Fan Reviews - Live And Let Die

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"Live And Let Die" by Overkill

Another year, another actor playing James Bond. For the third film in a row, Eon presented us with a different face. Luckily this one stuck.

Roger Moore was a huge international star, thanks to his appearances on TV in Ivanhoe, The Saint and The Persuaders, and had been on Saltzman and Broccoli’s list for a while before the premature cancellation of The Persuaders allowed him to step into the famous tux for the first time.

LALD was, in some ways, a great choice with which to introduce a new Bond. The book has little continuity to the others (barring the appearance of Felix Leiter). However, the somewhat dubious politics of Fleming’s original required a radical reworking from Tom Mankiewicz, attempting to make up for the disappointment of DAF two years previously. What he supplied was an action packed, and above all modern take on what had come before in the series.

This time around Bond doesn’t battle international terrorists or deformed megalomaniacs, but a very realistic villain in the shape of a drug dealer who plans to flood America with free heroin, driving out the competition and then cornering the market. In his scheme he is aided by a wide variety of henchmen, from the memorable Tee-Hee (metal arm replacing the one he lost to his favourite crocodile) to the less memorable Whisper (he whispers apparently). Also in the mix are, seemingly, every black man in New Orleans and New York (most of whom dress like Huggy Bear from Starsky and Hutch) and a clairvoyant, later deflowered by Bond (in a scene of such villainous cunning it really makes me cringe).

What may be obvious from the above description is that Bond had to move with the times. The 60’s had already signaled that ‘the times they are a changin’”, so Bond had to change as well. Out went multi-million dollar sets, and faceless extras in identical boiler suits. In came gritty location photography in Harlem and mean looking guys in pimp-gear.

This was also, it must be said, a rather cynical attempt to cash in on the then popular blaxploitation movies (as typified by Shaft, Foxy Brown and anything with an Isaac Hayes theme tune). Though as cynical cash-ins go, this is pretty good stuff. It’s often noted that Shaft was an attempt to give black people their own version of Bond (because according to those people, black people can’t associate with anyone who is white, which is of course nonsense), so why shouldn’t Bond return the favour.
What’s so good about this, is that, probably for the first time the series, we see Bond floundering, completely out of his depth. Check out the look on his face when the cabby tells him he’s heading into Harlem, and the uncomfortableness at his first visit to the Fillet o’Soul. Never mind being in another country, Bond may as well be on a different planet for all the good his charm and wit does him here.

And it’s this freshness that makes LALD so good, and why it endures to this day. Yes it looks a bit dated, but it doesn’t feel cliched or parodic, like so many Moore movies do these days. The action is good, if at little thin on the ground. Maybe they put so much effort into the boat chase that they forgot about planning anything else? And who can forget that boat chase. Still copied today, it may be a little long, but it crams in so much you don’t really care.

But really LALD is about Roger Moore. His experience allowed him to step into Connery’s shoes without feeling intimidated. The decision was taken early on to play to Moore’s strengths (suaveness, wit) rather than Connery’s hard man act. This, of course, was never going to be popular with those who knew the character from the novels, or even Connery fans, but by 1973, a whole new generation was coming to Bond with no pre-conceived ideas about who he should be, how he should act or behave. And for many Moore is just as much Bond as Connery and Brosnan will ever be.

Moore also exudes a lot more confidence than any of the other actors did in their debuts. Sure he may have just roughed up Simon Templar a bit, but that’s what acting is. His first scene demonstrates this new approach perfectly. For the first time, Bond does not appear in the pre-credits sequence, and the first time we see him he is waking next to a gorgeous Italian spy who has gone missing (the forever lovely Madeline Smith). On hearing a knock at the door Moore’s response is “You’re not married are you?” Perfection. Not only is he confident and arrogant, but he’s still got a sense of humour.

LALD was vital for the continuation of the series. Had it flopped, I feel we may never have seen another Bond movie. As it was, all concerned can hold their heads up and be proud that they took some major gambles to give the public something different and, thankfully for us all, the public of 1973 was more than happy to accept more. Much more. Roger Moore.


"Live And Let Die" by TimDalton007

With no chance of Sean Connery returning to play 007, producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman had to prove to critics that James Bond’s time had not come and gone. To do it, they brought in an actor better known as Simon Templer and Brett Sinclair on the Saint and The Persuaders, respectively, Roger Moore. Updating Ian Fleming’s most controversial novel, Live And Let Die, the producers, writer Tom Mankiewicz, and director Guy Hamilton choose to embrace the action packed comical Bond film as seen in the previous Bond film Diamonds Are Forever. Unlike that film, which turned out to be a very mixed bag, it works here.

