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 Live and Let Die in Review

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PostSubject: LIVE AND LET DIE (1973)   Sat Apr 10, 2010 9:57 am



With Sean Connery vowing never again to play Bond, the series was on to it's third leading man in as many movies. Never one to oversell his dramatic abilities, nor to raise a fist when an eyebrow might do, Moore’s readiness with a pithy quip and unmatched urbanity is embraced by a lighter tone that runs through the film’s voodoo hysteria and escalating carnage.

Continuing the Stateside foray of ‘Diamonds Are Forever’, James finds himself rubbing shoulders with the full gamut of blaxploitation stereotypes on the mean streets of Harlem and hurtling through Louisiana in a rip-roaring speedboat chase. He slowly unravels a plot that revolves around a vast heroin-smuggling venture which Yaphet Kotto is running from behind a smokescreen of black magic that shrouds the poppy fields he’s cultivating on the Caribbean island of San Monique.

The whole thing plays out more like an action-packed romp than a bona fide spy film, but it contains plenty of high-octane set pieces and a diverting array of baddies that makes for a highly entertaining effort and marks a promising start to Roger’s spell as Bond.

(Adam Lee Davies)
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PostSubject: Live and Let Die in Review   Tue Mar 15, 2011 2:22 pm

Post your thoughts on Roger Moore's first Bond outing!

Here's mine, as archived from a legacy post on Old MI6!

