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007 Femme Fatales

Deborah Lipp, author of "The Ultimate James Bond Fan Book" continues her countdown to "Skyfall" with lists of 007 things!

Author Ian Fleming, creator of the James Bond series, had no interest in the archetype of a femme fatale—a seductive, beautiful, dangerous woman. The femme fatale is Freud's ultimate woman, combining sex and death. Fleming's women were either love interests, usually fragile and in need of rescue, or—if villains—hideously ugly. But the Bond films introduced us to the sexy villainess. As it happens, there have been exactly seven such villainesses in the course of Bond film history.

In chronological order, then, here's a run-down of the femmes fatale that have passed through Bond's films and bed...

Miss Taro

001 Miss Taro, Dr. No (1962)
A secondary villain, Miss Taro sleeps with Bond to keep him at her house long enough for compatriots to come and kill him. Unfortunately, he knows her plan, and in a rare gesture of mercy, has her arrested. She's the only character on our list who survives the encounter! She's also not terribly interesting; she seems uneasy in her role as villainess and the film relies far too heavily on "inscrutable Asian" stereotypes.  

What should I say to an invitation from a strange gentleman?"
-Zena Marshall as Miss Taro 

Fiona Volpe

002 Fiona Volpe, Thunderball (1965)
This one's the best, ladies and gentlemen, the prototype, the mold upon which all other seductresses are based. 

She is a pure invention for the film (Miss Taro existed in the novel of Dr. No, albeit changed in the film), inserted into all the best action. She's exciting, rides a motorcycle, shoots a rifle, has flaming red hair, and probably has the hottest sex scene in any Bond movie. Yowza.

But of course, I forgot your ego, Mr. Bond. James Bond, who only has to make love to a woman, and she starts to hear heavenly choirs singing. She repents, and turns to the side of right and virtue--but not this one!"
-Luciana Paluzzi as Fiona Volpe 

Helga Brandt

003 Helga Brandt, You Only Live Twice (1967)
Helga ups the ante on oversexed villainy. It boggles my poor mind that this woman captures James Bond, and then, before torturing him, changes into evening wear. I mean, well of course. I tend to think Fiona slept with Bond because it was fun, because she was an adventurer, because she loved power and danger. But Helga? Helga is a sex-and-death fetishist. Also, she gets eaten by piranhas. I don't think any villain's death had more of an effect on my young mind than Helga Brandt getting eaten by piranhas—to me, this epitomizes everything scary and crazy and wonderful about the Bond films.

Mr. Osato believes in a healthy chest."
-Karin Dor as Helga Brandt 

Fatima Blush

004 Fatima Blush, Never Say Never Again (1983)
Uh, oh! I am mentioning the unmentionable Bond film. Never Say Never Again, essentially a remake of Thunderball, is an unofficial Bond film, outside the franchise, which is why it is not counted when Skyfall is touted as Bond #23. It's a serious Bond film, after all, not a spoof, and so deserves to be looked at when assessing Bond films. My opinion of this film is that it is mostly terrible, but it has some of the best actors and characters Bond films have seen, and Fatima Blush stands tall—and in very high heels--among them. She is camp, she is over the top, she changes her clothes a lot. She giggles with delight at the thought of her next kill. She demands—demands—that Bond praise her sexual prowess. Basically, she's a scream, right up to a death that leaves nothing but those smoldering high heels.  

Now write this: 'The greatest rapture of my life was afforded me on a boat in Nassau by Fatima Blush,' and sign it 'James Bond, 007.'"
-Barbara Carrera as Fatima Blush 

Xenia Onatopp

005 Xenia Onatopp, Goldeneye (1995)
Xenia Onatopp has orgasms when she kills. Let me say that again: Xenia Onatopp has orgasms when she kills. It's like they took all the essential qualities of a femme fatale; sexuality, danger, deadliness, the hint of a vagina dentata, and distilled them into this one concept, this one character. She's a lunatic, portrayed with furious gusto, but strangely, she is never camp, because the people around her take her seriously. It's a magnificent performance and the response to Fiona Volpe's suggestion thirty years earlier.

This time, Mr. Bond, the pleasure will be all mine."
-Famke Janssen as Xenia Onatopp 

Elektra King

006 Elektra King, The World Is Not Enough (1999)
If Xenia is the sex/danger side of the femme fatale, Elektra is the psychological side. Named without subtlety, she is presented as a delicate victim, but is revealed at the halfway point to have murdered her own father. Much-loved by fans, I have to exclude myself from the admiration. This character does nothing for me.

You wouldn't kill me. You'd miss me."
-Sophie Marceau as Elektra King 

Miranda Frost

007 Miranda Frost, Die Another Day (2002)
When the villain of Die Another Day, Gustav Graves, reveals that Miranda Frost, MI6 operative and Bond's supposed ally, is actually a double agent, who has been using all her talents on behalf of Graves, "even her sex," James Bond replies, "The coldest weapon of all." Femmes fatale speak to men's fear of weakness in the face of desire. Bond succumbs to the seductive charms of someone trusted (and is allowed to believe that he is the seducer), and so is betrayed. For her part, Miranda Frost plays to her name and to her side of the "fire and ice" theme of this movie. She is blonde, cold, and calculating. She appears to hate risk, and tells M that Bond is too explosive. But underneath, the Ice Queen is fiery hot. 

