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I always had a bit of a crush on the Seymour character, she is genuinely attractive, and my favorite of all the Bond girls, even more reason for a watch. Yaphet Kotto actually does very well and gets unfairly castigated I feel sometimes, although I much prefered his Mr Big persona. One complaint is the blatant nod to the Blaxploitation of the time and unneccesary cliches that went with it, but it never really deviated from my overall enjoyment of the film. The action never lets up, the chase through the Bayous of Louisiana is indeed fun and enthralling, and I can never take my eyes away, there is so much going on. I was never a fan of the ending however, the asinine demise of Kotto is questionable and juvenile, but apart from that, it's not that bad maybe. Another acknowledgement of the scene with Connery and Shaw from Russia comes to the fore late on as Bond and an adversary have a train battle, it's not as good or entertaining as the original, but still works well and is an adequate finish to an overall excellent movie
The 'Bond with 'Gators' scene is always fun to watch, as 007 hops to freedom and the subsequent destruction of the facility and bayous chase comes into play, but it's always a sign for me, that the film is perhaps nearing it's conclusion. I always felt it a little too dark or serious for children, this is a Bond release more suited to mature teenagers than younger kids as there are indeed some scenes and bits and pieces that aren't appropriate for a certain age. Moore looks plausible as Bond, does very well even, before his degeneration into more 'humor' Bond in later releases
All said, Great music, Great action, Great Bond Girl, a Great Watch. I could never give any movie 100 per cent as I don't think such a thing exists, but this is as close to perfection as I found, at least on a Bond level. It's my favorite of all the 007 releases
Directed by: Guy Hamilton; Produced by: Harry Saltzman and Albert R Broccoli; Screenplay by: Tom Mankiewicz – loosely adapted from the Ian Fleming novel (1954); Starring: Roger Moore, Yaphet Kotto, Jane Seymour, Clifton James, David Hedison, Gloria Hendry, Julius W Harris, Geoffrey Holder, Roy Stewart, Bernard Lee, Lois Maxwell, Lon Satton, Arnold Williams, Tommy Lane, Earl Jolly Brown and Madeline Smith; Certificate: PG; Country: UK/ USA; Running time: 121 minutes; Colour; Released: June 27 1973; Worldwide box-office: $161.8m (inflation adjusted: $825.1m ~ 3/24*)
* denotes worldwide box-office ranking out of all 24 Bond films (inflation adjusted), according to 007james.com
In some ways, Live And Let Die is a very formulaic Bond film; in others, it’s very unusual – and that’s certainly true of its plot. MI6 agents are mysteriously dropping like flies, so 007 visits New York to observe UN HQ-attending Dr Kananga, leader of fictitious Caribbean island San Monique, who may link together the spies’ murders. Our man, though, makes a bee-line for Harlem (having followed a car driven by a would-be assailant), where he’s caught by crime chief Mr Big. Escaping, Bond follows Kananga to San Monique, where a duplicitous CIA contact confesses to the latter’s whereabouts, ensuring 007 drops in and there seduces and ‘kidnaps’ tarot card reader Solitaire. The pair escape to New Orleans and here encounter Mr Big, who steals back the girl and reveals to Bond that he and Kananga are the same man, plus his scheme: to flood the US with free San Moniquian heroin in order to turn swathes of Americans into addicts and monopolise the market. Die's copious captures-by- and escapes-from-baddies are familiar Bond fare, of course, but the presence of the Caribbean voodoo cult throughout (whose authenticity is never disproved) lends it a supernatural underscore possessed by no other 007 adventure.
Bond ~ 9/10
Like Sean Connery’s in Dr No, Roger Moore’s debut as Bond here is confident and solid, but unlike the latter’s it sees a subtle, nuanced evolution of the character through the movie that smartly and smoothly establishes Sir Rog as the new 007. And it’s the film’s unique featuring of voodoo – in particular that cult’s tarot cards – that’s the clever conduit for this. At first, Moore’s Bond is revealed by Solitaire as ‘The Fool’, being easily captured by Mr Big’s goons and looking like a charming British gent out of his depth among the scum of Harlem’s black underworld. By mid-film, however, he’s progressed to become one of ‘The Lovers’, along with Solitaire herself, whom he’s underhandedly but necessarily seduced (and, let’s be honest, she’s not complaining). And if there were a tarot card for ‘The Hero’, then having written-off speedboats, aeroplanes and police cars, jumped across crocodiles, smashed Kananga’s heroin ring and rescued Solitaire for good, that’d be Bond’s calling card come the final reel. Moore plays this development of 007 pitch-perfectly throughout, moving from one stage to the next like he’s been doing it for years.
