James Bond Bad Guys Go Back to Basics

The Bad Guys of James BondGuest blogger Blair Kramer writes:

I have a serious question to ask you. During the opening frames of For Your Eyes Only, weren’t you surprised to see James Bond standing over the grave of his dead wife, Tracy?

Also, weren’t you downright shocked to see a bald man holding a white cat? I know what you were thinking. I thought the same thing:

Nahhh… They’re just teasing us! It really can’t be Blofeld, can it?

He’s back? He’s the villain in this film? Great! This is gonna be good!

And then what happened? After that great build-up, was it as good as you hoped? Or was it…something else:

OK, so it was something else (can you imagine James Bond actually operating a “…delicatessen, in stainless steel”?!). But that was the pre-credits sequence. As far as I’m concerned, it doesn’t count. Therefore, I ignore it. Believe it or not, for me, the rest of FYEO was and IS as good as I hoped! It truly is a great 007 film.

At the very least, despite the fact that Roger Moore personally prefers The Spy Who Loved Me, it certainly features Moore’s best Bond performance. Or, am I wrong? Is my praise of Moore nothing but heresy in your mind? Are you one of those Bond fans who think Moore could do no right?

 
 

Character actor Chaim Topol plays Columbo, the supposed villain of the film. However, despite the considerable feeling of mystery surrounding the man, Columbo proves much less evil than we are led to believe. The real bad guy turns out to be a fellow known as Kristatos. As played by charming, urbane stage actor Julian Glover, Kristatos is a murderous sociopath. As a result, his extremely frightening demeanor greatly raises the level of tension and suspense throughout the film.

Mind you, I’m not trying to suggest that the film has no humor. After all, it is a “Roger Moore Bond” film. The humor is simply kept to a minimum. Consequently, other than an early lighthearted car chase, nearly every threat and bit of action keeps us on the edge of our seat. We go from a ski chase involving motorcycles fitted with machine guns, to a wild gunfight that culminates in a huge explosion. From a speeding Mercedes bearing down on Bond, to a sunken spy ship surrounded by hungry sharks! Finally, Bond very nearly falls to his death as he climbs a sheer cliff face to invade Kristatos’ hideout (oh… And he runs into our old friend Hans, the muscle bound henchman last seen reluctantly feeding a school of piranha fish in You Only Live Twice. Only God knows how he possibly survived that encounter.

   

(But Hans, now portrayed by John Wyman, has changed his name to Eric for some reason. Hmmm…)

In the end, when all the action and excitement is over and the theater lights return, we realize that For Your Eyes Only is truly a classic James Bond film. To say the least, it’s not to be missed.

Is Octopussy the silliest Bond movie title of all time? I dunno…you tell me! (By the way, just so we’re clear, Quantum Of Solace translates as “measure of comfort,” which isn’t silly at all. More on that in my final article.). But, believe it or not, Octopussy is actually Moore’s second best effort as Agent 007. A bit more jocular than FYEO and somewhat slower, Octopussy still contains a decent level of suspense. Two of the three main villains, Octopussy herself (Maud Adams), and Kamal Khan (Louis Jourdan), don’t provide much threat (Jourdan in particular is a crashing bore!), but Steven Berkoff as Soviet General Orlov comes across as a scenery-chewing lunatic! In other words, he’s crazy enough to be truly frightening.

And even though most of the action is a bit too familiar, the scene during which 007 crawls, runs, and skulks all over a fast moving train is chock full of suspense. Also, Octopussy features three of the scariest henchmen ever to appear in a Bond film, blunderbuss-wielding Gobinda (Kabir Bedi), and knife throwing circus performers Mischka and Grischka (David and Anthony Meyer). I must say that the casting of this film was just about perfect. Don’t miss it.

   

Never Say Never Again, a loose remake of Thunderball, offers a good performance by Klaus Maria Brandauer as the main bad guy, as well as some decent action, but little else. For the most part the best thing about the film is the fact that it’s Sean Connery‘s final effort as James Bond. Even though the film tends to be a little silly, Connery’s welcome presence certainly makes it worth a look.

   

As for A View To A Kill, Roger Moore’s swan song as James Bond, even the great Christopher Walken as the evil man with the plan couldn’t save it. To put it mildly, AVTAK is very definitely the worst Bond film ever made! The fact that it actually offers the overtly androgynous Grace Jones as a Bond girl is all anyone needs to know! A bedroom “love” scene between Moore and Jones is so plainly unlikely it’s downright embarrassing to watch! To be sure, one gets the impression that Jones is actually trying to rape Moore!

