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Live and Let Die

Live and Let Die (1973)

Live and Let Die (1973) is the eighth spy film in the James Bond series to be produced by Eon Productions, and the first to star Roger Moore as the fictional MI6 agent James Bond. Produced by Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, it was the third of four Bond films to be directed by Guy Hamilton. Although the producers had wanted Sean Connery to return after his role in the previous Bond film Diamonds Are Forever, he declined, sparking a search for a new actor to play James Bond. Moore was signed for the lead role.

The film is adapted from the novel of the same name by Ian Fleming. In the film, a Harlem drug lord known as Mr. Big plans to distribute two tons of heroin free to put rival drug barons out of business. Mr. Big is revealed to be the disguised alter ego of Dr. Kananga, a corrupt Caribbean dictator, who rules San Monique, the fictional island where the heroin poppies are secretly farmed. Bond is investigating the deaths of three British agents, leading him to Kananga, and is soon trapped in a world of gangsters and voodoo as he fights to put a stop to the drug baron’s scheme.

Live and Let Die was released during the height of the blaxploitation era, and many blaxploitation archetypes and clichés are depicted in the film, including derogatory racial epithets (“honky”), black gangsters, and pimpmobiles.[1] It departs from the former plots of the James Bond films about megalomaniac super-villains, and instead focuses on drug trafficking, a common theme of blaxploitation films of the period. It is set in African American cultural centres such as Harlem and New Orleans, as well as the Caribbean Islands. It was also the first James Bond film featuring an African American Bond girl to be romantically involved with 007, Rosie Carver, who was played by Gloria Hendry. The film was a box office success and received generally positive reviews from critics. It was also nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Song for “Live and Let Die”, written by Paul and Linda McCartney and performed by their band Wings.

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The Screen: ”Live and Let Die’ Opens: The Latest James Bond Fights Heroin Ring

Published: June 28, 1973

Torchlight, Voodoo drums. Dark bodies writhe in the mounting frenzy of some unspeakable tropical rite. Suddenly a door is flung open and framed within it stands a beautiful white girl held captive by two monstrous black men. Her flimsy white gown scarcely covering the soft contours of her body, she is dragged — protesting — to a crude scaffold and there is tied fast.
As if by signal, the ranks of jeering celebrants open and there advances an executioner, laughing, stomping, hideously costumed. He holds a poisonous snake in his outstretched hands, a snake whose bite is destined for the smooth young bosom. . . .
Whatever the quality of this little scenario, you must admit that to stick it into a movie these days takes nerve. Merely to make a new adventure movie in which all the bad guys are black and almost all the good guys are white, and which includes in its climax the (near) sacrifice of a (recent) virgin—takes nerve.
Nerve, and certain insolence toward public pieties, and a lot of canniness about just what level of sophistication its audience is up to—all of them qualities that have characterized the James Bond movies since the beginning, 10 years ago, and that abundantly characterize the latest, Guy Hamilton’s “Live and Let Die.”
There are now eight Bond movies, and though they are the work of many different talents (Hamilton has directed two previously: “Goldfinger” and “Diamonds Are Forever”) they do represent a recognizable tradition in which the whole—or the memory of the whole — seems to be greater than the sum of the parts.
The plots tend to flow into each other—one scheme after another for controlling all the money in the world—changing their elements to fit changing anxieties (in “Live and Let Die” the evil is a heroin monopoly operating out of some Caribbean island kingdom with pipelines into New York City and New Orleans), but remaining the same in essence.
And always there is a woman waiting to be converted by the power of sex. In “Live and Let Die” she reads the Tarot pack to tell fortunes for the enemy. James Bond’s card keeps coming up “Lovers,” though she thinks she is hoping for “Death.”
There are three chases (four, if you stretch a point), including one by car and motorboat that gets so complicated it allows for character development. One actor, Clifton James, who appears only during the chase, gets fourth billing in the cast list.
The names above Mr. James’s do not seem so impressive. Roger Moore is a handsome, suave, somewhat phlegmatic James Bond—with a tendency to throw away his throwaway quips as the minor embarrassments that, alas, they usually are.
As Solitaire, to whom the cards speak truth only so long as she remains a virgin, Jane Seymour is beautiful enough, but too submissive even for this scale of fantasy. Yaphet Kotto (Dr. Kananha), a most agreeable actor, simply does not project evil.
However, I could list compensating virtues by the score. There is a marvelous escape from an alligator farm (deadly reptiles are rather a motif in this movie), a superb collection of grotesque ways of killing, and a fine sense of pace and rhythm. “Live and Let Die” has been especially well photographed and edited, and it makes clever and extensive use of its good title song, by Paul and Linda McCartney.
“Live and Let Die” opened yesterday at several local theaters.

