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"Live and Let Die" was the first debut of Roger Moore as James Bond.
Watching how Roger Moore portrait James Bond, I was amazed how
comfortable he is in that role already. It's quite unique also how the
filmmaker introducing him not directly in the action scene, but on the
bed with his lover on his home. Rather than James Bond visiting M
(Bernard Lee) in his office, this time it is M and Moneypenny (Lois
Maxwell) who visited James Bond in his home. It is very fun to see how
James Bond, M and Moneypenny interact in this movie.
The movie able to maintain its uniqueness at least until half part of the movie. This is the only James Bond movie where 007 must encounter something supernatural. In terms of the use of gadget, we can consider it as minimal in James Bond world. Again, it seems like James Bond movie usually gets better if the filmmaker not equipped him with too many gadgets.
It's quite a pity that during the boat scene, the movie become again "ordinary" James Bond movie. Trying to maintain the light approach that established in "Diamonds are Forever", right now the filmmaker try to introduce Sheriff J.W. Pepper (Clifton James) to generate laughter during the boat scene. Although Pepper able to bring laughter, I found his overall appearance distracting. Same thing happen with the ending scene. I found the villain appearance near the end of the movie too cliché.
Overall, I found "Live and Let Die" to be a decent Bond movie.
MASTER PLAN: corner the heroin market with a lot of poppy fields. When
this latest Bonder first came out, I dismissed it as getting on the
bandwagon of the blaxploitation trend of the seventies, a rather lame
attempt to give Bond some more edge after "Diamonds Are Forever."
Viewing it again (on DVD), I now see a freshness to the whole Bond
formula: a new Bond, a new kind of villain, a new locale in New York
City's Harlem, and even a new approach - instead of Bond going into M's
office, M and Moneypenny go to Bond's apartment in this one (the reason
is unclear, except M seems to be in a rush and, possibly, looking for a
female Italian agent). Q doesn't appear at all, merely sending Bond a
special watch. Most of this angered the Bond purists, including me, but
now, so many years later, I can look at it dispassionately. The title
song, by McCartney, is terrific, perhaps even surpassing Bassey's
Goldfinger rendition. This was actor Moore's first Bonder and he would
return in a half-dozen more. He was a more proper British gentleman
than Connery; Connery's version seemed to be a rough bad-ass who became
sophisticated after reaching adulthood; Moore seemed to be born into
the upper class and had to learn to be a bad-ass later - or act like
one. Moore, therefore, lacked the real undertone of threat Connery
posed to villains, henchmen and even femme fatales: Moore seemed more
apt to arrest the bad guys than to actually kill them. He was certainly
more urbane and sophisticated than Connery's version, perhaps even more
debonair - and perhaps too smooth, wherein lies the dilemma with his
interpretation. As we begin to see here, everything's too easy for
Moore's version of Bond; he gets through all the life-threatening
instances without breaking a sweat and this lack of tension would get
worse in the forthcoming films (especially with "Moonraker" and on).
M sends Bond to NYC first, where the urban squalor and Harlem gangsters offer a sharp contrast to Moore's polished presence. Yet, even as he strolls amid these dangerous elements, very out of place, we sense he is in no danger; he'll either joke his way out or place a well-timed kick at just the right moment. Moore's line delivery is much better than Lazenby's (from "On Her Majesty's Secret Service"), of course, due to a lot more experience, emphasizing an amused tone, usually (his remark after a henchman breaks his gun, for example, is a gem). Moore was actually older than Connery and it's just as well he didn't get the role earlier, a problem associated with the Lazenby version, who was a bit too young. After his foray into the Big Apple, Bond heads out to the fabricated island of San Monique (in reality, we're back in Jamaica, the location of the first Bonder, "Dr.No," anticipating the Quarrel Jr. character). Bond encounters voodoo hijinks, an inept female CIA agent and a female clairvoyant who uses tarot cards while in the employ of the main villain. These elements seem too out of place even for a new approach to Bond adventuring, as they slant things towards actual mysticism. There's also a lame snake threat, copying the spider attack in "Dr.No" - Bond appears to overreact. Bond also uses his usual charms more blatantly and crudely than before, deflowering the Solitaire character as a specific strategy in his mission. There's a darkly satiric tone here, including the scenes involving killings, but it doesn't always work as expected. There are two which stand out, involving a funeral procession in New Orleans (Bond's 3rd destination) and the murders of a couple of agents. It's well done, with a gallows humor, but it's also uncomfortably chilling, especially when I first saw this, because it looks as if everyone in the procession, including grandmothers and kids, are in on these assassinations.
