In this eighth film in the series of James Bond films, Roger Moore steps up to the plate to take on the role of super-spy James Bond. It features not much of a change in tone, but definitely has a different flavor and flair than previous films. Bond seems to have worked through his intensity in Diamonds Are Forever which was likely motivated by the death of the only woman Bond ever loved enough to wed.
Live and Let Die gets away from the central theme of Bond battling his arch-nemesis, Stavros Blofeld, and instead puts him in the center of an international drug ring, intent on taking out the agents who are an impediment to their drug trafficking.
The film opens with a scene at the United Nations. The Ambassador from the United Kingdom is killed through use of an audio mechanism in the translator’s booth. Meanwhile, in New Orleans, an Agent of MI6 is killed during a funeral procession and cleverly removed from the scene. Next, the action turns to a Caribbean island where is would seem a voodoo ceremony is taking place – one which will take the life of still another Agent.
All of this prompts M (portrayed by Bernard Lee) to stir Bond from the bed he is sharing with a beautiful woman. M fills Bond in on the three murders before Miss Money penny (portrayed by Lois Maxwell) arrives. She sees the woman – now known as a missing Italian agent – sneaking from Bond’s bedroom not yet dressed.
Bond flies off to New York. He’s picked up to be delivered to his hotel where another agent awaits his arrival. However, his driver is assassinated en route. This leads to a good scene where Bond attempts to gain control of the out-of-control speeding car throughout lower Manhattan.
Bond traces the vehicle from which the assassin shot his driver to a voodoo shop in Midtown. There he picks up the trail of the assassins, but he’s not aware that he is being tailed as well as his taxi follows the trail into Harlem. Bond enters the club outside which the vehicle is parked and finds himself decidedly in the minority.
Once he’s behind the scenes, he meets up with Solitaire (portrayed by Jane Seymour). She has foreseen his coming through the tarot cards. “Mr. Big” (portrayed by Yaphet Kotto) orders Bond to be taken out and wasted, but Bond takes the henchmen by surprise.
From there the action shifts to the island of San Monique. He’s told that “Mrs. Bond” checked in earlier and asked for a private bungalow. His curiosity piqued, Bond says nothing but takes the bungalow. As he settles in for a bath, he finds himself with some unwanted company. It’s not “Mrs. Bond”, but a snake which has been sent as another attempt on the spy’s life. “Mrs. Bond” turns out to be Rosie Carver (portrayed by Gloria Hendry) an agent assigned to work with Bond.
From here the players are in place for the story which stretches from the Caribbean island to New Orleans and the Louisiana Bayous. Those scenes are absolutely beautiful. However, Live and Let Die paints a rather bleak picture of New York in the 1970s. Although there are some beautiful shots, the scenes of boarded-up abandoned buildings seem to dominate and make it seem like a wasteland.
The tone of Live and Let Die was much different from previous films. It seemed to mark a change in direction where the Bond films wanted to capitalize on other films that were popular at the time. In this case, Live and Let Die seems modeled on the blaxploitation movies of the era.
The action is really good. There are a number of chase scenes, including two unconventional ones that involve a student pilot at an airfield and boats through the bayous and marshes. The bad guys are sufficiently sinister and they get away from Blofeld who was becoming a bit too cartoonish. However, the result from this side looking back is a lot of jive-talking stereotypes in pimp-like flashy outfits.
Roger Moore is good here as Bond. In fact, looking back with some of his later performances that I saw, this might be his best turn in the role. It helps that Live and Let Die “introduced” actors such as Jane Seymour and Yaphet Kotto. I think a villain who was more sure of himself might have overshadowed Moore, so choosing the actors they did probably was beneficial to all. Mr. Big’s henchmen are wonderful, particularly Tee Hee (portrayed by Julius Harris) with his artificial limb.
The chase scenes through the backwater of Louisiana are reminiscent of a series of southern-flavored chases that would follow, most notably exploited in the television series Dukes of Hazzard. This was the earliest incarnation and even included the frustrated southern sheriff. It’s amazing the things that have their roots in small bits in a particular movie as it gave berth to so much more.
The opening song by Paul McCartney and Wings is terrific and one of the finest songs from a Bond movie. It’s used throughout the film as well and quite effectively. The movie did, however, feel long to me. I came in at two hours in length but felt much longer at times. A lot of that had to do with the time spent setting up some of the good chases. Sometimes it felt like it was just plodding along until the next action sequence came about.
The DVD is loaded with special features. I wish some of the actors could have been brought back for some of the commentary to have their reflections, but they are present in interviews. The picture is terrific with little interference and looks good even on a widescreen television.
Overall, though, I liked Live and Let Die quite a bit. It’s one of the better films and is a complete reflection of the time period in which it was filmed. This movie did it successfully. Others that tried that same angle in the future didn’t quite match up.
• Audio Commentary with Director Guy Hamilton
• Audio Commentary with Tom Mankiewicz
• Still Gallery
• Documentary: Inside Live and Let Die
• Theatrical Trailer
• Theatrical Teaser
• TV Spots
• Radio Spots
• UK Milk Board Commercial
• “On The Set with Roger Moore”
• Tomorrow Never Dies Playstation Trailer
Previous film in the series (link): Diamonds Are Forever
Next movie in the series (link): The Man With the Golden Gun
Categories: James Bond films, Movie Reviews
One of my fave Bond movies!