My Review


The one with the crocodiles In 1973 Roger Moore made a smooth transition from his most famous role - that of Simon Templar - to yet another literary character who had been made famous by another actor. Whereas the Saint had been immortalized by George Sanders in a series of movies much earlier (allowing Moore to make it his own in the highly successful television series), the memory of Sean Connery as James Bond was much more recent in the publics mind so Moore had his work cut out for him. It is hardly surprising then that "Live and Let Die" plays it relatively safe. Moore went on record as saying that he read one line detailing how Bond had to kill once, but didn't very much like it (from the novel "Goldfinger"), and took his portrayal from that. In fact in his first couple of movies Moore plays the character much closer to his television Simon Templar persona than later in the series (the producers subsequently felt it was too close to Connery's interpretation of the role). This is a sad development as Moore never really had the chance to show he could play both charming and ruthless as he had plenty of chances to portray on The Saint. Taking one of Fleming's most controversial novels (the villains are all black) the producers were faced with a vexing problem. They overcame this by not only giving Bond a black ally, but also allowing the villains to get the better of 007 on several occasions. They also threw in a redneck sheriff as comic relief for good measure. The movie is essentially one long chase and in a definite break with tradition we are offered up a pretitles sequence in which James Bond does not appear. In the opening we see two British agents killed by ingenious means - first a man is killed at the United Nations through use of what can only be assumed a sound weapon and a second by snakebite on the Caribbean island of San Monique. James Bond (in only the second and last time we see a glimpse of his London apartment) is assigned by M to investigate. What follows is a chase as Bond pursues the Prime Minister of San Monique Dr. Kananga and an underworld gang leader named Mr. Big across the United States to a fiery, explosive (literally) climax in the Caribbean. On the way our interepid hero must escape from all manner of tricky situations, such as being stranded on a tiny island surrounded by crocodiles. The action highlight is most probably a boat chase half way through the movie that has probably only been bested by an even better boat chase sequence in "Puppet on a Chain." This movie does seem to have trouble deciding if it wants to be humorous or serious and I liked the introduction of the voodoo element that makes this a very unique 007 picture. Truth be told, the initial Bond movie by Roger Moore is a mixed bag in my book. Whereas the supporting villains are excellent, the main villain is underwhelming and his plot (flooding the US with drugs) is rather ho-hum compared to bigger plots like destruction of the world (Moonraker) or the nuclear attack of British cities (For Your Eyes Only). Still, we do have the gorgeous Jane Seymour in an early role as the lead Bond girl. Certainly early promise for an actress who became even more beautiful with age in roles such as TV's Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman. Roger Moore is also still finding his way in the part and apart from a few glimmers of what he would eventually deliver, the movie and his performance seems to be on remote control.

Bond girl Appeal

About The Author


Born on the English-Scottish border I emigrated to the US after graduating college in 1995 and became a U.S. citizen in 2007. I have served in the U.S. military and my past positions include as an Assistant Managing Editor of The Washington Post Company, a technical writer working on technical documentation for both a construction company and a large government contractor, a graphic designer creating graphics in support of government contract proposals, and as a public affairs officer for the U.S. Navy. which included being assigned as the official writer for the Navy and DoD on the assumption ceremony of a new Secretary of the Navy. I am currently a Web Services Writer for a large government contractor in the Washington, D.C. metro area.

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