Give or Take a Few Minutes
A Review of Live and Let Die by Fairbairn-Sykes

Live and Let Die (1973) marks a true transition moment for the Bond film franchise from EON productions. Now that Sean Connery was truly no longer Bond, the first obvious step was to find a new one. After years of rumours and heresay, Roger Moore (most famous previously for his role in TV's The Saint) was finally anointed Bond. Perhaps in an attempt to soften the blow of the new Bond, not much was changed in the formula from Connery's last picture — Diamonds Are Forever. EON retained the same director, screenwriter, and general mood.
And it is a different mood from the earlier Bonds, more emphasis on fun, stunts, humour than its predecessors. Now that the SPECTRE plot of TB-DAF was out of the way, the order of the films, now completely diverged from Fleming, didn't matter, so it seems his second book – Live and Let Die – was selected as the eighth film to exploit the large black presence so Bond could compete with the burgeoning "blaxploitation" genre of the era.
Moore's later trademarks playing Bond come off less severely here – but one thing is clear: he is almost the opposite of Connery's Bond. Connery's Bond was a cold hearted killer who could be charming and funny when need arose – Moore's Bond is charming and funny, but can still perform cold hearted acts when need be.
As for the film's relation to the book – well let's take a page from I, Robot and say it was more "inspired by" than "based on" the novel by Ian Fleming. It seems like the producers told the screenwriter what was needed – more action, more fun, more humour – and then Mankiewicz simply picked and chose what elements from the novel he liked and used them. This practice, started with DAF and YOLT, of picking and choosing elements of Fleming to use as opposed to simply adapting the novels became the working tradition of the Bond films until 2006. A fan of the novel can spot the influences – the scene where Bond is interrogated with the threat of Tee Hee breaking his fingers being the most direct – but also the presence of black villains, voodoo, Solitaire, the spinning table in the restaurant, Mr. Big's network of spies and communication, Felix and Quarrel (now Quarrel Jr.), a trip on a train, and Caribbean sharks. Unfortunately, with LALD now the 8th Bond adventure instead of 2nd, the train, the sharks and other elements feel retreaded, as opposed to innovative. An interesting departure from the book is that the voodoo element and Solitaire's powers take a much heavier role in the story – though Fleming's realistic depiction of voodoo has been reduced to the common white view of the religion as a "boogeyman" style of worship.
As for the soundtrack, this is one of those rare Bonds which lack John Barry – instead we Gerald Martin, Beatles producer, who delivers a workmanlike job which is not so much impressive for its quality – but simply for showing Martin can score a film as well as he produces rock and roll. But enough of the petty criticism! Let's rate this thing!
PHYSICAL EXERTION (ACTION): While Live and Let Die doesn't skimp on stunts and action, it suffers from said action being rather forced in execution. An early sequence involving Bond and girl Solitaire being shot at through poppy fields by a helicopter is boring, at times outlandish, and generally unconvincing – a far cry from the exciting helicopter attack in From Russia With Love ten years earlier. A car chase involving Bond driving a Double Decker Bus is similarly boring, and begins a long standing Bond tradition of chases which substitute suspense and excitement for mindless explosions and reckless property damage. The "crocodile jump" is indeed an exciting stunt, however, and the entire scene at "The Farm" counts as a highlight of the film. The most oft-cited "exciting action sequence" in the film is the notorious boat chase – strangely enough, it is my least favourite scene. I find it overly long, boring, overdone, and in light of the earlier bus chase extremely unnecessary – one of the two should have been deleted. A chance at an exciting scene – a knife fight with villain Kananga, is lost, because by this time the cinematic Bond is so invincible that a knife fight is so challenge to him. The film continues from DAF what would become a Moore Bond tradition – henchmen who outlived their villains – and so we get a final fight with Tee Hee aboard a train. This disappointing encounter mocks and ruins the classic Bond/Grant fight in FRWL just as much as Jinx does Honey Ryder in DAD. Tee Hee's metal arm makes neither an interesting addition – nor does it even really figure into the fight at all before Bond exploits it. Strange how poor Tee Hee's arm is compared to Dr. No's superior metal hands over ten years earlier.
While Live and Let Die certainly delivers quantity, it fails completely when it comes to quality, which earns it a lacklustre 5/10 for physical exertion.
MYSTERY (PLOT): The plot of Live and Let Die also, unfortunately, fails to impress. The rather workmanlike plot of the novel is largely dispensed with – though some of its elements remain – for example both entities are largely chase driven. But the film would've fared a lot better had it kept even just the structure of the novel. Instead we get a winding narrative that simply strikes most of the scenes as seeming redundant. Bond goes to New York and a Fillet of Soul to San Monique to a chase scene to New Orleans and another Fillet of Soul to Louisiana and another chase scene to San Monique again – and all the while you slowly lose interest. Where the film really stops grabbing attention is right after The Farm sequence. Up until that point the film had some fairly suspenseful scenes and a nice, if unimaginative, storyline. The villain's scheme to smuggle heroin and sell it free struck me as pretty smart when I was younger – but now I realize that the idea of hooking your consumer and then raising the price isn't all that brilliant. But once you start the third act, it really is running on autopilot. Plot holes become legion, and the only really suspenseful scene is the voodoo sacrifice of Solitaire. For featuring a rather humdrum chase plot that loses coherence about two-thirds through, Live and Let Die's mystery gets a 3/10.
A RUTHLESS ENEMY (DRAMA): In his first official effort as 007, Roger Moore fares pretty well. It soon becomes clear that he is neither portraying Sean Connery's version of the character, nor Fleming's. Judging on his own merits, it seems his performance is mostly informed by a portrayal of the character he had done for a British sketch comedy show. He downplays the violent and brutal side of the character in favour of the charming, cultured side – but there are a few scenes where the ruthless determination inherent in Bond shows through. Jane Seymour gives a good, but slight confused performance as the beautiful Solitaire. She seems uncertain as to how mature to play the character, and awkward lines like "This is the first time in my life I feel like a complete woman" don't help the matter. David Hedison provides perhaps the best portrayal of Felix Leiter in the series, and makes one wish there had been further appearances by Hedison's Leiter during the Moore era. The most useless character in the film, is of course Clifton James' Sheriff J.W. Pepper – supposedly comic relief, this character merely adds to the failure that is the boat chase and is thoroughly uninteresting. Meanwhile, Yaphet Kotto (soon to be "of Alien fame") acts his heart out for the Kananga character – all to unfortunately no avail, since the film's poor writing often leaves Kotto with little to do. What interesting dramatic angles there are in Mankiewicz's script are often looked over in favour of more humour and action – but the best of such moments often come from Kotto. A nice try, but ultimately a failed one, earns Live and Let Die's ruthless enemy a 4/10.
Overall, the best sequences in Live and Let Die are the opening and the ending. The opening features an interesting and well played pre-titles sequence followed by excellent titles by Maurice Binder, and the film's most successful element – it's Paul McCartney theme song. The end of the film features an alarming and interesting scene of a laughing Baron Samedi, followed by similarly good end credits.
Between these two areas, the film is simply coasting. It's an arguably strong start for Moore's Bond, but it's plot is too low key and action scenes too boring. It borrows too much from the series' previous entry, also. The film would really benefit from some re-editing to remove useless and redundant scenes, and maybe re-arrange the timeline to form a more coherent plot.
There's a scene in the novel, where the villain Mr. Big describes how he is going to kill Bond (a scene not used in the films until For Your Eyes Only) and states that Bond will die at 6 pm, "give or take a few minutes". Bond asks Big to give him those minutes – but when it comes to this film I would've preferred if the editor had taken some.
Live and Let Die (1973) 4 out of 10.
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PostSubject: Re: Live and Let Die in Review   Tue Mar 15, 2011 3:02 pm


