Thursday, August 23, 2012

Live and Let Die [1973]

The producers successfully reinvigorated the James Bond series with Diamonds Are Forever, but much of that movie's financial success seemed to be due to Sean Connery's return to the role of 007.  He had returned only for the one film, though, so despite the breathing room that return provided, the producers were once again in the unenviable position of needing a new leading man for their series.

They apparently flirted with the idea of Burt Reynolds -- Burt Reynolds! -- in the role, but eventually settled on Roger Moore, the former start of the hit television series The Saint.

Audiences responded, and worldwide the new movie was an even bigger success than Diamonds Are Forever had been.

How will it fare when faced with the Double-0 Rating system, though?



Let's find out.  It surely can't be worse than Diamonds Are Forever, the current cellar-dweller.  Can it...?




(1)  Bond ... James Bond

I was born in 1974, about five months before Roger Moore's second 007 film, The Man With the Golden Gun, debuted in theatres worldwide.  My point in mentioning that is to illustrate a simple fact: I grew up during the era when Roger Moore was James Bond.  The first Bond film I saw in a theatre -- Octopussy -- was a Moore Bond.  Furthermore, the first one I ever saw at all was almost certainly a television broadcast of Live and Let Die.  I can't swear to that; the memories are a bit too hazy, and it might have been The Spy Who Loved Me instead.  But I think  it was Live and Let Die, probably around the time Moonraker came out.

I remember Moonraker being released.  I would have been four, and my parents didn't take me to see it, but somehow, I acquired some bubblegum cards of the film.  And I knew who Bond was already, so my assumption is that prior to that movie's release, I must have seen a few of the other movies.

Those were Moore movies.  That much I am certain of, because I simply accepted him AS James Bond.  Around the same time, but maybe a year or so later, Goldfinger came on television, and we gathered in front of the tube to watch it, and I asked when Jams Bond was going to show up.  My Dad pointed to Sean Connery and said, "There he is!"  And I said, "That's not James Bond.  Where's James Bond?"

I think I had it all mentally sorted out by the time the summer of 1983 (and the dueling 007s) hit, but for a while there, I was a Roger Moore man, and exclusively.

And while as an adult I will certainly acknowledge that Connery was the better Bond of the two, I still love me some Roger Moore.  Most of his Bond films are crap, but I don't care; in some ways, every time I watch one of them, I get to be that little kid again, happy to see the real James Bond show up at last.

That's how nostalgia works, folks; it ain't rational, and it don't need to be.



 
Alright, let's put nostalgia time on pause and put our critical hat back on.  How is Roger Moore in this movie?  To be honest, I think it's one of his better stabs at the role.  He obviously plays the role in a completely different way than Connery.  Connery always had an air of ruthlessness; even in the light-as-air Diamonds Are Forever, it erupts a time or two.  Moore did not really have that quality about him, and so the filmmakers wisely opted to write to his strengths, rather than try to shoehorn him into an uncomfortable position.




Immediately, Moore's take on the character is to play him not as someone who can fight his way out of any situation, but as someone who always has a trick up his sleeve.  This Bond always knows something you don't, some way of turning the siutation to his advantage.  If M surprises him one day with an early-morning at-home wakeup call, Bond has a way of keeping the voluptuous Italian agent out of M's sight: he can distract the old man with a cappuccino machine.  If Kananga has Bond tied to a pole and is dipping him into a shark tank with blood dripping from his arms, Moore has a way out of the jam: he's got a buzzsaw on his watch.

Most, if not ALL, of these Houdini-esque escapes make no sense, but Moore plays them with such conviction that you may not notice until the third or fourth time you see the movie, and even then he's got such a twinkle in his eye that it's hard to begrudge him; that'd be begrudging Santa Claus his cookies.




You may or may not like the movie, but viewed coldly and dispassionately, I think you have to appreciate what Moore does here.  Even in my beloved On Her Majesty's Secret Service, I occasionally find myself thinking once in a while, "How would Connery have played that?"  Rewatching Live and Let Die for this post, I never found myself thinking that, because for all intents and purposes, they are different characters.  And it is here that I am convinced is the moment the Bond series became capable of immortality, for suddenly the series was capable of actually being something else.  Not merely attempting it (as they did in both On Her Majesty's Secret Service and Diamonds Are Forever); succeeding.  And Roger Moore gets a HUGE portion of the credit for that.

As a result, points awarded: 005/007.  Not quite a classic performance, but an underrated one.  Also, I am tempted to add an extra line just for the lines "I'm sure we'll lick you into shape" and "No sense in going off half-cocked."  Not going to, but tempting; tempting.





(2)  SPECTRE

Main Villain:  The big bad here is Kananga, a doctor of some sort who either owns or is the dictator or something of San Monique, a tiny island near Jamaica.  Kananga sometimes poses as "Mr. Big," a gangster who controls Harlem.  In some ways, Kananga is one of the very worst of all the Bond villains, but I'll say this for him: he's a step up from Blofeld (at least the Blofeld we got in the personage of Charles Gray in Diamonds Are Forever).




Let's talk about what doesn't work with the character.  For one thing, he is, literally, just a gangster.  His whole scheme involves exporting heroin from San Monique into America and then giving it away in a bid to eliminate competition from Italian mob concerns.  It is possible that his goal in so doing would involve making San Monique a stronger and richer nation, but since it is so tiny, even if his plan were totally successful, the worldwide risk seems nonexistent.

In other words, there is simply no need for the British Secret Service to be involved in this man's life in any way.  It's dumb; it was dumb in the novel, and it is even dumber here.

As for Mr. Big ... to be honest, I'm struggling to find a way of adequately expressing how silly Mr. Big is.  Nothing about him makes sense.  I suppose I can see the need on Kananga's part to keep it secret that he is masquerading as a crimelord, since that would probably cause him to lose his diplomatic privileges.  But wouldn't it make more sense for him to do all of his business through an intermediary of some sort?  Also, if he's going to such lengths to keep Mr. Big's identity secret, does it make ANY sense for both Kananga and Mr. Big to employ Tee Hee?  The man has A FUCKING METAL ARM!  He's kinda recognizable.

The only reason I give Kananga a pass is that I like Yaphet Kotto in the role.  He's suave, he's debonair, he's imposing, and he's just plain cool.  It isn't a perfect performance; I think he's quite awful as Mr. Big, and his final scene as Kananga hits all the wrong notes.  Up until that point, though, I like his work in this movie a lot.




 
Points awarded (Main Villain):  003/007.
 
Henchmen: As previously discussed, certain aspects of the employment structure within the Kananga/Mr. Big organization don't seem to work terribly well.  However, on the whole I really like the cast of characters he's assembled here for our entertainment.




Topping the list, obviously, is Julius Harris as Tee Hee.  On paper, the character sucks: he has a robot arm and smiles a lot, and that's his whole deal.  In reality, though, Harris plays the part so well that I don't much care how silly the ideas behind him are.  For one thing, he wears his smile very comfortably.  Me, I'm not a smiler.  I'm a fairly humorous fellow, but when I smile I look like an escapee from some sort of nuthatch, so I tend to not do so all that much.  Julius Harris, on the other hand, is obviously one of those men who permanently has a grin waiting to pop onto his face; it sits there very naturally and is charming enough to almost make you forget its owner is about to feed you to some crocodiles.  Harris can also wear a red jacket extremely well.




