martial talent and put in a room with James Bond there's no doubt that Bond would easily bend them over his knee. They may be old, they may be out of shape or even straightforwardly fat, they may be deformed. But their musculature isn't what makes these madmen intimidating, it's their limitless money, their callous and epic vision, their incalculable genius, and of course, their henchmen.

Behind each and every Bond villain stands teeming hordes of henchmen, the relatively unsung heroes of Bond villainy - loyal servants, hired gunmen, brawny thugs, heartless killers, colossal supermen, vile seductresses, computer geniuses, paid-off military and government leaders, and more faceless, nameless, machine gun-wielding mooks than can be counted. This crew has forsaken an honest living for their tiny slice of money and power, and many of them can go toe-to-toe or beyond in one-on-one combat with 007. They can kill Bond's lovers and allies, infiltrate governments, assassinate leaders, steal nuclear weapons, storm compounds, hack computers, and are the most deadly weapons in any villain's arsenal.

My four favorite henchmen in series history are Oddjob, Jaws, Red Grant, and Xenia Onatopp, and I'll profile those four in particular, but the whole crew deserves respect; without them, the movies would just consist of Bond hunting down and killing old men sitting alone in their exotic fortresses. So I've decided to go through the franchise, analyze some broad groupings of henchmen types, and profile and grade every henchman I find noteworthy.

Just to make sure there's no confusion on whom I consider to be a lead villain and who a henchman, the following movies have multiple lead villains: From Russia With Love's co-lead villains are Rosa Klebb & Blofeld, Thunderball's co-lead villains are Emilio Largo & Blofeld, Octopussy's co-lead villains are Kamal Khan & General Orlov, The Living Daylight's co-lead villains are Brad Whitaker & General Koskov, Casino Royale's co-lead villains are Le Chiffre & Mr. White, and Quantum of Solace's co-lead villains are Dominic Greene & Mr. White.

Also note that I've left off the list at least a couple dozen henchmen all the way from Dr. No to Quantum of Solace who are named but have absolutely no identifiable characteristics outside of being butlers to their lead villains / trying to kill Bond. All that said, let's get started with

THE STRONG SILENT TYPE

Some great movie villains have oodles to say - think Tommy DeVito in Goodfellas or the Joker in The Dark Knight - but sometimes a villain has very, very little or even no dialogue. This isn't lazy filmmaking or the symptom of a bad villain - if you think that the xenomorph in Alien, the shark in Jaws, or the T-Rex in Jurassic Park are bad villains, I don't know about you - but it merely means they they are primal; elemental; forces of nature. The best, of course, is

ODDJOB, Goldfinger (1964):


Oddjob is one of cinema's all-time best examples of great filmmaking crafting something brilliant out of seemingly nothing. To the outside world he's Auric Goldfinger's loyal manservant, chauffeur, and caddy, but of course he's also a powerful, seemingly-invincible killer, able to crush golf balls with his bare hands, lop the heads off statues (and of course a Bond girl) with the throw of his razor-sharp steel-rimmed bowler hat, and utterly dismantle Bond in one-on-one combat, smiling warmly as he takes thrown bars of gold to the chest and swung 4x4s to the face.

Of course Oddjob has one weakness (hint: Electric-type is super-effective!), or else Bond would have gone up in a nuclear explosion some forty-five years ago, but what's extraordinary is that one of the James Bond team's all-time most memorable villains (not just henchmen, but villains period) is nothing on the screenplay page. He has no background or motivation or character arc, one word of dialogue ("Aha!"), no discernible personality other than loyalty to Goldfinger, but he doggedly pursues Bond through the entire movie and is beloved for it. Thank the late Harold Sakata's charisma or his awesome fight with Bond next to a nuclear bomb in the belly of Fort Knox, but he's the best of the best, and gets an A+

JAWS, The Spy Who Loved Me & Moonraker (1977 & 1979):


Second only to Oddjob in the annals of silent badassery, Jaws appears in not one but two consecutive James Bond movies, serving wannabe undersea dictator of humanity Karl Stromberg in The Spy Who Loved Me and wannabe space dictator of humanity Hugo Drax in Moonraker. He's absurdly tall and has a mouth full of razor-sharp steel teeth which he uses to tear people's goddamn throats out and he's pretty much invincible. Over the course of two films James Bond runs a truck into him, throws him out of a train, drops him in the pool with a great white shark, takes away his parachute when they fall out of an airplane together, and shoots him in the face (Jaws deflects it with his teeth), but Jaws cannot and will not die.

It should be noted that Jaws was originally intended to die at the end of The Spy Who Loved Me when Bond grabs him with an overhead electromagnet by the teeth and drops him in Stromberg's shark pool, but they knew they had something special on set so they changed it so that he gets away in the end. He returned the very next movie and was so popular with kids that they had him get a girlfriend and realize that Hugo Drax's genocidal ambitions went too far, turning to the side of good and aiding Bond in the final battle. Afterwards, he and his girlfriend sit on Drax's space station staring out at the stars and he has his one line in two movies, "Well, here's to us," making him one of a tiny handful of Bond villains to survive one, let alone two films. Well, here's to Jaws, A+

The rest of the strong silent types, chronologically:

VARGAS, Thunderball (1965):


Vargas is mostly characterized by his lead villain, SPECTRE No. 2 Emilio Largo, in terms of what he doesn't do. Largo tells us, "Vargas does not drink. Does not smoke. Does not make love." He also doesn't talk much (one line), and despite trying to kill Bond a couple times you can be damn sure he doesn't do that either. He at least successfully participates in the kidnapping of Bond's ally Paula Caplan, but it isn't until he dies that he finds vindication, as Bond literally shoots him through the sternum with a harpoon gun and then makes one of the classic Connery quips, "I think he got the point." Ho ho, murder is high-larious! Vargas gets a C

COL. JACQUES BOITIER, Thunderball (1965):


Ever dreamed of seeing Sean Connery beat the life out of a male SPECTRE agent dressed up as a woman? Well there's this movie called Thunderball and boy, oh boy, are you in luck! C

SANDOR, The Spy Who Loved Me (1977):


Karl Stromberg sends Sandor along with Jaws to track down the missing microfilm of his submarine tracking system and eliminate everyone who comes into contact with it. He tries to kill Bond on the roof of middleman Aziz Fekkesh's mansion in Cairo, but Bond gets the best of him, quizzes him on Fekkesh's location, and throws him off the roof. He has two lines of dialogue, "Yes sir!" to Stromberg and "Pyramids!" to Bond. He's a pretty big loser but his fight scene with Bond is cool, not to mention his death hilariously brutal, so he gets a C+

CHANG, Moonraker (1979):


Chang is Hugo Drax's first, silent right-hand man until he gets killed off and replaced (and severely upgraded) by Jaws fairly early on. There's nothing interesting about his look or personality and his fatal swordfight with Bond isn't great, but his first attempt to assassinate Bond via crushing him to death with g-force in a centrifuge is admittedly rather original and cool, so I'll generously award him a C

