Saturday, May 20, 2017

Worst To Best: Bond Villains

No need for a preamble here: what follows is my heavily-biased assessment of the major Bond villains (as well as quite a few of the minor ones).

Before we get going, I've got an Honorable Mention pick I wanted to throw out there:
  

Honorable Mention -- General Anatol Gogol (Walter Gotell), The Spy Who Loved Me, Moonraker, For Your Eyes Only, Octopussy, A View to a Kill, and The Living Daylights




I've never considered General Gogol to be a villain, and I don't think the series does, either.  He's antagonistic on a few occasions, but the sense you always get watching him is that he is a respectable, highly competent man who is simply doing the best job that he can do on behalf of his nation.  This brings him into opposition with M and M's agents at times, but does that make him evil?  I don't think so.

However, I felt Gogol was well deserving of a mention here; he's not a villain in my estimation, but if he was he'd handily outrank a great many of the lunkheads on this list.

Beginning with this one, who earns my ire as the worst Bond villain of them all:


#119 -- Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Charles Gray), Diamonds Are Forever






I know this movie has fans.  I am not one of them.  Among its chief problems is the bad guy, played here by Charles Gray, who appears at times to have been woken for filming from a deep stupor.  I can't tell if he thinks he's playing the role with an eye toward humor, or if he's instead a genuinely awful actor who thinks he's playing the role seriously.  Probably the former, but would I bet money on it?  Not much.
 
All of that could perhaps be accepted (if not forgiven) if not for the fact that this film was the follow-up to On Her Majesty's Secret Service.  That film ends with Blofeld (played by Telly Savalas) and an associate coldly gunning down Bond's new bride; this one includes Blofeld wearing drag and using a voice modulator that allows him to sound like Jimmy Dean.

There are a number of people who deserve serious consideration for barrel-bottom designation here, but I only ever had one contender in mind: this potato-faced mockery of one of Ian Fleming's great creations, who is (like another fellow we'll encounter soon) a Blofeld in name only.



#118 -- Boris Grishenko (Alan Cumming), GoldenEye




I wanted to place Boris in last place.  That screencap above makes me want to punch something.  I gave it a long, hard look, and it was only the implied slight to On Her Majesty's Secret Service generated by the Blofeld of Diamonds Are Forever that kept Boris out of that spot.

Instead, let's think of Boris as THE worst Bond villain to appear in a good Bond film.  I think he qualifies, and then some.

Alan Cumming does a good job of portraying Boris, if you assume that the intent was to aggravate, annoy, and irritate the audience.  If indeed that's what the screenwriters, director, and producers wanted Boris to achieve, then give Cumming a retroactive Oscar.  He got that job done.


#117 and #116 -- Bambi and Thumper (Lola Larson and Trina Parks), Diamonds Are Forever


Parks as Thumper (l) and Larson as Bambi (r)


I kind of suck as a blogger.  Guys, I know this to be true.  I'm not lookin' for your sympathy in making that admission; I just want you to know that I know.  And the latest reason why I know is that I find myself utterly incapable of using prose to explain precisely how shitty Bambi and Thumper are.  It seems like it'd be a snap, because the suck rolls off the screen in waves while they are on it.  It's like they are wizards of awfulness and their powers reach across time, space, and reality, piercing the veil between art and fact to infect our eyeballs and brains with their poison.

I regret my failure, and hope that the placement of their rankings will indicate the content of my heart regarding these two misfires.


#115 -- Shady Tree (Leonard Barr), Diamonds Are Forever




I can't honestly say that Leonard Barr gives a poor performance here, because he doesn't; and I can't honestly say that his character is out of place in the movie, because he isn't.  But just because something makes sense within the context of Diamonds Are Forever doesn't mean that it makes sense within the broader context of James Bond films, and the fact as I see it is this: this character fits in a Bond film about as well as a rhinoceros fits in a shoebox.
 

#114 -- Henry Gupta (Ricky Jay), Tomorrow Never Dies




I'm not entirely sure why I'm even bothering to include Henry Gupta.  As portrayed by real-life magician Ricky Jay, Gupta is a near-complete nonentity in this film.  The idea, legend has it, is that some of Jay's actual talents were intended to be incorporated into the plot.  Jay is a master at throwing playing cards, and can evidently do intense tricks like cutting a watermelon in half by flinging regular old playing cards at them.  No joke.

But such impressive feats no doubt look utterly unbelievable in the context of a movie, so the end result is that Ricky Jay's Bond-movie henchman character barely even exists.  To the extent he is there, he looks like a chubby old white guy (implausibly named Gupta) who runs the computers for his boss.  As henchmen go, that's pretty dadgum lame.

Nevertheless, he's less galling to me than is Boris Grishenko, so he's got at least that going for him.
 

#113 -- Dr. No (voice of Julian Holloway), James Bond Jr




Yep.  That's right: I'm including James Bond Jr characters in this post.  If you assume that this is purely so I can make a few statements along the lines of "__________ is an even worse villain than __________ from James Bond Jr," you've caught me red-handed and proud.

I've not included every single one of them, because that way lies madness; I literally just remembered one who got omitted.  Instead, I've included only the main ones, and among them, I think Dr. No may be the worst.  Why is he green?  Nobody seems even to notice.  He is one of the less-frequently-used recurring villains; it's almost as though the producers sensed that he sucked, and tried to avoid him.



#112 -- Oddjob (voice of Jeff Bennett), James Bond Jr




Leaving aside the fact that Oddjob was killed in Goldfinger (as, for that matter, was Goldfinger himself, not represented on this list despite being in the cartoon a couple of times), the way he is depicted in James Bond Jr is a real head-scratcher.  I'm not sure how you get from Harold Sakata to Diet Run-D.M.C., but doggone if they didn't manage it.  Not that Oddjob ever raps; he doesn't, and I'm not sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing.

Here's the thing: James Bond Jr is awful.  I mean, truly awful.  However, I kind of ... I, uh ... I kind of like it.  While blogging about it, I speculated that I'd undergone some form of Stockholm Syndrome; and if so, then it stuck, because as shite a show as it is, I cannot deny that I have a sort of tenderness for it.

Case in point: Oddjob.  This direction for the character was an awful idea.  However, it's SUCH an awful idea that I can't be angry about it.  For one thing, it's just a doofy cartoon, one which mercifully does not feature 007 himself.  So what's to be angry about?  For another thing, it's likely no worse a cartoon than most others from that era.  And finally, evidence indicates that the show existed merely to spite and thwart Kevin McClory; and though I have a certain amount of sympathy for pre-Thunderball McClory, I have none for post-Thunderball McClory.  Fuck that guy.  If part of that fucking of McClory came in the form of a jogging-suit-clad hip-hop-esque Oddjob, I'm fine with that.

Add all those things together, and a gold-chain-wearing Oddjob begins to almost make sense.  He's still shite, but he makes more sense to me than the Blofeld of Diamonds Are Forever.

So there's that.


#111 -- Morton Slumber (David Bauer), Diamonds Are Forever




Morton Slumber doesn't amount to much, but I'll give this to him: he's inoffensive.  So he arguably ought to rank higher than the next few dweebs on the list.

But no: he is in Diamonds Are Forever, and that causes one to automatically lose points with me.



#110 -- Barbella (voice of Kath Soucie), James Bond Jr


  
  
Lest you think that all of the baddies of James Bond Jr were horrifically reconfigured retreads, no, there were quite a few new characters in the mix.  One of them: Barbella, a big, butch, frightening musclewoman.  I wonder how many little girls found themselves oddly drawn to her, only later in life to understand the sapphic tendencies she was unearthing.  I'm guessing there are a few of y'all out there, and that's pretty cool, in my book.  Weird, but cool.
  
  
#109 -- Skullcap (voice of Jan Rabson), James Bond Jr




So, the deal with Skullcap, I guess, is that the top half of his head is missing and he wears a metal helmet to protect his brain.  I guess.  It's never really explained.

The series makes occasional feints toward Skullcap being a bumbling doofus/moron figure, which is silly on the one hand, but kind of cool on the other because it implies that the criminal organization that employs him has some sort of equal-opportunity-hiring policy in place.  At S.C.U.M., even the literally brain-damaged can find gainful employment.

  
#108 -- Nick Nack (voice of Jeff Bennett), James Bond Jr




Because everyone loved Nick Nack so much in The Man with the Golden Gun, here he is again, sort of.  He's short with a French accent, but no butler's uniform.  Instead, he's often dressed like a greaser, or in disguise of one sort (for example, he's a faux-leprechaun in one episode).

I'm not quite sure why I have him ranked ahead of Skullcap and Barbella.  Let's assume I had a reason at some point and leave him here.


#107 -- Scumlord (voice of Jeff Bennett), James Bond Jr





That's right, I'm saying it officially: Scumlord, the vaguely Blofeldian bad guy who shows up a couple of times in James Bond Jr, is a better Blofeld than the Blofeld of Diamonds Are Forever.  I'm sure some of you can't support this, and guys, I get it, I really do.  Scumlord sucks.  I mean, if he's keeping his identity a secret -- and I can only assume that he is -- then why bother going into the field at all?  Because cartoon, that's why; and while that's not a great defense, it's better than any defense I've heard for why Charles Gray's Blofeld is so rectum-tearingly shitty.
  
  
#106 -- Elliot Carver (Jonathan Pryce), Tomorrow Never Dies




I quote my review of the movie:

I don't come to these blog posts expecting or hoping to be hateful.  On the other hand, I do have a sort of tacit understanding with my readers: I assume that you expect me to be honest, and so it's honesty that I give you.

I hate Jonathan Pryce's performance in this movie.  With the sole exception of Charles Gray as Blofeld in Diamonds Are Forever, Carver is without question my least favorite of all the major Bond villains.  Only a few give him a run for it: Stromberg in The Sky Who Loved Me; Largo in Never Say Never Again; Graves in (spoiler!) Die Another Day.

Elliot Carver himself is a good idea for a Bond villain.  I might even go so far as to say that casting a media baron as a Bond villain was a great idea.  It was certainly a timely one, and it remains so nearly twenty years later.

Q: So why doesn't it work?

A: Because the movie refuses to take the idea seriously.  You could make the argument that what Carver is doing here is similar to what Blofeld and S.P.E.C.T.R.E. were doing in some of the early Bond films: trying to create strife between world-power nation-states so as to take advantage of the chaos.  In -- for one example -- You Only Live Twice, there is no need to worry much about who Blofeld is or how he got to be in his position.  We see him only as a power-mad villain, and since the movie does not in any way ask us to think any further than that, we feel no need to do so.  I'm not a fan of that movie, or of its take on Blofeld, but their approach to cartoonish villainy was nevertheless quite sound.

In Tomorrow Never Dies, we are confronted by a character who could very plausibly exist in the real world.  Not only that: we, as viewers, are expected to engage with him with that fact in mind.  As a result, we begin asking questions.  Whether we wish to do so or not, we are engaging with Carver in terms of realism.

Combine that with Pryce's hamminess and what you end up with is a major incongruity.  These two things do not go together.  This is a tuna-and-chocolate sandwich.

What's weird is that I don't remember feeling in any way negative toward Pryce and Carver in 1997.  If anything, I remember thinking he was pretty good as a Bond baddie.  But today, I look at his scenes, and I see breathlessness, a nonsensical approach to prop use (I don't know what he's doing with that proto-iPad he carries around, but it isn't typing), cocked eyebrows, and various other hallmarks of outright parody.  Jonathan Pryce may as well be in Austin Powers for the amount of seriousness he is evincing here.

That approach to Bond villainy does not work for me (except in the guise of an actual parody, which this is not).  I can barely take Carver as seriously as I take Dr. Derange.  And THAT, kiddies, is a problem.

I'd also like to take a moment to single out one especially awful moment: on the stealth boat, near the end, Wai Lin has been captured and Carver is talking her.  She tries to break free and kick at him, but some minions restrain her before she can strike Carver.  He looks at her and does some stereotypical martial-arts sounds and kicks the air in front of her.  Presumably, this is to taunt her.  This must surely rank as one of the worst moments in all of Bond.


#105 -- Chang (Toshirô Suga), Moonraker




Legend has it that Suga was producer Michael G. Wilson's judo instructor, which evidently does not qualify one to adequately play a henchman in a Bond film.

I've seen worse, though, as indicated by his not-at-THE-bottom placement here; but I've seen much, much better, too.

   
#104 -- Jaws (voice of Jan Rabson), James Bond Jr
  
  
   
  
Here's the thing about James Bond Jr: it knows what it is.  At no point does it attempt to convince you that it is anything other than silliness for children.
 
With that in mind, I think the Jaws of the cartoon is a logical extension of kiddie-ization of the Jaws from the movies.  Unencumbered by any need whatsoever to make Jaws's jaws make sense, the designers of the cartoon have given him a metal jaw and piercingly sharp metal teeth.  How did he get them?  He got them via cartoon, that's how.  One could make the argument that this version of Jaws is preferable to the other one; I personally wouldn't go that far, but I wouldn't shout down anyone making that claim.

Still, he kind of sucks.  He's a James Bond Jr character, so of course he does.


#103 -- Dr. Kaufman (Vincent Schiavelli), Tomorrow Never Dies




I doubt I'd find anything better to say about Dr. Kaufman (played by Vincent Schiavelli) than what I said in my post on Tomorrow Never Dies:

This is one of the strangest henchman-type characters in the Bond series.  It does not work at all, and much of this can be blamed on the screenplay.  For one thing, we should have seen Kaufman prior to this at some point; we needed to already know who he was -- and what he does -- prior to this scene.

Really, though, Kaufman should have been eliminated and the scene given to Stamper.  That way, the fight between Bond and Stamper at the end would have had a bit more drama to it.  Sure, you'd have had to invent a means for Stamper to escape the hotel-room scene.  But how hard could that be?

Ultimately, though, the flaw was in casting Schiavelli.  His German accent does not work at all, and [he plays] the role as though he is in a parody film.  Bad idea.  He seems almost as if he walked out of an episode of James Bond Jr.  Not one of the better ones, either.


#102 -- Mr. Bullion (Clifford "Goldie" Price), The World Is Not Enough




See, like, I'm a natural to be in a Bond movie, right?  Coz, like, my name is Goldie, innit?  And James Bond, like, you know, Goldfinger, right?  So, like, you've gotta put me in there somewhere, man.  You've GOT to.


#101 -- Rosie Carver (Gloria Hendry), Live and Let Die




I forgot about ol' Rosie in my initial pass on this list, but she absoLUTEly counts!  She's every bit as duplicitous as many another femme-fatale-type baddie on this list.

Thing is, she sucks at it.  And I don't think it's to the movie's benefit that she sucks at it.  I suppose an argument could be made in her favor in this regard, but I'm not the man to make it.


#100 -- Sandor (Milton Reid), The Spy Who Loved Me




It wasn't easy to get a decent screencap of this guy, because he's really not in the movie very much.  Reid's big scene involves him pretending Roger Moore is capable of defeating him in hand-to-hand combat, and let's just say that while he gives it his all, it's an acting challenge he cannot meet.

  
#99 and #98 -- Mr. Wint (Bruce Glover) and Mr. Kidd (Putter Smith), Diamonds Are Forever


Wint (l) and Kidd (r)


I know there are people who love these two, but you can definitively count me as not being among their number.  That gag they pull with a scorpion struck me as being wickedly cool when I was a kid, but even that doesn't work for me these days.  Wint and Kidd are just ridiculous.  The idea that they could ever get the drop on James Bond is ridiculous.  The fact that Putter Smith got cast in a movie is ridiculous.

I suppose I could go on, but the thought depresses me.


#97 -- Mr. Kil (Lawrence Makoare), Die Another Day




Though I don't find it to be the out-and-out atrocity that many fans consider it to be, Die Another Day really is a bit of a piece of shit.  One of the pieces of corn in that particular turd is the subordinate henchman character Mr. Kil, who seemingly exists only so that when he introduces himself to Bond, 007 can quip, "Now there's a name to die for."

Mr. Kil frowns at this, as did much of the audience.

He gets to die via a laser beam punching a hole through his head, so he does at least go out in a vaguely cool manner.
 
 
#96 -- Le Chiffre (Orson Welles), Casino Royale '67




There's Orson Welles, slumming it like a motherfucker in the 1967 version of Casino Royale.  I don't what the deal is with this version of the character.  He's a magician, which is odd, to say the least.  I can't even swear he's an actual villain, and in order to find out for sure, I'd have to watch the movie again, which I am not immediately willing to do.

So let's say that he sucks, but that he is, after all, played by Orson Welles, who is incapable of being wholly bad.  And we'll leave it at that.


#95 -- Gregg Beam (David Harbour), Quantum of Solace  




Kinda ballsy to have a sub-villain be a representative of the United States government.  Or at least it was a decade ago; these days...

Regardless, I've always hated this character.  Thing is, since the last time I saw it, actor David Harbour kind of turned into a star via Stranger Things, and I loved his work on that show.  I wonder if, armed with both my appreciation of Harbour and my lost reluctance to classify Beam as a baddie, I will have a different take on the character the next time I watch Quantum of Solace.

Might be.  But until then, I'm erring on the side of caution, and this bit of the film doesn't really work for me.


#94 -- Dryden (Malcolm Sinclair), Casino Royale 




I love Casino Royale in general, and this scene particularly.  That said, I think it could have been even better than it already is, and the weak link is Sinclair as Dryden.  He's a weak character, and yeah, I get that that is kind of the point.  But if you replace Sinclair with somebody a little less simpering and irrationally arrogant, and I think you get a stronger impact.


#93 -- Patrice (Ola Rapace), Skyfall  




I had a very difficult time assessing the henchmen in Skyfall, because they almost don't even exist, they are so faceless.  Patrice -- who, unless I misremember, is never actually named in the film -- is the only one who comes close to standing out.  But he is so blandly portrayed and filmed that a casual viewer -- or even a slightly more intent one -- might very well fail to notice that the guy Bond fights on top of the train and the guy he fights in the skyscraper are one and the same.

It kind of works for the movie, though.  So with that in mind, is Patrice too low on this list?

Nah, not at all.

By the way, in case you were wondering, I did not include Severine from Skyfall on this list.  She could arguably be considered to be a villain, but it is my assessment that the filmmakers intend us to see her as somebody who Silva is manipulating via fear and domination.  Doesn't mean she isn't responsible for her own actions, though, I guess.  Still, I left her out of these proceedings.

  
#92 -- Franz Oberhauser (Christoph Waltz), Spectre




I wanted to place Oberhauser at the very bottom of the list.  I truly did, because as of 2017, he is at the bottom of the list in my heart, and Spectre is at the bottom of the list of films.  I'm not sure it's even very close; I genuinely hate that movie (although there are some elements of it that I thoroughly enjoy).