Roger Moore’s debut as Bond sets up the tone of the films to come. Roger is more comic than Connery or Lazenby and in his later films is stuck with very bad one liners. But here, Bond’s one liners are mostly well written and while Roger is mostly comedic, when a serious moment comes, Roger for the most part can play well. Roger makes his own Bond and steps out of Connery’s shadow so well that it is extremely hard to make a comparison. On the down side, the more comedic 007 doesn’t help the film in the realism department and that hurts the film quiet a bit: that Bond simply isn’t believable.

In the casting of Solitaire, Jane Seymour fits Ian Fleming’s description of the character to perfection. Not only does Seymour look the part, she also plays the part well. Given that in both the novel and the film, Solitaire is a poorly defined character who Bond saves at every possible chance, Jane Seymour plays the role with believability that is rarely matched by an any other Bond girl. While some of the lines are cliché, the tarot card and ESP abilities of Solitaire give Seymour a chance to show off her considerable talents that have only improved over the years since this film.

In Doctor Kananga, we get the first African American villain in a Bond film. Yaphet Kotto brings considerable menace to the character that is turned on and off as Kananga is both a public figure and then as drug lord Mister Big. It must be noted the well done plot twist of Mister Big being Kananga, though it doesn’t make a lot of sense. Two things ruin an otherwise memorable character: his plot and his death. What is earth-shattering problem that created by dumping free heroin on America’s streets? It isn’t as big as say irradiating Fort Knox or unleashing a biological weapon on the world. His death is completely absurd and doesn’t even seem realistic.

The supporting cast is mainly African American actors and actresses playing villains. That fact brings out the fact that while this a 007 adventure, it is also jumping on the blaxploitation bandwagon of the early 1970’s and serves to date the film. Those actors are underwritten and way too often used for comic relief. Tee Hee and Whisper are two examples of this. Despite numerous attempts to kill Bond, they fail and Bond eventually gets rid of them easily. Rosie Carver is another example. She is an interesting character who is underwritten to the extreme and we come off not caring that she is dead.

While on the subject of the supporting cast, it should be note that David Hedison makes a great Felix Leiter. The bad memory of Norman Burton’s Leiter as this Bond and Leiter share a very believable friendship. It is only a shame that the character doesn’t appear again for 14 years as he could have added a lot to the Moore films. If there is one outstanding example of a bad character in this film, it has to be Sheriff J.W. Pepper. This type of character is out of place in a Bond film and one almost wonder’s what everyone was thinking when this character was added. Most if Pepper’s lines are cringe worthy, though the scene at the end of the boat chase where Pepper confronts Bond is the film’s best comedic moment.

The film can be best viewed as a chase film. The film is really a bunch of chases that the plot revolves around. While this is usually the kiss of death for any film (look at 1997’s Tomorrow Never Dies for example), it works here. The chases are well done and, despite thirty plus years of other action films, are exciting. The tension in the film is primarily found in these chases and fights that test’s the abilities of 007. While humour fills these chases, which ruined many chase sequences in Diamonds Are Forever, it works here. If there is anything to complain about these chases, it is the occasional lack of music. This is no more apparent than in the film’s best chase: the boat chase.

The boat chase is the film’s lengthiest sequence and with good reason. The boat chase takes us across the buoy and showcases some amazing stunt work. The chase is occasionally hampered down by appearances by J.W. Pepper and his merry band of idiot cops. The chase is one of the better sequences to appear in the series and has truly stood the test time.

The music for the film marks a milestone in the Bond films. This was the first time ever John Barry didn’t compose any music for the film. George Martin, a long time Beetles producer, was hired to the score and he created the best non-Barry Bond score until David Arnold’s score for Tomorrow Never Dies 24 years later. The score has a great feel to it and doesn’t feel dated at all. Martin is however guilty for leaving some of the action un-scored. The boat chase is for the large part un-scored, but when the music comes on the excitement. Martin does a very good take on the James Bond Theme, giving it a much-needed boost for the film and it is so un-dated that it appeared in trailers for The Living Daylights 14 years later. The film’s score is built around an excellent main title song. The song is an unabashed rock song, but it fits very well with Maurice Binder’s title sequence. It is an excellent song and a truly classic song.

With a good main cast, a shaky supporting cast, good action sequences, an excellent tile song and a wonderful score by George Martin, Live And Let Die saved James Bond. Though when it is viewed in context with the rest of the series, it comes off as above average.


"Live And Let Die" by Tubes

One of the last Bond films that I needed to see to complete the series, it immediately dropped to the bottom of my list. After a few years, I saw it again. It went all the way to number 5.

