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 4: The Best Deaths.
When telling stories of an agent with a licence to kill and megalomaniacal villains, the body count is bound to stack pretty high. (According to sources CommanderBond.net and AllOuttaBubbleGum.com, there’ve been 1,299 deaths in the first 22 official Bond movies.) Many deaths have been generic, numerous have been memorable, but the best of the best leave you shocked and a little shaken (if not stirred).
10. TOV KRONSTEEN
(From Russia, with Love)
After scheming a revenge plot against Bond and failing, Kronsteen (Vladek Sheybal) blames Rosa Klebb for his failure when reporting to Blofeld. Being a chessmaster didn’t help him see Blofeld’s next move coming, however, as Kronsteen is suddenly stabbed with a poison-tipped shoe dagger and dies upon Blofeld’s desk. The drawn-out death made for a surprising and disturbing henchman disposal.
9. PROFESSOR DENT
Until Timothy Dalton and, to a larger extent, Daniel Craig came along, many had forgotten that Bond was really a ruthless killer. From his very first movie, 007 showed he has no remorse or compunction with killing in the name of Her Majesty. When Dr. No’s geologist/henchman (Anthony Dawson) tries to shoot Bond with an emptied gun, 007 dispassionately shoots him where he sits.
8. DR. KANANGA
(Live and Let Die)
While it looks incredibly corny by today’s standards, the death of Live and Let Die’s villain, the corrupt Dr. Kananga (Yaphet Kotto), was quite shocking for its time. After Bond and Kananga tumble into the villain’s shark tank, Bond stuffs a compressed-gas shark bullet into Kananga’s mouth, with explosive results.
(Licence to Kill)
Frank Sanchez’s psychopathic lackey Dario (Benicio Del Toro) causes many brutal deaths in Licence to Kill. It’s only fitting that his death at the hands of Bond is one of the most brutal of the series. After trying to send Bond to his death in a rock crusher, Dario ends up being the one going in the grinder.
6. ELEKTRA KING
(The World is Not Enough)
Dispatching villains ruthlessly has never been a problem for Bond (see #9). Even so, you don’t expect Elektra King (Sophie Marceau), the duplicitous mastermind who used M’s motherly feelings for her to exact revenge for a childhood trauma, to be killed so swiftly. After teasing Bond that he wouldn’t kill her, 007 shoots her right in the heart.
In Goldfinger’s pre-credits sequence, Bond shocks a baddie by tossing a toaster into a bathtub, but that was just the precursor to the more spectacular electrocution of Oddjob (Harold Sakata) in the film’s final act. After futilely trying to match strength with the henchman, Connery outsmarts him by waiting for Oddjob to touch a metal gate and then electrocuting it with a loose wire. One of the most memorable henchman deaths of the series.
4. CORINNE DUFOUR
After his assistant (Corinne Clery) aids Bonds, Hugo Drax dismisses her with nary room for an excuse on her part. Mere seconds after her termination, Drax unleashes a pair of Beaucerons who proceed to chase her into the woods and attack her, in a scene almost more at home in a horror film. The haunting music and atmospheric lighting give the scene an odd beauty, despite hers being the most violent of any female in a Bond movie.
3. MILTON KREST
(Licence to Kill)
As Bond slowly exacted his revenge on Frank Sanchez and his associates, he turned Sanchez against his men one by one. Of all the violent deaths in Licence to Kill – and there are more here than in any other 007 movie – Krest’s (Anthony Zerbe) is the most memorable and twisted, illustrating a true weakness to pressure.
2. VESPER LYND
Heart-breaking not just in how painful it is to watch but in how you know she tragically has to die to turn James Bond into the heartless man he becomes, Vesper’s death is the soul of Casino Royale. When she drowns, with Bond mere feet away but unable to save her, the series comes as close to earning a tear-shedding moment as it ever has.
1. TRACY BOND
(On Her Majesty’s Secret Service)
As wrenching as Vesper’s death was, it was preceded by the same premise 37 years earlier. What’s worse, Tracy (Diana Rigg) and James had just gotten married, after the 00-agent had finally fallen in love. On their way to the airport for their honeymoon, their car is besieged in a drive-by shooting by Blofeld and Irma Blunt. Bond thinks it a close call, until he finds the body of his love lifelessly slumped in the passenger seat. The sudden and unexpected twist, coupled with the tones of the heart-wrenching Louis Armstrong song “We Have All the Time in the World,” ended the movie on the saddest note of any Bond movie and provided the most memorable death of the series.