Scars, deformities and disabilities - the future of Bond villains/characters

edited April 2022 in Bond 26 & Beyond Posts: 2,581
During the Craig era I've noticed there's been more of a tendency to have villains with some sort of outward scar or deformity. Of course, the Bond films have always had this to some extent (Pleasance's eye scar in YOLT, Largo's eyepatch in TB, Trevelyan's scars in GE to name a few) but it seems as if the trend has been emphasised during the past three films. Silva of course hid the effects of the cyanide on his face but it was still there/a direct part of his motivations, Blofeld in SP attained the Pleasance eye scar (kind of like Bond 'brought out' his inner evil by injuring him) and of course Safin had visible scars, and not unlike Silva the reason for them plays a direct part in his plan. Even Le Chiffre had a glass eye and scar.

Interestingly, having re-read a few of the Fleming novels recently, I was struck at how few of the villains had scars, disabilities or deformities. The obvious one is Drax, although I always got the sense that his distinctive traits were more his odd teeth, his hair/beard and the fact that he looks and acts like a caricature of an Englishman. Most of them are either simply ugly, overweight or have odd looking features. Largo in TB is even depicted as being handsome. When things like scars and eyepatches are given to characters it's usually to the Bond allies (Strangways, Leiter, even Bond himself with his scar. To a lesser extent there's also Honey with her broken nose). Most of the time these injuries are put down to being from the war or from a past mission or something.

Now, the world today is different to Fleming's post WW2 era. Scars and these sorts of outward injuries are perhaps less common and aren't seen as much as when young men were returning from war. That said, I've noticed a bit of commentary about this aspect of villains in modern Bond films and my questions are these: should future Bond villains subvert this current trend and do something different, how should they do this and could we even perhaps have a future Bond ally/Bond girl with some sort of visible scar or disability that's not depicted as villainous or making said character 'ugly'? Perhaps it's time to give Bond the facial scar from the novels?
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Comments

  • QBranchQBranch Always have an escape plan. Mine is watching James Bond films.
    Posts: 13,869
    Camille had a scar on her back. Given to her by Medrano.
  • edited April 2022 Posts: 2,581
    QBranch wrote: »
    Camille had a scar on her back. Given to her by Medrano.

    A pretty rare example for a Bond girl in the films, but true. Again, Honey outright had a broken nose in the novel which was immediately visible.
  • VenutiusVenutius Yorkshire
    Posts: 2,860
    Good job Ursula wasn't a method actor.
  • CharmianBondCharmianBond Pett Bottom, Kent
    Posts: 533
    Like you said I this is one of the few areas where Fleming is (slightly) more progressive than the movies that still persist with this trope when they really should know better, if only because the heroes have disabilities as well as the villains. Part of why this trope is so problematic is because it's so one-sided that villains are given disabilities and in turn disabled people are seen as villainous.

    It's part of the reason I like Quantum so much because the evil of Greene comes from the fact that he's a repugnant person doing horrible things, and Camille does have those scars but they're never remarked upon (although that's probably an unintentional side-effect of the editing rather than a deliberate choice because I only realise last year she had them once Andrew Ellard pointed it out).

    And there's a lot of cultural ableism to unpack because it has been used as this shorthand for villainy for so long that a lot of us, myself included, have this notion of disability provides a clear visual contrast between hero and villain because it's so engrained in media. I don't know what the solution is and I'd happy cede the floor to someone more qualified to talk about this from experience, but at the bare minimum I think that it has to force us to work harder to make good villains without having to use disability as a crutch.
  • Posts: 2,581
    Like you said I this is one of the few areas where Fleming is (slightly) more progressive than the movies that still persist with this trope when they really should know better, if only because the heroes have disabilities as well as the villains. Part of why this trope is so problematic is because it's so one-sided that villains are given disabilities and in turn disabled people are seen as villainous.

    It's part of the reason I like Quantum so much because the evil of Greene comes from the fact that he's a repugnant person doing horrible things, and Camille does have those scars but they're never remarked upon (although that's probably an unintentional side-effect of the editing rather than a deliberate choice because I only realise last year she had them once Andrew Ellard pointed it out).

