Eye For Film >> Movies >> Live And Let Die (1973) Film Review
Live And Let Die
Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode
The eighth film in the Bond franchise and the first to star Roger Moore, Live And Let Die sees the world's most famous secret agent sent to investigate the fate of three of his colleagues who have died in mysterious circumstances. It pits him against heroin magnate and sometime dictator Dr Kananga (Yaphet Kotto, then best known for his TV work and yet to fight an Alien), taking in New York and New Orleans en route to a showdown on a Caribbean island. Along the way there's camp voodoo action with secondary villain Baron Samedi (Geoffrey Holder, who somehow manages to bring gravitas to his cartoonish role) and Jane Seymour misinterprets tarot cards as flimsy psychic heroine Solitaire, though it's secondary Bond girl Rosie (Gloria Hendry) who makes the biggest impression.
Wasting no time, the film quickly establishes the darker character of Moore's Bond, arguably closer to the character in Fleming's novels than the suave Connery version fans had grown to love. Bullying as much as charming people to get what he wants, he brings a greater cynicism to the role, something that clashes awkwardly with the farcical nature of some of the surrounding material. This film also marks the first appearance of Louisiana hick Sheriff Pepper (Clifton James), a character adored by viewers under six who reminds the rest of us that the franchise is capable of being at least as racist toward white Americans as any other group. Alongside this we have the famous scene where Bond is trapped in a lake full of crocodiles, prompting one of his sillier escapes - with the real life crocodile farm owner doing the stunt work, risking his life in the process.
The stunts are in many ways the strongest part of the film, which puts a lot of focus on chases and fights, perhaps accounting for the uncertainty of its lead in dialogue-heavy scenes. This has the effect of bringing it closer in style to the cheesy blaxploitation flicks of the period, and scenes in nightclubs and alleys add to this vibe, whilst the Samedi character's antics would not be out of place in a modern Nollywood hit. It's an unavoidably discomfiting experience: Bond as a hero of the Empire working to keep the casualties of its misdeeds in line; so Kotto has to work hard to emphasise the nastiness of his character in order to keep us on Bond's side, which in turn weakens Kananga's effectiveness as a villain. Solitaire, meanwhile, is a mere pawn in the game between these men, and Seymour lacks the charisma or wit necessary to raise her character above this. Moore is at least a polished piece of wood; she's cardboard.
Where the film does better is with the supporting performances from Hendry, Holder, and David Hedison as Felix Leiter, who between them give the film some much needed personality. The absence of a John Barry score (for the first time) is keenly felt, but a combination of George Martin's work and Paul and Linda McCartney's theme song works better than might have been expected, also helping to give the film character. Whilst Ted Moore's cinematography can never hope to equal the great Roger Deakins', it's sufficient to add atmosphere to key scenes establishing the character of the different locations, delivering that all important glamour as surely as Roger Moore's sharp suits.
Overall, Live And Let Die is a rather sleazy affair, and not always in a good way. Whilst it falls short of its predecessors, however, it delivers for action fans and it remains intriguing due to its pivotal position in the development of the Bond myth.Reviewed on: 26 Apr 2015