There's a new James Bond movie on the horizon, and I'm kind of excited.
"No Time to Die," the 25th installment of the longstanding series, will be in theaters in early April.
And I can't wait.
From the first five minutes of the first Bond film I saw ("Thunderball" in 1965), I was hooked for life. I've absolutely loved the great Bond movies and accepted the poorer installments.
Sean Connery and Daniel Craig are, by far, the finest Bonds of all time -- and I'm not certain in which order they should be listed. But even the weaker performance from such lightweights as Timothy Dalton and Roger Moore (sorry, the Moore films nearly turned the 007 series into a comic book) were still more interesting to watch than most films from other genres.
While a strong Bond character always anchors a true 007 masterpiece, the strength of the series' upper echelon of films is always found in the quality of their bad guys.
Apparently, I'm not alone with my feeling on that subject.
"They say a James Bond movie is only as good as its villain," wrote Jacob Hall for Esquire magazine in 2017.
With that in mind, here are my top five Bond villains:
1. Red Grant (portrayed by Robert Shaw), "From Russia With Love" (1963): A tremendous character actor in his own right, Shaw elevated Red Grant legendary status. Grant was best described as an "icy, brilliant, evil mirror of Bond himself." Hall captured Shaw's performance perfectly when he wrote, "He's terrifying."
2. Oddjob (portrayed by Harold Sakata), "Goldfinger" (1964): Arguably the most famous of all the Bond villains, I listed Oddjob "only" No. 2 because of his rather limited screen time in the film. Oddjob's smugness was fascinating, and so was his bowler hat -- lined with a razor. He once decapitated a statue with that hat.
3. Ernst Stavro Blofeld: Or, simply "Blofeld," the head of the evil empire of S.P.E.C.T.R.E., was played by Donald Pleasence, Telly Savalas, Charles Gray, Max von Sydow and Christoph Waltz in various Bond films. The finest Blofeld performance will always belong to Pleasence in "From Russia With Love." The Blofeld character is integral to the Bond universe, and will likely return in the future. (If you never knew, S.P.E.C.T.R.E. stands for Special Executive for Counterintelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion.)
4. Elektra King (portrayed by Sophie Marceau), "The World Is Not Enough" (1999): She is one of two female villains deserving of mention. King's complex background fuels her turncoat nature as a manipulative oil heiress in a performance that overshadows Pierce Brosnan's 007.
5. Rosa Klebb (portrayed by Lotte Lenya), "From Russia With love" (1963): The other female archenemy of 007 that I am ranking in the top 10, Klebb is a vicious, nasty S.P.E.C.T.R.E. agent. The characters of Klebb and Grant in the same Bond film make it arguably the finest 007 movie of them all.
Honorable mention: Auric Goldfinger (Gert Frobe), "Goldfinger" (1963); Mr. White (Jesper Christensen), "Quantum of Solace" (2008); Renard (Robert Carlyle), "The World Is Not Enough" (1999); Jaws (Richard Kiel), "The Spy Who Loved Me" (1977); Dr. Julius No (Joseph Wiseman), "Dr. No" (1962); May Day (Grace Jones), "A View to a Kill" (1985); Bambi and Thumper (Lola Larson, Trina Parks), "Diamonds Are Forever" (1971).