My James Bond Retrospective: Live and Let Die.

At this point, I feel it’s necessary for me to tell you about what might be informing my opinions about these movies (and I’m sure might have informed your opinions at some point or another as well). My enjoyment of one particular Bond film is often influenced by how I felt about the previous film. It might be unscientific to allow the previous Bond film to mar my opinion of its successor, but I feel I’m justified in doing so since a sequel should almost always be graded according to its predecessor.

Following Diamonds Are Forever, Broccoli and Saltzman attempted to re-cast Sean Connery as Bond. Thankfully, he declined. They turned to Clint Eastwood, who also declined, believing that Bond should be played by an Englishman. United Artists wanted an American, however, and Burt Reynolds, Paul Newman, and Robert Redford were all considered for the role. Eventually, Roger Moore was cast, creating a new style for Bond and ushering in a new era for the 007 franchise.

1973_live-and-let-dieOn July 6, 1973, the film premiered at Odeon Leicester Square in London. Though it didn’t receive rave reviews, Live and Let Die was positively received by critics and fans, who praised Moore for the calm and cool demeanor and humorous dimension that he added to the character of Bond.

The film starts off with the murders of three British agents in New York, New Orleans and San Monique. Bond is then sent to investigate their deaths and their connection to one Dr. Kananga. Bond’s exploits this time around take him to all three aforementioned locales, reintroduce him to CIA agent Felix Leiter (played this time by David Hedison), get him into bed with the tarot-card-reading Solitaire (played by newcomer Jane Seymour), and send him on an unnecessarily long boat chase through the Louisiana bayou.

All in all, Live and Let Die wasn’t a terrible film. It wasn’t great either. It suffered from some unusual pacing, a somewhat boring plot, and an overuse of blaxploitation tropes—a film genre that had gained an unfortunate amount of popularity in the 70s. While I appreciate the more lighthearted tone, particularly in the way Bond himself is portrayed, the film becomes almost too comedic at times. The character of Sheriff J. W. Pepper is a testament to the film not taking itself very seriously.

Jane Seymour makes for a beautiful Bond girl, but her acting abilities are still untested; this is her first film, after all. A great introduction to the actress, and she shows hints of her future greatness, but she’s got a long way to go. Still, in my opinion, her physical beauty is unmatched by the other Bond girls. It’s just unfortunate that the last time we saw a Bond girl this elegant and beautiful, she was an exceptional actress (Diana Rigg in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service), but it’s a bit unfair to be making that comparison.

The villain of this movie, Dr. Kananga/Mr. Big, was a fairly weak villain when compared with villains like Dr. No, Goldfinger, and Ernst Stavro Blofeld (as portrayed by Telly Savalas, not Charles Gray). Bond went from battling the world-threatening agents of the evil organization SPECTRE to duking it out with a drug lord looking for his next payout. Certainly better than the farce of Charles Gray’s Blofeld, but doesn’t hold a candle to the likes of Auric Goldfinger.

I didn’t dislike Roger Moore as 007. In fact, I quite enjoyed his portrayal of the character. While he was a bit stiff as Bond, I found him to be endearing and fun to watch. He carries himself with poise and class, something that Sean Connery was lacking in his portrayal of Bond. Where Sean Connery played Bond as a blunt instrument, Moore plays him as an elegant weapon. When M addresses him as “Commander,” I found myself really believing that this Bond had been a naval officer. He’s dashing, debonair, and suave.

However, the film as a whole bothered me a little. It lacked the poignancy of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and allowed for too much of the camp that plagued Diamonds Are Forever. Despite this, I consider Live and Let Die a worthy Bond film, just not a very good one.

My thoughts on this film are mixed, probably because of the two films that preceded it. Coming after Diamonds Are Forever, any film will look good, and I think that’s what’s taking place here. I view this film somewhat positively because of the fact that the previous film was that bad. However, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is still fresh in my mind, and Live and Let Die just can’t compare. So, I would probably say that this movie was a good departure from its predecessor, but fails to return to the greatness of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

An unfortunate entry point for Roger Moore, but I believe he’s worth another go-around. Fortunately, we’re afforded the opportunity to see him in action yet again…

Next up, The Man with the Golden Gun.

(Click here to go back to the list.)

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