Irma Bunt is the loyal henchwoman of criminal mastermind Ernst Stavro Blofeld. She first appeared in Ian Fleming’s 1963 novel, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, and later became the secondary antagonist in the 1969 film adaptation.
The late German actress Ilse Steppat portrayed Irma Bunt in her only English-language role. Steppat reprised the role in the German-language dub of the film, but after her untimely death shortly following the film’s premiere, Josaline Gassen dubbed over additional scenes in later releases.
A stout, middle-aged woman with red hair, Irma Bunt works alongside Blofeld at Piz Gloria, a mountaintop clinic in the Swiss Alps. She initially meets James Bond (George Lazenby) at a train station, taking him to the clinic via sleigh and helicopter while he is disguised as Sir Hilary Bray.
Bunt is responsible for managing the girls at the clinic, who suffer from allergies but are secretly being brainwashed as “Angels of Death.” With her strict demeanor reminiscent of Rosa Klebb, Bunt ensures that her guests, including “Sir Hillary Bray,” abide by the rules.
Bunt shows “Bray” to a doctor, orders Grunther to search his luggage, before inviting him to dine in the alpine room with the twelve Angels of Death. She enforces specific rules, such as concealing patients’ last names, not discussing clinic staff affairs, and keeping room numbers confidential.
Later, as Bond tries to sneak out of his room to visit Ruby Bartlett, he nearly gets caught by Bunt, who is talking to an unknown Piz Gloria employee in German. Later, Bunt supervises a curling game with the girls, inviting Bond to participate. Later, when someone is discovered trying to infiltrate the institute, Bunt quickly ends the game and ushers everyone inside.
When Bond’s cover as Sir Hilary Bray is exposed, Irma Bunt helps her henchmen, Braun and Felsen, in pursuing him through a nearby village using a Mercedes-Benz W111. Despite their efforts, Bunt is nearly killed in a stock car rally explosion orchestrated by Tracy. Bunt escapes the blast with minor injuries.
Bunt reappears at the end of the film after Bond and Tracy’s wedding. Alongside Blofeld, who drives the car, Bunt shoots at the newlyweds with an M16. While Bond remains unscathed, Tracy dies from a headshot. Although Blofeld only drove the car, Bond holds him solely responsible for the tragedy.
In a rare departure from the typical fate of Bond film villains, Bunt escapes retribution from 007 and we never see her again.
Ilse Steppat was an accomplished German actress who enjoyed an impactful career in German cinema. Born on November 30, 1917, Steppat entered the entertainment industry at the tender age of 15, portraying Joan of Arc. Over the course of her career, she appeared in more than 40 German-language films, becoming a significant figure in her home country.
In the 1960s, Steppat gained prominence for her roles in crime movies inspired by the works of author Edgar Wallace. Notable films include Captain Wronski, Die Gruft mit dem Rätselschloss, Der unheimliche Mönch, and Die blaue Hand, which established her as a highly sought-after actress in Germany.
Steppat’s sole English-language role came as Irma Bunt, Blofeld’s assistant and henchwoman, in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Tragically, just four days after the film’s international release, Steppat passed away on December 21, 1969, due to a heart attack, preventing her from fully capitalizing on her newfound international acclaim.