Post it in point by point format:

1. My favourite Moore/Bond outing. Most say he got it right during the third film, I say he was comfortable from here onwards. Didn't take anything from Connery, did his own interpretation as per the image he had among the TV viewers.
2. Best non-Barry score. Seriously, I listened to it a lot.
3. I love the henchmen. Mr. Big could have been the most awesome bad guy if not for the way he was killed.
4. I have no problem with the boat chase. Long, but fun.
5. Despite the fun, gaiety, cheers, the film still had a bit of darkness in it. The voodoo subject contributes, for one. And then, the violence is dark too. It could have been harder edged, I guess LTK, which is supposed to be its direct sequel, took care of that.

That's all for now.
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PostSubject: Re: Live and Let Die in Review   Sat Mar 26, 2011 1:53 pm

Live and Let Die (1973) - 7/10
Roger Moore’s first film is an extremely dated, yet fairly solid picture. Jane Seymour as the naive Solitare is Moore’s best leading lady, and main villain Kananga is played with some nice flair by Yaphet Kotto. Tee Hee and Baron Samedi might be the most underrated lackeys of the series also. But I did have more of an issue with bumbling J.W. Pepper than I remembered. Every time he started to talk I silently prayed for him to shut up. He also half ruins an already too long boat chase (which was in dire need of more musical score backing it up). It was also during the boat chase where I felt Live and Let Die start to drag. And then there is Sir Roger. To me, he played the role conservatively, a neither here nor there affair. He isn’t poor by any means but some actors (Connery and Craig) established their superiority in their very first scenes. (Despite Moore’s complete Bond character not being fully present in LALD, we do get plenty of his trademark eyebrow.) So Live and Let Die has JW Pepper and runs long, but as a whole it is still a modestly entertaining piece.
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PostSubject: Re: Live and Let Die in Review   Wed Nov 22, 2017 11:37 am

I don't think I liked it.  I feel hardly anything happened in the plot, and I was just getting a series of action set pieces, where as if you took one out the movie, would still hold together a lot, and it really didn't matter.

Plus they don't really do a lot to explore Kananga's plan. Once Kananga describes his big plan, Bond escapes, and goes to rescue solitaire (again), and kill the bad guys, and that's the end of the movie.

Usually Bond plots have a big build up, with the plan, being the finale, which I like.  But this plan was as forgotten the moment it was introduced it seemed.  Yaphet Kotto does a good job acting wise, but he isn't given much to work with here.

Seymour was not bad per say, but I really didn't like Rosie Carver, and found her to be one of the worst Bond girls in the series.  I also actually like Pepper, but perhaps they dragged him out too long, but he was funny for the first half of the chase for sure.

Some of the humor was really tacky, like the close up wide eyes of Ms. Bell, or lines of tacky dialogue, such as "I'll take you to a Ku Klux Klan cookout, for that money".  I was thinking Okay???

So this is one of the least best when it comes to attempts at humor for sure.
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PostSubject: Re: Live and Let Die in Review   Thu Nov 23, 2017 11:39 pm

Admittedly, it has consistently been toward the bottom of my ranking, but you're right in that it's action orientated and not necessarily for the good. 