For some reason, I also like Earl "Jolly" Brown as Whisper.  He's just a big fat guy who speaks real low and drives a pimpmobile.  Such a dumb idea for a henchman that it actually works.





Then there's this guy, whose name is apparently Adam, and who was played by Tommy Lane.



 
A quick bit of research informs me that Tommy Lane was a pro wrestler in Alabama, which is where I live.  Hey wowsa!  I like Adam the henchman, mainly because he is is cocky and wears a stunningly ugly seventies sportcoat.

Finally, there's the awesome Geoffrey Holder playing Baron Samedi, a voodoo priest who is both an entertainer and, apparently, the guardian of Kananga's poppy fields.  None of that makes even the slightest amount of sense, so don't try to make it; it won't work.  And really, when you've got somebody as colorful as Holder in a role, it doesn't actually need to make sense.  Honestly, who cares?  Not me.






I like the fact that so many of the henchmen are individualized in this movie.  Many Bond films have henchmen that all wear the same uniform or something, but here, that doesn't happen.  It would be easy to level charges of racism at the filmmakers for making it seem as though seemingly every black person in the world works for Kananga, but I think the film does try to depict many of them as individuals, and that helps to take a bit of the sting out.  So, for me, it's more positive than negative here.  Might be a bit of nostalgia at work but points awarded (Henchmen):  005/007
 
Total points awarded (SPECTRE):  004/007

(3)  The Bond Girls

Main Bond Girl:  Let's go ahead and get this out of the way now: Jane Seymour, in this movie, is devastatingly good-looking.  Maybe not the best the series has ever seen, but pretty darn close, with that long dark hair and that porcelain skin.  And Seymour, even then, was a more-than-competent actor, so she's lovely AND talented.











Unfortunately, the character of Solitaire is a bit on the daft side.  She's a psychic who uses tarot cards to divine the future and aid Kananga in his criminal activities (and, presumably, is his legitimate ventures as well).  As far as the movie ever tells us, Solitaire's powers are genuine, which arguably makes Live and Let Die an actual fantasy film.  That's okay, I guess, but it's also weird.

Apart from that, Solitaire really contributes nothing.  She's a MacGuffin, there only to provide a means by which Bond and Kananga can continue to have run-ins.  If not for the fact that she is played by the gorgeous and capable Jane Seymour, she'd be a washout.  Still, it's impossible to deny Seymour's allure, so points awarded (Main Bond Girl):  005/007.

Secondary Bond Girls:  By all rights, this ought to be a 000/007, because the two secondary Bond girls in this movie are atrocious.  Madeline Smith plays Agent Caruso, who has apparently become so attached to Bond's magical penis that she has gone AWOL from the Italian version of MI6.  Smith is lovely, but in a dim-witted sort of way; she does not even remotely seem like someone who would be working for the Italian Secret Service, and while she's attractive, she isn't so attractive that it glosses over the character's shortcomings.  F!  F-minus!  I didn't even bother with a screencap!

Almost (but not quite) as bad: Gloria Hendry as Rosie Carver, a CIA agent who turns out to secretly be in the employ of Kananga.  With this character, it's a one-step-forward-one-step-backward type deal as far as racial sensitivity goes.  While the movie does, in some ways, take steps to try and minimize the idea that all black people are part of a hive mind operated by Kananga, Rosie is not helpful in that way.  In fact, quite the opposite: she is ostensibly a CIA employee, one who would have to be highly capable and have passed an intense background check in order to get her job.  As far as the film tells us, there is zero reason why she would actually be a double agent for Kananga.  So, why does she end up betraying Bond?

The answer is probably no more complicated than this: because the screenplay needed someone for Bond to shag before he got to Solitaire.




And here is where I have to defend Rosie (and the film) a bit.  Bond, who we know to be a persnickety and snobbish fellow, obviously has no problem whatsoever playing hide-the-salami with a black woman.  This might not seem like a big deal in 2012, but I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that in 1973, for a LOT of white American moviegoers, it was a very big deal indeed.  And it might have been an even bigger deal for black moviegoers.  It sounds stupid to suggest that James Bond boning Rosie Carver could be a force for social change, but don't kid yourself; that sort of thing has an effect.


This movie has boobs!  (Hint: not on Rosie...)


I can't speak for anyone other than myself, but I would give this movie some small credit for my own journey toward racial tolerance.  My parents were not racists, thankfully, but I had other relatives who were, and I damn sure went to school with a lot of bigots.  As such, while I never grew up disliking black people in any way, I did view them as being somehow other than myself.  I remember being confused by James Bond kissing Rosie; I'd probably never seen (except possibly on that one episode of Star Trek) a white man kissing a black woman, and I didn't know how to process it.  But, especially as I got older, I grew up knowing that it was must be an okay thing to do, because hey, if it was good enough for James Bond, it was good enough for me.

Does that sound silly?  Maybe.  And I don't want to make it out to be a bigger thing than it was; it didn't change my life or anything like that.  But it was undeniably part of a cumulative process, and if it was for me, then it was for other people, too.

Apart from that, Rosie is a terrible character, and Gloria Hendry isn't all that great at playing her.  She's kinda annoying, to tell you the truth.  On the other hand . . . my goodness, that stomach sure does seem like the kind of thing it'd be nice to touch, doesn't it?  Yes indeed.



 
Points awarded (Secondary Bond Girls):  002/007, which is perhaps a point too high, but let's roll with it anyways.

Total points awarded (The Bond Girls):  003.50/007
 
(4)  "Oh, James..."

Action/stunts:  The style of the action scenes in this movie do not compare with the slam-bang action of Bonds past (especially Thunderball and On Her Majesty's Secret Service), so the action scenes might not at first glance seem to be all that special.  I think most of them are pretty great, though, especially the big boat chase through the bayou, which goes on for something like twelve minutes and includes several moments that are out-of-this-world great.











In that scene, you get to see boats drive up on land, some more successfully than others; you get to see boats go flying over the highway and back into the water on the other side; you get to see two boats go skidding across the highway between speeding police cars, which miss clipping them seemingly by inches.  These are real stunts performed by real stunt drivers; there is no CGI helping out, nor any fancy editing creating an impressionistic montage that then simulates the action.  Nope; this shit is the real deal.  It's almost forty years old, and it still looks like pure dynamite.








There is are a couple of smaller-scale vehicular chases that aren't AS great, but are still pretty damn fine.  In one, Bond has to reach into the front seat of a car and steer (without aid of brakes) when its driver is shot dead.  This scene was filmed on the streets of New York in broad daylight, and is a good appetizer for the meal that follows later in the form of the boat chase.




I also quite like the scene in which Bond drives a double-decker bus like a maniac.  It's fun to see him whipping the unwieldy vehicle about, and it's also fun to see how the scene plays out: with Bond taking the bus through a low-ceilinged tunnel, and shearing off the top deck of the bus!  That would never happen in real life, but who cares about real life when you've got the movies?




