James Bond’s weird world is replete with surreal weapons and fancy gadgets. Throughout the series of Bond films, you’ll see poison-tipped dagger shoes, watches that include strangling wires, suspenders with grappling hook capabilities, and a golden gun that can be assembled out of desk accessories and household objects. And those aren’t even the weird ones. It’s an impressive array of fancy, high-tech (or overtly make-believe) devices that define the series… but once in a while, the Bond mythology dips into more mystical territory.
In Live and Let Die (1973), Bond encounters a woman named Solitaire (played by Jane Seymour, aka Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman), who has a special ability to read tarot cards with uncanny accuracy… until James Bond himself strips her of that power by seducing the living daylights out of her. Great job, Bond. You could have seen the future and made yourself a very happy and wealthy man, but instead, you had to get some immediate action. Bond’s complete jerkiness aside, Solitaire’s tarot cards play a major role during the film, so reproducing them as a prop replica is a pretty solid, relatively inexpensive (under $30) way to get a real Bond prop into the hands of Bond’s countless, passionate fans.
Factory Entertainment has produced an obsessively faithful set of cards, exactly as they appeared on screen or during production of the film—and the documentation included with the cards makes it clear that this was no small task. While Salvador Dali was originally asked to produce these cards, he declined, making way for Surrealist artist Fergus Hall to create an original deck for the film. By the time the film needed these cards to appear on screen, Hall had only completed the major arcana (the main 22 cards), and a few other lesser cards. Hall would go on to complete and amend these images later on for an official James Bond Tarot Deck, which was released in conjunction with the film. The cards included in the Factory Entertainment set include only the original, never-before-published, pre-revision designs, for the very first time in print. Instead of picking up a vintage James Bond deck (or during later republications, The Tarot of the Witches), this is the closest thing to the real deal as you can get.
Factory Entertainment packages this set in a handsome box, including the history of the cards and a pouch to hold them, just like in the movie. They’re printed cleanly, as any authentic tarot deck would be, and even the ’007′ design on the reverse is retained from the original film. (The original James Bond deck featured this design in blue, while these cards are backed with red.) The only cards included here are those which appeared in the film, minus a couple which were mentioned but did not actually appear on screen, and for which the actual originals have been lost (if they ever existed). Without knowing whether or not Fergus’s later designs were the ones used in the film, Factory Entertainment has omitted these unseen cards. They’ve also included three copies of The Lovers card, which also plays an iconic role in the film, and relates to James Bond being a completely selfish lothario.
If you’re buying these because you want to divine the future, you’re out of luck. Go get a full tarot deck. As a perfect prop replica, these are the only way to go.
The true tragedy of the original Solitaire tarot cards can be seen below.
A trading card company obtained the original tarot cards and cut them up, only so they could be included in a set of trading cards. There’s so much weird, self-destructive, profiteering irony in this that I can’t even begin to articulate the circular logic that goes into cutting up cards to make less valuable cards. A genuine, screen-used prop is a glorious thing. I own Jeffrey Tambor’s pants and Selma Blair’s choker from Hellboy, and GOB’s forget-me-now pillbox from Arrested Development. I appreciate the value of a great prop which has actually interacted with an actor and has been seen by millions.
So, if you’re holding out for the original, screen-used cards from Live and Let Die, you’re out of luck. They’ve been destroyed. Factory Entertainment’s prop replica set is the only way to go. Thankfully, it’s a great way to go.