EMILE LOCQUE, For Your Eyes Only (1981):


A former enforcer in the Brussels underworld, Locque is Aristotle Kristatos' favorite killer, offing Bond's ally Luigi Ferrara and lover Countess Lisl Von Schlaf over the course of the movie, wearing a snooty, quasi-bored expression on his face the whole time. He's the only character on this list who as far as I know literally never parts his lips or makes a single vocalization for the entire movie despite plenty of scenes and screentime, not a word or noise or grunt or cry or holler, nothing. His best scene is actually his epic end, where the generally demure Roger Moore, pissed off at Ferrara and the Countess' deaths, kicks his car off a cliff. In death, Locque found his calling, and I'll have to give him a B

APOSTIS, For Your Eyes Only (1981):


After Locque's death, For Your Eyes Only struggles a bit in finding a good replacement, settling on the silent Apostis, creatively described only by Columbo as "Apostis, one of Kristatos' killers!" Whoa, easy there Columbo, we don't need his life story! He has a pretty cool scene where he tries to sever Bond's rope as Bond climbs a cliff face, cut short (pun?) when Bond throws a knife into his chest, where he proves to be a lot more talkative than Locque as he screams on his way down the cliff. A cool scene, but beyond that a forgettable henchmen, C-

GOBINDA, Octopussy (1983):


The loyal bodyguard of Kamal Khan, I'm cheating just a little bit listing Gobinda as the strong silent type - he has seven or eight lines, more than anyone else in this section by far (although most of them are short: "Dinner, eight o'clock," "Yes, excellency," "That was Bond!", etc.), but they're spread over lots of screentime and several encounters with Bond. But beyond that he's just so obviously inspired by Oddjob that I can't not list him here. Or, if you wanted to be a little less generous than "inspired by," you could more harshly call him a poor man's Oddjob. He even crushes a pair of dice in his hand to intimidate Bond, just like Oddjob's golf ball-crushing. But whatever, I like him a lot anyway and anyone who survives five encounters with Bond (but not the sixth!) is okay in my book. B+

MOLLAKA, Casino Royale (2006):


What bombmaker and terrorist Mollaka lacks in loquaciousness he makes up for in acrobatics. Evidently at bombmaking college he got a dual-major or at least a minor in freerunning, as he leads Bond in high-speed pursuit over a fence, through a construction site, up a building, onto a crane, down the building, through the streets, and into an embassy. I can't blame the pissed-off Bond for changing his initial plan of "we need him alive!" and just shooting him in the chest after all that, poor 007 must have had a stitch in his side for a week. Dammit, Mollaka! B+

CARLOS, Casino Royale (2006):


After Mollaka gets killed off, Le Chiffre hires the equally silent Carlos (via terrorist middleman Alex Dimitrios) to blow up the Skyfleet prototype, a new jumbo jet, at the Miami airport. Bond chases Carlos to the tarmac outside the plane and the two have a pretty brutal fight in a car before Bond tricks Carlos into blowing himself up with his own bomb. It's a cool fight but I kind of have a problem with the casting of Carlos (a problem which will come up a couple more times with Casino Royale). I don't know how else to say it, but he looks like a little boy. There's nothing remotely intimidating about this ruthless terrorist, Daniel Craig looks like he could hold him down with one arm and ass-rape him while demanding he squeal like a pig. So this balances out to a C+

GETTLER, Casino Royale (2006):


The subtly-named Adolph Gettler is Mr. White's man sent to collect the Casino Royale money from Vesper Lynd in Vienna. When he sees Bond has followed Vesper, he puts a knife to her throat and shouts his one line, "I'll kill her!", which he doesn't directly do, but she's dead five minutes later so he wasn't totally lying either. The catch is of course that he's dead five minutes later too, when James Bond fires a nail gun into his brian through his eyeball. I don't like the casting for Gettler much more than Carlos - honestly, this is Mr. White's scariest muscleman? If you took off the hat and weird sunglasses he'd look like a kindly grandfather - but on the other hand he is one of only two Bond villains to kill a movie's lead Bond girl (albeit indirectly), so I can't go any lower than B-

I bet you didn't notice that Casino Royale had so many silent henchmen, did you? Well that's because instead of doggedly pursuing Bond through the whole movie like Oddjob or Jaws or Gobinda or even half the movie like Chang or Locque, they kind of have a tendency of dying after one scene. I guess Daniel Craig isn't really into leaving survivors. Oh, on that exact note, one more silent type:

MR. SLATE, Quantum of Solace (2008):


Mr. Slate has right around forty seconds of screentime, during which he comes at Bond with a switchblade, is fought back against with a vase, a shoe, a tray, and some kind of a shiv, and predictably ends up stabbed in the neck and leg bleeding out like a stuck pig (finally sitting still long enough to get a screenshot of). He's not oozing with personality but he does have a really badass fight scene, maybe the best in the movie, so for a high awesomeness-to-screentime ratio he gets a B+


THE BLOND ARYAN IDEAL

Blond-haired, blue-eyed, tall, muscular, Apollo-looking golden god motherfuckers, Nazi poster boys. Every Bond has faced at least one except George Lazenby and Daniel Craig (who probably won't, seeing as he basically is one himself), and they're all deadly, utterly merciless killers who tend to be not much more talkative than The Strong Silent Type. Their undisputed king is

RED GRANT, From Russia With Love (1963):


The first truly great Bond henchman and one of the best in series history, Red Grant is SPECTRE's ultimate killer, a trained, cold, ruthless agent on par with 007 himself. SPECTRE wants James Bond to steal a Lektor decoder from the Soviets so that they can kill him and sell it back to the USSR, getting vengeance for Dr. No's death at Bond's hands while creating an international incident in the process. Grant's assignment is to be Bond's guardian angel, protecting him from assassination until he can get the Lektor, upon which he is to murder Bond and collect the device.

Grant relishes this task, and the death of everyone he meets prior to Bond in the movie is pretty much as assured as everyone Anton Chigurh meets in No Country for Old Men, including beloved Bond ally Kerim Bey. His favored method is garroting them with a metallic wire spooled in his watch, but he's perfectly comfortable with firearms and his hands as well. After over an hour of deadly silence he confronts Bond and finally pipes up, delivering an evil monologue that may be Robert Shaw's best onscreen moment beyond his monologue in Jaws, but then his one sin is revealed: greed. Bond tempts him with the offer of fifty gold sovereigns in his (booby-trapped) briefcase, and then this happens. BAD ASS. That's an A+

HANS, You Only Live Twice (1967):


Hans is Ernst Stavro Blofeld's personal bodyguard and pretty much boils down to a second-rate Red Grant (despite his impressive 6'8" stature). He intimidates some Chinese government representatives into cooperating with Blofeld by not-so-subtly feeding Blofeld's piranhas in front of them, and later has a one-on-one fight with Bond during the raid on Blofeld's volcano lair where Bond flips him into the moat and he is eaten alive by the same piranhas, proving that sometimes foreshadowing can come back to "bite" you in the ass, delightful pun. C-

