My first ever article written for Blue Orca Digital Online is a ‘mega’ review of the 1973 James Bond picture, Live and Let Die which starred Roger Moore within the role of suave, sophisticated 007. Live and Let Die was the first Bond film I saw way back when I watched ITV’s ’00 heaven’ series back in the late nineties where a bond adventure aired weekly. I was unfortunate to miss the entire run of Connery films until my Dad introduced me to the series for the first time. Seeing the end of film teasers for the next adventure airing the following week was really exciting. I was lucky to catch the teaser for Live and Let Die which really convinced me to watch the movie. The ad promised an action packed film; voodoo witch doctors, beautiful woman, buses losing their roofs, crocodiles, boat chases, metal hooked henchman and sharks! Live and Let Die will always have a special place in my movie collection for being so colourful and fun.
Roger Moore makes his first appearance in this 1973 movie and I feel he performs well in his first outing. Despite being new to the role, he quickly stamps his style of playing bond right from the word go. Camp, bags of fun, suave and gentleman like. Unlike Connery’s take on Bond which is an equally excellent performance, Roger Moore’s portrayal of the role is much lighter in tone, often making fun of the character and for this movie it works exceptional well. I don’t think Connery could have worked so well with this film’s script, it’s clearly written for Moore. Some of the best lines during the film are when Bond unzips Miss Caruso’s dress in response to her saying he has such a delicate touch. He replies; ‘sheer magnetism darling’. Lines like these were certainly corny but I feel they made up what was so fun about the Moore era of Bond pictures. Another funny line was during the closing scenes where head villain Kananga explodes as a giant balloon. Bond makes a remark; ‘Kananga always had an inflated opinion of himself’. The opening of Live and Let Die I really liked in comparison to some of the other Bond films. It’s quick and punchy but also doesn’t include Bond himself unusually. In fact it’s one of the few bond movies that doesn’t except for Dr No, From Russia with Love and The Man with the Golden Gun.
A British spokesperson is killed off promptly with a electrical signal created by an unknown villain pushing down on a dynamite style lever at the film’s opening. Moments later, the audience is given a scene which went down in Bond history. A CIA agent is monitoring a Fillet of Soul restaurant in New Orleans when suddenly a funeral jazz band marches slowly down the street. Everything seems sombre while a small man walks up to the agent. The CIA agent asks; ‘Whose funeral is it?’. Suddenly the small man turns and says; ‘Yours!’ He then pulls out a knife, stabbing the agent to his death. While all of this is happening, the jazz band continues to play their funeral march while a coffin is brought forward and placed on top of the body. A few moments pass and the coffin is lifted only to reveal that the man has disappeared! Then one of the band players suddenly plays a loud high note on his trumpet and the entire funeral party erupts into cheers, bringing out colourful parade flags and costumes. The music changes to uplifting jazz music and the band can be seen marching off down the street. For first time watchers, this scene is bound to raise a laugh or two.
Returning to the cast, the usual Bond family characters make their return which includes Miss Money Penny played by Lois Maxwell and M played by Bernard Lee. However Q does not make an appearance oddly in this entry. I don’t think the film suffers too much because of it but it would have been nice to see Q as he always steals the show. The villains within this movie are what makes this film one of my favourites. Yaphet Kotto plays the menacing Doctor Kananga and Mr Big.. yes he plays two characters, I’ll let you work that one out yourself. His role is less exciting than other characters in this movie but he demonstrates a character with a sense of unpredictability which is fun. There’s a scene I particularly liked in the closing scenes where he has taken possession of Bond’s pellet gun. He twirls around in his black chair and points the gun at one of his henchman, chuckling. Whisper, his overweight henchman looks terrified. Kananga then changes his target, aiming at the sofa Whisper is sitting on and fires the gun. The sofa expands and eventually explodes sending Whisper flying onto the floor. I loved this little scene and it made me laugh. Whisper is an unusual villain in the film, he rarely speaks and when he does you can’t really understand what he is saying but it works well for creating mystery around him. We’re never really sure of what he is capable of and although he never lives up the presence of all of the other villains, he works well in supporting their roles. There is a fantastic scene near the opening segment of the film where Bond is travelling in a taxi and Whisper follows behind in his saloon car. His drives up alongside Bond and fires a dart at his driver, sending the taxi out of control. Other supporting roles include a taxi driver played by Arnold Williams who is one of Kananga’s eyes and ears. He is a fun character, adding light humour to the scenes around Harlem and New Orleans.
