Live and Let Die (1973)

Live and Let Die (1973) 8


Three British spies are murdered and James Bond (Roger Moore, The Naked Face) is sent to New York to investigate. As Bond tries to unravel the mystery, he becomes the target of a vicious drug dealer, Dr. Kananga (Yaphet Kotto, Across 110th Street), who will stop at nothing to control the international heroin market.

Reaction & Thoughts:

“Oh, a snake… You should never go in there without a mongoose.”

This is the beginning of a new era. Roger Moore makes his debut as our favorite super-spy 007. The British actor played the role longer than anyone else and his record is unlikely to be broken any time soon. Unfortunately, Moore had the misfortune to begin his reign in a film most fans of the franchise “love-to-hate.”

Live and Let Die is actually a tad better than the previous movie, the dumb but fun Diamonds are Forever. I liked the action sequences, some of the jokes were really funny (it was hilarious to see Bond in Harlem!) and the supporting cast was particularly interesting (Geoffrey Holder, Annie, is magnetic as a voodoo priest).

Moore is great as Agent 007. I grew up watching Moore in the old TV series The Saint so I knew he was going to do just fine — the cool Simon “The Saint” Templar has a lot in common with Bond. Moore looks 10-15 years younger than Sean Connery — incredibly, the actor is a few years older than his predecessor — so his youthful appearance gives the impression that the franchise is getting a much-needed shot of vitality.

However, the main reason the franchise has survived this long is because of its uncanny ability to adapt. Bond films are always good at cultural mirroring. In this case, producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman decided to pander to the increased interest in black cinema — you can clearly see the “blaxploitation vibe” that runs throughout the entire film. Today, the style dates the film a bit, but at the time it was considered an interesting innovation and the film became a huge success.

I’m not sure why, but the producers chose not to shoot the movie on widescreen. It’s possible that after the ridiculously over-the top Diamonds are Forever, they wanted to return to the minimalism of Dr. No (1962) and From Russia with Love (1963). If that was the case, I think this was a huge mistake. Director Guy Hamilton’s lively touch wasn’t enough. Also, Tom Mankiewicz’s script is very simple, maybe too simple, and it needed the “oomph” wide lenses often provide to a movie.

Live and Let Die marks the first of two appearances by Sheriff Pepper (Clifton James, Silver Streak). Many anti-Moore viewers cite this character as a sign of the franchise’s decline. I like him — he’s a harmless piece of silly fun and it fits well within the context of the movie. Jane Seymour (Somewhere in Time) is gorgeous as “Solatire,” but she’s kind of boring here. Yaphet Kotto is fine as the main villain.

The best and most famous thing about the movie is its title song. “Live and Let Die” was written and sung by Paul McCartney and his then wife Linda McCartney. The Oscar-nominated song (it lost to the still popular tune “The Way We Were” by Marvin Hamlisch, Alan and Marilyn Bergman) remains one of the most popular title tunes in the series — it’s really a fantastic song, one of the best in the franchise!

Conclusions & Final Thoughts:

Ah, the endless debate! Who is the best Bond? It’s really a silly question. Moore’s Bond is wittier, so he automatically makes the role livelier — I just love his Cary Grantesque interpretation. No matter what you hear or read, grittiness doesn’t equal greatness. It’s simply a matter of taste. Anyhow, Live and Let Die is a flawed, but entertaining and kinda underrated action flick. Color, 121 minutes, Rated PG.

James Bond will return
The Man with the Golden Gun (1974)

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