ERICH KRIEGLER, For Your Eyes Only (1981):


He doesn't talk too much more than Locque or Apostis, but Kriegler is described as an East German Olympic champion who doesn't smoke and only eats health foods, which in terms of character development pretty much makes him Charles Foster Kane next to the rest of "Kristatos' killers," and also the only one that leads a "good" double life. But I have to say I'm somewhat unimpressed with his skills; for a supposed Olympic-caliber shooter his attempted sniping of Bond in a forest on the Italian alps is hilariously bad, missing 007 some five or six times before chasing Bond by skis, bobsled, and finally motorcycle and failing every single time. Nice work, champ. His final fight scene with Bond in Kristatos' lair is pretty cool though, where he joins Apostis in the elite "falling down a cliff face to your doom" club. C+

NECROS, The Living Daylights (1987):


The Living Daylights is one of my favorite later Bond movies, with a complex spy plot, a harder edge, cool action, and a likable Bond girl, but one area it slips a little is with fairly forgettable and nonthreatening lead villains. But what it does have is one of the best Red Grant wannabes since Red Grant himself in Necros, a blond Soviet assassin who comfortably adopts various accents and personas to gain access to any location. And yes, like the late Mr. Grant, his preferred assassination method is garroting, although he has no problem with old-fashioned bullets either. You can only blame the parents, really, why would possibly name your child "Necros" unless you want him to grow up to be a Bond villain?? He gives Bond nonstop shit trough the whole movie and I just love his final battle with Bond while hanging out the back of an airplane, so for Necros I'll have to go as high as A-

MR. STAMPER, Tomorrow Never Dies (1997):


Media mogul Elliot Carver's favorite psychopath, Mr. Stamper is a torture aficionado trained in the art of "chakra torture" who dreams of breaking his mentor's record of keeping a victim alive for 52 hours, ideally using James Bond as the subject. He doesn't bat an eye or or even look like it's out of his daily routine as he mows down innocents via machine gun, and as the most talkative henchmen on this list yet he gets a lot of mileage out of growling cheeseball lines like "I owe you an unpleasant death, Mr. Bond!" He also joins Jaws in The Spy Who Loved Me and Tee Hee in Live and Let Die on the elite list of henchmen who outlive their lead villain. He tries to trap Bond so they die together in a missile explosion but of course the wily 007 wriggles free, so Stamper ends up basically suiciding. Oops! Maybe he's a little bit of a guilty pleasure (not unlike Tomorrow Never Dies itself to some extent), but I definitely like him, B+


THE FEMME FATALE

The term "Bond girl" comes prepackaged with as much expectation as "Bond villain," but of course not all women in Bond canon are there just to coo "Oh, James!" to take us to the end credits; no, some of these gorgeous, sultry ladies are here to use their sex and beauty to facilitate spying and murder. The James Bond franchise certainly didn't invent or even popularize the femme fatale, but it has had some of the greatest in the last half-century of cinema. Note that being a villain and a woman doesn't automatically classify one a "femme fatale," sexuality must come into play at some point. My all-time favorite is

XENIA ONATOPP, GoldenEye (1995):


Xenia Onatopp, ex-Soviet fighter pilot, now working for the Janus crime syndicate as killer, thief, seductress, and all-around murderous psychopath. She and Bond initially meet over a drag race and high-stakes game of baccarat before we see her crush a Canadian Admiral's ribcage between her thighs during sex so she can steal his ID card and use it hijack the new EMP-immune Tiger Helicopter (after executing its crew), and then use that to steal the GoldenEye satellite control discs for Alec Trevelyan. Unlike most Bond henchman who last almost the entire film, Xenia only has a couple encounters with Bond (the latter of which being fatal), but we instead follow her in a parallel storyline as she goes on that evil mission to acquire the GoldenEye and commit most of her murders in the first act.

Xenia derives literal sexual pleasure from killing, as seen when she shrieks with ecstasy while squeezing the life out of the Admiral and moans orgasmically after gunning down the unarmed programmers and technicians in the Severnaya bunker that developed GoldenEye, and in addition to her obvious blazing hotness (helped by the sultry Russian accent), it's obvious Famke Janssen is having immense fun with the role. She hams it up in an absolutely perfectly way, creating a villainess equal parts menacing, funny, alluring, and hugely memorable, one of the most entertaining characters to watch in series history. A+

The rest of the femme fatales, chronologically:

MISS TARO, Dr. No (1962):


Working under Dr. No as a spy in Government House in Jamaica, Miss Taro is the Bond series' first femme fatale. She seduces Bond (or so she thinks), inviting him to her house so that Dr. No's assassins the Three Blind Mice can kill him en route. Of course, Bond kills them and arrives unscathed, so Miss Taro calls Dr. No's other henchman Professor Dent to come to her house and shoot Bond dead, and has sex with Bond to stall him. Naturally, Bond knew everything the whole time and actually wants Dent to come so he can capture and interrogate him, he just wanted a roll in the hay, so after sleeping with her he just calls the police as has her arrested. Yeah, Miss Taro has nowhere near the zest or kick of Xenia Onatopp, but she's still the first in a long line of femme fatales so she gets a B

FIONA VOLPE, Thunderball (1965):


Fiona Volpe is awesome, standing just behind Xenia as my favorite femme fatale in series history. She's Head of SPECTRE's Execution Branch, and while it's not clear exactly what rank that makes her it's high enough that she has no problem admonishing SPECTRE No. 2 Emilio Largo when she feels he's risking the mission, so it must be pretty darn high. In SPECTRE's plot to ransom two atomic warheads she is to eliminate anyone deemed a security risk, and she relishes sleeping with her targets beforehand nearly as much as the murder itself. She seduces Bond (although he's led to believe it's the other way around) before having him captured, but it's not to be, and he escapes and tricks her own men into shooting her dead. Yeah, she got owned pretty badly in the end, but until her last moments Fiona Volpe is one of cinema's finest combinations of sex and murder. A

HELGA BRANDT, You Only Live Twice (1967):


Thunderball was at the time one of the highest-grossing movies in the history of cinema (for reference, it made more in 1965 dollars than The Dark Knight did in 2008 dollars), so they decided in the very next movie that they needed to all-but revive Fiona Volpe with the poor man's Fiona Volpe, Helga Brandt, SPECTRE No. 11. She's a murderous seductress, etc., who has red hair and looks as much like Luciana Paluzzi (who played Volpe) as anyone they could find. Blofeld assigns her to kill Bond, she has sex with him to get close and then, get this, traps him in an airplane, shoots the controls, and parachutes out. As opposed to, say, shooting him?! That Bond escapes goes without saying. Blofeld feeds her to his piranhas for her failure, and I can't say I really blame him. C+

ROSIE CARVER, Live and Let Die (1973):


