Live and Let Die

Live and Let DieSynopsis: James Bond battles the forces of black magic in this high-octane adventure that hurtles him from the streets of New York City to Louisiana’s Bayou country. With charm, wit and deadly assurance, Roger Moore steps in as Agent 007 and takes on a powerful drug lord (Yaphet Kotto) with a diabolical scheme to conquer the world.

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Welcome to The Critical Eye’s ‘Mission Briefing Version’ commentaries of the James Bond movies.

Via thirteen key categories, over the course of the next few months we will rate and/or comment on each picture in brief. These MBV blurbs will also sometimes feature guest commentators, Bond fans and non-fans alike, thus offering a variety of perspectives on this iconic series.

We hope that you will enjoy TCE’s unique take on the world of 007.

Live and Let Die

Date of viewing: May 23, 2013

1-
Opening credits
The Thorn: 7.0 – The pre-credit sequence is intriguing if a bit ineffectual (you can kill someone with ear “dynamite”? Really?), but the opening credits, filled with fire and skulls, to the tune of Paul McCartney’s immortal classic, is pretty awesome indeed.
The Horrible Dr. B: 10 – Great psychedelic mix of ladies, skulls and flames!
The Consultant: 8 – They finally fixed to hop\turn debacle! Mr. Moore is oh so smooth, if it wasn’t for the fact that he shoots prematurely. Ah well, I’m sure the ladies are professional enough not to remark.
***
2-
Story
The Thorn: 6.5 – I like the more down-to-earth, reality-based mission that Bond is sent on. However, it has little to do with espionage; all Bond is doing is basic detective work, which anyone could have done (albeit not with his flair). The key problem is that what could have been an intense story is marred by a jokey spin on everything… rendering the proceedings impotent. So… great idea, but too goofy to be gritty.
The Horrible Dr. B: 5 – Bond has to foil a simple scheme by a new villain. Thankfully Spectre and Blowfeld are not involved.
The Consultant: 6 – So the main bad guy from Harlem is also the main bad guy from the island. He’s growing heroin overseas to import to himself to sell. I suppose that it may throw off the cops who are investigating but once the guy is caught, they would find out wouldn’t they? As well, the only reason’s Britain ‘s secret service is on the case seems to be because some of their agents have disappeared. Why were they there in the first place? Let the CIA handle their own problems.
***
3-
Banter
The Thorn: 8.5 – While there isn’t much witty banter, Roger Moore’s version of Bond is quick and heavy on the quips and one-liners – and he delivers them exceptionally well, with an aloofness that is near-perfect. The only problem is that his Bond then becomes so detached that nothing is significant, no danger is worth worrying about, and all tension is deflated completely. It’s a double-edged sword.
The Horrible Dr. B: 10 – Plenty and corny.
The Consultant: 9 – There were some great zingers and Roger seems to deliver them in a very smooth and relax fashion, as every Bond should. Connery’s delivery was as contrived as shotgun posing as a telescope.
***
4-
Villains
The Thorn: 3.5 – It’s a mixed bunch: Kananga is really bland and uninteresting, Mr. Big is a caricature whose make-up is a mockery, Tee-Hee is a perfectly creepy henchman but his “artificial arm” wouldn’t fool a child (check out its length and its weird wrist angles!), and Whisper is a flavourless tubby who poses no apparent threat. Only Baron Samedi has charisma, adding much dynamism even though he barely has any screen time; fittingly, he is the film’s un-cola.
The Horrible Dr. B: 8 – Kananga is an interesting villain: he is extremely well connected; he controls establishments, restaurants, taxis, police, etc. He is smart and creative. He and his minions, get rid of their enemies with style.
The Consultant: 7 – The main bad guy could have been better. I find that he hired very incompetent henchmen. Although there was that one dude that didn’t seem to want to die with the painted face. Mechanical arm dude suffered from the standard: “I’ll leave Bond to die in this highly unsupervised fashion and be surprised to find him alive” syndrome. Bore…
***
5-
Bond Girls
The Thorn: 8.5 – Jane Seymour is one of my favourite Bond girls (it’s between her and Carole Bouquet, I think). Holy snap, she’s delicious – she’s a 10! Just our first glimpse of her would make many a man weep. But it’s true that she is submissive and lacking spunk, so she’s really just a pretty lil’ thing. Real pretty. And yummy. Unfortunately, the scales are tipped by Rosie Carver, who is cute but utterly moronic and inept – of such incompetence as a character and as an actor that it takes the sheen off of things for me. She’s a -3. But she’s only in half the movie, so she doesn’t entirely ruin it for me.