The main henchman include Tee Hee, played by Julius W. Harris who has one of the most exciting roles within the Bond series. He is armed with a metal hook on one hand which previously had played victim to a hungry alligator called Albert, named after the Bond Producer, Albert R. Broccoli. We get to see Albert the Croc later on in the movie at the Louisiana Crocodile farm where Tee Hee gives a highly entertaining yet menacing tour of the farm before leaving Bond stranded on an island surrounded by the reptiles. Tee Hee makes an appearance in yet another memorable scene at the end of the movie where Bond has accomplished his mission and is travelling by train. Tee Hee managed to sneak on board travelling by mail bag and enters Bond’s cabin. The two meet and a fantastic fight takes place between the two. I particularly liked the shot where Bond throws a deck of cards at Tee Hee while he lunges forward at him. The two fight and we think Tee Hee has the upper hand until Bond manages to reach his briefcase with one hand and lift a pair of pliers. He then cuts the wires within Tee Hee’s metal arm and he becomes stuck, helpless while Bond lifts a window and chucks him out. Brilliant action sequence! An even more colourful villain in Live and Let Die and who I consider to be my favourite villain is Baron Samedi played by Geoffrey Holder. He plays the role of a Voodoo Witch Doctor who adds a whole new level of creepiness to the film. He has one distinguishing feature, his menacing laugh. We first catch a glimpse of him at the San Monique hotel where Bond is staying while he performs an evening performance for guests. There’s a brilliant close-up shot where Baron Samedi is seen for the first time and we see him dressed up with his white bowler hat and costume. He makes his second appearance in a cemetery on San Monique hiding behind a tombstone. Bond walks by and Samedi stands up, turning around while playing his flute. The tune he plays is really creepy and it’s a funny yet menacing little part of the film. Samedi also crops up right after Bond’s interrogation scene where Solitaire, Bond’s current love interest has been found guilty of betraying Kananga. Samedi walks in and stops behind Solitaire’s chair, dropping his hat in front of her. There’s Samedi’s flute music playing in the soundtrack and he walks over to begin setting alight Solitaire’s tarot cards. Kananga exchanges words with her and violently hits her, forcing her onto the floor. She looks up and Baron Samedi looks at her, giving off an incredible menacing laugh while holding a tarot card with the word, ‘Death’ written on it. Chilling stuff.
The allied characters within Live and Let Die are worthy of mention too. David Nixen plays the role of Felix Leiter, one of Bond’s closest allies. He helps bond observe Kananga during the opening part of the movie. His role doesn’t involve much but his friendly light humoured portrayal of the role makes him my favourite actor to play the part. He later returns for the Bond picture, License to Kill in 1989. In addition to Leiter, a new character hitting the screen is that of Sheriff J.W. Pepper. He plays a Louisiana Police officer and gets himself into an assortment of funny situations. There’s a scene where he is giving chase to Bond alongside a highway where an old fashioned tractor truck is blocking the road. The Police cars pass and Pepper sticks his head out of his car shouting abuse at the driver; ‘Did you ever think of getting your driving license boy!’. It’s a very funny moment and the joke is later reversed, this time on Pepper as he crashes his car only for the old man and his truck to slowly drive up, honk his hooter and give an unimpressed stare. Pepper actually makes two appearances in the Bond series, again in The Man with the Golden Gun. There are a few other scenes which you can enjoy while watching the movie.
Jane Seymour plays the stunningly beautiful and captivating Miss Solitaire. She’s a tarot card reader and possesses a special power, having the ability to see the future. I really liked Seymour’s portrayal of the role. She’s very attractive and intelligent yet Bond finds her naive at first. I remember having a big crush on Solitaire and being 24 now, I still do! She’s probably in my top two favourite bond woman characters from the entire series, alongside Diana Rigg who played Tracy. Moreover, I liked how the film explored the idea of being able to see into the future. It works really well for the tone of the film and Solitaire’s innocence makes the villains seem even more menacing. I also liked the idea that the villain was always one step of the game using Solitaire’s ability. It’s nice to see Bond have a formidable enemy every once and a while. Female readers watch away as there is one scene that may not be to your taste. Bond takes advantage of Solitaire when he tries to convince her that there meant to be lovers. She had already predicted that to be the case earlier in the movie and here Bond asks her to pick a card from the deck he’s prearranged… She picks one and it turns out to be lovers again. Bond moves in and ultimately she falls into his arms, losing her virginity. A shot reveals to us in the audience that Bond had obtained a fake deck where all of the cards were the same, unknown to Solitaire. He later does confess but doesn’t tell the full truth. He claims the deck was slightly decked in his favour, well it was like 100% but Bond didn’t tell her that. I found it amusing as a man but a partner in crime would probably think differently! There’s a really good sexy scene where Solitaire asks Bond if there’s time for lesson number three! This is followed by a fun action sequence where Bond and Solitaire are chased down by a helicopter.