Rosie Carver is terrible, just terrible. She's bad as a Bond girl when she's introduced, a supposed CIA agent who shrieks in terror twice within three minutes of stepping onscreen, the first time at a dead snake and the second time at a goddamned hat, then going into catatonic shock (she thinks the hat is a voodoo sign for death) and begging Bond not to leave her alone. Real winners there at the CIA, I feel safer already. But then she's then revealed to be a double agent for Kananga assigned to lead Bond into a trap and she just gets even worse, crying and freaking out at superstitious symbols and messing up over and over and getting outed as a double agent by Bond and pleading and finally getting shot by Kananga's turrets for being completely incompetent. She is the first black woman Bond sleeps with, for all you trivia buffs out there, but I'm sorry, she's just terrible. D+

NAOMI, The Spy Who Loved Me (1977):


Naomi is Karl Stromberg's assistant who collects James Bond and Anya Amasova to bring them to Atlantis, Stromberg's ocean fortress, for a meeting (flirting with Bond on the way to Anya's chagrin). Stromberg decides they are to be eliminated, so Naomi hunts them by armed helicopter as they drive in Bond's Lotus Esrpit, giving Bond a smile and saucy wink before trying to gun them down. But little does Naomi know the Lotus is armed with missiles, and after a chase Bond blows her out of the sky, making her the first woman directly killed by 007. She doesn't do that much or have a lot of screentime, but she's mega-hot and makes the most of every moment, so she deserves a B+

MIRANDA FROST, Die Another Day (2002):


Miranda Frost is a former Olympic fencing gold medalist and current MI6 agent - working as a spy for Colonel Moon a.k.a. Gustav Graves - who feeds Moon intelligence about James Bond's identity that leads to him being captured and tortured in North Korea for fourteen months. Yikes! An oblivious M assigns her to keep an eye on Bond as he investigates Gustav Graves, so of course she feeds all the information to Graves and sleeps with Bond before revealing her identity and turning on him and MI6. Halle Berry then kills her in a sword fight, proving that, like Erich Kriegler in For Your Eyes Only, she should give her Olympic medals back. She's a guilty pleasure (as is, to be honest, anything that you may like in Die Another Day) and nowhere near as deliciously evil as Xenia (she never even kills anyone onscreen), but she's still absurdly hot and one of the movie's highlights, so I gotta give her an A-

VALENKA, Casino Royale (2006):


Valenka is Le Chiffre's girlfriend. She doesn't do too much other than get threatened by Obanno and drip some poison into Bond's vodka martini, but the poisoning does lead to one of the film's more exciting and creatively-filmed sequences so she deserves some credit. However, I'm not sure if I really like the actress who plays her, or maybe it's less the actress and more the overdone makeup and that obnoxious hair in front of her eye. She looks less like she belongs in a movie and more like she belongs on a Vogue cover. B-


THE CHESSMASTER & THE BRAIN

Generally speaking, a Bond villain is assumed to be the brains of the operation and their henchmen their muscle. The status of this "muscle" can range from dumb hunks of sinew with no use except killing on command like dogs to implicitly trusted right-hand men who get to put their two cents into concocting the plans, but generally speaking they all carry guns and get down and dirty and kill people. But there are a handful of exceptions, henchmen who have little to offer but their minds, their plans, and their technical know-how. Sub-brains, if you will, to their lead villains.

KRONSTEEN, From Russia With Love (1963):


Shockingly literal Czechoslovakian chessmaster Kronsteen leads an evil double life as SPECTRE No. 5, where he serves as Director of Planning. He's the one who conceives the entire villainous plot of From Russia With Love: having the British Secret Service steal a Lektor decoder from the Soviets, killing their agent James Bond, retrieving the Lektor and selling it back, simultaneously getting revenge for Dr. No's death, making money, and creating an international incident. Viewing life as a game of chess where he can effortlessly see his opponent's moves far in advance, he condescendingly explains to his fellow SPECTRE operatives that "I have anticipated every possible variation of countermove." Of course the one thing he didn't anticipate is that James Bond could defeat Red Grant, so the plan fails. And if you know Ernst Stavro Blofeld, that of course means Kronsteen's swift and decisive execution. Checkmate! His snooty accent, dismissive and arrogant attitude, and hilarious look of shock immediately before he dies earn him an A

MR. LING, Goldfinger (1964):


Mr. Ling is a nuclear fission specialist who arms Goldfinger's atomic bomb in Fort Knox and serves in some advisory capacity on Goldfinger's "Operation Grand Slam." He doesn't do too much onscreen and he certainly gets colossally overshadowed by Oddjob, but he does have a pretty funny scene when Goldfinger's plan starts to go belly-up, as Goldfinger quickly changes into a US Army uniform and shoots Ling dead in sight of US troops to trick them into thinking he's one of them. Ha! The otherwise forgettable Mr. Ling's ignominious end bumps him up to a C+

DR. CARL MORTNER, A View to a Kill (1985):


James Bond generally leaves fighting the Nazis to his son, Indiana Jones, but one exception can be found in Dr. Carl Mortner, real name Hans Glaub, a Nazi scientist who performed human experimentation in the Holocaust, injecting pregnant women with steroids to create children with IQs exponentially beyond the norm with the sole side effect that they matured into psychotics. His greatest creation was A View to a Kill lead villain Max Zorin, who employs Mortner as his on-hand scientist whom he loves enough to keep by his side after killing every single one of his other henchmen and workers immediately before the fruition of his plan. Of course, James Bond throws a wrench into the works, and Mortner blows up along with Zorin's zeppelin. He has a rather elaborate backstory as far as henchmen go but the filmmakers forgot to have him seem threatening or do anything villainous while actually onscreen, he just walks around with Zorin the whole movie and then dies. C-

BORIS GRISHENKO, GoldenEye (1995):


By God! He is invincible! Boris Grishenko is Alec Trevelyan's chief geek, a Severnaya programmer selected to survive Xenia's massacre so he can hack into the Bank of England, steal billions via computer, and then destroy London with the GoldenEye, taking an unspecified but presumably large share of the profits for himself afterwards. However, James Bond blows up Trevelyan's lair and Boris gets frozen to death when some liquid nitrogen tanks burst. He only has a few big scenes and so little martial talent that it doesn't even take Bond but merely Bond girl Natalya Simonova (a demure programmer with no combat training) to beat the crap out of him, but his "I am invincible!" catchphrase is so hilarious and his personality so screen-filling that he's one of the first things I think of when I think of the movie. Definitely no lower than an A-

HENRY GUPTA, Tomorrow Never Dies (1997):


Henry Gupta, who according to MI6 "practically invented techno-terrorism," is media baron Elliot Carver's chief techie and a co-architect of Carver's plan to start World War III for ratings. It's unclear exactly what his job is - he performs the essential task of using the GPS encoder to send the HMS Devonshire off course, escalating tension between the British and the Chinese forces, but he also seems to be doing some shitty security job at Carver's party, monitoring the security camera feeds and trying to clean up the audio of Bond's conversation with Carver's wife Paris. One way or another, Carver eventually kills him in one of the most hilariously gratuitous "you've outlived your usefulness" scenes in the history of cinema. He's an alright techie henchman but certainly doesn't have as much personality as Boris. B-


THE NEITHER ARYAN NOR SILENT MUSCLE

Of course, some of the brawny killers / bodyguards that flank their lead villains aren't blond-haired, blue-eyed specimens of male perfection, nor do they have any problem with talking your ear off given the opportunity. They deserve our love too.

