When you think of great movie henchmen-in other words, villains in the service of other nastier, most likely stupider villains-you probably think of guys like Goldfinger's Oddjob, Jack Palance in Shane, or Art Garfunkel. But what about those cinematic henchmen who defended their masters, tried (and failed) to beat up the good guys in the penultimate fight scene, then drifted into cinematic obscurity? Not only did these poor bastards have to endure the embarrassment of being merely the second-evilest person in the movie, but they never even scored the ironic foothold in the national consciousness that they so clearly deserved.
The evil Doc Hopper needs someone to whack Kermit the Frog, and, not seeing any other reasonable means to kill a felt puppet, hires the sinister, harpoon gun—toting Snake Walker. After putting Snake on the payroll, he politely introduces him to the rest of the crew:
Doc Hopper: This is Snake Walker. Tell 'em what you do, Snake.
Snake: [removing goggles] Kill frogs.
While that might sound like a rather limited skill-set, and though the full-body speed skater's unitard he wears under his clothes might seem a bit excessive, we're not asking questions. That's because it turns out Snake is one determined, evil-looking son of a bitch. Killing frogs is what he does, and while business has admittedly been slow, it's about to pick up.
He's ultimately stopped by the gigantic gamma-irradiated Muppet called Animal, which itself sounds like it should be the creature in a Peter Benchley novel. But you can bet that Snake Walker is still out there somewhere stalking Kermit even to this day, the Boba Fett of the Muppet universe. It's comforting to think of Kermit, even while romancing Miss Piggy or engaging in witty conversation with Gonzo, constantly casting an eye over his shoulder.
The hulking, vaguely humanoid robot Maximillian was the henchman of Dr. Hans Reinhardt (a villain whose primary character trait, it seems, was having crazy blow-dried hair. In this he excelled). Maximillian is a Swiss army knife of destruction, with laser arms, whirling blade arms, a juicer, a blow-drier (for his boss), more laser arms-you name it, he's got it and is probably going to use it to murder you. Plus, he never says anything; he just stares at you and follows you around-even to the bathroom, waiting patiently outside while you do your business.
Even Maximillian's own boss is a little freaked out by Maximillian. And with good reason: When the shit inevitably hits the fan later in the film, the big red robot leaves Dr. Reinhardt trapped beneath some wreckage and hops into an escape craft. Every robot for himself, sucker!
In the psychedelic ending of The Black Hole, Reinhardt is trapped in Maximillian's body, standing atop an infernal landscape. Owned! Who's the boss now, smart guy? Maximillian-King of Hell, fools!
Gary Busey, as he tends to, lends a certain authentic psychotic intensity to the role of Mr. Joshua, the blond chief enforcer of the criminal mercenary Gen. McAllister. The first thing you should probably know about Mr. Joshua is that he's wound a little tight, like a Ritalin kid with an automatic weapon. So you probably shouldn't laugh at his name. (Is Mr. Joshua really the best they could come up with? Did he used to be a talking owl that befriended children in a magical forest?)
At one point, at his boss's request, Mr. Joshua holds his forearm above a lit cigarette lighter just to prove how hard he is. (There's got to be a less permanently disfiguring way to illustrate this. Maybe a bench-press contest?) Later, when he is supposed to be sneaking around, he screams "It's fucking Christmas!" and shoots a TV set playing the old classic A Christmas Carol with his assault rifle. While it's unclear whether that moment was scripted, or just footage of Gary Busey at the on-set Christmas party, one thing is certain: Mr. Joshua needs to chill the fuck out.
Of course, he's on a collision course with Mel Gibson's equally crazy Det. Martin Riggs. The two maniacs finally go hand-to-hand on Danny Glover's front lawn in a frenzy of elbows and headbutts while a bunch of cops stand around and watch. (Hey, it's Los Angeles.)
Tim Roth was nominated for an Oscar for his portrayal of the repellent villain Archibald Cunningham in Rob Roy, and he at least clearly deserved it, because anyone who actually saw the film (at least a dozen people) wanted to physically choke the life from him after watching it.