Oberhauser/Blofeld is a BIG part of the reason why.  I simply do not accept what was done to the character in that film.  It's a needless warping of a character who, if I'm being honest, has rarely been portrayed well outside of the Fleming novels.

Christoph Waltz gives a fairly good performance, although he's a mile away from the type of great dialogue that he excels at delivering.  He does his best, but the role is underwritten even in the better scenes.  In the lesser scenes, the character seems almost like a witless evocation of Dr. Evil (from Austin Powers) that tries to tell his dark/gritty origin story.

Stupid as a bag of cat butts.  I couldn't in good conscience place Oberhauser lower on this list, but I take some pleasure at ranking him just behind:
 
   
#91 -- Trevor Noseworthy (voice of Simon Templeman), James Bond Jr




I have classified Trevor as a villain for the purposes of this list, because in the vast majority of the episodes in which he appears -- which is the vast majority of the series' episodes -- he serves as an antagonist of some variety.  He frequently tattles on James and friends in an attempt to try to get them disciplined by the headmaster, but occasionally his efforts take on a somewhat more sinister air.

From my brief review of episode 25, "It's All in the Timing":

The subplot involves an interscholastic bicycle race, and Trevor's attempts to cheat his way into winning it.  Trevor is a fuck.  At times, I feel James Bond Jr is asking me to look upon him as a more despicable villain than most of the S.C.U.M. agents themselves.

Cartoons are aimed at children, and in the mind of a child it's kind of easy to understand why Jaws and Nick Nack do what they do: they do the things they do because THAT'S WHAT THEY DO.  James Bond Jr is in charge of stopping them, and without their villainy his heroism cannot shine.  But somebody like Trevor, who exists to spite and defile that heroism, is probably a good bit more hissable for a child.  I all but guarantee you that Trevor Noseworthy was a big aid in helping kids fall -- and stay -- in love with James Bond Jr.  He's a much more effective character in that sense than at least a handful of proper Bond villains, in my opinion; and I was tempted to place him a good deal higher.  I might be hemorrhaging my 007 street-cred by the word here, but I calls 'em like I sees 'em.


#90 -- Helga Brandt (Karin Dor), You Only Live Twice




Stop the presses!  It has just come to my attention that some other blogger has a blog named You Only Blog Twice.  He apparently beat me to it by several years, but since it seems not have been updated since 2007, it's mines all mines.  Still, apologies for the accidental appropriation.

This leads us to Helga Brandt, who is an unaccidental appropriation of Fiona Volpe from Thinderball.  We'll talk more about Fiona much, much later on this list.  For now, just know that Helga is a lousy knockoff; kind of like Dr. Thunder whereas Fiona is Dr. Pepper, except Dr. Thunder is actually quite drinkable and Helga is lame.


#89 -- Marco Sciarra (Alessandro Cremona), Spectre  




Sciarra is kind of cool in that he's part of one of THE great locations / costume sequences / shots in Bond-film history.  By the time we get to the above-pictured moment, though, the scene has turned to crap, and by the time it's over, it's a burst colostomy bag.

So, no, I don't like Marco Sciarra.


#88 -- Elvis (Anatole Taubman), Quantum of Solace




There must be a story of some sort with this guy.  You take the time to write a James Bond movie, and in the process of doing so you invent a henchman, whom you decide to name Elvis.

Okay.  I mean, you really shouldn't do that last part; but whatever, let's SAY it's okay, just so as prolong the conversation.  Here are some ideas on what you do next:

  • You have him speak -- possibly in a very thick accent of some sort -- in an Elvis Presley style twang, up to and including "thankyaverramuch"es to punctuate certain key moments.
  • He is proficient in karate.
  • His real name is Grayson Land.
  • Most, if not all, of his dialogue consists of quotations of Elvis song lyrics.  So when he walks past Strawberry Fields, right before she trips him, maybe he asks her, "Are you lonesome tonight?"  (Better yet, before she's killed, he shows up unexpectedly in her room and asks it.)

All of those are shite ideas, but at least they are following a concept.  Because guys, it's 2017 now, and you STILL shouldn't name people Elvis.  There is one Elvis.  Apologies to all the other people named Elvis, but their parents made crucial mistakes at decision-making time, and that's their problem to sort out, not mine.  So yeah, I get it: Elvis was a name before Elvis, and it's a name after Elvis; but it shouldn't be, so if you're going to name a Bond henchman Elvis, you've GOT to expect that people like me are going to object to it.

So what I'm saying is, you'd better make it count.

This movie does not.  Elvis doesn't suck, exactly, but he does virtually nothing for the entire movie.

Why bother?


#87 -- Valenka (Ivana Miličević), Casino Royale  




Valenka does very little during the course of this movie.  Does she even speak a single word of dialogue?  If so, I don't remember it.  She feels like a missed opportunity, but almost like one the filmmakers knew they were squandering.  It feels almost purposeful, as if it is a hint of some sort.

Nothing wrong with her; she's just kind of pointless.


#86 -- "cigar girl" (Maria Grazia Cucinotta), The World Is Not Enough




Arguably more of a pawn than an actual villain, I decided to include her here nevertheless.  She drives a boat real pretty, which doesn't actually make her a high-ranking entrant on this list.



#85 -- Eric Kriegler (John Wyman), For Your Eyes Only




Pretty much all I had to say about Kriegler when I wrote about For Your Eyes Only was that he is "a poorly-written Russian agent and athlete (who is an obvious, and unsuccessful, attempt to clone Red Grant)."

I see no need to say much more than that.


#84 -- Captain Walker D. Plank (the voice of Ed Gilbert), James Bond Jr




He's a pirate, see, and his name is a reference to walking the plank, which is a thing pirates make their captives do sometimes.  I know these are tricky concepts, so I don't blame you for not getting it right away; they've kind of buried the joke in there.

.....

Ahem.

The best thing about Captain Walker D. Plank is that the voice actors who speak his name can't seem to decide if his name is spelled the way I just spelled it, or if it's "Captain Walker DePlank."  I like the one with the middle initial, because it's the lamer of the two, and why not make it as lame as possible?  I suspect that one of the James Bond Jr books or comics will tell me for sure which of those choices is the correct spelling; and if you know, don't tell me, because one of these days I'll find out for myself.  Until then, I think I'll just let the mystery be.

Anyways, I have no doubt that some of you have thrown your phones into the street, so infuriated were you by Plank ranking this highly.  But, look, guys: his parrot has it own peg-leg and he pronounces the word "chaos" as "kay-arse."  Plus, he's just a doofy baddie in a kiddie-toon.  As such, he's got more dignity than freaking Bloferhauser in Spectre.


#83 -- uncredited bald dude (the body of John Hollis, the voice of Robert Rietty), For Your Eyes Only




"Meeeeeestuhhhhhhhhhhh Bonnnnnnnnnnndddddddddd..........!!!!!!!!!!"

A lot of people think this version of Blofeld -- who, for legal reasons, is never named in the movie (a legality about which the producers were so serious that the actor isn't even listed in the credits) -- sucks the high hard one.  In deference to them, I've ranked him somewhat lowly, but for my own tastes, this scene is okay.

Let's have no doubt: this IS Blofeld.  If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, has a cat on its lap like a duck, and is bald like a duck, then it's a, uh, a duck.  That is also Blofeld.  It's not a perfect metaphor, guys.

It's notable that visually, this Blofeld seems to evoke Telly Savalas (and, to a lesser, extent, Donald Pleasence) but aurally comes from the faceless-Blofeld playbook of the early Connery era.

Boy, this series never could decide exactly what to do with Blofeld, could it?  So why NOT just drop the sumbitch down a smokestack?


#82 -- Carlos (Claudio Santamaria), Casino Royale




Nothing flashy about this guy; he's not showy in any way, and that's why he is effective.  This is a guy who blends in, and who would absolutely have gotten away with this aspect of the plot if ol' 007 hadn't been there to foil his plans.

Oftentimes, in these movies, the functionary villains seem like guys you couldn't trust to eat a bowl of rice.  The fact that this particular movie is immune to that problem is a big part of what makes Casino Royale the triumph that it is.


#81 -- Jack Petachi (Gavin O'Herlihy), Never Say Never Again




You could argue that Petachi doesn't deserve to be labeled a villain, since he is being manipulated by S.P.E.C.T.R.E., but I believe that if your drug habit gets severe enough that you're willing to help a terrorist organization obtain a nuclear weapon or two, you've crossed a line.  Maybe before it gets to that point, you just hang yourself in a closet, whattaya say?

I've always liked O'Herlihy's performance in this movie, so in deference to his portrayal of an otherwise unmemorable character, I'm placing him here.

Oh, and FYI: I omitted the equivalent character from Thunderball, who is a bit too bland and minor (a bad combination).
 

#80 -- William Truman-Lodge (Anthony Starke), Licence to Kill




In my Licence to Kill post, pretty much all I had to say about this guy involved me making an Iron Man joke about actor Anthony Starke.  Low-hanging fruit won't pick itself, you know.

Truman-Lodge isn't much of a character, but there's nothing offensive about him.  This movie is cut from a different cloth than most Bond films, and Truman-Lodge is a more mundane form of evil: the unethical businessman.  If this guy were alive, he'd be Tweeting pro-Trump hashtags every couple of hours.  You know this to be true.

That doesn't make him evil, of course.  Knowingly working with and for a drug kingpin does that.  It's telling that it's not Bond who does in this particular snake: it's Sanchez.  The fate is richly deserved.


#79 -- Lippe (Pat Roach), Never Say Never Again




I have an intense dislike of Never Say Never Again on the whole, but a few scenes and moments work quite well for me.  Among those: the fight at the health clinic between Bond and Lippe, played by legendary stunt actor Pat Roach.  He doesn't have diamond teeth or anything like that, but Lippe is a big, intimidating fellow whose presence helps to make one of the movie's best scenes.

I also eliminated the Thunderball version of Lippe, who doesn't amount to a whole heck of a lot for me.  This is one of the very, VERY few ways in which Thunderball is bested by Never Say Never Again.


#78 --  Adam (Tommy Lane), Live and Let Die




Adam doesn't have a huge amount to do in the movie, but he's nevertheless a memorable presence owing to his being front and center during the boat chase, which remains one of the best action sequences in the series.

And that sportcoat, man.  I want one.


#77 -- Adolph Gettler (Richard Sammel), Casino Royale




This fellow doesn't show up until very near the end of the movie, but I think he's a memorable presence, and one who is just ominous-looking enough that when you see him staring at Vesper, you know things are about to get unpleasant.  But he's also ordinary-looking enough that it allows the movie to retain its realism.


#76 -- Yusef Kabira (Simon Kassianides), Quantum of Solace




This son of a bitch is arguably one of the most despicable of all the Bond villains, despite the fact that he has what amounts to only a few seconds of screen time.  But his villainy -- via his manipulation of Vesper on behalf of Quantum -- retroactively colors all of Casino Royale, as well as hanging over Quantum of Solace.

Pretty impressive for just a few seconds.  I was tempted to place him even higher on the list.


#75 -- Dr. Carl Mortner (Willoughby Gray), A View to a Kill




I considered trying to make some sort of a "Carl's Jr." joke here, but there was no good reason for doing it, and anyways, it would have been lame.

Which is a charge many people make of this movie and character, but I dig them both.  The dude plausibly portrays a creepy old ex-Nazi geneticist, and I think we can all agree that the world is better off without any of them.  But James Bond movies?  Better off with them, I think.


#74 -- Fatima Blush (Barbara Carrera), Never Say Never Again  




From my review of the movie:

You're going to see the character of Fatima Blush pop up in two different categories: this one and Bond Girls.  Nothing weird about that; it's happened with several movies before this one, and will happen again in several movies after.  Such is the nature of being a bad-girl in a Bond movie.

However, this might well end up being the only movie for which I feel the character makes for a terrible henchman yet, simultaneously, a good Bond girl.

Allow me to explain.

Fatima Blush is played by former model Barbara Carrera, a lovely woman whose dark skin and magnetic eyes make for a striking visual.  And she's a strong actor, so Blush has some compelling moments on-screen.  However, remember a few moments ago, when I was complaining about how insane Brandauer's Largo seems, and how that insanity weakened the movie overall?

You can double that in the case of Carrera's Blush.  If Largo offers hints of insanity, Fatima Blush offers evidence of it.  She is flat-out unhinged.  In an over-the-top, scene-chewing sort of way, Carrera is terrific.  She actually frightened me as a child; I simply didn't know how to process that sort of energy.  I kinda still don't.

What I can say without any doubt, though, is that this is not a good model for a Bond villain.  Going back to Largo for a moment, what fails to work there is that Largo doesn't seem like someone who would be able to succeed in society.  He's too batty.  Surely someone would have noticed by now.  The way a Bond villain works, typically, is that he is a seemingly normal businessman, one whose sophistication and acumen causes him to go through life unsuspected.  Bond's own sophistication, though, is considerable, and it is strong enough that it permits Bond to see through the charade; sometimes, as in Goldfinger, this is what leads to Bond finding out the bad guy IS a bad guy; other times, as in Skyfall, Bond knows that the baddie is a baddie from the get-go, but the baddie will attempt to persuade Bond over to his way of thinking, and the conflict will become about 007 reasserting his own dominance.

With Largo in this movie, then, there can be no real conflict, except on a plot level; and without the subtext, the plot simply becomes a lot of running about.  That's fine, provided that the quality of filmmaking is sufficient to make the running about compelling in its own right; I'd argue that that is definitely not the case here.

Now, back to Fatima Blush.  The fact that she is twice as loony as Largo kinda works, in a way; it's at least consistent, because you can believe that Largo would hire someone like her.  But it weakens the plot even further, because it makes Blofeld even weaker.  This man's hiring decisions are simply wretched, and a company's leader is only as good as the staff he hires.  Blofeld seems to have hired based on some sort of asylum-outreach program.  There's no need for 007 to have to get involved to bring these jokers down; Inspector Clouseau might be up to the job.

Amazingly, I forgot to include Blush on the first version of this list.  I'm not a fan, particularly, but she's a major villain, not a minor one; so shame on you, Bryant!  Shame, I say!


#73 -- "thug with yo-yo" (William Derrick), Octopussy 




Octopussy has a number of solid villains, and while I could not in good conscience rank this unnamed character higher on the list, the fact is that the saw-blade yo-yo is a pretty damn memorable weapon.  So really, this ranking is more for the weapon than for the character, but I suspect that because of the one, a great many people to this day remember the other.  I was tempted to place him even higher, but ultimately, I think he's a bit too minor.


#72 -- Nick Nack (Hervé Villechaize), The Man with the Golden Gun




I dislike Nick Nack rather intensely, and was inclined to fling him down near the bottom of the list.  But all those James Bond Jr characters -- including the somehow-even-worse animated version of Nick Nack himself -- buoyed him a bit, and this is where he surfaced.

I'll say this for him: he's memorable.  He's something a little bit different at the same time as being something a little bit familiar.  For the ninth film in a series, that's at least something. 
  
 
#71 -- Dr. Derange (the voice of Julian Holloway), James Bond Jr




James Bond Jr is ridiculous, and at some point, the producers clearly made the decision to treat that as a feature rather than as a bug.  So yes, it's an awful abomination of a series.  But I'll say this for it: at no point does it pretend it is anything other than what it is.  James Jr never finds out Scumlord is his uncle's evil foster brother, either, so there's that; even for a cartoon, that would be silly.

Speaking of silly, Dr. Derange is hella silly.  He's a brash Frenchman whose agcint is suh ot-HRAZE-yuss that those guys on the castle wall in Monty Python and the Holy Grail voted him down.  Sadly, his dialogue is not marked by the same level of wit; if it had been, he'd be in my top twenty.

Let's see what sorts of things I had to say about the good Doctor in my posts about James Bond Jr:

  • "The latter is a Frenchman who speaks in so outrageous a Franch accent that you expect to see him atop a castle wall, haranguing King Arthur about the Holy Grail.  He does not at any point fart in James's general direction, but he may as well."  (Good to know I'm stealing jokes from myself!)
  • "In what might well be the dumbest episode of this series to date, James wins a trip to see a big race, only to discover that Dr. Derange has kidnapped one of the drivers, taken his place, and launched a plot to steal plutonium from a nearby nuclear facility.  You read that correctly.  Endgame: steal plutonium from nuclear research facility.  Means: become race-car driver, get so far ahead of the pack that nobody will know what you're doing, feign wreck outside facility, gas guards, enter facility, steal plutonium.  It's a cinch!  Derange's plan actually works, too, so of course, he returns to finish the race.  He doesn't bug out to go start putting his newly-purloined plutonium to use; he wants to finish the race.  This is next-level stupidity."
  • "Derange makes a huge amount of time-related puns this episode, the majority of which are to Skullcap, who does not understand them.  This leads to ample opportunity for Derange to speak the word "buffoon" in an outrageous French accent."
  • "It is a secret key to a secret Mayan (I think) temple full of gold.  Will we eventually get to see a scene of Dr. Derange rolling around in the gold like he's Smaug?  You bet we will."
  • "Dr. Derange's pronunciation is even more Franch this episode than usual: he pronounces the "ed" identically to the proper name Ed in all words that end in that sound.  So that "duped" becomes a word that rhymes with "Cupid."  I am consistently amused by this, for some reason that shames me."  (Yes, it's true, this has brought shame to my entire clan, who turned their backs on me Klingon-style.  Don't care; that shit is funny.)
  • " Yes, friends, it seems to be true-ish: I have become a Dr. Derange fan.  I think it may be the silly Franch pronoonseeationz that won me over.  Example: in this episode, he says the word 'minute' and pronounces it 'min-yoot.'  Come on!  You can't resist that!"
  • [One episode] "involves Dr. Derange rigging roulette wheels inside Monte Carlo casinos to enable him to assume mind-control over people standing at it.  Which means, yes indeed, that he finally gets to put that headset he wears to use.  There are numerous scenes of him giving orders to people using it.  When he does so, he speaks in lowered, hushed tones, as if he is working for NPR or The Golf Network.  Combined with his Franch accent, there is much hilarity in these scenes."
  • "I did laugh a few times during the next scene, in which Skullcap is talking to Derange.  The tooboo stolen from the zoo arrives, and Derange says, 'What a beautiful sight!'  Skullcap replies, 'The snow...?'  Derange replies, 'Nuh, you full!'  Which is like 'No, you fool!' but in a French accent.  So, yeah, I laughed at that, God help me."
  • "The plot this time involves S.C.U.M. plotting to melt the polar ice caps and raise the sea level, thereby making a lot of recently-purchased properties more valuable.  That's dumb even for Dr. Derange."