The best stunt in the movie, though, is almost certainly the one involving Bond escaping the little island in the middle of the crocodile farm.  Bond is played, for the purposes of this stunt, by Ross Kananga, who was not a stuntman; he was the guy who owned and operated the croc farm.  The stunt involves Bond using three crocodiles as stepping stones: he runs, jumps off the island, lands on the back of one, leaps to the other, and to the other, and then to the safety of the bank.  It only takes a couple of seconds, but it is perhaps one of the most astonishing things ever put on film.  Astonishing not merely because it worked, but astonishing that anyone would try it, or permit someone to try it (much less PAY them to try it)!













It must be admitted that the three animals were secured to boxes sunk in the water, and therefore could not swim during the shooting, but as the screencaps above clearly show, that didn't keep them from snapping those massive jaws at Bond.

That's one for the ages, there.

Elsewhere in the movie, there are a few action scenes that fall a bit flat.  The sequence in which Bond commandeers a training airplane and then drives it around making Kananga's henchmen crash their cars and otherwise make fools of themselves is kinda lame.  Also, the big fight with Tee Hee that serves as a coda to the film doesn't work particularly well.  That sequence wants to be a combination of the fights with Red Grant and Oddjob, but it never manages to come together.

On the other hand, in one sequence, you get to see Bond on a hang-glider fly up on a henchman from behind and knock him over a cliff.  No edits; just two stuntmen, one of whom is on a hang-glider.  It's pretty awesome.




Points awarded: 007/007

Editing:  I'm afraid I don't have anything particularly eloquent -- or snappy, or even vulgar! -- to say about the editing of this film, because nothing really stood out to me.  However, I know that that is a failing on my part, and not a sign of poor editing.

In fact, I think the editing on this movie is quite good, and I'll give you my rationale for saying that.  On a storytelling level, this movie isn't a whole heck of a lot better than Diamonds Are Forever.  It doesn't have the travesties that one has, but it, too, is almost totally nonsensical.  However, whereas that movie drags so badly that it feels as if it will never end, the pacing of Live and Let Die is strong, efficient, and successful.

Like many Bond movies, this is basically just a collection of setpieces.  The editing here helps to make each of those setpieces work well enough that most viewers will never stop to question the larger story.  What is Kananga doing, exactly?  Why should Bond care what he is doing?  Why does Bond need to help Solitaire escape?  Questions like that are anathema to movies like this one, because essentially they have no answer.

One sequence comes to mind as an example of solid editing.  When Bond arrives in Jamaica -- or is it San Monique? -- and is checking into the hotel, then walking to his room, the scene is intercut with the musical number that is being staged by Baron Samedi and his troupe.  Baron Samedi is a compelling figure in his own right, and introducing him in this fashion serves as a distraction from the dull action of Bond checking in to a hotel.  But it also serves to set him in opposition to Bond in a way, which is a foreshadowing of a scene that comes later in the film.

Very efficient work here, and if it wasn't as good as it is, the movie would probably be a disaster.  Points awarded: 006/007, which might seem a bit high, but isn't; there is also the crisp, excellent editing of the boat-chase scene to consider and recognize.

Costumes/Makeup:  The makeup for Mr. Big is an interesting case.  On the one hand, it is literal makeup, by which I mean it is a prosthetic appliance that actually is, in the story, a prosthetic appliance.  Remember, we're talking about Kananga making himself up to be, ostensibly, a different person.  So how harsh should I be over how shitty it looks?  It definitely looks shitty, but is there a possibility that that shittiness works FOR, rather than against, the story?



I say no.  Awful, awful makeup.  Two points off for that alone.

The costumes themselves are quite good, though.  Solitaire must have something like twenty outfits, almost all of which are simple smashing.  My favorite is probably the chocolate-colored lingerie she wears briefly toward the beginning, but there are many other notable ones.






Kananga looks great throughout, and my favorite of his outfits is probably the one he wears during the scene in which he reveals himself and Mr. Big to be the same person.  He looks like crap as Mr. Big, with his ridiculous white gloves, but as soon as he takes off the Mr. Big makeup, he loses the glove, becomes more relaxed and more suave, and the costume seems vastly more appealing.





As mentioned earlier, I'm also a big fan of Tee Hee's red jacket; if I could find one of those in my size, I would wear it every day.




Points awarded: 005/007

Locations:  The locations here are solid, but unspectacular.  There is extensive use of the Louisiana bayou during the boat chase, and that all looks pretty good.  There are also some good shots of Jamaican cliffs and Jamaican countryside, standing in for San Monique.





You also get some great shots in an incredibly run-down alley in Harlem.  These shots look like they came from some sort of post-apocalypse city.  Normally I'd think it was some sort of set, but no, it was actually a location.





Points awarded (Locations):  004/007


not sure where this guy should go, but he's GOT to go somewhere...

Overall points awarded ("Oh, James..."):  005.50/007
 
(5)  Q Branch

Bond's Allies:  Bond's allies are mostly a pack of nincompoops in this movie.  We start off by having M and Moneypenny pay Bond a visit at Bond's home early one morning.  This is dumb.  Half the time, when Bond is in M's office elsewhere in the series, M can scarcely be bothered to look up at Bond.  Now you expect me to think he's going to go to Bond rather than have Bond come to him?  I don't think so.  This was merely a gambit to show us Bond's home, which, frankly, is not too impressive.  Oh, well; at least Bernard Lee is better here than he was in Diamonds Are Forever.




Once we get to America, the series receives its fifth Felix Leiter, this one played by David Hedison.  Hedison is a better actor than most of the others, but the character is worthless.  All he seems to do is spy on Kananga and bail Bond out of trouble, and he's apparently so stupid that he thinks the incompetent Rosie Carver would be a good assistant for Bond.  He doesn't even bother to tell Bond she's on the way.  He's a moron.




I am a bit more impressed by Harold Strutter, a CIA agent who shows up in Harlem to pull Bond's fat out of the fryer.  The use of Strutter is actually a nice little defeat of expectations on the film's part.  When we first see him, we assume -- because we are racists -- that he is working for Mr. Big and tailing Bond.  I mean, he's black, right?  What else would we think?  So later, when he reveals himself to actually be trailing Bond on behalf of Felix, it is a satisfying moment, and an ingenious way of getting Bond out of trouble.  Lon Satton plays the role pretty well, too; I'd've much rather seen him get sent with Bond to San Monique, frankly, because at least he seems like he could get shit done.  He wouldn't have looked good in a bikini, but nobody's perfect.




And now we must wrestle with the J.W. Pepper conundrum.  Is he an ally?  Is he a foe?  He obviously feels himself to be a foe, but this is a case of mistake identity; in actuality, he is Bond's ally, he is simply too stupid to recognize that fact.  So, we shall take the high road and recognize him as the ally he is.

J.W. Pepper, of course, is one of the worst characters ever put on film.  An appallingly unfunny redneck satire, he is played with wet-mouthed fervor by Clifton James.  He is despicable in every way.  Pepper, that is, not James, although let's not be too kind toward James, who is at least partially responsible for this abomination of a character.  And why did he keep poking his tongue out?  Keep that fucking tongue in your mouth, boy!




Now that we've got that out of the way, allow me to surprise you by defending J.W. Pepper a bit.  Not in terms of the character himself or James's performance; both are hideous, and when I reveal my rating for this category, you will see that there has been a reckoning, oh yes indeedy there has.

