OK, so Ernst Blofeld, head of SPECTRE, pretty much has the voting tied up for best Bond baddie. The dude was running a secret global villain organization, he has the scar on his eye, and he’s got the whole cat-petting-style of villainy down that’s been parodied everywhere. The character also appears in more movies than any other Bond villain (albeit played by different actors). This is why Dr. Evil was based on him, and not, say, Dr. No.
So hands down, Blofeld is the best Bond villain.
But… who’s number two?
Usually it comes down to two main villains: Auric Goldfinger from his self-titled movie Goldfinger and Emilio Largo from Thunderball. It’s the big bad laser vs. SPECTRE’s Number Two in the battle of Bond’s Number Two Baddie! So let’s take a look, blow by blow, starting with:
1.) The Catchphrase
Despite being a stone-cold customer, I don’t remember anything Largo had to say. I looked it up on IMDB, and the best I could come up with was, “You know much about guns, Mr. Bond?” That’s more classic for Bond’s comeback, which was, “No, but I know a little about women.” Badum-tsh!
That doesn’t matter, because nobody … NOBODY … is beating Auric Goldfinger with the definitive villain catchphrase: “No Mr. Bond, I expect you to DIE.” There may be a hundred more Bond movies made from here on out, but that phrase will never be topped.
2.) The Henchmen/Henchwomen
A truly great villain is defined by the effectiveness of his support staff. I imagine that’s on an inspirational poster somewhere in SPECTRE HQ.
Largo’s henchmen are mostly indistinguishable thugs, with the exception of one Fiona Volpe, a female assassin with a motorcycle equipped with missile launches. Pretty awesome, and she looked good in the motorcycle gear. Her scene chasing Bond down at the parade is definitely one for the ages.
Still, like the catchphrase, there’s no contest. Auric Goldfinger has two main henches. The first is Oddjob, a mute Korean who has a spinning bowler hat of death. Alone, he’s in the running for greatest henchman of all time.
Goldfinger also has the additional advantage of having the infamously named Pussy Galore on his payroll. You know, she who started the whole “Bond girl with a filthy double entendre of a name” trend. (And yes, even in the 60’s it was dirty. Ms. Galore’s name was omitted from a trading card set aimed at kids.) No comparison. You win again, Goldfinger.
3.) The Scheme
Here’s where it gets interesting. So Goldfinger’s scheme was to irradiate Fort Knox and set off a nuclear bomb to wreak economic havoc. Blofeld’s scheme is more blunt: give me money, or we blow up some city somewhere in the world. With nuclear bombs.
Both have to do with nuclear bombs, so it’s a push as much as armaments are concerned. I’m going to gave to give the point to Goldfinger for at least having the more creative scheme. Any two bit terrorist can threaten to blow up a city with a nuke. But to try to destroy the economy by blowing up some gold, only to enrichen yourself in the process because you’re a gold hoarder? That’s an over-the-top Get Rich Quick scheme worthy of a Bond villain.
(Still, neither of these guys had the ultimate Bond villain scheme. That would be Karl Stromberg’s flood-the-world plans in The Spy Who Loved Me. He’s not in the running because … who in their right mind puts Stromberg in a list of the Best Bond Villains? Friggin’ Max Zorin would outrank him on account of being played by Christopher Walken. No proper villain should be outshadowed by their henchmen.)
4.) The Ride
This is the first one where Goldfinger’s at a disadvantage. His ride, befitting his name, is an all gold car, which he uses to smuggle gold from here to there. All things considered, that’s pretty sweet. It shows a startling commitment to his villain theme, for one. I have had many sleepless nights, by the way, trying to envision a combustion engine that wouldn’t melt the car.
But the gold limo is NOT as sweet as the Disco Volante. First of all, there’s that name, which is something I’d name my own boat… or my own nightclub. It’s also a hoverplane that comes equipped with some groovy underwater submarines that look like they came out of a Johnny Quest opening. Plus, it comes loaded to the gills with guns, a smokescreen generator, and an underwater hatch. And even if that’s not enough, it friggin’ splits in two, which comes in handy when evading Cold War era destroyers. And boy, that front portion can book.
I’d like to point out, by the way, that the closing scenes of Thunderball, where the Disco Volante is speeding out of control, beat Paul Greengrass to shaky-cam footage by decades.
Winner: Emilio Largo
5.) The Lair
This is where Largo really shines. So Goldfinger’s main HQ is … a ranch in Kentucky. OK, sure, it’s a ranch fitted with poison gas, but still… kinda lame. No supervillain should ever have to say that their HQ is in Kentucky.
Largo on the other hand, has pretty much the quintessential Bond digs. It’s in a tropical locale. It’s surrounded by girls in bikinis. And if that’s not all, I have for words for you: shark infested swimming pool. If that does not scream “Bond villain death trap,” I don’t know what does.
Well, except for a laser beam with a superspy strapped onto a table, and … dammit! Still, I’m going to severely deduct Goldfinger for the Kentucky thing. There was even a nice rustic barn with comfy bales of hay in it. A proper villain lair should not remind you of Green Acres.
Winner: Emilio Largo
6.) The Look
No offense to Gert Frobe, but to me, he always looked a little too friendly. Like, if he wasn’t the villain of the piece, he could easily be a jolly toymaker. You sorta get that sense, too, when he and Bond are just chilling outdoors in that pleasant Kentucky sun. Another sweet iced tea, Goldfinger!
The same can be said of Largo, really, except he’s got that boss eye-patch. Also he looks good in a white tuxedo. Did Goldfinger ever really wear a tux? If he did, I imagine he’d look like an opera singer.
(NOTE: I only dug up that photo above after I’d written this piece. And yes, Goldfinger looks like he should be singing Miss Sarajevo alongside U2.)
Winner: Emilio Largo
So, thus far our villains are tied for the coveted #2 spot, so it looks like I’m going to have to pull out the tie breaker:
7.) James Bond Jr. Appearances
So, for those of you who don’t know, James Bond Jr. was an 80’s animated show that featured the nephew of his uncle James, though he bears the name. A lot of villains from the Bond franchise appeared in this show … embarrassingly. Dr. No was a big Asian stereotype with green skin and robot hands. (How annoying is it that the original 60’s Dr. No was less stereotypical?) Jaws, Odd Job, and Nick Nack, were all promoted from henchman status to main villian stardom.
And, yes, even Goldfinger shows up. And he’s got a very 80’s gag-me-with-a-spoon teenage daughter named Goldie Finger.
Not, you know, Goldie Goldfinger. Wait, who was the mom? I strongly suspect is was Ms. Fortune, who shared Goldfinger’s love for money.
Anyway, it should be pointed out that Largo does not appear at all in this mess. (Though it could be argued that his boss, Blofeld, does as the shadowy
SPECTRE SCUM commander named … sigh … “Scumlord.”) So point goes to Largo for avoiding this mess, where he probably would’ve been given a cybernetic eye and a Hawaiian shirt for some reason.
Vargo would, instead, await their starring debuts in the Austin Power franchise as Number Two. While comedic, his character would be treated with a lot of respect and dignity by Robert Wagner (which is key to all the funny moments, as he’s a more competent industrialist than Dr. Evil).
Not so much the case with Goldfinger, by the way. Gold … member? Jeez, Mike Myers, been hanging around your SNL cohort Adam Sandler much?
ULTIMATE WINNER: EMILIO LARGO