Why the large jump? One of the main reasons that it is so good is Kananga is such a great villain. No, scratch that. Two villains. Yaphet does such a great job in playing both parts. Not only that, but Roger immediately is James Bond. Not an actor playing him, not a scared rookie in his first major film (television is different), but James Bond. He is so natural a the role that its, well, unnatural.

Jane Seymour does a decent job on her big screen debut. She doesn't really miss a beat. And the goons! The entourage of goons that Kananga has is a classic group of henchmen.

The boat chase is another classic Bond moment. It is filled with moments of suspense (boat graveyard) and comedy (the wedding). Not only that, but the films itself is filled with the same formula. When Bond has a "nasty turn in a booth", the waiter takes his information money and downs Bond's drink as Moore puts on the classic look of "Oh sh*t!"

George Martin puts together a decent score. Nothing of John Barry's quality, but a respectable substitute. My only problem is that the boat scenes without music are slightly boring.

In conclusion: A must watch and the only bright spot in the otherwise dreary early to mid 70's


"Live And Let Die" by thegiantcookie

“I know who you are, what you are, and why you've come. You have made a mistake. You will not succeed.”

When Roger Moore took on the role of James Bond, so cemented into British culture by Sean Connery, he had a huge task ahead of him. A new actor's first film is always the most important. They have to cement themselves amongst fans as the newest and best bond yet, and given Connery's performance, he had it tough. Does he pull it off? I would be more inclined to say “yes, but...”

Whilst he does have a lot of the roguish charms that made Connery's bond so likable, even in his earliest performance, his interpretation of Bond is a lot softer than Connery's, choosing to portray him as more of a smart-ass womaniser than a rough and ready spy. This is evident in all of Moore's films, but despite this, he is extremely watchable, clearly having a good time doing it and this is reflected in the film. Moore is a more likable Bond. Alas, I'm reviewing the film, and he is only one part of it (admittedly a very large part).

I never liked Live and Let Die. Technically it is a good bond film, it has all of the elements; the gun barrel, exciting action sequences and chases, beautiful women, exotic gadgets (A digital watch that lights up in 1971, crikey!) and menacing villains. But surprisingly for a film based around voodoo cults and soul, the film lacks it. It is very soulless.

It's a by the numbers bond, designed to ease Moore into the role for future films, and it succeeds at that level. However, I have major reservations of the film. My biggest complaint is the plot narrative. I like the idea of the voodoo cults being used to cover up a heroin operation, but in the film it is perceived to be real. What with all the “lovers” cards as predicted by Solitaire and everything else, I didn't like it. It shut off the film for me.

Once the Voodoo crap is out of the way, or out of mind, it's actually rather good. The narrative holds itself together convincingly enough, allowing enough character development from Bond and the supporting cast. Jane Seymour is smouldering as Solitaire; Yappet Kotto is great as Kananga, very menacing and a great villain and David Hedison makes a great Felix Leiter.

There are a lot of problems with the film. The boat chase, whilst brilliantly choreographed and exciting, goes on for far too long, with silly scenes such as crashing into a wedding cake ruining the suspense in the chase. Sherriff W J Pepper is an unwelcome addition. Yes, he is mildly amusing but completely unnecessary in the greater scheme of things and this may sound a bit futile, but the 007 logo on the back of Solitaire's playing cards has always got on my nerves. Kananga's death is also extremely stupid and so poorly done it almost undoes the film. It's a shame Kananga didn't have a better send off. Eaten by sharks would have been much better.

Not all is lost, though. The stunts, especially the crocodile sequence, are superb, and George Martin's score fits the film well. I can't imagine a Barry score accompanying the film because Martin's fits it so well, and the theme song, by Paul McCartney and Wings is one of the series best, played against bold and visually exciting titles.

I really dislike Live and Let Die. It's not the worst film by a long shot, but it's so wrapped up in its technicalities that it fails to stand out on its own. It's a solid debut from Moore, and all the correct elements are there, but the whole thing just feels so empty, and ultimately, unfulfilling.


"Live And Let Die" by James Clark

"I know who you are, what you are and why you have come. You have made a mistake. You will not succeed."

Quite the opposite in fact. After the cold reception given to Connery's last outing as Bond in the disappointing Diamonds are Forever, Bond's die hard fans had to prepare themselves for a new Bond – the third in the space of 10 years. Enter Roger Moore with his tongue in cheek, English gentleman approach to the role, as far apart from both Connery and Lazenby's interpretations of the character as possible… and rightfully so.

