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And none the worse for it, since every Bond film needs a fresh spin on
the same old formula. Roger Moore's first outing as JB is, in equal
measures, comical and action-packed. You'll never get bored. But it's
definitely the weirdest Bond ever with loads of utterly bizarre
It begins with M turning up at JB's house in the early hours while he's pumping some Italian agent for information (don't you just love his initialled dressing gown). Before sending him to America to investigate a Harlem pimp known as Mister Big he delivers some gadgets from Q-Branch, including a very useful watch. Q himself, or Major Boothroyd if you want to call him by his proper name, doesn't make any appearance in this one.
Standing out like a Muslim in an airport, almost every single black person JB encounters in Harlem is on Mister Big's payroll. And they've got a seemingly endless bag of tricks to play on him. The funny thing about Moore is that he's very proper and British and doesn't think anything of walking into a tough Harlem bar while dressed up like the Duke of Edinburgh. His stunned reactions when they mess with his head are seriously funny.
The action then moves to Lousiana and a savage Caribbean island as JB uncovers a massive heroin plot. There's a particularly long speedboat chase across a bayou where JB encounters Sheriff J.W. Pepper, the most stereotypical southern redneck ever. Think of Texas Businessman from The Simpsons and you get the idea. JB also gets to dodge a hundred hungry Gators and do, many times over, Solitaire, Mister Big's Tarot card reader.
I'm not sure what kind of formidable villain uses a Tarot card reader to help him do business but when you also surround yourself with a hook-handed maniac called Tee-Hee, a quiet fat guy called Whisper and a seemingly unkillable voodoo high priest called Baron Samedi then you really do become a serious baddie. Right? He even goes on a big speech about how his master plan works before attempting to kill JB slowly. Obviously this makes much more sense than just shooting him right away. When will they learn?
Despite being the oldest actor to debut as Bond (at 46), Moore does look younger than Connery. And while Sean was gruff and Scottish, Moore is perpetually calm and refined, even in the face of danger (fingers being chopped-off, snake in the bath, being eaten by gators/sharks). Everything that the British once thought they were. He has a certain sarcastic edge that the other Bond actors lacked. While some of his films may have been the sillier of the franchise, Moore has always been my favorite. And the massive revolver and holster he uses at the end is so much more masculine than the usual, wimpy as hell, Walther PPK.
And, as much as I am no fan of Paul McCartney, you gotta love that theme song! Exciting and iconic at the same time. And also yet another juxtaposition in the weirdest Bond movie ever.
MI6, Harlem, Pimps, Paul McCartney, Gators, Heroin, Voodoo, Snakes, Sharks, Clairvoyance, Rednecks, Afros, Fake Afros, Fillet of Soul, Human Scarifice, Scarecrows and a small-headed man in a Top-Hat who lost a fight with chickens. Is this a Bond film or did the whole world just go insane?
Was Roger Moore channeling Austin Powers in 1973? There's a scene in
this, his first go-round as 007, where Bond is tied up and his arm is
cut to draw blood and attract some hungry sharks swimming below. Moore
twitches his eyebrow and asks: "Perhaps we can try something in a
Those sharks don't need any frickin' laser beams on their heads to get you to smell the Austin. Moore gets a lot of blame for turning the Bond movies into weakly-plotted farces, ignoring that the series had been moving in that direction since "Goldfinger" and that the previous installment, Sean Connery's final EON bow "Diamonds Are Forever," was every bit as goofy. Also, Moore could deliver a more serious Bond when the script allowed, and two of the finest Bonds ever, "The Spy Who Loved Me" and "For Your Eyes Only," were his.
But there's no getting around this, "Live And Let Die" is a dumb movie. The gadgets are silly, the villain's scheme is ill-defined, the storyline is frenetic and unengaging, the action is plodding and overlong. Moore starts out not quite know how to play Bond here, while the movie requires him to play the fool sauntering through Harlem in a double-breasted suit like the Prince of Wales waiting for some natives to show him around.
But this film makes me smile, in part because I'm young enough to remember what it was all about when it came out. If this was Bond for the cheap seats, it at least delivered the goods, with some vivid supporting characters, a knockout visual style, amazing title music from Paul McCartney, and most importantly for Moore's future in the series, drop-dead quips. My favorite is when the nasty Tee Hee twists his pistol muzzle out of shape with a metal pincer arm, then giggles when he hands it back: "Funny how the least little thing amuses him."