BAMBI & THUMPER, Diamonds Are Forever (1971):


Bond is trying to meet with Willard Whyte, a reclusive millionaire being kept prisoner in his own home by Ernst Stavro Blofeld and guarded by two swimsuit-clad gymnasts who greet Bond with, "Hi there. I'm Bambi!", "And I'm Thumper!" They then proceed to kick him around a bunch until he pushes them in a pool and shoves their heads under the water until the police arrive. It's one of the stupidest scenes ever committed to celluloid and I cringe with embarrassment every time I watch it. D-

TEE HEE, Live and Let Die (1973):


Kananga's enormous right-hand man and chief enforcer, Tee Hee can almost be considered a precursor to Jaws, his metal arm and deadly pincer standing in for Jaws' steel grin. In real life I'm pretty sure a mechanical claw in place of a hand might be disability, but not so in the world of Bond, where it allows Tee Hee to grab and crush Bond's Walther PPK with the ease you or I would crumble a sheet of paper, proving that I should be more open minded about the handicapped. But unlike Jaws he has no problem talking plenty, leading Bond on a friendly tour of Kananga's drug lab before stranding him out on a tiny swamp island surrounded by giant crocodiles. Of course Bond escapes, but Tee Hee can't leave well enough alone and tries to kill him and Bond girl Solitaire on a train, so Bond throws him out the train window to his doom. He's silly but a lot of fun and one of the first things I think of when I think of Live and Let Die, so he gets a B+

MAY DAY, A View to a Kill (1985):


Max Zorin's bodyguard, killer, lover, and all-around sidekick, evidently gifted with super strength and just as callous and psychotic as he is. She kills lots of people for Zorin including Bond's ally Godfrey Tibbett, has sex with Bond for no particular reason (the second black woman Bond would sleep with... Bond doesn't sleep with a non-evil black woman until Die Another Day!), then gets betrayed by Zorin and helps Bond ruin his plan before blowing up. I don't even know what to say about her. She's so bizarre and silly and evidently the filmmakers were really excited about her being in the movie (see the A View to a Kill poster for exhibit A), and the sight of the inescapably masculine Grace Jones mounting a sixty-year-old Roger Moore for a villainous fuck is, for better or worse, one of the most eye-popping sights in the entire series. But A View to a Kill is probably my ultimate Bondian guilty pleasure and she is one of the movie's signature elements, so I have to give her a guilty pleasure B

DARIO, Licence to Kill (1989):


Franz Sanchez's enforcer Dario, evidently something of a knife aficionado, has a rather cutting introduction when he slices out the heart of the illicit lover of Sanchez's girlfriend Lupe. Not thirty minutes later he rapes and stabs Felix Leiter's wife, crooning to Felix afterwards that, "Don't worry. We gave her a nice honeymooooon!" It's okay though, because Bond feeds him into a large pulverizer. Dario is of course played by 21-year-old Benicio del Toro, the only actor on this list to later pick up an Academy Award, and you can see the leading man potential as he lends little Dario a vile-yet-charismatic and eminently entertaining evil. A-

THE BULL, The World Is Not Enough (1999):


"The Bull" is Valentin Zukovsky's bodyguard secretly working as a double agent for Elektra King. He goes turncoat and tries to kill Bond, Christmas Jones, and Zukovsky, and later Zukovsky shoots him. Ugh. Just look at him. His fucking name is "The Bull." Someone kill me now. D-

ZAO, Die Another Day (2002):


North Korean terrorist Zao is Colonel Moon a.k.a. Gustav Graves's right-hand man. He gets diamonds embedded in his face during an explosion caused by Bond, and if anyone can provide me any even vaguely real-world based explanation for why they can't just be tweezed out by a doctor, or, say, anyone with tweezers, I'll give you a thousand dollars. He's currently undergoing gene therapy to transform into a German caucasian so no one can identity him (because if you want to be inconspicuous there's nothing like swaggering around in a black trenchcoat with goddamned diamonds in your face), and his baldness, bleached white skin, jeweled flesh, and trenchcoat all combine to make him look like a goddamned Final Fantasy villain. Nice work, Die Another Day. Did I mention that Bond kills him with a chandelier? I should really flunk him, but fuck it, he gets a B-

MR. KIL, Die Another Day (2002):


When Bond arrives at Gustav Graves's palace in Iceland, he's met by the head of security who tells him, "I'm Mr. Kil." Bond replies, "Now there's a name to die for!" Yeah, so, basically, that'd be an F


THE ASSASSIN

Not to be mistaken for the sidekick or the muscle, the assassin is very specifically meant to go on killing missions for their lead villain. If they are ever seen conspiring about plans or making threats or bodyguarding their villain they are immediately disqualified from this category (although some of them do occasionally wait around for orders), but if all we see them do is go on assignments to kill people, they belong right here.

THE THREE BLIND MICE, Dr. No (1962):


Dr. No's assassins, three expert gunmen who operate in disguise as blind beggars and also have the honor of being the first people to ever appear onscreen in the James Bond movies (beyond Bond in the opening gunbarrel). Their assassinations of British Secret Service operative Strangways and his secretary bring Bond to Jamaica to investigate, so Dr. No of course sends them to kill Bond on his way to Miss Taro's house (the third of many assassination attempts on Bond in the first hour of Dr. No). The resulting car chase ends with the Three Blind Mice going over a cliff to their fiery doom; it's not as exciting as the similar chase that opens Quantum of Solace but in the spirit of respecting your elders I can't possibly go lower than B

MR. WINT & MR. KIDD, Diamonds Are Forever (1971):


Wint & Kidd are Ernst Stavro Blofeld's killer duo, a pair of gay lovers assigned to follow behind the final shipment of Blofeld's diamond smuggling pipeline killing each and every involved smuggler the moment they fulfill their final roles. They do so with macabre glee and methods as bizarre as dropping a deadly scorpion down the back of someone's shirt. They fail at killing Bond, however, and spitting in the face of a decade of precedent Blofeld doesn't immediately kill them for their failure, allowing them to fail and fail again until Bond douses Kidd with brandy and lights him on fire and blows Wint up. The two actors (including Bruce Glover, father of Crispin Glover of George McFly fame, as Wint) ham it up in a rather entertaining way and make the duo the relative highlight of one of the weakest 007 movies. B+

MISCHKA & GRISCHKA, Octopussy (1983):