No, let's talk instead about the way in which the movie uses Pepper.  He is, obviously, a racist, and a hick.  He continually uses the word "boy" (you suspect he wants to use a different word, but the screenplay isn't giving him the option); he continually spits mouthfuls of chewing tobacco everywhere, and has his stupid piggy tongue stuck out.  Do we hate him?  Yes, clearly, we do.  And we are supposed to.

And that, to me, seems like a vital component of this movie.  Ian Fleming's novel, make no mistake, is a racist piece of work, a nasty one; this movie could very easily have followed the same course, and it gets close on occasions.  However, bringing J.W. Pepper onto the screen to serve as an actual agent of racism allows us to mentally lump him in with the bad guys.  Remember, he wants to catch Bond in this scene, so he's got the same objective as Kananga's men.  Bond is staying one step ahead of them, but he's also staying quite a few steps ahead of Pepper ... both in terms of evading capture and also in terms of his morality.  Bond stands in opposition to everything J.W. Pepper represents.

Pepper also allows us to side with Kananga's men in a weird way, especially Adam, played by the former pro wrestler.  I love the use of Adam in the boat chase sequence.  First, he steals the boat from J.W.'s brother-in-law; and since he's got our sympathies due to the redneck racists around him, we're happy to see him steal it!  Second, when J.W. hollers that the sound of a boat means his brother-in-law is coming, and we cut to the sight of his brother-in-law, what do we (and the other troopers) see?  A big black man in a loud sportcoat and an Afro haircut.  That scene isn't structured to maximum effect: Pepper doesn't notice Adam, which he should have, and one of the troopers should then have had some wisecrack about his brother-in-law's tan, or some such witticism.  But it's still pretty funny.

So, yes, J.W. Pepper is a terrible character, but in a useful fashion, one that actually helps the movie in some ways.

Nevertheless, points awarded (Bond's Allies): 001/007.  The single point is mostly for Harold Strutter, CIA.

(P.S.  You may have noticed that Q does not appear in this film; that won't happen again until Casino Royale.)

Direction:  After the abysmal Diamonds Are Forever, it seems miraculous that Guy Hamilton was invited back for another film.  I suppose the producers must have felt like he delivered for them.  Either way, happily, he does a much better job on Live and Let Die.  We're still a long way from Goldfinger here, but Hamilton nevertheless sets a solid tone, and perhaps most importantly, he seems to have realized that that tone HAD to be on the same page Roger Moore was on.

Mission accomplished, I'd say.  I think you can make the argument that even the worst aspects of the movie -- J.W. Pepper, Rosie Carver -- work in tandem with the changes that were happening with the character of Bond under Moore's portrayal.  Moore's Bond is a somewhat ridiculous character, living in a somewhat ridiculous world; he is responding to that ridiculousness by consistently staying aware of -- and above -- its ridiculousness.  If Hamilton had coached any of his actors to play their roles more seriously, I'm not sure it would have worked.  And, of course, you may not feel it works as is.  But consider how much worse it could have been if the movie had had to deal with schizophrenic performances on top of the ridiculous tone.

Hamilton's visual sense seems to have returned to him, as well, at least partially.  He was no Kubrick or Hitchcock, but he does at least come up with a view nice compositions in this film, which is more than could be said for most of Diamonds Are Forever.






Points awarded: 004/007.  Not classic work by any means, but from a standpoint of tonal consistency, I think Hamilton brought a lot to the table here.

Cinematography:  Mostly, the movie strikes me as being a bit flat and lifeless, but I'll be damned if I can think of why that is.  I guess what I'm saying is that I have virtually nothing substantial to say about this movie's cinematography.  My gut impulse is to award 003/007, which is what I typically give when I think an element isn't working, but not in a particularly offensive way.  However, since I do, ultimately, LIKE this movie, despite its many shortcomings, I am instead going to go with 004/007 points awarded.

Art Direction:  Syd Cain was onboard this time, rather than Ken Adam.  Consequently, the art direction and set design isn't spectacular.  But it's serviceable enough, especially given that the idea seems to have been to keep things somewhat grounded.   Cain did a good job of making the voodoo-ritual scenes feel like they were taking place on location, rather than on a soundstage.  Points awarded: 004/007, although I am tempted to dock a point for the moronic decision to have Solitaire's tarot cards blatantly have a "007" design on their back sides!





Special Effects:  There are a few really bad effects in this movie that stand out like a sore thumb.  The worst by far is the inflatable exploding Kananga at the climax, which looks absolutely awful.





Also, Tee Hee's robot arm is clearly just a device the actor is wearing on his own arm; understandable, and probably unavoidable, but still, it looks like what it is.

Then there is the rubber snake used by the voodoo guy with the goat on his head.  Now, in the commentary tracks on the DVD, people talk about this snake as though it were real, but here's what I'll say about that: if it was real, it's the fakest-looking real snake I've ever seen.  Its mouth never moves (except once when you see it open from behind, and then it appears as if the actor has pressed something on its head to cause it to open); its tongue never flicks out; its body never moves.  I'm saying that fucker is fake, and if it isn't, then it looks it.




All that said, the effects elsewhere in the movie are terrific.  The simple effect of Bond unzipping Agent Caruso's dress using his magnetic Rolex is one of the best, because it is one that most people would probably never think of AS an effect; but it is.

There are also some excellent miniatures involving exploding poppy fields; if I had not been told by the commentary track that they were miniatures, I'd have no clue.



 
You've also got to give it up for the effects team that was responsible for the top deck of the double-decker bus coming off in that sequence.  They had to pre-cut the thing just right, and it works flawlessly; again, many people will probably never have made the connection that this was an effect.

Speaking of which, should we classify the crocodile sequence as a special effects sequence?  I say so, since mathods had to be employed to ensure that the crocs and gators couldn't, you know, consumer Roger Moore and/or Ross Kananga.

Finally, there is an excellent fake Baron Samedi head that Bond puts a bullet in.  This thing is extremely convincing, and apparently was designed by Rick Baker early in his excellent career.


real person
fake person
?


Points awarded (Special Effects): 005/007, and be thankful that that rubber snake doesn't push it a point lower!

Gadgets:  It's a moronic gadget, but I like the way the magnetic watch is used.  It's established early on, and then later we get a nice fake-out moment when it seems Bond will use it to escape the crocodiles, but the boat being tied up defeats it.  This makes it satisfying when Bond is able to put it to use in escaping the shark-dip mechanism.  Most of the gadgets (many of them employed by the bad guys, such as the gun in the rearview mirror and the Samedi-vator) are dumb as hell in a realistic sense, but cool as hell if your brain is turned off.

Gadgets are actually all over this film, ranging from Bond's cappuccino maker (which would have seemed like a gadget to most audiences at the time) to the revolving booth at the Fillet of Soul to the "genuine Felix lighter" to the scarecrow-head CCTV/gun combos to the reversible suit Bond is wearing while hang-gliding.

I find most of them to be fairly cool, and not overly silly.  So, points awarded:  004/007.

Opening-Title sequence:  In another sign of newfound Bond-series diversity, opening-titles director Maurice Binder uses a bevy of dark-skinned babes in his opening titles.  That's a nice touch.  I like the flame motifs and the skull motifs; that goes along nicely with the word "die" in the title and in the title song.





