James Bond 007: Top 10 villains

10 Francisco Scaramanga (Christopher Lee)

The Man with the Golden Gun (1974)

At 6 ft 4 in tall, Lee brings stature as well a smooth sophistication to his role of a former KGB agent turned world’s best assassin who charges one million dollars per kill.
His favourite weapon is a gold cigarette and pen combination which transforms into a pistol, and he flies a car with detachable wings.
As well as commanding a deadly martial arts academy, he has the murderous butler Nick Nack, played with venomous glee by the diminutive Hervé Villechaize, to assist him. And the lair is an idyllic Far East island armed with a solar-powered laser cannon.
But Lee is too relaxed to intimidate the audience, and the funhouse through which Scaramanga pursues his victims is a too much ‘end of the pier entertainment’, and his underwhelming evil plot to auction off a solar energy device to the highest bidder is less world dictator and more ripoff energy salesman.

9 Tiago ‘Raoul Silva’ Rodriguez (Javier Bardem)

Skyfall (2012)

Many women have flirted with Bond in his career, but none with the same degree of outrageous camp as this former MI6 agent turned cyberterrorist.
We’re never entirely sure if Silva wants to kiss or kill 007, but the film certainly questions just how far Bond is prepared tot go to defend Queen and country.
Silva targets his former colleagues at MI6 in revenge against Bond’s boss, M, against whom he holds a homicidal grudge after a faulty cyanide capsule left him needing some botox and dental work.
Attacking Bond with a tube train demonstrates imaginative theatrical flair, and a logistical ability not normally associated with London transport.
However there’s a handful of henchmen rather than an army, and as his ruined city lair lacks luxurious comfort and a shark tank, it has to compensate with a decent internet connection.

8 Gustav Graves / Colonel Moon (Toby Stephens / Will Yun Lee)

Die Another Day (2002)

Pierce Brosnan’s last outing as 007 sees him go head to head with millionaire entrepreneur Gustav Graves, an extreme sports enthusiast who’s also the alter ego of Colonel Moon, a North Korean military officer who‘s used gene therapy technology to change his appearance. However neither identity are terribly threatening.
His arctic gin and ice palace lair may lack a shark tank and underfloor heating, but it does have some nifty snowmobiles, a soft top car armed with a machine gun, and a deadly ice chandelier.
He also has a deadly henchwoman in Rosamund Pike’s aptly named Miranda Frost.
Diamond smuggling plays a part in Graves’ plot to allow North Korean troops to invade South Korea, and potentially trigger a third World War.
So at least Bond has something else to keep his hands full, when not tangling with Halle Berry’s high-diving CIA agent, Jinx.

7 Dr. Kananga / Mr. Big (Yaphet Kotto)

Live and Let Die (1973)

Roger Moore’s first outing as Bond was very much down to earth compared to the out of this world thrills of Moonraker, and finds himself up against a Harlem gangster, whose grand scheme is to become the monopoly supplier of heroin in the US.
Yes it’s a serious problem but it’s not quite in the same world-saving league as Sean Connery’s movies or even Moore’s later ones.
However the villain’s lair does contain a shark tank, so bonus points for that, and the dastardly plot is backed up by Jane Seymour’s beautiful tarot card reader called Solitaire, a coffin of venomous snakes, a team of henchmen driving speedboats through the Louisiana swamp, and a pool of hungry crocodiles from which Bond must hotfoot it away.
Kotto’s formidably charismatic presence more than compensates for his characters earth-bound ambition, and the deadly prosthetic arm of his primary henchman, Tee Hee, is no laughing matter.

6 Alec Trevelyan (Sean Bean)

GoldenEye (1995)

In his first outing as Bond, Pierce Brosnan has to face a villain who’s not only 007’s equal, but also a former friend and fellow British spy, 006, he allows the film to ask the question, what if Bond were the bad guy?
Bean is terrific as the agent-turned-villain, swapping his native Yorkshire accent for something more upper class, and enjoys taunting 007 as he rockets around post-Communist Russia in a fabulous lair, a nuclear missile-carrying train, from where he plots the theft of the technology controlling a super-powerful satellite-based weapon.
Yes, there’s a conspicuous lack of an army of henchmen, however his formidable henchwoman Xenia Onatopp, is a breathtaking fighter pilot who kills her enemies with her thighs.
Sadly Trevelyan doesn’t want to rule the world or re-start civilisation, and though he’s not the last former spy wanting revenge on the British government, he is the first, which boots him up the list.

