Live and Let Die (1973)


(director: Guy Hamilton; screenwriter: Tom Mankiewicz/based on the novel by Ian Fleming; cinematographer: Ted Moore; editors: Bert Bates/Raymond Poulton/John Shirley; music: George Martin; cast: Roger Moore (James Bond), Jane Seymour (Solitaire), Yaphet Kotto (Mr Big/Dr Kananga), Geoffrey Holder (Baron Samedi), Julius W. Harris (Tee Hee), Clifton James (Sheriff Pepper), Gloria Hendry (Rosie Carver), David Hedison (Felix Leiter), Bernard Lee (M), Lois Maxwell (Miss Moneypenny), Tommy Lane (Adam), Earl Jolly Brown (Whisper), Lon Satton (Harold Strutter), Roy Stewart (Quarrel Jr.), Arnold Williams (Cab Driver), Madeline Smith (Miss Caruso), Ruth Kempf (Mrs. Bell), Joie Chitwood (Charlie); Runtime: 121; MPAA Rating: PG; producers: Albert R. Broccoli/Harry Saltzman; United Artists; 1973-UK)
“Tacky and cartoonish.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The eight Bond film in the series trots out Roger Moore for the first time as Sean Connery’s replacement, as George Lazenby in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969) didn’t satisfy the public as the new Bond. It’s set in the fictional republic of San Monique in the Caribbean, Harlem and New Orleans. Paul McCartney & Wings sing the excellent theme song. Guy Hamilton (“Goldfinger “/”Diamonds Are Forever”/”Battle of Britain”) keeps things tacky and cartoonish (lowering it to the level of a Roadrunner cartoon), filled with timely blaxploitation humor and questionable voodoo (bordering on a racist take). In this entertaining but ridiculous Bond, that almost completely takes on a comic-strip look as written by Tom Mankiewicz, where the blacks are the villains and the white guys are the heroes. Bond fans might go for the exciting chases (that includes a double-decker bus losing its top deck and a Piper Cherokee plane destroying a small airport) and the ease in which Moore brings to the role, but Bond purists might descry at how far this one has veered from the rugged image of Connery’s believable Bond to this absurd spectacle that is seemingly all about the special effects and the stunt people and the Moore portrayal has him acting suave as a dapper international playboy but not that convincing as someone who could fight his way out of a jam.

Two MI6 agents and a United Kingdom’s delegate at the United Nations have been inexplicably and uniquely killed within a short time of each other in the UN, in New Orleans and in the island of San Monique. M (Bernard Lee) orders Bond (Roger Moore) to keep tabs on the suspicious prime minister of San Monique, Dr. Kananga (Yaphet Kotto), who is visiting NYC. Bond ventures into Harlem’s Fillet of Soul restaurant following a couple of Kananga’s cronies, but is easily spotted as the only white guy and taken prisoner by black gangsters who work for Mr. Big. When the thugs try to execute Bond in the back alley, he escapes and meets with the CIA’s Felix Leiter (David Hedison) in trying to determine Mr. Big’s connection with Kananga.

Bond next investigates in San Monique, and has black CIA agent Rosie Carver (Gloria Hendry) unexpectedly hook up with him. After an attempt on Bond’s life with a deadly snake and the disclosure of a frightened and inept Rosie as a double agent on Kananga’s payroll, Bond somehow infiltrates Kananga’s cliff top fortress that’s protected by voodoo. There Bond seduces Kananga’s Tarot card ‘ward’ Solitaire (Jane Seymour), a virgin seer whom the crime lord deems necessary to have by his side to see the future and who sees the truth only if she remains a virgin. They escape together from Kananga’s clutches and discover that Kananga is growing vast supplies of poppy in the fields that are undetected under nets. In New Orleans, Bond learns the heroin pushers are using the Fillet of Soul restaurant chain as points of free distribution to eliminate the white mafia from the drug business and gain new addicts for when they begin to sell the junk for big profits across the country. Bond is captured again by Mr. Big along with Solitaire, and must once again make a daring escape.

He does so from a crocodile pit, and also manages to destroy Kananga’s heroin-refining operation in New Orleans. This leads to a cartoonish speedboat chase along the Louisiana bayous with the bad guys and a redneck sheriff (Clifton James) in pursuit. Bond then returns to the Caribbean island to track down Kananga, who has returned there with Solitaire in tow. 007 rescues Solitaire from being sacrificed at a voodoo ceremony, while Leiter’s CIA agents bomb the poppy fields. Bond and Solitaire then locate Mr. Big’s/Kananga’s underground heroin refining plant and in hand-to-hand combat Bond manages to bring down Kananga and his giant henchman Whisper (Earl Jolly Brown). The last member of the black gang to get unarmed is the dangerous Tee Hee (Julius Harris), with his mechanical claw (lost his limb to a crocodile), who attacks Bond aboard a train. But the voodoo priest, Baron Samedi (Geoffrey Holder), a supernatural force who was supposedly killed in the poppy field raid, resurfaces in costume at the end to have the last laugh and prove that he’s indestructible–a product of voodoo’s magic.