However, there's a mini-sequence involving a girl waving her arms in the air that makes no sense to me, even aesthetically.  What in the hell is she doing?  Is this some sort of representation of paganism?  I think this is a white girl, so is it supposed to be Solitaire communing with the spirits or something like that?  It just looks silly, and I'm deducting a point accordingly.  Points awarded: 004/007

Overall points awarded (Q Branch):  003.71/007
 
(6)  Mission Briefing

We've already covered the racist-or-not-racist angle, so there's no real need for me to get into that here, except to note that I think the movie gets more right on that score than it gets wrong.

I've also already covered the why-is-British-intelligence-dealing-with-this angle; the screenplay definitely gets more wrong than right in this regard.

All in all, I think I've covered the screenplay's deficiencies fairly well elsewhere in this post, so no need to dwell on it here.  What I'll say in its defense is that it is efficient, and at least keeps things consistently interesting, even when the story isn't exactly working.  It's a bad screenplay, but not a disastrously bad one (as with, say, Diamonds Are Forever, the movie I refuse to stop pissing on). Points awarded: 003/007.

(07)  The Music

Title Song:  Is there anyone who thinks this ISN'T one of the best of the Bond songs?  If so, tell 'em I said they're stupid and wrong and to go piss up a ladder.  Because yes it is.  What more is there to say?

Here's what:

One of the lyrics is frequently cited as being among the dumbest in rock history, because it goes like this: "And if this ever-changing world in which we live in makes you give in and cry..."  The dumbness comes vis-a-vis the "in which we live in" phrase.  Which would admittedly be dumb as hell, if that was what McCartney said.  He doesn't say that.  He says "And if this ever-changing world in which we're living makes you give in and cry..."

So let's all please stop slagging him for that line; we're the dumb ones for hearing it incorrectly.




Points awarded (Title Song): 007/007

The Score:  When I first began buying all the Bond scores on CD, Live and Let Die was one of my least favorite.  As I've gotten older, though, it's really grown on me, and now I find that I like it quite a lot.  George Martin, who was a rather important musical figure, what with his producing The Beatles and all, turned in a very solid piece of work that dipped its toe into the blaxploitation waters just enough to feel funky.  It also works AS a dramatic score, though: witness how propulsive it makes the scene in which Bond is trying to steer the out-of-control car, or the tension it adds to the slacker moments during the scene in which Bond is menaced by a snake in his hotel room.

Martin was also versatile enough to completely nail the music during Baron Samedi's nightclub performance: it is alien enough to feel like source music, but kitschy enough to feel like the type of thing one would hear at a nightclub for tourists.

Not as great as the best of John Barry's work, but that's no insult.  All in all, this is damn good work.  Points awarded (The Score): 005/007



Total points awarded (The Music):   006/007

Double-0 Rating for Live and Let Die: 004.39/007

That's higher than I would have expected prior to sitting down and rewatching the movie, but I think it's fairly representative of my feelings about the movie.  The score puts it between Dr. No and You Only Live Twice, and I think that's about right.

The tally so far:

006.23 -- From Russia With Love
006.03 -- Goldfinger
004.76 -- Dr. No
004.39 -- Live and Let Die
001.82 -- Diamonds Are Forever 


Albert R. Broccoli, Harry Saltzman, and Roger Moore

Guy Hamilton, Jane Seymour, and Roger Moore












You Only Blog Twice will return in ... The Man With the Golden Gun.

20 comments:

  1. Great behind-the-scenes pics at the end, there.

    "certain aspects of the employment structure within the Kananga/Mr. Big organization don't seem to work terribly well." made my morning.

    I've always had a soft spot for this film... which I think is how I start any discussion of Moore-era Bong films. But like you, I remember seeing this one on tv. We were on vacation, God, somewhere around 1980. Juice Newton's "Queen of Hearts" was a brand-new hit at the time, so whenever that was, and we were visiting my family in Georgia and Florida. I remember that part well, because my grandfather was quiet throughout until it got to the JW Peppers part, where he started badmouthing Yankees, foreignors and whomever else was responsible for the stereotype onscreen, and then he spent the rest of the movie telling me there was no damn way in hell anyone could run across crocodiles like that. Even as a 5 or 6 year old, I knew a Bond film operated on different laws of logic than the ones he was bringing to the table...

    Doesn't JW Pepper come back in another one? I am kicking myself for not remembering.

    Very fair review and some excellent insights. I've defended this one often over the years, particularly against the charges of racism (and I've often wondered the same thing about how much of an actual impact this film had on my own views on race and what not. If so, it really had more of an effect on my life and future marriage than I've heretofore realized! But enough personal reminiscing) - you said it all better than I could, but I agree, it does way more right than wrong on that score. I think people's discomfort with the topic/ projections make it seem more racist than it is. Put another way, show this film to a culture not steeped in racism and I doubt much would come off the wrong way.

    And yeah, that exploding Kanaga at the end is just... whew.

    Anytime anyone has ever made a Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman joke to me, I think of Solitaire and I never hear the rest of the joke. I've missed a lot of punchlines due to her unbelievable beauty in this movie. It's hard to defend Miss Caruso, but I'll have to agree to disagree on the relative hotness of Madeline Smith. She looms large in my Bond Girls imagination.

    I've always wanted there to be a serious Felix Leiter spin-off that attempts to explain how crazy and erratic his character is.

    You know, it'd never occurred to me how silly it is for MI6 to be involved in this until reading this, but you're totally right. Unless it's some subtle commentary on Britain's role in the Opium Wars or something, but I doubt it.

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    1. I imagine many grandfathers were angered by J.W. Pepper. I suspect there were also lots of grandfathers who were tickled by him. Obviously the character was popular enough -- or at least was expected to be popular enough -- that the producers felt the urge to bring him back in the next movie "The Man With the Golden Gun." What a retarded thing to do...! You've kinda got to love it.

      On the subject of racism... Now, I might be about to dip my toes into somebody else's hot water here, but I think I'll give it a shot. I'm going to try to imagine what it would be like to see "Live and Let Die" as a young black man in 1973. I don't know shit about being a black man; I assume it is quite similar to being a white man in most regards, but I might be wrong about that for all I know. However, in 1973, if I were a big movie fan, I'd mostly have to settle for seeing movies starring (almost exclusively) white people. Sure, there were a few Sidney Poitiers and Bill Cosbys, but only a few, and they didn't really make too many big action-adventure movies, which is what I really love. I'd go see the blaxploitation movies, and they were fun, but they were also kinda low-rent and pandering; you could tell somebody made them just because they knew me and my friends would buy tickets.

      Then I see that the new James Bond movie is going to be set in Harlem and in Louisiana! So I go see it, and yeah, all the black people are bad guys ... but they're COOL bad guys. Kananaga runs his own island, dresses smart as hell, and has a hot white woman! Tee Hee has an awesome metal arm and seems to constantly be in charge of every situation. Whisper drives a badass pimp-car that CAN SHOOT POISON DARTS AT PEOPLE!

