Live and Let Die
LIVE AND LET DIE
UNITED ARTISTS CORPORATION
RELEASED 6th July 1973
PLEASE NOTE: THE FOLLOWING REVIEW IS A COMPLETE, SPOILER-FILLED REVIEW OF THE FILM (hey, it came out in the 70’s, whaddaya mean you haven’t seen it!)
Who’s that cool-looking dude shooting his Walter PPK into camera? He’s not even wearing a hat…
United Nations, New York City. Yep, we’re in the 70’s alright. Big shirt collars are the order of the day (not to mention an abundance of wood panelling on the walls). These two from San Monique look like interesting cats. Perhaps we’ll meet again…
New Orleans, Louisiana. JUST in case that you were in any doubt that it’s 1973, please accept: Evidence A; a huge afro: Evidence B; tight trousers: Evidence C; flowery shirts.
‘Whose funeral is it?’ ‘Yours’. Gotta love those lines.
San Monique, an island in the Carribean. Ah, now we’ve had two mentions of San Monique already. Guess this is where we’re going to be spending some time.
Voodoo. Snakes. Very very frightening. Is this going to be ‘James Bond and the Temple of Doo7m’? This is the first Bond movie (excluding ‘Dr No’) that doesn’t feature our star actor appearing before the main theme song.
Obviously one of the best theme songs ever from Macca. It’s so good, Guns ‘n’ Roses covered it successfully without a hint of irony. John Barry took a hiatus from scoring duties on this one, replaced by Beatles genius George Martin. Apparently Paul McCartney offered to make the theme song for this reason.
Here’s ‘M’ (Bernard Lee) to explain those guys we saw getting killed in the pre-credits sequence were all British agents. In the space of twenty-four hours. Bond (Roger Moore) fondly remembers one of his collegues. ‘I rather liked Bains. We shared the same bootmaker’. Ah, this is comedy gold and nobody does this better than Moore. ‘M’ congratulates Bond on a successful mission in Rome. And asks whether he’d happen to know the female Italian agents’ current whereabouts. Moneypenny has just walked into Bond’s home and discreetly allows Rome’s missing agent to hide in his wardrobe. ‘M’ is enjoying a freshly-brewed coffee, made by Bond himself. Bond’s dressing gown, a hideous yellow silk affair, actually has the initials JB on it. Do you think he has his initials stitched into his pants, too? I do hope so. After his guests have left, JB uses his new ‘Q’ magnetic watch on his conquest’s back zipper. ‘Sheer magnetism, darling.’
Felix Leiter (David Hedison, who amazingly returned to the role sixteen years later in ‘Licence to Kill’) is waiting for Bond. He’s sent a yellow taxi driven by a CIA agent, complete with mobile phone! Although it is wired into the dashboard and looks like a phonebox phone, but hey, it is mobile. Ooops. CIA agent just got shot in the head by a poisoned dart. Shot from the wing mirror of another car. Is this a hijacked ‘Q’ design?
So having left the UN in suits, all the baddies change into brightly coloured pimp outfits. Solitaire (Jane Seymour) simply discards her black coat to give everyone a look at her fine cleavage beneath a sexy negligee.
Now it’s not really my fault, but if Jane Seymour is going to be doing this all movie, then who am I to argue? Don’t worry, when we get to ‘Casino Royale’s Daniel Craig coming out of the ocean in those tight little blue pants, I’ll be posting up some totally exploitative pics for the sake of it.
I’d heard ‘Live and Let Die’ was a bit dubious, racially-speaking. In the space of sixty seconds, we’ve had the phrases Ku Klux Klan, honkey, jukebox, and cue ball used. All jokingly, of course. I think what the critics were getting at is the fact that virtually every single black character in the movie is a stereotyped black baddie.
James walks into an all-black establishment, orders a bourbon (neat), asks for information, and is promptly whisked through one of those rotating walls to be told Mr Big will see him soon. Not before James introduces himself to Solitaire. I’m surprised he could look at her and not be blinded by that gold eye shadow!