Live and Let Die marks a controversial entry in the series for many reasons, the principal one being the abundance of black actors cast in villainous roles. It is an engaging and very entertaining eighth outing for the secret agent and Moore takes to the proceedings with plenty of smirks and a clear sense of a man on a mission to make this his own Bond (he would eventually have 12 years to show the world that his Bond was the Bond to remember). Let Die boasts an atmospheric, sometimes intense story centering on drug profiteering and voodoo curses. Yaphet Kotto proves a formidable match for Bond and one of the more surprising of the Bond villains. Geoffrey Holder's Baron Samedi grabs the audience's attention and there is a great shroud of mystery surrounding his character – giving him the film's final shot is a stroke of genius of the filmmakers – and Jane Seymour is also more than competent in her first lead film role as the virginal Solitaire. In summarising Live and Let Die it would be wrong not to commend George Martin's frenetic score which seems to fit the tone of the film almost perfectly and most importantly Paul McCartney and the Wings' title song for the film, one of the very best in the series, over some of Maurice Binder's most creative title graphics of skulls and fire.

There are a lot of similarities between Connery and Moore's first outings as Bond. Dr No sees Bond at an airport before embarking on his mission, as does Moore in Live and Let Die. Both are "taken for a ride" in two "death" cabs, Quarrel Junior is Bond's ally in Live and Let Die; it was his father Quarrel who assisted Bond in Dr No, and there was also a rumour that Ursula Andress would return as Honey Ryder in the film for a cameo! Both Connery's debut and Moore's debut stand up as two of the most engaging Bond adventures.

Live and Let Die ultimately grabs the viewer by the jugular from the get go. Although it takes Moore nearly 25 minutes before he presents the now world famous line "The Name's Bond…James Bond", audiences accepted the face of the new Bond with open arms and we welcomed Roger Moore to the hot seat. As Moore insists in the film, "let's just wing it!"


"Live And Let Die" by CalGal

It has been many years since I've seen Roger Moore's first Bond film. What a pleasure to watch it again this month.

Although Moore did have more humor in his films than Sean Connery, at this early stage it did not overtake the film. Homorous characters abounded (such as Ms Bell and Sheriff J.W. Pepper). Unlike later Moore films, the humor in LALD knew its place. This helped with the pacing in the action scenes as well, such as when the boat chase ends up going through a wedding.

Enjoyed some portions that made it different. In this film, Bond is sent so quickly sent on the mission that M and Miss MoneyPenny go to his home. We don't meet Q and the gadgets are limited. In one particularly humorous scene, Miss MoneyPenny helps hide Bond's girl from M. A very different relationship than Bond flirting with her.

Moore was at his Bond best. His suits weren't as stylish as classic, hair still proper length (both of which became issues in his later films). He was still young enough for the role and was very believable in this role as a 00 agent.

Martin's soundtrack was right on. He wasn't afraid to take the Bond theme and incorporate it. The opening title sequence was one of the best of the entire franchise.

As far as the action in this film, it was a bit limited. We had a couple brief car chases, one pile-up, the boat chase, and the airplane. No one was killed without being a direct threat to either Mr. B or Bond/Solitaire.


"Live And Let Die" by Mr Brown

To start off, "Live and Let Die" has one of the worst pre-titles sequences in the history of Bond franchise. There's not much to it; just a couple of deaths – one being brought upon by a fake-looking, rubber snake. In my opinion, the producers should've introduced Roger Moore's James Bond with a little more flair, rather than having M and Moneypenny walk in on him while he's fooling around with an "associate".

In true cinematic James Bond fashion, the film hardly follows Ian Fleming's novel of the same name. However, many will say that racism litters the film, as it supposedly does in Fleming's novel, also. In both cases, my opinion is that those who say such things just need to get off their politically-correct high-horses.

The characters of this film aren't as well written as the characters in "Diamonds Are Forever", but they suffice. Roger Moore's debut act as James Bond is surely memorable. He's not quite the humorous Bond as he later turns out to be, yet he's not 100% like Fleming's Bond either. It's definitely his own breed of Bond, and in this film, it works well. The seriousness of the character balances well with the humor and cheesiness of the film. Yaphet Kotto plays the "two-faced" villain, Dr. Kananga. I think this is the best performance of the film, as Kananga appears to be a menacing, unpredictable villain. Kananga's henchmen are mediocre, though. We're given Julius W. Harris' "Tee-Hee", who sports a mechanical arm, with a claw at the end. That's about as interesting as he gets, and certainly doesn't rank up there with Red Grant or Professor Dent. There's also "Whisper", played by Earl Jolly Brown. The character looms around in the background of most of Kananga's scenes, and has a very low, near-inaudible voice. Jane Seymour's portrayal of Solitaire isn't anything special, but it works. She more or less plays a quiet, virgin, tarot card reader, and that's about as deep as the character is. Throughout the film, you'll also run into some annoying characters, such as Rosie Carver, and J.W. Pepper. Gloria Hendry's portrayal of Rosie Carver is over-the-top. After a while, you may find yourself hoping for her death. Clifton James' J. W. Pepper is a bit more tolerable, but that stereotypical "Billy Bob"/redneck/half-witted Southerner act gets old after a while. The shame is that EON will bring him back in the next film – "The Man With the Golden Gun".

