James Bond movie No Time To Die hits us this September, and is Daniel Craig's final movie as 007.
He's set to go up against Rami Malek's nefarious Safin, described by producer Barbara Broccoli as "a nasty piece of work". And this got us thinking: who are the memorable henchmen and women who have made life difficult for Bond throughout the franchise?
We're not talking about primary villains like Goldfinger or Scaramanga, nor are we acknowledging the side characters who generally get a lot of attention (Jaws, Nick Nack, May Day et al). Instead, this is our blog list of underrated Bond antagonists who've helped make the franchise one of the richest and most entertaining in cinema history.
1. Professor Dent – Dr. No (1962)
Anthony Dawson's shifty Professor Dent feels the wrath of Sean Connery's 007 in the very first Bond movie. Dent is responsible for the death of MI6 agent Strangways, and is in cahoots with mysterious mastermind Dr. No (Joseph Wiseman).
En route to kill 007 at the house of the recently seduced Miss Taro (Zena Marshall), Dent meets his end with several Walter PPK bullets in the back. The savage, cold-blooded nature of Dent's execution shocked audiences at the time, and cemented Connery as the cool, calm embodiment of Ian Fleming's literary character.
2. Kronsteen – From Russia With Love (1963)
Polish actor Vladek Sheybal makes a brief but memorable appearance in From Russia With Love, widely considered to be the best Bond movie of them all.
In contrast to the increasingly outlandish 007 adventures that followed, From Russia With Love is a relatively grounded story of Cold War espionage. Connery's Bond finds himself being manipulated in a plot spun by criminal organisation Spectre, and chess master Kronsteen, played by Sheybal, is at the centre. However, the character's arrogance backfires when Bond disrupts the plans for Spectre to steal the Lektor decoding machine, and he's executed with a poison-tipped blade in a shoe.
3. Fiona Volpe – Thunderball (1964)
Few female characters in the Bond universe have been empowered to call 007 out on his toxic masculinity and inherent sexism. That's what makes alluring assassin Fiona Volpe so memorable.
Brilliantly played by Italian actress Luciana Paluzzi, Volpe is working with Spectre agent Emilio Largo (Adolfo Celi) to steal a nuclear warhead and hold the world to ransom. Recognising the threat that Bond poses, Volpe seduces him and aims to later have him killed, but not before popping his sense of macho pride like a balloon. Volpe really was a character decades ahead of her time.
4. Helga Brandt – You Only Live Twice (1965)
German actress Karin Dor plays Spectre operative Helga Brandt in Connery's fifth Bond movie, the last one he made before returning in 1971 with Diamonds Are Forever. (The later Never Say Never Again, released in 1983, wasn't affiliated with Bond production company Eon.)
In truth, Brandt is something of a token character, seducing Bond and later attempting to kill him in a ridiculous manner: pinning him into a prop plane and sending him to his death. Needless to say, it doesn't work, and Brandt feels the anger of her employer Blofeld (Donald Pleasence). She's dropped into a piranha tank in one of the nastier Bond villain demises.
5. Tee Hee – Live and Let Die (1973)
James Bond entered the Blaxploitation era in Live and Let Die, in which Roger Moore made his 007 debut. Much of the story revolves around drug-running operations in Harlem and America's Deep South, a clear sign of how the franchise was running to catch up with rapidly evolving cultural trends.
Yaphet Kotto is the understated main baddie, Kananga, but even more memorable is Julius Harris as the hook-handed Tee Hee. It's always entertaining to see a henchmen who enjoys what he does, and Tee Hee sports a perpetual grin as if relishing the sporting aspect of Moore's Bond. That deadly hook almost finishes Bond off in the climactic train fight, but 007 gains the upper hand, leading to a classic Moore quip that initiates a new, more lighthearted iteration of the franchise.
6. Chang – Moonraker (1979)
Here's another henchman who isn't too memorable on his own terms, but who meets a memorable demise. Moonraker is one of the silliest Bond movies, sending 007 into space for the first (and, we hope, last) time on a mission to defeat Hugo Drax (Michael Lonsdale).
No self-respecting megalomaniac would be complete without a largely silent, yet threatening, lackey. And Toshiro Suga milks those thousand-yard stares for all their worth, even coming close to killing Bond in a centrifuge trainer. Not many Bond baddies can claim that, and he eventually meets his comeuppance face down in a piano in Venice. The glass-shattering fight that precedes his death is a memorably destructive moment.
7. Locque – For Your Eyes Only (1981)
What is it with Bond henchmen and their inability to speak? It certainly increases the sense of menace, and For Your Eyes Only's Locque, played by Michael Gothard, is one of the nastiest of the bunch.
The movie was intended to bring Roger Moore's 007 back down to Earth after the excesses of Moonraker. And Locque's low-key sense of threat establishes the tone, ruthlessly murdering several of Bond's allies before meeting a memorable death. The moment where Moore's Bond atypically kicks him off a cliff to his doom is a powerful one, albeit a scene that Moore was reluctant to partake in.
8. Dario – Licence to Kill (1989)
The most violent Bond film of them all also sports the most sadistic henchman. In one of his earliest roles, Benicio Del Toro chills the blood as the creepy Dario, the boyish yet unhinged cohort of deadly crime boss Sanchez (Robert Davi).
Dario fits in nicely with the philosophy established in the Timothy Dalton Bond era: gritty, grounded and decidedly absent of gadgets. Having murdered the wife of 007's best friend Felix Leiter (David Hedison), Dario is asking for a gruesome send-off. And he gets it in possibly the most horrific scene of any Bond film: fed feet-first into a cocaine grinder. That's got to hurt.
9. Dr. Kaufman – Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)
The late Vincent Schiavelli steals the entirety of Pierce Brosnan movie Tomorrow Never Dies with just one scene. Sporting a ludicrous German accent and composed body language, Schiavelli plays Dr. Kaufman, an "outstanding pistol marksman" who has just killed 007's former lover Paris Carver (Teri Hatcher).
The character delights in boasting about his superior execution abilities, clearly acknowledging Bond's skills in that field. However, in one of Brosnan's most memorably ruthless moments, he gains the upper-hand on Kaufman and shoots him in the head with his own gun. "I'm just a professional doing a job," Kaufman protests. "Me too," is the ice-cold reply. Bang.
10. Obanno – Casino Royale (2006)
Daniel Craig erupted onto the screen in Casino Royale and immediately announced a more tenacious, emotionally plausible portrayal of 007. Following the idiocy of the final Pierce Brosnan movie Die Another Day, audiences were hungry for a Bond actor who could portray Ian Fleming's spy as a human being, one racked with physical and emotional bruises.
There's no denying that Bond gets wrecked during the pivotal machete/staircase fight with terrorist Obanno (Isaach de Bankole). The villain gives as good as he gets, and his eventual death isn't presented for heroic purposes. Instead, it traumatises Vesper Lynd (Eva Green), whose emotional vulnerabilities register potently with 007.
11. Patrice – Skyfall (2012)
Ola Rapace doesn't have much screentime as Skyfall villain Patrice, but he's one of the few Bond characters who has managed to shoot 007. (Thunderball's Fiona Volpe is another, albeit accidentally.)
In pursuit of Patrice during the opening train sequence, Bond takes a bullet from a specialised weapon, that he later extracts and uses to hunt down his quarry. The moment where the two characters confront each other for the final time is lusciously filmed by Sam Mendes and cinematographer Roger Deakins, all glass and neon in what is certainly the most stylish fight scene in the series.