      There's a super-hot sister who doesn't have much of a chest, but she looks great in a bikini, and JAMES BOND SCREWS HER! She's the same color as me, and SHE'S GOOD ENOUGH FOR JAMES BOND!

      Plus, there's a stupid cracker sheriff who Kananga's goons get to stand up to, and James Bond beats him in the end too, because Bond knows his cracker ass is full of shit. Lol.

      I'm talking purely out of my ass here, but it seems like even in spite of the negativity associated with having so many black villains in the movie, a lot of black people would have found it thrilling to be represented so prominently in such a huge movie as a James Bond film. It's a step in the right direction. Not everyone would have seen it that way, but a lot would have.

      That's what it's like in my mind, at least. That doesn't mean that the movie is beyond reproach, but, again, I think the good outweighs the bad.

      Either way, I love the movie! True, it's the way I love certain relatives who occasionally say unfortunate things at family reunions; but sometimes, that's what love is.

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  2. Well-put. I think the difference is all in the details and context. That's just my opinion, but it's hard for me to sympathize with any real anger at this film. But, as you say, it's not my anger anyone's concerned about, so I'm happy to cede the floor and just listen.

    Man with the Golden Gun, of course, re: JWP... 'Boy, you. is. ugly.'

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  3. Love your blog and loved this film, it's my favourite James Bond film, I guess because Roger Moore is my favourite James Bond. With regards to Solitaire, in the book she is much the same so the whole magic powers thing was canon, weird as it is.

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    1. Thanks for the kind words!

      I love Roger Moore, too, and one of the by-products of me doing this blog project is that I've rediscovered my love for his era of Bond films. Although, oddly, I don't like "The Spy Who Loved Me" at all -- and that one is a lot of people's favorite! Oh, well.

      You make an excellent point about Solitaire's magic being a carryover from the books. To the extent it's possible, I've been trying to avoid comparing the movies to the books in these posts. I have every intention of keeping the blog going once I've finished covering all of the movies, though, and I definitely intend to cover the novels in their own right.

      Including the John Gardner books, which nobody much seems to talk about. That seems like a shame to me.

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  4. I like your assessment of Rosie Carver. She gets annoying pretty quickly in her first scene. She's already a terrible agent. How could anyone think she could handle being a double agent? Oh right, like you said, I guess that stomach can cloud a guy's judgement.

    The boat chase, though not super great, is pretty good. It's certainly better than the one in Moonraker. I just rewatched that recently & almost dozed off at the boat sequence in that one.

    I like Bond's black turtleneck outfit with the shoulder holster, very cool. He does seem to wait too long before aiming to shoot as the guy brings the snake toward Solitaire's neck. She'd be dead if that plastic snake was in a bad mood.

    Baron Samedi's head exploding looks so real. I had to replay that several times. His fight with Bond though is pretty short & unexciting. I wish they could've expanded their swordfight to at least 30 seconds instead of the single parry & punch they did.

    The part where Kananga shoots Whisper's couch & it expands & explodes always makes me laugh.

    Yes, Kananga's not a very impressive villain. But I did like Yaphet Kotto's acting, he seemed like a real rival to Bond, or at least you could tell he wanted to be, even if he failed to be menacing. Even in their end fight, he tries to out-ballet Moore with his strange pose, raising both arms holding the knife above his head. He just seems to be having too much fun with Bond to really want to kill him.

    I agree about the fight on the train with Tee Hee, not so good. The one with Jaws in The Spy Who Loved Me is better. Interesting how those scenes are similar. Girl encounters henchman first. Window shatters. Bond struggles, slowly reaching for a tool to help him. Henchman goes out the window.

    Running across the back of crocodiles is an amazing feat. That Ross Kananga had some major balls. I just wish they'd highlighted that stunt better. In the film it almost looks too easy, like the guy was helped along by being lifted in the air or something. Seeing the guy's other attempts in the documentary are pretty harrowing.

    If they'd somehow been able to use one of his other 4 attempts, which were less than perfect, it would've added a lot of excitement & adrenaline to the moment. Take one of the wide shots where he stumbles at the end, then follow up with a new shot of Roger falling down by the edge of the water with the edge of his pants snagged in the crocodile's teeth, then he pulls free, wow that would've been cool. Anyway, just a thought.

    I was surprised this rewatch didn't really grab me as much as I expected. Maybe it's because I watched it right after the more fantastical Spy Who Loved Me, which I like & was more readily available. So this one seemed a bit more ordinary & a little cheap. Maybe I prefer Roger in more over the top adventures, I don't know. It seems like they were still trying to figure out how to use him best here. Not there yet, but pretty good effort.

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    1. OAN whose SAHD?!?

      Sorry for that J.W. Pepper interlude.

      I agree that Yaphet Kotto is very good here. Mostly. I do think he's got a few weak moments here and there, most of them as "Mr. Big." But jeez, who WOULDN'T have weak moments as Mr. Big? On the whole, though, he really is quite good, and whatever reservations I have about the character himself do not extend to the way Kotto plays him.

      I like your idea about trying to incorporate one of the less-successful takes of the real Kananga running across the crocs. But, at the same time, it wouldn't have fit the tone of the movie. For the vast majority of Moore's tenure as Bond, part of the gag was just HOW incredibly good he was at everything. So you take him, stand him on an island surrounded by raw meat and crocodiles, and what happens? He jumps on their heads and gets to shore. OF COURSE he does! He's JAMES BOND!

      One could make a persuasive argument that that is silly, but whether it is or isn't, that's the head-space the Bond movies were in for most of 1973-1985. (And really, make that 1971-1985.) So having it be anything but a breeze for Bond to get across those crocs would have been contrary to what they were doing with the character.

      But just as an idea, I like yours. It would have worked wonderfully in a more serious Bond film. And apart from that, yes, I totally agree: that one is a stunt for the ages.

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    2. Haha I'm a little dense today. I had to google to figure out that Pepper quote.

      Thanks, I do see your point about the 1971-1985 tone. Thinking about it now, Roger did have the balletic grace & light footedness to pull that off. I've just been watching some of his recent interviews like the 2002 BAFTA James Bond Tribute. Just seems like the nicest, funniest, most self deprecating guy around. Learning he had cancer in the Piers Morgan Life Stories interview really makes me hope he sticks around happy & healthy for a long time to come!

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    3. Yeah, Moore is a class act, no doubt about it. If I could only meet one of the Bond actors, he'd be my choice by a large margin. I've not seen that Piers Morgan interview, I'll have to find it and check it out.

      Sorry for the cryptic J.W. Pepperism. I couldn't restrain myself!

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  5. Just discovered your Bond blog via your excellent Stephen King site. Really enjoying it and appreciate the in-depth analyses, even the stuff I vehemently disagree with!

    One great thing about George Martin's score is an amazing moment where Bond pulls his gun on Rosie Carver. She's basically faced with being killed by an evil scarecrow or by Bond and he tells her, "Make your choice." The music synchs up with Moore's line reading so that it matches the first three notes of the theme song's chorus: "Bah - bah - BAH!" It's perfectly executed, not only heightening the intensity of the scene but evoking the theme of the song and film. No matter what you choose, you're basically fated to die either way such is the pervasive danger. Very effective; it almost justifies Rosie's existence in the movie.

