1973’s Live and Let Die represented Roger Moore’s first foray onto the silver screen as iconic secret agent/ alcoholic/ womanizer James Bond. In this nonsensical and ridiculously campy adventure, Bond faces off against the ruthless leader of a small island nation while dealing with drug cartels, beautifully exotic women, and voodoo. Widely viewed as a premier example of blaxploitation, the film is infamous for its liberal usage of racial clichés and terminologies, evidenced by Bond at one point instructing his driver to “follow that white pimp mobile.”
One of the most memorable characters from Live and Let Die is the enigmatic Baron Samedi, a tall, mysterious individual who appears in various instances throughout the film. Nowadays he is regarded as one of the most popular Bond bad guys, mainly due to his captivating scenes and possibly supernatural nature.
Named after the voodoo god of death, Samedi is first introduced merely as a performer for tourists, described by the MC as “the man who cannot die.” It eventually turns out he is working alongside the main antagonist Dr. Kananga. He never speaks, but his presence is remarkable, exuding other-worldliness and confidence, always displaying grandiose facial expressions. Later in the film, when Bond is on one of his trademark shooting rampages, he is confronted by Samedi, and shoots him from point-blank range, causing him to fall into a coffin full of snakes. His death cry and bodily convulsions pretty much seal the deal on his fate.
The video below contains every single moment of screen-time for Samedi in Live and Let Die (the epic scene I’m discussing is at the end of the clip).
Near the conclusion of the Live and Let Die, Bond has bedded multiple women, ran across a makeshift pathway of crocodiles, and defeated the evil Dr. Kananga, a corrupt island prime minister who spends his spare time dealing mass quantities of heroine under the alias Mr. Big. Bond boards a train with Solitaire, his psychic tarot-card reading love interest, and quickly finds himself involved in a physical altercation with Tee Hee (yes, that’s his name), the lone surviving henchman of Dr. Kananga’s. After craftily disposing of Tee Hee, Bond tenderly assures Solitaire everything is fine.
The film then cuts to the front of the train, where an incredibly evil-looking Baron Samedi sits, his clothes blowing in the wind. An evil smile spreads across his face, and be begins to elicit a maniacal laugh, and as the camera zooms closer, he takes off his hat, a broad grin emblazoned across his face. The beginning of Paul McCartney’s iconic “Live and Let Die” theme song dramatically fades in, and in the blink of an eye, Baron Samedi’s grinning visage is replaced by a skull as the stylized credits begin to roll.
This ending is utterly epic and compelling because it further injects mystique and myth into the legacy of the Baron Samedi character. Is he a man posing as a god? Is he possessed by the spirit of Samedi? Obviously, the initial shock for first time viewers is due to the fact it is assumed he was killed off earlier. This is the perfect ending for a film built around the components of voodoo and mystical magical powers because it is incredibly ambiguous and opened-ended.
My personal interpretation is that Baron Samedi is indeed an immortal god, and his laughter indicates that James Bond has yet to escape his ultimate fate. The fact Samedi is on the train represents how trouble and death will continue to stalk Bond, and he is powerless to stop it.
Plus, let’s be honest, the ending scene is just so incredibly epic and gripping, and that grin is simply contagious.