The Connery Years: Three Villains to Reckon With, Two Second Bananas to Remember, and One Useful Bond Girl
by HELEN GEIB
Robert Shaw in From Russia with Love (1963)
With three “numbers”, a key operative, and a couple of standout minions, SPECTRE supplies an abundance of memorable villains in From Russia with Love. Even up against strong competition, Robert Shaw steals the evil show as a cold-blooded professional killer. Shaw had a dominating physical presence and inimitable voice, yet his killer was all the more menacing for not speaking a word until well past the movie’s mid-point- and not long before the train compartment fight to the death that remains one of the series’ top action scenes.
Luciana Paluzzi in Thunderball (1955)
Sexy accent, sharpshooter, stylish dresser, uses seduction as a weapon, drives a fast car- add the vodka martini and it’s a description of James Bond. SPECTRE number Fiona Volpe is 007’s match in every way except the quality of her help.
Charles Gray in Diamonds Are Forever (1971)
He’s smooth. He’s a megalomaniac. He has the best doppelgangers plastic surgery can make. His plans are grandiose. And he has the supercilious sneer down cold. Some may prefer Donald Pleasance (surely none prefer Telly Savalas!), but my pick for Best Ernst Stavro Blofeld is Charles Gray.
Pedro Armendariz in From Russia with Love (1963)
James in 20 years.
Martine Beswick in Thunderball (1965)
Felix Leiter is the principal second banana in Thunderball, yet it’s a secondary supporting character, an agent attached to 007’s Nassau mission, who I’ll remember. Despite her small part in the story Paula stands out for three reasons: She’s beautiful and young yet her relationship with Bond is strictly professional. After she’s captured by SPECTRE she doesn’t break under interrogation, and when opportunity presents she kills herself- in classic Cold War spy fashion- with a cyanide capsule in the mouth. The character could have been re-cast as a Paul with no other script change than the name, for the time and series a notably unstudied expression of gender equality.
Honor Blackman in Goldfinger (1964)
She’s an ace pilot, knows judo, has a steady gun hand, and orders minions about with cool efficiency. The offensively named but charismatically acted Pussy Galore has the series history distinction of being the first useful “Bond girl.” That she’s a match for 007 in professionalism and sex appeal may explain why she has so little screen time.