5 Auric Goldfinger (Gert Fröbe)

Goldfinger (1964)

A villain so memorable he’s given the ultimate honour of being the first villain to put his name to a Bond film’s iconic theme song, performed by the awesome Shirley Bassey, with a thunderous take-no-prisoners conviction.
Goldfinger does take prisoners however, and enjoys tying them to a gurney and slicing them with a laser. But he doesn’t expect them to talk – or sing – while it’s happening.
German actor Fröbe plays the golf cheat bullion dealer with a carnivalesque energy, and as well as being assisted by a fleet of foxy female assassins led by Honor Blackman’s Pussy Galore, he has the bowler-hat throwing Oddjob, as a henchman.
However, despite having enough gold to drown his enemies in the stuff, Goldfinger has no real lair to speak of, and his lacklustre ambition to irradiate the US gold reserves is closer to a get rich scheme than world domination, making Goldfinger a silver medalist of villainy.

4 Karl Stromberg (Curd Jürgens)

The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)

A megalomaniac who prefers fish to people and is vaguely based on Jules Verne’s Captain Nemo, Stromberg lives in a luxurious space-age underwater lair called Atlantis.
A city-sized submersible, it comes complete with its own shark pool, to whom Stromberg despatches those underlings who fail him.
I miss the days when Bond villains kept sharks as pets.
However Stromberg’s other toys include a helicopter gunship, a fleet of mini-subs, and an enormous new supertanker big enough to swallow British and Soviet ballistic-missile submarines.
As well as the essential army of henchmen, he’s the first Bond villain to employ Jaws to do his dirty work.
Meanwhile his nefarious plan is to trigger a third World War and then recreate a new civilisation underwater. And that’s the kind of barking mad scheme that the villains which follow could take a few pointers from.

3 Dr Julius No (Joseph Wiseman)

Dr. No (1962)

A mad scientist possessing mechanical hands and a nuclear powered luxury secret lair on a Caribbean island, the very first Bond villain remains one of the best.
Urbane, sophisticated and with a taste for giant fishtanks in the dining room, Dr. No is a former treasurer of Chinese gangsters who after absconding with a stash of gold is now working for SPECTRE, and using a nuclear radio beam to destroy US missiles.
Dr, No insists his henchmen are equipped with cyanide-laced cigarettes so they can suicide if they’re caught, and arms them with a flame-throwing tank disguised as a dragon, as well as more standard weapons such as machine guns and err, tarantulas.
Believing criminal brains to be always superior, Dr. No offers Sean Connery’s 007 a job, before suffering one of the great dramatic Bond villain deaths, boiling in his own nuclear reactor.

2 Hugo Drax (Michael Lonsdale)

Moonraker (1979)

A bearded billionaire entrepreneur with dreams of colonising space seems far more relevant today than it did back in 1979, when this Bond baddie boldly went where no 007 villain had been before.
Roger Moore’s Bond is forced to blast off into orbit to prevent Drax from shooting a nerve agent at planet Earth, poisoning the atmosphere and killing off the human race.
And that’s only part one of the plan. After wards he‘s set to rebuild humanity in space with carefully selected humans, with many of his new ‘master race’ being highly attractive young women.
Helping Drax build this space nirvana is an army of laser rifle-toting astronauts, as well as was one of the greatest henchmen of the series, the metal-teethed giant mercenary assassin, Jaws.
However Drax’s dastardly plan is thwarted when Bond shoots him with a poisoned dart, after which Bond attempts re-entry with beautiful CIA agent, Dr Holly Goodhead.

1 Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Donald Pleasence)

You Only Live Twice (1967)

Boasting an army of henchmen housed in a hi-tech volcanic mountain lair which includes a heliport and monorail plus a pool of deadly piranha fish, the first proper appearance of bald and facially scarred arch-enemy Blofeld, shows him in all his iconic white cat-stroking, and Chairman Mao-suited glory.
The ruthless head of terrorist organisation SPECTRE not only overshadows every following Bond villain, but set the bar for all the world conquering spy villains everywhere.
The Nottinghamshire-born Pleasance brings a wonderfully articulate malevolence to the role, which was written by kids author, Roald Dahl, who knew a thing or two about creating memorable baddies.
And Pleasance’s reward is to have been endlessly copied, spoofed and parodied, most notably by Mike Myers as Dr Evil, in his Austin Powers comedy spy franchise.
Blofeld is being paid by China to provoke nuclear war between the US and the USSR, and what’s his price to execute this evil plan? One hundred million dollars.