On the plus side, there are two interesting henchmen in this one, rather than the usual single one: Tee Hee is the brawn with a mechanical arm - pincers to snip off fingers or puncture agents. Baron Samedi is the larger-than-life giant, using either supernatural powers or clever trickery, depending on your perspective. The actor Holder is an especially striking presence as Samedi, with a weird, unsettling laugh. There's even a third henchman, the overweight Whisper, who appears non-threatening but is nonetheless lethal. Recalling the use of sharks and piranha in earlier films, here Bond is placed in the middle of alligators & crocodiles - it's suitably suspenseful and Bond's escape is a great bit - and there's even a return to sharks at the climax. The boat chase is different but continues for several more minutes after we think it's about over. The main villain, as played by actor Kotto, can be intense, yet he also doesn't make an easy fit into a Bond thriller. Instead of some intricate plot involving high-end technology, he's involved in drug trafficking. While this was a conscious attempt to stay away from huge sets and outlandish gadgets, it's almost too sharp a turn after several films with Blofeld and megalomaniacs like Goldfinger. Bond exists, after all, to tackle certain types of villains, certainly not the kind suited for a local police force and with names like 'Mr.Big.' Kananga is ambitious, however, with his own sense of theater, and even his own version of a master villain's lair. This was also the 1st Bonder with actor Hedison as CIA liaison Leiter, who would be the only actor to reprise the role later; he and Bond have an easy camaraderie. Bond would return in "The Man With the Golden Gun." Bond:8 Villain:7 Femme Fatales:7 Henchmen:8 Leiter:8 Fights:7 Stunts/Chases:7 Gadgets:5 Auto:6 Locations:7 Pace:7 overall:7-
Roger Moore takes on duties as James Bond for the first time in this
strange and unconventional 007 outing. This one can be tossed into the
"mediocre" bin of Bond adventures, and there are so many reasons for
this that it's difficult knowing where to begin. The story is rather
confusing, for a start. It seems that a British representative at the
United Nations in New York has been killed along with another one in
New Orleans and one more on the island of San Monique, so this takes
Bond on an investigation into New York City, including uptown Harlem.
There he first runs afoul of a black crime boss operating as the
pimp-like "Mr. Big", and then journeys onward to the voodoo island of
San Monique, where he squares off with an African leader named Kananga
(Yaphet Kotto). Kananga's woman and Tarot Card consultant is the
beautiful young Solitaire (Jane Seymour), and his "right-hook man" is
Tee Hee (Julius Harris) who lost one of his hands to the crocodiles and
sports a deadly metal hook in its place. Somehow the usual plot line of
drug trafficking also figures into all of this, don't ask me how.
With the dawn of the 1970s we first got to see the change into a more comic book direction for the Bond franchise with the previous film DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER; but LIVE AND LET DIE really takes it to a whole new level. This film plays more like an early seventies blaxpoitation pic, where you'd expect to see Pam Grier or Shaft arrive into any next scene. Black characters recite such stereotypical lines as: "man, for twenty bucks I'd take you to a Ku Klux Klan cookout!" (said gleefully by a taxi driver when 007 offers him a twenty to follow another car), and "keep your hands up, Honkey!" (when Bond is approached at gunpoint). Not that any of this in itself is a bad thing for the times, because I do dig these types of films, man; it's just that James Bond himself seems so uncomfortably out of place in such an untypical environment. This is made even more obvious when having newcomer Moore in the role for such a storyline, as he is much more refined and gentlemanly, not nearly as dangerous and street-smart as Sean Connery, or even George Lazenby, were. Roger would get better as his tenure in the series would progress, but here he has some big shoes to fill and is just finding his footing. To his credit, Moore sensibly didn't try to imitate Connery, but his own brand of Bond would require a few films to perfect. One thing Roger was excellent at was giving little comical quips and one-liners, and here he delivers a few good ones ("butterhook" he non-chalantly throws Tee Hee's way while the henchman fumbles trying to take Bond's watch off his wrist).
