MOVIE REVIEW | ***BOND WEEK*** Live and Let Die (1973)

Live_and_Let_Die-_UK_cinema_poster
“Don’t worry darling, it’s just a small hat, belonging to a man of limited means, who lost a fight with a chicken”.

While Daniel Craig has made an impressive impact in his three outings as 007, I’d say to anyone over the age of about 30, the title of quintessential Bond probably still belongs to Sean Connery. I’d also say that the very close second place contender to that claim is Roger Moore. With seven movies under his belt, he stuck around longer than any other actor in the role, and his version of Bond’s persona is just as imitated and spoofed as Connery’s. While I have memories of seeing bits and pieces of Connery as Bond before embarking on this recent binge, I don’t think I had ever seen a single second of Roger Moore’s James Bond until I watched his first outing, Live and Let Die.


Three MI6 agents are killed. One during a United Nations assembly in New York, one outside a soul food restaurant in New Orleans, one in a cartoonish tribal ceremony on the fictional Caribbean island of San Monique. After giving his latest dolly bird a go round on the work bench, James Bond is called in to get to the bottom of these loosely connected killings.

He’s soon on the trail of two likely suspects, San Monique president Kananga, played by Yaphet Kotto, and New Orleans drug lord Mr Big, played by, wait for it… YAPHET KOTTO. Technically, I should have had a spoiler alert there, or omitted that information all together, because Live and Let Die tries to play this as a big reveal or twist, but it’s so obvious and corny, that I’ve spoiled nothing.

On San Monique, Bond teams up with Rosie Carver (Gloria Hendry), an undercover CIA agent who has infiltrated Kananga’s organisation. He also meets Solitaire, Kananga’s resident tarot card reader. Because, yeah, this is a James Bond movie where tarot card reading is a legit art from that actually predicts to future. Which becomes even weirder when all of this mysticism and supernatural bullshit ends up being part of a very un-Bond-like, street level drug dealing conspiracy.

Like the crime-de-jour, Live and Let Die is by far the least exotic and British / European Bond movie I’ve seen so far. Geographically un-British / un-European, around half of the movie takes place in New Orleans. But also, the villainous plot is very 70s, American, gritty, street level stuff.

The Wikipedia entry for Live and Let Die says this was the Bond franchise’s attempt to cash in on the then popular Blaxploitation phenomenon sweeping American cinemas. And the dialogue would suggest that is most probably correct. This is some of the best (ie. hilariously worst) “jive” clearly written by rich, old, Hollywood white guys, you have ever heard. But Live and Let Die also has the vibe of a poor man’s The French Connection to it as well.

Roger Moore’s James Bond is a different animal to what came before. Sean Connery and George Lazenby were tough guys, men’s men who had charm, but it was all about the testosterone. Moore makes Bond pure charismatic charm. And the terribly amateur and awkward fight scenes show the movie should have relied more on that charm, and less on the physical stuff. I’m still not sold on the Bond series, but Live and Let Die felt the least like work so far. It’s a little too long and drags in a few places, but (tarot cards aside) the attempt at grittier realism made this story of heroin dealing much more compelling than the world domination plots of the previous movies.

Live and Let Die
Directed By – Guy Hamilton
Written By – Tom Mankiewicz

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