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 Is Live and Let Die (1973) the "Marmite" James Bond Film?

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PostSubject: Is Live and Let Die (1973) the "Marmite" James Bond Film?    Tue Feb 26, 2013 1:03 am

This thread is designed to address what is surely one of the most overlooked James Bond films of them all - Roger Moore's debut as James Bond in Live and Let Die (1973). This film seems to be what I refer to here as a "Marmite" James Bond film, by which I mean to say - "You either love it or hate it", just like that selfsame bread spread favoured by butch lorry drivers.

There are many criticisms/comments to be made of Live and Let Die (1973) as a James Bond film. I will now list some of these points in summary form below:

1. It carries on the camp spoofiness first seen in DAF.
2. it has no plot to speak of - something about the supply of the drug heroin - the plot strand being the thinnest thread to hang the loose series of set pieces and action sequences together in semi-coherent form.
3. All the villains are black - query blatant racist undertones a la the Fleming 1954 Bond source novel - token good guys Harold Strutter/Quarrel Jnr.
4. There are too many silly scenes - introduction of Roger Moore as Bond in his house, Sheriff J.W. Pepper scenes, wedding boat scenes, Kanaga's inflated ego death, Baron Samedi laughing into camera in end credits, Mrs Bell Bleaker Flying School scene etc.
5. Jokey one-liners in place of character-driven storyline.
6. The Dr Kananga/Mr Big disguise is very poor - he looks more pasty white than black as Mr Big - one good villain is better than two weak villains. Yaphet Kotto is largely to blame for this fact as he refused to use the make-up job proffered and rather decided on his own alternative make-up job, according to John Brosnan in his book James Bond in the Cinema. After all of the Blofeld/SPECTRE hokum, Dr Kananga is a most refreshing changeof tack and he is one of ther better, if not one of the more memorable James Bond villains of the last 50 years. Yaphet Kotto plays Kananga to the hilt - he is indeed the black version of James Bond just as the later Francisco Scaramanga was the dark side of James Bond as seen in TMWTGG.
7. Has the feel of a TV episode more than a feature film - like a prolonged Tales of the Unexpected episode. Syd Cain and the lack of Ken Adam's sets accounts for the more low-key nature of the film - just like DAF and TMWTGG. It also has the feel of the supernatural/voodoo chillers of the Hammer horror films of the 1950s-1970s, especially The Devil Rides Out (1968).
8. The first example of the James Bond films jumping on the veritable bandwagon - the black action or "Blaxsploitation" picture - all black casts like in Shaft or Superfly and countless others...Bond films from here on in become trend-followers, not trend-setters. Use of early 1970s lingo further dates the film to a certain time and place. "Honky", "Pimpmobile", "Waste him.", "Klu Klux Klan cook-out" etc. The requisite plot involving drugs - the novel version of LALD had been about Mr Big, SMERSH agent, smuggling gold coins to fund foreign SMERSH operations.
9. James Bond is mostly clueless throughout and the black villains seemingly outwit him at every turn.
10. Seems as thogh the producers/director/screenwriter are trying to avoid any overt comparisons with Sean Connery as James Bond - no typical Q scene, no proper M office-bound briefing, no proper Moneypennny scene, no hat tossing, no martinis ordered, Walther PPK unused (Tee Hee destroys it early on). Use of Colt .45. Moore Bond wears prefect's best "preppy" clothes and sterotypical black spy fit at the end.
11. LALD goes against the established James Bond formula - no Q to show the secrets of his gadgetry - buzz saw on watch.
12. Changes in the nature of the James Bond character construct - more of a cad and a bounder, the Eton drop-out "Englishman abroad"/"Englishman in New York", deflowers Solitaire throgh trickery of stacked deck, ungentlemanly of Bond - not what we've come to expect - far from the novel Bond whop defended the helpless and didn't mistreat women or take advantage of the vulnerable in society.
13. More graphically violent - see shooting in Voodoo scene, Kanangas cutting Bond's arm - draws blood, Bond throws petrol in Adam's eyes, stabbing, Tee Hee thrown from train - defenceless as arm locked, Kananga hitting Solitaire,
"humorous" maltreatment of Mrs Bell ("She's in intensive care, but she'll pull through.") A nasty James Bond following on from its very nasty predecessor DAF.
14. LALD is basically Dr. No II - many similarities between the both debut Bond films, but then so are YOLT, TSWLM and TND, LTK and QoS, MR and DAD etc.

This is my list of points so far - I may add more to it in time through the post editing function.

I'd now really love to hear the views of BaB members on what I have dubbed the "Marmite" James Bond film - Live and Let Die, which sees its 40th Anniversary on 5 July 2013. I'm currently writing a lengthy and alternative-based review of the film and I want to get a cross-section of views on this film, which, despite my criticisms here, I actually rather like!

I'm sure that most of us would agree that Live and Let Die is massively underrated as a James Bond film and as its unique to the James Bond canon, what better way to celebrate its 40th Anniversary in 2013 than to give it the reappraisal that it more than deserves!

Keep the posts coming!

