Director: Guy Hamilton
Cast: Roger Moore, Yaphet Kotto, Jane Seymour, Julius Harris, David Hedison, Geoffrey Holder, Gloria Hendry, Clifton James, Bernard Lee, Lois Maxwell
Plot: Three agents die in quick succession, investigating the Prime Minister of San Monique. M sends James Bond (Moore) to try and figure out exactly how the Prime Minister, Dr. Kanaga (Kotto) connects with an American gangster, Mr. Big.
I would love to kick off the Roger Moore era of Bond, by launching into an assault on how the actor almost single-handily ruined the franchise. He definitely signalled a downhill quality for 007. However, with Live and Let Die, I end up damaging my argument, considerably, because his first venture as Bond, Live and Let Die, is actually one of the better Bonds and trumps a fair few of Connery’s outings, especially the last couple.
This time, our new Bond is sent to New Orleans to pick up where Baines, a deceased agent investigating the connection between a small island’s dictator and a major American gangster, left off. He teams up with Felix Leiter when he gets there and begins poking around Mr Big’s operations. He makes some enemies and after a few botched assassination attempts, he finds his way into Kanaga’s operations. It is here that he meets Kanaga’s secret weapon, a girl called Solitaire who can apparently see the future. Bond recruits her, unleashing the wraith of Kanaga, who will stop at nothing to get his prized woman back.
When Roger Moore first appeared on the screen, I thought it wasn’t too bad. He handled his lines well and made exposition easier to follow, which I appreciated. At least his voice is clear and we didn’t have to acclimatise to Connery’s rasping Scottish accent. However, Moore’s problem is that the moment we are asked to peek under the cool exterior it falls apart. His love scenes aren’t believable, and when an enemy gets the upper hand in a fight, his panicked face kills the atmosphere. Roger Moore’s Bond feels beatable, and that is the main thing that makes him the weakest Bond. I must admit that when the writers gave him a good pun, he really made it work. There were some well-written gags here, that Moore made work as well as Connery did. Sadly, in a few movie’s time, the jokes don’t feel as well written, turning Moore into an embarrassment. In Live and Let Die, Moore puts a dampener on the whole affair, but the movie, for the most part, endures.
This is mainly thanks to some non-stop action. Connery’s Bonds were often a little slow-burning, but Roger Moore gave birth to the more action-heavy Bond films. This is probably another thing that saves Moore’s performances. He is never really asked to do too much, as before too long, he is caught up in a car chase or assassination attempt, of some sorts. By the time, the movie is halfway through, Bond has won over Solitaire and pretty much figured out the whole operation. The second half consists of him and Solitaire, trying to escape, in order to let M know what the operation is about. This means that a lot of the film is made up of several action sequences. It almost feels like From Russia With Love. This is probably a clever move: if you are unsure of your new Bond, mimic the most critically acclaimed movie to keep audiences happy. When the action hits its high point, it doesn’t release its hold, until the end credits roll and this is what makes it an easy film to relax into and just enjoy.
This is also an incredibly important film for black actors. Most of the cast are dark-skinned and while most are relegated to the role of villains, being portrayed as untrustworthy, at least the actual roles are meaty and a massive step-up at the time. Looking back, black culture is portrayed as odd and a little alienating, which can be misconstrued as racist. I have another theory. Black culture is used to create a fish out of water feel for Bond. He is out of his comfort zone and it is interesting to see Bond away from his preferred element. Besides, most of the alienating black culture is explained to be a front for Mr. Big’s operations. The voodoo is meant to scare away outsiders to the island – it is never said that voodoo itself is bad. The same goes for their alternative approach to funerals. This is a front for the local assassins. Yaphet Kotto symbolises how successful this film is for black people. Dr. Kanaga is one of the best Bond villains yet. He is more emotional and three-dimensional than the likes of Blofeld or Goldfinger. He is the best actor in the movie, stealing every scene he is in. The film improves whenever he is on screen and for me that is what makes an ideal Bond villain.
Final Verdict: Live and Let Die is an incredibly successful Bond, more entertaining than most of its predecessors. Easily the best Roger Moore.