Bond-ed for Life ~ Live and Let Die

The James Bond franchise is celebrating its 50th birthday this year and with the release of Skyfall I wanted to take a look back at the 22 (23 if you count the rogue Never Say Never Again, 24 if you count the 1967 spoof of Casino Royale) films that have come before it.  So sit back, grab your shaken-not-stirred martini and follow me on a trip down Bond memory lane.

The Facts:

Synopsis: 007 is sent to stop a diabolically brilliant heroin magnate armed with a complex organization and a reliable psychic tarot card reader

Stars: Roger Moore, Yaphet Kotto, Jane Seymour, David Hedison, Geoffrey Holder, Gloria Hendry

Director: Guy Hamilton

Rated: PG

Running Length: 121 minutes

TMMM Score: (7/10)

Review: Though it had a small burst of rebirth with George Lazenby in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, the Bond franchise took a wrong turn in Vegas with Sean Connery’s weak swan song of Diamonds are Forever.  In 1973 it was again time to look for a new Bond and with Connery’s blessing Moore became the next actor to be seen in the gun barrel opening shot.

Moore was a quaint choice for Bond in that he had the air of sophistication to him in an almost regal sense.  Where Connery had brute charm and Lazenby was energized by a playboy attitude, Moore’s Bond was a bit more of an English dandy than a gruff super spy.  Though Moore would get progressively hammier with each of the movies he headlined, Live and Let Die was a strong introduction to the next wave of Bond films.

Opening in theaters two years after Richard Roundtree brought Shaft to audiences and two weeks after Pam Grier showed The Man who was boss in Coffy, Live and Let Die has a decidedly early 70’s blaxploitation feel to it.  Though director Hamilton had already sat in the directing seat twice, I got the feeling he let his hair down a bit when returning for this globe-trotting jaunt that finds Bond escaping from reptiles, drug kingpins, voodoo curses, and psychic mystics.

Aided by a mysterious pre-credits sequence followed by Paul McCartney and Wings Oscar-nominated classic theme song, the film gets off to a quite nice start as 007 arrives in New York looking for clues in the death of several British agents.  It’s not long before he’s neck deep in trouble with a diplomat who may be more involved with the mysterious Mr. Big (no, not Mr. Carrie Bradshaw) than he lets on.

It was in Live and Let Die that Bond romanced his first black Bond girl (Hendry worthlessly playing a thankless role) and met up with another memorable love interest.  As Mr. Big’s tarot card reader Solitaire, Seymour looks wonderful in several gorgeous costumes and resists the charms of 007 just long enough to show she’s skews slightly feminist…only to chuck that angle out the window after a roll in the hay and becoming another helpless rag doll to the exploits of the film.

Kotto was six years from playing his memorable supporting role in Alien and his work here is efficient…though you’d be crazy not to spot the connection he has to the characters of Mr. Big and a United Nations diplomat.  In fun supporting roles, Geoffrey Holder is creepy as a voodoo priest and Julius Harris is agreeably menacing as the claw-handed Tee-Hee.

With its several well-staged stunt sequences, Live and Let Die was a strong start to Moore’s tenure as Bond.  More so than the film that preceded it, this picture allowed the secret agent to transition from a 60’s dapper spy to the 70’s wry secret agent Moore made him into.

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