Girls ~ 8/10
Female characters in early to mid-’70s Bond films were hardly big-screen beacons for the burgeoning women’s lib movement and The 'Die's girls definitely contribute to that trend. Having said that, though, the chief Bond Girl here is one of the all-time best. Not only is Solitaire flamboyant when it comes to her get-up (she’s surely the only character in all Bondom who possesses a costume into which one must sit rather than put on and she wears so much eye-shadow she could keep Clarins going all by herself), she also offers the supernatural dynamic of being able to predict the future, which is nicely used as a narrative driver not a gimmick. Admittedly, when she loses this unique tenet through shagging Bond it rather robs her of an identity, turning her into a damsel in distress, but, hey, them’s the breaks, I guess. Best of all, though, is the fact she’s played by Jane Seymour. Easily one of the most beautiful women to have graced a 007 movie, her plummy tones combine perfectly with her line in innocence then sexual awakening. Die's other girls, mind, are either disappointing or predictable (or both): Gloria Hendry’s inept – and treacherous – CIA agent Rosie Carver is annoying (she even gets on Rog’s nerves) and Madeline Smith’s über-buxom Agent Caruso a post-titles titillation, but good fun.
Villains ~ 9/10
The 'Die scores big when it comes to villains, but that’s not because of Mr Big. In fact, a cartoonish presence thanks to all the latex make-up, he’s its least impressive. Far better is his ‘real life’ alter ego Dr Kananga, also played by Yaphet Kotto. An often mannered and articulate politico-cum-drug lord, he also shows flashes of sadistic violence (his slapping about Solitaire is particularly distasteful). Pleasingly, Kananga’s double-villain persona ensures that, like Blofeld in Diamonds, he possesses a posse of diverse underlings. Most memorable are Julius W Harris’s Tee Hee, whose hook and claw for an arm and hand secures his place in the pantheon of classic Bond henchmen, and Geoffrey Holder’s ambiguous Baron Samedi, the symbolic demi-god that heads the voodoo cult behind which Kananga hides his opium empire (is he really undead or just a warped performer fit for Covent Garden?). There’s also Arnold Williams’ loquacious taxi driver and Earl Jolly Brown’s gentle giant Whisper. As to the murmurs that all the villains being black amounts to casual racism, for me when characters are drawn this well that amounts to bunkum.
Action ~ 9/10
Action-wise, The 'Die does the business with bells on. The tone’s set with the moment Roger Moore officially arrives as James Bond… holding on to an NYC building’s fire-escape ladder, he swings towards a goon and incredibly coolly kicks him, crashing his feet into his chest. While wearing an awesome three-quarter-length black coat and gloves. Oh yes. Like that moment, almost all the action in the movie is damn cool. Take the speedboat chase, a 15-minute action-film-within-an-action film that, with its own cast of characters and narrative, could stand on its own outside the movie. Er, maybe. It’s clear that after filming the sequence for weeks, director Guy Hamilton and his editors realised they had such good stuff they decided to include as much as the audience would feasibly take of it. There’s also the crocodile jump, of course; arguably the coolest moment in the movie – and one of the most memorable of all Bondom – and performed by fearless crocodile farm owner Ross Kananga (to whom the filmmakers were so grateful they named the villain after him). Plus, there’s the split climax too, featuring Bond besting Kananga in his lair, Tee Hee on the train afterwards and Samedi at the sacrifice ceremony ( – or does he…?).
Humour ~ 8/10
For the most part, the humour in Die is a great success. However, there’s one exception. Clifton James’ incompetent redneck Sheriff Pepper would be an odd addition in any Bond film (just watch 1974′s The Man With The Golden Gun), but given his appearance here is during the Louisiana Bayou-set speedboat chase, it does make sense. The problem comes in his cacophony of casually racist remarks. Bandying about phrases like ‘black Russians’ and ’boy’ at black baddies like they’re going out of fashion (sadly I doubt they were in ’73), he makes for an awkward watch today. The redemption of his inclusion, though, is the fact the joke’s always on him. Elsewhere, however, The 'Die certainly hits the comic spot – and most of it inevitably involves new Bond Moore. Whether he’s over-complicating the making of a coffee for M (“Is that all it does?”), undoing a dolly bird’s dress with his magnetic watch (“Sheer magnetism, darling”) or, best of all, admitting to Solitaire he more or less seduced her (“The deck was slightly stacked in my favour”), he’s a triumph. As is the featuring of the is-he-or-isn’t-he-dead? Baron Samedi on the front of 007 and Solitaire’s train in the flick’s final shot – one of the series’ best winks at the audience that.
