Thursday, July 11, 2013
LIVE AND LET DIE
(June 1973, U.S.)
(This movie poster's for YOU, Richard K. I know it's your favorite!)
Okay, so now it's the year 1973 and I'm quite sure fans of the James Bond franchise were scratching their heads and asking "WTF??" I mean, first Sean Connery is out, then some guy no one ever heard of named George Lazenby (ON HER MAJESTY"S SECRET SERVICE) is in, then he's out, then Sean Connery is back (DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER) and then he's out again! Like I said, a great big "WTF??" It was time for a fresh Bond reboot, and this time, perhaps one that would actually WORK, because frankly, the two Bond titles I just mentioned did not work at all, in my opinion. Enter Roger Moore, formerly of TV's THE SAINT, who fills in the shoes very nicely. In fact, I'll confess to you right now, that despite the fact that Connery is consistently considered the best Bond by fans all over the world, I've always felt that Moore delivered a more charming, stylish and sophisticated, classic English approach to Ian Flemming's character and thus, has always been my favorite Bond player since I first saw him in MOONRAKER as a kid. Yes, I'll say it again to all of you Bond fanatics who possibly think I'm just a little crazy...Roger Moore is my favorite James Bond (please don't kill me!).
Actually, since I've mentioned MOONRAKER, there's something I should bring to your immediate attention because it's this particular film that's always gotten a lot of negative flack because of it's rather "sell-out" approach to cashing in on the runaway success of STAR WARS just two years prior. That accusation may be very well justified, but let's consider for a moment that LIVE AND LET DIE sold it's soul first by cashing in during the height of the blaxploitation era of the early 1970s. Never before (and never since) had a James Bond film been filled with so much soul and so many derogatory racial archetypes and clichés. It departs from the former plots of the Bond films about megalomaniac super-villains, and instead focuses on drug trafficking, depicted primarily in said blaxploitation films. In this film, a Harlem drug lord known as Mr. Big (played by Yaphet Kotto) plans to distribute two tons of heroin free to put rival drug barons out of business. Mr. Big, however, is revealed to be the disguised alter ego of Dr. Kananga (also played by Kotto), a corrupt Caribbean dictator, who rules San Monique, the fictional island where the heroin poppies are secretly farmed. Bond is investigating the death of three British agents, leading him to Kananga, where he's soon trapped in a world of gangsters and voodoo as he fights to put a stop to the drug baron's scheme. Also included is an incredibly awesome boat chase sequence in the waters of New Orleans with the very comical redneck Sheriff J.W. Pepper (played by Clifton James) and an alligator sequence that still gives me chills when I watch it. It also has the ever-so-beautiful Jane Seymour in her debut role as Solitaire who is...how shall I put it...the most sexually delicious-looking Bond girl I've enjoyed looking at since Claudine Auger's character of Domino in THUNDERBALL (1965)! Unlike many (not all) of the other Bond girls, she's completely helpless and dependent on Bond and even looses her virginity to him, but I suppose political correctness and anti-sexism is the last thing I care about when I'm watching her on screen.
Despite it's immense popularity and some great action sequences, I can't claim that this James Bond film is one of my top favorites. There are, however, some very unique elements that make this one stand out from the others. Consider these film facts about LIVE AND LET DIE:
1. This is the first Bond film to finally feature an opening song by a rock band with Paul McCartney & Wings (no intended disrespect to Shirley Bassey).
2. This is the only Bond film in the entire franchise to ever feature on-location shooting in New York City.
3. This is the only Bond film in the entire franchise to feature an African-American Bond super-villain.
4. This is the only Roger Moore Bond film that pairs him with his CIA colleague Felix Leiter. Felix is not in any of the others.
5. This is the only Bond film where we actually get to go inside Bond's primary residence. Think about it...he's always staying in hotels in every other film.
Now here's another fact about James Bond that LIVE AND LET DIE brings to my attention. In every situation, Bond is predictably fearless, as he should be. But it's pretty obvious that he's scared shitless of lethal animals. In this film, it's a snake and alligators. In DR. NO (1962), it was a hairy tarantula! In OCTOPUSSY (1983), he's highly startled by a tiger (though he ridiculously gets him to "Sit"!) I suppose we can't blame the guy for getting the "heebee-jeebees" over certain things in life. Nobody's perfect...not even Bond.
Favorite line or dialogue:
Sheriff J.W. Pepper (to Bond): "What are you? Some kinda doomsday machine, boy? Well we got a cage strong enough to hold an animal like you here!"
Felix Leiter: "Captain, would you enlighten the Sheriff please?"
State Trooper: "Yes, sir. J.W., let me have a word with ya. J.W., now this fellow's from London, England. He's a Englishman workin' in cooperation with our boys, a sorta...secret agent."
J.W.: "Secret agent?? On WHOSE side??"