Julius Harris is menacing but charming as Tee Hee, mostly mute except when he sticks Bond in a gator pond and suggests the best way to disarm the beasts is to try and pull out their teeth. Chief villain Yaphet Kotto has his moments, too, but with odd shifts of character. In the beginning, he's stone-cold Ron O'Neal in "Superfly," and at the end, he's plummy Charles Gray in "Diamonds Are Forever." Jane Seymour is Bond's love interest, and why she goes off with him is another of those things best not thought about long.
There are two great characters in this movie, though, bigger than just about anything seen in a Bond movie before who kind of work in tandem in overhauling any objections about this film being too "cartoony." Clifton James is redneck sheriff J.W. Pepper, who throws off one madman line after another while Bond is off on one of his long silly chase scenes. James mugs through every scene he's in, rolling his tongue around, playing off everyone and everything, and delivering every hackneyed Southern stereotype to such righteous perfection it's enough to make cotton sprout out of his ears. Bond purists who whine should just take their vodka martinis shaken not stirred and let the rest of us enjoy the craziness. The series is supposed to be fun; if you want serious espionage go watch "Smiley's People." (I grant you Pepper shouldn't have returned in the next Bond film; that was a mistake.)
The other great outsized character is Geoffrey Holder as perhaps the most mysterious figure in the whole series, Baron Samedi. Is he supernatural? Is he just crazy from the heat? He's certainly different, a guy who sides with the bad guys without quite being one of them. The always-eerie quality of his appearances, either dancing in a big hotel production number or quietly sitting in a cemetery playing a flute, make you question whether there ain't something to that voodoo after all.
It's silly bashing Pepper but praising Samedi, they are both equally so unreal, in a way that's in tune with the rest of the movie. The best thing to do is enjoy the different kinds of fun on offer. Frankly, not having these guys around might push this film on the bad side of Spinal Tap's "fine line between stupid and clever," the side where "A View To A Kill" and "Moonraker" are on.
But "Live And Let Die" is a winner. It's a fun movie that brings me back to younger days, when my heart was an open book. It's a nice transitional film for the series in that Moore managed a mostly smooth entrance to the role of Bond. And it has one of the best final shots in movie history. That's all I'll say there; you know it if you saw it.
Live and Let Die ushers in Roger Moore as the new James Bond. Prior to
this movie, Bond had been played most often by Sean Connery, with the
one exception being George Lazenby's short-lived stint in 1969 (On Her
Majesty's Secret Service). Moore is very different to Connery and
Lazenby. He plays Bond as a more relaxed, charming, humorous character.
Over the years, many people have said that the Moore incarnation of
Bond lacks the brutality of Connery's and the hard masculinity, but
actually Moore is not the kind of actor to do Bond in that manner. He's
merely playing to his own strengths, and creating a Bond that is akin
to his acting style. I feel that Roger makes a perfectly likable 007,
admittedly different to the character of the novels, but still a
rousing screen hero.
The story has James Bond sent to solve the killing of three British agents. One was killed in New York, one in New Orleans, and the third on a voodoo-practising Caribbean island. Bond's starts his mission in New York, where he runs across a nasty black gangster named Mr Big and his gorgeous, tarot-reading accomplice Solitaire (Jane Seymour). Bond heads down to the Caribbean, where he "connects" Mr Big with a drug-smuggling big-shot named Dr Kananga. Then it's off to New Orleans, where Bond discovers that Kananga's master plan is to provide huge amounts of free heroin to the junkies of the world, creating a massive drug-reliant population and setting himself up as a supplier with a worldwide monopoly on the drug trade.
The title song, sung by Paul McCartney and Wings is one of the best of the series, a lively and powerful tune which fits the style and period of the film perfectly. Yaphet Kotto is a decent bad guy (his death scene at the end is both funny and memorable); Seymour is superb as the Bond girl (probably the best of the bunch apart from Barbara Bach in The Spy Who Loved Me). There are good set pieces as we have grown to expect from the Bond series, most notably a spectacular boat chase around the Louisiana bayous, a scene involving a bunch of hungry crocodiles, and a slick sequence featuring Bond's escape from corrupt island police aboard a slow and lumbering double decker bus. The film has some negatives, but not too many. The character of Baron Samedi doesn't fit in the film (check out that ludicrous closing shot, which seems to be hinting that Samedi is somehow immortal), and Clifton James's brash southern cop is an immature and irritating character who might just as well have been left out of the final cut. On the whole this is a good start to the Moore era, though. One point of interest:- Live and Let Die also features a scene in Bond's house at the very start..... only once before have we seen where Bond lives, and that was at the start of Dr No.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
'Live and Let Die' is the only film that matches Bond exclusively
against African-American drug czars... It is the only other movie
besides 'Dr. No' with no briefing with Q, no meeting in M's office, and
no musical score from the great John Barry... The motion picture begins
with one of the most arresting openings of any Bond film, the killing
of three British agents: one in Harlem New York, one in New Orleans and
one on the island of San Monique...