Music ~ 9/10
Musically, The 'Die is unique on two counts – it’s the first Bond film in a decade not to be scored by John Barry and the only one whose score embraces funk. Taking Barry’s place, Beatles producer George Martin savvily doesn’t try to emulate him, but riskily ‘updates’ the Bond sound, unashamedly bolting it to early ’70s urban Americana by, yup, turning to funk. A canny musical experimenter, though, Martin does a bang-up job. Take this flick’s version of The James Bond Theme; it’s transformed from Barry’s eerie, tight arrangement into a swaggering show-boater, just as cool as before but now fitting for James Brown to add customary ‘huh!’s throughout. Just as impressive – and arguably more important – is the title theme, Paul McCartney And Wings’ utterly bombastic effort that very nearly topped the US charts, received an Oscar nom and is still a mainstay of Macca’s concerts today. The first rock track to grace a Bond film, its bass riff is utterly irresistible and features prominently throughout the score too.
Locations ~ 8/10
With all of its locations to be found in North and Central America, Die is unquestionably the second of the series’ four ‘American Bond films’. But this is no bad thing. How could it be when New York’s Manhattan is – surprisingly? – more like that of The French Connection (1971) than, say, Breakfast At Tiffany’s (1961), eschewing any real or faux Bondian glamour for a more down-at-heel early ’70s milieu? Similarly, San Monique (or Jamaica as it actually is on-screen) is arguably more poppy fields, voodoo-afflicted graveyards and backwaters featuring clapped-out and roof-losing London buses than the bopping and beautiful island encountered by Bond in Dr No. By contrast, though, New Orleans is shown as the relaxed party town its reputation purports, with the colour and break-out celebration of jazz funerals filling in for Mardi Gras. The only non-American locale is actually a set, Bond’s Chelsea flat. Yet its wood-pannelled elegance sort of shattered by its bed seemingly the centre of attention and Sir Rog’s Bond walking around in a cream dressing gown with the ego-massaging ‘JB’ initials emblazoned on the breast pocket are together the height of interior and sartorial design for this particular Bond fan. So shoot me.
Gadgets ~ 9/10
That classic Bond film trope, watches as scrape-escaping gadgets, starts here. Bond’s Rolex Submariner has two awesome functions, in addition to telling the time, of course. First, it becomes an incredibly powerful electro-magnet, supposedly capable of deflecting fired bullets and demonstrably capable of opening ladies’ zipped-up dresses. And, second, its face becomes a buzz-saw, helpful if one gets tied up to a winch above a shark-infested pool in a villain’s lair. Bond also packs a pocket-sized bug detector and a Morse code transmitter doubling as a hairbrush. The villains too get their fair share of cool gadgets: the office chair with its flip-up wrist-holds to keep Bond captive, Samedi’s flute-cum-communicator and the San Moniquian scarecrows with their video-camera eyes and bullet-firing mouths. Plus, lest we forget, there’s also that compressed air pellet from Bond’s shark gun that finishes off Kananga – ridiculous but brilliant.
Style ~ 8/10
As is rightly claimed so often, The 'Die takes a cue from US cinema’s early ’70s ‘blaxpoitation’ phenomenon. Its first third’s landscape of unapologetically assertive black characters on both sides (don’t forget Lon Satton’s CIA agent Strutter) of New York’s urban crime divide is very Shaft. Indeed, black faces are everywhere throughout (so much so that Roger Moore and Jane Seymour’s very white mugs often make for a stark contrast – “It’s like following a cue-ball!”). Without a paradisical European or Asian locale, it’s Die's ‘blackness’ that provides its exoticism; Maurice Binder’s titles are chock-full of beautiful black lovelies, Kananga and his goons are unavoidable and the garishly exuberant song-and-dance funerals of New Orleans demand attention. Also, in keeping with the death theme prompted by the flick’s punning title and the voodoo cult, the blood and danger colour that is red features strongly, what with Binder’s titles awash with it (and fiery flames) and interiors of the Fillet Of Soul restaurants and Mr Big’s HQ and the suits of Big himself and Tee Hee all featuring bold red tints. Even the dial of Bond’s watch turns red when it becomes operationally magnetic. This 007 outing may feature none of the refined ’60s style of earlier efforts, but hits a funky, bouncy, very ’70s yet timeless beat all of its own.
Thanks to one or two narrative and character mis-steps, Sir Rog’s 007 debut isn’t a perfect film, but it’s surely one of the best recalled Bond films. That speedboat chase; that crocodile jump; those tarot cards; all those villains; Macca’s pumping title tune; Baron Samedi; Jane Seymour and, of course, Roger Moore and his buzz-saw-cum-electro-magnet timepiece. Very few Eon efforts offer this much Bondian iconography – and thus this much entertainment. To paraphrase Mr Big, names may be for tombstones, er, baby, but Live And Let Die is forever.
<font size=4>Overall: 82/100</font>
Best Bit: the speedboat chase
Best line: “Is there time before we leave for lesson number three?”/ “Absolutely. There’s no sense in going off half-cocked”
Get the full treatment of my 'Bondathon' reviews here
In 1954 Ian Fleming published Live and Let Die; a cracking read, but somewhat sensitive to racial issues, namely the villains were black. Which went some way to explaining that fact, that it had not made the leap from printed book to silver screen.
