The metal-toothed killer ‘Jaws’ was the henchman redeemed by love. The character portrayed by Richard Kiel (1939 – 2014) participated in two films – The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) and Moonraker (1979). The Jaws is a freelance professional killer who meets almost all the criteria for a typical secondary antagonist in the Bond franchise. He is the typical henchman, he works for supervillains, he is very big, tall, extremely strong but not very smart. He is equipped with steel teeth that can bite through virtually anything.
He is iconic for being one of Bond’s most formidable adversaries due to his relentless tenacity, hulking stature (Kiel was 2,18 m (7ft 2in)), inhuman durability, immense strength and more notably, possessing extremely powerful stainless steel teeth that are capable of biting through any form of durable material.
The teeth play a prominent role in the films. Albert R. Broccoli is credited with adding steel teeth to the character for The Spy Who Loved Me. Broccoli hired Peter Thomas, a dental technician who worked near Pinewood Studios, to construct the teeth. After shooting a scene, the teeth were placed in a plastic container with cotton wool at the bottom and the teeth were rinsed with mouthwash before drying for use in the next scene. After the James Bond films, the teeth were taken to an unknown location but in 2002, the teeth were displayed as part of an exhibition at The Science Museum in London to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the release of Dr. No.
Jaws first appeared in The Spy Who Loved Me as a henchman to the main villain, Karl Stromberg. He was an assassin hired by Karl Stromberg and is last seen swimming in the ocean after escaping from the Atlantis city-ship on which Bond had killed Stromberg before it was torpedoed and sunk.
The character of Jaws in The Spy Who Loved Me was originally intended to die at the end of the movie, but he was so popular with fans that Kiel was brought back to reprise the role in Moonraker.
In the next film, Moonraker, Jaws is employed by both Bond’s unspecified enemy in the pre-credits sequence, and the main villain Hugo Drax. Jaws is evidently well known amongst criminals, as Drax is pleased to learn that Jaws is available to hire. The character changed from a ruthless and unstoppable killing machine to more of a comedic figure and he eventually turns against Drax and helps Bond to defeat him.
Kiel’s Jaws is hence an unusual figure. He was the henchman who went over to the side of goodness, redeemed by love, and challenged the moral universe of the Bond films. However, Jaws were not the first henchperson to switch sides to join the good guys: Honor Blackman’s Pussy Galore came over to the British team in Goldfinger, inspired by her attraction to Bond himself.
Most of the background information on Jaws comes from Christopher Wood’s novelization of the film The Spy Who Loved Me; published as James Bond, The Spy Who Loved Me to differentiate from Ian Fleming’s novel. In Wood’s version, Jaws’ real name is Zbigniew Krycsiwiki. He was born in Poland, the product of a union between the strong man of a traveling circus and the Chief Wardress at the Women’s Prison in Cracow.
“Well, here’s to us.”
~ Jaws’ only spoken words.
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