One of the best sequences in the movie is when Bond is left standing on a small island in the center of a group of hungry crocodiles and alligators. Unfortunately, another sequence involving speed boat chases goes on much too long and does not have the desired effect of enthralling us. Kananga's ultimate fate in the end comes off as utterly ridiculous and laugh-inducing in the way it's handled, even if the idea itself was inspired. The worst offense of all, though, has to be the addition of a really stupid and annoying backwards southern sheriff named J.W. Pepper, who is an embarrassing disgrace to this series as a comedic foil, and who was incomprehensibly brought back for next year's THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN! I wonder if he was the inspiration for Jackie Gleason's character in SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT?
The best thing about LIVE AND LET DIE turns out to be the classic title song by Paul McCartney. Too bad it wasn't used to accompany a better Bond film. Former Beatles producer George Martin takes on the score, but it's not a very good one. The constant re-use of the "Live and Let Die" instrumental theme becomes grating after awhile. **1/2 out of ****
Roger Moore had an unenviable task in his first outing as James Bond.The character had been introduced by Sean Connery some twelve years earlier,so we were already well familiar with the character.Moore's task was to bring his own unique style to the role and not end up looking like a Connery wannabe.He pulled it off rather well in story much different than previous Bond films had given us.The villains here,are for the most part,black,which was a gutsy move.Although the film is guilty of looking rather like a cheesy blaxploitation film,due in part to it's dialog,it does,at least in my opinion,turn out rather likable and exciting,with Yaphet Kotto making an excellent villain,and the ever lovely Jane Seymour as Solitaire is very easy on the eyes.Also,you have to love Clifton James' performance as J.W. Pepper,even if the character does seem rather stereotypical.Overall,a very different and likable Bond experience.
You don't review James Bond movies, you evaluate them, rate them
according to how well they meet expectations. There are certain things
one has come to expect, even demand of a Bond film and each individual
effort either delivers or it doesn't. So, here are ten elements that
make a Bond film a Bond film and how LIVE AND LET DIE rates on a scale
of 1 to 10:
Title: LIVE AND LET DIE: It has that wonderful twist that turns a cliché inside out. And it certainly captures the spirit of the Bond films and their casual amorality. 10 points.
Pre-Credit Teaser: Among other things, it has a jazzy New Orleans funeral that begins before the deceased is even deceased, an indication that the film isn't going to take things all that seriously. And it nicely introduces the themes of the movie: politics, voodoo and black pop culture. 8 points.
Opening Credits: With flaming skulls and writhing beauties, the reliable Maurice Binder is back in form again with a clever montage tying together images of sex and violence with a bit of gruesome black magic. A nice mix of the exotic, erotic and the grotesque. 8 points.
Theme Song: A post-Beatles Paul McCartney steps up to deliver a hard-edged Bond anthem that is more "Band on the Run" than "All You Need is Love." Far less coy than the lush ballads that proceeded it, "Live and Let Die" is nonetheless just as cynical. Definitely not a silly little love song. 9 points
"Bond, James Bond": Sean Connery is gone, once and forever (yeah, right). But Ian Fleming's first choice for the part, Roger Moore, slips into the part with very little fuss or bother. It would be a couple more films before he is completely comfortable in the role, but he does establish that his Bond is as unflappable as his predecessor -- and he is snappier dresser. 7 points.
Bond Babes: Rosie Carver just might be absolutely the worst female agent with which Bond ever crossed paths and not a particularly alluring Bond Girl either. And Gloria Hendry's terrible performance doesn't help much. Fortunately, her near hysteria is balanced by Jane Seymour's subtle, low key performance, putting her on par with Diana Rigg as a Bond Girl who is more actress than pretty set decoration. The odd gimmick that Seymour's Solitaire is a tarot-reading psychic who garners her powers from her virginity is a dubious twist -- though not an obstacle for Bond. 8 points.