    And there's a lot of cultural ableism to unpack because it has been used as this shorthand for villainy for so long that a lot of us, myself included, have this notion of disability provides a clear visual contrast between hero and villain because it's so engrained in media. I don't know what the solution is and I'd happy cede the floor to someone more qualified to talk about this from experience, but at the bare minimum I think that it has to force us to work harder to make good villains without having to use disability as a crutch.

    Again, I think for Fleming it came from the fact that many young men returning from WW2 would have had scars and possibly eye patches, limps etc. Fleming wasn't exactly liberal in his writing sensibilities (again, most of the villains are foreign or asexual, and many are ugly/overweight).

    Without using terms like abelism or anything like that (I'm not 100% on how to use them or what they actually mean if I'm honest) the sense I get from a character like Silva in SF is that his disfigurement is used in a particular way. He has a backstory that we should in a sense find sympathetic - he was abandoned by M/the British Government and he has permanent injuries due to what was expected of him in the name of duty. The way the CGI makes him look, however, is consciously very ghoulish - it looks like he has a menacing smile, and his injuries are obviously horrific. Much like Blofeld's injuries in SP there's a sense that we're being showed the character's 'inner evil' and we're meant to be more horrified rather than necessarily feel sorry for him. That's how I've always viewed it anyway.

    Personally, I'd like to see a villain in the vein of Largo from the novel - a handsome man but a sinister psychopath. I'd kind of like to see them do something similar to a Honey Rider with a Bond girl too. Heck, even Bond's injuries in the novels/the scars on his body are pretty interesting in themselves. It'd just add something more fresh (I like much of the Craig era, but in many ways it feels like his last two films relied too heavily on the iconography/generic ideas of previous Bond films rather than always doing something new. I feel these sorts of things in terms of how villains are presented is an example of this).
  • CharmianBondCharmianBond Pett Bottom, Kent
    Posts: 533
    Yeah progressive was a poor word to choose and you're right the disabilities are as much a product of the post-war context as they are any kind of agenda, but the point I was trying to make is that the bar is so low that Bond having a scar is quite refreshing.

    It's a fine line though, like with Safin as well. His disfigurement is done to him by Spectre as a child, so he seems justified in his revenge but how that factors into the rest of his villainy is left more to the imagination. Which is why I think it's necessary to look at this as part of media as a whole because it's not specifically a Bond problem but one that permeates culture.

    I love the sound of that idea, I've not got to Thunderball the novel, but give me a sexy villain any day. We sort of had that with Logan Ash I feel but he had a comparatively minor role.
  • edited April 2022 Posts: 2,581
    Yeah progressive was a poor word to choose and you're right the disabilities are as much a product of the post-war context as they are any kind of agenda, but the point I was trying to make is that the bar is so low that Bond having a scar is quite refreshing.

    It's a fine line though, like with Safin as well. His disfigurement is done to him by Spectre as a child, so he seems justified in his revenge but how that factors into the rest of his villainy is left more to the imagination. Which is why I think it's necessary to look at this as part of media as a whole because it's not specifically a Bond problem but one that permeates culture.

    I love the sound of that idea, I've not got to Thunderball the novel, but give me a sexy villain any day. We sort of had that with Logan Ash I feel but he had a comparatively minor role.

    Oh yes, it's a thing in a lot of films. It's much more rare that the heroes get this kind of outward injury or scar. One of the exceptions recently is Thor getting his eye cut out in Ragnarok. It'd be cool to see Bond perhaps attain the Fleming scar in Bond 26 in a similar fashion. Would be a nice nod to the novels at least.

    Largo's much more interesting in the novel than in the film. I won't spoil too much but there's also a lot in the beginning parts of that novel about Bond's own health - how he drinks too much, the fact that he has a number of scars on his body and even an injury to his shoulder that hasn't quite healed from a previous mission. We've sort of seen Bond with single injuries in films like SF or TWINE (FRWL to a lesser extent) but there's a sense that these are unusual and show Bond particularly vulnerable. In actual fact he's a secret agent whose job will mean he likely has a number of old injuries and scars on his body. The Batman films, including the recent one, tend to show this aspect of their protagonist a lot better (not that those films are immune from this sort of thing either - the Joker has gone from his bleached skin/smile in the comics/Burton film, to having facial scars in TDK, to having an outright genetic 'deformity' in the deleted scene of The Batman - seriously he looks like Jeff Goldblum in The Fly it's that extreme).
  • M_BaljeM_Balje Amsterdam, Netherlands
    edited November 2022 Posts: 4,390
    Present chacter plot idea for Camile & Lucia (With mabey Paloma returns too):

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    Some earlier idea's:

    Judi Dench's M (Who's name i take from QOS short of Fleming and making it famale.) falling in love whyle she was on kill list because of partly German background of her mother.