Tasked with tracking down the rebel highlander Rob Roy, the lethal dandy Cunningham proves to be a ruthless and formidable foe. By the time this raping, stealing, murdering, wig-wearing aristocratic psychopath finally crosses swords with Liam Neeson's Roy, you've never wanted to see a movie character die more (the lone possible exception being Chris Tucker in Rush Hour).Fortunately, the ending doesn't disappoint. After employing a rope-a-dope maneuver, Rob-Roy grabs Cunningham's sword with his bare hand (manly!) and hacks his dandy little torso in two, which 9 out of 10 doctors confirm is a hard one to bounce back from.
Man, you almost wanted this guy to win. Sure, he was a Ratzi bastard, but you've gotta admire the spirit he displays during the kick-ass truck fight scene in Raiders.
After hijacking a truck carrying the Ark of the Covenant and a squad of German soldiers, Indiana Jones manages to scrape most of the squad off the truck. Unfortunately for Indy, That Tough German Dude's parents didn't give him that name just so he could be tossed off a truck by some ludicrously named archeologist. That Tough German Dude crawls up on top of the speeding truck, loses his hat, and jumps through the driver's window. He kicks Indy in the face, takes control of the truck, starts pounding on Indy's wounded arm, throws Indy's ass through the windshield, then speeds the truck up in an attempt to smash Indy against the car in front of them (all standard maneuvers taught in Nazi driver's ed).
Of course, (SPOILER ALERT!) Indy eventually kills his Nazi ass-but hey, That Tough German Dude lasts a hell of a lot longer than everybody else. (We hope somebody wrote a nice note to his family.)
In The Patriot, Jason Isaacs plays Col. William Tavington, the sneering commander of a group of British dragoons during the Revolutionary War. Tavington and his crew gallop around torching rebel houses, shooting kids, and sneering villainously whilst looking handsomely dapper in their neatly pressed uniforms. He does the dirty work for Gen. Cornwallis and is generally a psychotic war criminal son of a bitch. Oh, and have we mentioned the sneering?
Of course, Col. Tavington is on a collision course with Mel Gibson's equally crazy guerilla fighter, Benjamin Martin. The two maniacs finally go hand-to-hand on Danny Glover's front lawn-er, a battlefield, in a frenzy of hatchets and ponytails. Everyone else sympathetically gives them the space to work out their issues. (Hey, it was the 18th century.)
Granted, Col. Tavington is sort of a one-dimensional character, but Jason Isaacs plays him with a reptilian charm. And, after he's killed nearly everyone even remotely related to Mel Gibson, you really want to see this bastard get the axe, if only to wipe that smug goddamn look off his face.
The Road Warrior was a major and lasting contribution to pop culture, so it's a mystery that Wez (Vernon Wells) didn't have more of an impact. You never saw kids with mohawks dressed in shoulder pads and assless chaps at school. The "Wez" look simply failed to take off. (We can personally tell you that it wasn't from a lack of trying.)
It's a pity, because Wez, the mad-dog minion of Lord Humungous, is a top-quality character. He's played by the Tiger Woods of underrated henchmen, Vernon Wells (who also played the evil henchman Bennett in the Arnold Schwarzenegger masterpiece Commando and evil henchman Mr. Igoe in the Martin Short masterpiece Innerspace).
At the beginning of the film Wez and some cronies bushwhack Max, but things don't go as planned. Wez gets a bicep full of crossbow bolt, and his buddies get dead. While Max scrounges some gas, Wez screams in defiance and slowly pulls the bolt out of his arm. Then he rides off, presumably a little embarrassed about the hole he now has in his arm.
Of course, Wez is on a collision course with Mel Gibson's equally crazy post-apocalyptic nomad… well, you know where this is headed. Apparently, the chief requirement for most underrated henchmen is getting killed by Mel Gibson.
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