Bondfest: Live and Let Die
Mission Dossier: Live and Let Die
The Year: 1973
The Director: Guy Hamilton
The Bond: Roger Moore
The Girl: Jane Seymour as Solitare
The Baddie: Dr Kananga/Mr Big, a Prime Minister/drug dealer, ably supported by his clawed henchman Tee Hee Johnson
Despite the initial murder at the United Nations, once again a change in Bond results in a change in atmosphere with Live and Let Die featuring voodoo, the Caribbean and New Orleans very early on. The audience is even given a glimpse into Bond’s apartment, a radical departure from the Connery films which kept this side of Bond’s life hidden from view.
Rather than a tale of world domination, Live and Let Die is essentially a story concerning the drug trade and one player’s intention to flood the market with free heroin in order to both drive out his competition and massively increase demand. Presumably wishing to tap into the popularity of blaxploitation of the time, the filmmakers attempt to shroud the story in numerous elements of the sub-genre – African American lingo, the music utilised, use of some questionable racial terms. There are also some questionable characters in this. The unnecessary presence of Quarrel Jr takes the viewer outside the world of the film and gets them thinking about Dr No rather than the one they are watching. Also, the presence of an infuriating Louisiana Sherriff threatens to ruin one of the best chase sequences in any Bond film.
I mentioned the notability of the couple of chase sequences in Diamonds are Forever and how they would dictate much of what would follow, and that comes to fruition in Live and Let Die. In fact, the numerous chase scenes in this film are possibly its most enjoyable aspect. They are well thought out, exhilaratingly shot and best of all have a creative range of vehicles. We see Bond attempting to outrun his enemies in a plain old car, a plane, a speedboat and best of all a double-decker bus. And like any self respecting double-decker bus scene, there is a run in with a low bridge. The entire film actually is distinguishable by a newfound focus on spectacle, Mr Bond’s run-in with a pool full of crocodiles and alligators another prime example. Refreshingly the emphasis on really poor special effects of the last couple of films appears to have fallen by the wayside, with a satisfying, legit explosion bringing the extended boat chase to a satisfying conclusion. Jane Seymour as the tarot card reader Solitaire gives one of the best performances by a Bond girl thus far. She gives a look of ethereality and backs that up with the use of her mannerisms and voice. Her performance is convincing, with the acting chops to convey fear and a wide range of other emotions really effectively. Despite some of the voodoo elements of the film being hit and miss, I think that the parts involving her work well and bring something to the film overall.
Live and Let Die is a return to form of sorts for the series, whilst not being in the same league as the first four Connery films. The storyline is pretty small in scope and the blaxploitation elements generally jar. But the focus on really well shot, creative chase sequences and the excellent performance from Jane Seymour means that there is a fair bit to enjoy in this one.
Verdict: Stubby of Reschs
- Thunderball (1965)
- Goldfinger (1964)
- Dr No (1962)
- From Russia with Love (1963)
- Live and Let Die (1973)
- Diamonds are Forever (1971)
- You Only Live Twice (1967)
- On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)