    Skyfall.jpg
    Color was reference to ''Pink Cloud Is Another Way To Die''. In other words when love lead to death.

    Jarid Harris playing Dench Ex husband (Who's name i take from QOS short of Fleming and making it male.), the couple married at begin of Bond 25 (Taken from same short) and the only way to stay save the guy going to work at Mi6 as Quatermaster aka Q (Respect to Desmond). He remain after M made her end of her life and she making video for after her death. New M be Charles Maurice Robinson (Colin Salmon) who returns from Australia to help M and visit his daughter Eve (Naomi Harris) who mother is Moneypenny (Samantha Bond) and half sister of Tanner jr (Rory Kinnear) and Eva Alexandera ''Alex'' Moneypenny (Dominique McElligott). Son and Daughter of whylen Tanner Sr (Michael Kitchen) who was murdered by Falco (Chacter introduced in Die Another Day). Motivation for all this be the whole Moneypenny is black is discussion and whant do something with not everthing is black/white like left/right (Motivated by I Never Left anf the fact i am left handed person).

    Mr S & Miss V. (Chacters from Ian Fleming that he keep for him self). When i think about 2 parter: 007 in New York/The Hildebrand Rarity. Mr S & Miss V (Laurent Capelluto / Susan Egan) owns hotel in middle of New York. She deside to put the hotel in fire. The movie end with boat chase between CIA/Felix Leiter and Mr S in front of Statue of liberty from her back the movie end. In Part 2 we discover he working for ''Doctor'' named Hildebrand (Matthias Schoenaerts).

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    Sarah Gadon playing a deaf Bondgirl.

    Matthew Goode as villian. Just gay actor playing Bond villian. Be on wishlist playing villian in Bond movie or playing The Riddler in Christopher Nolan Batman (& Robin) movie. With remours of luxury jacht (Boat) in NTTD i must think about Miami Vice kind of setting with Safin have celetbrate party on that boat with his toyboys to hide his scam. It turn out that both he and Bond share there love for party's, costume's and cars.

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    Nicola Walker. Cameo, playing woman with name/looks of Dominic Greene.
  • thedovethedove hiding in the Greek underworld
    Posts: 4,865
    As long as the physical trait has something to do with the plot it gets a pass from me. Silva removing his teeth did nothing for the plot, having blood come out of the eye of LeChiffre was done also for effect. Blofeld getting the eye scar through the explosion was interesting, but it kind of indicates that Pleasance Blofeld is the definitive portrayal of the character and I don't think that's the case.

    I think producers are so hamstrung with how to "show" villainy now. Certain races are out as villains, so they rely on physical deformities and traits to "show" the villainy. I recall Maibaum saying they gave Largo an eye patch to make him look more villainous. One could argue that Tee Hee was showing how a one-armed man could function as a threat to Bond.
  • mtmmtm United Kingdom
    Posts: 14,794
    Nah, I don't really think there's an excuse for it; ultimately they're associating scars and injuries with evil, and it is time to move on from that. I get that they were actually motivating injuries in the case of Safin and Silva rather than Largo or Blofeld having eyepatches and scars just because it made them look mean, but it doesn't really stop that association from being drawn. Time for something else, it shouldn't be a problem.
  • edited November 2022 Posts: 2,581
    Think I've said it before but I'd like to see a version of Felix Leiter who's already gone through his shark attack and has a robotic arm and leg. That and the idea of him being a rouge freelance detective rather than CIA is interesting. Not necessarily for the purposes of depicting him as depressed or feeling worthless because of his injuries (maybe there's an element of that, but it's not his most prominent trait) - just give him a cool robotic hand that can be used during fights and a more carefree attitude to his job (which people can acquire after surviving such near death experiences).

