James Bond Retrospective: Review of LIVE AND LET DIE

(I am a pretty huge James Bond fan, so with the new SKYFALL coming out November 9th, I thought it would be cool to re-watch every Bond movie and review them on the site, counting down the days until the latest one is released)

I only saw this one in pieces on TV when I was a kid, but I’m pretty sure I saw the whole thing.  I finally saw the movie in one sitting around 2008 and thought it was a silly, silly Bond that was kind of a guilty pleasure.  After a long day of movie watching and roller derby practice, I was looking forward to watching something stupid.

James Bond is sent on a mission to investigate the murders of 3 British agents.  He first goes to Harlem where he runs into Mr. Big, a local gangster who works for Kananga.  But it’s not asecret really.  They are the same person.  Anyway, Kananga is superstitious and always has a tarot card reader by the name of Solitaire by his side.  Bond discovers that Kananga is planning on distributing a shit ton of Heroin on the streets for free, therefore putting competitors out of business.  Of course, 007 seduces Solitaire, who apparently loses her psychic power once she loses her virginity.  Oops!  Obviously, it’s up to Bond to stop the villain’s plan.

This one starts off with easily my least favorite pre-title sequence.  It just shows the 3 secret agents being killed.  One by a supersonic sound, another by a knife, and the other by a snakebite.  Bond is nowhere to be found.  Fortunately, the title sequence is good and Paul McCartney belts out one of the best songs in the series.

Once we get back to the film, Roger Moore is introduced as the new James Bond.  I really liked this scene as it has M stopping at his home.  Of course Bond has a chick over, so naturally he tries to hide her from his superior.  I also loved it that Moneypenny covers for him.  It’s a nice little scene and a solid way to introduce the new 007.  Also, love the little touch with Bond unzipping the girl’s dress by using his super magnet watch.  Classy!

unfortunately, the rest of the film just isn’t that good.  The premise is pretty ho-hum, and some of the action is surprisingly dull.  The double-decker bus chase, which should have been very thrilling, is yawn inducing.  I also didn’t like the airplane chase, which is so mediocrely silly that it feels like it’s out of a sitcom (and what’s up with that lady in the plane next to Bond who looks like Elton John?)  It also features one of the worst Bond girls, Rosie played by Gloria Hendry.  Now, I loved her in my favorite Blaxploitation film BLACK BELT JONES, but here she gives a completely unwatchable performance.  I must give credit to Moore for not busting out with laughter as she embarrassingly tries to act frightened and sad. not to mention sexy.

It’s not all bad though.  There were little moments here and there that were inspired.  Some of the boat chase stunts are pretty darn awesome.  Yaphet Kotto, who plays Kananga, is a decent actor so he does what he can with a poorly written villain.  His henchman Tee Hee is goofy with his metal arm, but it works in a comic book kind of way.  It also has Jeffrey Holder (the 7up guy from the 70’s and 80’s:  “It’s the uncola!  HA HA HA!”) who plays some voodoo witch doctor.  He’s fun.  Jane Seymour, at the young age of 21, makes a sexy bond girl too.  But the best part of this production is Roger Moore.  Where it took Connery a couple of films to get comfortable with the character, Moore has no trouble nailing the perfect vibe for 007 immediately.  Now, it’s a different portrayal than Connery’s.  Moore is a little more tongue-in-cheek, but still has the suave, coolness about him.  And at 45, he looks much younger than Connery (whose 3 years younger).  With Moore giving a terrific debut performance as Bond, it’s a shame that this movie wasn’t better.

Director Guy Hamilton came back after doing DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER, and GOLDFINGER.  Honestly, I don’t really know what happened here.  The direction couldn’t be more different from those 2 films.  This movie is overt-lit, and features some awful acting.  However, there is a plus side to some of the negative.  Some of the scenes are so silly, and the acting so bad that it kind of can be viewed as a guilty pleasure.  Even though I knew how bad it was, I laughed quite often.  I’m also a fan of Blaxploitation films, and this movie definitely fits into that genre.  Yeah,  it’s weird for a Bond movie to have this element, which is why I classify it as a guilty pleasure.  Some of the dialogue is so ridiculous.  One of my favorite lines is when Bond offers his black driver 20 bucks to follow a car, and he replies by saying:  “For 20 dollars, I’ll take you to a Ku Klux Klan cookout”.  Yes, that’s REALLY in the movie! Awesome!

I should also mention the character of J.W. Pepper played by Clifton James.  He’s a New Orleans sheriff who happens to gets involved with the boat chase.  Now, I will admit that his over-the-top performance of this racist character is entertaining, but it doesn’t belong in a Bond movie.  Every time the camera lingers on him, it takes you right out of the flick.  With his bumbling and swearing (he mouths the F-word during one moment) seems like it’s from a completely different production.

I didn’t hate this.  Like I said, I liked the boat chase (when J.W. Pepper wasn’t on screen).  I also liked Bond walking across crocodiles, Bond shooting a piece off of Holder’s head and his eyes looking up (made me giggle), the fight with Tee Hee on the train is dumb fun, and I especially liked George Martin’s score.  Now, John Barry has been involved with all of the music so far and has done a fantastic job.  I was pleasantly surprised that Martin (who produced most of the Beatles’ albums) has a good feel for Bond.  It still sounded like a Bond movie!  Oh yeah… I forgot to mention Kananga’s death scene!  Holy shit!  It’s the dumbest thing you’ll ever see.  I laughed my ass off!

It’s too bad this movie isn’t good.  Roger Moore gave it his all here to prove he had what it takes to be 007.  He blows Lazenby out of the water.  He does prove that he makes a great Bond.  Unfortunately, he just happened to debut in one of the lesser entries.  He certainly elevates the film from being one of the worst films ever made.  There is an unintentional hilarity to be found in this film, but obviously that was not the producer’s intentions.  I can see how many people can be entertained by this ludicrous film, but not because it’s good.  It features an outstanding performance from Moore and has an enjoyably bad Blaxploitation thing going on here, but not much else.               ★★ (out of ★★★★)

– Rated PG but would get a PG13 today for intense violence, sensuality and some bad language (including an inaudible F-word).

– Running time: 2hrs. 1min.



Categories: Austin Kennedy, DVD/Blu-ray Reviews, Reviews

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3 replies

  1. And to add insult to injury, your next installment will treat you to the sight of Christopher Lee in a Speedo.

  2. Oh, and remember…

    “NAMES IS FOR TOMBSTONES, BABY!”

  3. Not sure why Bond releases the crocodiles and lights the building on fire, why not do one or the other, or just escape? And the Baron Samedi sword fight and previous action scene was pathetic. I thought the intro scene was pretty cool, especially the New Orleans death, they just pick up his body. And I loved the indirect hinting at the second CIA agent’s fate, who was checking out the scene and not to be found. Why did they spare Felix’s life though? Boat chase was way too long, sheriff or not. Swimming pool wedding and blockade all could have been cut, terrible writing overall, but loved Moore’s delivery of witty puns. And loved how much use he made out of the watch. I also did not mind the airplane chase, I just wish he would have taken off instead of continued riding around. And her face was so funny at the end.

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