I would argue that James Bond Jr gets mileage -- and entertainment value -- out of the inherent dumbness of Dr. Derange.  At times, with him leading the way, the series is kind of fun, provided you meet it at its own level.  I'm grading on a curve, but in doing so, I rather like ol' Dr. Derange.


#70 -- Max Denbigh (Andrew Scott), Spectre




I quote now from my review of the film:

[Suffice it] "to say that while I think Andrew Scott does decent work, I'm not a fan.  He's too likable at times, which is a poor quality in a character I believe we are meant to despise on sight.  This is probably further proof of how weak the writing and direction are; what ought to be simple work with Denbigh is awfully muddled, not the least because he's presented in something not at all unlike the way Ralph Fiennes was presented in Skyfall.  So we've been down that road before in some ways, and every bit of time this character has would have been better focused on Oberhauser, Hinx, and S.P.E.C.T.R.E."
 
Fuck that movie.

Moving on!


#69 -- Brad Whittaker (Joe Don Baker), The Living Daylights




On paper, it's not a bad idea: a loudmouthed American arms dealer with a Napoleon complex (and a Caesar complex, etc.).  This is a perfectly reasonable avatar for a Bond villain.  And Joe Don Baker plays the role to those specifications.

So why doesn't it work?

The question assumes that you think it doesn't.  Maybe you think it does.  I've got to admit that possibility, and I'll bear you no ill will in that case.  But for me, this combination of role and actor simply does not work.

The Bond films -- which inherited the trait from the books -- have always been at least partially an exercise in sophistication.  Bond is a sophisticated man, with sophisticated tastes, and that classiness extends into pretty much every realm of human endeavor.  James Bond would never fart in an elevator; that's the sort of thing other action heroes might do, but not 007.  James Bond would not drink Pabst Blue Ribbon, or visit a Taco Bell after a shag.
  
Brad Whittaker seems like he would do all of those things.  This could have resulted in an interesting dynamic, wherein those two opposing modes of masculinity were in opposition on both a textual and subtextual level.  And to some degree they are; but Whittaker is also cut in the mold of most Bond villains in that he is a figure of decadent and amoral opulence.  This sort of person certainly exists in the real world, and is therefore legitimate dramatic material; and, as I said, Joe Don Baker does well at portraying him.

Despite this, I think the character sucks and Baker sucks at playing him.

There's an obvious disconnect here (if only for me), and I think it's rooted in the fact that the Bond stories always have one foot in fantasy.  They can, and sometimes do, tip over more closely toward realism (Licence to Kill) or fantasy (Die Another Day), but really, they work best when they do both.  The fantasy obscures the realism, and vice versa; it's its own blend.

So I think that what fails to work about Whittaker for me is that he's a bit too heavily weighted toward the realistic, and it just doesn't mesh.


#68 -- Stamper (Götz Otto), Tomorrow Never Dies




I want to like Stamper.  He's a big, tough-looking guy who appears as if he would be a solid match for 007 in a head-to-head match.  The actor who plays him is fine; nothing special, but entirely adequate.  In the battle of Red Grant clones, he beats the guy who played Kriegler in For You Eyes Only without breaking a sweat.

The screenplay doesn't really give him a whole heck of a lot to do, though.  Stamper is just ... there.  He's definitely in the movie.  If you are his grandmother, showing the movie to your church friends when it's on Spike one night, you won't have any trouble finding him.  But what's good for grandmothers isn't always good for James Bond films, and this James Bond film needed Stamper to be a more active presence, so that his eventual defeat meant more.

Raymond Benson's novelization of the film -- presumably working from early drafts of the screenplay -- includes massive differences for the character, whose pain/pleasure receptors are reversed.  Don't stab that dude; he'll thank you for it.


#67 -- Naomi (Caroline Munro), The Spy Who Loved Me




I've likely ranked Naomi too high, but hey, Caroline Munro.  And anyways, Caroline Munro.

Sadly, Caroline Munro -- despite being Caroline Munro in this movie -- is almost entirely squandered by the production.  She gets a good bikini scene, which was likely a prerequisite, and she gets to fly a helicopter, but otherwise, she is, as I say, squandered.

Still, she's Caroline Munro, so hey, Caroline Munro.
 

#66 -- Colonel Tan-Sun Moon / Gustav Graves (Will Yun Lee and Toby Stephens), Die Another Day


Will Yun Lee as Colonel Moon

Toby Stephens as Gustav Graves



You probably know this if you're reading a James Bond blog, but just in case: two actors, one character.  This is due to radical gene therapy or some such nonsense.  Colonel Moon, North Korean military wunderkind, turns into Gustav Graves, British industrialist; the better to subvert and inveigle, I guess.

It's pretty damn silly, as is the vast majority of the movie; but I'll give 'em points for effort in terms of trying something new.

I wrestled over whether to split the two and rank them separately, because for all intents and purposes they are different characters.  But since they are, in fact, the same person, I just couldn't brink myself to do so.

If I had, I'd likely have given the higher ranking to Colonel Moon.  I like Will Yun Lee's performance; he's more threatening, he's more charismatic, he's less batshit.  He's more believable.

On paper, I like the idea of Gustav Graves, who is supposed -- I think -- to represent what's happened to Moon after committing to this wholly insane idea of changing his literal DNA.  (I think that's what happens.  Don't quote me on it.)  He started off as Moon, who was already driven and intense, and became Graves, and in the process he snapped even farther, perhaps beyond the breaking point.  Despite this, his nutso plans have almost come to fruition.  His smiling face is what happens when you keep a lid on your crazy just long enough to achieve your horrendous goals.

I think it breaks down somewhat in the over-the-top performance of Toby Stephens.  Or maybe Stephens' performance simply matches the film.

I'm of two minds about it, which seems appropriate.
 

#65 -- Elektra King (Sophie Marceau), The World Is Not Enough




When I reviewed The World Is Not Enough, I opted not to include Elektra in the villains category.  I think that made a certain amount of sense in terms of the daffy points structure with which I graded the films; I'm not sure I'd do it the same way a second time, but for the purposes of that specific review, I think it more or less worked.

However, in the context of a list like this one, Elektra absolutely has to be counted as a villain.

I don't think she's much of one.  It's kind of cool for there to be a woman in the primary-villain spot (although you could just as easily argue that Renard is the film's main baddie), and Sophie Marceau is okay in the role.  But I don't think she's anything more than that.  I know some people adore her in this movie, but I'm not among their number.  Her goals and motivations are murky; her impact not as profound as the movie wants to trick me into believing.  Marceau wears a red dress quite capably, but so what?


#64 -- Emilio Largo (Klaus Maria Brandauer), Never Say Never Again
  
 


I'll say this for Never Say Never Again: the villains are memorable.  I'm not entirely sure it's for the right reasons, but I suppose it's better to be crappy and memorable than boring and forgettable.

As played by Klaus Maria Brandauer, this movie's version of Largo is genuinely nuts.  He feels as if his next act will be to apply for the job as winter caretaker at the Overlook.  I go back and forth between whether I think the performance works, or weighs the film down.  Currently, I'm of the opinion that it is more of a hindrance than a help.  I reserve the right to change my mind about that at some later date, but for now, I wonder how a guy like this Largo could ever get to where he is in life.

Then again, Bryant, have you seen the news lately?

Anyways, I'm leaving ol' Largo 2.0 here.  Maybe it's too low, but the bottom line is that I don't like the character; 'nuff said.


#63 -- Victor "Renard" Zokas (Robert Carlyle), The World Is Not Enough




I like the idea of Renard on paper: a notorious terrorist who sustains a creeping brain injury that will eventually kill him, but in the meantime has left him impervious to pain.  Guys, that's a good hook to hang a Bond villain on.

But, like almost everything about The World Is Not Enough, the good idea and good intentions are botched by a severe lack of development.

Here's what I had to say about Renard when I wrote about the movie:

Carlyle is good, but he, like Brosnan, seems to be convinced he is in a much better, more serious movie than The World Is Not Enough.  Say what you will about semi-campy, silly villains like Hugo Drax and Max Zorin; those actors knew exactly what sort of movies they were in, and tailored their performances accordingly.

I'd also note that Carlyle's accent is all over the place.  Why cast an actor that profoundly Scottish and then try to get him to be Euroslavian or whatever the fuck?  It doesn't work, or at least it doesn't work here.

I also don't really understand what Renard wants, or why he wants it, or how he plans to go about getting it.  I'm not sure I have any notion of why Elektra opted to join him.  I'm not sure I understand how he can walk if he can't feel anything, for that matter.

Also...?  'Welcome to my nuclear family' is one of the worst one-liners ever spoken in a movie.  At least among movies I've seen.  That's embarrassingly awful.




#62 -- Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Donald Pleasence), You Only Live Twice


Lookit that cat trying to get away.  I don't blame her.


Here's what I had to say when I wrote about You Only Live Twice:
  
I'm about to commit what many Bond fans may see as being heretical.  [UPDATE:  Why would I not just say "what many Bond fans see as heresy"?  Boy, I really ought to revise my posts once I'm finished.]  Here goes: Donald Pleasence as Blofeld is awful.  Awful.  He is completely free of menace, of charisma, of charm, of anything interesting.  Blofeld, you may recall, orchestrated the events of both From Russia With Love and Thunderball (and, by implication, Dr. No), and it simply doesn't seem credible that such a bland, puny figure as Pleasence strikes in this movie could have built an organization capable of mounting those operations.  I don't buy it.

A lot of this is the fault of the screenplay, which gives Blofeld nothing interesting to do.  He has no real characteristics, apart from having a cat, a scar, and a Mao suit.  Would the vast numbers of henchmen required to operate SPECTRE actually follow this man?  I don't see it.  Sure, he's got a pool full of piranha that he can dunk them in if they get out of hand, but wouldn't that just make his office incredibly smelly?
  
Pleasence is on shaky ground right off the bat.  Armed with the deep, resonant voice of Eric Pohlmann, Blofeld had been a highly memorable -- if sparingly used -- part of the previous films in the series.  Pleasence tries to match Pohlmann's speech patterns, but his voice has none of the basso profundo that we've heard before, and as a result, it feels a bit as if one of Blofeld's kids is sitting in his chair while he's away, pretending to be Daddy for a while.
  
Pleasence's Blofeld is sometimes held up as one of the series' better villains.  I disagree vehemently; I think he's perhaps one of the worst.  The look of the character is somewhat iconic, true, but I don't think that counts for much in the long run.
  
Poorly written, but I otherwise stand by it.
 
 
#61 -- Mr. Osato (Teru Shimada), You Only Live Twice


This cool screencap -- lovingly harvested for the benefit of this post -- reminds me that I really need to go back and screencap the first five movies in the series; I only began with OHMSS!


There's nothing particularly special about Mr. Osato, and to be honest, I only ranked him ahead of Blofeld as a bit of a slap at this movie's Blofeld.  That sort of pettiness is how I roll sometimes, guys; I'm not proud of it, but I will be honest about it.

Osato is okay, though.  He never pisses me off, which the Donald Pleasence version of Blofeld does.  Ostao is, as played by Teru Shimada, low-key enough that you believe he could evade detection as a criminal; he's got an easygoing charm that, combined with an air of authority, makes it equally believable that he could be a successful businessman.  It would take a baker's dozen (or so) of guys like him to make an organization like S.P.E.C.T.R.E. work, and so the fact that you can believe in Osato as a realistic man helps you to believe in S.P.E.C.T.R.E. as a realistic organization.

In that sense, he does far more for the movie than Blofeld does, so maybe I ought to have ranked him higher!


#60 -- Professor Joe Butcher (Wayne Newton), Licence to Kill




As I've been writing these posts, what I've done is this:

Step #1: type in the ranking, name, and movie.
Step #2: go find (or create) a representative screencap and insert it.
Step #3: say a few words about my feelings on the character at hand.

In most cases, I've consulted my reviews of the movies first, to see what I wrote about the characters previously; and in some cases, I've just copied and pasted from those posts.

In the case of this character, I sort of mentally composed a paragraph about him while I was performing steps 1 and 2, but rather than type them out, I decided to visit my Licence to Kill post and see what I'd said back then.

What I said was this:

What can be said about Wayne Newton?  On paper, this is an awful decision, but I'll be turked if it doesn't work like a charm.  Newton is smarmy as hell, but he's also thoroughly convincing.  And hey, I lived during the eighties, when televangelists were arguably at their height; Prof. Joe Butcher seems completely plausible to me.  Casting Newton is this smallish role ought to have been a disaster; instead, it's a mild triumph.  Bless his heart.

All of which I stand by, but what's notable about this to me is that as (for this post) I mentally composed that hypothetical paragraph about Professor Joe Butcher that I just mentioned, I decided it needed to contain these ideas: that it was a weird decision that ought not to have worked; that it nevertheless DID work; and that part of what made it work was that this era included real-life shady televangelists.  Also, the paragraph should end with the words "Bless his heart."

I have a lousy memory, and also a tendency to change my opinions about things, sometimes back and forth and back again.  But at other times, I find evidence that my brain works in rather consistent ways, and that fascinates me.

Bless my heart!


#59 -- General Medrano (Joaquín Cosío), Quantum of Solace




Quantum of Solace is cut from the same sort of villainous cloth as was Licence to Kill, and though he doesn't have a huge role in the film, Joaquín Cosio does a very good job of investing Medrano with enough menace that you really do see how he has loomed over Camille's life for so many years.  This is obviously a very, very bad person; bad not merely for individuals, but for an entire nation, and by extension for the entire world.

It's a small role, and in some ways it's not very Bondian; but it works, and is memorable.


#58-- LeChiffre (Peter Lorre), Climax!: Casino Royale




Thus spake the blogger in March of 2011:

The villain is LeChiffre, played by Peter Lorre in what cannot possibly have been something he considered a highlight of his career.  Frankly, Lorre is quite bad; he's sleepwalking through his part, and obviously has no interest in what he's doing.  And yet ... the coldness, the European-ness, the calculating ruthlessness, these are all qualities which will pop up again and again in the Bond films.  Sure, it's mostly from Fleming and not from Lorre, but it's still intriguing to consider that while CBS deemed it necessary to alter the main character from a Brit to a Yank, they essentially left the villain alone.

By all rights, this iteration of LeChiffre probably ought to be ranked lower, but the fact that even in a mediocre pre-fame quasi-mangling of Casino Royale, a goodly amount of quintessential Bondian villainy is shining through prevents me from doing so.


#57 -- Colonel Jacques Bouvar (Bob Simmons and Rose Alba), Thunderball




So I guess if you want to get technical, Die Another Day doesn't feature the ONLY villain to be played by two actors.  It took both a male and a female to pull off the trick that is Colonel Jacques Bouvar, and maybe it's just me, but I think it's a pretty fine trick.  It's always creeped me out to see Bond fighting a guy in a dress who is wearing lipstick and heels.  It's that -phobic of me?  If so, then I guess I plead guilty.

I think Bouvar makes for a memorable baddie, though, despite their limited screentime.


#56 -- Karl Stromberg (Curt Jurgens), The Spy Who Loved Me




Stromberg is basically just Blofeld, and evidently the initial plan was for this movie to have ol' Ernie Stavro as its baddie.  Legal matters prevented it, so they called him Stromberg instead, and voila, nobody gave much of a damn.

Curt Jurgens has a memorable face, with which he gives memorable stares.  I also like his voice.  But otherwise, this is a Paint By Numbers approach to Bond villainy, and, like most of the movie, it just doesn't really work for me.


#55 -- Miss Taro (Zena Marshall), Dr. No 




The original Bond-film femme fatale, and (for my money) still one of the best of the minor ones.  More than willing to use sex as a weapon, and, as such, she was an integral part in helping to truly define who Bond was, right there at the outset.

Having just watched this scene to find that screencap, I can report that the clarity of Blu-ray allowed me to see for the first time ever that Taro is so freshly out of the shower that there is still water dripping from her hair down to whatever is beneath that towel.

Guys, I don't mean to be crude, but ... that is hot stuff.


#54 -- Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Max Von Sydow), Never Say Never Again




Blofeld has only a minimal presence in this film (perhaps slightly more than in Thunderball, of which it is a remake, but if so then only slightly).  Whatever allure the role possesses comes strictly via the casting of Max Von Sydow, who is good, though uninspired by the uninspiring material and pedestrian direction.

Based strictly on presence and acting ability, Von Sydow is perhaps the best actor to ever play Blofeld, and if it had turned out to be him who was behind that menacing voice in Thunderball itself, I could have lived with it.  Donald Pleasence?  No.  Charles Gray?  The fuck out of here.  Telly Savalas?  Okay.  Max Von Sydow?  Okay.  Let's do it.

So really, what's happening here is that I've ranked the Blofeld of the short-lived McCloryverse series of Bond films much too highly.  The fact is, he's a nonentity.  But played by an actor of this stature, I cannot simply write him off.


#53 -- Dr. Kananga (Yaphet Kotto), Live and Let Die




From my review of the film:

Let's talk about what doesn't work with the character.  For one thing, he is, literally, just a gangster.  His whole scheme involves exporting heroin from San Monique into America and then giving it away in a bid to eliminate competition from Italian mob concerns.  It is possible that his goal in so doing would involve making San Monique a stronger and richer nation, but since it is so tiny, even if his plan were totally successful, the worldwide risk seems nonexistent.

In other words, there is simply no need for the British Secret Service to be involved in this man's life in any way.  It's dumb; it was dumb in the novel, and it is even dumber here.

As for Mr. Big ... to be honest, I'm struggling to find a way of adequately expressing how silly Mr. Big is.  Nothing about him makes sense.  I suppose I can see the need on Kananga's part to keep it secret that he is masquerading as a crimelord, since that would probably cause him to lose his diplomatic privileges.  But wouldn't it make more sense for him to do all of his business through an intermediary of some sort?  Also, if he's going to such lengths to keep Mr. Big's identity secret, does it make ANY sense for both Kananga and Mr. Big to employ Tee Hee?  The man has A FUCKING METAL ARM!  He's kinda recognizable.

The only reason I give Kananga a pass is that I like Yaphet Kotto in the role.  He's suave, he's debonair, he's imposing, and he's just plain cool.  It isn't a perfect performance; I think he's quite awful as Mr. Big, and his final scene as Kananga hits all the wrong notes.  Up until that point, though, I like his work in this movie a lot.