    Anyway, that's pretty much all it comes down to for me - we've seen scars/deformities too much with the villains of the Craig era and it's a bit of a cliche nowadays. Plenty of the Fleming allies have eyepatches, scars, fake limbs etc. It opens up more creative possibilities subverting this trope. Honestly, give me a good old fashioned distinctive looking character actor for the villain, give them some menacing character traits/actions, good motives, and that'll be enough.
  • Think it could be interesting to have the next era's Bond with a scar. Not only could it distinguishes him from his predecessors, but it could also cement the idea that all the people involved in this game of espionage bear on their faces and bodies the traces of their profession.
  • Posts: 1,432
    007HallY wrote: »
    Honestly, give me a good old fashioned distinctive looking character actor for the villain, give them some menacing character traits/actions, good motives, and that'll be enough.

    I agree. One doesn't need the makeup and prosthetics.

    My favorite Bond villain remains Goldfinger. Larger than life and fun.

    I've read Safin was a Dr. No a callback. Sixty years on, Wiseman remains memorable. For me, Malek was forgettable before the film ended.
  • Posts: 14,759
    Yeah but Goldfinger had an unusual appearance: Gertrude Frobe was obese and kind of nasty looking (no offence to him, but that's how he'd come off as Goldfinger.) I'm all for ditching prosthetics, but I'd rather have villains that don't just look like everymen.
  • Posts: 2,581
    Ludovico wrote: »
    Yeah but Goldfinger had an unusual appearance: Gertrude Frobe was obese and kind of nasty looking (no offence to him, but that's how he'd come off as Goldfinger.) I'm all for ditching prosthetics, but I'd rather have villains that don't just look like everymen.

    Agreed. But I think that need for a distinctive ‘look’ or at least screen presence comes with the territory of playing a Bond villain. Nor does the actor have to look ‘ugly’ (this is rarely the case anyway, even with characters who are meant to give off that sense of repulsiveness - ie. Lotte Lenya as Klebb).
  • mtmmtm United Kingdom
    edited May 2023 Posts: 14,794
    Yeah there's nothing wrong with looking distinctive. Christopher Lee was a handsome guy, but in a distinctive, perhaps slightly intimidating way. Obviously there was the nipple, but Scaramanga was uniquely quite cool as a villain, so perhaps the only one whose physical abnormality actually seemed to have quite a positive association in a way.
  • j_w_pepperj_w_pepper Born on the bayou. I can still hear my old hound dog barkin'.
    edited May 2023 Posts: 8,640
    Ludovico wrote: »
    Gertrude Frobe
    He identified as Gert (actually, Gerd in normal life). Short form of Gerhard, not of Gertrude. Pronouns: he/him/his.

    And there are lots of people, including certain politicians, who are obese and kind of nasty looking, so it's really nothing unsual.
  • edited May 2023 Posts: 14,759
    j_w_pepper wrote: »
    Ludovico wrote: »
    Gertrude Frobe
    He identified as Gert (actually, Gerd in normal life). Short form of Gerhard, not of Gertrude. Pronouns: he/him/his.

    And there are lots of people, including certain politicians, who are obese and kind of nasty looking, so it's really nothing unsual.

    Darn predictive texting.

    It's not rare, but it makes them stand out. And even the ugliest looking politician will try to look at his best, or at least amiable, when in front of cameras. Canadian PM Jean Chretien (not that I liked him) was not a good looking man, he had aphasia, but he tried to come off as the friendly guy from a simple background. Boris Johnson looks like a chubby overgrown child, but he never looked nasty (now whether he is or not that is another matter). It's all in the demeanor. Gert Frobe as Goldfinger did not merely look like a fat man, but like an arrogant, scheming, petty, violent. There was something in his mannerism.
    mtm wrote: »
    Yeah there's nothing wrong with looking distinctive. Christopher Lee was a handsome guy, but in a distinctive, perhaps slightly intimidating way. Obviously there was the nipple, but Scaramanga was uniquely quite cool as a villain, so perhaps the only one whose physical abnormality actually seemed to have quite a positive association in a way.
    Excellent example. I'd also say that Mathieu Amalric and Mads Mikkelsen (even without the bleeding eye) look rather off. Their voice, the way they stare, there's something unsettling about them. If Amalric had been British, he could have easily played Mr Hyde.
  • VenutiusVenutius Yorkshire
    Posts: 2,860
    Amalric should play Roman Polanski. Might be a bit too obvious, though!
  • mtmmtm United Kingdom
    Posts: 14,794
    I can certainly imagine an alt universe where Amalric played Le Chiffre, and I can imagine him doing it very well.
  • j_w_pepperj_w_pepper Born on the bayou. I can still hear my old hound dog barkin'.
    edited May 2023 Posts: 8,640
    Ludovico wrote: »
    Gert Frobe as Goldfinger did not merely look like a fat man, but like an arrogant, scheming, petty, violent. There was something in his mannerism.