Another evil duo and alongside Gobinda another entry in Octopussy's memorable if not particularly original rogues gallery, knife-throwing assassins Mischka & Grishka succeed where Dr. No, Auric Goldfinger, and Ernst Stavro Blofeld failed and make their screen entrance by killing a 00 agent - 009, to be specific, with a hurled knife through the spine. They dog Bond through much of the film but he eventually drops a canon on Mischka's head (not a canonball, mind you, a canon) and then does like the Man in Black from The Princess Bride, defeating Grischka at his own game with a thrown knife to the belly. Like many elements of the Frankenstein monster that is Octopussy, the twins are discarded ideas from an old Bond script, in this case an early draft of The Spy Who Loved Me, but I find them massively entertaining and for the Moore era rather legitimately threatening (chalk it up to their successful killing of a 00), so they get an A-

YO-YO KILLER, Octopussy (1983):


Kamal Khan hires the Yo-Yo Killer, who as his name implies fights with a giant buzzsaw yo-yo, to kill James Bond and Octopussy in India. Predictably, he fails, and Bond throws him out the window of Octopussy's palace and feeds him to a crocodile, but not before Yo-Yo kills Bond's ally Vijay. He's not a particularly memorable character, but I do really like Vijay, and getting an ally kill that legitimately stings boosts him up to at least a C+

DR. KAUFMAN, Tomorrow Never Dies (1997):


Elliot Carver's favorite hitman Dr. Kaufman only gets one scene to do his assassin thing, but unlike the silent, brawny killers of the Craig era he pretty much spends all of it evil-monologuing. Thankfully, it's a hugely entertaining evil monologue, as he explains how he is an outstanding pistol marksman, how he killed Carver's wife / Bond's lover Paris, and how is now going to kill Bond, make it look like a suicide, and frame Bond for Paris's murder. The actor Vincent Schiavelli makes every line drip with gloriously entertaining evil, and although Bond tricks him and shoots him in the head (Kaufman: "Wait! I'm just a professional doing a job!" Bond: "Me too." *BANG*), he actually gets a little bit of posthumous character development as it's later revealed that he was Mr. Stamper's mentor in the fine art of chakra torture. An all-around entertaining villain and his one scene is a highlight of Tomorrow Never Dies. B+

THE CIGAR GIRL, The World Is Not Enough (1999):


Bond's primary antagonist through the opening sequence of The World Is Not Enough, the unnamed Cigar Girl assassinates Bond's best lead in the murder of 0012 just as he is about to talk, makes an escape, then returns in London to assassinate oil baron Robert King. Bond gives chase by speedboat on the River Thames, but when he catches up to her as she attempts to escape by hot-air balloon, she shoots the gas tanks and suicides rather than face punishment from Renard for being caught. However, this forces Bond to leap from the balloon dozens of feet down onto the roof of the Millennium Dome, dislocating his shoulder and giving him an injury that lasts the rest of the movie and his enemies exploit, placing her easily in the top five villains to hurt Bond the most. So she gets a B-


"HENCHMEN" THAT AREN'T HENCHMEN

This is a special category for secondary Bond villains who cannot be considered lead villains of their films nor are they under the employ of the lead villain (directly, anyway). They may actually employ the lead villain until he grows beyond their control, or they may be working with the lead villain in a parallel but secondary evil plot, or what have you.

PETER FRANKS, Diamonds Are Forever (1971):


Peter Franks is an imprisoned diamond smuggler whom Bond impersonates, complete with fake finger prints, to make contact with diamond smuggler Tiffany Case so he can try to backtrack his way through the smuggling ring. However, the real Franks escapes custody and goes to meet Ms. Case, so to keep his cover Bond attacks him in an elevator, has a close-quarters fight scene that seems like a second-rate version of the Red Grant fight in From Russia With Love, and throws him over a balcony in the single 007 act in any movie that most disturbingly resembles straightforward murder. Well, I'm not here to pass moral judgment, but I am here to pass character judgment, and Peter Franks isn't particularly memorable. C-

HAI FAT, The Man with the Golden Gun (1974):


Hai Fat is a wealthy Thai businessman who hopes to monopolize solar energy with the Solex, a new highly efficient solar cell. To that end he hires lead villain and master assassin Francisco Scaramanga, the titular man with the golden gun, to assassinate the inventor of the Solex and collect the device, meaning that for the first half of the movie Scaramanga is technically speaking the henchman and Hai Fat his employer, although Scaramanga gets much, much, much more screen time. Anyway, Scaramanga gets ahold of the Solex but then decides he'd rather keep it for himself, so he casually shoots Hai Fat dead. I love Scaramanga if only because he's goddamn Christopher Lee, but Hai Fat is a pretty big loser however you cut it. D

ED KILLIFER, Licence to Kill (1989):


Killifer is a DEA agent working alongside Felix Leiter during the incarceration of drug lord Franz Sanchez. When Sanchez offers $2 million to anyone who springs him from the joint, Killifer puts on a show of indignant rage but is secretly tempted and turns on the United States, running the van transporting Sanchez off a bridge into the ocean and escaping with Sanchez in a two-man submersible. He then stands silently while Sanchez maims Leiter with a great white shark. He has no intention of formally joining Sanchez's outfit, merely intending to collect his reward and disappear, but Bond reaches him first and feeds him to the shark for delicious justice. He's eaten by the end of the first act but puts on a fairly entertaining treasonous show, so Killifer gets a B

STEVEN OBANNO, Casino Royale (2006):


Steven Obanno leads the Lord's Resistance Army in Uganda, which is a real paramilitary terrorist group although their actual leader is named Joseph Kony, making Obanno the closest thing to a "real person" to double as a Bond villain. He invests $101,260,000 with Le Chiffre, who proceeds to lose it all when his plan to short stocks and engineer terrorist attacks goes belly-up thanks to Bond, forcing him to try to recoup the loss at Casino Royale so neither Obanno or Mr. White kill him. Obanno threatens to do just that with a machete, but leaves Le Chiffre intact so he can win the money back at poker. Bond then chokes Obanno to death. This part isn't to be confused with real-life Joseph Kony, who I'm fairly certain James Bond did not choke to death. Either way, despite only having a few scenes the actor Isaach de Bankole does a really great job and infuses him with entertaining menace and vile charisma, so he gets a solid A-

GENERAL MEDRANO, Quantum of Solace (2008):


General Medrano is one of Quantum of Solace's experimental elements; behind the story of Bond and Quantum and Dominic Greene there's a sort of secondary movie we only see bits and pieces of of which Bond girl Camille Montes is the protagonist and Medrano is the lead villain (although he's still casually bossed around and humiliated by Greene, who conspires to make him dictator of Bolivia in exchange for a monopoly on water). Camille tells us that years back Medrano murdered her father and raped her mother and sister. Problem is that everything evil about him we're merely told and he badly fails the "show, don't tell" test of fiction. He tries to rape some waitress just to make sure he's evil enough onscreen that we're glad when Camille kills him, but assaulting a waitress does not a classic Bond villain make. Nonetheless, I admire that they tried to do something new with him. C


AND OTHER NOTEWORTHY HENCHMEN

PROFESSOR DENT, Dr. No (1962):


