Tuesday, April 29, 2014

#1,352. Live and Let Die (1973)

Directed By: Guy Hamilton

Starring: Roger Moore, Yaphet Kotto, Jane Seymour

Tag line: "More Action. More Excitement. More Adventure"

Trivia: Roger Moore was 45 when he made his debut as 007, making him the oldest actor to do so.

Live and Let Die, which marked Roger Moore’s first appearance as James Bond, combines voodoo and tarot cards with the action-packed world of espionage, creating a unique, and fairly exciting, motion picture experience.

Three agents have been murdered in the last 24 hours (in New York, New Orleans, and the small island nation of San Monique), and MI6 wants their top man, James Bond (Moore), to find out if these killings are related. The prime suspect is Dr. Kananga (Yaphet Kotto), the ruler of San Monique and a U.N. diplomat. With the help of his good friend, CIA agent Felix Leiter (David Hedison), Bond follows Kananga and his henchmen through the streets of New York, during which he has a run-in with a mysterious drug lord named Mr. Big. Stopping off briefly in San Monique, Bond discovers that Kananga is the head of a massive heroin operation, and has a plan that will make him the one and only distributor of the drug. Aided by his gorgeous “advisor”, Solitaire (Jane Seymour), Kananga thwarts Bond’s every attempt to disrupt his operation. But how long will it be before Solitaire succumbs to 007’s charms?

Relying more on his wit than his fists, Roger Moore makes for a lighter, more humorous Bond, with a one-liner for every single occasion. Even when facing danger, Moore’s 007 usually finds a way to make us smile (his escape from the alligator-infested swamp is a prime example). While much different from Connery’s (and even Lazenby’s) take on the character, this approach works to Moore’s advantage (he was, after all, in his mid-40s when he took on the role), and would follow him through each of his seven films in the series. What’s more, Live and Let Die gives us a villain unlike any Bond had faced previously, a man whose unyielding faith in tarot cards puts him one step ahead of 007 in nearly every situation. Thanks to Yaphet Kotto’s understated performance (only once or twice does he get “flashy”), Kananga is one eerie Bond villain, but it’s two of his henchmen: Tee Hee (Julius Harris), a giant of a man with a metal hook for an arm; and Baron Samedi (Geoffrey Holder), a voodoo master with a decidedly sinister laugh, who make the biggest impression. And as Bond girls go, you can’t do much better than Jane Seymour’s Solitaire, a tarot card expert and one of the most beautiful women 007 would ever encounter.

While Live and Let Die marked a definite shift in tone from the previous movies, it still featured plenty of those things that made the Bond films such a hit with audiences, including gadgets (Bond’s wristwatch is also a super-magnet, able to deflect a bullet or, more importantly, unzip the back of a ladies’ dress), an exotic opening credits sequence (as well as a kick-ass Paul McCartney theme song), a variety of locations (Bond spends quite a bit of time in New York, San Monique, and New Orleans), and fast-paced action (there’s an exciting scene set in New York, where Bond attempts to steer an out-of-control car through heavy traffic, but the highlight of the movie is a high-speed boat chase in the swamps of Louisiana, with Bond on the run from both Kananga’s men and the local authorities). And even though Desmond Llewellyn’s “Q” is nowhere to be found, both Bernard Lee’s “M” and Lois Maxwell’s Miss Moneypenny make an early appearance (turning up at Bond’s apartment), thus tying Live and Let Die in with the rest of the series.

While Moore’s tenure as 007 would be tainted by a few of his later films, Live and Let Die, at the very least, got him off on the right foot.

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