Tuesday, November 20, 2012

I Have A Hench About Them: Ten Worst Bond Henchmen

Well, while we've had some great Bond Henchmen, some of whom are remembered more than the Bond Villains, we've also had some simply awful sidekicks.  The Bond Henchman is not an easy job: you are expected to be colorful, dangerous, and eternally loyal to your Villain even if it flies against logic and your own interest. 

Sometimes, however, a peculiar quark or unique characteristic does not automatically insure greatness.  In fact, if exagerrated too much, those qualities make a Henchman look silly.  Some Bond Henchmen are more memorable than their employers.  Sometimes Bond Henchmen are so ineffective one wonders why they were hired in the first place.  And sometimes they are memorable, but for all the wrong reasons.

With that, I offer the Ten Worst Bond Henchmen.

10.) Gobinda (Octopussy)

I'm taking a guess that Gobinda, loyal aide to Prince Kamal Khan, is Sikh based on his turban and beard.  Maybe it's the Westerner in me, but I don't consider being a Sikh a unique quirk in any manner, let alone for a henchmen.  I like Octopussy, but what makes Gobinda a poor Bond Henchman is that he echoes a little routine that Oddjob pulled off better in Goldfinger (if you watch both you'll know what I am referring to) and he violates an Unwritten Rule of Bond Henchmen: He Questions Orders.

At the climax of Octopussy, Bond is on top of Kamal's plane and causing havoc.  Kamal Khan, frustrated that he can't make a clean getaway, orders Gobinda to get Bond (which means going out of an airplane in flight).  Gobinda then asks, "Out THERE?"  Kamal gives him a look of almost genuine shock (as if asking, 'you're questioning me?') and signals that he means yes.  Gobinda then meekly says, "Yes, Sire," and goes out.   And you call yourself a responsible Henchman...

09.) Zao (Die Another Day) *

Zao is a disastrous idea for a Bond Henchman.  It's the idea that if you give the muscle/killer a distinct or weird trademark you've got a good character.  In the case of Zao, it's a bad idea because having a face full of diamonds doesn't mean you'll actually do anything particularly special or interesting.  The Bond Henchmen who had oddities or quirks actually used them (Jaws' teeth, Tee Hee's claw), but having a face scarred with diamonds?  Boring.

Not only that, but for a Henchman he proved pretty inept, even wimpy.  He was going through bizarre plastic surgery that would have turned our North Korean into a Caucasian. There is nothing that recommends Zao to be worth our time, or a threat to Bond at all.

08.) Nick Nack (The Man With the Golden Gun)

It's not necessarily Nick Nack's height that puts him at the Bottom of Bond Henchmen (although, to be frank, being disposed of by being put in a suitcase doesn't exactly bolster a case for him being ranked among the Greats).  Nick Nack's problem is that HE is getting more fun out of the situations than anyone else.  You simply CANNOT have your Henchman wear a bowler hat and not expect better things. 

Nick Nack's main role in The Man With the Golden Gun is to put the titled character through the paces as he dispatches people in his lair.  When he is actually called to take action (as when Nick Nack tries to kill Bond himself) it all comes off as farce, more for laughs than anything else.  Besides, Nick Nack just seems like a bad idea: a gimmick to say, 'Look, we've got a unique Henchman.  He may not be a good killer, he may not be a supergenius...he's just short and manages to scare incredibly stupid women'.

07.) Whisper (Live and Let Die) **

What IS the only thing recommending Whisper as a Henchman?  It isn't his smarts, because he fails to kill Bond with a snake.  It isn't his loyalty (or smarts) because Kananga doesn't shrink from both threatening him and making him an object of ridicule by shooting at an inflatable chair Whisper's sitting on, causing him to be thrown off.

No, the only thing Whisper has is the fact that he is barely audible, and that isn't a great trait or something that will cause menace or danger.  Whisper, intentionally or not (I suspect it's the former) is a joke that no one, not even his employer, takes seriously.  What can you say in favor of a Henchman who is so soft-voiced that when he calls "Look out!" no one would possibly be able to hear his alarm?

06.) Mr. Kidd and Mr. Wint (Diamonds Are Forever) ***

I imagine that in the past, people could get away with far more than they can now in terms of stereotypes.  Mr. Kidd and Mr. Wint (or Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd if you like) were so silly no one could take them seriously (even if they were quite effective as actual killers).  It seems like Mr. Kidd and Mr. Wint (or vice-versa) were more on the comical side of things, with the fact that they were excessively courtly and polite towards each other.  They also would address each other as "Mr. Kidd" and "Mr. Wint" in what was suppose to be dry humor but which came off as idiotic.

The fact that you couldn't take them seriously with their exagerratedly formal manner of addressing each other (let alone others) was bad enough.  What really killed them off was the fact that it is strongly suggested that Mr. Kidd and Mr. Wint are homosexual lovers.  One, I imagine, would have found homophobia rather hilarious in the 1970s, but it doesn't make any sense and just looks vulgar now.  We see them walk away from killing people holding hands, and one expresses irritation when the other suggests a woman is attractive.  However, if they were having sex, why would they bother addressing each other by their surnames?  Their demise smacks of farce, bringing down two of the worst characters in the franchise, let alone Bond Henchmen. 

05.) Renard (The World is Not Enough) ****

You know what's bad about Renard?  Everything.  Simply everything.  We're told he has one of those distinctly Bondian Henchman quirks: he is impervious to pain due to a bullet being lodged in his brain.  This said bullet will also eventually kill him.  However, neither his inability to feel harm (though not necessarily his inability to BE harmed, two different things I'd argue) nor the fact that he's living on borrowed time is important in the great scheme of the movie.

