Villain Deathmatch - it's a Death-Off!

We have finalists; but then we also have losers.

Let’s cut away society’s dead flesh. Third place Death-Off ensues…

First there was the dream, now there is reality. That reality, Hugo, is that you lost. Take a giant leap. Oooooh. Such good sport.

As for you Mr Grant, you’re the one on your knees. How does it feel, old man? And Ms Klebb, you’re very fortunate to have been chosen for such a simple, delightful duty. In which you failed.

Still, opportunity remains to come third, which no-one remembers. Might be interesting, though, given the marked deviation in styles here: manipulative political brutality vs. louche dilettante quippery.

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  • Hugo Drax
  • Klebb & Grant

0 voters


As great as Lansdale’s Drax is… Shaw’s Grant is terrifying in the claustrophobic coffin of that train compartment. It’s the one scene that remains the only time That I’ve ever feared that Bond may not survive.

Brossa vs Bean was an equally well matched dual, but, I’m afraid, Connery>Brossa and Shaw>Bean. Shaw and Connery are giants of screen presence somehow squeezed into a tiny compartment barely roomy enough for one of them.

It’s fireworks before the fighting starts with Shaw’s psycho hatred as palpable as Connery’s leaking anxiety at the fix he’s got himself in. The fight itself never feels staged, or choreographed, but authentically like two men trying desperately to kill one another. Every time I watch that scene it’s edge of the seat stuff.

With barely any screen time Shaw set a standard for Bond villain menace and threat that’s yet to be equalled.


Grant is more of a henchman to me. Regarding him as a villain is stepping him way up in class. His ambitions are those of a minion.

As for Klebb: I adore Lotte Lenya, but the way the film uses lesbianism as an indicator of villainy is foul.

Another reason why Grant screams “henchman” for me.


Who is the ‘villain’ of FRWL?

Have always considered them the two halves of the one - brain and brawn - otherwise rolled into one character with other villains - and although this is all very unscientific, I would wager Grant has as much if not more screen time than Klebb, and similarly as much if not more screen time than a number of “Major” villains. Appreciating that might not be the defining characteristic of a main villain vs a henchman but, then, the actual plan is Kronsteen’s anyway. I suspect few see Kronsteen as the villain though; might be wrong.

I may be making that up. But it’s all made up, anyway.


Blofeld, of course.

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By the logic of ‘who’s in charge of who’, then Largo is a henchman in TB.

And by MrKiddWint’s logic of screen time equalling villain/henchman status, then Blofeld’s more of a henchman than Grant in FRWL.

It’s a more complex scenario than many Bond movies (and many Bond novels) which doesn’t conform to over simplified criteria. Probably why it stands up as a thriller far better than most.

Absolutely, it’s not about screen time!

On one hand Klebb is the villain since she pulls most of the plot’s strings, orchestrating Kronsteen’s plan at the behest of Blofeld. Grant is indeed her henchman.

But usually at some point in the story the ‘villain’ has a war of words with Bond, a face to face ‘I’m the Big Bad’ scene. In FRWL that’s Grant’s scene! He’s the one that has the cerebral interaction with Bond, over dinner, whereas Klebb’s only interaction is a last minute kick around.

Where the Grand/Bond scenes play on a higher level than most is that Bond’s great foe is not the prime orchestrator, nor simply ‘the muscle’, but instead a superior henchman. That’s exactly what Bond is - M’s superior henchman. It’s perfectly matched.

Also, a bond film’s prime villain is his main adversary that presents the most antagonistic relationship with the hero. Klebb’s most antagonistic relationship in the story is with Tatiana. For Bond it’s Grant. My original point was the power and threat posed by Shaw is the best in the franchise; in those two scenes he’s the canon’s greatest antagonist. To achieve this with such little screen time is very admirable and in the main due to both actor’s towering presence.

I’ve actually forgotten about Kronsteen. I’m getting old.

FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE shakes up the usual recipe, that‘s why it’s at times difficult to nail down the roles. The book is downright crowded with villains, starting with Grant and showing a whole hierarchy reaching up to Klebb, General G, Beria and Stalin himself. I believe the only two innocent Soviet characters - relatively speaking - are the girl the chekists hired to keep Grant well-massaged (and she’s wondering herself that it’s actually really just massage she’s hired for) and Tanja. And in Tanja’s case we readers/watchers even tend to forget that she believes herself to be an actual spy: she thinks it’s a little harmless conspiracy (and that’s why she was chosen for the assignment: her loss will not figure anywhere in the apparat as, well, a loss) and fabulous fun to meet this decadent but kulturny foreigner. But at the heart of it she’s working against Bond and his service.

I too would say that Klebb/Grant as a team are the villains of FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE. With Grant having the major impact.

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Thanks. These and other comments have made the situation clearer to me.

As Odd_jobbies and Dustin pointed out there’s a lot going on in From Russia With Love when it comes to the villains, and who don’t necessarily fall into the traditional Bond villain roles.

Technically Ernst Stavro Blofeld is main villain, but he never leaves his yacht or personally encounters James Bond. Kronsteen is the planner, but he never gets involved with his plot’s machinations. Donald “Red” Grant is definitely the muscle, and he seems to be a little more integral to the villains’ scheme than just being a henchman, but he is not in command–he’s just following orders. Rosa Klebb, meanwhile, is the operation leader, but, as was pointed out, she doesn’t have quite as much to do as Grant even though she’s clearly following Blofeld’s orders/Kronsteen’s plan. However, that shouldn’t necessarily preclude her from being the main villain.

