Thursday, April 16, 2015

Thunderball (1965) | Villains

Blofeld is back in Thunderball, again played by Anthony Dawson's (Professor Dent from Dr. No) hands and Eric Pohlmann's voice. He's more effective here though than he was in From Russia With Love where he was closer to the planning of the caper. In Thuderball, he's able to remain in the shadows and leave the success or failure of the plot to the movie's real villain, Emilio Largo.

Italian actor Adolfo Celi plays Largo, but like so many early Bond villains, his voice was dubbed. The voice actor was Robert Rietty, who would go on to voice Blofeld in For Your Eyes Only and also have a bit part in the Thunderball remake, Never Say Never Again. Celi is a memorable villain, thanks in large part to his eyepatch, but he also has some of that calm aloofness that I admired so much in Auric Goldfinger. He's more suave than Goldfinger though, so his emotional detachment feels like an affectation. A very polished affectation, but disingenuous nonetheless.

Some of that also has to do with his big weakness and the reason he fails in his mission. He's too attached to Domino. That was also true in the novel, so it's not like the movie is dumbing Largo down. He's actually a very smart bad guy, but he does occasionally let his passions get the better of him and needs to be reined in. Someone should have told him that keeping Domino around after having her brother murdered was a bad idea. She's the hole in his armor and the whole plan would have succeeded if not for her.

I hate calling Fiona Volpe a henchman, because she's actually smarter than Largo. When Largo wants to have Bond killed, it's Fiona who advises him against it, knowing that Bond's death will let MI6 know for sure that Bond was on the right track. But she takes her orders from Largo and fits the henchman definition in every way, so that's how I'm going to classify her.

She really makes no mistakes though, except for maybe wearing her SPECTRE ring in public, but that doesn't lead to any serious defeat. Bond knows she's a bad guy, but she still captures him and it's only through his own awesome resourcefulness that he gets away and she ends up dead. She makes Bond look better because she's also so good at her job.

There are a couple of other henchmen that need mentioning even though they don't do much and I don't like them. Count Lippe is a fool and turns Bond onto the whole caper by needlessly trying to murder Bond at Shrublands. Yeah, Bond saw his tong tattoo, but that needn't have led Bond to SPECTRE.

Vargas has the ingredients for an interesting villain with his cold ruthlessness and lack of vice, but the movie doesn't do anything with him except let him be killed really easily (though wonderfully and memorably). He's a wasted character and barely qualifies as a henchman. More of a glorified thug.

Top Ten Villains

1. Auric Goldfinger (Goldfinger)
2. Ernst Stavro Blofeld (From Russia With Love and Thunderball)
3. Doctor No (Dr. No)
4. Emilio Largo (Thunderball)
5. Rosa Klebb (From Russia With Love)
6. Kronsteen (From Russia With Love)
7. TBD
8. TBD
9. TBD
10. TBD

Top Ten Henchmen

1. Fiona Volpe (Thunderball)
2. Grant (From Russia With Love)
3. Oddjob (Goldfinger)
4. Miss Taro (Dr. No)
5. Professor Dent (Dr. No)
6. Morzeny (From Russia With Love)
7. Vargas (Thunderball)
8. Count Lippe (Thunderball)
9. TBD
10. TBD

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