By the way, I considered listing the character as "Dr. Kananga / Mr. Big" but opted to not to.  Wrong call?  What say you?


#52 -- Ari Kristatos (Julian Glover), For Your Eyes Only




The intent with Ari Kristatos, clearly, was to get away from the world-domination-crazy megalomaniacs who had opposed Bond over the previous couple of films.  Simultaneously, the goal seems to have been to create a more realistic bad guy, and so here what we have is a film where we are not even aware who the real villain is until halfway through the movie; and even then, he's just a smuggler whose counter-intelligence services have been hired by the Russians.

The fact is that Kristatos is a bore.  Julian Glover plays him capably, but -- stop me if you've heard this one before -- is basically given nothing interesting to do the entire movie.  Kristatos's only quirk is that he seems to be trying to screw a potential Olympian; that's a bit on the distasteful side, but does that really require James Bond's intervention?

Sorry about all these recycled bits from previous posts.  Why invent the wheel?


#51 -- Ed Killifer (Everett McGill), Licence to Kill




The name "Killifer" is a bit on the nose, don't you think?  Were the alternative names "Villington," "Turner Coates," "Arnold Benedict," and "Trey Torrance" already taken?

Ah, but who cares about crap like that?  Not me, if the end result is a solid movie, which Licence to Kill is.  And Killifer works fairly well.  He's emblematic of the fact that Bond's typical missions are somewhat more straightforward than all this crooked-cops-working-for-drug-barons business into which he has accidentally stepped.  That's a big old pile of stinky shit, and he's stepped in it so hard, it's smooshed up around the sole of the shoe and gotten all over the leather.  Gross!

Anyways, Killifer is both despicable and sufficiently human to be realistic.  He avoids being a pure caricature, which was a danger.  He's not super-duper memorable, but there's nothing here that harms the movie, and in fact I'd say he supports it capably.


#50 -- Krilencu (Fred Haggerty), From Russia With Love




Krilencu is a minor character, and I've probably ranked him too high.  I'd defend that decision by saying that a big part of what makes all the Kerim Bey scenes work is that he feels like a fully-formed character; he's not just there to help James and move the plot forward.  In some ways, it feels as if James has wandered into Kerim Bey's movie.  Krilencu is maybe not the equivalent of Bey's Blofeld or something like that, but he does help Bey seem to be more realistic, and that's an aid to the movie overall.


#49 -- Vargas (Philip Locke), Thunderball




Vargas does not drink; does not smoke; does not make love.

What do you do, Vargas?


#48 -- General Orlov (Steven Berkoff), Octopussy


 
 
Steven Berkoff gives a performance so over the top that you kind of wish he and Klaus Maria Brandauer from Never Say Never Again could make a buddy-terrorist movie.  1983 was the year of the Battle of the Bonds (Octopussy in one corner, Never Say Never Again in the other), and one of the most interesting aspects was perhaps which villainous actor seemed most likely to be outed as a serial killer.

My money is on Berkoff, but if I found out Brandauer was doing a Dexter-style investigation on him, I guess that wouldn't surprise me much.

Anyways, Orlov is a fairly good character, one whose plain old Soviet zeal carries enough weight that he seems a worthy adversary for Bond.  Bond has to deal with Kamal Khan moreso than with Orlov, but Orlov works as a sort of connective tissue.  I think he's part of the reason why Octopussy is able to seem both cartoonish AND realistic.  Orlov's plot is scarily plausible; his mania is comfortingly artificial.  Between those two lines is where Octopussy lives, and since I dig that movie, I also have to kind of dig Orlov.


#47 -- Alex Dimitrios (Simon Abkarian), Casino Royale




Dimitrios is seemingly a sort of mid-level functionary within Le Chiffre's organization.  He's a big enough deal that he has a phenomenally attractive wife and a fancy car and spends his time gambling in a moderately swanky tropical-paradise club.  But you feel he's gone about as far as he will ever go in that organization; and you feel that he knows that, and resents it.


 
#46 -- Kamal Khan (Louis Jourdan), Octopussy




Kamal Khan has never been a favorite Bond baddie for me.  There's nothing wrong with him (apart from the racial insensitivity of casting a Frenchman in the role of what I assume -- but cannot prove -- is meant to be an actual Indian), and Louis Jourdan brings a deft and subtle sense of camp to the proceedings that fits the Moore era like a glove; but he's also a bit of a nonentity.  Khan jockeys for screentime with General Orlov, and I don't believe the competition does either character any favors.

But, as I say, he's okay.


#45 -- Necros (Andreas Wisniewski), The Living Daylights


Not Daniel Craig, but you're forgiven if you briefly thought it was.


Necros strangles people with a Walkman cord, which I guess is probably possible, and therefore might not be quite as lame as it seems.  It helps that he's steely-eyed, imposing-looking, and not at all a jokester.  Play a joke straight, sometimes it helps; here, it helps.

He's probably the best of the Red Grant impersonators the series occasionally offers up.


#44 -- Gobinda (Kabir Bedi), Octopussy




I've always liked Gobinda, who is a big, imposing guy.  But as played by Kabir Bedi, you can also see that he's not just a lunkhead.  There are things going on this guy's head; he seems like an actual person, albeit one who works as an enforcer and bodyguard for an international criminal.

But shit, somebody has to hold down that job, right?  Why not have him be a guy who has a great beard and an intelligently steely gaze?

Bedi was -- and is -- a star in his own right, and I can't help but wonder whether the movie might have been improved if he had played Kamal Khan.  I haven't seen him in anything else, and don't have quite enough to make an educated guess based on his work here; but the question seems worth asking.


#43 -- Jimmy "Dr. Noah" Bond (Woody Allen), Casino Royale '67




The 1967 Casino Royale is a pretty terrible film.  It has its fans, though, and I can see why ... if I squint a bit, mentally.  Among the fairly successful elements: Dr. Noah, played by Woody Allen in full Woody Allen style.  The whole movie is a joke, and it's satisfying for the punchline to be that the maniacal villain behind the movie's plot is a guy who would love to be the pussyhound and cocksman that James Bond is, but who just doesn't have what it takes.

Say what you want about the rest of the movie, but as far as parodies go, that's a solid punchline.

And by the way, Allen is playing Jimmy Bond, James's nephew.  If you really wanted to, you could tie this in to James Bond Jr, where James Jr is also the nephew of the "real" Bond.

It's silly to even be grading Dr. Noah among the rest of these no-nonsense baddies, but I've got no objection to a spot of silliness now and again.  That being the case, I think that Dr. Noah is more successful within the movie of which he is a part than are quite a few of the actual Bond villains.

That's my story, and I'm sticking to it!


#42 -- Mollaka (Sébastien Foucan), Casino Royale




This is another of the handful of characters who I inexplicably forgot about when I did my initial pass on this list.  Having finally remembered him, this is where I ranked him, and even now I'm wondering if he's too low.

Here's a fact: this scene of Casino Royale is one of the most indelible of all the action scenes in the entire series.  And without Foucan's physicality as Mollaka, it probably wouldn't work.  So maybe this guy deserves to be much farther up than he is.

Something I can't quite figure out is holding me up, though, so I'm going to stick with my initial impulse and leave him here.  

  
#41 -- Georgi Koskov (Jeroen Krabbé), The Living Daylights




In 2013 I wrote:

Jeroen Krabbé is an oily fellow as Koskov.  Specifically, snake-oil.   It's a little bit hard to believe that M and the various higher-ups would give credence to what he's saying about defecting because of Pushkin.  I get the feeling that the screenplay wants us to believe him, but that the actor and director kind of don't care.  Krabbe's performance isn't bad, but I think it weakens the movie in some ways.  On the other hand, since Bond patently distrusts the entire situation virtually from the moment he sees Kara through his scope, Krabbe's performance works subtly to make Dalton a more believable and compelling 007.  So in that sense, perhaps it was a benefit.

I always have a mental smile pop up when The Living Daylights crosses my mind, and so reading those words now, four years or so after the last time I saw the movie, I wonder if maybe I'm not being a bit too harsh toward ol' Georgi.  But then I wonder if that isn't a rose-colored-glasses type of thought.

I'll stick with what I said the last time I had the movie fresh in mind!


#40 -- Whisper (Earl "Jolly" Brown), Live and Let Die




2012 Bryant said:

For some reason, I also like Earl "Jolly" Brown as Whisper.  He's just a big fat guy who speaks real low and drives a pimpmobile.  Such a dumb idea for a henchman that it actually works.

There's probably no good excuse for me ranking Whisper this high, but I've always liked the guy, and sometimes an unexamined fact of that nature is good enough for me.  I think it's partially because he's just so unassuming.  In a way, that makes him scarier, because it makes you think that if a guy like Whisper was out to get you, you would probably never see him coming.  He blends in, so if you're a guy like James Bond and you're on his turf, you're probably in trouble before you even know it.  Which, of course, is a big part of the plot of Live and Let Die.

"Yo' champagne, sir!"


#39 -- Zao (Rick Yune), Die Another Day



  
In my Bryant-rehabs-Die-Another-Day post back in 2015, I said this: 
  
I like Zao before he becomes all suffused with diamonds.  After that...?  Well, that version of Zao doesn't make a lick of sense.  Why are the diamond shards stuck in his face?  They look like they could be plucked out with a pair of tweezers.  Just pull them fuckers right out of there, pal!  Don't be squeamish about it!
  
That said, Zao does look kind of cool.  It's a memorable design, provided you don't mind how silly it is.  He reminds me more than anything else of the sort of villain they might have had on James Bond Jr, and that makes me reflect that that show must have been the 007 entry point for at some kids out there.  You've got to figure that there are, similarly, a lot of kids who were introduced to Bond via Die Another Day.  Do those kids -- who are likely not kids any longer -- have a nostalgic soft spot for ol' diamond-faced Zao?

I bet you they do.  And when I look at him through those eyes, he works for me relatively well.  It's a dumb idea, but it's carried off capably provided you don't worry too much about how dumb it is.

My big criticism of Zao is that his name is lame.  He needed a better one, one which served as some sort of diamond-based pun.  Mr. Facet, perhaps.  Or Mai Ning, or something doofy like that.

I would also like to mention that I quite like Rick Yune in the role.  He gives it his all, and that's always worth recognition.


#38, #37, and #36 -- the "three blind mice" (Eric Coverly, Charles Edghill, and Henry Lopez), Dr. No




Before we ever even meet James Bond in the first 007 film, we've met three gimmicky assassins.  They come straight out of Ian Fleming's novel, and if the Internet has not lied to me, they have a bit more to do in the book.  (I've read it, but my Swiss-cheese memory is of no help in this regard.)

If they'd made a second appearance in the movie, and Bond had killed them all before they could kill him, then I suspect these fellows would be much more renowned.  As is, I think they're still pretty damn great, brief though their screentime may be.
 
[UPDATE:  A commenter points out that in fact they DID appear again.  They attempted to kill Bond but were unable to due to passing cars.  And then Bond DOES kill them, when their car goes over a cliff and explodes.  You Only Blog Twice regrets the lapse of memory, but also points out that those scenes are not even vaguely as memorable as the first scene involving the Mice.  Well, okay, the car going over and Bond quipping about them being on their way to a funeral is pretty memorable ... but the bits leading up to that are not.]


#35 -- Milton Krest (Anthony Zerbe), Licence to Kill




I didn't have a huge amount to say about Krest in my assessment of the movie:

Anthony Zerbe plays Milton Krest, one of Sanchez's people in charge of actually making the transfer of coke and money happen.  Zerbe is a solid character actor, and he does good work in his scenes here; he seems simultaneously in control and unbalanced, which helps one be able to see both why Sanchez would trust him and why that trust could quickly evaporate.

Not a bad assessment, that; brief, but not bad.

It's hard to stand Krest side by side with a guy like Zao (or Jaws, or Oddjob) and try to figure out how to say one or the other is better.  Is it purely a matter of which movie you like more?  If so, then that's kind of lame and pointless, isn't it?

What I've been shooting for is to determine what each character does for the movie he or she is in.  The more they do to make it a better movie, the better a character they are.  We're only discussing my opinions, of course, but I think that's a fundamentally sound approach.


#34 -- Prof. Dent (Anthony Dawson), Dr. No




There's a heel lurking around every corner in Dr. No, and one of the most loathsome of them all is Prof. Dent, who has been put in the unfortunate position of working for Dr. No.  I like the fact that he seems like he's basically just a regular guy; this is a quality he shares with most of the film's other baddies.  It serves to suggest that evil often hides behind normality, which is probably true; and it serves as good entry point to the exaggerated sense of reality the series will employ for the next however-many decades.

Beyond that, I don't have a lot to say about Dent except that I enjoy the way he dies.


#33 -- Steven Obannao (Isaach de Bankolé), Casino Royale




Played by Isaach de Bankolé, Obanno is definitely one of the more realistic Bond villains.  The only Bondian element he brings to the table is a keen sartorial sense, and perhaps a ruthlessness that exceeds that of many of the baddies who rank above him on this list.

There isn't a whole lot to the character other than what de Bankolé gives him; but de Bankolé gives him plenty.  You can't look away from when he's onscreen, and his power was a key element of making the stairwell fight as brutal as it is.


#32 -- Kronsteen (Vladek Sheybal), From Russia With Love




I debated placing Kronsteen much higher on the list, because I feel Vladek Shaeybal makes a terrific impression in the role, and also because Kronsteen is shown to be powerful by way of a keen intellect.

Doesn't help him much in the end, of course.  Still, it helps him stand out from most other Bond villains who have as little screentime as he has (many of whom I have likely neglected to rank at all), and for that, I value him.


#31 -- Miranda Frost (Rosamund Pike), Die Another Day




Die Another Day is frequently pilloried by Bond fans, but even the most vehement often spare a kind word for Miranda Frost.  Played by future Oscar-nominee Rosamund Pike, Frost is calculating, duplicitous, deceitful, tough, and beautiful.  The screenplay doesn't take quite enough advantage of this, which is understandable: to really get at the heart of a character like this, you'd really need an entire movie, and that's something the Bond films aren't capable of providing.

Underdeveloped though she may be, what there is is quite good, especially with a pro like Pike in the role.


#30 -- Mr. Hinx (Dave Bautista), Spectre




Oh, what a squandered opportunity Spectre is in general, and oh, what a squandered opportunity Hinx is specifically.

He's only in the film for four scenes, and the two that involve car chases  make virtually no use of the talents of Dave Bautista.  The other two scenes in which Hinx is featured very much DO make use of those talents, and in those moments, Spectre is an exciting, entertaining film with a terrifying bad guy.

And yet, despite interviews given in which the filmmakers professed the desire for Hinx to be a proper old-school badass henchman, nobody seems to have had the idea to carry the character over into the third act.  Can you imagine a scenario in which Oddjob didn't make it to near the end of Goldfinger?  I'm sure you can, but why would you?

This is not even the chief of the sins of this particular film, of course.  I'm not sure it's in the top ten among Spectre's sins.  In fact, in and of himself, I think Hinx is pretty damn solid.

I just wish the director and producers had realized it.

By the way, as I'm nearing completion of this post, Bautista's Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 was released.  It is a fantastic movie, and Bautista is gloriously good as Drax.  


#29 -- General Arkady Ourumov (Gottfried John), GoldenEye




I don't have much to say about General Ourumov, except that he is somewhat reminiscent of a less cartoonish version of Octopussy's General Orlov.  I might have just now committed the sin of feeling that all Soviet generals are basically the same.  Sorry about that, Russia.  But in terms of the James Bond movies, the shoe kinda fits.

The thing I like about Gottfried John's performance here is that you look at him and he seems like a guy who is the lead actor in his own movie.  Ourumov has that quality because Gottfried John invested him with it, and the end result is that the movie feels more realistic.  That also helps us buy Xenia as somebody who would actually follow him.


#28 -- Dr. Julius No (Joseph Wiseman), Dr. No




I might get excoriated for this, but I don't find Dr. No to be a particularly interesting villain, at least not in the movie.  He's better in the novel, as I recall.

That's not to say there's anything particularly wrong with him, though, and I could not in good conscience rank him any lower than this.  If you tasked me with doing so, I could concoct a solidly-reasoned argument for him being in the top ten based purely on coming first and helping to establish the mold for subsequent Bond-film baddies. 


#27 -- Emil Locque (Michael Gothard), For Your Eyes Only




I considered placing Locque higher on the list, because to this day I consider him to be one of the scariest of the Bond villains.  If Ian Fleming was writing about him -- which I can easily imagine him doing -- I'm sure we'd get a backstory involving cold, calculating sadism that had been fashioned from early-adulthood serial-murder proclivities.  This is an intelligent madman for whom somebody has found a use.

That's how I see it, at least.  It'd be equally possible to see a boring guy in octagonal glasses, which is why I've been restrained in placing Locque.  For my personal tastes, though, I think he's scarily great.


#26 -- Irma Bunt (Ilse Steppat), On Her Majesty's Secret Service




I initially had Bunt ranked a good bit higher, but -- as always happens when do ranked lists like this -- the writing process convinced me that she needed to be bumped down a bit.

Nevertheless, Irma Bunt is a memorable villain.  Shockingly ordinary-looking (for a Bond movie), it is that ordinary blandness that helps her seem so scary at a few key junctures.  She will forever be the S.P.E.C.T.R.E. agent who murdered Mrs. James Bond and got away with that, and for that, she earns our fearful respect.


#25 -- Alec "Janus" Trevelyan (Sean Bean), GoldenEye




Thus spake You Only Blog Twice in 2014:

The movie's big bad, of course, is former 006 Alec Trevelyan, whom Bond thought had died years ago.  He's played by Sean Bean, who is probably best-known these days as either Boromir from The Fellowship of the Ring or Ned Stark from Game of Thrones.  His most important quality as GoldenEye's villain is that he very plausibly plays a character who we can view as a warped version of Bond himself.

The series had played with that subtext before, and would do so again; but here, it is literalized somewhat by having Tevelyan be a former Double-Oh agent.

Bean does well with this; he simply feels right in the role.  And that's good, because the screenplay is quite a bit too shallow to actually make Trevelyan work as a character.  To the extent Trevelyan does work, it's thanks to Bean's performance.  If he had had better material, we'd probably think of the former 006 as one of the best villains of the entire series; as is, he's mid-level.

GoldenEye is a popular Bond movie that likely grows more popular every year as nostalgia takes hold in those who were young enough for the movie (and/or game) to be their entry point for the world of 007.  I don't say that as a negative; I think the nostalgia is well-earned by a fundamentally good-leaning-toward-great Bond film, one which saved the series from collapse.

