Last week marked the 50th anniversary of the London premiere of what many consider to be the greatest James Bond film ever, “Goldfinger”. Translated to 2014 dollars, the film grossed an almost absurd $925,000,000 worldwide and solidified the 007 character in cinematic history. Through six Commander Bonds (not including faux 007’s such as David Niven) and 23 films (#24 starts production next month at London’s Pinewood Studios) the movies remain the most profitable franchise in film history.
To celebrate “Goldfinger”‘s 50th anniversary and next month’s start of production on Bond 24, Box Office Insider takes a look at, not the best Bonds or Bond films, but rather the best Bond villains, the characters that have indelibly made their mark on the franchise and in movie history.
(DIS) HONORABLE MENTION—LOTTE LENYA (ROSA KLEBB)–“FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE”
Ah yes, Russian efficiency at its best. As hench-woman for the Russian counter-intelligence agency SMERSH, Klebb simply oozes sadism. Our skin crawls as she strokes Daniela Bianchi’s shoulders while attempting to convince her to accept her assignment. But Lotte Lenya’s (who would get the ultimate shout-out in Bobby Darrin’s “Mack The Knife” song) main claim to fame in the film has to be the shoe blade, the stuff of Bond lore. Lenya would say later in life that when she would meet people in the street that invariably the first thing they would do is look at her shoes. On a somewhat humorous side note, the actress turned down several shoe commercials in the late 1960’s.
Classic Quote–(answering Bianchi’s question as to what happens if she refuses her assignment) “Then you will not leave this room alive”
#007—JONATHAN PRYCE (ELLIOT CARVER)–“TOMORROW NEVER DIES”
This may be a selection that raises eyebrows but it’s included here because, of all the Bond villains, this would be the bad guy most grounded in the real world. Bond producers indicated they based the Elliot Carver character not on Rupert Murdoch, as most people assumed, but rather Murdoch’s arch rival, Robert Maxwell. Causing an international incident to launch a cable news channel seems, well, plausible, at least more so than some guy in his swivel desk chair stroking his pu….uhhhh cat. Granted, the movie has its holes (and who thought Teri Hatcher was a good idea, again?), but Pryce is clearly having an absolute blast playing the media mogul and isn’t that what Bond villains should be all about?
Classic Quote–(and it’s a dandy) “The distance between insanity and genius is measured only by success”
#006—FAMKE JANSSEN (XENIA ONATOPP)–“GOLDENEYE”
Give the Brosnan Bond movies credit, they did have some rather intriguing villains. This time out Famke Janssen plays the aptly named Xenia Onatopp, whose idea of a romantic night in is squeezing her male suitors to death and enjoying it just a smidge too much. Although it is nice to see someone who enjoys their work so much. Along with her turn in the “X-Men” franchise, Janssen quickly became the stuff of fanboys’ fantasies and this is the first Bond outing where a woman was the main protagonist (coincidentally the second was the following Bond effort, “The World Is Not Enough” with Sophie Marceau)
Classic Quote–“Once again Mr. Bond, the pleasure was all yours”
#005—RICHARD KIEL (JAWS)–“THE SPY WHO LOVED ME”
A former cemetery plot salesman, Richard Kiel proved one of the most memorable Bond villains with his turn as Jaws in 1977’s “The Spy Who Loved Me”. Audiences loved Kiel so much that Bond producers brought him back in 1979’s “Moonraker” where he ultimately would prove a hero at the end (sorry for the spoiler). Kiel’s imposing 7′ 2″ frame made him a formidable foe to Roger Moore’s (not yet aging) Bond with his vice grip and dentures of death. On a sad note, Richard Kiel passed away on September 10th at the age of 74.
#004—MADS MIKKELSEN (LE CHIFFRE)—“CASINO ROYALE”
What a way to reboot a franchise. EON producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson found their Bond in Daniel Craig and also found a villain for the 21st century with Mikkelsen’s bleeding eye (definitely not a bleeding heart) Le Chiffre. The villain had been around in various TV incarnations (once played by Peter Lorre on American TV) but it’s difficult now imagining anyone but the Danish actor inhabiting the role. The torture scene alone made every male moviegoer squirm in his seat and “Casino Royale” was the first Bond film in some time where the villain was an actual character and not a caricature.
Classic Quote–“Weeping blood comes merely from a derangement of the tear duct, my dear General. it’s nothing sinister”
#003—DONALD PLEASENCE (ERNST BLOFELD)—“YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE”
To be perfectly honest, the Japanese setting in “You Only Live Twice” failed miserably in my book but what the film is primarily known for is the first significant appearance of S.P.E.C.T.R.E. leader, Ernst Blofeld (after a more limited role in “Thunderball”). Played to creepy perfection by Donald Pleasence and ably assisted by one of the most famous felines in film history, the role is lampooned brilliantly by Mike Myers’ Doctor Evil in his “Austin Powers” movies. In fact, it’s difficult now to watch Pleasence and not think of “throw me a frickin’ bone here, people”. But overlooking that side bar, Pleasence is a significant step up from Emilio Largo’s turn as Blofeld in 1965’s “Thunderball” and is the epitome of the outrageous Bond villain (c’mon, just look at that picture!)
Classic Quote–In a line definitely not sanctioned by the CDC, “Give him his cigarettes. It won’t be nicotine that will kill you, Mr. Bond”
#002—JAVIER BARDEM (RAOUL SILVA)—“SKYFALL”
The announcement that Bardem would play the villain Raoul Silva in this 23rd Bond outing was met with choruses of “wow, how’d they get him???”. Let’s face it, everything about “Skyfall” was top notch, from the storyline to the action sequences to the performances of the entire cast (think Judi Dench, Ben Whishaw, Ralph Fiennes) but at the head of the class is Bardem, who is delightfully over the top as former British-agent-gone-bad, Raoul Silva. The Academy Award winner chews up every scene he’s in, forcing Daniel Craig to hustle to keep up, and his highly charged tet-a-tet with Dench while imprisoned is a lesson in good acting.
Classic Quote–There are so many but let’s go with the most famous, “Mommy has been very, very bad”
#001—GERT FROBE (AURIC GOLDFINGER)—“GOLDFINGER”
German actor Gert Frobe acted in 111 films and TV shows, almost all of them in his native Germany, but remains most famous for the most infamous Bond villain of them all, Auric Goldfinger. The actor’s German accent was so thick that producers had to redub most of his dialogue and he had never picked up a golf club prior to the infamous Stoke Park match between he and Sean Connery. When you’re a Bond villain it’s always helpful to have assistance and Frobe got it in spades from The Man With The Flying Hat, Oddjob, played by Olympic weightlifting silver medalist, Harold Sakata. Frobe never actually watched his performance in the film, which is too bad because he missed perfection. Goldfinger remains one of the most famous characters in movie history and tops this list.
Classic Quote–How could it be anything other than, “No Mr. Bond, I expect you to die!”