Mike Meyers as Dr Evil

The mythical James Bond, 007

BOND AND KING ARTHUR

King Arthur
Richard Harris as Arthur

In the 23rd James Bond thriller,  Skyfall, director Sam Mendes sought to elevate super spy James Bond, from Hollywood action star to a timeless heroic symbol of England.

By employing poetry, imagery and story elements of Arthurian legend, Mendes stretches an umbilical cord through time to connect Britain’s most modern fictitious national hero, Bond, with its most ancient and legendary King, Arthur.

In Le Morte d’Arthur (pub. 1485), Thomas Malory codified the legend of King Arthur from disparate sources and established what we now consider to be the definitive legend.

Arthur is an orphan who wields a weapon only he can command and must fight a traitor, his step-brother Modred, to save his kingdom. Arthur is betrayed by a woman, mortally wounded in action and is hidden away from the world by the lady in the lake. There he will await until his return to once again rescue his land at the hour of his country’s greatest need.

In Skyfall these events and all occur, though not in this order, and are there to establish Bond’s mythical status.

Skyfall
007 goes sky falling

In the pre-title sequence we see Bond shot by fellow agent, Eve, before falling into a river and being pulled under water by a godlike female hand. Being brought low by a woman named Eve is obviously a very Christian idea, reminding us how closely Arthurian legend deliberately echoes the story of Jesus Christ, his betrayal, death and his resurrection.

Bond undergoes a symbolic Christian death at the hands of his followers, but remains in limbo waiting to be reborn. He only returns from the dead , when England is threatened by terrorists led by a former British agent.

De la croix
Grave matters

In Skyfall Bond/Arthur are tasked with defending Britain from Javier Bardem’s Silva/Mordred. All are orphans raised to be warriors.

And just as Arthur and Mordred were related, so we have lots of references to Judi Dench’s M as their metaphorical mother.

De la Croix is revealed to be the maiden name of Bond’s mother. De la Croix translates as ‘Of the cross’ and so ties in with the idea of resurrection. This feeds neatly into the conceit of Bond regenerating every time a new actor assumes the role. It’s also a nod to Ian Fleming’s socialite mother, Evelyn Beatrice St. Croix Rose.

Bond’s Merlin figure of course, is Ben Whishaw’s Q. He provides Bond with a pistol registered to his unique palm print so only he can use it. It’s an updated Excalibur, the sword in the stone.

Bond sails through a dragon’s mouth prior to sleeping with the mistress of his MI6 colleague-turned-enemy. Compare this to how Arthur’s father Uther Pendragon has Merlin invoke the Dragon’s breath to seduce lgrayne, the wife of his former ally, the Duke of CornwalI. John Boorman vividly illustrates this in his excellent telling of the Arthurian legend, in 1981’s Excalibur .

Dragon mouth
Enter the dragon

We hear how following the loss of his parents, the barely  teenage Bond spent three days in a tunnel before emerging an adult. An echo of the vigil an aspiring knight had to endure before being allowed to join the chivalric order.

Poet Laureate Alfred Tennyson wrote a cycle of narrative poems concerning King Arthur called Idylls of the King (pub. 1859). This is the significance of Judi Dench’s M quoting Tennyson, as Bond races to her rescue.

Fiennes
Ralph Fiennes as ‘M’

All we’re missing is a character called Mallory to appear and oops, that just happens to be the real name of Bond’ new boss, ‘M’.

I don’t believe a director as erudite as Mendes would incorporate these details by coincidence. It would be almost impossible to do so by accident.

These details in the subtext of the film echo in the subconsciousness of the viewer. They reinforce the idea of Bond as a saviour of the English.

The conflation of Bond and Arthur places 007 at the centre of British literary, cinematic and Christian cultural tradition, so elevating him from the contemporary to the mythical, and crowning Bond as the once and future king of English heroes, and Hollywood.

@ChrisHunneysett