SAMEDI, BARON

Entry Source: The James Bond Movie Encyclopedia by Steven Jay Rubin


Giant henchman of drug smuggler Kananga (Yaphet Kotto) in Live and Let Die, portrayed by six-foot-six dancer/choreographer Geoffrey Holder. Holder plays the role in two distinctly different veins. At times, he is simply a conspicuous heavy of Kanaga’s alter ego Mr. Big. But in several key sequences the henchman seems to become Baron Samedi (“Samedi” is French for “Saturday”), who in the mythology of voodoo is the god of cemeteries and the chief of the legion of the dead who cannot die.

Holder, with his powerful laugh and lithesome dancer movements, is nearly the symbol of the entire film, and viewers never quite know whether Samedi is a mortal or supernatural figure. At Bond’s hotel on the fictional island of San Monique, he’s merely a dancing, laughing character in an elaborate floor show. In a very atmospheric moment in the hinterlands of the island, he’s a moody flute player, greeting Bond (Roger Moore) and Solitaire (Jane Seymour) and wishing them a good day. It is the mythical Samedi who officiates a sacrificial rite in which Solitaire is nearly murdered by snake-bearing worshippers, but in the climactic fight to save her, Bond finds Samedi a very mortal opponent, defeating him by throwing him into a coffin full of snakes. But then, appropriately enough, the last character we see in the film is an uninjured, laughing Samedi riding on the front of Bond’s homeward-bound train.

In fact, the appearance of Holder in the film’s last scene was a late addition to the film. The filmmakers felt strongly that they risked alienating black Bond fans if they killed off practically all the black villains, so they added the final turn—little does 007 know who is sitting on the front of the train, warning us that the supernatural cannot be dismissed so lightly.