By Jeff Salter
Four the final week of our September tribute to James Bond 007, we’re focused on our favorite Bond (male or female) villains.
If you’ve perused my previous three blogs – click on the archives if you haven’t – then you won’t likely be surprised that my favorite villains share movie titles with my other favorites. Just to recap: my overall favorite Bond Girl was Shirley Eaton in Goldfinger; likely my top lines of dialog were also from Goldfinger; my overall favorite Bond movie was From Russia With Love. So today’s topic brings us right back to those same two films, both early in the canon and each with a young Sean Connery as 007.
Let me clarify, however, that when I use the word “favorite” in connection with Bond villains, it does NOT mean I’d like to hang out with these folks! In fact, they’re only my favorites in the sense of being the most memorable and convincing.
From the film From Russia With Love:
The cold, capable, professional, SPECTRE killer Red Grant, played perfectly by Robert Shaw.
The equally chilling, never-give-up, SPECTRE mission leader Rosa Klebb, played wonderfully by Lotte Lenya.
From the film Goldfinger:
The ambitious, perverted, sore loser, Auric Goldfinger, played by Gert Frobe.
As I’ve previously mentioned, I read all of the Ian Fleming novels back in the mid-1960s and read most of them before I saw their film adaptations. Suffice it to say that there were NUMEROUS differences between the books and movies. After nearly five decades I cannot say this with certainty, but it’s my general recollection that the villains in the novels were considerably more human and did not rely as much on the gadgetry of the villains in the later film versions.
I believe the reason these villains stand out for me is that they are people you might pass on the street and not even realize they had killer hearts of cold stone. Much more sinister and effective, I think, for these villains to be, physically, rather “normal” looking — as opposed to Jaws, a giant with teeth which can cut steel cables. I mean, if I saw a smiling Richard Kiel lumbering toward me, I would probably run like crazy… but Robert Shaw could sneak up on me before I knew it and choke me with that wire from his watch.
One of the most chilling villains in the Bond movies, also from FRWL, is Col. Klebb’s SPECTRE boss, whose face we don’t see (as I recall) but he sits there stroking his pet cat as he coolly kills one of his own subordinates and orders the assassination of 007 (and whoever else gets in his way). That kind of villain seems more sinister to me than Odd Job, a karate expert with a hat that flies like a Frisbee, or some of those other bad guys with bizarre physical characteristics and/or whiz-bang weaponry.
Who were YOUR “favorite” 007 villains?