James Bond gets yet another makeover with a third actor, Roger Moore, in Live and Let Die. Read on to see what I thought about the 8th official film and Moore’s performance as 007.
Whether it was due to my own personal lowered expectations or the subpar quality of Diamonds Are Forever, my first experience with a Roger Moore film turned out to be rather pleasant. As I stated with George Lazenby, it was certainly different, but it was pleasant nonetheless. Yes, Live and Let Die did have its unbelievable moments, and yes, it did get silly, but there were enough other redeeming qualities to allow me to enjoy it.
The first thing I noticed, partially because I’ve been paying attention to it in every film thus far, is that this was the first entry in the Bond series where 007 is hatless in the classic intro. Maybe it was because we had officially entered the 70s (a fact that would be strongly reinforced by other elements of Live and Let Die) and fedoras were no longer chic, but maybe it was also a way to tell audiences subtly, “We are entering a new era of James Bond.”
I really enjoyed the title song as well, something I haven’t touched on yet. I understand there are those who have great affection for some of the earlier Bond title songs, but this was the first one I heard that I felt could have stood on its own merits. Not only that, I thought I detected something distinctly Beatles-esque about it, so I wasn’t surprised to discover it was by Paul McCartney and Wings.
Then Roger Moore makes a rather anticlimactic debut screen appearance as Bond, lying in bed with an Italian agent. I thought it was effective to introduce him so nonchalantly, as the grand reveal of George Lazenby in OHMSS felt a little too cheeky to me. Overall, as I did with Lazenby, I found Moore to be an acceptable Bond. I will admit it took me a little while to become comfortable with his slighter build and gentler demeanor; he felt classier, if not as smooth as his predecessors. For me, the progression of Bond from Connery to Lazenby to Moore was a gradual transition into the more gentlemanly Bond that I had always imagined in my mind, so ultimately I was willing to accept it and move on.
As for the quality of the film itself, I was prepared for the camp, so I wasn’t surprised by the goofier elements. The African-American stereotypes that inundate especially the early scenes didn’t shock me as much as they would have otherwise; I was willing to accept the idea that a crime boss might rely heavily on tarot readings; and I hardly batted an eyelash at the oddball scenes of comic relief (the bug-eyed flight student woman, for example). I did little more than chuckle dismissively when the incredible boat chase later in the movie devolved into The Dukes of Hazzard on water.
Speaking of which, the action in the movie is very watchable, particularly the aforementioned boat chase. The only problem I have with them was that the bad guys in Live and Let Die have to be some of the worst drivers ever. They’re flying motorcycles off ramps and dying, veering off roads and into rivers, plowing into parked planes at full speed, throttling boats into trees and cop cars. In short, they’re conveniently handicapped in judgment when they’re behind the wheel of a moving vehicle. Nice for the action choreographer, but a little nonsensical nonetheless.
Jane Seymour is Solitaire, the tarot reading Bond girl who works for the film’s villain, Mr. Big (played by Yaphet Kotto), and another “bad girl turned good” by Bond. I didn’t recognize her at first, because I’d never seen her at this point in her career; she’s fairly stunning here. On top of that, she’s one of the few Bond girls with legitimate acting chops, which is more than I can say for the other Bond girl who gets significant screen time, Rosie Carver (played by Gloria Hendry). Geez Louise, she could not act her way out of an invisible box. It’s absolutely embarrassing to watch her on screen, and I was almost relieved when she was finally offed by the silliest voodoo scarecrow I’ve ever seen.
In conclusion, while Live and Let Die was a far cry from the earlier Connery films, I still found it more enjoyable than not. I can see that Bond will be defined by a very different tone now, and it seems the makers of the films are fairly self-aware about this. If they’re willing to push things to the limit, fine, I’m willing to match them step for step and go along for the ride. I am well prepared to receive the rest of the Roger Moore films, so I say, “Bring it on!”
Favorite line: “Get me a make on a white pimpmobile!”
Favorite moment: Mr. Big, who in my opinion is an interesting but relatively forgettable villain, is engaged in the final struggle with Bond. Bond forces a special capsule into Mr. Big’s mouth, causing him to expand like Professor Klump, float to the ceiling, and explode. Wow.