    Yes, actually most of it is called acting. He was generally a very humorous and gentle person and was picked for the role of Goldfinger after the producers saw It Happened in Broad Daylight (1958), a German-Swiss-Spanish co-production in which he played a psychopathic child murderer. The story was later remade several times, not least by Sean Penn directing The Pledge (2001).

    If you care to see how Fröbe looked in 1948, here's the trailer to Berliner Ballade (Berlin Ballad, though the English release title was The Berliner):



  • Posts: 14,759
    j_w_pepper wrote: »
    Ludovico wrote: »
    Gert Frobe as Goldfinger did not merely look like a fat man, but like an arrogant, scheming, petty, violent. There was something in his mannerism.

    Yes, actually most of it is called acting. He was generally a very humorous and gentle person and was picked for the role of Goldfinger after the producers saw It Happened in Broad Daylight (1958), a German-Swiss-Spanish co-production in which he played a psychopathic child murderer. The story was later remade several times, not least by Sean Penn directing The Pledge (2001).

    If you care to see how Fröbe looked in 1948, here's the trailer to Berliner Ballade (Berlin Ballad, though the English release title was The Berliner):



    Well of course it's acting. That's why they couldn't just pick up any fat man as Goldfinger.
  • Posts: 1,432
    DN, RG, AG, and EL never felt like silly villains. But DP with his scarred eye came off as silly and uninteresting. Not memorable like the others. TS returns the series to form, and then there's Charles Gray. Jump ahead to Waltz and Rami, two Oscar winners who manage to pull off two of the weakest villains ever. When you talk about the great villains, these two don't come to mind.
  • mtmmtm United Kingdom
    edited May 2023 Posts: 14,794
    I'd say Largo is one of the weakest too. He has almost zero presence and does nothing interesting, and Bond has no relationship with him at all. He's certainly blasted off the screen by Fiona for my money: she should have been the main baddie. Waltz’s Blofeld is better than Largo.
  • DarthDimiDarthDimi Behind you!Moderator
    Posts: 23,347
    mtm wrote: »
    I'd say Largo is one of the weakest too. He has almost zero presence and does nothing interesting, and Bond has no relationship with him at all. He's certainly blasted off the screen by Fiona for my money: she should have been the main baddie. Waltz’s Blofeld is better than Largo.

    I see Largo as mostly a middle-man, the arms and legs to Blofeld's mind. That said, Adolfo Celi has a distinct look (and I'm not necessarily talking about the eye patch) and he plays well as an evil man. When Quist is thrown in the shark pool and Celi's Largo walks away, kisses his ring and keeps a stern look on his face, I'm seeing what may very well be one of the cruellest villainous moves in a Bond film. The fact that Largo keeps Domino locked in a seemingly unaffectionate relationship, waiting for the moment when he can consume his physical desires, adds a fascinating layer to his relatively thin story. You see, I agree, @mtm, that he's overall pretty weakly set up as a villain. But in small bits, I also find him intriguing.

    So what about Max Largo then? Brandauer played the part with much more charm and personality, but the problem there is that I continue to forget that he's merely Blofeld's stooge. He's also unstable, especially regarding his jealous relationship with Domino. His most evil moments seem much more focused on having revenge for Domino's betrayal rather than on nuclear terror.

    I guess my issue with both Largos is that, as the 'number 2' to Blofeld's 'number 1' (at least in the films), they never quite register as the big bad that Bond has to defeat. It makes them less threatening in a way, and certainly because one has very little interesting going on, as @mtm points out, while the other seems more occupied with his personal pride.
  • RichardTheBruceRichardTheBruce I'm motivated by my Duty.
    Posts: 12,835
    I hope Good characters are not disqualified from having scars, deformities and disabilities.

    And by extension, Bad characters shouldn't be limited for that. Part reality, also part of the exaggeration that suits Bond films.

