Live and Let Die Reviews
"Live and Let Die" was released during the height of the blaxploitation era, and many blaxploitation archetypes and clichés are depicted in the film, including derogatory racial epithets ("honky"), black gangsters, and pimpmobiles. It departs from the former plots of the James Bond films about megalomaniac super-villains, and instead focuses on drug trafficking, a common theme of blaxploitation films of the period. It is set in African American cultural centres such as Harlem and New Orleans, as well as the Caribbean Islands. It was also the first James Bond film featuring an African American Bond girl to be romantically involved with 007, Rosie Carver, who was played by Gloria Hendry. The film was a box office success and received generally positive reviews from critics. It was also nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Song for "Live and Let Die", written by Paul and Linda McCartney and performed by their band Wings.
Ian Nathan of Empire magazine wrote " This is good quality Bond, managing to reinterpret the classic moves - action, deduction, seduction - for a more modern idiom without breaking the mould. On one side we get the use of alligators as stepping stones and the pompous pitbull of rootin' tootin' Sheriff Pepper caught up in the thrilling boat chase. On the other, the genuine aura of threat through weird voodoo henchman Tee Hee and the leaning toward - what's this? - realism in Mr Big's plot to take over the drug trade from the Mafia." He concluded that " Moore had got his feet under the table." Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times stated that Moore "has the superficial attributes for the job: The urbanity, the quizzically raised eyebrow, the calm under fire and in bed". However, he felt that Moore wasn't satisfactory in living up to the legacy left by Sean Connery in the preceding films. He rated the villains "a little banal", adding that the film "doesn't have a Bond villain worthy of the Goldfingers, Dr. Nos and Oddjobs of the past." Chris Nashawaty similarly argues that Dr. Kananga/Mr. Big is the worst villain of the Roger Moore James Bond films. BBC Films reviewer William Mager praised the use of locations, but said that the plot was "convoluted". He stated that "Connery and Lazenby had an air of concealed thuggishness, clenched fists at the ready, but in Moore's case a sardonic quip and a raised eyebrow are his deadliest weapons". Reviewer Leonard Maltin rated the film two and a half stars out of four, describing it as a "barely memorable, overlong James Bond movie" that "seems merely an excuse to film wild chase sequences". Danny Peary noted that Jane Seymour portrays "one of the Bond series's most beautiful heroines" but had little praise for Moore, whom he described as making "an unimpressive debut as James Bond in Tom Mankiewicz's unimaginative adaptation of Ian Fleming's second novel...The movie stumbles along most of the way. It's hard to remember Moore is playing Bond at times - in fact, if he and Seymour were black, the picture could pass as one of the black exploitation films of the day. There are few interesting action sequences - a motorboat chase is trite enough to begin with, but the filmmakers make it worse by throwing in some stupid Louisiana cops, including pot-bellied Sheriff Pepper." IGN ranked Solitaire as 10th in a Top 10 Bond Babes list. In November 2006, Entertainment Weekly listed "Live and Let Die" as the third best Bond film.
With "Live And Let Die" Roger Moore entered as 007 and the character changed a bit with him. Moore had not the same style nor violent appearance as Connery had, but he had more of a humourous take on the character that works in the first films which eventually became ridiculous in his last Bond films. And he also played the character as a suave, sophisticated English gentleman compared to Connery and Lazenby for that matter. What I love about "Live And Let Die" is that this film dared to go blaxploitation with a storyline portraying a Bond villain that is not after world domination in that classic Bond way. Yaphet Kotto is great as Dr. Kananga/Mr. Big and his closest henchman Tee Hee with a metal arm and claw is a great addition as as well (even if they could´ve made the metal arm and claw a bit more believable as you can see how abnormally long his arm is...). Baron Samedi is a great supporting role as well. The lovely Jane Seymour as Solitaire is as solid in the cast and I do love Gloria Hendry as Rosie Carver despite her being written as a too scared and not maybe too bright character. Yes, the somewhat ridicoulous treatment of female characters in the Bond universe is there, but you can either go with it or try to ignore it. However, Solitaire has depth with her melancholy and fatalistic nature. "Live And Let Die" has a great boat and bus chase sequence, exotic locations, beautiful Bond women, solid villains, great supporting characters, memorable music with Paul McCartney & Wings excellent title song "Live And Let Die", a bit of violence/ thrills and a tad bit humour. Love the scene when one of the MI6 agents is watching a traditional New Orleans funeral and a man emerges next to his side. The agent asks the man "Whose funeral is it?" and is told "Yours" and he is immediately stabbed to death and picked up with the coffin by the funeral procession. I like that there´s not that much gadgets and things that is there to just amuse the audience. "Live And Let Die" is a straightforward and entertaining Bond film (despite flaws) and clearly one of Moore´s best ones.
Trivia: Sean Connery turned down the then astronomical sum of $5.5 million to play James Bond. Connery gave Roger Moore his personal seal of approval for inheriting his role, calling him "an ideal Bond".
Ross Kananga (credited as "stunt coordinator") was the owner of the alligator/crocodile farm in which Bond escapes some hungry reptiles. Kananga did this stunt by himself wearing Roger Moore's clothes and shoes made of crocodile skin. The crocodile shoes were a fun idea of Roger Moore. It took five attempts to complete the stunt. During the fourth attempt, one of the crocodiles snapped at one of the shoes as it went by. The producers (while scouting locations) first took notice of Ross Kananga's farm from the sign out front which read: "WARNING; TRESPASSERS WILL BE EATEN." This sign can be seen in the finished film. They liked Ross Kananga so much that the movie's villain, Dr. Kananga, was named after him.
Roger Moore should not have been available for the part since at the time he was committed to The Persuaders! (1971), but when the show flopped in the U.S. he was prematurely released from his contract.
with this movie he works with a black cast alongside Jane Seymour
this was during the blaxploitation cinema era
Yaphett Kotto makes for a cool villain, too running a heroin operation
the climax is very quiet but Moore is one of my fav actors giving the series a classy but still goofy feel
Baron Samedi, the man who can't die is a fun henchman, too
not a strong film but a good start for Moore to get into the game
007 is sent to New York City after the disappearance of several agents investigating Kananga, the Prime Minister of the small Caribbean country of San Monique and his connection with American gangster Mr. Big (both played by Yaphet Kotto), both believed being involved in international drug smuggling. This film also marks the introduction of the beautiful Jane Seymore as Kananga's psychic fortune teller Solotaire. Paul McCartney and Wings provide the stellar theme.
Well worth a look, give it a rental.
WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE: As I said, it takes away some of the refinement and grittiness of Sean Connery's more developed Bonds. And it does mark the beginning of the goofy humour we know is yet to come...
VERDICT: An altogether lighter Bond film that's just a bit of fun. How nice it was before Moore went over the top.
It's this reason why I'll admit that my rating is definitely influenced by the nostalgic effect this film has on me. The last time I saw this film I was probably 7 or 8. I found it incredible, how 15 years later, I was able to remembered most of the movie in detail. While now its admittedly silly, the scene where Bond hops over the crocodiles always captivated me. Also, the dude with a metal claw for an arm has always been a memorable child hood "bad guy".
So what did I think of it this time around?
Roger Moore's first foray as 007, is an action packed thrill ride and a solid addition to the Bond franchise. While it's undeniably silly and the plot is preposterous, it's a Bond movie and that's to be expected. It has everything a 007 film should have; action, espionage, explosions, car chases, romance, humor, and charm. Oh and we can't forget the eternally awesome "Live and Let Die" original song by Sir Paul McCartney and his wife Linda :).