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    1. Tell me more about the stuff you vehemently disagree with! I haven't had anywhere near as many disagreements on these posts as I'd anticipated. ;)

      When I was younger, I didn't think much of Martin's score, but I think that was purely because I wanted it to be a John Barry score. The older I get, though, the better it seems; and I agree that that moment you mention is a very strong one.

      Based on the strength of the music for this particular movie, it's kind of surprising Martin didn't become an A-list film composer. Maybe he wasn't interested...? That seems like the most logical explanation.

      Thanks for the kind words about the King blog. I love that thing -- I hope to have time to actually, you know, WORK ON IT again one day soon. Fingers crossed...!

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  6. My main disagreements of the entries I've read so far come from your appraisal of Spy Who Loved Me. You seem to give it high ratings almost across the board where it really matters (the quality of the film itself) but it still ranks super-low. I respect your system, but your dislike of the movie doesn't feel justified - it seems nuts to me to rate Spy below half the movies above it.

    And I LOVE Barbara Bach. XXX rivals Melina Havelock as my favorite Bond girl. You make some valid points re: her acting, but she's just so cool and dynamite-looking that I guess I overlook her flaws. (My one question is this: why does she react with surprise when Bond drives the Lotus into the water, then later expertly maneuvers the controls to drop the depth charges and claims to have stolen the plans? If she knew the car could transform into a submersible, why would she have freaked out when he drove it into the sea??)

    The ninja sliding the poison down the string and killing Aki is one of my favorite Bond moments ever. I also like Diamonds Are Forever, but I admit it's kind of guilty pleasure.

    My guess is that Martin was only onboard for LALD because of McCartney. I'm sure he probably didn't make a fraction of the money scoring that he would make producing so he didn't repeat the experience. Too bad though.

    I was a rabid King reader back in the early 90's, for about 2 years before high school; I was obsessed with the first three Dark Tower books. Then I just kind of stop reading him. It wasn't until this year, over 20 years later, that I decided to finally re-read the original DT trilogy and pick up where I left off. That's how I came upon your blog, looking for assistance on what other books I needed to read to best appreciate the series. Your Suggested Reading list was extremely helpful! I'm on Insomnia now.

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    1. The Barbara Bach issue does seem to be one that finds people taking sides vehemently. By which I mean that the vast majority of Bond fans disagree with me! But I just find her to be awful; listening to her deliver lines is painful to my soul. I find that she really weighs the movie down.

      But that's just me. Most Bond fans seem to think I'm out of my mind for ranking that one so lowly, but what can I say? It's just not one that works for me.

      And yet, I love "Moonraker." I'll be the first to confess that that stance probably makes no sense. Ah, well!

      Thanks for the kind words about the DT reading-list post. That's by far been the most-read blog post I ever wrote; clearly, there was a need for the internet to contain such a thing. I need to revise it one of these days to clean a few things up and make a few additions.

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  7. Another great review, Bryant! As I mentioned in a comment under the FYEO review, LALD was my favorite Bond movie for about a twenty year stretch, from since I bothered to keep track of such things as favorite Bond movie, until about a dozen years ago, when FYEO overtook it. But it's really like #1 and #1.5 when it comes to those two movies. Honestly, as I sit here now, having just finished this review, it's hard not to reconsider LALD as my favorite.

    It's definitely the beginning of the lightening up process that would come to define Moore's tenure, but that didn't bother me at all as a kid. As a matter of fact, I'm sure it's a huge part of the reason Moore is my favorite Bond. His movies were just so much damn fun! I mean, not that Bond movies aren't a fun lot in general, but for me, Moore just nailed the vibe that appealed to me the most.

    And yet, I know some of his scenes teeter on (and sometimes plummet over) the edge of silliness. Those 007 tarot cards are absolutely confounding. But fuck me if it doesn't make me smile in spite of its absurdity. In my opinion, the best breaking-the-fourth-wall moment in a Bond movie is the scene in Octopussy when 007 arrives in India and recognizes the James Bond theme being played by Vijay. That's fucking gangsta! Bond is such a bad ass that not only does he have a theme song, but he fucking knows it!! That's pimpin', playa!

    Shit, I need to calm down, I'm grinning like a madman thinking about that scene. Okay, back to LALD. The gator farm/boat chase scene might be my favorite stretch of any Bond movie. Like so much of what I love about the Bond movies, it goes back to childhood. I just found that whole sequence so enthralling.

    And speaking of enthralling, Jane Seymour, dude, Jane Seymour. Yo, I wanna Seemore of that! I can scarcely blame Bond for tricking her into the sack with those cards. Is that one of those rapey Bond moments? Maybe, but the cards said 007 all over the back of them, so he can pretty much use them how he sees fit.

    Yaphet Kotto is great, I've always enjoyed him as an actor. Mr. Big does pretty much suck, though. You were definitely cracking me up, pointing out why exactly the fuck is the British Secret Service bothering with Kananga. In retrospect, I can't believe that never really occurred to me before, but I guess nostalgia can blind you to that kind of critical thinking. Tee Hee and Baron Samedi were pretty great henchmen, although the Baron Samedi fight in the end was lame. I mean, dude pops out of a grave, twice, makes a big show of what a spooky motherfucker he is, rushes Bond AND.... gets promptly tossed into a snake filled casket. Even as a kid, I was like, "THAT'S IT??!" The whole movie, I was looking forward to that showdown and it was over in a second. Laaaame. And I don't know why, but I always got a big kick out of Whisper. That scene when he delivers the champagne to Bond's room and keeps having to repeat himself always gives me a bit of a laugh. It's not exactly a funny scene, but it makes me chuckle when he is noticeably annoyed about having to repeat himself.

    "Shall I open it?"

    "What's that??"

    "Shall I OPEN it?!"

    Don't know why, always makes me laugh.

    Anyway, I know it's not many people's favorite, or even one that many Bond fans really like, but LALD will always be one of my favorite movies, Bond or otherwise.

    Oh yeah, and I hope this doesn't get me blocked from this blog, but I even enjoy J.W. Peppa (had to drop the R, as J.W. wouldn't have it any other way). He's a buffoon, for sure, but that's why I find him so inoffensive. He's a moron, so the views he holds are moronic. I know he's unlikable, well, detestable, but that's the point. You're not supposed to like him, to side with him. For all the hate he gets from Bond fans (mostly deserved), I can't hate him for doing exactly what he's supposed to do. That is, be an over the top SOB.

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    1. I know at least three people who list "Live and Let Die" as their favorite Bond movie, so I don't think that's all that rare a thing. It'll be increasingly rare the older it gets, but that's true of all of them, I'd imagine.

      I see "Live and Let Die" as a highly effective refinement of the approach the series had first taken with "Diamonds Are Forever": turning them into comedies. After OHMSS, you can't take another Bond movie seriously until FYEO. And given the times they were made in, it wasn't inappropriate. They were huge hits, mostly; so obviously people needed that on some level. It feels like time for that to happen again.

      The gator farm and boat chase sequence is indeed a massive highlight for the series. That boat chase simply SCREAMS James Bond to me.

      Baron Samedi does indeed go out like a chump. Unless you ascribe to the theory that that is literally him sitting on the train at the end. I don't; I think that's a bit of visual poetry, nothing more. I think that dude died until he was dead inside that casket.