My advice: Don’t waste your time on A View To A Kill.

 
 
 

The Living Daylights and Licence To Kill are much better films. I tie them together because they’re quite distinct from the rest of the James Bond series, and this is entirely due to the presence of Shakespearean actor Timothy Dalton as Agent 007. His nitty-gritty, hard nose, no-nonsense approach to the role was a breath of fresh air. It forced the producers to make the two films much darker and more realistic throughout. Fr’instance, Bond coldly prepares to use a high powered sniper’s rifle to assassinate an attractive young woman in TLD. He also tries to detonate a bomb in an effort to kill a South American drug lord in LTK.  Basically, the two Dalton films make it very clear that James Bond does not play games!

The suspense of both films is well provided by their villains. The Living Daylights offers Soviet Generals Koskov and Pushkin, nicely portrayed by Jeroen Krabbé and John Rhys-Davies, locked in a private game of espionage. Their antics keep the tension running at full speed. Even the slightly less than believable Joe Don Baker as a supposedly sophisticated American gun-runner named Whitaker, provides brawny menace. Certainly, the gun battle between Bond and Whitaker near the end of the film is genuinely exciting. And finally, Necros, the requisite muscle-bound henchman played by Andreas Wisniewski, is one very menacing dude! His constant threat eventually ends in a violent confrontation with Bond aboard an airborne cargo plane. As he and Bond duke it out, a time bomb ticks away within the aircraft! Need I say that the suspense of the scene is nearly unbearable?

Licence To Kill is an unsung gem. Robert Davi perfectly fills the image of Sanchez, a manipulating South American drug lord with a heart of stone. More so than any other Bond villain, Sanchez is the most real and certainly the most ruthless. The level of suspense rises dramatically every time Davi appears on screen. His frightening, knife-wielding henchman is called Dario. Characterized by a permanent sneer, Dario was one of Benicio Del Toro‘s first screen roles. Anthony Starke plays an annoying little accountant named Truman-Lodge. His end is swift and violent because he didn’t understand that he too was really just a henchman! On the other hand, Don Stroud as a fellow called Heller, meets his end precisely because he knows full well that he’s a henchman! Veteran character actor Anthony Zerbe fills the role of cowardly drug smuggler Milton Krest. When he eventually meets his end, the scene proves to be one of the most frightening ever done for any James Bond film! Finally, Wayne Newton plays the one major character plainly out of place in the film. As corrupt televangelist Joe Butcher, his comic persona just doesn’t match the mood of the film. Beyond that, you have a perfect lineup of villainy.

   

Before I go, I would like to mention one minor quibble with TLD that has long bothered me. In an early scene, Bond and colleague Saunders (head of section V) clearly have no use for each other until they suddenly start acting like close friends. That’s because Bond is expected to become very emotional when his colleague is violently murdered! Now, friends or not, anger I can understand. But the sudden change in attitude towards each other prior to the murder makes no sense at all. Be that as it may, other than that one scene, the bottom line on the two Timothy Dalton films is that they are among the best in the James Bond series. They’re chock full of action, intrigue, and best of all, great suspense. Moreover, TLD features one of the best scores ever created for any Bond film by the late John Barry. I cherish the two Dalton Bond films. So should you.

Next: Everything old is new again!

Blair Kramer is a widely published writer for various publications, including “Velocity: Chicago,” “A Guide to Art in Chicago,” “Comic Book Collector Magazine,” “American Metal Magazine,” and the “Jewish American Historical Society.” He also dabbles in screenplays and comic books. There are only two things in his life that he loves more than good movies. They are his wife and family.

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  • Juanita Curtis

    Well I’ll take Roger Moore’s Bond over Timothy Daltons any day!!! I prefer my dose of OO7 to be slightly shaken and with more levity. Mr Dalton may well be a “serious” actor but I find him boring. PIerce Brosnan on the other hand brought a light touch and sophistication that is essential in portraying James Bond.

  • Tim Moran

    Say what you will, but I LOVED “A View to a Kill.”

    Christopher Walken RULES!

  • Blair Kramer.

    Ummm… Lessee… Something good about “A View To A Kill”…? Give me a moment. This isn’t easy. Hmmm… Wait a minute! Oh Yes! I think I’ve got it! “A View To A Kill” has a reasonably decent score composed, arranged, and conducted by John Barry! How’s that? I’m sorry but that will have to suffice. It really is the absolutely best I can do regarding “A View To A Kill!”