By the early 70's a new genre had developed - "blaxploitation"; therefore the time seemed ripe for a film with largely black villains.
This "piggy backing" on current cinematic trends – blaxploitation in Live and Let Die and then later kung fu in The Man With The Golden Gun, and "Star Wars" in Moonraker – is a complete reversal of the 60's, in which the Bond films proved the inspiration for other movies to copy. Bond should always be a pioneer, not slavishly following current trends.
Nearly 20 years had passed between Fleming's novels and the big screen adaptation, and it was felt the novel was too dated, so Harry Saltzman asked Tom Mankiewicz, working without Richard Maibaum for the first time, to come up with a new story. It's a pity, because, at the core, Fleming's Live and Let Die is a terrific book, as exemplified by two key sequences being lifted, by two future Bond films, namely the keel-hauling piece (For Your Eyes Only) and the warehouse passage (Licence To Kill), plus the gist of the latter film, is directly inspired by the novel Live and Let Die; Felix Leiter's maiming.
Still, Mankiewicz's plot is cunning in it's simplicity, yet bizarrely, he kept the overt humour that blighted Diamonds Are Forever.
By this time the relationship between Cubby Broccoli and Harry was very strained, in fact they divided the early 70's Bond pictures between them – Cubby would produce Diamonds Are Forever and The Man With The Golden Gun, and Harry Live and Let Die.
There was one key decision, however, that they both agreed on – the next 007 would have to be an established actor, and British. They chose an actor with which they'd become familiar, and friendly with, in London's gaming circles, and had found international fame playing "The Saint"; Moore. Roger Moore.
Born the son of a policeman, on the 14th October, 1927, Moore grew up in Stockwell, London, where he was soon evacuated due to World War II. After the war, and in search of money, Moore worked as an extra, during in which time, he was spotted by Brian Desmond Hurst, who offered to bankroll Moore through RADA (Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts). During his training to become an actor, Moore met his future Miss Moneypenny, Lois Maxwell.
With subsequent stints with RADA and the Army, Moore took up modelling, to complement his earnings as an actor, before moving to America, in the 1950's, with his then wife, Dorothy Squires. Here MGM took a fancy to Moore, in one of the studios last contract offers. Moore was cast opposite glamours leading ladies.
Feeling typecast in America, Moore returned to Europe, where he was approached by Lew Grade, to star as the famous Simon Templar, in the "The Saint", which lasted between 1962 and 1969.
Moore starred in two movies, after that, and one, "The Man Who Haunted Himself" garnered rave reviews, before appearing in the big budget T.V series "The Persuaders"; a concept that Moore himself had come up with. Alas it didn't find the breakthrough American audience.
America's loss was Harry's and Cubby's gain, so in 1972, they announced that Roger Moore would play James Bond, 007. Not before time; Ian Fleming and Harry mooted Moore as Bond for Dr No; he was approached by Charles K. Feldman for the spoof "Casino Royale"; in 1968 Moore had tentatively agreed to play Bond in The Man With The Golden Gun, set in Cambodia, before civil war erupted there, and finally, his commitment to "The Persuaders" precluded him from accepting the role in Diamonds Are Forever.
Ironically, Cubby had to convince Harry on the merits of Moore becoming Bond; ten years earlier Harry was enthusiastic about Moore, more so than Cubby.
Moore, in his usual self-deprecating way, insisted Cubby was getting revenge on him, due to the fact that Moore used to beat Cubby in their games of backgammon.
Roger Moore is a completely different type of personality and character to Sean Connery. Moore has an air of haughty indifference to playing 007. Urbane and laconic, Moore was a gifted light comedian, and through his lightness of touch, Moore differentiated himself, not only from Connery, but also the other actors to subsequently inhabit the role of 007.
Moore skimmed through the books, but found little in the way of how he was meant to play Bond. Nevertheless, Moore found in Ian Fleming's Goldfinger, a useful tip; Bond hated killing, but he took pride in doing the job well. That was Moore's mantra – he abhorred killing.
Both the literary Bond and Moore's Bond loathed cold blooded killing, and both would take great pains to avoid it, unless it was absolutely necessary, in which case they took pride in doing the job well.
That is not the only similarity between Fleming's Bond and Moore's Bond. In Fleming's novels, Bond used to play the "ineffectual, blustering Englishman", to disarm his opponents. After all, what does one have to fear from this Limey, grinning chap, the P.G Wodehouse type of Englishman; pleasant, yet naive and blunderous, and that seems to be in over his head?