Bond Villain: Perhaps in response to the then-growing trend toward blaxplotation films, LIVE AND LET DIE gives us the first Bond villain played by an African-American. And Yaphet Kotto seems to have no reservations about mocking the black stereotypes. He plays the Jekyll-Hyde role of Kananga, a seemingly respectable diplomat from some obscure Caribbean island, and Mr. Big, a pimp-daddy crime lord. Kotto seems to be enjoying his role, while not letting things go over the top. He's worthy of an "8," but dock him one point for dying the most unbelievable death in any of the Bond films. 7 points.
Bond Baddies: As colorful entourages go, Kananga's posse can't be beat. A not-so-gentle giant named Whisper; a cheerful assassin named Tee-Hee, who also sports a mechanical claw for a hand; and seemingly half the black people in the United States. Best of all, Geoffrey Holder's flamboyant voodoo priest, Baron Samedi, is both classy and campy. 8 points.
Sinister Plot: As Kananga he keeps his Caribbean nation under control with voodoo superstition; as Mr. Big he wants to flood the U.S. market with free heroin with the intent of driving the competition out and increasing the number of addicts. Definitely an original plot, though just why the British secret service is involved is never made clear. 8 points.
Production values: Apparently not wishing to burden Moore too much in his first film in Bondage, the filmmakers have focused on action, especially several above average chase sequences. A speedboat chase across the bayou is very well staged, as is a race involving a double-decker bus and an airplane chase that never gets off the ground, but is nicely destructive. Nice locales and well paced action dominate. 8 points.
Bonus Points: Since almost all the bad guys here are black, there must have been a compelling need to toss in at least one racist stereotype aimed at whites. Enter Clifton James as J.W. Pepper, the cliché image of the big-bellied, tobacco-spitting, none-too-bright southern sheriff. Whether intended as a social commentary or just a cheap joke, Sheriff Pepper is horribly unfunny and vaguely insulting. Minus 5 points.
Summary: Not that any of the Bond films have any great depth, but LIVE AND LET DIE is as superficially entertaining as any. It certainly served it purpose well at introducing Moore to the role (his opening scene at his apartment is cleverly done) and at establishing that this Bond's approach to humor will be dry wit, stirred more than shaken. A new era in the Bond series has been established.
Bond-o-meter Rating: 76 points out of 100.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Welcome to the year 1973, the decade of Vietnam war, the rise of equity
for black people in US and Watergate affair. And also the year, where
the 007 series lost it's best actor Sean Connery, who chooses rather to
play golf instead of going into dangerous 007 missions. Overall, a hard
job for producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, to find a
truthful substitute. Did they succeed in this task?
Well, they did okay...They knew that it will be hard to replace the charm of Connery, but they solved this problem with some minor changes . The new James Bond, Roger Moore, cover that deficiency by being just the way he is in real life. A true English gentlemen, with a touch of wittiness. Enough to make him convenient for 007 role.
Opening scene offers us some questions, surprisingly not showing the new bond, but as we follow the movie with a nice Paul McCartney song, they finally reveal him in the cool, funny London scene. The path leads us towards New York city, offering us a great seventies look in this metropolitan city including a short tour in Harlem (plus introducing us the beautiful "soon to be" Bond woman). but the finest scenes are kept for New Orleans (unforgetable plane airport scene, the car and boat chase, crocodiles...you just can't ask for more) and the exotic location of San Monique.
-END OF SPOILERS-
The producers and director decided, that by introducing the new Bond, there will be more humor (which is good), but sadly, they've lost that 007 Connery roughness and smoothness. Connery was simply just more believable when facing the villains and seducing women. That's the reason, that I just can give this movie better grade than in Connery ones, but hey, it's the first one for Moore and the better ones are still to come:)
Roger Moore's first Bond film is excellent! The story is good and the villains are very neat especially Tee Hee!Yaphet Kotto acted very well! Live and Let Die is a good 007 film and if you like James Bond and Roger Moore then look no further to Live and Let Die!
I've never understand the generally disparaging remarks passed on LaLD (and it's followup, Golden Gun). It's an adequate performance by Moore in first Bond movie. The villains are what steal the show, however, from Yaphet Kotto as a major villain who isn't an obsessed psychopath, to the enigmatic Geoffrey Holder, to the menacing Julius Harris, and even the soft-spoken Earl Jolly Brown. Plus David Hedison is the only Felix Leiter to be called back. Quite frankly, the plot is a welcome relief from the typical "rule the world" schemes of previous (and subsequent) Bond villains.
