Where is SPECTRE when you need it? Why waste the talents of that
superspy James Bond on something as mundane as tracking down a drug
trafficking operation? Devotees of the great Bond expect him to fight
organizations ready to set off the next world war. Even if we are
ready to lower our expectations, the eighth Bond film, LIVE AND LET DIE
from 1973, still disappoints at almost every turn.
Marketed as "Get Moore!", the show, starring Roger Moore,
delivered even less the one episode, ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE,
that starred George Lazenby as Bond. Whereas Lazenby tried to imitate
Connery's style, Moore doesn't seem to think style is even necessary.
He takes a by-the-numbers approach to the role.
Roger Moore, the third actor to play the classic James Bond
character, lacks the confidence and savoir-faire one has rightfully
come to expect from our hero, 007. Although Moore adequately copes
with every situation, he frequently seems less in charge than just
With Moore's lack of charisma, it will be interesting to see if he
eventually warmed up to the role in subsequent episodes. In this one
he acts like he is playing in some inconsequential TV movie of the
week. (Our family is watching all the Bond pictures in sequence, and
since I have not seen most of them since their original release, I
remember only parts of them.)
The beautiful and intelligent Jane Seymour, who went on to play
numerous other roles, my favorite being her part of Emma Fogarty in the
TV series "The Onedin Line," is listed in the opening credits as making
her movie debut. Actually her part in the film, as a fortuneteller
named Solitaire, who works for the story's villain, is her fourth
movie. Solitaire, with way too much makeup, wears such outlandish
outfits as a massive, red and green sequined cape with a large
headdress. Although we know now that Seymour's talent later blossomed,
in this move little of it is in evidence.
The black drug dealers in the movie with their big Afros, long
sideburns, and exaggerated gestures reminds one of those 1970's
low-budget films sometimes referred to as blacksploitation flicks. One
expects that genre's star, Pam Grier, to show up at any moment, but she
Set again in the Caribbean, the story pulses with a voodoo rhythm
and has poisonous snakes slinking around every corner. Bond goes to
the island to investigate a death, and after he arrives, more occur.
Geoffrey Holder, who did the famous 7-UP "uncola" commercials plays a
mysterious character who sings, dances and, of course, bursts out with
his signature, big, wicked laugh.
Yaphet Kotto, last seen in the awful TWO IF BY SEA, plays the
story's villain Kananga, a.k.a. Mr. Big. Arguably the happiest bad guy
Bond ever faces, he smiles so much that he never appears the least bit
In the worst part of the movie, Clifton James attempts the part of
Sheriff Pepper, a cliched, tobacco-chewing, redneck sheriff. His
overacting is so pathetic that it is embarrassing to watch.
The best scenes in the show involve New Orleans jazz-style funeral
processions. Twice, as a bystander watches and wonders who the corpse
is, he is killed and put in the casket, and the happy mourners crank up
the music to celebrate.
Another good sequence has Bond driving a double-decker bus with
crooked cops in hot pursuit. When the cops see a low bridge sign they
smile from ear-to-ear since they figure they've got him now. In the
predictable result, Bond guns the engine and shears the top off
Bond has a lot of little gadgets this time, including a small
transmitter the size of a pack of cigarettes that is used to send Morse
code. Some of Bond's futuristic technology has become commonplace
today. Typical of this is a wristwatch with a digital (red LED)
readout rather than an analog dial. M is impressed that Bond has a
coffee grinder and an espresso machine in his kitchen.
"Live and Let Die," the movie's theme song that is sung and played
in several renditions in the picture is the best part of this lame
movie. I hope Moore develops some charisma and style in his later Bond
films. Why Ian Fleming reportedly thought Moore would be the best
person to play Bond continues to baffle me.
LIVE AND LET DIE runs 1:59. It is rated PG for violence and
sexual innuendo and would be fine for kids around nine and up.
My son Jeffrey, almost 9, liked the movie but complained that
there were "too darn many snakes." He liked Moore as Bond but not as
much as Connery. He said the movie was much better than his least
favorite, the Lazenby one, ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE.
Copyright © 1998 Steve Rhodes