and Let Die review
What are you? Some
kind of doomsday machine boy?
Roger Moore's tongue in cheek and quintessentially English persona took
on the mantle of James Bond for the first time in 1973's Live and Let
Die. At 44 Moore is the oldest actor to win the role but oddly enough
he could pass for the youngest. Witness Roger whipping up an espresso
coffee for M at the start of the film. He almost looks too young and
boyish to be Bond!
The new 007 is absent from the unusual pre-credit sequence which (after
a funky 1970's gunbarrel) features a series of murders from the United
Nations HQ in New York to a small Caribbean island called San Monique.
All of the victims are agents attempting to find out more about the
mysterious Dr. Kananga, the dictator of San Monique (played with relish
by the imposing Yaphet Kotto). Cue one of Maurice Binder's best title
sequences and Paul McCartney's memorable theme song. Both are a
departure in style from what had come before and they work very well.
In another departure our first glimpse of Bond finds him in his London
flat. Woken by someone at the door he checks the time on his Pulsar P2
digital watch and we see that he is in bed with 1970's comedy crumpet
Madeline Smith, here playing Italian agent Miss Caruso. Bond finds M
when he opens the door and after a classic raised eye-brow moment from
Roger, 007 uses his espresso machine to make his bemused boss some
coffee. 007 also has a Magnetic watch (Rolex Submariner) brought to him
by Miss Moneypenny from Q Branch. When switched on Bond's watch
generates a powerful magnetic field strong enough to deflect a bullet.
He demonstrates this by making M's teaspoon fly away from his cup. Miss
Moneypenny bails 007 out by helping to divert M away from the wardrobe
Miss Caruso is hiding in and Bond uses his watch's magnetic abilities
to unzip Madeline Smith's dress. The new Bond is considerably lighter
in tone and less physical than his predecessors but more urbane with a
great sense of humour.
Bond is sent to New York where the first agent was killed and where Dr
Kananga is at the UN. The very 1970's music score is great fun and we
hear the voice of Solitaire (Jane Seymour) as Bond's plane takes off
and he arrives in New York. As soon as Bond arrives his driver is
killed while taking him to meet Felix Leiter (David Hedison) in an
entertaining sequence during which 007 attempts to take control of the
car from the back-seat.
The trail leads Bond to Mr. Big, a gangster who runs a chain of Fillet
of Soul restaurants. Bond meets Solitaire, a tarot expert who has the
ability to see both the future and remote events in the present.
Bond follows Kananga back to San Monique with CIA agent Rosie Carver
where he seduces Solitaire. Their love had been foretold in the cards,
but was rigged up by Bond, having created a deck entirely of "The
Lovers" cards, which by "compelling to earthly love" takes away her
power. Bond is helped by Quarrel Jr (Roy Stewart), and for those who
remember, Bond had a friend in Jamaica named Quarrel, from Dr No. Rosie
turns out to be a double-agent on Kananga's payroll and Bond and
Solitare escape with the aid of a London double-decker bus but not
before stumbling across poppiy fields. It transpires that Kananga is
producing large quantities of heroin and is protecting the poppy fields
by using the locals belief and fear of voodoo and the occult.
Bond heads to New Orleans and is captured by Mr Big who is revealed to
be Kananga in a very unconvincing mask. Kananga is distributing heroin
under the guise of Mr Big. 007 escapes and is chased across the
Louisina bayous in the famous speedboat sequence. He then heads back to
rescue Solitare from San Monique and survives capture in Kananga's
underground complex and a train fight with Kananga's henchman Tee Hee
(he of the metal claw for a hand). "Just being disarming darling." In
the closing scene of the film, the central voodoo character, Baron
Samedi, is seen perched on the front of the speeding train laughing.
Live and Let Die was something of a reboot for the series. It was
decided not to saddle Moore with too many of the staples associated
with Sean Connery and subsequently the film feels like a slightly
strange entry. There is no Q and Bond does not order a martini or swan
about in a tuxedo. The film seems less lavish than other entries and
the world threatening super-villain is replaced by a more down to Earth
baddie with far more modest and 'real' world aims. Live and Let Die was
released during the height of the 1970s blaxploitation era and uses
actors from this period with mixed results. Gloria Hendry is required
to shriek a bit too much for my liking and some of the street jive
black stereotypes seem very dated and dubious now but Julius Harris is
suitably menacing as Tee Hee and Geoffrey Holder throws himself into
his Baron Samedi role. Like Jaws, Clifton James as Sheriff J.W. Pepper
is a character that you could only imagine appearing in the Roger Moore
There are three major chase sequences in Live and Let Die and they are
all great fun although the boat and double-decker bus chase could have
been more tightly edited. The airport scene is an amusing and typical
Roger Moore era escapade and ends with a funny line delivered deadpan
by 007. The action when it arrives does seem a bit stretched out and
there are parts of the film that seem slightly incoherent and stilted
but overall Live and Let Die is a hugely entertaining film that looks
great on DVD. George Martin is one of the best of the non-Barry
composers and he works the theme song into the film to good effect.
Jane Seymour does well as the innocent Solitare and from first scene to
last Roger Moore is never less than polished, likable and often very
funny. His fight with Tee Hee at the end of the film never fails to
make me smile. Worst bit? Kananga's death as any Bond fan will tell
you! Best bit? Bond's escape from the crocodiles which is cool,
unflappable and ingenious in the best tradition of the cinematic
The fact that Live and Let Die was is something of a unique entry and
tailored to introduce the new hip super space-age 1970's 007 (!) is a
big part of the charm. It may not be vintage Bond but Live and Let Die
is a lot of fun.
- Michael Cooper