"Live and Let Die" is one of the more deceiving "James Bond" films. The face of the franchise may have changed with Roger Moore assuming the mantle of 007, but everything below the neck is fairly familiar. So what seems like a reboot is more like a facelift, albeit a needed one.Moore comes to the role of Bond with an energy that Connery clearly lacked by the end of his tenure, despite Moore being in his forties (and three years older than Connery period) when beginning what would become a seven-film run. He definitely feels like an "elder statesman" Bond, with his charm and cunning his greatest assets. Nevertheless, he seems excited to slide into the familiar "Bond" scenarios and dialogue and make them his own.These "Bond" elements are familiar because of the return of "Diamonds are Forever" writer Tom Mankiewicz and director Guy Hamilton. That film was a disaster in many respects, so the fact that "Live and Let Die" is an improvement is no small feat. (Then again, Hamilton did helm "Goldfinger," so who knows?) Like "Diamonds," the story keeps Bond predominantly on American soil after a few British agents are compromised in New York City, New Orleans and the fictional island of San Monique. The connection between them all is the superstitious crime syndicate leader and heroine kingpin Dr. Kananga (Yaphet Kotto) and his lackeys Tee Hee (Julius Harris), Baron Samedi (Geoffrey Holder) and tarot card reader Solitaire (Jane Seymour).The film's release during the era of Blaxploitation films in cinema makes the black villain and various other black characters particularly interesting to say the absolute least. On the one hand, the film features black actors in key roles in an action franchise that in many ways couldn't be whiter. On the other, almost all the black characters are sinister, and Bond heads off into the sunset with the doe-eyed fair-skinned British lady who is clearly out of place, even if she's engaging to watch. At least Bond doesn't go blackface, i.e. this film avoids the social misfire of "You Only Live Twice."Regardless of how the black cultural and voodoo cultural elements were handled, they certainly make "Live and Let Die" a more memorable "Bond." The jazz funeral/second line sequences are unforgettably brilliant, the night club trick tables are pretty clever too and Bond's crocodile escape is surprisingly harrowing given the legitimate stuntwork. And while Q may be absent, the magnet watch features prominently and creatively throughout the film. These touches are truly what make "Bond" films memorable and fun and there's more hits than misses, unlike Mankiewicz's work on "Diamonds.""Live and Let Die" is probably a masterpiece compared to "Diamonds," but objectively, it's merely a good "Bond" entry and a necessary course-correction. The film relies way too much on formula, with predictable chase sequences involving unusual vehicles and a last-second plot to kill James in the epilogue, to name examples. "LALD" has Bond operating a propeller plane, double-decker bus and a speedboat (one of the lengthiest and most tiresome "Bond" chases with barely enough payoff). Hamilton continues his preferred style of filming all these sequences with slapstick in mind rather than making them feel dangerous or suspenseful. Then there's the film's J.W. Pepper problem — the unnecessary caricature of a Louisiana sheriff is worth knocking the whole film down a peg.Anchoring "Live and Let Die" is Paul and Linda McCartney's title track, which one-off "Bond" composer George Martin wisely builds into the film's score at some needed moments. A mostly uptempo rock song, it's uniqueness helps accent the many ways in which "Live and Let Die" stands out among the "Bond" canon, in spite the many ways it still heeds to formula and shares qualities with some of its lesser "Bond" peers.~Steven CThanks for reading! Visit Movie Muse Reviews for more
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This is a truly amazing movie to watch in the year of Trump, and compare to the year it was made, 1973 so 43 years ago. I can't imagine that everyone involved had an explicit political message; rather they were just channeling the times. But damn, what times they were channeling. Every stereotype of "the other" you can imagine is here, and proudly displayed. Black men do, in fact, form a single organized cabal. They are intent on poisoning "us" all. They want to steal and deflower "our" women. They believe in strange savage cults and engage in ghastly rituals. Hell, in the last mass ritual scene I half expected the boiling pot to come out and a cannibalism trope to join everything else we'd seen so far. It's a weird weird mix --- think James Bond meets the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, with the word Jew find-and-replaced with Black. You have to see it to believe it.Oh, and of course the usual Bond formula is well established by now. We have the gadgets, the multiple different types of chases and fights, the underground lair, the stupid evil genius who cannot shut up about his evil plans and never just shoots his enemy the moment he see him. We even have the first prototype of that canonical Roger Moore James Bond villain, Jaws!If you're going to see just one early Bond movie, make it this one; if for no other reason than to see how much has changed (and how much hasn't) over forty+ years.
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Say what you want about James Bond movies, that they are traditional or clichéd or predictable, but if you look at them in the spirit of their age you'll notice that there is often a lot of clever market research and marketeering involved. Bond's interstellar adventure "Moonraker", for example, got released around the same time as the immensely popular "Star Wars" films and thus at the height of the Sci-Fi cinema revival. Well, "Live and let Die" also cashes in on a contemporary very profitable movie trend, namely the rise of the so- called "Blaxploitation" cinema. These are films with an ensemble cast existing almost entirely of black actors/actresses and often dealing with organized crime and gang wars in New York City. Of course James Bond himself is still white and typically British, but for the first time in eight films his opponents are Afro-Americans with heavily pimped cars. 007 is sent to the United Stated in order to find the connection between the murders of three British secret agents in New York, New Orleans and a small Caribbean island named San Monique. He quickly finds out that all heroin sales in Harlem are being controlled by a certain Mr. Big, and he gets his deliveries straight from President Kananga of San Monique. Kananga is surrounded by large henchmen with arms of steel, petrifying high Voodoo priest and sexy virgin Tarot Card readers. "Live and let Die" is a hit 'n miss Bond classic, in my humble opinion. Some vital aspects are disappointingly weak, like the predictable plot twists or the awful attempts to insert redneck humor, while other aspects are very unique and even downright genius, like spectacularly staged action sequence and an overall fantastic cast of characters. Yaphet Kotto is terrific as the evil but superstitious Kananga, but his accomplices are even cooler, most notably Julius Harris as the humongous Tee Hee and Geoffrey Holder as the spooky Baron Samedi. Jane Seymour, in one of her very first on-screen appearances, depicts one of the most breathtaking Bond girls ever and her character – Solitaire the vulnerable card reader in custody of President Kananga – is also quite absorbing. Highlights in "Live and Let Die" undoubtedly include the (fake) funeral rite in the famous streets of New Orleans, the chase with the typically British double- decker bus and the rather tense execution attempt at the crocodile/alligator farm. The famous speedboat chase through Louisiana is far too overlong and over- stuffed with lame comical interludes (although hillbilly Sheriff J.W. Pepper was apparently popular enough to re-appear in next year's "The Man with the Golden Gun"), but the voodoo rituals and artifacts are effectively scary. None other than Paul McCartney wrote and sang the beautiful title song and Roger Moore does an adequate job in his very first Bond performance. He was already 45-years-old in this film and by the time of his seventh and last Bond film in 1985 – "A View to a Kill" – he was embarrassingly overaged.