I'm unclear as to what Professor Dent's exact job is - supposedly he's a geologist working for SPECTRE under Dr. No, but all he does in the movie is plot and fail at murders and assassinations. He launches the movie's plot when he has British agent Strangways killed for getting too curious about Dr. No's activities in Crab Key, so M sends James Bond to Jamaica to investigate. Dent then fails in a stunning four consecutive assassination attempts on Bond in a couple days, sending Mr. Jones to kill him, putting a tarantula in his bed (instead of, say, shooting him while he sleeps?!), sending the Three Blind Mice after him, and finally trying to shoot him himself, instead putting six bullets into pillows Bond has arranged under bedcovers to look like a person. Bond then delivers the classic line "That's a Smith and Wesson, and you've had your six," and executes him in easily one of Bond's top five most brutal kills in the series. He's astoundingly terrible at his job but he dies well and is the series' first real slimy henchman, so he gets an A-

MR. JONES, Dr. No (1962):


Mr. Jones, who quietly makes Bond history as the first villain to come into conflict with 007 onscreen, is sent by Professor Dent to pose as Bond's driver, pick him up from the Jamaica airport, and kill him en route. Bond makes a call and finds out that Government House didn't send a car, so he sticks a gun in Jones's back and demands to know who he works for. Jones tells him to "go to hell" and bites down on a cyanide capsule. Well, color me pretty unintimidated, but he is a historical first, so B-

MORZENY, From Russia With Love (1963):


Morzeny falls squarely into the Professor Dent "what exactly is this guy's job?" category. He's introduced as a personnel trainer on SPECTRE Island, where he shows his best man Red Grant to SPECTRE No. 3 Rosa Klebb. He later executes Kronsteen on Blofeld's orders when the Lektor decoder plan fails, and takes up the mission to kill Bond and retrieve the Lektor in Grant's place, making him a... trainer-executioner-tracker-assassin? Huh. Either way, he gets in a speedboat chase with Bond, who shoots some fuel tanks in the water, igniting a giant explosion that envelops Morzeny... although we don't technically see him die. He's played by Walter Gotell, who went on to play KGB General Gogol in the Roger Moore movies, so if you want to you can imagine that Morzeny escaped, changed his name, and went on to a successful career in the Soviet Union. B

ANGELO PALAZZI, Thunderball (1965):


Palazzi dedicates his very life to SPECTRE, undergoing two years of constant plastic surgeries, flight training, voice modification, and behavior study to perfectly impersonate pilot Major Derval on a NATO training mission, who is to fly a plane transporting two nuclear warheads. Palazzi kills the real Derval, flies the plane, gasses the crew, and plunges it into the ocean where he is to wait for Largo and his men to come pick him and the nuclear warheads up. Largo gets the warheads but casually slices Palazzi's airhose and leaves him flailing, strapped into his seat at the bottom of the sea. He exists solely to get owned, but even for a movie with as high a "you've outlived your usefulness" and "you've failed me for the last time" villain-killing-their-own-henchman count as Thunderball he has a hilariously brutal death, so B-

MR. OSATO, You Only Live Twice (1967):


Mr. Osato is the CEO of Osato Chemicals & Engineering Co. and secretly works for SPECTRE, with SPECTRE No. 11 Helga Brandt doubling as his secretary. He provides Ernst Stavro Blofeld with liquid oxygen and other components needed to help Blofeld start World War III and makes many, many failed attempts on Bond's life. He spends the whole movie worried Blofeld is going to kill him for his failure and then Blofeld kills him for his failure. A humiliating end to a humiliating life. D+

IRMA BUNT, On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969):


Irma Bunt is Blofeld's secretary and lover and all-around right-hand woman in On Her Majesty's Secret Service, participating in his plan to infect the world with Virus Omega and overseeing the capture and pursuit of Bond through the course of the film. Her most famous and enduring contribution to the Bond mythology comes at the end of the movie, after James Bond and his new bride Tracy Bond are driving away to their honeymoon, when Blofeld drives the car and Bunt fires the machine gun in a drive-by shooting that Bond survives but kills Tracy. While Bond did get revenge on Bunt for this in Ian Fleming's novels, in the movie series they initially wanted to distance themselves from the George Lazenby experiment (Tracy Bond wouldn't come up again in dialogue until The Spy Who Loved Me in 1977) so Bunt never showed up again! So not only did she murder Bond's bride, she apparently went on to live a long and happy life somewhere afterwards! Goddamn! B+

BARON SAMEDI, Live and Let Die (1973):


Baron Samedi, voodoo God of Cemeteries and Chief of the Legion of the Dead, the man who cannot die. Or at least a man claiming to be Baron Samedi employed by Kananga to instill fear in his minions. He certainly does some non-godlike things, such as spying on Bond and Solitaire in San Monique and reporting their status to Kananga via walkie-talkie. Now, I freely admit I've never been a god, but if I were, skulking through poppy fields and reporting to a drug lord via walkie-talkie would be exceedingly low on my to-do list. Either way, he eventually tries to kill Bond with a machete and Bond throws him into a pit of snakes, where he screams and convulses and then lies still. But he re-appears at the film's end, sitting on the front of a train and laughing into the camera at human mortality to take us to credits, implying that perhaps he was the real Baron all along. Huh. Alright. Live and Let Die's experiments with blaxploitation and the supernatural were thankfully never repeated in Bond canon, but I'll admit that despite his mind-blowing absurdity Baron Samedi is a mild guilty pleasure, so he gets a B-

WHISPER, Live and Let Die (1973):


Whisper, who as result of a childhood illness leaving him with only half a lung speaks in (you'll never guess) a whisper, is one of Kananga's henchmen who tries to kill Bond a couple times. First he shoots Bond's driver Charlie on FDR Drive in New York City (as opposed to, say, shooting Bond?!), then slips a deadly snake into Bond's hotel room in San Monique. It goes without saying that Bond survives both attempts. The last we see of him is when Bond kicks him into a drug shipment capsule in Kananga's lair and locks him inside, which either means he got off real easy when the CIA moved in afterwards, pulled him out and locked him in jail, or is Bond's most brutal kill ever as he starved and dehydrated to death over days. It's up to you to decide which happened! C+

ADAM, Live and Let Die (1973):


Adam, a second-level henchman working under Tee Hee, has no real personality or interesting defining characteristics to speak of, but he does have a real cool speedboat chase with Bond in Louisiana that they broke the world record for biggest speedboat jump during the filming of, so he's alright. Bond tricks him into crashing into an abandoned old ship in the bayou and he goes up in an epic fireball. Not bad. C

NICK NACK, The Man with the Golden Gun (1974):


Nick Nack, like everything else about The Man with the Golden Gun, is absolutely absurd but undeniably colorful. He's master assassin Francisco Scaramanga's loyal midget sidekick, serving as butler, chef, officiator of Scaramanga's duel with Bond, and occasional partner in crime (such as stealing the Solex Agitator from the body of the scientist Gibson after Scaramanga kills him from afar). After Scaramanga's death he tries to attack James Bond and Mary Goodnight and Bond traps him in a suitcase in one of the most bizarre scenes in cinematic history. Why is Scaramanga's sidekick a midget? Well, like any other criticism of The Man with the Golden Gun, I'll answer this question with the question, "Why not?" B-

