2012 marks the 50th anniversary of the James Bond film series. The film series has been so influential over the years – from the gadgets to the girls – but for a character who is licensed to kill, Bond has proven himself to be a bit boring when performing his duty for Queen and country.
Most characters die from a gunshot to an important body part, an unfortunate but well-timed fall or something to do with fire, but there are some rare gems in the 23-film series that breathe imagination and occasional humour into a climactic scene – making these moments just as memorable as the latest invention from Q Branch. So, in no particular order, here are the ones that stand out…
#1 Jill Masterson (Shirley Eaton) – Goldfinger (1964)
I can’t do a feature like this without including Ms. Masterson, the first Bond Girl to die at the hands of the bad guy. Considered a quintessential film in the Bond series, one of the main things that stands out about Goldfinger is the iconic sight of Eaton lying dead on Bond’s hotel bed, painted head-to-toe in gold – contributing to the ‘Midas touch’ of the film villain’s Auric Goldfinger (Gert Fröbe). Even though she was on screen for less than 15 minutes, Eaton became a renowned Bond girl and the classic scene led to an urban myth that she actually died during filming of ‘skin suffocation,’ until she appeared a 2003 episode of Mythbusters proved that this was not the case.
#2 Dr Kananga/Mr Big (Yaphet Kotto) – Live and Let Die (1973)
It is easy to say that Live and Let Die is beyond creepy, in Bond-film standards. Along with voodoo rituals, poisonous snakes and the almost chilling credit sequence, the film sticks in my mind for all the wrong reasons. However, there is one thing that sticks out is the imaginative death of its villain. Even though it is almost unnecessary (I mean, he is in a shark pool – Bond could have left him there to be devoured), Kananga meets his end from being force-inflated by a compressed gas capsule and die from an almost comical, but more importantly gore-free, explosion.
#3 Boris Grishenko (Alan Cumming) – Goldeneye (1995)
Now, Boris comes across as a smarmy nerd, but this doesn’t excuse him being an almost egotistical douche. Secretly betraying colleague Natalya Simonova (Izabella Scorupco) to crime syndicate Janus, being a bad guy allows him to show off his genius hacker skills and wear Hawaiian shirts. Ultimately, his big-headedness in surviving a huge satellite crash (“Yes! I’m invincible!!”) just leads him to be completely drenched in liquid nitrogen, freezing him to death.
#4 Mr Wint (Bruce Glover) – Diamonds Are Forever (1974)
If I am being honest, would-be assassins Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd are just plain weird. Their little quips to each other and and the mutual joy they have in their work seem to combine business with…um, pleasure. What really got me was the camp nature of Mr Wint’s timely demise, as Bond ties Wint’s hands and a bomb using his coat-tails before throwing him over the side of a cruise liner. Together with Wint’s somersault overboard, it is up there as the most sissiest death of the Bond series.
#5 Sandor (Milton Reid) – The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)
Sandor the henchman is not the most memorable of henchman – he is short, bald and says less than five words in his short appearance in The Spy Who Loved Me. However, he stands out for the predictability, not to mention the almost simplicity, of his fate. He is already dangling on a rooftop edge by the soles of his feet and is hanging onto James Bond’s tie, the man he just tried to kill. So, when Bond demands where the contact Fekkesh is, Sandor immediately obliges (“Pyramids!”). His reward? Bond immediately flings his tie away, leading the henchman to fall to his death.
#6 Kronsteen (Vladek Sheybal) – From Russia With Love (1963)
SPECTRE’s expert planner Kronsteen can play a mean game of chess but even his strategic mind was not enough to beat Bond in getting their hands on a Lektor machine. For the failure in retrieving the machine, Number 1 (who it is later revealed in the series as Ernst Blofeld) orders his henchman to kill Rosa Klebb, who was responsible in charge of the mission. Using an infamous poisoned spike in the toe of his shoe, the henchman actually stabs Kronsteen, making him the first subordinate in the film series to be actually killed by the film’s villain.
#7 Gustav Graves (Toby Stephens) – Die Another Day (2002)
Die Another Day was not the big film fans it hoped it would be. For a landmark film in the series – the 20th official Bond film – it seemed to be ridiculed for the excessive special effects. The reason why Graves is in this list is not because of his spectacular efforts in being an Asian-Caucasian, but his predictable death – where his parachute is inflated and he gets sucked into a plane engine – spectacularly highlights Edna Mode’s infamous “no capes!” rule from Pixar’s The Incredibles…and the importance of no monologuing.
#8 Stavros Blofeld (Robert Hollis) – For Your Eyes Only (1981)
For Your Eyes Only starts off on a sombre start, with Bond – played by Roger Moore – paying tribute to his late wife Tracy. This mournful tone abruptly changes as a wheelchair-bond bad guy (implied to be Blofield) takes control of the helicopter carrying Bond. Like bad villains, he plays with his prey a little longer than normal, which is enough time for 007 to take control of the chopper, capture Blofeld and fly him around at is mercy. Blofeld’s reoccurring role as a villain for 17 years – starting from 1963’s From Russia With Love – comes to an end when Bond complies to his final wish, “Put me down!” – right down an industrial chimney stack. Clarification had never meant so much.
#9 Alec Trevelyan (Sean Bean) – Goldeneye (1995)
I feel kinda bad for Sean Bean. After two years of being the good guy in the Sharpe television films on ITV, he made his name in Hollywood as a villain who always meets an unfortunate fate. After his appearance in The Patriot Games (1992), he was cast in Goldeneye as former MI6 agent Alec Trevelyan. He and Bond have a climatic fight on the the antenna platform of a huge satellite dish and as soon as Bond has the upper hand, he drops Trevelyan, who ends up falling – head-first – several hundred feet into an empty lake bank. The cherry on the cake is when the satellite in question explodes and Trevelyan, miraculously still alive but powerless to move, is crushed by the falling debris.
#10 Milton Krest (Anthony Zerbe)- Licence to Kill (1989)
Licence to Kill is more grown-up to its predecessors, featuring a bit more than PG-rated language. There are sharks, as well as subordinates either being fed in a pulveriser or being impaled by a forklift, but Krest’s demise stood out a mile. Being framed by Bond, who had planted millions of dollars in a hyperbaric chamber, main villain Franz Sanchez (Robert Davi) decides to kill him by putting him inside and rapidly decompressing it with an axe. The result is an inflated Krest, who explodes in an exaggerated yet gruesome way over a huge pile of money.
Artwork by Fimbis.