ASSIGNMENT #008: Live and Let Die (1973)
With Sean Connery officially done with the franchise declaring “Never again” (only to bite him back when he starred as Bond in the unofficial EON Bond film Never Say Never Again), Roger Moore stepped in to fill in the shoes of Agent 007. Live and Let Die starts Moore’s record breaking seven film run as James Bond in an EON production and introduces the world to what Moore, already well known, could do with Bond.
Agents of MI6 are killed in New York, New Orleans, and San Monique while in a span of 24 hours while investigating San Monique’s dictator Dr. Kananga. James Bond must pick up where they left off by heading to New York to investigate the first murder and to meet up with his old CIA friend Felix Leiter (played by David Hedison, making him fifth actor to portray the role). While in being driven, his driver is shot dead by an unknown gunman in a white pimpmobile (no, I’m not making that up). Bond starts to trace the plates and is lead to a Fillet of Soul restaurant run by notorious Harlem drug lord Mr. Big (Yaphet Kotto). He is then taken in and face to face with Mr. Big, meets Big’s go to virgin fortune teller Solitaire (Jane Seymour), and Mr. Big’s right hand…I mean claw hand man, Tee Hee (Julius Harris and winner of second best henchman name). Big demand Tee Hee to kill him, but Bond escapes, gives them a British ass whooping, and heads to San Monique.
Once there he meets a CIA operative named Rosie Carver (Gloria Hendry), who is revealed as a double agent once on the island Solitaire calls home where Carver is shot dead via voodoo scarecrow by Kananga after revealing herself. Bond lures Solitaire with The Lovers card to eventually deflower her to eliminate her psychic ability (I guess that’s how that works) to stop her from helping Big and Kananga any further. Bond and Solitaire go to New Orleans to investigate when Mr. Big captures them and reveals that he is Kananga in disguise and reveals that he plans to distribute two tons of heorin freely through his restaurant and is exploiting the fears of voodoo the islanders have in order to maintain the poppy field for his drug trade.
Kananga has his henchman Whisper (Early ‘Jolly’ Brown and winner of the best henchman name) take out Bond to give to Tee Hee. Meanwhile, Solitaire is taken to voodoo priest and possible inspiration for Dr. Facilier, Baron Samedi (Tony Award winner Geoffrey Holder) to be sacrificed to the voodoo gods. Tee Hee leaves Bond in the backwoods of local farm to be eaten by crocodiles, but Bond being Bond goes Pitfall Harry and jumps on them at the right moment and burns down the farm. Bond engages in a speedboat chase through the mighty swamps of good ol’ Louisiana with Kanaga’s men in hot pursuit, along with borderline idiotic Sheriff J.W. Pepper (Clifton James) and the Louisana State Police making this the highlight of the film. Bond heads to San Monique to save Solitaire, defeats Samaldi with Smith and Wesson revolver (Bond with a Smith and Wesson? Why I never!), and escape only to be captured by Kananga and into his shark tank. Bond is having none of this crap and puts a shark pellet in Kananga’s mouth blasting him up like Team Rocket and killing him. Bond and Solitaire think they are safe when on a train, but are attacked by Tee Hee to leave Bond to deliver an asskicking with Love. He tosses Tee Hee and his arm out the train and they are now safe, but with Samedi in front of the train laughing like a maniac, who knows?
This was an interesting film to say nonetheless. It was not the best Bond film or even the worse, it was just all around okay, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have some highlights and performances worth noting. To me, this is a fantastic introduction to Moore’s take on Bond, a suave pretty boy with intelligence, charm, and sophisticated ideals, but will deliver when he is needed in fight. Moore tends to not be as rough or aggressive as Connery, but judging by the upcoming films he is in and how ridiculous they get, he doesn’t really need to be. I like Roger Moore as Bond and he is great, even if he isn’t the best of the series. Jane Seymour is also fantastic as well and after having to sit through the unbelievable one note performance of Jill St. John, it is a godsend. I actually love Jane Seymour as an actress in her other works and she is beyond gorgeous, even to this day. My favorite Bond girl alongside Titiana Romanova and Teresa di Vicenzo. Yaphet Kotto as Kananga is just awesome, plain and simple. He plays the part of a villain with ease, and after the reveal, he becomes even more a threat with great intimidation in his performance. The henchman of Kananga, though small roles, perform like the best of the Bond henchman can with ease, with Geoffrey Holder’s Baron stealing the show. The speedboat and airport chases are a true highlight of the film, filled with action and are never boring. The plot isgood straying away from the world domination plot and making it more of a smaller scheme on a grand scale.
The only complaint about this film would be the pacing and one performance in particular. It seems very slow at certain parts, but not to the point where it stops the feature entirely, just a minor pace problem. Clifton James performance as Sheriff Pepper is godawful, giving Diamonds are Forever flashbacks. Luckily, he isn’t in it that long, but he did almost destroy the boat chase scene with his terrible reactions to Bond’s destruction. One other thing I like to address is the majority of the cast being African-American and if this film is racist or not. For me, I don’t think this film is racist in the slightest and despite its depiction of voodoo, it never really offends. I didn’t feel bother and I didn’t feel like anything stood out. The majority of black actors is mostly to captilize of the blaxpoiltation craze that was happening at the time thanks to films like Shaft, Sweet Sweatback’s Badasssss Song, and Coffy and later paid homage to in the hilarious Black Dynamite. I do enjoy how much it feels like a blaxpoiltation flick and hits all the right notes.
Live and Let Die may not be the perfect Bond film or the perfect thriller, but with some great performances and classic Bond tropes, it still provides enough joy to at give a quick introduction to the new direction of the franchise.
As for the theme song, I may be completely bias since I adore Paul McCartney’s work from Beatles to Wings to his solo stuff, ‘Live and Let Die’ remains my favorite Bond theme of all time. I love it and it’s epic in scope, starting with lighthearted intro leading to a dramatic chord to the almost manic fast paced echos strings and piano like war broke out to the sweet and merry swells of the buildup and all over again. I can listen to this over and over again. I love it to death.
Assignment Status: 3.5 out of 5
Next time, Bond must stop a device that can use the power of the sun, all while facing Christopher Lee and his golden gun. Get ready for third nipples, kung fu, tiny men, gun fights, and the 1973 energy crisis of Britain.
Next Mission: The Man with The Golden Gun