MILTON KREST, Licence to Kill (1989):


Krest owns the Ocean Exotica Warehouse, Franz Sanchez's cover in Florida, operates the Wavekrest, a marine research vessel used to smuggle Sanchez's drugs, and oversees the murder of Bond's close friend and ally Sharkey. Bond steals $5 million of drug money from Sanchez and, to infiltrate Sanchez's inner circle, plants the money on the Wavekrest and convinces Sanchez that Krest was planning on using his own money to pay someone to kill him. A rather livid Sanchez throws Krest into the ship's decompression chamber and sadistically ups the pressure until Krest's head explodes. Hundreds of years later Krest changed his name to Councillor Hamann, ruled over the last human city of Zion, and exchanged poorly-written dialogue with Keanu Reeves about the nature of machines. B-

PROFESSOR JOE BUTCHER, Licence to Kill (1989):


Joe Butcher is kinda disappointing, a clever concept that they didn't do too much with. He's an American televangelist who runs the purchases of Franz Sanchez's cocaine live on national television, with his announcement of fundraising goals being the current month's cost per kilo, taking drug dealer's orders disguised as pledges, and funneling the legitimate pledges from god-fearing folk into running Sanchez's cocaine-processing labs that are disguised as Butcher's Olympatec Meditation Institute. That's all well and hilarious, but he does very little else. Bond girl Pam Bouvier pretends to want to sleep with him to get inside the Institute, only to pull a gun on him and run off to help Bond at the cocaine labs, but Butcher seems more bemused by the whole thing than anything else. A neat character idea but relatively lacking in onscreen evil. C+

GENERAL OURUMOV, GoldenEye (1995):


General Arkady Grigorovich Ourumov, Head of Space Division, is yet another GoldenEye henchmen I love. Playing himself up as the next "Iron Man of Russia" and a rigidly loyal Soviet and post-Soviet Union Russian military man for over a decade while simultaneously working with the Janus Crime Syndicate under Alec Trevelyan, his commitment to treasonous deception would impress Emperor Palpatine. He oversees the development of the GoldenEye EMP satellite in his official capacity as general at the Severnaya Space Weapons Control Centre before leading Xenia to the base, having her murder everyone except Boris, and escaping with the discs to the satellite. When Bond starts to unravel his deception to the Russian higher-ups, he begins to lose it and assassinates Defense Minister Dimitri Mishkin to keep up the ruse long enough to have his loyal troops escort him to Trevelyan's base, where Bond ends up shooting him anyway. He's entertaining and memorable and the combination of Ourumov, Xenia, Boris, and Alec Trevelyan probably makes GoldenEye my favorite movie for villainy in the entire franchise. A

RENARD, The World Is Not Enough (1999):


Viktor Zokas a.k.a. Renard the Anarchist is one of the most debated henchmen of the series, specifically whether he counts as a henchman or as a co-lead villain with Elektra King. Way I see it, their plot specifically and with his full knowledge involves him dying in the nuclear explosion in Istanbul, with Elektra meant to stay alive and reap all the profits, so that makes him secondary. He is, however, introduced as the main villain and Elektra as the Bond girl before the big second act twist, a terrorist with a bullet lodged in his brain, killing his sense of touch, robbing him of pleasure and his will to live, but also of pain and normal human barriers. It's a fascinating backstory and character sketch that the movie unfortunately doesn't live up to and his final submarine battle with Bond is really shitty, but the actor Robert Carlyle is in raw talent leagues beyond almost everyone else on this list and makes the most he can of it, so B

ALEX DIMITRIOS, Casino Royale (2006):


A terrorist middleman working under Le Chiffre and the employer of Carlos in the ill-fated mission to bomb Miami International, Dimitrios is more talkative than most of Casino Royale's henchmen and unlike Obanno, Carlos, Mollaka, and Gettler actually manages not to die within five minutes of meeting 007. But don't get me wrong, he's more than suitably humiliated: over the course of about six hours Bond cleans him out at poker, wins his Aston Martin, seduces his wife Solange, tracks him down in Miami, and stabs him with his own stiletto. Ice cold, Bond! Now Dimitrios presumably got to bang Solange several hundred times before dying, which is more than most of us will ever accomplish, but still... owned. B

ELVIS, Quantum of Solace (2008):


Wh-what the hell is this?! What the hell is it doing in my James Bond movie?!! F



CONCLUSIONS

I won't claim that a great henchman makes or breaks a Bond movie, because Casino Royale and You Only Live Twice are among my favorites and don't have any all-time classics, while Thunderball has the epic Fiona Volpe yet sits in the bottom quarter of my rankings. But legendary Bonds like Goldfinger, From Russia With Love, The Spy Who Loved Me, and GoldenEye show that they can go a long way in elevating the good to the great. Action and spectacle are superb but it all needs to be directed at someone, a villain to root against and hate, or else it all comes out to empty calories, and the likes of a Red Grant, or an Oddjob, or a Jaws, or a Xenia Onatopp have proved time and again to be just the ticket.

I have many wishes for 2011's Bond 23 - I want them to dump the shakeycam that Quantum of Solace flirted with, I want the gun barrel sequence back at the beginning where it belongs, I want the Bond theme song to make a triumphant in-movie return, and I want Felix Leiter's role expanded - but near the top of the list is a great and memorable henchman to pursue Daniel Craig's Bond through the entire movie and across numerous encounters, not just one fight and out as has been the case so far in Craig's run, someone presenting the legitimate physical threat that the main villain generally doesn't (Francisco Scaramanga and Alec Trevelyan being the exceptions). It's fine if they want someone more grounded in reality than Jaws, but they need look only to Red Grant or Necros from The Living Daylights to see how that can be done superbly.

And for that matter, I wouldn't mind seeing another sultry and evil femme fatale; in 2011 it will have been nine years since we got the last one in Die Another Day.

But one way or another, it's always enjoyable to look back on Bond villains. They may never actually kill Bond but damn if I don't encourage them to come back around and try every few years, so long as it's filmed. I myself look forward to coming back around to do future James Bond retrospectives on lead villains, Bond girls, cars & gadgets, and maybe locations in future months. Peace out, and remember not to sleep with the Head of SPECTRE's Execution Branch however hot she may be.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Just stumbled on this surfing around. What a well written, fascinating, funny, and just all around awesome look at the henchmen in the Bond flicks. Very nicely done!

"Wh-what the hell is this?! What the hell is it doing in my James Bond movie?!! F"

Couldn't agree more!

Tim Kraemer said...

Thanks!

Anonymous said...

haha. a laugh at the very end! Well worth the scroll.
Stirling piece of research, this. Obviously missing is that useless German lunk in OHMSS, impaled on the abstract artwork. Or the acid-chucking lab technician. etc.

Oliver Hayhoe said...

Thank you for making this. I wish you could've put all of them in from the James Bond Encyclopedia but that's just me.

Anonymous said...

This was awesome! Very entertaining..loved it! Thanks!

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