Best villain of the film so far is Tee Hee Johnson (Julius Harris). He crushes Bond’s gun with his metal pincer hand. And laughs to himself. I like this guy. He enjoys his work. James coolly drops the thing into a bin. He’s so British, keeping America tidy, even when he’s in the den of the enemy.
Kananga is flying back to San Monique, which means Bond is too. We’re introduced to Baron Samedi (‘that’s Saturday in French, folks’) the man who cannot die. We’ll see. Bond checks in to the hotel. Hold on, where was the advert for Pan Am? Would it be too confusing if Pan Am flew to a fictional destination. You have to remember, people weren’t as clever in 1973 as we are. It wasn’t their fault – they only had three TV channels.
If you have a shave in the bath (baths, tut, so last century), wouldn’t you get little shavings on your body? Surely a sink is better, non? I guess mucky water is the least of your concerns when there’s a bloody snake coming down the wall.
And Roger Moore really lucked out on flash cars for his debut. The first car he gets to drive is a poxy mini moke. Still, it’s not a moon buggy at least…
A totally unexpected little nod all the way back to ‘Dr No’.Meet Quarrel Jnr. (Roy Stewart), whose poppa helped out Bond and Honey Ryder all those years previously. Nice. IMDb offers up the fascinating nugget that Roy Stewart opened the first all-races gym in the UK in 1954.
I’m not sure how far along interracial kissing was in the movies circa 1973 (‘Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner’ in 1967, between Sidney Poitier and Katharine Houghton, seems to be the earliest I’m aware of), but it seems quite strident to have Bond snogging Carver on the beach here.
This little moment as Bond removes the slimmest neckscarf after dropping in via handglider is a nice precursor to straightening his tie while underwater in ‘The World is Not Enough’. I don’t think I need to see Bond whip his trousers off (revealing another pair underneath) again though. It’s a bit too ‘male stripper’, isn’t it? The reversible jacket should have been enough.
The cards were always stacked against Solitaire (whose real name is Simone Latrelle, though it’s never mentioned in the film.) If you’re trying to seduce a tarot reader, isn’t this ‘fixing of the odds’ a bit like drugging her?
I’d forgotten the double-decker (London AEC Regent III RT type Routemaster bus) was in this Bond movie. I love this sequence! I love the ‘low bridge’ sign reveal. It’s like the cliffhanger from RKO serials. How will our hero ever get out of this one?! Well, he’ll just chop the bus in half of course. It’s so perfectly chopped in half it looks like a special effect. I bet they’ve still got that bus on loaction as a tourist attraction (Johnson Town, Jamaica). ‘See the bus that James Bond totalled.’
Okay, if you’re looking for pointers to where the Bond franchise started going wrong (ie lame jokes, absurd comic characters) then this lady is a good starter. I don’t remember Sean Connery having a scene like this. Roger Moore made Bond a walking joke, people. Believe.
This action sequence as Bond slices the wings off his place whilst cars pursue and crash into whatever’s handy is almost a virtual recreation of the Vegas carpark chase scene from the last movie, ‘Diamonds are Forever’. And that’s not particulary a good thing.
Bond visits another ‘Fillet O Soul’ bar (even baddies like to develop franchises), and opts out of sitting next to a wall as he ‘had a bad turn’ last time. Seated in front of the stage, his seat and table are whisked down through a trapdoor below, putting him in front of Mr Big and his cronies. Big still looks like he’s ill, pasty-faced and puffy. Surprisingly, an uncredited Rick Baker (THE make-up genius of the last thirty years) was responsible for this look. I can’t imagine Baker can be too proud of his work here. At least the Seymour cleavage is back (I might set up a website for Seymour cleavage grabs. If Pippa’s bloody arse can have a website…)
Big reveals himself to be Kananga. Thank god that latex has come off. Bond seems surprised. He might be a secret agent, but he’s not proving himself as much of a student of the bleedin’ obvious. And Kananga’s big plan is revealed. He’s going to flood the US with two tonnes of free heroin and put all his competitors out of business.