      Whisper being forced to strain his voice by James is indeed funny. James is kind of a dick, bless him.

      I kinda like J.W. Pepper, too, and in retrospect I'm not sure why I was quite so harsh toward him here. Sometimes I think I go down roads like that for no better reason than that I'm having fun writing, think of something to say that amuses me, and then have more fun continuing in that vein. If you view "Live and Let Die" as a comedy, I think Pepper works; if not, though, he definitely doesn't work. I think maybe I was trying to find the middle ground and express both sentiments at once. All I know for sure is:

      "Seekrit AGEunt?!? Oan whose SAHD?!?" will never not make me laugh.

      In the end, I think you're completely right about him in what you're saying here. He's doing exactly what he was intended to do.

      Thanks for the thoughts, as always!

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  8. Hahaha!

    "Whutter yoo, sum sorta doomsday musheen, bwoy??!"

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  9. Live and Let Die is another movie I don't think much of on paper, but holds much nostalgic weight for me..
    This was my 2nd "classic Bond", and I immediately liked Moore.. I have never been able to explain exactly why, but Moore's charm is infectious and leaves me smiling every time I watch one of his Bond films, he also just seems naturally comfortable in the role from the moment he shows up on screen, which helps adjusting to the change in actor.
    So yeah, from pretty much the second he stepped out of that airport in New York (an iconic establishing shot, IMO - Moore has arrived!), I was a Moore fan, and already excited about seeing the rest of his films.
    By the way, compare how Moore looks in this film with how Connery looks in "Diamonds.." and then realize that Moore is actually five years older.. Moore gets a lot of flack for looking too old, but at the same time, I don't think any other Bond actor could have pulled that off as well as him.. none of the others aged as well as Moore did.

    Other elements about this movie I enjoy:
    David Hedison's chemistry with Moore!
    I buy the two of them as old friends straight away, and Hedison for that reason alone makes an adequate Leiter, but not a great one.. He seems a bit too jovial for me at times, and again he seems to have a knack for disappearing whenever there is serious trouble.. (Why does Felix stay behind on the boat at the end instead of helping Bond?)
    Still, Hedison and Moore make a wonderful team, I always get a chuckle out of the scene where Felix is talking to Bond on the phone and goes "You WHAT???" He is almost playing Costello to Moore's Abbott in that scene!
    "Get me a make on a white PIMP-MOBILE!"

    George Martin's score also deserves praise, I can clearly tell that Barry is not behind it, but I don't miss him, Martin does perfectly fine.. My only question is why most of the spectacular boat chase is left unscored?
    As for the title song, there is no disputing that it is a classic! As a lifelong Paul McCartney fan, I was shocked (as a child) to discover that the song (which I had known long before I ever saw the film) was written especially for the movie.. I had always assumed that they titled the movie after the song! xD
    Ironically my father almost shares this story, this was the first Bond picture he went to see in the cinema, only, he didn't know it was a Bond film until he got there.
    He was a Paul McCartney and Wings fan as well, and had bought the record and fought out it was written for a film, so he decided to go see it.. Now, being that he lived in a very small town he didn't get a lot of pop culture news, so that day in 1973 he very much still assumed that Bond = Sean Connery, and that he was going to watch some movie called Live and Let Die that starred Roger Moore.. Only when he got to the theatre did he see Moore on a poster with the letters "007" above it, and he was shocked! He ended up enjoying it though!

    Very interesting by the way, to read your personal tale regarding race and the character of Rosie Carver.. I had never really thought of it that way, but I think you make a pretty strong statement!

    As Bond girls though, neither Rosie nor Solitaire ever did it for me.. I consider them both on the more forgettable end, although I agree Jane Seymour was amazingly beautiful (she actually still is, she has aged remarkably well).

    I do enjoy the villains though, I always thought Kananga seems like a tough, resourceful opponent for Bond, and I echo your thought about Tee Hee. Julius W Harris has wonderful charm as well and he keeps the alligator farm scene from dragging.

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    1. The makeup that transforms Kananga to Mr. Big is utterly unconvincing, sure.. But I credit Yaphet Kotto for doing everything he can to try to make the characters seem different.. They have completely different voices, postures, attitudes and ways of moving.. That for me is a mark of a good actor, and something Kotto never seems to get credit for, shame the make-up department didn't work quite as hard.

      I don't see the need for J.W. Pepper, he seems to be more suited for a "Smokey and the Bandit" movie.. On that note, the Bond films did seems to have a weird habit in the 70's of trying to include popular film trends of the day (in this case, hints of Blaxploitation). Wonder whose idea this was..


      Another thing that always bothered me:
      I mentioned in my comment on "Diamonds.." how Tiffany Case seems to turn into an entirely different character, in this movie it happens again, not just to one, but TWO characters.
      Notice how Tee Hee, who otherwise seems charming and sociable throughout the film, suddenly turns into some weird Slasher-movie monster on the train at the end? All of a sudden he does nothing but make creepy hissing noises while seeming like he is almost possessed??
      Kananga suffers from this in his final scene as well, as he goes from being an ice cold, ruthless businessman to jovial over the top weirdo.. The moment when he grabs Bond's shark-pellet gun and shoots Whisper's couch freaked me out when I was a kid, because of Kananga's creepy facial expressions and psychotic laughter.. where did that come from??

      All in all, I can't call it an all time great.. But like most of Moore's movies, I can't hate it.. It's like a pair of slippers lying around the house, I usually don't wear them, but when I do put them on, they are always very comfortable!

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    2. Would I be correct in assuming you were a child when you saw "Live and Let Die" the first time? I've got a pet theory about the appeal of Moore -- and I may have put it in one of those posts (although I just as possibly may have forgotten to) -- which goes like this: Moore is a perfect James Bond for children. He's a bit like a cartoon-character version of suave and powerful and debonair and all the things that 007 is. So I think that folks who encounter Moore fairly early on in life really feel a connection to him because he's operating on the more simplistic and unthreatening plane of storytelling. That sounds like an insult, but I don't mean it that way at all; if anything, I mean it as a compliment. Regardless, I love Roger Moore. And I didn't for a long time, so I'm happy that this blog project rekindled that love; it was worth doing if only for that.

      Good points about Hedison.

      That story about your father seeing the movie is terrific. Somebody should put together a book full of Bond anecdotes like that one! An oral history of Band fandom.

      You make a good point about Yaphet Kotto. He gives it his all, and to whatever extent the character revelation works, it's his doing. I dig that guy in general; I've been meaning to watch "Homicide: Life on the Streets" for years for any number of reasons, but his presence in it is one of the big ones.

      J.W. Pepper really does seem to have stepped out of "Smokey and the Bandit," although in this case, "Live and Let Die" beat it into theatres by several years. Which really just makes the whole thing weirder, doesn't it? I kinda love it. Can't help myself. I'll every once in a while holler one of his quotes just for the sake of hearing it. I probably shouldn't admit that.

      Tee Hee's sudden shift doesn't bother me too much, but you do make a good point. I guess they felt like the movie needed a button, and he was the only guy left to provide it.

      Hear-hear to a movie being like comfortable slippers. I wouldn't want all movies to be this, but I definitely want some of them to be.

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