Robert Carlyle is a great actor and has proven it again and again, from the comedy The Full Monty to the drama Priest to the series Once Upon a Time, but The World is Not Enough was clearly a Bartha role fo him.  What to make of a performance where you look at the Henchman and think...is this guy serious?  Who cares if he doesn't feel pain...it's irrelevant to the story.  Who cares if he's going to die...ditto.  Who cares what his issues are...ditto squared.

04.) Stamper (Tomorrow Never Dies)

Oh, I'm so scared of this goofy German.  This big Teutonic baddie that never does anything apart from killing unarmed sailors and who manages to make his employer look even more stupid. What makes Stamper simply dreadful is that he is totally irrelevant to the film. 

Think about it: when a major assassin is close to killing Bond, it isn't Stamper; it's Vincent Schiavelli's Dr. Kaufman.  Even worse, said bad doctor is a joke from beginning to end, as if Tomorrow Never Dies suddenly stopped in the middle of mourning a Secondary Bond Girl to slip into a spoof of bad henchmen.  Now, if it had been Stamper, he might have gone up a bit.  However, given how he just seemed to be there because every Bond Villain needs a Henchman, and a Germanic one seemed to be menacing enough for our little trifle, Stamper is a waste from first appearance to last.

03.) Chang (Moonraker)

How bad of a Henchman do you have if people fail to realize that not only are you suppose to be a Henchman, but are actually IN the film?  Pretty bad, and that's the case with Chang.  Just as Nick Nack was a poor imitation of Oddjob, so Chang proved to be an even poorer imitation.  Being a silent Asian does not make you menacing in and of itself. 

Chang's biggest problem is that he really didn't do anything: he could have been a master swordsman, he could have been a silent killer, but instead, his only accomplishment was that he appeared to be the only one who take Drax seriously.  When he finally comes face to face in a confrontation with Bond, Chang RUNS AWAY!  No wonder that after he was killed off, Drax looked in the Help Wanted ads to find another Henchman...one with real teeth. 

Chang had dominated the Number One spot for the longest of time, but wouldn't you know it, I found two even worse.

02.) Bull (The World Is Not Enough) ****

Who the hell IS this guy?  Where did he come from?  Mr. Bullion (or Bull) was suppose to be working for Bond's quasi-ally Zukovsky, but just as soon as we see him, he suddenly shifts sides to work for...well, we're not exactly sure for whom he works for, but then again, I imagine Bull himself doesn't know.

Just as quickly as he appears, he's killed off, and we certainly won't miss him.  There is no point to The Bull (or Bull, or whatever you want to call him), and the name is just too tempting to not serve as a description of both the character and the film...

So now, the Worst Bond Henchman of All Time Is...

01.) Elvis (Quantum of Solace)

Here's a question: does anybody remember the VILLAIN in Quantum of Solace, let alone the Henchman?  Here's another question: does it look like Elvis just left the monastery rather than the building?   Like other bad Henchmen,  he serves no purpose (even in something as abysmal as QOS).

Elvis (already the name sinks him) is suppose to be helping the Villain with his dastardly plan, which from what I understood was to steal Bolivia's water.  However, what exactly did Elvis do?  Did he kill anyone?  I don't think so.  Did he take on Bond personally?  Not to my memory.  Did he have a particular quirk or skill (apart from really silly hair bordering on DaVinci Code's Tom Hanks)?  No.  He was just there, doing nothing, adding nothing, and looking silly in the process. 

Well, now with that out of the way, let's move on to our Henchmen's employers.  Our next series will look at the Ten Best and Ten Worst Bond Villains.

James Bond (Lists) Will Return...

*  Due to the confused nature of Die Another Day, I found it difficult to distinguish whether Zao or Miranda Frost was the actual Bond Henchman.  However, given that Zao was the one more often than not at Graves' side and the one who appeared to do most of his Master's bidding, I opted for Zao being the more dominant Bond Henchman here, though Frost did make my list.

**  Whisper was one of three Henchmen in Live and Let Die.  The other two were Tee Hee and Baron Samedi.  I've always felt that Baron Samedi was more for atmosphere, and Tee Hee actually did pose a threat to Bond.  Whisper's only selling point was that he was barely audible, and his shocking ineptness didn't appear to affect his employment, which is another reason to discount him.

*** It's a point of debate whether the two female assassins/Willard Whyte bodyguards Bambi and Thumper were actual Bond Henchmen.  I would argue that they don't count because they were only in ONE scene and they didn't have much screen-time (I put it at five to eight minutes at the most), disappearing before their scene was even over.  Given that, and the fact that Mr. Kidd and Mr. Wint were the primary assassins in Diamonds Are Forever, they get the 'honor' of being this film's henchmen.

**** The World is Not Enough is even more confused than Die Another Day (and that's saying quite a lot).  It is never established whether Renard worked for Elektra King or vice-versa.  Therefore, the listing of Renard as the Bond Henchman is a point of legitimate debate.  However, since he does try to kill Bond at the end, he gets the title of Henchman.  Bull, who appears out of nowhere, appears to work for BOTH of them, so that puts him as a Bond Henchman as well.

1 comment:

  1. I'd never considered Bull a henchman; he's more of a flunky. He's just a guy with a specific task, once it's done, so is he. As with Bambi and Thumper, he doesn't have enough screen time to qualify for hencher duties, and he certainly lacks the menace, devotion, etc. that a henchman needs to demonstrate.


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