Crocs. Lots of ‘em. We find out that ‘Old Albert’ (a gentle joke at Albert Broccoli’s expense) took Tee Hee’s arm, hence the pincer. Ross Kananga (credited as ‘stunt coordinator’) was the man who did the ‘stepping stone crocodiles’ stunt. Owner of the actual crocodile farm, it took five attempts to complete the stunt. Obviously the Broccolis took a shine to Ross Kananga, naming the villain after him.
Louisiana Sheriff J.W. Pepper (Clifton James) is another sad sign of the Bond movies’ decline into lame comedy moments.
Okay Baron, try a coffin-full of snakes on for size.
Bond and Solitaire descend into a secret bunker lair, via the lift where the Baron ‘rose up’ through the ground.
With Bond tied up, he questions the elaborate nature of their predicament. Kananga assures him that drowning is the least of his worries. ‘Drown Mr Bond? I doubt you’ll get the chance to drown…’ (does that sound a bit like, ‘Do you expect me to talk?’ ‘No, Mr Bond. I expect you to die’ to you?)
After a boring ‘big boss battle’ (Sean definitely did hand-to-hand combat better than this), JB pops an inflating bullet into Kanaga’s evil puss, and he inflates up to the roof like a balloon and promptly explodes. Bond declares ‘he always did have an inflated opinion of himself’. You do realise Arnold Schwarzenegger built a career off of toss like this?
Hmmm, looks like another bout of lovemaking for England might be interupted by our friend Tee Hee. As they have a less-than exciting fight (did the filmmakers forget how well they did a train fight only ten years previously?), Bond finds a pair of wire cutters in the cabin (er, never mind underground lairs and voodoo, but this really is stretching things somewhat – wire cutters in a sleeper cabin?) and snips Tee Hee’s metal appendage, unceremoniously kicking him off the train at high speed.
‘Just being disarming, darling’ (as Bond drops Tee Hee’s metal arm out of the train window)
‘Live and Let Die’ is one of my favourite Bond movies. Like Connery and Brosnan, Moore started out strong. Every time the franchise gets a new leading man, the producers really seem to pull it out of the bag, which always makes me wonder why they spend less effort on each subsequent film until the leading actor is left looking like a idiot with an invisible car, or in Moore’s case, being so old that you wouldn’t be surprised if someone knocked his false teeth out.
‘Live and Let Die’ has a gorgeous Bond girl in the form of Jane Seymour, who went on to a long and successful career. It’s definitely racially dubious with virtually every black character in the film a drug dealer, pimp, or plain old murderer. However, I don’t think there’s anything nasty about the film, and the only slang words used are terms for white people, as opposed to anything derogatory towards African-Americans.
John Barry would’ve had a field day with the new Bond on board and the voodoo setting, but George Martin doesn’t embarrass himself and keeps it fairly simple. It would’ve been great to have heard Barry riffing on McCartney’s stellar theme song. Shame.
The stuntwork is top notch too, and the double-decker chase as well as the speedboat sequence are some of Bond’s finest moments.
Yaphett Koto could have done far more with the bad guy role, but he’s backed up by a great duo of Tee Hee and Baron Samedi.
The final word should be for Moore. Stepping into Connery’s shoes is no mean feat, and Moore was wise to change the Bond character to better fit his own personality, something which Brosnan and Craig have both done. Although his one-liners and advancing years will dump the franchise into the doldrums in the Eighties, here he’s on top form and incredibly likeable, far from the cold-hearted bastard that Connery perfected. If Moore had only made four Bond movies, his reign would have been perfect.
THE END of LIVE AND LET DIE – James Bond will return in THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN
005 out of 007