Onscreen villains are always something of an enigma. While we, as viewers, root for their ultimate downfall and defeat, it has often been the case that, the actor(s) portraying negative characters shine the brightest in a particular movie (remember Heath Ledger as ‘Joker’ in ‘The Dark Knight’, the 2008 blockbuster?) While none of the villains in the 23 James Bond movies that have released till date have quite managed to overshadow the master spy, some of them have definitely played an important role in the overall critical acclaim and box-office success that the films managed to garner. With an edgy mix of cunningness, unpredictability, determination and evil intentions, these characters have been etched in the minds of cinegoers as some of the most fear-inducing and memorable ‘bad guys’ on the silver screen. Over here, we will relive the images of some of the most lethal Bond-enemies ever:
- Dr. Julius No – The tradition of fearsome and dangerous Bond villains got off to a flying start with ‘Dr. Julius No’, the principal antagonist in the first-ever James Bond movie, ‘Dr. No’ (1962). Joseph Wiseman was in charge of essaying the role, and he truly brought alive the character of a crooked yet brilliant scientist, who goes on to lead the ‘Spectre’ gang. The hands of metal of ‘Dr. No’ added to the diabolical nature of Wiseman’s portrayal of ‘Dr. Julius No’, who was literally involved in a ‘fight to the death’ with Sean Connery’s ‘James Bond’.
- Jaws – Richard Kiel’s ‘Jaws’ is a typical example of the unrealistic, larger-than-life (in every sense, for Kiel was close to seven feet in height!), and yet thoroughly enthralling Bond villains. The character was first presented in ‘The Spy Who Loved Me’ (1977), as a worthy adversary to Roger Moore’s ‘James Bond’. The characteristic of ‘Jaws’ that made him really intriguing was his ability to escape unhurt from practically all types of potentially fatal accidents (not even a fall from a speeding train could kill him!). Kiel reprised the character of ‘Jaws’ in a limited role, in the 1979-flick, ‘Moonraker’ too.
- Oddjob – While the evil and immensely wealthy ‘Auric Goldfinger’ (played by Gert Frobe) is generally remembered as the main villain of ‘Goldfinger’ (1964), no fan of Bond movies would ever forget the dexterity with which Harold Sakata portrayed the character of ‘Oddjob’, the billionaire’s prime henchman. The air of invincibility and mystery that shrouded ‘Oddjob’ was all the more enhanced by the fact that…he did not speak! When it comes to the strong, silent negative Hollywood characters, Sakata’s role would rank among the finest. In fact, the scene in ‘Goldfinger’ where he severs the head of a statue with his hat is one of the all-time classic Bond-film moments.
- Ernst Stavro Blofeld – Not many Bond villains can match up to the pure-bred ‘badness’ that the character of ‘Ernst Stavro Blofeld’ brought on the silver screen, in some of the finest Bond movies till date, like ‘On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’ (1969), ‘You Only Live Twice’ (1967) and ‘Diamonds Are Forever’ (1971). While several talented actors, like Telly Savalas and Anthony Dawson (‘Thunderball’) enacted the role of this archetypical wicked genius in the different movies, Donald Pleasence’s portrayal of ‘Blofeld’ (in ‘You Only Live Twice’) is, arguably, the most praiseworthy. The ‘Spectre’ group had always been up to distinctly underhand activities, and Blofeld was the leader of the pack.
- Rosa Klebb – Ladies have always had important roles to play in most Bond movies (except, maybe, the recent release, ‘Skyfall’). While the so-called ‘Bond babes’ have always upped the glam-quotient of the movies (remember Halle Berry in that sizzling orange bikini in ‘Die Another Day’?), Lotte Lenya’s fantastic portrayal of ‘Rosa Klebb’, the scheming ‘No. 3’ in director Terence Young’s masterpiece ‘From Russia With Love’ (1963) showed, from a very early stage that, the women in Bond flicks could be notoriously evil too. Lenya fitted in seamlessly with Ian Fleming’s vision of ‘Rosa Klebb’, and the final sequence of ‘From Russia With Love’, when she makes repeated attempts to jab ‘James Bond’ (Sean Connery) with a venom-filled shoe, is worth watching over and over again.
- Francisco Scaramanga – While ‘The Man With The Golden Gun’ (1974) did not have the most favorable movie review, the film did bring to the big screen one of the most sleek, stylish and dangerous villains in Hollywood history – Francisco Scaramanga. Christopher Lee, who was originally slated to play the villain in ‘Dr. No’, brought great poise, elegance, and a dash of wicked charm to his ‘Scaramanga’ act. Few, if any, cinematic baddies can carry along a rather absurd golden gun, and…wait for it…a third nipple, than Lee did. It’s a pity that the movie did not quite match up to the actor’s brilliance.
- Red Grant – The character of ‘Red Grant’ (essayed by the absolutely brilliant Robert Shaw) was equally memorable, as that of his boss, ‘Rosa Klebb’, in ‘From Russia With Love’. Shaw featured in some of the best sequences in the movie (recall the extended scene on the Orient Express, and you will realize what we are talking about!). ‘Red Grant’, literally, packed quite a punch too.
- Tiago Rodriguez/Raoul Silva – In the latest Bond movie, ‘Skyfall’ (2012), Javier Bardem has wowed critics and general viewers alike, with his nuanced portrayal of the slightly moody, eccentric and downright bad ‘Tiago Rodriguez’ (who works under the alias ‘Raoul Silva’). The blonde ‘Rodriguez’ (with a weird hairdo, to boot!) proves that he is more than a match for Daniel Craig’s slightly toned-down, more mortal version of ‘James Bond’. Although Bond does defeat ‘Rodriguez’ in the end, the latter lives up to his promise of bumping off ‘M’. Only time will tell whether Bardem’s ‘Tiago Rodriguez’ would make its place among the finest Bond villains, but, taken in isolation, the actor definitely deserves a hearty round of applause for his performance in ‘Skyfall’.
Different actors have, over the passage of time, brought their own individuality to the character of ‘James Bond’. The sheer charm, sophistication and panache of the best fictional spy ever has been showcased, with varying degrees of success (with Pierce Brosnan, arguably, topping the list) on the big screen. However, movie-lovers would unanimously agree that, the Bond movies would not have been half as good, without the presence of these deadly villains and henchmen. The spirit of these negative characters (as ‘Auric Goldfinger’s dialog ‘’No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die” aptly summed it up) have been unrelenting, and it is this tussle between our protagonist and the baddies that has made this spy-movie franchise all the more engaging. Here’s looking forward to many more really frightening ‘Bond-enemies’ in future – we simply love to hate them!
Dips Dixon is a professional Hollywood movie critic. His expert movie reviews and write-ups are regularly published in various well-known international cine journals and magazines. Over here, he discusses the relative styles and traits of some of the best villains in the entire ‘James Bond’ movie franchise.