"You damn lucky you got an ear left to hear the question with" — looking back on Live and Let Die
In the 1960s, the James Bond series set trends. By the '70s, it began to follow them. Live and Let Die, the first Bond film to jump on a bandwagon, is undoubtedly one of the most memorable and favourite entries to the series for both hardcore and casual fans. Paul McCartney's cracking theme helped this adventure connect with the masses.
The bandwagon was blaxploitation, but it works. All the villains are black, but not every Black person in the film is a villain. I won't accept any cries of racism; they’re all intelligent and sophisticated.
The casting of Roger Moore in Live and Let Die may well have saved the series. He's 46 here. He looks absolutely fantastic and a good ten years younger after Cubby Broccoli ordered him to lose some fat and get his hair trimmed.
We see Bond's home for the first time since Dr No. It's different from that of Sean Connery's, and throughout the film, other lengths were taken to distance Roger from Sean.
Bond wears a striped tie instead of a solid one, we don't see him in a tux, he doesn't order a Martini but a Bourbon (neat), and he uses a Smith & Wesson during the final assault.
While practising the famous line, Roger admitted all he could hear was Sean's voice, tinged with a Scottish accent, but he delivered "Bond, James Bond" perfectly. A 70s Harlem looks terribly run down, and it's a fantastic coincidence that the back of Solitaire's cards spell out '007' — adding to the supernatural feel of the film.
Roger is pretty tough in Live and Let Die. He uses Rosie Carver for sex before threatening to kill her and tricks Solitaire into losing her virginity to him. Jane Seymour celebrated her 21st birthday on set, but she wasn't first choice — Diana Ross was. Despite Roger being old enough to be Jane’s dad, a running theme throughout his reign as 007, he looks so young that it's unnoticeable.
Yaphet Kotto as Mr Big/Dr Kananga is brutal and violent, too — as well as charming, well-dressed, and smart. The drug dealing theme of the film has a nice twist in that Kananga intends to give away over a billion pounds worth of heroin for free — thus increasing the number of addicts and giving him a monopoly in the market. His heavies are all well-thought-out and are elevated by screenwriter Tom Mankiewicz’s razor-sharp wit.
Live and Let Die really ramps up the humour with Mrs Bell and J W Pepper — something that would also become prevalent during Roger's tenure. Action wasn't director Guy Hamilton's strong point, but his films are littered with iconic moments. Live and Let Die's is Bond dancing over crocodiles and alligators. Look out for Bond clocking his escape route as Tee Hee walks him to 'feeding time'. It's a cool moment in an extraordinary scene.
The boat chase goes on way too long and only picks up when George Martin's terrific score kicks in. Kananga’s death stretches the realms of possibilities and is pretty laughable. Why Kananga doesn't spit out the air pellet Bond puts in his mouth has been done to as much death as why doesn't Blofeld recognise Bond in On Her Majesty's Secret Service.
So voodoo, fortune-telling, witchcraft, and immortality do exist. The Bond series called it in 1974 when Roger Moore proved there was an afterlife post-Sean.
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Joe is Editor of For Bond Fans Only and a writer by trade. When he's not watching Bond, he can be found listening to The Beatles and worrying about West Ham. You can find him on Twitter @joeemerywrites