Saturday, May 09, 2015

On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969) | Villains

Telly Savalas gets grief from some for being too American a Blofeld, but I love him, especially considering his competition. No actor is ever going to rival the mystery and sophisticated grandeur of the original Blofeld in From Russia With Love and Thunderball, but keeping Blofeld that way isn't a viable option. In order to be a good villain, he's eventually got to be confronted and defeated.

The challenge is having him still be a threat once he emerges from the shadows. One of the biggest problems with You Only Live Twice is that Blofeld is so laughably pitiful in it. On Her Majesty's Secret Service fixes that by making him a brute. He's no longer silky and exotic, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. After his defeat in Japan, Blofeld has reinvented himself and all for the better.

This was an intentional choice, too. Unlike Donald Pleasance, Savalas was the first choice to play Blofeld. At least, I couldn't find any evidence that there was any controversy surrounding his casting. The filmmakers knew what they were getting. It's what they wanted. And after a quick introduction with Savalas in the beige Nehru jacket with the white cat (to help the most casual viewers remember which character he is), he takes over the role and makes it his own thing. His Blofeld may not be traditional, but he is oh so cool.

His evil scheme, on the other hand, is horribly dull. And he's still not that smart a bad guy. Blofeld's always come closest to victory when he's had people like Kronsteen and Largo running the show for him. You Only Live Twice proved him to be incompetent at hands-on villainy. He's a zillion times better in OHMSS, but he still makes a ridiculous mistake after bringing an avalanche down on Bond and Tracy. Blofeld sees that Tracy is still alive and has his men dig her out of the snow. But then he just assumes that Bond is dead? He doesn't even check? That's where Blofeld loses right there. You can give him better swagger, but he's a Big Picture mastermind and still dumb about the details.

Outside of various security people, there's really only one henchman in OHMSS and that's Irma Bunt, played perfectly by Ilse Steppat. She's the character in the novel exactly. She doesn't have a lot to do except chaperone Blofeld's patients and kill Tracy, but she's still extremely memorable even just as a presence.

Top Ten Villains

1. Auric Goldfinger (Goldfinger)
2. Ernst Stavro Blofeld (From Russia With Love and Thunderball)
3. Ernst Stavro Blofeld (On Her Majesty's Secret Service)
4. Doctor No (Dr. No)
5. Emilio Largo (Thunderball)
6. Rosa Klebb (From Russia With Love)
7. Kronsteen (From Russia With Love)
8. Ernst Stavro Blofeld (You Only Live Twice)
9. TBD
10. TBD

Top Ten Henchmen

1. Fiona Volpe (Thunderball)
2. Grant (From Russia With Love)
3. Oddjob (Goldfinger)
4. Irma Bunt (On Her Majesty's Secret Service)
5. Miss Taro (Dr. No)
6. Professor Dent (Dr. No)
7. Morzeny (From Russia With Love)
8. Hans (You Only Live Twice)
9. Helga Brandt (You Only Live Twice)
10. Vargas (Thunderball)

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