  • John Small

    Finally, someone who agrees with me about the two Dalton films being among the very best of the bunch! After all these years I was truly beginning to think I was the only one who feels that way.

  • roger lynn

    Roger Moore was my favorite Bond,I loved Mr Connery,thought Timothy Dalton was awesome,Brosnan.Craig are my least favorite Bonds….A View To A Kill IS NOT THE WORST–far from it one of the best Bond films exciting,funny,dramatic..it is awesome sad they malign AVTAK along with Moonraker,,both were great,,as villains go where was Moonrakers villain,,have to include anyone who tries to kill Bond with a giant Python…

  • Ani Crotophaga

    I rate Thunderball as my second least favorite. Blasphemy you say? The endless underwater scenes bored the heck out of me and it’s the one of the series I purposely avoid.
    I agree, the Dalton movies are among my favorite.
    It’s too bad that as soon as the asking price goes up for the actor goes up, the producers see fit to replace them… hence 2 for Dalton, 3 for Brosnan, who we all know should have been Bond forever. This guy Daniel Craig is the worst a piece of wood has more personality… the poker scene that went on for what seemed like a half an hour made Casino Royale my least favorite Bond movie.

  • Bill Dunphy

    A little history, the Bond books were written in the 50′s, but hit their popularity peak in the U.S.A., when John Kennedy was running for the presidency and said he enjoyed reading Ian Flemming. The books were serialized in Playboy, and the movies came soon after. I read the books in sequence, but they were somewhat surreal to me. I enjoyed them, but they were foreign to me at the time, I had trouble relating to the character of James Bond. I was right out of high school, and the Bond character was almost a comic book hero, like nothing I knew of. Then I saw my first Bond movie, Dr No, and as soon as I saw Sean Connery walk, I understood the character, and what the word suave meant. It all fell into place the surreal/exotic places, events, stories all made sense, Sean Connery was James Bond.
    As for the “bad guys”, I always thought Gert Frobes Goldfinger was the most realistic, and sinister villain, cold and calculating, never emotional. Picture the scene where he has Bond tied to a table with a laser beam cutting through, and heading toward Bonds genitals. Bond cooly asks Goldfinger as he’s walking away, “am I suppossed to talk now, and Goldfinger says “no Mr, Bond, you’re supposed to die”, that was suave for suave ! Oh well, as Dennis Miller used to say at the end of his rant, ” that’s the way that I feel, … but, I could be wrong.

  • Gary Vidmar

    Connery left the best Bond impression, but I think Craig is particularly good at bringing the essential killer sensibility to the fore; all the others merely entertained in stylish form.
    DR. NO was the villian who best hated 007 by calling him a stupid policeman.
    FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE is the most successful film in capturing the trademark Ian Fleming brand of intrigue.

  • Jhong Dhu

    I repeat what I’ve said before, I hope there is some intelligent person(s) in Hollywood that will pair up James Bond and Tarzan. To team these two action icons into one amazing adventure would be nothing less than genius. High tech weaponry and low tech weaponry converge to take down a vicious organization threatening world peace. It would be AWESOME! I’m excited just visualizing it. So, come on, Hollywood bright boys, and start writing and producing this can’t miss classic film. Target release date: 2013 or 2014!!

  • David Pierce

    Quantum Of Solace is the worst Bond to date. They turned Bond into a thug and got confused and tried to turn Bond into Jason Bourne. Don’t get me wrong. Jason Bourne is good. But Bond was always a classy act. I also really miss the opening work. Yes I know that director died. But they could and should find a suitable replacement. As far as A view to a kill. The opening worked great and the music hit the right notes. But until Quantum Of Solace – Bond was still Bond. Now it is not the actors fault. His acting was first rate. It is the scripts fault! Best villain to date? Jaws!

  • Jo

    What happened to the villain from Die Another Day who was played by Toby Stephans who was not listed? He was a real badass and got his just desserts at the end.

  • http://www.moviesunlimited.com George D. Allen

    Jo, he can confirm or deny this on his own, but I think BK might be planning to mention Stephens when James Bond Bad Guys Returns.