  • Posts: 1,432
    @mtm I find Adolfo Celi stylish and quite convincing. Waltz is neither smooth, nor
    stylish and comes across to me as an actor playing a role rather then being the role. There's something very self-conscious about his performances in SP and NTTD.

    Fiona, on the other hand, wow! My favorite female baddie.

    Fiona: But of course, I forgot your ego, Mr. Bond. James Bond, who only has to make love to a women and she starts to hear heavenly choirs singing. She repents, then immediately returns to the side of right and virtue...but not this one!

    The series was poking fun at itself long before it became de ri·gueur.



  • mtmmtm United Kingdom
    Posts: 14,794
    CrabKey wrote: »
    @mtm I find Adolfo Celi stylish and quite convincing. Waltz is neither smooth, nor
    stylish and comes across to me as an actor playing a role rather then being the role. There's something very self-conscious about his performances in SP and NTTD.

    I find Celi to be almost entirely absent. He’s much better in other films but Largo gives him nothing to do except glower: compared to the previous villains he’s a real zero and is incredibly unmemorable. He looks nice in a suit but I wouldn’t say that makes him stylish. It’s one way NSNA improves on TB. I will take Waltz’s Blofeld over him any day as he is interesting to watch and you feel that he and Bond do actually have responses to each other.
    CrabKey wrote: »
    Fiona, on the other hand, wow! My favorite female baddie.

    Fiona: But of course, I forgot your ego, Mr. Bond. James Bond, who only has to make love to a women and she starts to hear heavenly choirs singing. She repents, then immediately returns to the side of right and virtue...but not this one!

    The series was poking fun at itself long before it became de ri·gueur.

    Yes, she’s wonderful to watch and her scenes with Connery sparkle: there’s a real fizz between them. Imagine how much more exciting the film would have been if she had been leading the Vulcan project and Bond was fighting her.
  • Posts: 2,581
    CrabKey wrote: »
    DN, RG, AG, and EL never felt like silly villains. But DP with his scarred eye came off as silly and uninteresting. Not memorable like the others. TS returns the series to form, and then there's Charles Gray. Jump ahead to Waltz and Rami, two Oscar winners who manage to pull off two of the weakest villains ever. When you talk about the great villains, these two don't come to mind.

    Pleasance's Blofeld was always disappointing to me, even when I watched YOLT for the first time. I don't know if it was the fact that he was brought in relatively late into production and perhaps didn't give the performance his 'all', but it comes off as a bland performance from an otherwise wonderful actor. I think there was a bit too much overcorrecting after Jan Werich too in the sense that they went to great lengths to make Blofeld look 'villainous' with the massive scar and gammy eye.

    Savalas nails it though. I really get a genuine sense of madness from his Blofeld. Can even give Gray a pass as his performance is in tone for the film, he can be sinister at times, and he looks like he's having fun. It's also telling that they did away with the eye scar for these two actors and just let the performances do the work.

    Malek and Waltz are unfortunate because while they're both great actors who have played villains very well in the past, I get the sense they were hired to do 'their greatest hits' as it were for Bond (so Waltz with his affable 'I'm a sadistic b***ard under the surface' thing he did in IG, and Malek with his 'loner weirdo' vibe he gives off in Mr. Robot, Buster's Mal Heart... and I guess Bojack Horseman, haha). Contrast that with Javiar Bardem as Silva who plays that character as a sinister trickster who looks like he's having fun most of the time (so slightly different to the robotic killer that he played in 'No Country'). He's given blonde hair and obviously Silva has his facial injuries which he reveals midway through the film, but otherwise it's Bardem's performance which is driving things, not the unnecessary additions such as facial scars etc.
  • mtmmtm United Kingdom
    edited May 2023 Posts: 14,794
    Yeah Savalas-Blofeld and Silva are right up there on the top table of villains if you ask me. They're both pretty perfect.

    What I do quite like about Silva and what is perhaps an acceptable use of disfigurement they used for him, is that they've made him look like he's had a bad facelift. That's a lovely touch and really feels like the sort of thing a Bond villain should have, and it's not associating people suffering from disfigurements they have no choice about with villainy, because it's something he's done to himself and is poking a bit of fun at vanity.
    It's a shame in a way they gave him the teeth thing because the facelift and dodgy hair was enough.
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