Licence To Kill

 Release Details - Credits - Music - Cast - Notes

release details
Date of release: 13 June 1989 (UK), 14 July 1989 (US)
Running time: 133 mins
Aspect ratio: 2.35 : 1
Classification: 15 (UK), PG-13 (US)

Alternative titles: Private Revenge (Italy), The Cancelled Licence (Japan), Personnel Revenge (Greece), Time For Revenge (Sweden).

Directed by: John Glen
Produced by: Albert R Broccoli and Michael G Wilson
Screenplay by Michael G Wilson and Richard Maibaum
Associate producers: Tom Pevsner and Barbara Broccoli
Production designed by: Peter Lamont
Director of photography: Alec Mills
Second unit directed and photographed by: Arthur Wooster
Editor: John Grover and Peter Davies
Special visual effects: John Richardson
Stunt supervisor: Paul Weston
Main title designed by: Maurice Binder

Original score composed and conducted by: Michael Kamen

Main theme: "Licence To Kill"
Performed by: Gladys Night
Composed by: Narada Michael Walden, Jeffrey Cohen, Walter "Baby Love" Afansieff, John Barry, Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley
Highest chart position: 6 (UK)

End theme: "If You Asked Me To"
Performed by: Patti LaBelle
Written by: Diane Warren

Additional: "Wedding Party"
Performed by: Ivory
Written by: Jimmy Duncan and Phillip Brennan
Usage: During Felix and Della's wedding party (strangely enough).

Additional: "Dirty Love"
Performed by: Tim Feehan
Written by: Steve Dublin and Jeff Pescetto
Usage: Heard at the Barrelhead Bar.

Musical notes: It was originally planned to use a new version of the James Bond film as the main theme. It was recorded by Eric Clapton and Vic Flick (the guitarist on the original version) but it was not used has never been released. The film went on to use the Gladys Knight song. In the film itself, the song is credited to only Walden, Cohen and Afansieff. However, later releases of the song also add Barry, Bricusse and Newley to acknoweldge the fact that the opening of the song re-uses elements of "Goldfinger" that they composed.

James Bond: Timothy Dalton
Pam Bouvier: Carey Lowell
Franz Sanchez: Robert Davi
Lupe Lamora: Talisa Soto
Milton Krest: Anthony Zerbe
Sharkey: Frank McRae
Ed Killifer: Everett McGill
Professor Joe Butcher: Wayne Newton
Dario: Benicio Del Toro
Truman-Lodge: Anthony Starke
President Hector Lopez: Pedro Armendariz
Q: Desmond Llewelyn
Felix Leiter: David Hedison
Della Churchill Leiter: Priscilla Barnes
M: Robert Brown
Miss Moneypenny: Caroline Bliss
Colonel Heller: Don Stroud
Hawkins: Grand L Bush
Kwang: Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawi
Perez: Alejandro Bracho
Braun: Guy de Saint Cyr
Mullens: Rafer Johnson
Loti: Diana Lee-Hsu
Fallon: Christopher Neame
Stripper: Jeannine Bisignano
Montelongo: Claudio Brook
Consuela: Cynthia Fallon
Rasmussen: Enrique Novi
Oriental: Osami Kawawo
Doctor: George Belonger
Wavekrest Captain: Roger Cudney
Chief Chemist: Honorato Magaloni
Pit Boss: Jorge Russex
Bellboy: Sergio Corona
Ninja: Stuart Kwan
Tanker Driver: Jose Abdala
Ticket Agent: Teresa Benjamin
Della's Uncle: Samuel Benjamin Lancaster
Casino Manager: Juan Peleaz
Coast Guard Radio Operator: Mark Kelty
Hotel Assistant Manager: Umberto Elizondo
Sanchez's Driver: Fidel Carriga
Barrelhead Waitress: Edna Bolkan
Clive: Eddie Enderfield
Warehouse Guards: Jeff Moldovian, Carl Ciarfalio

Lupe's Lover (Alvarez): Gerado Morenu
Marshals: Tom Bahr, Alex Edlin
Marshal Driver: Chick Bernhardt
Probe Operator: Lars Lundgren
Barrelhead Bar Patron: Branscombe Richmond
Casino Guest: Jorge Valdés

The gunbarrel: Licence To Kill opens with the same gunbarrel footage used for The Living Daylights, but Michael Kamen's arrangement of the music is different, particularly that accompanying the dot to the right of the screen which is not really recognisable as the James Bond theme. Kamen elects to use an electric guitar, its first use since The Spy Who Loved Me.