Both Fleming's Bond and Moore's Bond used this gambit to devastating effect. Take the scene in Moore's début, Live and Let Die. Early on in the movie, Bond gets captured by Mr Big, in Harlem. Mr Big tells his cronies to "waste him" ("waste him", is that good? asks Moore surreptitiously; the Englishman out of his depth in Harlem, is quite amusing). They take Bond outside, in order to shoot him; Bond even has his hands up. The goons think that Bond is playing by the "Queensbury Rules".
But they'd be wrong; Bond, seeing his chance, leaps up onto a fire escape, and in one swift kick, knocks the two goons to the floor. By seemingly being a "good sport", as befitting an English gentleman, Bond has undermined his threat to his opponents, and then when Bond reveals what his true intentions are, a wolf in Englishman's clothing if you will, it is too late. Moore is the only actor to get this particular facet of playing Bond.
Both the literary Bond and Moore's Bond have the sophistication and the suaveness, but underneath that veneer, one finds a particularly cold, professional man, even un-likeable.
As Tom Mankiewicz succinctly said, Moore was the "old Etonian drop-out that Fleming had imagined."
If there is one thing to reproach Moore with, is that he does not move with the same grace and elegance, that his two predecessors had, and it would only get worse as Moore aged in the role. Moore was 45 when he started work on Live and Let Die, but his fresh face belied that fact.
Thus Moore played 007 as Moore, with a flavouring of Ian Fleming's 007, cool, decisive and very charming, with a dash of "white knight". Moore, for example, would go out of his way to save a "damsel in distress", when arguably, Fleming's Bond may not have. The mission always came first in the literary Bond.
Although Bond wasn't always an English gentleman, which Moore stereotypically played. This Bond, like Sean Connery's Bond, thought of nothing to spend time making love to a villainess, or using his charm to deflower the virginal Solitaire, in order to get close to Mr Big, although the "cards" were slightly stacked in favour of Bond, in that last example. This, then, was a Bond, cynical and callous as it may be, who would use every trick up his finely tailored sleeve, in order to get the job done.
This dichotomy, this light and dark, good and evil, is what makes the character of Bond so rich and fascinating. One can enjoy the Bond movies on purely a superficial level, but one can also enjoy the Bond's on a deeper level, thus the spirit of Ian Fleming's writing remains, even if the context has been altered considerably, and it is this juxtaposition, more so in Fleming's writing, than in the films admittedly, that makes the character of Bond so diverting. 007 is fundamentally a good person; incorruptible and courageous, but he also has a dark side to him, born out of necessity.
One can see this in Bond's habits; his love of women, drink and food are born out of Bond's dangerous profession – Bond has to enjoy the finer things in life, as he may not be around much longer.
In Roger Moore's début outing, he smoothly takes over the mantle, being understated, in an understated film, all told, considering what came after it, Voodoo elements notwithstanding, in his performance, featuring his trademark style and charisma, all though it was an evolving portrayal by Moore, fleshing out his take on the role, which improves from here, in subsequent Bond adventures.
Although Moore doesn't get off to the best of starts. He is introduced in bed, early in the morning, with Miss Caruso, an Italian operative, when they are interrupted by M and Miss Moneypenny. The ensuing farce as Bond tries to hide Caruso from M, is something one would expect to find in a "Carry On" film. Compare this to Connery's immortal introduction eleven years previously, in Dr No, and Live and Let Die's sequence pales in comparison.
The film-makers were trying to not have Moore's 007 in the same situations as Connery's 007, hence why M shows up in Bond's Chelsea flat, as opposed to the obligatory office set, but Mankiewicz's overly humorous screenplay falls flat.
Backing Moore up is a very fine cast, especially the heavies; Mr Big as played by Yaphet Kotto, whose urbane veneer is merely a coating for quite a sadistic man; his erstwhile henchman, Tee Hee, played by Julius W. Harris, and Geoffrey Holder who plays Baron Samedi, Voodoo God of the Dead.
Harris has enormous fun as Tee Hee, whose infectious glee almost makes the audience overlook his evil inclinations, whilst Holder, a noted choreographer, makes for an imposing character, as benefiting a Voodoo God. It is through Holder's character, that Mr Big terrifies the population of the fictitious island of San Monique, in too believing that Voodoo protects the islands most secret spots. In fact Mr Big has a heroin empire running from San Monique, where the heroin is grown, to America, where the heroin is distributed through Mr Big's "Fillet of Soul" restaurants. Holder is one of the most colourful, and memorable characters in the Bondian cannon.
This Voodoo threat mirrors Ian Fleming's Live and Let Die, and to great effect, mixing the world of Bond with Voodoo, is quite simply, ingenious. This is reinforced by Jane Seymour as Solitaire, the High Priestess, who is clairvoyant.