But having said all that, while I understand the reason for putting Klebb and Grant as co-heads, I prefer to put Klebb as the main villain in From Russia With Love with Grant as her henchman. While the film/plot doesn’t show her in the traditional way, she still chooses Grant as her muscle and she interacts with him in their few scenes together as his superior (on SPECTRE Island and in the car after he dispatches the 2nd Bulgar agent). Also, Klebb, like Emilio Largo in Thunderball, are the lieutenants who put the big plan in operation and everything flows through them so, in my opinion, they are the main villains of their respective stories.

If the FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE villains were making a film (indeed, they are, the film of Bond and Tatiana), Blofeld would be the producer, Kronsteen the writer, and Klebb the director. When the film fails Klebb convinces Blofeld that the problem was the script rather than the casting, but the Bond and Tatiana bridal suite liasion is “a Rosa Klebb film”.


…I’d never thought of it that way, but, Yeah! FRWL is the story of film production. The actor doesn’t work out, the director blames the script rather than the casting they did, the producer fires the writer.

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And Grant is the actor.

Great points Freemo

Excellent. Don’t think much of the production’s HR department, though.

Death-Off sorted. Drax squeaks through, just.

Now it’s time for… the End.


What a lovely analogy, Freemo!

Perhaps Grant is Ray Donovan? The studio enforcer hired to ensure everyone’s where they’re supposed to be (i could’ve said 1st AD, but Ray Donovan’s more fun and Shaw would be one of the few actors able to pull of that character as well as liev schreiber).

What all this highlights for me is that the absence of a single personification of evil - with enough screen time to matter - makes FRWL a unique entry. It’s the only film that truly captures the notion that Bond’s up against an organisation. Others give it lip service, but with FRWL it’s in the telling of the story, rather than a line of dialogue, or shots of minions at work behind the Big Bad. And it’s all the more complex with the ruse that Klebb is representing one Big Bad organisation posing as another Big Bad organisation. It demands a lot from the audience - an approach that seems to have been abandoned after GFs far simpler approach was a big hit.

The only other entries that i can think of which attempt to present such complexity are TLD, SP and QoS. None of them were well received by the general audience, if i recall correctly. And were followed up with far more archetypal Bond villains; a clear Big Bad!

The failure of TLD, SP and QoS were that an attempt at complexity - a mystery, or things not being what they seem was that instead of complex, it was complicated. Instead of placing those foes Bond deals with in a wider context of villainy and conspiracy, these complications muddied and diminished. Instead of empowering these characters they belittled them.

Instead of the truth revealing two villains in TLD, the poor writing and half hearted attempt at mystery without adequate foreshadowing made the final reveal of Whitaker a bit ‘whatever!

Oberhauser had of wonderful foreshadowing, yet the complication of the family aspect certainly didn’t please everyone. It pinned the audience satisfaction on a climactic, Vaderish, “I’m your brother, Bond" moment!” which didn’t quite cut the mustard in paying off all that wonderful build up. Was that due to the writing, directing, the performances, the edit, or simply betting on a horse that was always going to fall at the last hurdle?

…I guess the reveal needed more drama - after all, Luke loses a hand and falls to his death, if not for a passing Falcon. Personally i think all involved did a fine job, but it was just a horse fated to not finish (if only SP had finished in the desert - but that’s another rant). I think however they did that story the whole notion is too tricksy, too contrived, too retro-fitted, even for a Bond movie. I digress…

Like FRWL, QoS has a great sense of the vast organisation behind Green (and Le Chiffre), but failed in its portrayal of their lieutenant. Green was no Klebb and Elvis was noooo Grant! But it was a decent stab at emulating the great mechanism at work which Bond must face alone, the sole rep of the great mechanism of the British Secret Service. If not for the writer’s strike and with better casting Elvis may have been another Grant and Green another Klebb.

FRWL remains the only complex Bond movie in which everything works. It’s a stunning movie with a host of stunning villains of which Klebb and Grant really shine as the double act of nightmares.

Edit… when i started writing this meandering eulogy of Bond 2 the winner was undecided. Now i see Drax has deservedly KO’d K&G… fair enough, my thesis is now an epitaph.


I don’t have a problem with the Elvis casting. If you look at character photos, Anatole Taubman looks suitably creepy in that hairstyle. He had henchman potential. (I remember thinking when I first saw him that he looked interesting and could be a badass. I felt the same after seeing him in the Liam Neeson film Taken before Quantum Of Solace came out. But, alas, my hopes crashed and burned.) The problem with Elvis is the writing of the character himself. He’s just so inept, so much a joke (without the laughs), so much of a nothing character, that it negatively impacts the film.

If you look at Casino Royale, Le Chiffre’s top henchman is Kratt. He doesn’t do much in his film either. His big moment is whipping out the switchblade, twirling it, and cutting out the seat of the chair to place Bond for his torture. But he at least looks like he could do something. They don’t undermine him with complete ineptitude–something that should never happen to a main henchman in a Bond film.


Even the name… Elvis… I mean… really???:man_dancing:t2:

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