Using the title: When Bond refuses to leave the Leiter matter to the Americans, M tells Bond that his "licence to kill is revoked". However, it must be said that the film's title is not particularly appropriate when compared with its original title (see the "Anything else?" section).

The novel approach: Although Licence To Kill was the first film not to take its title from a Fleming novel or story there is a surprising amount of literary material in the film. Felix Leiter's encounter with a shark and Bond's subsequent discovery of him with a note reading "He disagreed with something which ate him" is taken from the novel of "Live And Let Die". The subsequent fight scenes within Krest's laboratory are also influenced by scenes from the same novel, although here it is gold coins being smuggled, not drugs.
In addition, the film also takes inspiration from "The Hildebrand Rarity" (a short story in the "For Your Eyes Only" collection) in the shape of marine biologist Milton Krest, and his boat, the Wavekrest. Fleming's Krest liked to beat his wife with a stingray tail, a tendency transferred to Sanchez's relationship with Lupe in Licence to Kill.
The film was novelised by John Gardner, who at the time was writing original novels featuring James Bond. This book keeps with the continuity of the Fleming novels so the reader is expected to belief that Felix is attacked by a shark for the second time!

On Her Majesty's Secret Service: The nature of the film is that it features little of MI6, which is unfortunate since it proved to be the last appearance of Robert Brown and Caroline Bliss. Unsurprisingly, M is not terribly pleased with Bond's behaviour in the film, although it is somewhat disturbing that the only reason that he doesn't want his men to shoot at an escaping Bond is because there are too many people around! In her single scene, we see that Moneypenny is very concerned about Bond, and it is she who encourages Q to take some leave in order to go and help him.
Even though Bond is not on Secret Service business he still makes use of the MI6 cover name, Universal Exports, when checking out Krest's marine laboratory. He claims to be working on behalf of Regents Park Zoo in their quest for a shark. The only other glimpse of MI6 activity comes in the shape of Fallon, the Service man in Isthmus, who is assigned to retrieve Bond. However, he is killed by Sanchez before he can carry this out.

Locations: Key West, Florida, USA; the (fictional) South American republic of Isthmus, principally its capital, Isthmus City. There's a brief scene in London.

The villain: Franz Sanchez, a drug baron who is based in Isthmus, which he effectively runs. He is wanted in the USA on 139 felony charges, so when he crosses the border in order to retrieve his errant girlfriend, the DEA are keen to catch up with him. Helped by Bond and Felix Leiter, he is caught but escapes using a two million dollar bribe, taking revenge on Leiter.
Sanchez is shown to be an unusually honourable villain, actually paying the bribe to Killifer rather than just killing him. He also owns a pet iguana, which is decorated with a diamond collar. Sanchez owns the Banco di Isthmus and an adjacent casino. His drug empire uses a meditation centre as a front, housing a laboratory (which cost 32 million dollars) which has developed a technique for dissolving cocaine in petroleum. Religious broadcasts from the centre, fronted by one Professor Joe Butcher, provide a method of communicating his latest prices. The centre also turns a legitimate profit! Sanchez is looking to expand into the Pacific Rim, leading to him attracting the attention of Hong Kong narcotics. Sanchez is ultimately immolated in his own gasoline/cocaine mixture.
Sanchez has a large team including Milton Krest, a marine biologist who provides a means of smuggling merchandise into the US; head of security, Colonel Heller; yuppie business co-ordinator Truman-Lodge; and, youthful Cuban pyschopath Dario, who was apparently kicked out of the Contras.

The girl: Pam Bouvier, an ex-Army pilot who has been working freelance for Felix Leiter and the CIA in operations against Sanchez. She is the last of Felix's 9 contacts to remain alive. Bond employs her to fly him to Isthmus, where she stays around as his "personal secretary" under the name Miss Kennedy. She hasn't smoked for 5 years, before meeting Bond.
In contrast to the previous movie, the film features something of a love triangle between Bond, Pam and Lupe Lamora, Sanchez's latest girlfriend. Lupe used to work in Sanchez's casino. She once won a beauty contest, although Krest implies that it was fixed on her behalf. When Bond ends up with Pam, Lupe sees her chances with the President of Isthmus.

Bond's conquests: Two - Pam and Lupe.