Bond is called to investigate the deaths of the three British spies... He is menaced by a venomous snake in his hotel room, and cornered in the middle of a pool full of alligators... He stumbles upon a heroin trade operation presided by two contrasting personalities, Dr. Kananga and Mr. Big...
Yaphet Kotto is ruthless and calculating as the black master criminal... His position is shored up by the application of fortune-telling and magic charms... Under the alias of Harlem hood Mr. Big, Kananga plans to flood the US with free heroin... His entourage includes the mystical Baron Samedi (Geoffrey Holder) who may or may not be a supernatural being, and Tee Hee (Julius W. Harris) one of the best henchmen in a Bond film... Tee Hee is an intimidating giant enforcer with quite a 'right hand'... He seems amused by 'the least little thing,' after he twists Bond's gun barrel...
Before he became James Bond on screen, Roger Moore was a successful television actor who was respected for his work in such series as "Maverick," "The Persuaders," and, especially, "The Saint."
In his first appearance as 007, Moore wears a refined black jacket, dark gloves, and a magnetic wristwatch... He carries a shark gun that fires compressed-air bullets, and drinks the martini shaken not stirred... He enjoys a large cigar after a hot bath... He tries hard to conceal the presence of his early "guest," and goes into trouble when he tricks a mystical mistress using a fake deck of tarot cards... He claims to be a 'gentleman' when he refuses to tell his interrogator whether or not he's deflowered his chaste priestess... He becomes highly in danger in the land of black magic and fetishes...
Jane Seymour looks innocent in the ways of the world... She is lovely as the clairvoyant heroine Solitaire, whose powers fade after being romanced by the suave, and handsome English 007 Spy...
Rosie Carver is Playboy bunny Gloria Hendry, the weak CIA agent whose loyalty is controlled by a few bloody feathers...
Madeleine Smith is the voluptuous Miss Caruso who's undone by Bond's sheer magnetism... She is seduced with the aid of a watch that magnetically tugged down her zipper...
This eighth James Bond film is an entertaining spy adventure which went so far as to fail to include Q, forever played by actor Desmond Llewelyn...
Ignoring a Roger Moore who presents a bit of a distraction for viewers watching the series in order, Live And Let Die is an excellent example of how pop culture helps the Bond series survive throughout the decades. The growing concern of a drug-using society at the time is featured, and an immensely popular Paul McCartney does the title theme - indicating that the Bond series need not be rooted solidly in the three-piece suit days of 1962. Jane Seymour gives an excellent performance in her "introductory" role (although it was her fourth film). A bit of black magic and voodoo intertwined with gadgetry and high-tech machinery will have the viewer wondering if, indeed, there was magic in the movie after all - indeed, the cards WERE always right under Solitaire's power. Magical or not, Live and Let Die provides an interesting doorway to the other five Moore pictures - J.W. Pepper returns and Tee Hee seems to be Jaws' forerunner.
Several British agents are killed in America and in the Caribbean. Despite
the difference in how the murders occur they seem linked together by drugs.
Bond begins to investigate and finds links between the American drug dealer
Mr Big and the mysterious owner of a Caribbean island Kananga. While
investigating Bond falls foul of both despite gaining the affections of
Kananga's beautiful mistress Solitaire.
Roger Moore's first Bond is one of his best. The film wisely steps away from those regular bad guys the Russians and gets a new feel by actually having non-white main characters. The plot is pretty good and doesn't have the usual `take over the world' feel to it. There is plenty of silly stuff of course but the stunts are quite good and Bond has a new line in `eyebrow raised' humour.
Moore will never be the best Bond but he did make the role his own adding an element of self-deprecating humour to the role. Yaphet Kotto is a good actor and makes a good bad guy. Jane Seymour isn't convincing as the mystic property of Kananga she really should have been played by a black actress and it shows a lack of bravery on the side of the producers that they went with a white face as the lead Bond girl. Julius Harris is good as Tee Hee and Clifton James adds some comedy value as J.W. Pepper.
Overall this is one of Moore's best Bond movies and certainly stands out from previous films with numerous Russian baddies. Also the theme music is a really fun song from Wings.