I mention this as a means of acknowledging that a lot of the movie's fans would likely feel Trevelyan deserves to be ranked much higher on the list.  I don't entirely disagree; I just feel that the movie fell short of capitalizing on the character's potential.

You won't get a word of criticism out of me for Bean, though.


#24 and #23 -- Mischka and Grischka (David & Anthony Meyer), Octopussy




These twins are solid Bond henchmen.  They always scared me as a kid, and might be why twins make me a little bit nervous now.  Tip: if you are a twin and wish to freak me out, but on black vests over red shirts and walk around with big-ass knives.  That'll get the job done.

Amazingly, I forgot to mention them at all when I reviewed Octopussy.  I ought to have my licence to blog revoked!
 

#22 -- Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric), Quantum of Solace




I like what I said about this guy in my review of the movie, so here it is:
  
One of the areas where Quantum of Solace frequently comes in for a lumping is the category of bad guys.  It is certainly true that this movie's main villain, Dominic Greene, is a step or two down from the previous film's Le Chiffre.  Can we all admit that?  Yes?  Okay, good.

Let's try not to judge this movie solely on the basis of it failing to measure up to Casino Royale.  FORGET Le Chiffre.  How is Dominic Greene judged purely on his own merits/demerits?

I think he's just fine.  Not inspired; not an all-time great, certainly.  But fine.  At no point during the movie do I find myself wishing the role had been cast differently, or that the character had had a peg-leg or something doofy like that.  Greene is sometimes accused of being too ordinary, but leveling that claim at this movie feels like an avoidance: Greene's ordinariness is part of the point the movie is making about Quantum as an organization.  These are people who are so omnipresent that they could be anybody, anywhere; heck, they could even be in the room with you right now.

With that in mind, would it make any sense for Greene to be larger-than-life?  Certainly not.

Instead, let's focus on what Greene brings to the table.  To me, he seems like the sort of guy who probably got told "no" quite a bit as a child and as a young man.  Since then, he has found a line of work which probably doesn't result in his being told "no" very often.  And he's in a position to make the people who refuse him regret having done so.   Greene is a harassed young man turned into a bully as an adult.  But not any sort of bully; he has no interest in barking the way some bullies do when all they want is to hear their own voices at a louder volume than anyone else's.  No, instead, Greene is concerned more with the bite than he is with the bark.  He has become arrogant, but only because his arrogance is repeatedly rewarded.  This guy will have one of his employees fuck you UP.

Greene is a man who has become accustomed to getting precisely what he wants when he wants it.  The best scene for Greene in the movie is perhaps the one near the end when he is talking to Medrano.  After the new leader signs the land away to Greene's company, Greene drops the bombshell about how he now controls the water industry in that country; if Medrano does not feel satisfied by the exorbitant hike in prices, then Quantum will simply find a new new leader for Bolivia, one more amenable to what Quantum requires of them.

Greene clearly relishes this entire exchange, even before it has begun in earnest.  He looks like a man who is very satisfied with his lot in life.  And let's face it: why wouldn't he be?

Greene is played by Mathieu Amalric, who (I would argue) brings a bit more to the role than was on the page.  He wouldn't rank near the top echelon of Bond-villain actors, but at this point it's going to be tough to climb into those ranks.


#21 -- Tee Hee (Julius Harris), Live and Let Die




God Almighty, where can I get a size 4X suit in that color?  I would wear it to work frequently.

I've always liked ol' Tee Hee, who is about as affable a villain as the series has ever had to offer.  The combination could be cheesy in the wrong hands, but something in Julius Harris's performance keeps the character grounded even when he's waving his metal arm around, flinging chicken to alligators.

I think a big part of what makes it work for me is that Tee Hee seems like a guy who is 100% confident that his side is going to win out in the end.  I'm not sure I'd say that I think he thinks he's on the right side, necessarily; I think he's moved past the point of thinking that such things as right and wrong even exist.  This gives him conviction, which in turn makes him scarier than a guy who is simply working for hire.

What clinches it is that wonderful smile that Harris carries around with him.  It never looks forced; he never appears to be acting.  He instead seems like he's just happy to be in the world now that he's figured out how to make it work in his favor.


#20 -- Dario (Benecio del Toro), Licence to Kill




There's nothing flashy about Dario.  He has no special weapons.  He is, however, obviously Death on two feet, cold-blooded as killers come.  You wouldn't have a difficult time convincing me that he is the most evil character on this entire list, and so, despite a relatively small amount of screen time for future star Benecio Del Toro, Dario earns a strong placement here.


#19 -- Baron Samedi (Geoffrey Holder), Live and Let Die




Baron Samedi makes very little sense unless you hypothesize that Live and Let Die actually IS a supernatural fantasy.  His purpose within the story is questionable; he seems to be a part of Kananga's organization, but it feels less to me like Samedi is an employee than an adviser.  It feels to me as if Kananga actually works for Baron Samedi in some obscure and unexplained way.

Is he killed by falling into that coffin full of snakes?  You'd think so.  But there he is at the end of the movie, perched outside on the train, on 007's trail and belly-laughing with glee to be there.

I've always seen that moment as a metaphorical one.  Baron Samedi -- or this man who refers to himself as Baron Samedi (as he is surely NOT the actual Baron Samedi of legend) -- is not physically on that train; this is just a wink to the audience indicating that while evil men might die on occasion, evil itself will remain alive and in need of extermination.  The literal "Baron Samedi" might be dead and gone, as are the literal Kananga and Tee Hee; but the spirit of Baron Samedi lives on, and Bond will encounter other vessels for that spirit.

Makes sense, right?

But let's face facts: the movie implies that prior to her deflowering, Solitaire actually possesses some measure of second sight.  Those moments are brief and somewhat vague, and could be construed as merely a keen intuition on Solitaire's part.  On the other hand, I think the movie gives you just enough to make a case that her psychic powers are genuine.

If you lean in that direction, then I think you likely lean toward feeling there is something a bit supernatural about Baron Samedi (who all of a sudden looks less in need of quotation marks around his name) as well.

I think I come down on the side of none of this being supernatural, simply because that's not what the Bond series is.  That said, during the Roger Moore era, the films were consciously more cartoonish and/or conversant with comic-book-style logic.  Bond goes into outer space and has a laser battle, guys.  That happened, and it was glorious.  Would you really have been that surprised for Bond to be fighting werewolves in the next film after that?  That'd be about the only place to go from Moonraker if you kept heading in the same direction; either that, or reboot in the future with the James Bond of 3007, who serves Her Majesty in the great Cold War with the Venus/Mars Alliance or whatever the fuck.  Face facts: that was the trajectory of these films, and while it was halted and shifted before it actually got there, the fact that it was even trending in that general direction indicates to me that Baron Samedi should not be written off entirely as metaphor.

Either way, I think he's pretty great.  If the Moore era was full of cartoons, then Baron Samedi is one of the most delightfully colorful of them all.  It's entirely due to Geoffrey Holder's performance, which is charismatic and weird and utterly memorable.


#18 -- Francisco Scaramanga (Christopher Lee), The Man with the Golden Gun




From my analysis of the movie:

This film was my introduction to Christopher Lee lo these many years ago, and for the longest time -- right up until The Fellowship of the Ring came out -- it was (along with 1941) the only thing I knew of the man's work.

Naturally, he is a terrific Scaramanga.  The Bond movies during this era were very focused on the idea of the villain being a sort of dark reflection of Bond himself; consequently, they were suave, classy, elegant men, but with a twisted purpose.  Lee excels in this capacity, and you definitely get the sense throughout the film that he is very much Bond's equal in many ways.

One of the serious failings of this movie is that Scaramanga is ultimately revealed to be a bit of a dupe.  The first two acts are spent with Bond thinking Scaramanga -- an assassin so effective he charges $1,000,000 per hit (quite a lot of money in 1974) -- has been hired to kill him.  Eventually, however, we find out that Andrea Anders has engineered this: she sent the bullet to MI6, in the hopes that Bond would assume he was being tracked and would then take measures to eliminate Scaramanga first.

On the one hand, this is quite satisfying as far as plots go; it's more intricate than the Bond films have seen in several movies, and though that element does not come from the novel, it is the type of plot Ian Fleming would almost certainly have approved of.

It has the unfortunate downside, however, of making Scaramanga a much weaker character.  A better directiojn might have seen Scaramanga be more actively involved in bringing Bond to his hideaway.  As is, he is a lion who doesn't run down a gazelle; the gazelle just happens to wander into the lion's den, and then kills the lion.  This particular lion was never going to win, but couldn't he have at least been a more active participant in the chase?

I've grown to like The Man with the Golden Gun, but I remain convinced that it doesn't quite live up to the promise of this particular villain.  Nevertheless, in and of himself, he's a great baddie.


#17 -- Mr. White (Jesper Christensen), Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace, and Spectre


Casino Royale

Quantum of Solace

Spectre



Mr. White doesn't have a huge total amount of screentime, but there's no doubt -- in my mind, at least -- that he's very nearly the most important villain of the Daniel Craig era of films.  He's put to excellent use in Casino Royale as a very powerful man who lurks in the shadows to some extent, secretly observing and engineering the events of the film.  This even works in Bond's favor when White saves his life.

It is a testament to the performance of Jesper Christensen (and to the film's direction and editing) that Mr. White works well enough for Bond's vanquishing of him in the final scene to play as a triumph.  David Arnold's repurposing of the Bond theme helps massively, too, of course; but I think that Mr. White's subtle prowess during his scenes earlier in the film do a great deal to making it seem as if Bond has graduated to some higher level of spycraft.  If that was a lamer villain, then that scene would likely not have the punch it has, and that would be a true loss.

Happily, Mr. White still retained his power in the sequel, which picks up literally during Bond's transportation of White to MI6 custody.  Even shot and battered, White's confidence and resolve shine through.  When he issues an order and an MI6 agent turns the tables on M and Bond, it is shocking, and hints at just how powerful an adversary White's group (Quantum) is.
  
The film isn't entirely able to follow through on the promise of White's scenes, and the series bungles it altogether two films later by defanging Quantum in favor of introducing a shitty faux-Blofeld.  (Faux-feld?)  And yet, even in the lousy Spectre, Mr. White emerges intact as a compelling character.


#16 -- Jaws (Richard Kiel), The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker


The Spy Who Loved Me

Moonraker



I go back and forth on Jaws, guys.

Let's have a look at what younger versions of me said about him.
 
On The Spy Who Loved Me, 2012:

First, let's get this out of the way: a guy with metal teeth that he can use to bite through all sorts of things is just dumb.  Dumb, dumb, dumb.  Because it seems to me like if a guy with metal teeth tried to bite through a thick piece of steel, he'd probably just break his jaw, or destroy his gums or both.  Or I dunno, maybe it's totally realistic and I'm just a moron.  If that's the case, then this whole blog is invalid anyways, so I'd may as well press on, secure in my belief that a dude with metal teeth is fucking stupid.

I can hear you asking me now: "But Bryant, is that any dumber than Oddjob using a bowler hat to decapitate a statue in Goldfinger?"  The answer to that question is: no. No, it's not a bit dumber.  The difference lies in how the two characters are used by the writers and directors of their respective movies.  Guy Hamilton succeeded in making Oddjob cool; Lewis Gilbert can only make Jaws suck.

I'll say this, though: Richard Kiel gives it his all.  And from a visual standpoint, there are several effective shots of him hulking over somebody, or just appearing out of nowhere.  But the film wants us to believe that he is both huge AND nimble, and sneaky to boot, and I'd be okay with that if it was consistent.  It isn't; there are several times when Jaws ought to be simply dismantling Bond, and he doesn't.  Why?  Because the screenplay needs him not to.

On the other hand, he bites a shark to death.  I think I'll add a point just for that.  And I'll add another simply out of deference to how well-known and well-loved a character Jaws remains.  Never let it be said I am not willing to second-guess myself.
 
Indeed I am, and my thoughts on Moonraker the same year bear that out to some extent:
  
The second prominent henchman is Jaws, who returns for his second straight 007 film.  Unless I'm badly mistaken, this makes him the only villain other than Blofeld to appear in more than one movie in the series.

Obviously, the character was popular, but I remain convinced that he sucked.  This was not Richard Kiel's fault; Kiel, in fact, was quite good in the role (in both movies), and remains to this day a terrific visual element of the 007 films.

And I'll give Moonraker this: it has a better sense of how to effectively portray Jaws than did The Spy Who Loved Me.  Here, he is handled with a delicate mix of satire and terror throughout the film, as opposed to the sharp left turn he takes in his first go-round.  And the scene in which he is hiding inside a giant-headed clown mascot during Carnaval in Rio remains genuinely unsettling.

When I made these rankings, I initially had Jaws placed a great deal lower.  But I always learn things about my feelings when I do a list like this, and as I progressed through it, I kept bumping Jaws up the list, not satisfied with where I had him placed.

And so he's ended up here.  I suspect it's still too low for many Bond fans' tastes.  If there were a Bond-villains Mount Rushmore -- and there really should be -- is there any chance Jaws would not be on it?  Of course he would be!  If he wasn't, you'd want to dynamite the entire thing and start over from scratch on a new site.

I can't not take that into account.


#15 -- Hugo Drax (Michael Lonsdale), Moonraker




My thoughts from September 2012:

Here, we get Michael Lonsdale as Sir Hugo Drax, who is cut from more or less the same mold as was Stromberg in The Spy Who Loved Me: he's a homicidal genius billionaire who is apparently using his vast wealth to fund a secret operation designed to reshape the world in his image.

Happily, Drax is a much more compelling villain than Stromberg.  He isn't perfect, by any means; Lonsdale's performance, though good, is a bit on the laconic side, very much in the same vein as Joseph Wiseman's Doctor No.  No and Drax share the same lack of personality, but Drax's aims are so concrete (goofily insane though they may be) and understandable that he comes off as a much more capable and threatening fellow.

Drax's whole deal is that he's basically a more open-minded sort of Hitler.  He wants -- for no apparent reason -- to decimate the Earth's population and use a squad of genetically superior (i.e., attractive) Adams and Eves to then repopulate from the heavens above.  It's about as weird as such plans get; you've kinda got to just tip your hat to it.

Drax gets scads of great dialogue courtesy of screenwriter Christopher Wood.  Some of my favorites:


  • To a henchman, literally only seconds after meeting Bond for the first time: "Look after Mr. Bond; see that some harm comes to him."
  • To Bond, who has shown up amidst Drax's plots yet again: "You appear with the tedious inevitability of an unloved season."
  • Again, to Bond: "Mr. Bond ...  You defy all my attempts to plan an amusing death for you."
While Lonsdale's lack of emotion might in some ways seem like a deficiency, if he had shown much in the way of a wink at the audience while delivering great lines like these, it would have tipped the entire movie over into sheer parody.  As is, it teeters on the verge, but hangs on tenaciously until the last credit has rolled.  Lonsdale deserves no small part of the credit for that.


2017 Bryant stands by every words of that, although he would point out that "decimate" does not actually mean what it sounds like it means.


#14 -- May Day (Grace Jones), A View to a Kill




May Day also fared quite well in my ranking of Bond girls; she came in at #13 on that list, and dang near ended up in that spot here as well.

Here's what I had to say about her when I reviewed the film:

May Day is a solid henchwomanman character, partially because she is an echo of Zorin's own insanity.  I don't think it makes much sense that she flips that completely at the end, but it works somehow.  In a sense, Moore's Bond films are comic-book movies, and it's always fun in comic books for bad guys to turn out to be good guys who just needed a push toward the side of right.  It worked with Jaws in Moonraker, and it works with May Day here.  The part of me who likes a plot to make sense wrinkles his brow to see May Day turn on Zorin so quickly but the part of me who is still a little boy rejoices at it, and is still a little bummed out that she had to ride that bomb out and get blowed up.

All that said, I can mentally contort the plot so that this development makes sense.  In this mental version of the movie, May Day has been acting insane the entire time, see.  She's not actually insane, like Zorin is; she's just playing along, because she's in love with him and wants to impress him and make him happy.  When Zorin turns on her, though, she immediately sees that she's been on the wrong side, and determines to make up for it any way she can.  Hence, she allows herself to get blowed up.

I believe that the proper way to express that last thought is to say that she allowed herself to be exploded, but I'll damned if I ever pass up an opportunity to say somebody got "blowed up."  It is simply not in my nature to not be a rube on occasion.


#13 -- Rosa Klebb (Lotte Lenya), From Russia With Love




From one of my earliest posts:


Blofeld's primary agent in this movie is Rosa Klebb, a KGB defector played by Lotte Lenya.  Lenya was once married to Kurt Weill, and was famous at the time of this movie's release primarily for her stage and singing careers.  That makes her a bit of oddball casting here, but it paid off handsomely.  Lenya's like a spider in the movie: not at all pleasant to look at, and prone to jump out and bite you when you least expect it. The icy hints of lesbianism are effectively rendered; couched as they are in a context of villainy, they are perhaps objectionable by today's standards, but after all, the movie is nearly fifty years old, and it accurately represents the pop-cultural climate of the time.
  
That's probably true enough.  If anything, it was probably shocking for the movie to even gesture in that direction.  I suspect some modern viewers would be offended by the seeming fact that the Bond series had a lesbian as a villain, but the way I see it, she's just a villain who happens to be a lesbian.  You think sexual harassment is a thing only straight folks do?  Not so, friend; not so.


#12 -- Emilio Largo (the body of Adolfo Celi, the voice of Robert Rietty), Thunderball




Reaching all the way back to the distant past of 2011, we find me saying this about Largo:

We got perhaps THE greatest Bond villain of them all in the previous film in the series, so it's hardly a surprise that Thunderball represents a bit of a letdown in that regard.
This is not to say that Emilio Largo is a poor villain, however; nor to suggest that Adolfo Celi did a poor job of portraying him.  Neither of these things is the case.  In fact, Celi is excellent, showing a cold determination throughout that is laced with hints of incredible cruelty.  One of the better scenes of the film is the meeting with Blofeld, and Celi is terrific in his reactions -- non-reactions, really -- to the electrocution of the duplicitous agent by Blofeld.
I also like the fact that Largo kills the airman, Derval, himself. Not quickly, either: he cuts the man's airhose and causes him to drown.  This is not a nice man, but he's definitely a take-charge kind of guy, and that's a bit of a rarity in Bond baddies.

The implication is almost that Largo at one point -- using Bond-film terminology -- served as Blofeld's right-hand man and/or henchman, and acquitted himself spectacularly well in that capacity.  As such, even though Largo is in some ways nothing special, he nevertheless exudes a tremendous sense of power.  He feels like a man who can only be contended with by a man of James Bond's calibre.