Re-reading your post, I actually agree with a lot of your sentiments, however the humour and the dialogue are probably the film's biggest strengths. Mankiewicz is Bond's supreme wit-maker. Mediocre on plot, however.
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PostSubject: Re: Live and Let Die in Review   Sun Apr 22, 2018 7:25 pm

Oh okay. Well I don't get why it's often regarded by fans as one of the good ones, and one of Moore's best. I feel that it's his second worst, after The Man with the Golden Gun, for the reasons I mentioned yet so many fans say it's one of the best, and I wanna like it and see what everyone else is seeing but just can't put my finger on it.
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PostSubject: Re: Live and Let Die in Review   Wed Apr 25, 2018 7:41 am

This is a question of preferences and taste. I wouldn't bother so much if other people like it and you don't. You probably like things in other films that they don't. I like to listen to other people's preferences but I still keep mine.
That's why it's good to have 24 films to chose from, isn't it? smile
I think I said that before; if we all liked the same stuff, this place would be pretty boring. We would have nothing to talk about.
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PostSubject: Re: Live and Let Die in Review   Thu May 17, 2018 2:32 pm

I think its in many ways an attempt to give Roger a DN esque entry, and the film itself is eerily similar in many ways not counting shooting in Jamaica. I'd argue only some elements are dated and properly so since this is a 1973 film-however it is certainly proper to see intelligent villains with humanity and pathos and charm so I do not and have never considered this film to be exploitative. It successfully incorporates the ongoing trends of blaxploitation and early 70's grittier urban thrillers.

The score is the finest non-Barry one in the series and one of the all time great film scores. The photography is very good and I've always loved the way the color is used to invoke both atmosphere and the locations-particularly the tropical scenes. Roger is at his best and shows his tougher side that most mere ignorant mortals choose to ignore because the Internet says he was too light.

It is also my favorite film of all time, the film that got me into Bond and films in general and the first film I ever rented at age four. I can debate its merits till the end of time.
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PostSubject: Re: Live and Let Die in Review   Tue May 29, 2018 1:03 pm

Oh okay. I just felt Dr. No had a much better thread pulling plot to unravel, where as Live and Let Die has mainly a rescue of a woman that was extended to two hours it felt.

I thought it was cool though how they incorporated blaxploitation into the setting.

The photography is quite good, I agree. I think the score is actually the least best of the whole series to be honest. It's not terrible, just okay.
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PostSubject: Re: Live and Let Die in Review   Wed May 30, 2018 2:25 pm

Well it is really about heroin smuggling and Kananga's attempt to knock the Mafia out of the drug trade.

I don't get how anyone can think Martin's score is merely okay though. I've always felt it was among the most thrilling scores ever made.
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PostSubject: Re: Live and Let Die in Review   Wed Jun 06, 2018 3:53 pm

Oh okay, I just find it to be the worst score, and it sounds generic for me.

As for the villains plan, I feel it's not really explored or executed at all though. Once the villain explains his plan to Bond, that's it, and it's never taken any further, and just forgotten about really.

I mean imagine if in Goldfinger, after Goldfinger explains his plan, Bond then decides to turn Pussy Galore good, and kill all of the bad guys on Goldfingers ranch, and then it's the end of the movie. We never get to Fort Knox at all, and Goldfinger's plan was just an idea that was never taken any further than that. It would be anti-climatic, no?

That's how I felt about the plotting of LALD.
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PostSubject: Re: Live and Let Die in Review   Wed Jun 06, 2018 4:34 pm

hegottheboot wrote:

I don't get how anyone can think Martin's score is merely okay though. I've always felt it was among the most thrilling scores ever made.

Yep, if it weren't for the score, I'd probably place LALD lower in my estimations. Best thing in the film.
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PostSubject: Re: Live and Let Die in Review   Sun Jun 10, 2018 7:22 pm

I think Mankiewicz takes a different tack than dong the traditional method the series used in terms of villain schemes. Remember the film is ostensibly first about agent deaths then heroin smuggling. Later in the finale Kananga reveals to Bond how the poppy is converted and transported to the US to be refined in secret labs such as the one in the crocodile farm.

However I will admit that this is the closest the series gets to pure adventure storytelling and in ways it is an early template for later action film scenarios-but again I would like to point out that there are a great number of similarities to DN and they weren't really allowed to do Fleming's novel straight with the sunken pirate treasure etc.
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