    I guess there just aren’t that many “Quantum of Solace” fans besides me (sigh). I think that Bond-as-Bourne thing is so oversold (but I commented on that at length on my own post about Daniel Craig’s tenure in the part: http://www.moviefanfare.com/staff-notes/james-bond-daniel-craig/)

    As for Jhong’s Bond-Meets-Tarzan idea (seriously?), I’d direct him to the Mike Henry Tarzan flicks, where Henry’s highly articulate and urbane Lord Greystoke was clearly meant to evoke some of the Connery-esque Bond vibe.

  • Wayne

    I’m stating the obvious but more comments are sent when James Bond is the subject than any other actor or film. No problem because I have enjoyed EVERY Bond film, some more than others but not once have I been disappointed with James, the Bond girls or the bad guys.

  • John Pinkelman

    I think, ALL Bond films are classic’s, in there own right; true entertainment for all genres.

  • Big Movie Fan

    Showing my age I guess, but have been a Bond fan since Dr. No first came on the scene when I was in 9th grade. Have all of the Bond films myself and watch them in sequence usually once a year, favorite ones more often. I think each of the Bond actors have something going for them and against them, but my personal favorites were Connery/Brosnan tie and my least favorite was Moore, although I enjoyed For My Eyes Only, Moonraker and The Spy Who Loved Me. I would have to say though that I personally loved Timothy Dalton’s two turns as Bond and would have loved to see more of him. My least favorite Bond movie is defintely Octupussy, although it has kind of grown on me over the years. I have to diagree with those who don’t like Craig. Didn’t particularly like Quantum of Solace, but thought his Casino Royale was great and am looking forward to the next Bond installment.

  • Blair Kramer.

    Thanks for the assist, George. Please allow me to step in… I think some of you Bond fans may be unaware of the fact that I wrote two previous articles about the Bond baddies for this website. They’re readily accessible. Simply wite my name in the search window and pick the article that you wish to read. As for “Die Another Day” and the bad guys of the Brosnan/Craig films, they’re to be examined in the final upcoming article. Finally, Tarzan and James Bond are both action heroes, but that’s where the similarities end. They inhabit two entirely different worlds. As such, they can’t smoothly meld together in a single film adventure. In any case, I prefer James Bond and Tarzan in stand alone adventures. Do they really need help from anyone else in order to get things done? I think not.

  • David Ellefson

    I don’t get caught up in who is this and who is that. I like the Bond films because they are Bond films regardless of who plays Bond. However, there will only be one Moneypenny and that is the original. P.S. That goes for Q too.(The guy in Dr. No doesn’t count).

  • Jhong Dhu

    No, no. I have seen Mike Henry Tarzan films. Especially like ‘Tarzan and the Valley of Gold’. No I am not proposing a hybrid character. It must be James Bond and Tarzan as individual characters joining forces to battle a world class villany. The possibilities for action and adventure and becoming one of the greatest films of all time are limitless. Hollywood – get it done!

  • http://www.moviesunlimited.com George D. Allen

    “Valley of Gold” is probably the best of the Henry Tarzans (although I do love that vicious, three-note musical theme for Barcuna in “Tarzan and the Great River”…

    I’m guessing if you ever get your wish satisfied for the Bond-Tarzan (!) team-up, it would take the shape of a comic/graphic novel of the Alan Moore variety (League of Extraodrinary Gentlemen), but I wouldn’t hold my breath. Both properties are tightly held by their respective owners (Burroughs Inc & Eon Productions) and I’m betting they won’t ever make the kind of deal Marvel Comics and DC Comics made that allowed Superman and Spider-Man to appear in the same comic.

    So what do you think? Bond in the jungle? Tarzan in London? Both?

    Maybe somewhere someone wrote a good piece of fan fiction. Curious to see what I would find, I Googled “James Bond Tarzan” and was pleasantly surprised to see our own video about recasting those iconic roles in the movies actually come up first in the results. As Borat would say: Nice!
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5hBwTIrZtr4

  • Blair Kramer.

    This is not meant to be a slight against anyone when I say that I honestly cannot get my head around the idea of James Bond and Tarzan together in the same film! When I said that I prefer James Bond and Tarzan in stand alone adventures, I simply meant that I’m not interested in seeing them in a combo adventure. Bond doesn’t need any help from Tarzan to get things done. And Tarzan doesn’t need any help from Bond to get things done. Moreover, even though both characters inhabit fantasy worlds, they’re entirely different fantasy worlds. Trying to meld them together would be worse than jarring. I have no doubt that it would be downright silly. I appreciate the enthusiasm and imagination of Mr. Dhu, but I really don’t think bringing James Bond and Tarzan together would work.