Breathtakingly beautiful, Seymour plays the role with a mixture of naivety and strength, and is a good match for Moore's 007. Alas, the character is a bit of the "damsel in distress", more so than the Bond girls of the sixties, which weakened the Bond girls of the early seventies. This meant that Moore's Bond got to be a "knight in shining armour", more so than Connery's interpretation. Still, the weak script does not detract from Seymour's beguiling performance.
This Voodoo element, what with it's dark, violent and mysterious undercurrents, juxtaposed nicely with Tom Mankiewicz's witty script, making Live and Let Die one of Mr Bond's most enjoyable and unforgettable outings.
The casting of Live and Let Die is let down, somewhat, by Clifton James' red-neck Southern Sheriff, J.W. Pepper, more akin to appearing in such movies as "Smoky and the Bandit". Mankiewicz introduced Pepper's frustrated attempts to capture Bond, in the marathon boat chase, to soften the blow; it was thought that a British, white secret agent evading a whole slew of black villains, would be less objectionable, if the audience had something to laugh at, thus Sheriff Pepper, bigotry incarnate, was born. The audience could laugh, guilt free at Pepper's ludicrous behaviour, as opposed to a white man, giving slip to black men.
Despite being a skilled character actor, James' has no place being in a Bond film, and the frequent stopping of the action, in order to "laugh" at Pepper's antics is demeaning and cheap; humour for the sake of humour. Apart from the boat chase, excluding a rather silly airport chase, the humour is more controlled than in Diamonds Are Forever, relying more on dialogue exchanges and witty banter, such as this gem;
Bond after discovering a Voodoo token in his hotel room -
"Don't worry darling. It's just a small hat, belonging to a man of limited means, who lost a fight with a chicken."
Such exchanges are enlivened by Moore's talent as a gifted light comedian.
Of particular note is Gloria Hendry, playing Rosie Carver, the first black woman to have a tryst with 007. Although interracial couples were accepted by the early seventies, the fact that the movie does not reference it was a breakthrough.
To aid Bond out, there are three CIA agents – Felix Leiter (David Hedison), Strutter (Lon Satton) and, in a nice touch, Quarrel Junior (Roy Stewart); alas Live and Let Die does not give any reference to his father who appeared in Dr No.
Strutter, a black operative to balance things out, no doubt, is a competent ally, who meets his untimely demise in New Orleans, in a blackly humorous scene, typical of the film. Hedison, a friend of Moore, in their days as struggling actors, is one of the better actors to have portrayed Leiter, and is one of only two actors to reprise the role, some sixteen years later in Licence To Kill.
To avoid inevitable comparisons with Sean Connery's Bond pictures, Guy Hamilton, signing on to direct his second Bond film in a row, and third over all, chose to forgo the usual hallmarks of 007; for example Moore does not dress in a dinner suit; he would smoke cigars instead of cigarettes, and Moore's Bond does not order a "vodka Martini, shaken not stirred". Instead he has a bourbon with branch water, one off Mr Fleming's favourite tipples for Mr Bond.
Although the measures were purely cosmetic, Hamilton did succeed, in not drawing the inescapable similarities with Connery, thus allowing Moore to stamp his own authority in the role.
Over all Hamilton does a much better job of directing Live and Let Die than Diamonds Are Forever; the pace is much more consistent, although the frequent action, especially the aforementioned boat chase, feels a bit like padding, and the presence of Pepper disrupts the flow, of said boat chase, meaning that the action is very start/stop, as opposed to a flowing piece; although Hamilton should not be blamed for this, as Mankiewicz's screenplay is the real culprit.
The Bond films should always be timeless – i.e. one can not guess in which year the film was made; no fashion, no political/social events, no date, no clues that the audience can guess, in which decade the film was made. The Connery pictures are a prime example of this.
With Live and Let Die, however, the fashion is contemporary, and seen as it was made in 1973, meant big flares, and even bigger platform shoes, which dates the movie considerably. It's not the only Bond film to do this; in The Spy Who Loved Me the soundtrack featured disco, and in The Living Daylights Soviet forces were occupying Afghanistan, for example. Given the fact that the fashion, political and social worlds move so quickly, setting the Bond pictures up against a certain
backdrop makes said film look conspicuous and dated.
Still, these are minor quibbles, and it is more than compensated by George Martin's wonderful score, the first non John Barry effort since Dr No. Martin pays homage to the maestro Barry, but also comes up with a distinctive sound, relying on guitar sounds and funky motifs, which perfectly captures the New Orleans, black musicianship vibe of the film.
If there was one caveat to Martin's scoring, is that he leaves a great part of the boat chase un-scored. When Martin does step in, however, the tension levels shoot up exponentially.
Being the Beatles ex-manager, Martin introduced the producers to Paul McCartney, an avid Bond fan, who agreed to play, write with his wife Linda, and perform with his band Wings, the main title song. The first rock Bond theme, Live and Let Die is an energetic and electric song, and is used throughout the movie as an instrumental piece, quite effectively.