That aspect is a tremendous help to Thunderball as a movie, and it places Largo among a breed that is rarer than one might suspect in these films.
 

#11 -- Franz Sanchez (Robert Davi), Licence to Kill




Once again, I will take the easy way out and simply cut-and-paste previous thoughts:

I've heard the criticism that Sanchez is definitely a villain, but not really a Bond villain.  Well . . . I don't agree with that.  He's got a massive amount of money, is able to rule his corner of the world (and has vague designs on increasing his influence), is a sort of bizarre mirror-image of Bond, and even has a pet that he keeps on his person at times.  The only marks against him are that he isn't being targeted by the British government and that his name isn't something exotic, like Dr. Blow or Rafael Powderburn or something jazzy like that.

Otherwise, I think he's a damn good Bond villain.  Screenwriters Michael G. Wilson and Richard Maibaum made an interesting choice with him, too: they decided to make Sanchez the delivery method for a great deal of the movie's humor.  Whereas a great many Bond films finds 007 making quips left and right, here it is the bad guy who does most of the quipping.  "Remember," he tells President Lopez, who is essentially an employee of his, "you're only President for life."  Later, after he explodes another employee's head and gets brains and blood all over a couple million dollars' worth of cash, someone asks him what should be done with the money.  "Launder it," he says, with just the hint of a glimmer in his eye and just the suggestion of a smile on his lips.

Another Davi moment I love comes not long after he has decided that Bond can be trusted enough to be brought inside his operation.  He is discussing the previous night's assassination attempt on his life.  "Those men tried to kill me," he says.  "Who would do such a thing?"
  
Look at those lines on the screen for a moment, and consider how many different ways they could be spoken.  Then, grab your DVD or Blu-ray and toss it in the player, go to the scene, and see how Davi plays it.  He plays it as a joke: sort of a "gosh, who'd want to kill little old me" delivery.  But it's deeper than that.  He's making a joke of it, yes, but he's doing it in a way that lets Bond know it's a joke, and that Sanchez knows Bond knows it's a joke.  It even manages to become a sort of a threat: the idea of someone being able to kill him seems to have about as much effect on Sanchez as the threat of alien invasion must have: virtually none.  Because, like, who'd even believe there IS such a thing?  It makes Sanchez seem affable, but it also makes him seem formidable; this is not naivete, it's sheer confidence, and well-founded confidence at that.

I don't have much to add to any of that, except to note that I think Sanchez might be the most underrated Bond villain.  It kind of pains me to have left him out of my top ten, but I just couldn't get him in there.


#10 -- Max Zorin (Christopher Walken), A View to a Kill




Repurposed mini-essay coming your way:

When he landed the role of Max Zorin, Christopher Walken was certainly not a nobody.  He'd won an Oscar for The Deer Hunter a few years previously, and his film role prior to playing a Bond baddie was the lead in The Dead Zone, a well-regarded (though low-grossing) suspense film based on a Stephen King bestseller.  People may not have seen that movie, but they a lot of them would have seen the commercials for it, or at least would have seen the posters.  They might not have known who Christopher Walken was, but they'd at least have had a sense that he was somebody.

Three decades later, he's a fairly iconic screen presence.  Granted, he typically gets lumped into the same category William Shatner shows up in, i.e., walking parody of himself.  But, like Shatner, he does it incredibly well; and, unlike Shatner, he's been able to toss in the occasional genius bit of dramatic acting in classic or near-classic films like Pulp Fiction or Catch Me If You Can to keep people on their toes.

In some ways, that screen image began with Max Zorin in A View to a Kill.  Walken plays the part to near-perfection, and is arguably the single best thing about the movie apart from the theme song.  It is a thoroughly insane performance, full of dead-eyed stares that erupt into Joker-esque grins.  It is easily lampoonable, but let's remember something: by 1985, the Bond films overall had been easily lampoonable for nearly two decades, and were only taking themselves seriously on special occasions.  So to say that Walken turned in a performance that had a knowing wink of self-mockery to it is hardly an insult.  Yeah, of course he did that!  If the option was bland villainy of the sort displayed in, say, For Your Eyes Only, why wouldn't he? 
Either way, what's important is not that Walken took his performance over the top, but that he did so in a manner that was simultaneously recognizable within the series of films in which he was appearing AND was completely different from what any of the other actors to play the Bond villains had done up to that point.  Other Bond-villain actors had, for better or for worse, chewed the scenery: Gert Frobe, Charles Gray, Yaphet Kotto, even Klaus Maria Brandauer.  Of all of them, the only one whose approach Walken seemed perhaps to be echoing was Brandauer, who had done a very odd crazy-man-hiding-out-in-a-sane-man's-body schtick in Never Say Never Again.  It worked against the movie.

Knowingly or not, Walken took that approach and ran with it, but in a way that was just serious enough for people to not feel as if he was making fun of the whole enterprise.  Yet it was also loose enough that you could feel -- even if you couldn't see -- the wink being tossed toward the audience.  It is a great performance, and if there had been anything in the screenplay for Max to do that even remotely capitalized on how good Walken was, then he might have been received as rapturously as Javier Bardem's villain in Skyfall (who visually echoes Zorin) was.

That, sadly, was not the case.  The screenplay basically gives Zorin two attributes: he is French; he is a psychopath.  (Walken's approach was to ignore the first -- Zorin sounds approximately as French as Tony Soprano sounds -- and run with the second.)  He has virtually no good dialogue.  The character doesn't get to do anything particularly cool, or intimidating.  He mostly just reacts to things, in a way similar to what Gray does as Blofeld in Diamonds Are Forever.  But unlike Gray, Walken commands the screen; he may be merely reacting, but his reactions are interesting.

Indeed they are.  Among the most interesting of any in the series, and for that reason, I think Max is an upper-echelon villain.


#9 -- Xenia Sergeyeneva Onatopp (Famke Janssen), GoldenEye
  



Onatopp?

Onatopp.

From my post about the movie:

The deal with her character is, she can only have an orgasm by inflicting pain on others.  Or something like that.  The movie doesn't exactly spell it out, thank God.  But I believe that is the idea, and you'll be disappointed in me to learn that this sailed right over my head in 1995.  I just thought Xenia was a weirdo.  Nope; she's a weirdo, alright, but specifically a weirdo who orgasms via external stimulation such as crushing a man to death with her thighs, or murdering multiple people simultaneously.

This is potentially ludicrous stuff, and it is very much to the credit of Janssen and director Martin Campbell that they manage to keep Xenia grounded enough to allow the character to actually work.  The movie as a whole tilts just far enough toward the ludicrous that she doesn't seem out of place; and simultaneously, Janssen's performance is realistic enough that it fits within the structure of GoldenEye's relatively grounded approach.

Janssen was a relatively obscure actor in 1995, and it would not have been surprising at all if she -- like many Bond girls (and Bond henchmen) before her -- had slid from this straight into being otherwise obscure.  Instead, she has been working steadily ever since, and thanks to major roles in the X-Men and Taken movies, her GoldenEye credit represents merely one of her big hits.  So kudos to you, Famke Janssen; I've been enjoying your work ever since that one episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation you did, and without your considerable talent, there's no way Xenia Onatopp would work.

I've said this before, but it's worth repeating: it's very cool to see how well GoldenEye is aging.  Not in every aspect, perhaps (all the computer stuff seems like ancient history, and the score is miserably out of place), but in most of the important ones for sure.



#8 --  Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Telly Savalas), in On Her Majesty's Secret Service




Blofeld is arguably James Bond's ultimate nemesis.  If this were a comic book and 007 was Batman, wouldn't Blofeld have to be considered the closest thing to The Joker?  The Moriarty to Bond's Holmes?

Maybe.  But I lean closer to maybe not.
  
As a hypothesis, I'm not sure it holds up.  It probably does in relation to the novels, but for the movies?  I'm less convinced.

Either way, I think a lot of people think of Blofeld in that way, and I would accuse the series as a whole of failing to make meaningful use of it on a few occasions.  For example, I just don't like either of the Blofelds who bookend this one, Donald (You Only Live Twice) Pleasence and Charles (Diamonds Are Forever) Gray.  About them, 2012 Bryant said:

Those are weak, spineless performances; Savalas here seems as though he would actually be capable of putting a plot into action that would have major world consequences.  This has the added benefit of allowing Bond, as a direct result, to seem even more heroic: not merely because he is able to foil Blofeld in the end, but also because his zeal for pursuing "Operation Bedlam" is such that he will continue to do so even once he has been officially removed from the job.

I certainly rank Savalas's Blofeld as one of the best villains in the entire series, but he's not perfect.  He commits the unpardonable sin of failing to simply kill Bond when he has an opportunity.  Furthermore, why "jail" him in a room that can easily allow him to escape to the outside?  Sure, it might seem reasonable to assume that Bond won't risk trying to escape via the cables of the cable-car system.  But seriously, you do know he's a trained agent, right?

That's just dumb.

It sure is.  Nevertheless, I think the Blofeld of Savalas does indeed deserve to be considered one of the best baddies of the series.

And so I do.

  
#7 -- Fiona Volpe (Luciana Paluzzi), Thunderball
 



From 2011:

Fiona Volpe was -- with the exception of Miss Taro in Dr. No -- the first full-fledged femme-fatale in the Bond films, and she gets my vote for the best ever.  I've occasionally wondered why I have such a personal love for women with red hair, and it occurs to me now that Luciana Paluzzi may have a great deal to do with that predilection.  She's awfully good-looking in this movie, but she's got other great qualities to go along with them: she's ruthless, playful, calculating, strong-willed (witness the scene in which she is shooting skeet with Largo -- she doesn't back down from him for even a second), and highly effective.  Fiona is a great villain.

I really can't say enough about how attractive I find Paluzzi to be in this movie, but I want to make it clear that that isn't what earned her a spot this high on the list.  It's those cold, dead eyes.  Not a shark's eyes; a shark has no choice but to be what it is.  These are the eyes of a woman who has examined the world around her and determined that the way for her to navigate it is via a quiet and clandestine ruthlessness.  Her youth indicates that she has had tremendous success in this regard, and is primed and ready to go even farther.

In order to get a good screencap of the above image, I watched that scene again, and I was struck anew by just how assertive and commanding she is with Largo, who actually looks a bit intimidated by her.  One wonders what the result of this nuke-stealing operation might have been if Volpe had been calling all the shots.

Yes, one does.  I suspect it might not have turned out so well.

Except for Fiona.


#6 -- Red Grant (Robert Shaw), From Russia With Love




The idea behind Grant is that he's like a villainous mirror image of Bond, almost Bond's evil opposite twin.  He takes no drink, does not smoke (you can see him viciously toss a cigarette away at one point), does not indulge in women ... he foregoes all of the vices which make James Bond the loveable cad we know him to be.  That's all fine to say, and it's fine for it to be written into the screenplay; but actually getting it on screen is another thing entirely, and Shaw does just that.  As such, he's one of the very best Bond villains, still.  (And, by the way, does he look a bit like Daniel Craig?  Yes, he does, a bit.  That only makes it more fun, as far as I'm concerned.)

That's how I felt in 2011, and I wouldn't say I've changed much.  As I recall, Grant is also a compelling villain in Fleming's novel, and this reminds me that I've GOT to start blogging about those books soon, if only as an excuse to reread them.
 
  
#5 -- Oddjob (Harold Sakata), Goldfinger




You could make an argument for Oddjob being #1 on a list of Bond villains; a pretty strong one, in fact.  If you conducted an experiment and asked the average person to name the first Bond villain who came to mind, I think odds are good that a great many people would either mention Oddjob by name or say something like "the guy with the hat."  The character is truly iconic, and that counts for a lot.

The fact is, I personally think Oddjob is a bit on the silly side.  Like Jaws (another fellow who'd fare quite well in this hypothetical experiment I just floated), I just don't think some of what he does stands up under scrutiny.  You can't decapitate a statue with a bowler hat.  You just can't.

And yet, doggone if you don't believe you can while you're watching Goldfinger.

I'm not sure Harold Sakata has ever received the credit he deserves for this.  I think the only reason Oddjob works is that Sakata made him work.  He does not play the role as a joke for even one second, and because the actor performing the role clearly believes in what he's doing, the audience is able to believe in it, too.  From decisions like that, movie magic is born, and let's give Sakata the credit he is owed here: he is MAGIC as Oddjob.

Over five decades later, people still remember it, and it was so successful a magic trick that I think a lot of people have forgotten there was even a magician on stage.  Subconsciously, I'm not sure people are seeing an actor in a role there.  I think they are only seeing Oddjob.

Pretty cool, isn't it?



#4 -- Tiago "Silva" Rodriguez (Javier Bardem), Skyfall




I had a great deal to say about Silva when I reviewed Skyall, including more assertions of having witnessed magic;  here it comes:

One of the complaints about Skyfall is that Silva's master plan is too masterful, that it does not make sense that a man could be that good a planner.  I'm going to talk about that more later on, but for now, let it suffice to say that while I agree with the sentiment, I don't entirely care.

Silva -- née Tiago Rodriguez (Rodrigues?) -- is, in my opinion, handily one of the very best of all the Bond villains.  I'd put him in the top three, alongside Goldfinger and Le Chiffre (probably coming in third).  For a fifty-year-old franchise to be able to pull this off -- and for the second time in recent memory -- is astonishing.  By any sensible standard, you'd have figured that the series ought to have run out of gas permanently by at least the mid-seventies.  And, depending on your viewpoint, for a while there it seemed like that might have been the case.

A strange thing has happened this millennium, however: in at least half of the Bond movies made since, the producers have hired major-award-worthy actors to play the villains, and have gotten quality screenplays out of their writers.  As it turns out, this combination -- especially when compounded by the hiring of a major-league talent as director -- can result in something terrific.  And there's no need to change the formula at all to make this happen!

I think I've said it before, but it's worth emphasizing again: formula is not all bad when it comes to art.  As it turns out, working with a formula is a lot like playing jazz: you start from a base, and then you play the changes.  If the player is talented, magic is possible.

Javier Bardem as Silva is magic.  He'd be one of my all-time-high Bond villains if only for the way he says the phrase "psychological evaluation -- fail!"  Like almost everyone else who saw the movie, I was a huge fan of his performance in No Country For Old Men, and the next thing he did after that which captured my imagination was The Dark Tower for director Ron Howard.  Yeah, sure, I know: the movie never got made.  But I can see Bardem playing Stephen King's character -- Roland, the last Gunslinger -- in my mental movie-theatre, and it is a fine, fine thing.  While that possibility was actively on the table, Bardem was cast to be the new Bond villain, which also got me excited.

I stayed excited until I saw a spy photo of Bardem in the role, with his crazy blond hair, dressed as a policeman.  He looked ridiculous, and my heart sunk a bit.  This, folks, is why you shouldn't pay that much attention to spy photos.  (I say "spy photo" not in the MI5 sense of the word "spy," but meaning unauthorized on-set photo taken by someone spying on a film production.)  In the context of the movie, any reservations I had about Bardem's look vanished like a fart in a tornado.

One notable thing about Silva is how long it takes him to show up.  Assuming we don't count a silhouetted appearance in the opening-title sequence (and I don't, since it is debatably not part of the plot), we are seventy minutes into the movie before he finally arrives.  I believe that is the longest delay in series history for a villain's introduction.  A few others come close or exceed it, but are eliminated for one reason or another: we don't see Dr. No's face for almost ninety minutes in Dr. No, but the character does make a few appearances of other sorts (voice, hands, etc.); same goes for Blofeld in You Only Live Twice.

The closest competition is likely Blofeld in On Her Majesty's Secret Service, who does not show up until about fifty-five minutes in.  The two characters are alike in that while their on-screen appearance might be delayed, the entire movie leading up to that arrival has been spent talking about them.  This gives their eventual appearance a weight and heft that it would not otherwise have had.  Is it a coincidence that this happens in what are arguably the two Bond movies that put the most focus on Bond's character development?  Maybe; maybe not.

A key difference between the two films is that whereas in Majesty's we -- and Bond -- already know who Blofeld is, in Skyfall we are completely in the dark as to who Silva is.  This lasts right up until the moment he steps out of the elevator and begins monologuing.  In some movies, the temptation might have existed to assume whoever showed up to be revealed as the baddie would be a plot-twist character from a past film.  (Not a bad idea, that; imagine how cool it might have been for a different version of this movie to feature a rogue double-oh agent, one whom we'd met in previous films and assumed was dead.  Not bad at all.)  Maybe some people who watched the movie expected just that.  Most of us Bond fans, however, knew that it was going to be Javier Bardem.

Let's talk about his introductory scene.  Director Sam Mendes filmed it as a single-take shot, and then had the genius idea to stage it so that Bond, tied to a chair for the umpteenth time in his career, would be filmed from behind, facing Silva as he emerged from an elevator and slowly walked down the row of servers toward 007, talking the entire way.

When I think of great James Bond scenes, I think of: Bond killing Professor Dent; Bond and Red Grant fighting on the Orient Express; Goldfinger threatening Bond with a laser beam; Le Chiffre beating Bond's nuts with the rope knot; Bond and Tracy on honeymoon; Bond kicking Locque's car off a cliff; Bond popping the balloon that says "Smiert Spionem"; Corinne being hunted by dogs; and so forth.

This two-minute monologue might be the best of them all, though.  I think I'd still go with the Bond-on-Goldfinger's-table scene, but not by much.  And in time, I think I'll give Silva's introduction the go-ahead.  It's just terrific, not merely from a staging and a dialogue standpoint, but also from a performance standpoint.  I mean, sure, the dialogue is great; put that in a novel, and it's still one of the standout scenes.  But put those words into the mouth of a great actor like Javier Bardem, and what do you have?

That's right: you have magic.  Bardem adds such wonderful shadings to the words, puts such distinctive emphases, throws in such complementary additions (such as miming rat-like chewing at one point).  Give this scene independently to a hundred different actors before Skyfall came out, and I bet that not a single one of them would have done it the way Bardem did it.

Bardem pulls off tricks like this throughout the film.  As his introductory scene progresses, he has even more great moments, such as his maybe-flirtation with Bond (his faux-startled "Oh, Mr. Bond" is priceless).

Two of my favorite such scenes:

"Did you really die that day?" he taunts Bond when Bond is seemingly unable to pull the trigger during the shooting-game in which Severine's life is at stake.  "Is there any -- any -- of the old 007 left?"

"You see what comes of all this running around, Mr. Bond?" he mocks while he has Bond prisoner on the frozen lake.  (During his introduction scene, he'd given Bond a brief lecture about how preferable it was to use computers to do your damage, as opposed to being a physical presence in the field.)  "All this jumping and fighting . . . it's exhausting."

