Live and Let Die Review

Live and Let Die

Live and Let Die sees Roger Moore debut as 007, and arrives right in the middle of the early 70s “blaxpoitation” era, as such it sees Bond deal with Harlem drug lords, voodoo cultists and a New Orleans funky brass band that kills people… Okay, maybe that last one wasn’t a common trope, but still! Harlem, Caribbean islands and New Orleans, that’s three stereotypical locations for the price of one! Let’s take a look and see if this actually works as a film or not in general, let alone in 2018…

Synopsis:

Three MI6 agents are killed under mysterious circumstances within 24 hours in the United Nations headquarters in New York City, New Orleans and the Caribbean nation of San Monique, while monitoring the operations of the island’s dictator, Dr. Kananga. James Bond is sent to New York to begin his investigation into the murders…

*spoilers appear from here on out!*

Cast of Characters:

Live and Let Die 2

“You just f**ked the magic powers out of me…”  “You’re not the first girl to say that, my dear…”

James Bond (Roger Moore) – MI6 agent 007, James Bond isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty… or other parts of his anatomy dirty for that matter, to get the job done…

Dr. Kananga / Mr. Big (Yaphet Kotto) – Kananga is both a cruel dictator of a small Caribbean nation, and the head of a Harlem drug trafficking ring… Two black stereotypical villains in one go! For some reason he wears really, really obvious rubber mask when he’s pretending to be Harlem’s Mr. Big, despite the fact that I’m pretty sure he could just direct his men via the phone or something…

Solitaire (Jane Seymour) – Beautiful tarot expert who has the power to see the future as well as some events in the present… As in actually does seem to have the power, which is really odd for a Bond film…

Baron Samedi (Geoffrey Holder) – Voodoo priest / cackling mad man, Samedi isn’t in a great deal of the film, yet will be forever immortalised in my mind for appearing in the N64 Goldeneye game…

Felix Leiter (David Hedison) – A CIA agent who helps his old pal James Bond with the Harlem and New Orleans sides of the investigation.

Tee Hee Johnson (Julius Harris) – Henchman of Dr. Kananga who has a large metal claw for a hand, because… he likes crushing things I guess. Can’t be very handy for other tasks around the house, mind…

Whisper (Earl Jolly Brown) – Another Kananga henchman, Whisper has a really soft and quiet voice, which is a really handy trait to have in someone you have to talk too across large rooms all the time…

Plus many more!

The Good:

Live and Let Die 1

Baron Samedi, not only does he have resurrecting powers, but if you shoot him in the top hat it counts as a headshot!

Although it creeps in a few times (see below!) the more zany and comedic part of Roger Moore’s era doesn’t really come into this and he plays it quite strait. Moore proves he has the suave swagger needed for Bond, even if he doesn’t have the toughness.

There is something I really like about the villain side of the film. Kananga is actually quite sinister and unsettling (apart from his awful Mr. Big face mask…), but he surrounds himself with weirdos. Baron Samedi is actually a Voodoo master, or maybe not, or maybe so, or… etc, and often does weird and creepy things across Kananga’s island, Tee Hee has a metal claw hand and constantly laughs and generally also acts weird, and Whisper, well, whispers all the time, leading to Kananga having to ask him to repeat stuff. All his henchmen are so at odds with his straight portrayal of a drug lord / evil dictator that I find it genuinely amusing.

Solitaire is an odd Bond Girl, she seemingly actually has powers and then loses them when she sleeps with Bond (who tricked her with false “lover” tarot cards, for the record…) and again this is all played straight by her and Kananga especially. It’s so weird in the middle of a Bond film, but not necessarily bad. Rosie Carver is another Bond girl, the first Black one no less, but she turns out to be a spy for Kananga and tries to kill Bond, which he becomes aware of but sleeps with her anyway. When he reveals he knew and threatens Carver she says he wouldn’t kill her after what they just did, leading to Bond saying “Well I wasn’t going to kill you before…”, which still makes me smirk, even though it really shouldn’t (I guess?).

I have to laugh at the Jazzy funeral procession that also assassinates people, before breaking out into a dance. It’s bizarre, but amusing. I also enjoy the post-ending fight between Bond and Tee Hee on the train, even if it isn’t the most original place for Bond to have a fight…

The Bad:

Live and Let Die 4

“I’d like to buy one of your weird voodoo items please”.

Some of the Moore era comedy does begin to appear here (well, most of them began to appear in Diamonds are Forever to be fair…) with a “comedy” southern Sheriff named “J.W. Pepper” being the worst offender. It also hampers the big finale, where Kananga is killed by having a small air-tank put into his mouth and turning into a (really bad looking) human balloon that flies up to the roof and explodes…. It’s… disappointing. A scene where Bond jumps across a lake by stepping on Crocodile heads is somehow less distractingly daft, but still daft.

There is a boat chase that starts off exciting, but soon turns dull before it then makes you start checking your watch as it feels like it’s gone on forever. To make matters worse this is where all the J.W. Pepper antics take place… It’s a long stretch to get through…

While I could say that all the villains are Black and Bond, the white man, kills them all (except Baron Samedi, who seemingly does have voodoo powers…), I don’t think that really needs pointing out. The scenes in Harlem are particularly cringey nowadays, where every Black guy Bond drives past has a secret radio in an everyday object and informs Mr. Big’s men that Bond is on his way, as if the whole of Harlem is one big drug gang… with weird hidden radios. Plus the taxi driver says “Hey man, for twenty bucks I’d take you to a Ku Klux Klan cookout!”, which… well, good on him for having a sense of humour about it, I guess?

Overall Thoughts:

Live and Let Die 3

Bond has mastered the art of nonchalant hang-gliding…

Live and Let Die is far from the worse offender in Roger Moore’s seven outings as James Bond. It has a very unique feel to it and a strange blend of (mostly poor) humour and more serious moments. A long and boring boat chase and a slapstick final fate for our lead villain definitely takes it down a peg or two though…

3 Star Watch

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