Bond villains of the '70s: Live and Let Die

Bond villains of the '70s: Live and Let Die

The changing and emerging technologies of the 1970s were reflected in Live and Let Die. James Bond — in the guise of Roger Moore — donned the first digital watch many of us had ever seen.

The film exhibited many changes that were emerging in cinema, regarding the portrayal and censorship of the realities of life in inner-city New York. These realities actually caused huge problems as the producers had to pay protection money to ensure the filming took place.

The main villain was played by the young actor, Yaphet Kotto, who was only 33 when filming commenced. He had to play two parts. That of "Mr Big", the head of Harlem's drug syndicate and a person not to be crossed, and that of the Prime Minister of the small island of San Monique. 

The film highlighted the difference in power dynamics between major gangsters and politicians. Bond discovered that there was a connection between Mr Big and Dr Kananga when he asked CIA ally, Felix Leiter:

"What would a foreign prime minister like Kananga want with an American gangster?"

And Leiter replied:

"Question is, what would Mr Big want with a two-bit island diplomat?"

Yaphet Kotto played the part with a nuanced intelligence that gave a three-dimensional edge to his scenes with Jane Seymour, who played the mysterious card-reader: Solitaire. Kananga had a whole slew of fascinating minions who all had their ways of acting. They were not only memorable for their violence but also their free-wheeling way of living. 

But we shall concentrate on the most fascinating character — Baron Samedi — a voodoo shaman whose hypnotic and lithe presence found its mark brilliantly. Played by Geoffrey Holder, you felt this character was genuinely magical. His first appearance was in the pre-title sequence where he assassinated a British agent with a snake bite at a dazzling voodoo ceremony.

The next time he is introduced as entertainment "for you wonderful people!"

The film plays with viewers' expectations. You think Bond has shot Baron Samedi as his eyes look up at the hole in his head — only for you to find the real Baron is still very much alive. In Samedi's fight with Bond, he is despatched by being thrown into a coffin filled with snakes.

Geoffrey Holder was not primarily an actor, but a dancer who had danced with the Metropolitan Opera Ballet. He was also the brother of Boscoe Holder, who had appeared in Dr No

He appeared in many films often made in the UK. He won a Tony Award for directing The Wiz in 1975. He left us in 2014 at the age of 84, but, we are left with a mystery as we see "the man who cannot die" sitting on the back of a train just before the end credits roll.

Martin Wright

Martin's love affair with James Bond started when he went to see On Her Majesty's Secret Service upon its release in 1969. He is trained in photography, Photoshop, and video editing.

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