George Martin – famous for producing The Beatles albums – provides his first [and last] score for the Bond series. While the score isn't the worst non-Barry Bond score, it certainly doesn't rank up with Barry's past scores, either. I do quite enjoy the motif that uses the film's theme song, though. Regarding the theme song, which is performed by Paul McCartney and Wings, it has to be one of the best of the series. It's very different from the past themes we were offered, and introduces the new Bond era in a rocking fashion. The vocals are great, and the instruments are fantastic. It's an all-around awesome, memorable, and iconic James Bond theme.

As far as locations go, the EON team doesn't fail to impress. James Bond travels to my stomping-grounds of New York, then to New Orleans, and to Jamaica, which doubles as the fictional country of San Monique. The locations in this film were quite admirable. I'd like to see Bond head to New York once more, actually.

I thought I'd mention that this film tends to mimic "Dr. No", in a way. The scene in which Bond, Leiter, and Quarrel, Jr. are planning to infiltrate San Monique reminds me most of "Dr. No" – it's very much like the scene in which Bond, Leiter, and Quarrel attempt to infiltrate Crab Key. I think it was a good homage to "Dr. No", even if it wasn't intended.

Overall, "Live and Let Die" works decently. There are plenty of cheesy aspects of the film, a lack of characterization in some areas, but a relatively down-to-Earth plot. The score was decent, and the locations were satisfying. Roger Moore does well in his debut Bond film, but I don't think it ranks anywhere near Sean Connery's debut. I think this is definitely one of Roger Moore's better Bond films, though.


"Live And Let Die" by Louis Armstrong

Say live and let die. Live and let die? Say live and let die! Let and let die... Live and Let Die in review.

In Roger Moore's first portrayal of Bond, small things ground the character: getting to see Bond make coffee for his boss, his teaching of a card game to Solitaire, and short scenes of him having tailoring done, eating breakfast and fishing. It's interesting to see the everyday sides of Bond, these contrasting with his life as a secret agent. They also slow the pace a little and provide a more luxurious feel. Also appreciable is Bond's concern for Solitaire after learning he's put her in mortal danger. We know, of course, that they won't last as a couple, but 007 feeling regret for his advancements towards her is a realistic catalyst for his saving her in the third act. He is a man of action, who wastes no time in dispatching the voodoo dancer who threatens Solitaire's life. He takes the first chance he gets to sabotage both Kananga's labs at the crocodile farm and his poppy fields, and is quite rough (both physically and verbally) with Rosie Carver when he becomes suspicious of her. Moore also has a few cool moments in the film, such as the watch-magnet unzipping of a woman's garment and his smoking of a cigar during the hang gliding sequence.

First up for scrutiny, however, is the poorly done pre-title sequence. The idea is good - three men are killed in three different locales, and this sets off Bond's mission. However, this means three sort of mini action climaxes happen over a short period. The transition from New York City to New Orleans and finally to San Monique is a hard cut each time, with a sloppily laid out title card on each. A simple dissolve between locales would've helped. Add to this one lame (killer, actually) sound effect, one plastic-looking snake and a bunch of ordinary people rejoicing after a murder, and you have an opening that leaves a sour taste in the mouth.

Apart from the Rosie Carver character, hardly any black people seem intimidated by the villain. It's implied that most would do anything for the man, but the relative neglect of this dynamic makes them seem like drones. It wouldn't have taken much to show how average people were influenced by Mr. Big throughout New York City and New Orleans. David Hedison, who plays Felix Leiter in this and Licence to Kill, hams the part up considerably by yelling his lines. It doesn't help that pretty much all he says is while talking on a telephone. But the man does have an endearing demeanour, and gets in some unfortunately rare affectionate lines with Bond. Villain Kananga becomes quite interesting in the scene where he's about to have Bond's little finger broken, as we learn he is angrier about not getting to take Solitaire's virginity himself rather than the fact that her tarot reading powers are lost. He tries to give her a break, not wanting a reason to get rid of her. This isn't really expanded upon, but adds some surprising humanity to the villain's character late in the movie. Kananga is played well by Yaphet Kotto and, thankfully, doesn't fall back on quirks like other antagonists in the film.