Three British spies are murdered and James Bond (Roger Moore, Ffolkes) is sent to New York, USA, to investigate. As Bond tries to unravel the mystery, he becomes the target of a vicious drug dealer, Dr. Kananga (Yaphet Kotto, Alien), who will stop at nothing to control the International heroin market.
Reaction & Thoughts:
The beginning of a new era. Moore makes his debut as our favorite super-spy 007. He played the role longer than anyone else and his record is unlikely to be broken any time soon. Moore, unfortunately, had the misfortune to begin his reign in one of the dullest entries in the franchise — Live and Let Die is, in my opinion, the weakest movie up to this point. It’s just too bad, because he does a good job.
I grew up watching Moore in the TV series The Saint so I knew he was going to do just fine — the cool Simon Templar has a lot in common with Bond. Moore looked 10-15 years younger than Connery — the actor is actually a few years older than his predecessor — so his baby face 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. The 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, it makes the film date badly, 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 the shoot the movie in widescreen. It’s possible that after the ridiculously over-the top Diamonds are Forever (1971), they wanted to return to the minimalism of Dr. No (1962) and From Russia with Love (1963). If that is the case, I think this was a huge mistake. Director Guy Hamilton’s lively touch isn’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.
There is one terrific car stunt that was done without the benefit of special effects. This is also 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 so sue me. 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 kinda boring here. Kotto is fine as the main villain, but the weak climax deprives him of a memorable exit. Geoffrey Holder (Annie) has the best role in the film; he’s magnetic as a voodoo priest.
The best, and most famous, thing about the movie is its title song. It was written and sung by Paul McCartney and his wife Linda McCartney. The Oscar-nominated song remains one of the most popular title tunes in the series. It’s really a great song.
Conclusions & Final Thoughts:
Ah, the endless debate! Who is the best Bond? It’s really a silly question. Being a ’70s & ’80s kid, I grew up with Moore’s movies. He’s my favorite Bond because he was the first one I saw. Moore’s Bond is more dapper and wittier so he automatically makes the role livelier and funnier— I just love his Cary Grant-esque interpretation. No matter what you hear, or read, grittiness doesn’t equal greatness. It’s simply a matter of tastes. I like Bond best when he has his tongue tucked firmly in his cheek. Like Blanche Dubois said, “I don’t want realism. I want magic!” Live and Let Die is just “okay,” but it’s entertaining. Color, 121 minutes, Rated PG.
James Bond will return
The Man with the Golden Gun (1974)