The Horrible Dr. B: 5 – Solitaire is hot and delicious; although she wears too much makeup, her dresses and hair are fabulous. However, without her supernatural powers, she’s totally clueless. Rosie has a hot body but is not the best actress.
The Consultant: 9 – Rosie Carver is somewhat incompetent. All Bond needed to do to sleep with her is have her find a feathery hat on her bed. Solitaire is way hot and she has the snobby attitude to boot. You can’t believe what Bond had to suffer through in bed after doing his thing: whine whine whine. At the end of the day, them ladies were pretty, hence the score.
***
6-
Gadgets
The Thorn: 6.0 – Here’s a case of quantity over quality: a magnetic saw-watch, a Felix lighter, a brush telegram, a flute communicator, a shark gun, a bug sweeper, monitors/guns hidden in voodoo dolls, Whisper’s side mirror dart gun, the trick coffin. It’s all amusing, but hardly realistic and rarely clever enough to justify its existence. The only ones I kind of liked were Bond’s watch, and the voodoo dolls. The rest? As disposable as Solitaire’s virginity (In the movie! In the MOVIE! I’m being objective here…).
The Horrible Dr. B: 10 – The great thing in this movie is that Bond’s watch is being used multiple time throughout the story in different ways and not always in a successful way, which is unique in the series so far.
The Consultant: 6 – Does the elevator in the cemetery count? How about the mechanical arm? The drug processing plant in the shack? Maybe the elaborate cavernous delivery system? The inflatable shark pellet? I got it! As Maxwell Smart would say: “The ol’ gun in the car side mirror trick!”
***
7-
Vehicles
The Thorn: 5.0  – There are not truly exotic or impressive vehicles at any point, which was disappointing. However, there were boats, standard American cars, a double-decker bus (!), a hang-glider… and a couple of  pimp mobiles. Yes, you read right! This is, after all, the blaxploitation Bond. Had it been made in the ’90s, it would have been a lowrider with adjusties on it. But they haven’t made the gangsta Bond film yet. Yet.
The Horrible Dr. B: 5 – Pimp mobile galore.
The Consultant: 8047 – I suppose the boat chase was cool for the first 43 minutes, but it got a little gratuitous after that. Travelling by coffin is the way the spies do it! Book your tickets now!
***
8-
Locales
The Thorn: 5.5 – Frankly, aside from San Monique (in particular, Solitaire’s hilltop refuge), I find the locales kind of dull. Distinctive, certainly, but dull. Say what you will about Harlem, but it doesn’t really scream exoticism – especially in 1973! Look at all that lovely litter! I wonder what Shirley Bassey would have had to say about THAT! As for New Orleans… well, it has its moments, but it isn’t exactly hopping with excitement – even if it is hopping with crocodiles.
The Horrible Dr. B: 5 – Although some specific locations are needed for some of the scenes, beyond that, there are nothing spectacular or special about the locales.
The Consultant: 7 – Harlem! Never been, I hear it’s a nice place to meet up with the GANG and SHOOT a few hoops. Go to the local voodoo shop for some drugs. That kinda thing. San Monique just looked like a tourist TRAP. I wouldn’t be caught DEAD there.
***
9-
Stunts
The Thorn: 8.0 – When I think of ‘Live and Let Die’, the thing I usually remember the most is the crazy boat race, including the chase by Sheriff J.W. Pepper. Admittedly, it’s hard to ignore, given how bloody lengthy it is, but I chuckled every time the stuntmen slid over land to get to another canal. It was repetitive, but memorable, and quite entertaining to watch. Then there’s the stunt with the crocodiles, which is pretty daring. But, conversely, there’s the car/double-decker bus chase, which was lame, and Roger Moore’s fight scenes – I’ll give him kudos for doing them himself, but he was so wimpy and unconvincing that the sequences suffered for it. At least Connery had the good sense to just sit around on his plumpness for most of ‘Diamonds Are Forever’.
The Horrible Dr. B: 5 – Great boat chase; the interesting part is that boats often jump on ridges for either shortcut or switching river. There’s also your regular car chase and a weird airplane chase where planes get smashed unnecessarily.
The Consultant: 2 – I’m sure there were more, but I can’t get passed the whole using the alligators as stepping stones bit. /shrug
***
10-
Soundtrack
