Now that’s a tune! A song that stands proudly on its own and is one of the best things about this movie. It’s starts slow and then sweeps up into a huge orchestral wave, before leaning out into reggae, then back into the orchestra again. The minor cadences are there. The sense of drama is there. This is a great theme tune, one of the best.
The opening credits feature women of African appearance, mostly painted in tribal patterns, interspersed with skulls and fire. I guess this is the best interpretation they could come up with in how to present the film’s tenuous voodoo links.
For this film, we welcome Roger Moore to the role of Bond. This Bond smokes a cigar, not cigarettes. This Bond wears safari suits, and flares. This is 70s Bond. This is also blaxploitation Bond – we have our first African-American villain, and also our first African American Bond woman.
(*Spoilers coming*) The women in this film are Rosie Carver, African American CIA agent, and Solitaire, genius tarot psychic dressed up like a Vegas showgirl, who uses her gifts to advise Kananga, the president of island republic San Monique. Rosie is a double agent who also works for Kananga. Bond realises this, has sex with her anyway, then holds a gun to her head to find out what she knows.
“You wouldn’t kill me after what we’ve just done?” she asks him. “I certainly wouldn’t have killed you before,” Bond replies.
Solitaire’s mystic powers and her connection to the spirits only apply so long as she is a virgin. (You can see where this is going, yes?) When she first meets Bond, she is shocked and scared to see their future depicted in the card The Lovers. (She should have known this was going to happen, her tarot set has 007 on the back after all.) Of course she falls prey to Bond’s charms and loses her “talents”. Bond is on a mission to find out what Kananga is up to and seems unconcerned by Solitaire’s sadness at losing her spiritual connection.
The film’s exotic locations were the fictional island of San Monique (actually Jamaica), New York (including some stark footage of Harlem), New Orleans and the bayous of Louisiana, where there is an attempt to feed Bond to some crocodiles, and a speed boat chase through the bayous that went on and on and on and on and enough already with the boat chase. The insertion of a redneck sheriff into the middle of a scene that was going on too long already was unnecessary and tiresome.
(*spoilers*) The villain, Kananga, is also the villain Mr Big, big time drug hustler in the US. Kananga is growing opium on his island nation, and his villainous plot is to flood the US market with free heroin, increasing the number of addicts and putting his competitors out of businesses. Then, with a huge market and a monopoly, he can charge what he wants for his product.
What is it about villains and their desire to kill people in the most convoluted manner possible? Having failed with the crocodiles, Kananga tries to feed Bond to the sharks instead. What’s this obsession with getting animals to do your killing for you? You’ve got a gun, you’re a big shot villain, but no, you’ll try to kill someone in the most impractical way possible.
Film epilogue: Solitaire discovers she hadn’t lost her skills after all, and moves to Los Angeles where she became a celebrity tarot reader and advisor to half of Hollywood.