Live and Let Die (1973)
Live and Let Die (1973)

Genre: Action and Spy Running Time: 2 hrs. 1 min.

Release Date: June 27th, 1973 MPAA Rating: PG

Director: Guy Hamilton Actors: Roger Moore, Yaphet Kotto, Jane Seymour, Clifton James, Julius W. Harris, Geoffrey Holder, Gloria Hendry, Bernard Lee, Lois Maxwell

 


 

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t the United Nations in New York City, the United Kingdom representative is murdered; this is followed by the execution of an MI6 agent in New Orleans, Louisiana, and another on the island of San Monique in the Caribbean. It’s a rather boring opening scene, still predating the now popularized introduction of dramatically intense action, explosions, and gunplay. This is followed by one of the worst title sequences of the series, again designed by Maurice Binder, and accompanied by Paul and Linda McCartney’s theme music (sung by Paul and Wings), which is equally pathetic but highly memorable.

There are no jokes or special attention manufactured to welcome the brand new James Bond, Roger Moore, though his dialogue is immediately inundated with cheekiness. Moneypenny (Lois Maxwell) and M (Bernard Lee) don their usual, disingenuous, almost disinterested attitudes in assigning the mission (Q is referenced but never makes an appearance), after which 007 traipses across the globe to yet another airport where the all-too-familiar futile assassination attempts ensue. Bond is tasked with tailing Dr. Kananga (Yaphet Kotto), in New York, where he goes by the name “Mr. Big” and governs a major criminal organization (using the Fillet of Soul restaurant chain as a front). Wandering into Harlem only to narrowly escape (unaided but soon joined by CIA Agent Strutter, played by Lon Satton), he then journeys to San Monique, where he discovers Kananga’s plot to smuggle and distribute large amounts of heroin.

The general subject matter in “Live and Let Die” is a touch more morbid than in the previous films, heavily utilizing the fortunetelling, bad omens, beliefs in the occult, voodoo, and tropical killer animals that can be expected from a stereotyped Caribbean setting. The film combats this with extremely silly characters and ridiculous dialogue, led by inexperienced, terribly worthless CIA operative Rosie (Gloria Hendry), who is included almost solely as if required to fill a quota for Bond to be able to sleep with a girl from every ethnicity. Solitaire (Jane Seymour) becomes yet another Bond girl incorporated for a momentary fling; she has the hokey power to see the future through tarot cards, but quickly transforms into nothing more than a sex object who similarly can’t provide much assistance to Bond’s mission, tagging along only as a femme fatale. She’s further embellished with bizarre hairdos and overdone costuming.

Multiple attempts on Bond’s life (highlighted by a jazz funeral procession/party crowd hit-squad) are handled with smugness and nonchalant avoidance, while actual action/adventure arrangements are disappointingly infrequent. Here, the British spy seems to spend more time in a bed than roughing up villains. And the thrilling, rousing James Bond theme music is curiously absent for much of the production, instead utilizing the meager McCartney title tune as instrumental accompaniment. During several chase sequences, no score can be heard at all, which notably detracts from the intensity.

Filling out other Bond tropes is the obligatory hierarchy of henchman, constructed with Baron Samedi (Geoffrey Holder), a cackling witchdoctor who plays with rubber snakes; Whisper (Earl Jolly Brown), a burly handyman who roleplays driver, waiter, shark wrangler, or anything else needed at the time (and who keeps hilariously turning up at every location); and finally Tee Hee (Julius W. Harris), a towering, red-suited, sunglasses-wearing man who sports a noticeably long arm, outfitted with a powerful metal claw. Although his character is one of the most formidable of Bond villains, he’s laughably responsible for the famous crocodile farm scene, where Bond expectedly escapes thanks to being left completely alone to perish (a mistake too many nemeses make over and over again). If it wasn’t bad enough that “Live and Let Die” is one of the more mundane Bond episodes – feeling very much unlike a Bond endeavor at all – it’s stuffed with comic relief moments, including numerous sequences with the idiotic Sheriff Pepper (Clifton James), who would inexplicably appear in another Bond movie after this one. Considering the blandness of this eighth theatrical chapter, it’s miraculous that further adventures would make it to the big screen – let alone continuing on with Roger Moore as the hero.

– Mike Massie

  • 2/10