With an ex-Beatle providing the theme song, and most importantly, Roger Moore making his début, the audience was very eager to see Live and Let Die, thus they propelled the film to dizzying box-office heights, reversing the downward trend of the Bond pictures; it grossed more than On Her Majesty's Secret Service and You Only Live Twice, and most significantly, more than Diamonds Are Forever, and it was a ringing endorsement of Roger Moore as 007.
Live and Let Die is a classic Bond adventure, what with it's quirky humour being tempered out with the omnipresent Voodoo threat, making Live and Let Die one of the most colourful, and memorable, Bondian efforts.
To start out with the good: we have a pretty solid cast here as well as memorable characters that make their introduction here such as Solitaire who imo was a nice refreshing take on a bond girl and I enjoyed her whole character being about the cards and all that. Tee-Hee Johnson was menancing and had that calm but evil mindset to him. Oh and of course we have the ever popular voodoo master himself Baron Samedi who frankly nails every scene he is a part of and his laugh is more than iconic and it is easy to see why he is so popular. Each character I mentioned above was performed rather well by the respective actors imo. We also have imo the best Felix Leiter with David Hedison playing the role.
There were also Lots of good action sequences here such as the alligator Jump and the Boat chase (Pepper intermissions aside). We also get some nice scenery and one of my favorite wardrobes for Bond ever. A great score by the "5th Beatle" George Martin is also another highlight as well as imo one of the best and most iconic endings to a bond film in history. Oh and of course we get the debut of the Legendary Sir Roger Moore and he's nothing short of amazing as Bond here and he'd certainly continue to deliver amazing performances.
Now...of course there are some drawbacks to this entry in the bond film catalogue. For starters the character itself of Kananga is kinda weak mainly because of us not really getting to see much of his character at all, though I will say that Yaphet Kotto does really good with what he's given and I feel the role may have been an utter trainwreck without him. Another downside is rosie, I feel that she was kinda annoying and overall didn't really add much of anything to the movie. At times the movie can be a bit to slow and boring for my liking but again it's not You Only Live Twice levels of bad but it does sometimes feel as if some scenes were stretched out just to reach that 2 hour mark.
Now one of the absolute biggest downsides for me is Sheriff J. W Pepper, not only is he just incredibly annoying to even see or listen to on screen but he is given way too much screen time and he hijacks the movie during the boat chase which is one of the most exciting parts of the film and it becomes, as Harlan Rogers would call it "The Sheriff J.W Pepper Show" and it's really Cringey and Unfunny, I wish they would have focused on Bond and not such an unfunny character.
Now my biggest complaint with this movie is that there is No Q at all, yes he's mentioned 2 times but he never actually appears like what the hell? Yes I know he was busy initially during production but later on he was free to shoot and the Director Guy Hamilton made the idiotic decision of not including him cause "muh gadgets are cheesy" which is just anger inducing for me. Thankfully he would come to his senses after the fans backlashed and brought Q back in TMWTGG and even gave him 3 scenes rather than the usual 1 to make up for it.
So overall this is a good movie but it does have its share of issues holding it back, still it's a great start to the Moore era and is fun to watch imo
My final Rating is a 7/10
This debut allowed Moore to showcase all of his strengths. LALD was misogynistic, even for its time, and a few scenes could be cut, but overall it's a good movie with memorable moments and classic Bond elements.
Overall Rating: 7/10
It's very middle to of the road to lower for a Bond film for me. The big standouts are the supernatural theme, the McCartney theme and the Martin music. One thing I've never understood is people who criticize LTK for being merely about Bond going up against a drug-runner - it isn't, it's about a mega-powerful man who is like the real-life Manuel Noriega who built an empire and was protected - but LALD is about lower-level drug running. And people think Carver's only reward of getting exclusive broadcast rights in China is small when Kananga just wants to double the number of addicts in the U.S.? This is Shaft territory, not Bond.
So what is it about LALD that makes it stand out? Please help me understand.
The Late 60’s and Early 70’s were not great to 007. After Connery’s departure from the role in 1967, the series attempted to continue forward with a new actor in the role of Bond, and while George Lazenby did splendid in the role, the reaction from critics and general audiences alike was very split. Of coarse bad advice from his agent would lead to Lazenby walking away from the series, which in turn lead to Connery’s temporary return in Diamonds Are Forever. DAF was a success when it was released in 1971, but ultimately went too far in some areas, and is regarded these days as one of the worst films in the franchise. For the 8th film, filmmakers turned to Ian Fleming’s 2nd Bond novel for inspiration, and would take the series in a new direction with yet another new lead; Roger Moore.
