When we look back across the expanse of cinematic history, we find that a lot of our film heroes have leaped out of the silver screen and taken their rightful place in our heroic pantheon. John Wayne, the actor, for example, quickly morphed into John Wayne, the swaggering and rugged cowboy that our boys have tried to model themselves after for decades
Evolving Hero, Evolving Villain
Soon there was a new form of hero emerging in the person of Dr Jack Ryan, the protagonist from Tom Clancy’s “Patriot Games” and “The Hunt For Red October”. America began to tire of the rough and tumble maverick that was better with his fist and his Colt 44 than he was with his thoughts or his speech. Jack Ryan’s character added the intellectual prowess and international flavor to our hero-type that was far less evident in the earlier versions of American heroism. Clancy’s hero is a well-dressed, well-educated international man that is just as comfortable in a ballroom as he is in a bar room brawl. Yes; Americans were beginning to conjure up their answer to Britain’s legendary, albeit fictional, James Bond, aka agent 007.
With James Bond, the suave and debonair British secret agent, author Ian Fleming was introducing a new element to the action hero genre; the equally fascinating villain. Fleming intuitively grasped Don Piatt’s truism that “a man’s greatness can be measured by his enemies” and this resulted in an approach to spy novel writing in which the protagonist’s character is greatly enhanced by the qualities of his antagonists. This has given birth to some fascinating and fiendishly brilliant villains that almost have the reader wanting them to “get away with it”.
Meet The Anti-Bond
One such villain in the James Bond saga is Donavan “Red” Grant. The hard-nosed sociopath and enforcer for the Russians code named ‘Granit’. Aside from his taste for hard liquor and his penchant for committing a murder every full moon like clock work; Red Grant had exquisite taste in watches; lethal watches.
In the 1963 movie “From Russia With Love” James Bond’s arch-nemesis, Red Grant, sports a curiously attractive, and useful, Girard-Perregaux swiss watch that possesses some particularly novel and relevant features. Click here to view examples of these wonderful timepieces that any villain would love to possess. On the face of the timepiece we find a stylish lunar cycle display feature, which comes in handy for tracking Grant’s routine monthly murders. Also a small metal ring on the edge of the watch offers him quick and easy access to a concealed garrote wire; which, of course, is useful in allowing Grant to carry out his murders in his signature fashion; death by strangulation.
It is interesting to note that the life of Red Grant, from his illegitimate birth in Ireland to his spartan villa back in Russia, is notably lacking in value or importance. His wardrobe, his home, even his sparse possessions that he traveled with are distinctly NOT James Bond. It is as though Ian Fleming deliberately created Red Grant to be everything that James Bond was not; a Yin for Bond’s Yang, if you will.
Fictional Evolution As A Guide To Human Evolution
At any rate, whether this formula was intentional or merely intuitional, James Bond has become a far greater hero by means of his encounter with his arch-nemesis, and anti-thesis, Donavan ‘Red’ Grant.
The process of matching our fictional heroes against ever more devious, menacing and, I dare say, discriminating villains, is yet another example of art imitating life. As man slowly evolves in order to better combat his human trials; his literary characters undergo an evolutionary transformation as well, and, hopefully, from this process we can draw some hope that our fictional trailblazers will eventually point us to a place that we may just want to arrive.