Directed by: Guy Hamilton
Screenplay by: Tom Mankiewicz
Starring: Roger Moore, Yaphet Kotto, Jane Seymour
Running Time: 121 minutes
J’s Verdict: ☆☆☆½
Ah, Live and Let Die, you wacky wonderful beast, you.
After George Lazenby’s one shot and Sean Connery’s send off (until 1983’s non-canon Never Say Never Again), the series continues with Live and Let Die, a Bond affair that taps into the vein of Blaxploitation flicks and delivers a rousing caper, with some of the best villains to feature in the Bond series itself.
Roger Moore debuts as the man himself and he captures the coolness of the character wonderfully, from conveying that Bond wit through his facial expression to the delivery of his lines. As a debut, it’s quite solid and has me interested to see how he goes in further Bond adventures.
And how about that villain line up, eh? Mr. Big, Tee-Hee, Whisper and the delightfully oddball Baron Samedi. They’re all classic characters, each of them bringing something to the table that’s a sheer delight for what the film’s trying to achieve. You’ve got Tee-Hee with his Dr. No like claw arm, you’ve got Whisper with imposing appearance and soft voice and then there’s Baron Samedi laughing and writhing around like a man possessed.
Yaphet Kotto is a lot of fun in this role, bringing to Kananga considerable range and getting to flex his creative muscles a bit compared to some other villains. I quite enjoyed watching him – because I didn’t really know what he’d do at any given time as the character seems volatile.
Jane Seymour as Solitaire is one of the more intriguing Bond girls, given her character’s background, but it’s her virginal appearance and Bond’s subsequent taking of said virginity that makes things a bit uncomfortable. Particularly, because, Bond is so blasé about her own struggles. Such is Bond, right? He’s been cold before, that’s the character, but there’s just something about that conquest that doesn’t sit well with me as of writing this.
Solitaire isn’t the only Bond girl in this here film, Rosie Carver (played by Gloria Hendry) helps Bond along his way in his mission. She’s wonderful in the role, playing it with pluck and wide-eyed fearfulness as the young rookie with a certain edge. I only wish there was more screen time for her in this chock-a-block 120 minute movie.
And speaking of minutes, the 13 minute boat chase in the last act is a lot of fun, thanks to some nifty stunt work and a few visual gags that work. I will say that the loud mouth Sheriff J.W. Pepper – introduced here in this chase – wears a bit thin towards the end but nevertheless is played with a delightful high energy from Clifton James.
And phhwoarrr, what a ripper of a theme song by Paul and Linda McCartney. I love it’s infectious energy and what it brings to the film’s set pieces. This extends to the score itself, by George Martin, as it runs variations of theme and plays off of it in really groovy ways.
I would’ve thought that the tonal shift and cashing in on the blaxploitation movie would’ve made this Bond feature more cringe than enjoyable – but from the jazz funeral to the swampy bayou, from the vibrancy of voodoo to the cast of villains, Live and Let Die is a great deal of fun and a smashing debut from Roger Moore.