Live and Let Die (1973)

<strong class="MovieTitle">Live and Let Die</strong> (1973)

(Second viewing, On Blu-ray, September 2018) And so the Roger Moore Bond years begin in Live and Let Die, without SPECTRE, but with tarot, voodoo and tons of Blaxploitation. The globe-threatening antics of previous films are reduced to a drug trafficking movie, albeit with a considerable amount of early-seventies flair. Moore’s performance is not quite Moore’s Bond yet: His approach is still more intense than debonair, his quips are restrained and he still feels like a holdover from the Connery era. The film around him, however, is a clear relic of its time: I happen to like Blaxploitation a lot, so it’s not as if its intrusion on Bond territory is not welcome—on the other hand, this is clearly a black-focused film written by white people, so the folkloric aspects of black culture are played up and character stereotypes abound. It’s also missing a lot of what made Blaxploitation feel fun—no funk, no going up against the man on behalf of the black man. Oh well; we couldn’t really expect much from such a combination. Elsewhere in the movie, the ludicrousness abounds: there’s an uncomfortable aura of supernatural floating around the film, even when you can explain most of it rationally through dramatic plotting, impossibly clever schemes and an impressionistic final shot. It does dovetail with the increasingly silly nature of the Bond series going into the Moore years, especially when tarot and voodoo are used as exotic window-dressing for the series’ globetrotting. Speaking of which: It does feel like an overdose to go back to America in back-to-back Bond movies, even if New Orleans isn’t the same as Las Vegas. (I saw Live and Let Die as a teenager, but I had forgotten all about Bond’s detour in New York City. I did remember the tricked-out card deck, though.) I’m not particularly impressed by the film’s action showpieces, especially the boat sequence which, while containing some spectacular moments, doesn’t seem to build to something as much as it just strings stuff along until it runs out of its budget. Jane Seymour is one of the most intriguing Bond Girls as Solitaire, but I’m not sure that she actually fits in the Bond universe. Yaphet Kotto is not bad as the villain, although one wonders how busy his agenda is in-between the ruling, the trafficking and the evil plotting. Among bit players, David Hedison is great as Felix Leiter, Geoffrey Holder is terrific as Baron Samedi, Madeline Smith is cute as the Opening Bond Girl and Gloria Hendry is welcome as the Bad Bond Girl. Alas, Sheriff Pepper is intolerable, Q is missing and the plot is a bit dull, suggesting once again that the Bond series is at its silly best when it goes bigger-than-big. Speaking of which, Paul McCartney’s title song is terrific, probably my favourite of the series. Otherwise, Live and Let Die is a formula Bond movie, perhaps more interesting as a period piece and as a transition point for the series rather than by itself.

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