As a whole, "Live and Let Die" is a pretty peculiar Bond film. Its
characters and settings are rather unusual for a James Bond movie, not to
mention the trifling with voodoo culture. However, the result is not
Spiced with the awful 70s fashion, "Live and Let Die" is fun to watch. Of course the film has also intentional stylishness that shows particularly in the clever pre-credit sequence, which contains the murders of three British agents.
Yaphet Kotto gives a strong performance as the infamous main villain, Dr. Kananga. Kananga has many colorful henchmen, like the grinning Tee Hee, who does a very handy job opening a tin. Jane Seymour's Solitaire is a truly graceful Bond girl, but the useless role of Rosie Carver should have been deleted, or recast, at least. And where's Q?
"Live and Let Die" isn't Roger Moore's best Bond outing, but not his worst, either. It's definitely better than his next one, the thoroughly tiresome "The Man with the Golden Gun".
Roger Moore's debut as 007 was a bit wan but, in retrospect, probably
his best outing. He looked pretty lean and mean for a 45 year-old. For
a British audience, Moore (The Saint, The Persuaders) was the natural
successor to Sean Connery.
Director Guy Hamilton makes this an expertly staged but somehow lacklustre affair. While the background voodoo theme is suitably bizarre, the main McGuffin about drugs smuggling is rather under-whelming for a Bond movie. Yaphet Kotto is a potentially strong baddie but has too little to do amid the familiar carnage and boat chases. And the introduction of the series' first out-rightly comic character in Sheriff JW Pepper presaged the self-defeating lapse into self-spoofing the films would increasingly take.
Nor does a heavy-handed score by Beatles producer George Martin help. Unlike regular Bond composer John Barry's music, Martin's is ponderous, overlaid onto the action rather than organic to it.
Still, Paul McCartney's blistering title-song really jolts Bond into the 70s. And Live and Let Die does have one of the best jokes in the entire series, in the opening sequence when a CIA agent, watching a New Orleans jazz funeral, innocently asks a nondescript fellow bystander: "Who's funeral is it ?"
Live and Let Die is directed by Guy Hamilton and adapted to screenplay
by Tom Mankiewicz from the novel written by Ian Fleming. It stars Roger
Moore, Yaphet Koto, Jane Seymour, David Hedison, Julius W Harris,
Gloria Hendry, Earl Jolly Brown, Clifton James and Geoffrey Holder.
Music is scored by George Martin and cinematography by Ted Moore.
Bond 8 and 007 is assigned to investigate the recent murders of MI6 agents in New Orleans, San Monique and New York. Suspicion falls on San Monique ruler Dr Kananga, a man who has definite links to Harlem crime lord Mr Big. As 007 digs deeper he uncovers a plot to corner the world's heroin market, but halting such a plan is hindered by the presence of voodoo in his midst.
Connery was gone, for good this time, no amount of cash would entice him to don the tuxedo for a "legitimate" Bond movie again....... This meant that producers Broccoli & Saltzman would be showcasing the third actor to play James Bond in a four year period! After the fall out of the casting of Lazenby in OHMSS, it was agreed that a established actor was needed this time around. Timothy Dalton was mooted, as he was for OHMSS (he was never offered the role though until 1986), but it came down to just two actors, Roger Moore & Michael Billington. Billington would screen test for the role of 007 a few times in his life but never landed the coveted role, as a sweetener he got to play a minor character in 1977's The Spy Who Loved Me. So Roger Moore it was, someone the producers knew quite well and who was well in vogue after starring in The Persuaders and The Saint. He also was honoured to play the role, wanted it badly and accepted the fanaticism that went with it.
Moore's take on Bond the man was a world away from Connery, and rightly so, but Live and Let Die is not far removed from Connery's last outing, Diamonds Are Forever. In truth it's a weak script, with Mankiewicz probably under orders from above to play to Moore's strengths and keep the overt humour and cartoon escapades as a selling point. The decision to pitch Bond into a world of voodoo is a good one, and it was not, as some believe, an attempt to grasp the tails of the Blacksploitation market that had made waves in the early 70s. It's a better film than Diamonds Are forever, without doubt. The villains are memorably played, though Kananga's (Koto) demise is indicative of the daftness that would blight many Bond movies from here on in, and in Hamilton's hands the action, especially an adrenalin pumping speedboat chase, is quality entertainment. Top blunderbuss theme tune, too, from Paul McCartney & Wings. While Felix Leiter is back on good charming form in the hands of Hedison (a real life friend of Moore and it shows).