The Thorn: 6.5 – A disappointing effort given that it’s Sir George Martin at the helm; one would have expected more. But it’s serviceable, and it graciously serves up the James Bond theme more frequently than John Barry had been in recent years – a welcome addition, in my estimation. As for McCartney’s “Live and Let Die”, it’s grossly inappropriate as a Bond theme, lacking that distinct flavour one has come to expect. But it’s a great rock track and it’s one of my all-time favourite songs in the whole series.
The Horrible Dr. B: 0 – The opening song is great, but its the only song being used throughout the whole movie.
The Consultant: 4 – Theme + Beatles song…not my cup of tea
***
11-
Best Bond moment
The Thorn: The sliding boats during the bayou chase sequence really get me going every time. It’s both cool and amusing at the same time, which is perfect for the Moore era. During the Connery era, this would have seemed ridiculous. But, by 1973, it was difficult to take anything seriously. However, from a  purely “traditional 007” perspective, the best Bond moment would be the gun barrel opening; Moore does it confidently and I like the two-handed approach (although his later one is even better).
The Horrible Dr. B: The best aspect about the movie is its creativity. Examples: The villains uses a fake funeral procession in order to do and cover up an assassination. When Bond is trapped and facing a deadly enemy (serpent, shark, crocodile, thugs), he’s very smart in using the elements of his surrounding to help solve the predicament (spay bottle becomes a blowtorch, escape staircase becomes a weapon, crocodiles become stepping stones, etc).
The Consultant: Bond stacking the deck with lovers cards.
***
12-
Worst Bond moment
The Thorn: By far the worst moment for me is when Kananga inflates and explodes. Not only is it a stupid concept, but it’s not a messy explosion (no guts, blood, nothing!) and it clearly looks like a balloon. Look, if you can’t do it right, don’t do it at all – it’s a moronic idea to start off with! Anyway, it’ so sucky that it always comes to mind when I think of “Live and Let Die”. Ick. The next worst moment would be how Baron Samedi dies. How anti-climactic.
The Horrible Dr. B: Clueless Solitaire: “For the first time in my life, I feel like a complete woman.”
The Consultant: The opening scene with those folks from the U.N. They looked very bored and, given the whole voodoo theme of the movie, I took it as a bad omen.
***
13-
Overall impressions
The Thorn: 6.0 – Honestly, I remembered hating this film a lot more than I did this time around. If it was a regular ’70s action film, I’d give it a 7, but as a 007 adventure it doesn’t pass the test, so I give it a 6. It’s not great, but it’s not all-bad either – just a bit dull, is all. And Moore is terrific doing whatever he’s doing – which is NOT Bond. He’s the perfect action hero for the era: a cigar-chomping, tailored swinger who would be at home at the Playboy Mansion. But he’s not Bond, no matter what anyone says; if anything, he reminded me of Leslie Nielsen. Anyway, ‘Live and Let Die’ is as good as a “Bond meets Blaxpoitation” (Bondsploitation?) film could ever get. All that was missing was a ‘fro on Moore’s pasty head.
The Horrible Dr. B: 8 – This is a great first movie by Roger Moore. Moore’s Bond focus more on looks and manners, and less on physical prowess. Unfortunately, Moore’s Bond is a little bit uni-dimensional in his strategy: he simply walk into the enemy camp, get trapped, and uses his wits to get out. Its an exciting and gutsy style; but after pulling the same thing 5 times in a row, you start to wonder if the writer had no imagination, or if Bond knows that he is invulnerable, or if Bond has a death-wish. So unfortunately, Moore’s bond is hard to take seriously. The style of the movie is also different. The series previously went crazy for big over-the-top non-stop action sequences for a while but relaxed and calmed down for this movie. There are plenty of action scenes, but nothing too crazy; simply done slightly in a different way. Fans of my reviews will surely be puzzled by now: most of the story takes part in the states; why the good grade? Well it is because, in this movie, the typical dumb red-neck white-trash American that we hate is embodied by Sheriff Pepper; a minor character that suffers the side-effects from Bonds activities. His sole purpose is to be laughed at and it works.
The Consultant: 6 – I don’t mind Moore ’s Bond. The story was too lame for me to appreciate the big budget spent on the boat chase. It was still kind of worth it to see Bond play Solitaire :]

James Bond will return inThe Man with the Golden Gun

3 responses to “Live and Let Die

  1. Pingback: Diamonds Are Forever | thecriticaleye·

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