In these moments, and many others, Bardem is wonderful.  He walks right up to the line of campiness, and then pulls back on the throttle before crossing over.  I think I'd say Goldfinger and Le Chiffre are better villains overall, but I do think Javier Bardem in Skyfall gives the series' best performance among lead villains.  He earned a BAFTA nomination for the role, and should have earned an Oscar nomination, too.

Looking back on that, I find that I stand by all of it.  Interestingly, I've only ranked Silva at #4, whereas I pegged him for a surefire #3 back then.  Well, I've got my reasons for that, and you're coming up on them pretty fast.

But, for the record: Silva is GREAT, and if you told me you thought he deserved to be #1, I wouldn't argue against you.

  
#3 -- LeChiffre (Mads Mikkelsen), Casino Royale




From my post on the film:

Le Chiffre was the original Ian Fleming villain, and his appearance here marks the first time a Fleming baddie had appeared in one of the films since 1983's Never Say Never Again.  Quite a gap, that.

I don't have a huge amount to say about Le Chiffre, or about Mads Mikkelsen's performance.  Both are among the best examples of their type in the Bond series, period.

Mikkelsen is perhaps best in the torture scene, where you see him slowly come to grips with the idea that Bond is not going to break.  He's great throughout, but he's especially good in this scene.  Odds are good that you've never noticed it, because you've focused on how good Craig is; next time you watch the movie, pay attention to Mikkelsen.

I'd feel bad if I didn't mention Mikkelsen's subsequent success at reinventing the Hannibal Lecter character on the tv series Hannibal.  It's an awesome, gruesome, bizarre series, and for my money Mikkelsen has somehow managed to become the definitive Lecter.  Knowing his work from that series helped me appreciate how good he is in Casino Royale.

He's great because he's dangerous, and he's dangerous because his goals are so well-defined and achievable.  This isn't a guy who wants to destroy Silicon Valley; this is a guy who wants only to get back some money he's invested poorly.  And he's willing to do anything to make that happen.

Put a less capable actor than Mikkelsen in this role, and it might not have worked.  What he brings to life is the hint that Le Chiffre is a man to whom the idea of losing has never occurred.  And for good reason: he's always won.  Even on the occasions when he does lose, it's less a loss than a temporary cul de sac on the way to another win.

If this new version of Bond was to succeed, it could only do so if standing up to Le Chiffre proved to be a challenge that required all of Bond's skill.  Even then, it barely worked, and even then, Bond's neck had to be saved by others.  Put the wrong actor in the role of Le Chiffre, and they run the risk of failing to measure up.  You've got to believe that this man can, will, and (effectively) does beat even the mighty 007.

Mads Mikkelsen met that challenge head-on, vaulted over it, and kept right on running.

  
#2 -- Auric Goldfinger (the body of Gert Frobe, the voice of Michael Collins), Goldfinger




More copying-and-pasting from previous posts inbound:

Apart from Blofeld (and even that is just a maybe), Auric Goldfinger is probably the most iconic of all the Bond villains, and with good reason.  He's not the first megalomaniac in the films -- Doctor No, the first villain of them all, earned that distinction -- but out of the entire list of jackals and hyenas with which Bond must contend, Goldfinger is one of the very few who seems genuinely capable of following through on his plans.  Compare him with some of the laughable "supervillains" later films in the series conjure up -- Blofeld as depicted in Diamonds Are Forever, for instance, or Hugo Drax in Moonraker -- and you'll find that Goldfinger tops most of them handily.
Goldfinger, as I mentioned above, is judged by Bond to be a madman; so he tells Pussy, at least.  This is perhaps not far off the mark: Goldfinger takes the needless -- needless, that is, except to his ego -- risk of cheating at cards; he brazenly orders a henchman to kill Jill Masterson by covering her in gold paint, a murder which might as well have a signed confession accompanying it; he orders Bond to be eviscerated/castrated by a laser rather than simply putting a bullet into his brain; he has an uncooperative gangster not only shot but compacted by a car crusher.  These are all fairly insane actions.  Why does he do these things, and how is he able to get away with them?  Well, to be blunt about it: he is fabulously wealthy, and has no problem spending that wealth so long as he has the expectation that doing so will bring him even more gold.
  
In this sense, there is no difference between Goldfinger and, say, Stromberg in The Spy Who Loved Me.  Clearly, money is the only means by which Stromberg can do the things he does.  But in Goldfinger, the relationship between villainy and capital is just spelled out, for all to see, and is therefore persistently more plausible throughout the course of the film than it feels in almost any of the other Bond movies.  We are dealing in comic-book logic in this movie, rather than the mostly-realistic stylings of From Russia With Love, but within that context, Goldfinger is a believable, frightening, intimidating figure.
Part of the reason he works so well as a villain is that Gert Frobe is terrific in the role.  So is Michael Collins, who performed the role vocally (Frobe spoke virtually no English at the time of filming, and his accent was deemed too thick for audiences to cut through) and who probably deserves more credit than history has given him.  Frobe spends the vast majority of the film looking as though he is in complete control of the world around him; his facade is shattered by Bond during the card game in Miami, and again during the golf match in England, and in those scenes Frobe is great at suggesting -- this is how I read it, at least -- a bullied child who has spent his life attempting to ensure that he can never be bullied again. 
There is also a persistent jocularity to Goldfinger; Frobe plays Auric with a gleam in his eye, and it is undoubtedly this quality to which Bond is referring when he (successfully) tries to impress upon Pussy Galore how insane Goldfinger is.  Many of the later villains -- and I'm thinking here specifically of Max Zorin in A View to a Kill -- share this jocularity, but most of them simply seem silly in comparison to Goldfinger; his jokes are windows into his soul, and they make him seem like a genuinely dangerous man and, therefore, like a genuinely formidable opponent for Bond. 
I'm going to take this opportunity to address one of the largest plot holes in Goldfinger.  In the scene at Auric's stud in Kentucky, when he gathers all the gangsters together to lay out his plans and then has them all (except the one who decides to leave) gassed to death, why does he bother with any of this?  Why not simply kill them all outright once they are in one room together?
The obvious answer to this is that it is necessary for James Bond to find out what Goldfinger's plot consists of, because otherwise, the audience won't know, and if the audience doesn't know ... well, then what's the point of there even being a plot if the audience doesn't know it?  It is a plot device, nothing more.
Except ... except given what we know of Goldfinger's character -- that of an egomaniac who resorts to cheating to win a card game the stakes of which are as inconsequential to him as losing a penny would be to most people -- it does seem entirely possible, even plausible, that he would do just such a thing.  Undoubtedly, he knew when he invited the various gangsters to the meeting that none of them would leave it alive, much less with the million dollars he owed each of them.  It makes sense logically that he should have just killed them all with no particular fanfare; but if we believe Bond's assertion that Goldfinger is a madman, then why wouldn't he toy with the gangsters a bit before killing them?  So perhaps this scene is a plot hole ... but then again, seeing as how it fits in with the character as we understand him, maybe it isn't as much of one as it might at first appear.
  
Either way, Goldfinger is one of the great Bond villains, an adversary more than worthy of 007 himself.
  
I couldn't have said it better myself!  [Although you will note that 2011 Bryant was convinced Moonraker was crap.  2012 Bryant corrected that error, though, and 2017 Bryant applauds him for doing so.]
  

#1 -- Ernst Stavro Blofeld (the voice of Eric Pohlmann, the body of Anthony Dawson), From Russia With Love and Thunderball

  
From Russia With Love

Thunderball



Over fifty years later, the idea of a deep-voiced villain sitting in a chair with a white cat in his lap, his face unseen to all but his closest confidantes, remains a viable and evocative one.  THIS is the Blofeld we want Bond to be eternally fighting; this is the man in the shadows, the man who looks upon the world and sees a fruit ripe for the plucking, the man who manipulates and schemes and pits one nation against another in an endless game of social engineering.  For what purpose?  Wealth?  Power?  Ego?  We do not know for sure.  We know only that Blofeld -- and S.P.E.C.T.R.E. -- are a persistent threat with which men like James Bond must forever contend.

For my money, the idea was never more successfully achieved than in these two films.  When I think of "James Bond" villainy, this is what comes to mind before everything else.

Bond himself likely only exists as a means of combating a man like this version of Blofeld.  He's not Bond's brother ... he's Bond's creator.

And he has earned the top spot on this list.

*****

With that, I bring this roll-call of villainy to a close.  My next post will similarly take a worst-to-best approach, but I'm not yet sure what the topic is going to be.  Probably a ranking of the musical scores, but that's not a firm commitment.

Whatever the case ends up being, talk to you then!

27 comments:

  1. Zazdarovje, Comrade Gogol.

    I was wondering before this post appeared how many villains would be included. I figured it would be a sizable amount, probably around 80. I am happy to see I was far too conservative in my guess! Bring it on. I'll just go along and comment on all of these. Apologies for the overkill.

    (118) Frankly Alan Cumming's entire career baffles me.

    (117-116) To be honest, while I don't like either Thumper or Bambi, I like the idea of them enough for me to lodge a very mild protest at their appearing so low here. Bond should be menaced (well, "menaced") more by judo chicks. Personally I think had they opted to expand their roles in DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER and decrease everyone else's, the film would have been better for it.

    (115) DIAMONDS just doesn't work, man. If it wasn't for Lana Wood and Jill St. John the film would be pretty damn useless.

    (114) Not only do I completely forget Ricky Jay ever was in this movie I forget all the other details. Just crazy.

    (113-107) Kudos on this - to be lower than JBJR villains will forever be a mark of shame for all the above. I know I'm including one of the DIAMONDS guys in here, but you've accurately pinpointed the bottom of the barrell.

    (106) And the thing is, he should be a GREAT Bond villain. It would have been such a prescient Bond film had they properly understood the type of media-conglomerate-internet-omniscient-super-villain to come. Instead, TOMORROW NEVER DIES comes off a little like THE NET, or that one episode of MIKE HAMMER. Better than those, and you can't really fault anyone (particularly Bond movies/ books) for not accurately evoking the age yet to come. But it should at least be MOONRAKER-esque about it. This goes for (103) as well, and it's too bad, as it'd have been nice for Vincent Schiavelli to have had a memorable turn as a Bond henchman on his CV.

    (105 - 100) Agreed on all accounts.

    (99-98) I was wondering where these guys would be. Like Thumper and Bambi up there, I feel there's potential to this pair. A Bond film where he is repeatedly attacked by both pairs could in theory be cool, or provide some room for quips. Not in a homophobic way, but just the contrast between two pairs of homosexual assassins (I am projecting this on Bambi and Thumper, of course - it could even work better if the assumption they were lesbians is what drives them to be killers-for-hire) and the hyper-hetero gentleman spy. Anyway: what doesn't work is how all of this comes across in DIAMONDS, unfortunately, so we'll never know. I'm not sure Wint and Kidd are offensive enough to be considered stereotypes of any kind, but the important takeaway is that they're lame. And simply not believable, as you point out, for getting the drop on Bond.

    (97) Awful.

    (96) How the hell did they assemble this cast for the train wreck of the picture we actually got? I imagine Orson was fairly available, but everyone else.

    (95) I keep thinking I'll turn the corner on this character myself. I do like the idea of having a US Rep be the bad guy, and that he looks so bland. But on paper/ on screen are different stories.

    (94-93) I barely remember either of these performances/ characters.

    (92) Him I unfortunately do remember. I applaud your restraint (and your reasoning) in placing him here and not last.

    (91) I like your sociological summary here, and that sounds equally reasonable to me.

    (90) Simply for hotness alone, I must disagree. I also want to try this "Doctor Thunder." Anyway when it comes to such things I am completely unreliable. Here is an interesting reversal of (95) - on paper I agree with you; on screen I am more forgiving.

    (89-88) Yeah barely even characters. Bond might as well be chasing a plastic bag blowing in the wind. Like you say, too, why name a plastic bag Elvis? Makes no sense.

    (87-86) See (90)

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    1. No need to apologize! I was delighted to read all of this.

      (117-116) You might be right about that. I don't object to the idea of Bambi and Thumper, but I think the casting/execution was severely lacking.

      (106) Absolutely. Not only should he be one of the great Bond villains, but considering some of the movie's content, it really ought to be one that we look back on and think how it's even better now than it ever was. And maybe some people feel that way; I don't, though.

      (99-98) You just envisioned a version of "Diamonds Are Forever" that I would very much like to see. To the Ur-Kindle, away...!

      (95) They really, really are. And on occasion, you get something that's crap on paper but works well on screen. So I guess all in all, it's a break-even kind of thing.

      (92) I would have if not for Waltz. I blame none of that movie on him.

      (90) I respect your stance, obviously. She's never done it for me, though. All this stuff is highly subjective, though, and I've been known to change my mind from one viewing to the next about such matters. I should be a politician, and be very honest about having honed my flip-flopping skills in the hard-knock world of movie fandom.

      (87-86) I struggled with both of them, because there's nothing wrong with either, but, in character terms, nothing much that makes them stand out. But I certainly bear no ill will toward either.

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  2. (84) Adorable all around.

    (83) While I sympathize with the anti-this-scene-ers, I love it.

    (82) I honestly don't remember this guy.

    (81) Is that the jock dude from Superman III? why do I always forget he's in this? And everything else about this movie? We had NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN on VHS from when it came out to the end of the VCR era and I think I watched it once. If it weren't for a few subsequent viewings on cable, that'd be the sum total of viewings for this one.

    (80) I keep meaning to re-watch this. And THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS too. What's wrong with me?

    (79) Agreed. I can barely remember anything from this film, but this guy was cool. He kind of looks like Mr. Scorpio from that one SIMPSONS episode in this screencap. Give him a flamethrower and dead ringer.

    (78) I see from his IMDB that he was in a SIMON AND SIMON 2-parter. Which led me to that show's page. That thing ran for 8 frigging seasons? Wow.

    (77) Yeah this seems about the right spot for this guy.

    (76) Ditto.

    (75) I wish Chicago would get a Carl's Jr.

    (74) Beautiful but unhinged. I imagine Woody Allen loves this movie/ performance.

    (73) I loved this guy as a kid. I love everything about OCTOPUSSY who am I kidding. I think a lot of who I am is due to it and MOONRAKER and the sad part is I don't even think this is all that profound a realization. More of a "Well, duh, who ISN'T?" moment.

    (72) Like you, I find this guy so distasteful that I perhaps have retconned what an effective foil he is for TMWTGG.

    (71) "suh ot-HRAZE-yuss". MAIS OUI!! You have successfully made me want to see every Dr. Derange episode of JBJR. I hope somehow he ends up in the next Bond movie, or perhaps the next LXG.

    (70-68) Agreed 100%. I'll have to read Benson's novelization one of these days.

    (67) Yeah, Caroline Munro. What can you do. Have you ever seen STARCRASH? I did, as part of a double feature with GALAXINA. A memorable afternoon but not necessarily essential cinema.

    (66) Not the worst part of a bad film, to be sure. I like the Colonel Sun/ Colonel Moon allusion. Though I'd rather have just seen Colonel Sun, were such a thing possible rights/royaltieswise.

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    1. (84) There are moments when "James Bond Jr" really just embraces the fact that it's a goofy cartoon, and when it does that, it really is kind of adorable.

      (83) I do, too. I regret having put him this far down -- a matter to fix whenever I update it after the next movie.

      (81) He was definitely in "Superman III." I always think of him as Dan Suggs -- the guy who precipitates Jake Spoon's downfall -- in "Lonesome Dove." He's one of those guys who seems like he ought to have been a bigger star.

      (80) You've been poisoned by the unreasonable anti-Dalton bias that existed for many years, maybe? Other than that, nothing that can't be fixed by a couple of rewatches.

      (79) For me, he will ever and always be the bald Nazi who Indy fights in front of the airplane.

      (78) I remember that show being around forever, but I don't think I ever saw a single episode. That's true of a LOT of '80s shows, actually.

      (75) Tuscaloosa doesn't have one, either. But we've got a Hardees, which is the same thing under a different name (for some reason). GREAT breakfast biscuits. Good burgers, too.

      (74) It's kind of great, as a free-standing example of acting; but I'm not sure it helps the movie. Or shit, I dunno, maybe it's one of the few saving graces. It's such a weird movie that I genuinely can't make up my mind.

      (73) I intended to mention it in the post, and forgot, but: why does this character even exist? Shouldn't Gobinda get to serve this purpose? It could only have made a strong movie stronger. And I feel you on the "this is who I am" front. It fascinates, gratifies, and horrifies me that there are bound to be kids who have (or will have) a similar relationship to "Die Another Day" or (shudder) "Spectre." Ka is a wheel, I guess.

      (72) Apparently, Peter Dinklage is playing Villechaize in an upcoming HBO movie. This seems like a poor use of Peter Dinklage, to say the least.

      (71) I'd give my left nut for Alan Moore to do that. Seriously. I'm not using the damn thing, Alan, so let's make a deal!

      (68) It's worth checking out, preferably in close proximity to a viewing of the movie.

      (67) I have NOT seen "Starcrash," and I need to fix that.

      (66) Evidently it kind of IS possible. The torture scene in "Spectre" was apparently directly based on a scene in "Colonel Sun." I wish they'd use some of those continuation novels; there's good stuff, and if nothing else, a few great titles.

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  3. (65) I agree - she's just okay in the role. As a villain or otherwise. Beautiful girl but hey.

    (64) I'd rather see him as the caretaker than Steven Weber. In fact, if someone offered up for sale a super-rare version of THE SHINING where Klaus Maria Brandauer chases Courtland Mead with an axe for 2-4 hours, I'd pay a good price for it, especially if they changed the ending so Jack gets to "correct" him.

    (63) Not a memorable Bond villain for me, for exactly the reasons you describe.

    (62-61) Agreed.

    (60) I like this process. I can relate.

    (59) I kind of want to watch QUANTUM everytime you've brought it up in this post. I guess I'm overdue.

    (58) Ditto for this one, in that I've never actually seen it. So, VERY overdue.

    (57) Me too.

    (56) I like Stromberg a tad more than you do. I think this placement is fair, but for me he is the perfect bridge from Blofeld to Drax. The scene where he exits his underwater-spider-fortress is perfect - does he need to do so in such a fashion? No way. It's decisionamking born from the same super-villain playbook that makes him hire this private army and all these hot chicks around. I agree, tho, he's not much of a villain, I just like the broad strokes approach. I think he started life as some kind of L Ron Hubbard pastiche and subsequent drafts winnowed this away. Maybe it's just me. I think this was right around the time, tho, that whispers of the Scientology Sea Org (in those days a literal fleet, or at least a literal ship, with L Ron its Odysseus tied to the mast) began leaking out. Again, tho, this could all be my own projection on the proceedings.