It was so good of you to bring your gun in bed with us."
-Rosamund Pike as Miranda Frost 

008? Eve, Skyfall (2012)
Can the new Bond movie have a new femme fatale? There's no way of knowing until the movie is released, but I'm intrigued by the notion. In Die Another Day, a movie modeled largely after the novel Moonraker, Rosamund Pike's character was originally rumored to be named Gala Brand. Later interviews revealed that, as the character emerged as a villain, and diverged sharply from the novel's Gala Brand, the name was changed. Why bring this up? Well, Naomie Harris was originally rumored to be playing Moneypenny. Is it possible that she, too, has become a villain? Like Miranda, she's apparently an MI6 insider, and the trailer shows her "accidentally" shooting Bond. We think. We can only wonder what comes next.  

There isn’t much road left."
-Naomie Harris as Eve--(The only quote we have!)

Do you wish more Bond girls would be bad to the bone?

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Reader Comments (7)

No! No, no, no, no, no, no, no. Never Say Never Again is exactly as much a "Bond movie" as 1967's Casino Royale, or Austin Powers in Goldmember or Norbit. I'm glad you like Thunderball so much, but no. Just because it's a remake of one of the slowest, most plodding Bond movies (seriously, how much time is spent in an interminable underwater battle sequence? It's a fine movie, but that's about as far as it goes) doesn't mean it's worth even talking about.

(Sorry--it's a gigantic pet peeve of mine when people act like NSNA belongs in the same breath as the actual series.)

October 20, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJeff

I'm puzzled at the exclusion of some Bond girls from this list. Can you to elaborate more on the term "femme fatale" and what you believe it means in the Bond canon? Does a woman in this series have to sleep with Bond himself to be considered a femme fatale? Or must she exhibit a good-then-evil turn? There are others who are a) sexy and b) deadly who aren't listed here.

Liking your series. Thanks!

October 20, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJames

Great post Deborah, reading this reminded me of a piece i read on the Nolan Bat-trilogy, (Nolan is a huge fan of thw Bond series), the writer compares Miranda Tate/Talia Al Ghul in TDKR to Elektra King in TWINE, they are practically identical:

'The big plot twist in The Dark Knight Rises is quite like that of The World Is Not Enough, the last Bond film of the '90s. In that film, the third of the four mostly excellent Pierce Brosnan Bonds, 007 finds a provocative and sophisticated love interest in the form of a very rich and powerful, not to mention lovely, woman.

Memorably played by Sophie Marceau, a French actress in the analogue to Marion Cotillard in The Dark Knight Rises, she is Elektra King, the Anglo-Azeri daughter of a British merchant buccaneer who married into a Caucasus family and controlled a vast oil fortune in Western Asia before being murdered in MI6 headquarters and leaving it all to her. Victim of a youthful kidnaping by a powerful anarchist and terrorist named Renard who is incapable of feeling pain due to a bullet left in his head by an MI6 assassin which will ultimately kill him, she turns out to be not victim but puppeteer.

While Bond believes until very late in the game that it is Renard's plot to destroy Istanbul with a stolen Russian nuclear weapon, it is actually Elektra's. In addition to yielding her the sheer joy of destroying the ancient metropolis at the very crossroads between Europe and Asia, the action will also render her oil holdings vastly more valuable, and grant her a huge role in world energy politics.'

October 20, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterjohn

Just wanted to note that Barbara Barrera's performance as Fatima Blush earned her a Golden Globe nomination for Best Supporting Actress! Until Daniel Craig's BAFTA nomination for Casino Royale, this was really the only high-profile acting nomination a Bond film (or should that be 'Bond' film) had ever received.

October 20, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterEdward L.

Oops - should have been Carrera. Sorry!

October 20, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterEdward L.

This was one! "...this woman captures James Bond, and then, before torturing him, changes into evening wear" made me laugh.

No Grace Jones, though? I can't even remember much about her film, but she was a villainess, right?

October 20, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn (the other one)

Hmmm, Glenn, you're right, I could technically include Grace Jones.

Here's how I define "femme fatale." She is a woman whose sexuality is directly tied to her villainy. It is not enough to be sexy or to sleep with Bond (Grace Jones's sex scene with Roger Moore was VERY awkward), the two ideas have to be connected. The femme fatale is the fictional expression of sex-and-death anxiety. I can't think of another character who fits the bill beyond the ones I've listed here.

@Jeff, I disagree. In my book, I treated NSNA throughout. It was not an official Bond film, in that it was not made by Eon Productions. It was, however, a legitimate effort to make a Bond film. It was not a spoof. It was not sillier or more comedic than several legitimate Bond films.

I don't know why you think I love Thunderball so much. While it's a fan favorite, you'll notice it wasn't on my list of Top 007 Bond Films from last week. I think it's a good movie but not a great one. Within it, though, Fiona Volpe is an unambigously great character.

Thunderball and NSNA were both produced by Kevin McClory, based on original material created by him with Ian Fleming. It's unofficial only because it has a different owner.

October 21, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDeborah Lipp
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