Problems elsewhere, though, stop this from being a great Bond movie. Much of the film is made up of scenes that are played purely for smiles rather than for dramatic purpose. In short a Bond movie has stopped taking itself seriously. The introduction of Sheriff Pepper (James) is pointless, the beautiful Seymour shows promise but then becomes one of "those" Bond girls who is a liability to 007 outside of the bedroom, and the film is padded out with scenes that offer nothing important to the story. Hendry's Rosie Carver is a dope and poorly written, though it gave Bond his first inter-racial "dalliance", something that the producers were nervous about behind the scenes. While there's no Q! And George Martin's score is very hit and miss.
A new actor playing Bond and many failings in the picture, could Bond still succeed? Yes indeed! Moore, in spite of not getting good page to work from and getting stick from the critics, put his own stamp on the role by looking smooth, having an excellent vocal delivery and being someone the girls wanted to bed and the boys wanted to be. The box office sang to the tune of over $160 million, over $40 million more than Diamonds Are Forever. The tag-line ran "More Action, More Excitement, More Adventure", though not entirely accurate, there was indeed an abundance of fun play and gadgets are us (Felix Lighter, priceless). Bond was set to continue coining it in for the foreseeable future, but the dye had been cast and Bond ran the risk of becoming purely a cartoon caricature..... 7/10
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
With Sean Connery finally leaving the role of James Bond, Englishman
Roger Moore became his successor. While Moore would eventually leave
his own stamp on the part, he is much too stiff and tentative here. He
does not resemble Sean Connery in looks or mannerisms. Bond is way too
nice to his adversaries, often conversing with them as if they are his
good friends. Sean Connery's Bond would never say thank you after being
roughed up and shoved out a door. This problem stains the entire movie,
and led me to question Bond's good judgment. Moore would get better,
but he is caught in a weak plot involving drug smuggling and the voodoo
nonsense of Baron Saturday.
The air of absurdity materializes as early as the pre-title sequence, where a British agent watches a funeral procession that turns out being his own. This is one of three rather ludicrous killings that melt into Paul McCartney's famous title song. Unfortunately, the best theme in the series is the high point of the movie. Any hope that will improvement will come thoroughly dashed within fifteen minutes.
Bond starts an investigation of the three aforementioned murders, all connected to Dr. Kananga (Yaphet Kotto), the prime minister of a small island nation. Bond's mission takes him to Harlem, where he discovers a link between Kananga and criminal mobster Mr. Big, both later revealed to be the same person. Aiding Kananga/Mr. Big is a lusciously beautiful tarot card reader named Solitaire (Jane Seymour) and a vast organization of stereotyped cronies.
"Live and Let Die" is a flop in nearly every way. In addition to Moore's poor rendition of Bond, the action is lackluster, the characters are irritating, the soundtrack is terrible, the style is incongruous, and the film is racist. All the black people use fractured "blackspeak" and are either drug dealers or mob enforcers. Adam (Tommy Lane) orders some lazy henchmen to chase Bond saying, "The man who gets him stays alive! Now MOVE YOU MOTHERS!" Later, he encounters hick Sheriff J.W. Pepper (Clifton James) and risks his organization's entire plot by not shooting him.
Pepper is also an annoying, negative stereotype who undermines the film's best scene. Writer Tom Mankiewicz says he included Pepper so he could make fun of all groups equally. Since when are the Bond films about making fun of people? I bet Albert Broccoli would have shuddered if he heard during the making of "From Russia with Love" that the series would one day come to this.
Finally, the movie's climax is poorly written and executed. Bond carelessly leaves one of his weapons lying around for anyone to find, leaving him defenseless. It is the second time that he essentially allows himself to be captured. Maybe Mankiewicz and director Guy Hamilton were just looking for an excuse to create a brawl. Moore was never particularly good at brawls.
Despite its myriad of flaws, "Live and Let Die" has three positives. The most obvious one is Solitaire, Kananga's radiant mistress and the film's best character. Solitaire is intentionally vulnerable, and Seymour understands that well. As for the eye candy, Solitaire is arguably the most physically attractive Bond girl.
The other two positives are Kananga and his aide Tee-Hee (Julius W. Harris). Not surprisingly they are the only two non-stereotyped blacks. Kotto plays Kananga as an intelligent, well-expressed man who is in complete control of his emotions. Only Max Zorin is a more effective Moore era villain. Bond and Tee-Hee's train fight at the end is one of the few jewels of Moore's time although it does not approach the original in "From Russia with Love." The idea of a bad guy trying to kill Bond after the victory is won occurred in five of the eight films by this point and lost its appeal.
As far as 007 adventures go, "Live and Let Die" is one of the worst despite its three good characters. Moore would improve, and but it would take until 1977 to undo the damage from the film and its successor.
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