Moore in Live and Let Die is a performance I find to be pretty solid right from the start. As someone who has never seen either The Saint, or The Persuaders, I can’t say for certain if his performance in LALD is more in line with those shows than his later Bond films, all I can say is that the filmmakers do a great job in distinguishing his Bond from Connery’s. Moore’s Bond could also be incredibly ruthless and threatening in this film, particularly in the scene where he confronts Rosie Carver. It’s that kind of ruthlessness that would be lost in the later Moore entries (save for maybe FYEO). I don’t think LALD is his best performance as Bond, but it’s certainly a great introduction to his Bond.
Jane Seymour as Solitare is perhaps one of my favorite Bond girls. I don’t think every single Bond girl needs to be some kind of equal to Bond in every sense of the word, and Solitare is a good example of that. She’s not a naive character, nor is she completely clueless as to the villains activities; she actually knows very much about the murders that Kananga and Co are committing, although she doesn’t know their reasoning behind it. I don’t like when she suddenly turns on Bond at the airport however; it was very random and the reasoning behind it isn’t explained at all. But that’s really the only flaw with her character. She’s a damsel in distress, and sometimes it’s alright to have that as your female lead.
Dr. Kananga is one of the weakest Bond villains unfortunately. It’s a case of the villain being overshadowed by his own henchmen, which is a shame because the idea of Bond having to be sent after a foreign diplomat is incredibly interesting. Yaphet Kotto is the unfortunate casualty of this, because having to play both Kananga and Mr. Big means that we have little to no screen time spent exploring each of the personas. It’s all reveled at once when he rips off the face mask, which I guess fair enough, I think if there were more scenes of Kotto in the makeup as Mr. Big, audiences would’ve found the whole get up ridiculous, it already is a ludicrous disguise as it is. I also think he becomes a complete cartoon villain towards the end. When we see him in his lair, he seems upbeat and jovial in a way we hadn’t seen him act previously in the film, and that’s capped off by how Kananga dies as well. It results in a Bond villain that is ultimately interesting in concept, but lost in the execution.
The henchmen on the other hand are amongst the series most memorable. Baron Samedi is one of the most iconic henchmen in the entire franchise, and that’s amazing considering he probably has less than 15 minutes of actual screen time. I somewhat like his duel with Bond at the end as well, I just wished it lasted longer than it did. To see Bond and Samedi crossing swords would’ve been amongst the best scenes in the series. Tee-Hee is another one of my favorites. Julius Harris managed to create an iconic villain in his own right, and I do feel as if Tee-Hee was also overshadowed by the imagery of Baron Samedi. I’d say Tee-Hee is probably the better of the two henchmen in this, but that’s certainly a tough pick for me to make.
Other side characters include Felix Leiter, played by David Hedison. Hedison is one of the best Felix Leiter’s, alongside Jack Lord and Jeffery Wright. His chemistry with Moore is superb, so great that you wish they brought him back as Felix for further Moore Bond films, but the character would disappear for 14 years until his next appearance in The Living Daylights. Rosie Carver is one of the weaker elements of the film, her character always comes across as hysterical, and even when she does try to do something to demonstrate her competence, she’s usually goofs up somehow. I suppose Gloria Hendry does fine with what she’s given, but the character really is nothing special. Of coarse one cannot forget Sheriff JW Pepper. In retrospect, having your main character in the film be sidelined for about 10-15 minutes to focus on a side plot perhaps isn’t the greatest idea, especially when introducing a new Bond, but somehow, Pepper and the entire boat chase by extension are amongst my favorite scenes in the series. It’s wonderful slapstick comedy with a bigoted character always being setback in someway by either Bond or the villains.
Watching this film after Diamonds Are Forever, I was amazed at how energetic the film feels. Whereas the action scenes in DAF felt very slow, and lacked the hard hitting energy of previous action scenes in Bond, LALD improves upon that. The fighting sequences aren’t as hard hitting as in say, FRWL or OHMSS, but Bond’s fights with Kananga, Samedi, and Tee-Hee are pretty entertaining to watch, the fight with Tee-Hee in particular echoing Bond’s fight with Red Grant in FRWL. But beyond the action, the film moves at a pretty fast rate, even compared to previous and future Bond films.
I’ve never been the biggest fan of Guy Hamilton’s time with the series. One can’t deny just how successful and influential Goldfinger was on the series, and a lot of that comes down to Hamilton’s tongue in cheek style. But his time with Bond in the early 70’s is viewed by some as perhaps the weakest run of Bond films. Live and Let Die is an exception to this. While it doesn’t have the class or wit of Goldfinger, nor the intrigue and suspense of Dr. No, FRWL, TB, or OHMSS, the film definitely put the Bond series on good graces with audiences back in 1973, and at least proved that the series could survive without Sean Connery.
My Final Rating is 7/10.
For my next review, I’m making the jump all the way to the final Roger Moore Bond film, and boy is this one going to be a fun one to let my thoughts out on...1985’s A View To A Kill.