Editor’s note: Newsarama contributor and Olympics fan Seth Robison joins Blog@ to highlight “tangentially Olympic-related” comics and pop culture moments. You can read more from Seth on the Olympics at his blog Off The Podium.
By Seth Robison
James Bond never saved the Olympics, so what is one of his film classics doing here? Well, we are not here for James or the vile Auric Goldfinger or Pussy Galore or Felix Leiter or even Pussy Galore (heh). The movie Goldfinger is the only place where you can see the best henchman in the history of film: Oddjob, better known to his friends and family as 1948 Olympic weightlifting Silver Medalist, Toshiyuki “Harold” Sakata.
Born in Hawaii in 1920, Toshiyuki, who chose the name ‘Harold’ to better fit in growing up (like another Hawaiian once did, Illinois Senator Barack ‘Barry’ Obama). He parlayed his Olympic success into another ‘Angle:’ Professional Wrestling. Under the name Tosh Togo, Harold went on to win several NWA championship belts in the 1950s and 1960s. There, he caught the notice of Bond film series producer Albert “Cubby” Broccoli, who, despite his limited acting ability, cast Harold as the mute Korean enforcer of Goldfinger’s will.
In both the original book and the film version, Oddjob is shown to be incredibly strong and durable, a master of karate and a fearless killer. However, his most enduring threat is in the use of his lethal, metal-rimmed bowler hat. A completely unique martial art unto itself — although there is Tessenjutsu, the Japanese art of the War Fan, which sounds really cool, but personally I’d stick with a sword or a gun — Oddjob demonstrates his habadash-su in the film by decapitating statuary and breaking the necks of female bit players.
Oddjob is electrocuted near the climax of the film (whoops, spoiler alert there, sorry). Although in the book, he is the one who’s sucked out the airplane window, not Goldfinger (there I go again). Harold’s iconic role finds him fame enough to land parts in Hong Kong action films and guest spots on such American TV shows as Gilligan’s Island and Hawaii Five-O.
Sadly, Toshiyuki Sakata died of cancer in 1982, but his memory lives on with the countless homages to the character he made famous, from Austin Powers’ Random Task to the Mythbusters’ failed attempt to recreate the effect of his hat on a statue. Therefore, we doff our caps and keep a wary eye on the British this day … oh and Pussy Galore.