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PostSubject: Re: Is Live and Let Die (1973) the "Marmite" James Bond Film?    Tue Feb 26, 2013 7:29 am

Thanks for making an end-all final debate thread for my favorite film, and indeed the one that is the most overlooked. Here's some response to your points:
1. Not really. It goes back to a low-key tone and is very reminiscent of Dr. No in many regards. This was Tom Mankewicz's only solo script and it has some positives from being totally from a fresh perspective, but some downsides to lacking the Bond pen of Dick Maibaum.
2. No, the plot is very simple, again like Dr. No. Agents are killed and 007 is sent to investigate why, led towards individuals, uncovers true secret plot after villain confrontation, destroys accordingly.
3. I've never taken this line of thought very seriously to be honest. The novel sets the basic premise, and the locations are naturally populated this way-Harlem, sections of New Orleans, San Monique/Jamaica. In any case it is like the novel and feels very much of the Earth of which the setting is.
4. This may be to an extent, and it does harken to Mank's later work on the first two Superman films. But they are always integrated into the plotting going on and don't stick out too horribly. But the end shot being silly? It's damn iconic!
5. No. Bond's characterization alone is one of the best in the series, and easily Roger's 007 pinnacle.
6. Yep. The makeup is terrible and you get to a point where it becomes unavoidable. But the performance is excellent, and Kotto effectively exudes the feeling of Kanaga's desire for power. The reveal scene is brilliantly staged, by the pulling off of the nose gradually. Kotto is great in his jumping from hopping mad crime boss to slick and slightly bemused villain.
7. Here I disagree, because the scope and usage of the locations gives more of a realistic feeling than anything else, again like Dr. No. There is brilliant color usage and Moore's camerawork is very good being the first Bond since Goldfinger to be shot flat. DAF looks more television like save for Ken Adam's more fantastic designs. Mainly because of the camerawork and drab feeling throughout.
8. Well they always stayed with trends as best as possible, and I'd argue that they didn't start following until FYEO and the more sedate Glen tenure. Here they obviously capitalized on a going trend but wisely used it with the story property they had to adapt.
9. I don't quite know how you got this idea, but here Roger's Bond is consistently many steps ahead of the other characters and part of the joy is seeing how he almost sadistically takes them apart with almost cold unfeeling. How many times does he offer up Solitaire to the villains for punishment and/or death?
10. They did but that was confined to generalities like no vodka martinis-hence the bourbon and water-no tuxedo, no cigarettes-hence Roger's cigar early on. Moving the briefing to Bond's flat is an attempt to liven things up a bit and get out of the same repetition of the office scene. Q is not present because Desmond Lewellyn was under prior commitments, rumored to be press for DAF!
11. We get the promise of what the gadget will do and thus are in complete suspense waiting for its usage at the critical moment in keeping with Cubby's gadget principle. But the buzzsaw should have been mentioned so it didn't seem like it was pulled out of nowhere.
12. To en extent the actor defines the character, but there's also the script, the times affecting production, the director and the direction of the film itself. Roger is both suave and brutal, and more like a natural reflection of Connery. He had obviously read some Fleming before the shoot, because it reflects in his relative darkness that isn't found naturally in any other of his Bond performances. Solitaire is just a girl in the film, and Bond coldly calculates that by sleeping with her that he can get the information he needs for his mission by his sheer prowess alone. What he doesn't count on is her complete innocence and actual power of the occult. He manipulates and defies everyone in the film as Bond would and should do. It's more subtle than Connery would have done and has a great deal of depth that never gets explored.
13. This is best represented in Connery's statement around the time of DAF: "These are comic strips for adults." But with Mank coming on board the Bond films became much less straight-faced and much more wink-wink at the audience while attempting to be a bit more on the level of general reality. The grittier tone of LALD is one of it's strong points and makes for a fantastic setting for this film much like Dr. No.
14. LALD is basically Dr. No II-as I keep referring to it throughout, yes yes and yes. They are extremely similar in tone and setting, and both are lower budgeted gritty films early on in their decade that accurately reflect that particular time period. Both feature standout lead performances with a certain subtlety and depth never seen again form their actors, assured direction, dark humor, down to earth villains, simplistic and somewhat innocent women, island settings, and are even photographically similar.

This is my personal favorite film of all time, the film that got me into both Bond and cinema as a youngster-which are both my life pursuits.
As a Bond obsessive and one who takes these things too seriously, aside from FRWL and OHMSS this is one of the best films in the series. I get beyond frustrated with its lack of acceptance for the blaxploitation elements and some of the more overt jokes such as JW Pepper. It is a remarkable little film that has a dark serious tone, a realistic down to earth plot, simple but lush locations, a great deal of spirit and most importantly that essential element of adventure that left the series long ago and is central to the character.
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PostSubject: Re: Is Live and Let Die (1973) the "Marmite" James Bond Film?    Tue Feb 26, 2013 9:30 pm

Wow! Thank you so much for the depth and quality of your reply there, hegottheboot! A lot of food for thought there and thanks for calling my thread an "end-all final debate thread" on LALD. I'm glad you found my post of interest. As I said above, may add a few more points at some point. I'm currently in the process of writng a new article for my blog entitled 'Stranger in a Strange Land - An Alternative Review of LALD (1973)'.

Thanks again for reading and replying.

I'd love to hear more views on LALD from members of BaB forums... :D
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PostSubject: Re: Is Live and Let Die (1973) the "Marmite" James Bond Film?    Tue Feb 26, 2013 10:27 pm

Quote :
Is Live and Let Die (1973) the "Marmite" James Bond Film?

There's an analogy that could land you in hot water. laugh

Overall, not a huge fan of LALD. It feels a bit like a cheapo Saturday afternoon movie. The voodoo stuff feels out of place in the Bondiverse. Moore lacks some of the panache of his future performances. The Rosie character was irritating as hell. The boat chase is mind-numbingly long. Jay Dubya Salt had way too much screentime.

I enjoyed the finale on Kananga's island though. It wasn't a big shebang like the Fort Knox raid or Star Wars Episode IV-and-a-half outside Drax's space station, but I liked that about it.
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PostSubject: Re: Is Live and Let Die (1973) the "Marmite" James Bond Film?    Wed Feb 27, 2013 3:47 pm

Love it. Always have.

I may write more gush later, when I'm not so tired...
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