    (55) Just stunning. That word is so overused but wow.

    (54) It says something that I forget that Blofeld is even in this, much less that he was played by Max Vony Sydow. Technically I did not actually forget this time around, but that's only because you reminded me of it in your original post and the info stuck in mind. But yeah. How the hell do you have Von Sydow as Blofeld in your movie and it's not a performance people talk about for decades? What a waste.

    (53) Your remarks are all spot-on. In the book there's a bit more rationale for the British Secret Service being involved due to Mr. Big's currency manipulations, which they opted not to pursue in the film for some reason. Yaphet is always watchable, but the script logic fails him here. Ah well.

    (52) I'd have gone a little lower with this guy. Or maybe even higher. It's tough to tell.

    (51) I really do like "Villington." That made me laugh.

    (50) Good point(s).

    (49) Another one I need to rewatch soon.

    (48) "Steven Berkoff gives a performance so over the top that you kind of wish he and Klaus Maria Brandauer from Never Say Never Again could make a buddy-terrorist movie." YES. Please. I love Orlov.

    (47) Excellent summary of the character. Heck, if CASINO ROYALE was a film noir, Dimitrios would be the main character.

    (46) "Oct-o-pussy... Oct-o-pussy..."

    (45) "He's probably the best of the Red Grant impersonators the series occasionally offers up." Perhaps!

    (44) I like this guy, as well. I love the idea of flipping him and Louis Jourdan, though. hell I'd watch that movie. DVDs should really come with these types of options in our exciting future age.

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    1. (64) Oh, man, if only.

      (60) I bet! It's probably a fairly common thing among bloggers. It made me kind of happy, to be honest; it bodes well for a continuity of personality when and if Alzheimer's strikes, maybe!

      (59) By no means a perfect movie, but very underrated, in my opinion.

      (58) It's not great; maybe not even good. But it's fascinating from a historical standpoint.

      (56) I'm perplexed by my feelings toward this movie. I could write a whole post about them just on the subject of how my blogging through the movies really made me fall in love with the Roger Moore era again, with one notable exception: the most popular of all his movies! Go make sense of THAT shit if you can. I may yet devote four or five thousand words to trying to figure it out.

      (55) It really cannot be overemphasized how beautiful the women of "Dr. No" are.

      (54) I can only assume that the intent was for this movie to lead to a competing series of Bond movies, in which Von Sydow would be a recurring villain. Because otherwise it makes zero sense how little he is used here.

      (52) It really is! Because the fact is, he's an effective villain (within the story), and it's a good performance. Plus, excellent movie. So why do I always think of him as being so bland? I don't get it.

      (51) Good to know! I cracked myself up thinking of those.

      (49) I rewatched that scene to get a screencap from it, and boy, is Largo's delivery of that final line creepy. It needs no explanation, but I'll explain it anyways: Largo's inflection implies -- for Bond's benefit, perhaps, although not necessarily -- that the actual answer to the question is too awful to speak of in polite company. But perhaps, Mr. Bond, the company will not always be so polite... Great stuff.

      (46) Wonderful!

      (44) Boy, you want to talk about some mashups...!

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  4. (43) Bless you putting Woody this high. And I can't believe someone in the shared-fanverse-mad world we live in has not speculated (or written the faux biography of - with zombies) that Woody is playing the James Bond Jr. character all grown up.

    (42 - 34) I understand if you think I'm just combining all of these entries to make it easier for myself but I kept typing some version of 'I agree with you 100% here" so I figured I'd just, well, make it easy for myself. But also a little less repetitive.

    (33) What a cool look this guy has. I keep meaning to see THE LIMITS OF CONTROL. I have to say, tho, Jarmusch's movies (with the exception of DEAD MAN, which has a weirdness to it I enjoy, or at least enjoyed back when it came out; I haven't seen it since) bore me.

    (32) This guy pops up in THE WIND AND THE LION, as well. One of those actors who I've seen in plenty over the years and I always say "Hey it's the FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE dude."

    (31) Hear hear.

    (30) Totally should've kept coming back, Jaws-style. Wouldn't have saved the movie but would've made his character make more sense/ less squandered.

    (29) I'll have to watch for this next time I watch GOLDENEYE. I don't recall him all that much. Even with this screencap I tend to blur him out and just focus on Famke. I have this problem. During the last State of the Union speech where the widow of the killed soldier got the big standing ovation, I literally wondered why the camera was on Ivanka as long as it was and commented as such to a friend of mine who pointed out the actual context. I have certain blind spots. (Blond spots? Nah - pretty much across the board.)

    (28) He gives good ambience but yeah, not much to him.

    (27) One of these days, seriously, I'm getting octagonal glasses.

    (26) A tad too high for my tastes, but I cannot fault your reasoning at all.

    (25) I'm with you on all counts here, especially on my relationship/ more-or-less forgiving-but-nonplussed posture towards GOLDENEYE.

    (24-23) ...but when it comes to former-double-oh agents, I always think of Bond going after these guys. Every other mention of a rogue or killed double-oh agent gets a shrug to me, unless Mischka and Grischka took him out.

    (22) I really need to watch QUANTUM again soon.

    (21) I've got FRIDAY FOSTER on tap to watch soon. Looking at his imdb, I forgot he played Idi Amin in the Entebbe movie! That puts him on a short list.

    (20) "Honeymooooooooooooooooon..."

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    1. "wondered why the camera was on Ivanka as long as it was ..."

      I should've mentioned, Ivanka was standing next to her, so the whole time the camera was on the widow, Ivanka was in frame.

      Not that the anecdote is important enough for this clarification but just because it might not make any sense without the added detail.

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    2. I appreciate the clarification; I actually was a bit baffled by that for a moment. Really, though, I don't know that I'll ever be in a position of wondering why a camera is lingering on Ivanka Trump. Whatever else might be said about her, from a purely visual standpoint, she truly is like an angel descended from Heaven.

      (43) My feeling on rankings like this is that, to some extent, I am obliged to take the characters at the value they bring to the movies in which they appear. With that in mind, I think Dr. Noah brings a lot to that version of "Casino Royale." It's a bad movie, but to some extent, it does succeed, and a great part of that success is due to Allen. So I consider that and think, well, okay, he's better than quite a few of the other films' main villains simply due to the fact that helps the movie rather than hurting it. Maybe that's wonky logic, I dunno; but it's how I approach a topic like this one. I'm glad you approve!

      (42-34) I 100% understand. Commenter's blues! Or something like that. Have the French invented a word for "the feeling one gets when one wishes to comment on a specific point but has nothing specific to say" yet? If not, give 'em time. Them or the Germans, they'll get it done.

      (33) I don't know why, but the very idea of Jarmusch makes me roll my eyes. Unfairly, I'm sure. I thought "Dead Man" was okay, but it did not do much for me beyond that level.

      (32) God dang it, I've never seen "The Wind and the Lion." Someday!

      (30) Apparently that may yet happen. Bautista has said in interviews that talks have been had. I'm all for it.

      (29) If Famke is on screen, why would you look at anything else? Accidentally, maybe, on account of losing consciousness for a nanosecond and swooing so that your head is in slightly different position when your eyes flutter back open. Beyond that, there's no good reason.

      (28) The ambience probably does count for a lot, though. Without it, maybe the movie wasn't as big a hit and we don't get to everything that came afterward.

      (27) You should do it! And get a bunch of those bird-pin things that you can leave everywhere -- NOT at the scenes of crimes, preferably -- and then imagine people picking them up and having that weird fluttery sound effect play over their puzzlement.

      (26) I think I agree: too high. She's stuck with me since childhood, though, so here she landed.

      (24-23) I believe I've mentioned this before, but for me, it's not even the movie versions that come to mind: it's the versions from the Marvel comics adaptation. I must have read that thing a bajillion time.

      (21) No kidding? Damn, I'd like to see that. I don't know that I've ever seen him in anything else.

      (20) Terrifying, legitimately. So much so that I'm not sure it fits within the bounds of a Bond movie. but I don't mind them having tried it out, especially since the actual results are so strong.

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  5. (19) Imagine if this movie had been a huge success (well, huger) and they actually did keep making Bond more and more supernatural? It's fascinating to consider. I'd love to take a peek into that universe and see those films.

    (18) Christopher Lee, y'all, what can you do.

    (17) Man they really screwed the pooch trying to switch from "Quantum" to "Spectre." The more I think about this the angrier I get at them all. Jesus. Just freaking re-make Moonraker shot for shot, then octopussy, while you still have Craig; that'll re-set the ship to right.

    (16) "Well (clink) here's to us."

    (15) Ever since you wrote this blog I've had a meme ready to go of Drax with that "tedious inevitability of an unlove season" line ready to go. But I've yet to pull the trigger on it anywhere.

    (14) "Moore's Bond films are comic-book movies, and it's always fun in comic books for bad guys to turn out to be good guys who just needed a push toward the side of right." Hear, hear. I think this is one of those fundamental storytelling things that pleases any audience the world over, any era.

    (13) I suspect you're right about modern viewers only being able to see one thing. It's like the weird, ironic modern day version of those mid-20th-century folks who couldn't see past race, gender or sex orientation in whatever context. It baffles me that this irony continues to exist. It shouldn't - I mean, nothing baffling about it: you become attached to what you attack/ define the world by it. Anyway. Rosa Klebb.

    (12) Amen.

    (11) Interesting! I had to check my comment on the original review to see if I mentioned anything about this but apparently did not. I like Robert Davi's performance here but I'm not sure I'd rank him this high in my overall Bond mythology. But who knows? Not having done the legwork/ math on it myself, I'll trust you. The guy whose service Jackie Chan infilitrates in SUPERCOP always reminds me of Robert Davi. Not so much the performance, just because the set-up brings LICENSE TO KILL to mind.

    (10 - 5) I hate to cluster all of these reviews together, just there's nothing I can add and you've expressed it all so clearly. Amen to all these remarks.

    (4) Here I think we disagree, but only because SPECTRE undoes so much of SKYFALL for me. I think Barden does a good job, but the character just makes no sense to me and even for Bond villain levels, just has too much convenient power and expertise. I appreciate your take on it, and I believe I was half-convinced of it prior to SPECTRE. But that one just retcons the whole Craig era unfavorably. It's a shame. By no means a set-in-stone condition just how it seems to me right now.

    (3) Awesome.

    (2) and (1) Hear, hear!

    Well this has been a thoroughly enjoyable 2.5 hours. Thanks for putting this together!

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    1. (19) I'm not even kidding: I'd love to see an entire series of "What If?"-style Bonds. It'll never happen, and probably shouldn't; but I'd love it.

      (17) And there was just no need at all to do anything other than Quantum. Quantum worked just fine. It legit pisses me off. Regarding "Craig-raker" ("Craigtopussy"?), I think it'd be pretty funny if they made a "Naked Gun"-style spoof Bond movie, and Craig was the only one playing it seriously. That'd either be the best or worst thing ever made.

      (15) God, what a great line!

      (13) I've kind of got a foot on both sides of that divide. My gut reactions often tip me one way, whereas my intellect (such as it is) often tips me the other. I kind of hope I can continue to live in that spot, to be honest; it seems like where I belong.

      (11) For me, he's a completely plausible villain, in the sense that he exudes both menace and power, but also the sort of charisma and charm that a fellow like him needs to get to where he's gotten in life. The Bond series often pitches the idea of the primary antagonist being like a dark reflection of Bond himself, and I think Sanchez has that, which is part of the reason why the movie still feels of a piece with the rest of the series, despite it stepping outside so many of its own conventions. I think that without Davi/Sanchez working as well as they do, the movie would be a colossal nothing.

      (4) I 100% get this. And I feel the same way to some extent. I even considered doing a post-"Spectre" revised post about "Skyfall" specifically addressing that, but decided I just didn't want to continue to live in that headspace. Even leaving that movie out of the equation, though, I do agree that Silva's prowess is a bit too convenient/unrealistic. I feel like Bardem is good enough that it allows me to emotionally buy into it even while I cannot do so intellectually. But since I feel "Skyfall" is aimed at the gut moreso than at the brain, I'm inclined to look the other way on the problematic elements. It's an inconsistent approach I use, I admit it freely.

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  6. I somehow skipped comment on (119). Absolutely agreed: bottom of the barrel.

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    1. THE WORST. Shit, even with "Spectre," I like Oberhauser's introduction scene; so as loathsome as I find that movie/character to be, it's got a leg up on "Diamonds."

      Thanks a bunch of bunches for all the comments! Very fun to read through them all and engage with them.

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  7. Great read this - just finished it...and then I heard about Roger Moore...

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    1. The Grim Reaper is the REAL #1 villain, of course. Thanks for the good times, Sir Roger! You enriched our lives greatly.

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  8. Oh man, as you can imagine, like you, I'm so bummed about the passing of Roger Moore. This list is just what was needed to cheer this Bond fan up!

    I was having a conversation yesterday about celebrity deaths and how some get a bigger reaction than others. When David Bowie and Prince died, it damn near seemed like the entire world was in mourning. And that's understandable, they were hugely iconic artists who people felt a strong connection to. The thing is, for me, that's Roger Moore. I'm not trying to play some morbid game of ranking celebrity deaths, I just mean that while I enjoyed Prince and Bowie's music (I don't mean to harp on them, just continuing to use them as examples), they weren't life defining entertainers for me. By that, I mean that they didn't have a huge impact on my life. But it's no exaggeration to say that Roger Moore, in the role of James Bond, had an immense impact on me that's something I've cherished to this day. Honestly, he touched my life in a way that few entertainers have, there's no overstating that for me.

    I watched Octopussy yesterday and The Man With the Golden Gun today, just smiling to myself the whole time. I plan on going through the rest Moores by the end of the weekend, and you're goddamn right I'm looking forward to it!

    As always, another great addition to YOBT, I really enjoyed it. I actually guessed your #1 when I started reading! I'd recalled an earlier correspondence between us (had to have been in the comments section of your Thunderball review) where we discussed our mutual appreciation for Faceless Blofeld. I like that the ranking started (after a great honorable mention for General Gogol) and ended with a Blofeld, and both absolutely deserved to be where they are (man, DAF Blofeld is trash). You really got deep on this list, but I wouldn't expect anything less from your work on YOBT. And damn, I gotta give Bryan major props for addressing each ranking! That was a sizable undertaking in itself. Looking forward to what you come up with next, take care!

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    1. Yep, Bryan deserves kudos for those comments. He basically wrote his own blog post! And then I wrote another one in reply.

      I gotta tell you, that sort of stuff is what blogging is all about to me.

      As for the Roger Moore thing, I think it would be getting a lot more attention if not for two factors: (1) the big news out of Manchester from the same day; and (2) the fact that, at 89 years of age, he wasn't exactly a surprise departee. It's those surprise ones who really generate the conversation.

      But Moore's passing IS getting some attention:

      http://ftw.usatoday.com/2017/05/james-bond-roger-moore-dead

      And I suspect a major re-evaluation of Moore's era will happen for a great many people as a result of this.

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    2. When it comes to Bond/ Bryant's blog(s) I can't help myself.

      RIP Roger Moore. End of an era for a lot of people - me very much one of them. I have a list in my head of octogenarians (or older) who will fundamentally alter my world once departed; Roger was very much one of them. I won't name any others, lest I jinx/ hasten the inevitable.

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    3. All things considered, though, he got to live a HELL of a life. He made it count, and that's a fine thing to be able to say about a person. He was and is beloved my millions of people, and will likely be beloved by millions -- maybe even billions -- more who haven't even been born yet.

      Pretty damn cool.

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  9. That's a great story that you shared the link to, it absolutely brings a smile to my face just picturing it. Can't you just imagine Moore handling both those encounters in such a suave and charming manner? My love of the Moore era of Bond movies must be well known to some of my friends (surely because I'm prone to going on at great length about it), because about half a dozen of them have shared that link with me via Facebook, private message and text over the past couple of days! The thing is, I've read it every time, including just now. It's just that great!

    The death of an 89 year old certainly shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone, and it's not as if I'm lamenting, "He'll never play Bond again!" My sadness comes from an almost childlike place, because I was so young when I first saw Moore as Bond on television in The Spy Who Loved Me. It was my first exposure to James Bond and it made an immediate joyful impact on me that's lasted my entire life thus far and will last the rest of my life. When I'm in my 80s (should I make it) and I ever want to feel like a little kid again, I know all I'll have to do is thrown on a Bond movie. Especially a Moore!

    Oh yeah, and since I'm sure you're just dying from curiosity, I'm doing a morning/afternoon double feature of Moonraker and FYEO now, before work. Tomorrow, I'm planning on doing another double feature of Moore's first and last performances as Bond. That will leave me with The Spy Who Loved Me, where Bond began for me, to watch on Saturday. Open weeping may occur!

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    1. Well, if it does, it'll be well-earned. No shame in that! I got a little weepy reading that story from Facebook.

      Enjoy the double feature! I bet there are thousands of people the world over who have watched a Moore flick or two this week. You hate for it to be for these reasons, but still, that's pretty cool.

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  10. Some Julian Holloway facts...

    1. He was in A Hard Day's Night & The Rum Diary
    2. He married Roald Dahl's daughter..and his daughter is Sophie (i.e. the little girl from the BFG..)

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    1. No kidding?!? That's awesome! Especially the BFG part.

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    2. Just watching the living daylights tonight

      Everyone has their bond rankings, and now we have your definitive blofeld rankings...what would be your rankings for Felix leiter? By my calculations there have been 9 actors to play him...

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    3. I'd rank 'em thus, worst to best:

      (9) Cec Linder, "Goldfinger"
      (8) John Terry, "The Living Daylights"
      (7) Michael Pate, "Casino Royale" '54
      (6) Norman Burton, "Diamonds Are Forever"
      (5) David Hedison, "Live and Let Die" and "Licence to Kill"
      (4) Bernie Casey, "Never Say Never Again"
      (3) Rik Van Nutter, "Thunderball"
      (2) Jack Lord, "Dr. No"
      (1) Jeffrey Wright, "Casino Royale" and "Quantum of Solace"

      I'd love to see Wright come back for another one.

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  11. Actually, Bond did kill the Three Blind Mice, in the chase scene with their hearse, but they are oddly never shown inside so it's very difficult to know it's them. There is also the puzzlingly-included scene before where they try to kill him but don't because there are too many cars in the way.

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    1. You're 100% correct, of course. How did I forget THAT?!?

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