NEW YORK • Bond villains do have their similarities. They are sociopaths. They possess a deep-seated desire for world domination. And they all like to get off a good quip at James Bond's expense, preferably right before they try to kill him.
("Do you expect me to talk?" a tied-up 007 asks the ultimate Bond bad guy, Auric Goldfinger, as a laser ominously approaches. "No, Mr Bond, I expect you to die!")
But there are distinct differences, too. Evil genius, after all, comes in many flavors.
As Spectre, the 24th film in the official Bond canon, arrives in cinemas, with the Oscar-winning Christoph Waltz as Bond's nemesis, here is a rogues' gallery of villainy.
Villains with strange physical characteristics
All Bond villains have psychological issues. But in some cases, their ascension to the evildoer pantheon can be explained by their physical deformities.
In Casino Royale (2006), the left eye of Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen) leaks blood while Emilio Largo (Adolfo Celi) in Thunderball (1965) wears an eye patch for reasons not explained. Dr Julius No (Joseph Wiseman) is partial to Nehru jackets in the first Bond film and Dr No (1962) has metal appendages for hands. And a third nipple adorns the chest of Francisco Scaramanga (Christopher Lee) in The Man With The Golden Gun (1974).
Then there are the haircuts. Max Zorin (Christopher Walken), in A View To A Kill (1985), sports a platinum-blond coif, the result of a Nazi eugenics programme gone awry.
Villains with lame plans for world domination
Bond villains often try to set off World War III or some other cataclysmic catastrophe. But not all diabolical plans are created equal. Some just don't register very high on the malevolence meter.
Elliot Carver, the media baron played by Jonathan Pryce in Tomorrow Never Dies (1997), orchestrates a war to replace the Chinese government with one more receptive to his desire for exclusive broadcast rights there. In Quantum Of Solace (2008), Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric) seeks to engineer a coup in Bolivia to gain control of that country's water supply.
But the award for the most outlandish plan must go to two villains in the Roger Moore years: Karl Stromberg in The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) and Hugo Drax in Moonraker (1979). Both men seek to kill off pretty much everyone on Earth - Stromberg (Curd Jurgens) by nuclear war and Drax (Michael Lonsdale) by instantly fatal nerve gas - and then recreate civilisation with hand-chosen survivors. In The Spy Who Loved Me (1977), they would reside under the sea, with Stromberg as their ruler. Drax does him one better (at least theoretically). Members of his new super race would live in outer space (at least until the gas on Earth dissipates), and he wouldn't just be their ruler; he plans to be their God.
Villains who just don't go away
In recent Bond movies, a shadowy organisation named Quantum - and its seeming leader, Mr White - has bedeviled the free world. But in Bond lore, no global terrorist outfit has proved as hard to eradicate as Spectre. (Its full name - the Special Executive for Counterintelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion - succinctly provides its mission statement.)
And no villain has been as archetypal as Spectre's leader: the cat-stroking Ernst Stavro Blofeld, always played by a different actor (including Charles Gray and a pre-Kojak Telly Savalas). Donald Pleasence's portrayal in You Only Live Twice (1967) has proved to be the most iconic (helped along by Mike Myers' Dr Evil parody in the Austin Powers trilogy).
After a decades-long absence because of legal issues, Spectre returns to the Bond universe. That has convinced Bond obsessives that Blofeld can't be far behind and that Christoph Waltz's character, Franz Oberhauser, is, in fact, the evil genius. Soon, moviegoers will learn if Blofeld will again taunt and torture Bond.
Villains with memorable henchmen (or women)
Karl Stromberg might not possess the best-thought-out plan, but he does have one of the more famous henchmen in the Bond canon: Jaws. Played with menace and wit by the 2.18m-tall Richard Kiel, Jaws likes to finish off his victims with his steel-capped teeth. He was supposed to be killed (by a shark) in The Spy Who Loved Me, but was so well liked in test screenings that the ending was modified so he could return in Moonraker.
The most striking minions often have a signature kill move. In Goldfinger (1964), Oddjob (Harold Sakata) dispatches enemies with a flip of his razor-edged bowler hat. And Famke Janssen, in GoldenEye (1995), plays Xenia Onatopp, who crushes victims between her thighs during sex.
Some henchfolks are sui generis, like May Day in A View To A Kill (1985), played by Grace Jones. May Day is not just Zorin's bodyguard; she's also his lover. Besides super- human strength, she has an impressive array of outfits (Azzedine Alaia collaborated on her costumes), making her the most fashion- forward sidekick of all.
NEW YORK TIMES
•Spectre is showing in cinemas.