Live and Let Die (1973)
If you're not a James Bond fan in particular, how would this movie hold up? That's exactly my point of view here and so read on accordingly.
I've seen a dozen 007 films, and tend to like some aspects of them and hate others. This is a purely middle of the road, halfhearted movie in nearly every way. And if there's something a Bond film should be, it's not middling. Start with the man himself, played by Roger Moore, who lacks the charm, the physical power and elegance, and the smarts, frankly, required of the character. (I think he does better in his later films.) In the very first scenes, this top notch agent is led along, duped, and outsmarted in every step of his return to New York. He gets away only when the bad guys let him.
The other great things about Bond films are restrained here, as well. There aren't gadgets (except the silly magnetic watch) and he doesn't have his car. His sometimes hilarious deadpan interactions with his superiors (M and Moneypenny) are drab and cut short. His affairs with women are numerous of course, but pretty routine stuff.
And I don't mean the women are routine. This is actually a benefit of being halfhearted--the movie isn't as demeaning to women as most of the others, score one for mediocrity.
Finally, the plot, the plot! That is to say, what plot? So he's somehow interested in this gang of crook on a Caribbean island, but why? They followed him from the airport and killed his chauffeur, sure, but there is no really compelling reason for this long chase after the obviously evil mean. And it surely doesn't seem like secret agent stuff, more like the usual drug running gang. With the twist that they are going to flood the U.S. market with free heroin. Yes, free.
Okay, so there is a long, long, did I say long boat chase near the end, including some ridiculous flying over bits of land that get in the way at various times. The Mississippi sheriff stereotypes are fun for those who don't hale from there, I'm guessing. But it all goes on forever. And there is the shark cage and the threat of being eaten alive. Wow is that a lame game and played out with no sense of flair or suspense. You'll see.
So, now that I think of it, what the heck is there to enjoy here? Well, it's a high budget Hollywood movie with a cute leading man set in an attractive exotic local. The secondary actors, all of them, are peculiar and interesting and not always the best actors but they keep their heads above water. The cast and some of the sub-themes are distinctly blaxploitation stuff, which I liked a lot, and I only wish it had been pushed harder. The pivotal movie "Shaft" had been out and successful before filming began on this one, but it seems only the superficial aspects were picked out of the genre. (It might matter that "Shaft" was directed by a black American, the great Gordon Parks, and this was directed by a white British bloke, the redoubtable Guy Hamilton, who did direct "Goldfinger" and other Bond staples.)
There is Solitaire, the reason I actually picked this Bond film instead of something else--not for her (she's a generic pretty object who really barely "acts" at all) but for her cards, the specially made James Bond Tarot deck. This deck is now kind of famous in the Tarot world because it's been released (and re-released) as a working, fully illustrated, and rather good 78 card deck. There's the famous moment, as well, where Bond reveals he has a special deck made of 78 cards all the same--the Lovers. Clever fellow. And pretty quick printing job, I say.
Roger Moore fans, I apologize. He didn't have the aura of Connery or the physical energy of later Bonds like Bronson or Craig. In this first of his several attempts, he did however make Bond dignified. I'm not sure that's a good thing. Oh, and this is the Bond film with the McCartney theme songs (which you can hear morphed in little ways throughout the movie, under George Martin's hand). The music is certainly good stuff, and some of the sets underground make for exciting chases. As well, the voodoo aspects are totally fun and (if unrelated to Tarot) they give the movie a different tilt at times, including the very last five seconds. You'll see.
Roger Moore's first Bond film is a pretty good start. The plot is really the only thing keeping this one alive. The humor is pretty good too. Overall not Roger Moore's best, but it works. The other high point is in the film is the theme song played by Paul McCartney and Wings. Its definitely one of the best Bond theme song ever written. It's also interesting the return of Guy Hamilton as director (Goldfinger (1964)and eventually The Man With Golden Gun (1974) and he also has a cameo in the film too. It's funny watching these older Bond films, this one came out 9 years before I was born and Jane Seymour, is probably the hottest Bond girl in the series, I feel funny saying that because now she's Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman. The film also makes some careful selected racial jokes that are really funny. Definitely a good film.
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