  • jpp452

    I read most of the books before they were made into films. A couple of years ago, I read them in sequence again. I really enjoyed Fleming’s writing and consider the books a better option than any of the films. Fleming’s books had themes behind them, some of them now forgotten in a post-Cold War era. The over-riding theme was that of an aging, experienced agent gradually becoming more and more disillusioned with it all. Although unlikely, the events in the books were at least plausible. The same cannot be said for the films.

    Fleming’s James Bond died with Goldfinger, although in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service he came close to a resuscitation. Beginning with Thunderball, the films became a fantasy series of their own with no point behind them other than selling high-priced goods and providing entertainment — in that order — on the level of a juvenile fantasy.

    And before you leap, I have paid to SEE THEM ALL, from Dr. No to date. Can YOU say that?

    Although I enjoy the entertainment value, I do not consider the franchise sacred in any way — just as Cubby Broccoli had no regard for the fictional character of Fleming’s imagination. Therefore, I AM VOTING WITH JHONG DHU. He wants to see Bond and Tarzan to work as a team. Why not? It would make just as much sense as any of the other idiotic scenarios in the past 40 years. Perhaps a plot centred on an African drug ring would provide the right setting.

  • http://www.moviesunlimited.com George D. Allen

    “Cubby Broccoli had no regard for the fictional character of Fleming’s imagination”? That’s quite a charge–especially given how Fleming himself was won over by Broccoli’s choice of Connery for the role.

    I’d say Broccoli had a very canny and successful regard for the character, especially inasmuch as, as a film producer, he knew better than to be slavish to the books they were adapting for the screen.

    In my opnion, there’s many a Bond film that actually improves upon the books in terms of narrative interest and excitement (in addition to some that, sure, fail the character and spirit of Fleming completely).

    And more than one critic has referred to the Bond books as “juvenile fantasy,” too. I like them…some better than others–but Fleming “failed” on occasion, too.

    It is interesting to link Bond and Tarzan, though, for a different reason–because many, many fans of both series have often been displeased with what they see as the egregious infidelity of the films to the books. I think it’s easier to make that case more strongly w/Tarzan, though.

    Fans of both who think the team-up idea doesn’t really work (and I would agree with that–which is really understating it) can rest easy. I have consulted Hollywood Nostradamus and he has looked into his crystal ball and assured me that this will never happen on the big screen.

    But hats off to Jhong for putting up the most entertaining comment I have read all month on the Open Letter to Johnny Depp post!

    PS So, the breaking news is that Bond 23 is indeed called “SKYFALL.” Hm. Everything else I’ve heard about this movie so far has been terrific. I dislike this title & wish they’d plucked one more of the few remaining Fleming titles to attach to it, but so be it. I’m sure I’ll love the title by release date. :)

  • Ray

    What about Barry’s score of “Goldfinger”, wouldn’t you consider that the best. When you hear those opening notes you think “BOND”

  • Blair Kramer.

    George is absolutely right regarding Cubby’s (and I assume, Harry’s) attitude toward Fleming’s Bond. The books were used as a jumping off point. But never, not even from the beginning with “Dr. No,” were the films completely faithful to the books. In the books, Dr. No died under tons of bird dung: Rosa Klebb worked for SMERSH, not SPECTRE: Goldfinger wanted to steal all the gold, not blow it up! Now, depending upon your view of reality, George is right once again. The early films clearly improved upon the books. Moreover, Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels definitely have nothing more to do with reality than do the films. The ambience of the books are certainly different, and the films are a great deal more light hearted, even occasionally juvenile, (witness Richard Keil as “Jaws”), but those things aside, The characters, situations, and incidents in the books are not at all believable.

  • John

    I’m glad to see the Dalton films get some respect.They brought a serious edge to the series after Moore just as the Craig films did after Brosnan.This swing from lighter to darker and back again has probably helped to keep the series alive.

  • Hamster

    I have tO disgaree on a few things here. I loved view to a kill.i thought it was beleivable and entertaining although i agree with the love scene. While the dalton movies were good it was not dalton that made them so. He was way too emotional for james bond. But still he was alot better than craig. I have been i bond fan since i was six but craig has killed it for me completley.

  • Kirk

    And here I thought I was the only Timothy Dalton fan in the world. I felt his Bond was much closer to Fleming’s idea. Like Fleming’s Bond his interpretaion wasn’t at all about bon mots or getting laid only being an utter professional yet he was flawed enough to be a vengeful bastard when someone hit him too cloose to home.