Best But Most Underrated Bond Villain Ever? Baron Samedi in Live and Let Die
Sure 007 has had countless enemies, and sure at first the Baron seems like more of a goofy third-rate entertainer than a super villain. Ah, but that's what makes him so clever. When he isn't doing his Vodoun inspired stage act he is content to let others run the show, while doing his level best to see to Bond's demise, mainly though attacking Bond with a machete.
I know, it isn't a set of steel jaws or a lazer beam, and he's only a wannabe stage actor, or is he? There's an elegance to the man only known as the Baron, and he portrays himself, when not on stage as a gentleman with a healthy eye for the ladies. Still, underneath all of this there is a current of something other.
We are really never sure where the man comes from, or why he is content to be a flunky when he seems to have more power. Is he really a mere actor, or something more? After all most Bond villains are rather obliging about dying in the end, but Baron Samedi proves impossible to kill.
So what kind of man could survive being thrown into a coffin full of poisonous snakes? Is he really a huckster who pulled off one last stage act, or is he a spirit pretending to be a man, perhaps the actual Baron Samedi himself? Viewers are never really sure, but the man has a way about him.
He seems to be rather fond of hanging out in graveyards and playing his flute, and when he addresses Bond as 'Boss' and assures him it will be a beautiful day, he shows just enough teeth and does this gesture with the flute that let's you feel the menace, all while keeping his voice soothing and friendly.
The flute turns out to be a radio, because this is a Bond film and in a later scene, dressed mostly in black and carrying a cane there is no mistaking him as the clear power source in the room, even if he is letting the fool who thinks he is in control run the show. Strangely this is a Bond film I never see in the TV film festivals, though it should be.
It had a rare mostly African American cast and although some folks disliked the idea of Vodoun being treated as entertainment for tourists, the fact is these shows thrive (or used to) in many places and the lwa or spirits don't seem to care either way.
I personally love the part where the Baron picks up the Death card from Solitaire's deck and laughs like a maniac. And he is the only Bond villain who either relies on robot doubles or magical powers to escape death when shot.
You can never really figure out who or even what he is, and why, exactly does he have a flaming skull at the end? Well to quote Geoffery Holder, who turned in a really wonderful performance as the Baron: "I am not a witch doctor. I am the god of life and death."
PS I shot the background for this lens myself, please enjoy!
A trailer and Geoffery's personal views and profound respect for the Haitian culture and Vodoun. And Baron Samedi in the film. "I am the god of life and death." There you have it! Also a bit about the actual Baron since in is insulting to mention the lwa and not honor them, methinks.