As a seven-part feature, I’ll be counting down the final week to Skyfall’s release in North American theatres on Nov. 9 with seven James Bond-related articles. Day 3: The Best Henchmen/women.
Villains get all the glory. Le Chiffre, Rosa Klebb, Scaramanga, Max Zorin, Hugo Drax, Blofeld, Alec Trevelyan… They get all the credit, even though they often delegate most of the work. Their henchmen are the ones who are often in the trenches, trying to kill Bond and keep him from reaching their boss. It’s about time they got their dues.
10. NICK NACK
(The Man with the Golden Gun)
A lackey really in it for himself, Nick Nack (Hervé Villechaize) obeys his employer to the man’s face, but hires assassins to kill his boss. Scaramanga, his boss and the man of the film’s title, has an island paradise that Nick Nack plans to inherit. When Bond destroys the island as well as killing Scaramanga, Nick Nack comes for Bond himself.
9. BARON SAMEDI
(Live and Let Die)
An actual spirit of Haitian voodoo (or a loa), Baron Samedi (Geoffrey Holder) makes the cut not by serving the corrupt Dr. Kananga but by his overall creepy appearance, terrifying laugh, and that pesky habit of his to resurrect himself. Tee-Hee Johnson was also a worthy henchman of Kananga’s, but a pincer for a hand can’t bring you back to life.
8. MR. WHITE
(Quantum of Solace)
Mr. White (Jesper Christensen) was in the preceding Casino Royale, but in that film, he was pulling the strings of the main villain. In Quantum of Solace, his role as a cog in a much larger machine is revealed and his position as a character shifts. During his brief but very memorable scene in which M and 007 interrogate him, Mr. White gives the most enjoyable performance of the movie.
7. XENIA ONATOPP
As GoldenEye trumpeted James Bond’s introduction to the ‘90s, many wondered if the series’ formula had grown stale after 33 years. Xenia Onatopp (Famke Janssen) was just the change needed to make the old feel new. A vicious henchwoman who lured her prey before brutally crushing and asphyxiating them, her most terrifying trait was the sadistic pleasure she got at extinguishing the lives of anyone she could.
He was a man of few words, but Oddjob (Harold Sakata) left a loud impression. His stout stature and imposing posture were threatening, but not as much as his razor-edged bowler hat, which he could throw with deadly accuracy.
(Die Another Day)
After Bond blows up a briefcase of diamonds that Zao (Rick Yune) was closely inspecting, Zao is left with sparkling gems permanently lodged in his scarred face. An unemotional man that’s always one step ahead, he proved the most formidable henchman against Bond since the ‘80s.
(Licence to Kill)
One of the most ruthless and sadistic enemies 007 has run into, Dario (Benicio Del Toro, in his second film role) psychopathically tortures captives and enemies. After his kills Felix Leiter’s wife and brutally injures Felix, Bond goes on a rampage to hunt Dario and his boss down. Arguably the most cold-blooded of any henchman from the Bond films.
3. RED GRANT
(From Russia, with Love)
A homicidal paranoiac, Red Grant (Robert Shaw) is also a ruthless and efficient assassin who keeps a length of garrotte wire concealed in his wristwatch, for convenient strangling. Clever, brutal, and professional, he was the first truly threatening henchman in the Bond series and remains one of the best.
2. MAY DAY
(A View to a Kill)
With unusual looks, an inscrutable face, and remarkable strength, May Day (Grace Jones) was a henchwoman as fearsome as she was capable. Whether casually leaping from the Eiffel Tower or lifting a man above her head on a whim of rage, she was more than a fair match for James Bond, who she often got the better of.
(The Spy who Loved Me)
More frightful than most full-fledged villains, the man with the razor-sharp, steel teeth set a standard that has never been topped. Despite an unfortunate declawing in the subsequent Moonraker, Jaws left his indelible mark on the franchise as the most ferocious of baddies. With his towering figure, silent expressions, and unrelenting ferocity, he remains the toughest henchman 007 has ever faced.