Spotlight on James Bond
1973 Live and Let Die unleashed a new kind of Leap on the world, a Leap whose bland decorum and meaningless jokes would dominate the screen for another twelve years. Roger Moore, succeeding Sean Connery, the third different Bond in three films, had enjoyed popular success as a television star in the mystery series “The Saint”. He had initially tested for the role before entering the inaugural Dr. No series, but was deemed “too pretty” by Bond producers Harry Salzman and Albert “Cubby” Broccoli. Sean Connery only reluctantly agreed to come back for the 1971s Diamonds are foreverr, and had no interest in continuing due to tensions with producers. Salzman was not a fan of Moore’s choice, but was dismissed by Broccoli, who saw the TV star as an opportunity to create an even more popular Bond than Connery. To this day, many Bond fans who first saw 007 onscreen during Moore’s day will claim he is the best Bond. Less often, however, is Live and Let Die considered one of Moore’s best releases, not to mention one of Bond’s best films. And for good reason.
Writer Tom Mankiewicz, who co-wrote Diamonds with series writer Richard Maibaum, has been promoted to Sole Editor for an adaptation of Ian Fleming’s second novel. Mankiewicz retained the voodoo elements and chief villain Mr. Big, but dismissed personal stakes for Bond, involving Felix Leiter and a tragic encounter with a shark. (Interestingly enough, David Hedison portrayed Leiter in LALD and would reprise the role in the 1989s. License to kill, featuring as an inciting incident the same shark encounter, filled with the infamous note HE IS NOT AGREE WITH SOMETHING THAT EATS IT. It’s a shame in Hedison’s turn because Leiter in LALD is reduced to a blandness similar to the role of Leiter in many of Connery’s films). Mankiewicz, however, specifies that Roger Moore as Bond will be quite different from Sean Connery as Bond.
The teaser sequence and Bond’s introduction to LALD is a useful way to explore Roger Moore’s Bond character as a whole. To date, aside from Moore, every new Bond (Dr. No doesn’t have a teaser) has been introduced in the teaser sequence. In Live and Let Die, the teaser features the assassination of three British agents by various Mr. Big henchmen in locations that will be important later in the film. Bond cannot be found. He appears after the opening credits, in bed with Miss Caruso, an Italian secret service agent, at his home. This last aspect is very important, as it is the only time in the entire series of twenty-two films to date (this screenwriter has yet to see Fall from the sky as of this writing) that the public is invited to James Bond’s home in England and the only time so far that the new Bond has not been introduced in action, on the pitch, in the service of his country. Bond is interrupted by the arrival of M and Moneypenny (LALD is the only pre-Craig film that does not feature Q’s character), who have come to inform him of the aforementioned assassinations. Bond makes an M espresso, they discuss what needs to be done, Moneypenny makes a joke and they leave. Miss Caruso, having been hiding in the closet (though M & Moneypenny both guessed she was there), comes out and tries to leave, but Bond unzips the back of her dress with his magnetic watch, ready to jump into bed instead. than to begin his mission to avenge the deaths of three comrades.
That’s the Roger Moore Bond in a nutshell: a sophisticated British gentleman who loves a quick joke, terrible pun and spicy espresso. It’s not a Bond getting his hands dirty. Any attempt by the show’s producers and writers to have ‘Connery scenes’, such as slapping women for answers, killing goons and villains in cold blood, has been shot down or vehemently challenged. by Moore. As a result, the realism of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and From Russia with love was rejected in favor of a return to The golden finger formula: larger-than-life villains, henchmen, global plots, and women used for sex, not love. For example, Live and Let Die the villain, Mr. Big, is actually a United Nations ambassador named Dr. Kananga. The only attempt to differentiate these characters? Throw a bunch of rubber and latex on Yaphet Kotto’s face! Goldfinger had Oddjob? Mr. Big a Tee Hee, a smiling villain with an opposable hand clip; Whisper, an obese thug with a hoarse voice; and Baron Samedi, a voodoo occultist who may or may not be immortal.
But wait, there is more! Racist Sheriff JW Pepper (Clifton James), who will reappear on vacation in The man with the golden gun, shows up to call all black characters “boy” and to be generally disgusting, while Gloria Hendry plays Rosie Carver, introduced as Bond’s contact in San Monique and revealed to be a double agent working for Mr. Big, who is the one of the most terribly terrible Bond girls in the history of the series, wearing down her welcome after only ten brief minutes of screen time. And then there’s Solitaire, played by Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman herself, Jane Seymour. Solitaire is a legitimate seer who has “sight” but can only retain this power if she remains a virgin. Guess how long this lasts? Bond has him draw The Lovers card from his deck, and as he kisses her, the deck is revealed to have been replaced by Bond, made up entirely of Lovers cards. Bond takes Solitaire’s virginity, depriving it of his sight and of any use to Mr. Big, but what’s in for it? Yet another desperate, clingy heroine who is pushed into a damsel in distress throughout the second half of the film and becomes an annoyance rather than an interesting character.
The film’s conclusion is particularly lackluster. Mr. Big’s death by shark pellet, inflating like a balloon to burst when it hits the ceiling, is one of the dumbest deaths for a Bond Villain, while Tee Hee’s final showdown with Solitaire and Bond in the train will repeat itself much better. effect with Jaws in The spy who loved me four years later. Baron Samedi is pushed into a box of snakes, only to reappear on the train in the last shot of the film. And the music ? George Martin’s sheet music, the first non-Barry sheet music in the series’ history at this point, is serviceable but lacks the zest and oomph that Barry’s brassy sound can bring. The title track by Paul McCartney & Wings, while highly regarded in some circles, is an interesting single on the Billboard charts but worthless as a Bond anthem.
Moore’s sense of humor, his only saving grace, kicks off the proceedings just enough that a devoted fan won’t feel completely in vain, but not enough to recommend the film for a rainy day viewing anytime. in a close future. Live and Let Die is a curiosity and belongs at the bottom of the pile when discussing the Eon Productions Bond series. This gives Roger Moore’s tenure a flying start, with many peaks and valleys to come during his twelve-year reign as the world’s best-known super agent.
– Gabe Bucsko
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published under our old brand, Sound On Sight. The article is part of our James Bond Spotlight.