Rosie Carver played by Gloria Hendry is employed by Kananga to spy on Bond and assists in an attempt to assassinate him. She posses as Mrs. Bond initially which is a little nice nod to the fact that Bond was married. I wonder how a fan would have reacted in 1973 having seen On Her Majesty’s Secret Service? I had seen this film first so I’ll never know. Rosie is caught by Bond in her feeble attempt to kill him but pretends she is a CIA agent. Luckily for her, Whisper had been delivering champagne confirming her story to be truthful to Bond. However, Bond discovers her real motifs and interrogates her. Rosie began to warm to him but is threatened under pressure to carry through with her task or face death. Bond seduces her and there’s an interesting scene when Rosie is found out and must choose a side. She flees in fear and unfortunately she is killed by a dart firing Scarecrow! Many reviewers have observed this scene in a different way, often feeling Bond was too aggressive here. I’ve always thought Bond was adding a bit of pressure onto Rosie in the hope that she would confess. I don’t think Bond would have killed her, I feel it was a ploy to get her to confess. It’s unfortunate for her, that it’s all too much and she runs away to her death. Although she came to Bond’s aid the majority of the time, she comes across as being fairly stupid but the actress did a good job of performing dumb but also courageous when she had to be such as when she suspected Quarrel Junior was attempting to kill Bond on a boat. Speaking of Quarrel Junior, he is a local fisherman who Bond hires to travel to the San Monique island. Quarrel you’ll remember was from Dr No so we assume this is his son. It’s a nice homage to the earlier films in the series.
Another strong element of the film is the soundtrack. It was scored by George Martin who provides an exceptionally exciting and fast paced orchestration accompanying the film. I think I can say with confidence this is my favourite Bond movie for music, it’s really excellent. Every little moment in the movie features a little cue here and there, timed perfectly to the visuals. There are a few blank spots notably during the aircraft hangar chase and early segment of the boat sequence but I think the choice not to over use music here worked well as impact is created when the music does play. The opening title sequence again goes down as one of the best. It begins right after a British agent is killed by a venomous snake. The song titled ‘Live and Let Die’ was composed by Paul and Linda McCartney while performed by the latter and the band, Wings which he was involved with. The main theme is an up tempo rock number which is pumping full of life. It really kick starts the movie with a bang and it’s theme features throughout the film. I’ll talk more about the movie soundtrack in a separate soundtrack review but for now I’ll focus on the main titles designed by Maurice Binder. An iconic image of a woman is featured as the camera zooms in and a pistol fires the figure’s head off as the music thumps in. We see various shots of skull eyes and the best parts are when the music accompanies graphics of hands moving in a dance of death movement. Flames and hands combined provides an impressive overture to the film’s overall feel. I even saw some old 1970’s disco lighting featured I’m sure of it. I wasn’t born until 89 so not even sure of what to call them!
Live and Let Die has many impressive scenes which have been well directed. I enjoyed the taxi chase near the beginning of the film which featured a new version of the James Bond theme. The scene involved many of Kananga’s muscles tracking Bond’s movement around Harlem. I’m still, even today not entirely sure of who was working for CIA or Kananga within that scene as the film leaves it open for speculation but I liked the feeling that Bond was way out of his depth and the villains had many contacts at their call. The editing here was very cleverly executed. The following sequence was good too when Bond entered a Fillet of Soul bar filled with African Americans, Bond receiving awkward stares.