Gadgets: A cowl that allows a scuba-diving Bond to disguise himself as a mantaray. An exploding alarm clock. "Detonite" toothpaste that is actually a plastic explosive, with a detonator that is disguised as a packet of cigarettes. A camera that is actually a 0.220 calibre signature gun, which means that once programmed only Bond can fire it. A polaroid camera that contains a laser and takes X-ray photographs. An abseiling rope in a cumerbund. A broom containing a radio (which Q amusingly disguards).

Recurring characters: Felix Leiter returns again, and for once the character has a pivotal role in the film. David Hedison becomes the first actor to portray Felix more than once, following his appearance in Live And Let Die. There's some confusion over who Felix is working for during the film - he is working with the DEA, but it is commonly accepted that he is still actually a CIA agent. At the start of the film, Felix marries Della Churchill, although she is raped and killed by Sanchez's thugs. Felix is fed to a shark and loses his left leg below the knee, although his arm is saved.

Continuity: Felix explains to Della about Bond's reluctance to think about marriage by referring to the fact that he was married once- "a long time ago". When Bond is guided into Hemingway House, the first that we see of M is a shadowy figure caressing a cat, perhaps alluding to Blofeld.

Cameos: The customary cameo of executive producer and writer Michael G Wilson is here in voice only - he's the one who says "If they hurry, they might just be able to grab the bastard" at the start of the pre-credits sequence.

Cuts: The somewhat violent nature of Licence To Kill has meant that it has suffered in the hands of various international censors in a way that no other Bond movie has. When originally UK release cut the sequence of Lupe being whipped by Sanchez in the pre-credits sequence (accompanied by the scream of her lover as his heart is cut out off-screen), plus trims to the scenes of Leiter's encounter with the shark, Krest's death in the decompression chamber, and Sanchez's fiery demise. More recent British video and DVD releases have restored these sequences to produce a version of the film that is the same as the US one. However, an even more complete version is available in Holland. This features an extra shot of Felix's attack by the shark, a close up of Krest's blood splattering on the window of the decompression chamber, plus more shots concerned with the deaths of Dario in the crusher and Sanchez on fire.

I didn't catch the name?: Bond gives his trademark introduction when he meets Sanchez in Isthmus.

Vodka Martinis: Bond sends Pam to get him a medium dry Vodka Martini, shaken not stirred, in the casino to get her out of the way so that he can talk to Lupe. When Bond subsequently goes off with her, Pam ends up drinking it herself (she doesn't appear to like it). Earlier, Bond drinks beer in the less salubrious surroundings of the Barrelhead Bar. On arriving at the Isthmus hotel he orders a whole case of Bollinger RD to be sent up to his room.

Gambling: Bond plays Blackjack at Sanchez's casino. He wins $250,000 and achieves his aim of attracting the attention of its owner.

Bond bits: Bond claims to be a "problem eliminator" when he meets Sanchez. Of course, he checks Bond out and finds out that he is a disaffected British agent - which is of course true! At the wedding reception, Felix and Della present Bond with an engraved cigarette lighter, although it has a very strong flame (which proves to be handy later). After Felix's wedding Bond was supposed to be leaving for an assignment in Istanbul, but his personal vendetta gets in the way. This leads to M revoking his licence to kill, although Bond seems to be warmly welcomed back at the end of the film.

Anything else?: The film was originally going to be called Licence Revoked; which is somewhat more relevant to the plot. However, it is said that the title was changed when it was thought that this would cause confusion with audiences.
Although the screenplay is credited to both Michael G Wilson and Richard Maibaum, the latter has commented that due to the writers' strike of the time he made little contribution to the script, perhaps explaining the reversal in the order of the writing credits compared with the previous few films.
Pedro Armendariz, who plays the President of Isthmus, is the son of the Pedro Armendariz, who played Kerim Bey in From Russia With Love.
Bond gives Pam Bouvier the pseudonym of Miss Kennedy when she is posing as his personal assistant, a reference to the fact that Jackie Kennedy's maiden name was Bouvier.
Isthmus is only the second fictional country to be visited by Bond, following San Monique in Live And Let Die.
During the climatic tanker chance, some of the bullet ricochets on one of the trucks can be heard to play the Bond theme.
The end credits include a warning from the Surgeon General about the dangers of smoking, presumably arising from the cigarette product placement in the film (particularly the detonator to the toothpaste explosive).

The Bond Film Informant was compiled by Matthew Newton. © Copyright MJ Newton. No part of this site may be reproduced without permission unless otherwise stated.

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