Sunday, 8 December 2013

Love To Hate : Robert Shaw

Normally with a Love To Hate post I'd cite the actor and a specific villainous role.

But you're rather spoilt for choice with Westhoughton's finest, Robert Shaw.

King of the villains you can't help but be impressed by or secretly root for, I suppose you have to mention his magnificent turn as Red Grant, an emotionless hardened killer in the employ of SPECTRE in the second James Bond film, 1963's From Russia With Love

In that he gets to face off opposite Sean Connery's Bond in a wince inducing bout of to the death hand to hand combat aboard the Orient Express. 

Thirteen years later, and you could say Connery graciously accepted a rematch. 1976 saw Shaw play the Sheriff of Nottingham opposite Connery's Robin Hood in Dick Lester's elegiac Robin and Marian

One of the definitive adaptations of the legend, Robin and Marian tells the story of an aging Hood returning to Sherwood after a time spent fighting in The Crusades. Reuniting with his weary old band of outlaws and reigniting his love with Marian (Audrey Hepburn) he proceeds to do battle once more with a jaded and cynical Sheriff, who occasionally seems pleased or at least entertained to have his old foe back - a worthy opponent he can grudgingly respect to a certain extent.

Going face to face again, Connery's outlaw narrowly defeats and kills Shaw's Sheriff, but not before he delivers a fatal wound that Hood succumbs to at the film's close.

So let's call that 2-1 to Connery on aggregate eh?

Perhaps my favourite villainous turn from Shaw though is in 1974's The Taking Of Pelham One Two Three in which he used his now trademark darkly muttering and constantly irritated style to great effect as Bernard Ryder aka Mr Blue, leading his gang of hijackers (Mr Green, Mr Grey and Mr Brown - Tarantino take note) across the New York subway system.

It's an absolutely definitive performance and utterly influential - every single classy British villain/terrorist to grace the plethora of action movies from Die Hard in the following decade to Star Trek Into Darkness in the present day, owes a debt to Robert Shaw.


  1. Don't forget The Sting, it's not easy to play a character devoid of any redeeming feature but Shaw delivers with his vile Irish gangster; Doyle Lonnegan...

    1. Oh yes, love The Sting! But like you say not much love in that character there haha

  2. I still love that flick, everything about it is so meticulously crafted that it's always a joy to watch. Is there such a thing as a lightweight masterpiece? Oh yes...

    1. I just need to hear that theme tune and I smile :D

      Never seen the sequel. No intention to do so either. Ghastly idea.

    2. Dead right, it would be like JMWT's 'Rain Wind and Steam 2 - The Milk Train'...