Now, I’m going to talk about the film’s action set pieces. Live and Let Die is full of them, it’s jam packed. A sequence with Bond driving a bus is really exciting. It’s not the type of transport you expect Bond to be driving but it works so well within the plot at this point in the story and I give a big thumbs up for the stunt scene where the bus loses it’s roof and performs a 180 degree turn. I take my hats off to the stunt drivers who deserve more credit than they receive. There’s also a boat chase which is fairly lengthy which I actually like unlike many others who have reviewed the film. I liked the humorous parts while also seeing each villain be taken out by all manner of ways. The best part of the sequence is where Tee Hee’s side henchman Adam played by Tommy Lane steals Billy Bobs’ speed boat. It’s incredibly fast and once we see the boat arrive on the scene, George Martin’s powerful soundtrack kicks in. The boat seems to completely outclass all of the other boats giving chase to Bond and we get the feeling we’re in for a real showdown. Meanwhile the Louisiana Police are giving chase and there are two stunt jumps seen on screen. Firstly one earlier when both Bond and a smaller boat jump over the top of J.W. Pepper and his car where Bond clears the jump while the smaller boat crashes directly into the Police car while the second stunt jump occurs when Billy Bob’s boat is catching Bond. The two boats jump out of the water and manage to pass directly through the Police cars travelling on the highway without hitting any of them. It’s an impressive stunt on screen and only adds more excitement to the entire movie.
A key highlight of the film is the scene where Bond is trapped on an island full of crocodiles and alligators. Standing alone, Bond tries to use his magnetic watch to pull towards him a small boat which has two metal hooks where the oars are placed. The attempt fails as the boat is tied up! Bond has to think fast as the crocodiles have already climbed up onto the island and heading straight for Bond. He thinks fast and suddenly leaps onto a line of crocodiles swimming nearby, escaping while nearly being eaten alive. The stunt is very impressive and totally unique. If your interested in how they performed it, you should watch the Live and Let Die extra features on the DVD or Blue-ray. There’s a funny scene where Bond borrows a driving school Cessna plane while a learner, Mrs Bleaker is sat next to him. The chase involves Bond navigating the plane through hangars and ends up breaking the two side wings. At the end of the sequence, we’re given another Moore Bond line; ‘Same time tomorrow Mrs Bell?’. She looks at him with shock.
The entire climax of the movie deserves credit too. Bond is attempting to rescue Solitaire as she’s set to be sacrificed, tied to two poles while a sacrificing ceremony is taking place. A snake charmer dressed with a goat style hat dances taunting Solitaire with a live biting snake. The music creates tension and Bond feels he is running out of time while his ally, Quarrel is planting bombs around the island in an attempt to destroy Poppy fields which harvest Kananga’s drugs including heroine. Note that the sacrificing location is the cemetery from earlier in the film. Bond, fearing Solitaire’s safety aims his gun towards the Goat man only for the sacrifice to come to a halt all of a sudden moments before Bond would have fired. The islanders fall silent while two people tap a grave with a sword while the other rings a bell. We then see an eight foot tall skeleton style Baron Samedi raise from a grave who then opens his eyes. Suddenly the sacrifice continues and the music continues. Bond stands up, fires his pistol and kills the man holding the snake. Then he shoots Baron Samedi in the head but realises he is not real but made of a light bulb textured material. Bond fires again and the body of Samedi crumbles. He rushes over to Solitaire, fighting off a few locals then releases her when explosions are heard all around the camp. People scatter and flee in terror but then a huge cheer from the crowd is heard as the real Baron Samedi raises from the grave. He opens his eyes and this time lets out a terrifying laugh then he turns around like an evil spirit. He runs up to Bond and we’re really hoping for an epic battle here which is short lived. Bond punches him and Samedi falls back into a coffin filled with live snakes! Although I felt a bit cheated with Samedi’s quick demise, it was a really creepy yet funny scene. He does return though… After disposing of Samedi, Bond and Solitaire enter Kananga’s secret underground lair but are captured again. We’re then entertained with a sequence where Bond and Solitaire are tied up and positioned above Kananga’s shark tank. It’s a memorable scene not only for the shark tank but also because of Kananga’s death by inflation! Many reviewers hate this part, personally I think it’s brilliant. A superb way for a villain to die, especially in line with the tone of the rest of the movie. Thinking back to the previous Connery era, Blofeld should really have returned as Donald Pleasence in Diamonds are Forever and be fed to his hungry piranhas.
This is a underrated Bond movie certainly, I rate it as one of the best because I’ve had so much enjoyment from watching it. It’s absolutely full of stuff; fantastic villains, brilliant stunts, beautiful woman and well timed comedy. It’s one of the Bond movies that made the biggest impact on me early on and it still remains one that I will watch over time after time again. I would highly recommend watching this if you fancy giving it a viewing. Remember you can share your thoughts by commenting below or connecting to me through social media sites which I manage. I’m all over the place. Tune in to my next review which will be of The Man With the Golden Gun. There’s also a review of the Live and Let Die soundtrack which is my next assignment after this one.