UK / USA, 1973
Review by Thomas Scalzo
Posted on 19 March 2005
Source MGM VHS
Features: The Genealogy of James Bond
Of all the actors to play James Bond, Roger Moore is easily the most polarizing. Sean Connery is almost universally adored, Timothy Dalton categorically loathed. George Lazenby is often described as an emotionless lout, yet afforded some pity due to his one meager role, while Pierce Brosnan, on the whole, has been celebrated as an effective return to form after the Dalton debacle.
Yet Moore continues to defy consensus. Some love him for his incessant one-liners, the levity he brings to the role, and the fact that his films are the silliest entries in the series. Others hate him for his incessant one-liners, the levity he brings to the role, and the fact that his films are the silliest entries in the series. Both sides seem to agree, however, that Moore, without question, injects the character of James Bond with a personality remarkably different from Bonds before or since.
Compared to his later Bond offerings, however, Live and Let Die, Moore’s first go round as 007, is one of the more straightforward, and dare I say, Connery-esque entries in the Moore-as-Bond cannon. Yes, there are some blatant insertions of tacky humor, such as the introduction of J.W. Pepper as the bigoted, tobacco-chewing sheriff, not to mention a decent amount of Moore’s trademark quips, but all in all, Roger plays the film pretty straight, never straying too far into the ridiculous, and clearly taking his time settling into the iconic role.
The story here revolves around the mysterious deaths of three undercover agents, and the murky connection between a New York City drug king pin (Mr. Big), and a well-to-do United Nations representative (Dr. Kananga). Attempting to solve the puzzle, Moore journeys to Harlem, New Orleans, and the Caribbean; and is alternately persecuted by Mr. Big; charmed by Kananga’s psychic priestess Solitaire; and threatened by members of a dangerous voodoo cult.
Live and Let Die is, from start to finish, a solid film, offering an effective, subdued performance by Moore, a well-paced, intriguing plot, and a few competent action sequences (the extensive boat chase through the Louisiana swamps is particularly fun). The requisite Bond gadgets are also here (Moore makes repeated and inventive use of a magnetic watch), and we get plenty of eye candy thanks to the woman who gets my vote for cutest Bond Girl of them all, a nineteen-year-old Jane Seymour.
Despite these expected inclusions, and a standard action storyline — Bond tracks evildoers, gets into scrapes, uncovers devious plot, then thwarts it — the film manages to stand out from previous series entries by incorporating a money-hungry entrepreneur hoping to corner the American heroin market in lieu of the traditional obsessed-with-power villain intent on dominating the world. In addition, Paul and Linda McCartney’s “Live and Let Die” opening-credits theme song outshines any previous Bond tune, and Moore as 007 can be seen branching out from Connery’s cigarettes and martinis routine though a relentless cigar-chewing habit and a penchant for ordering bourbon.
The difficulty in stepping into Connery’s shoes must have been great, and Moore handles the task admirably, injecting the film with some enticing examples of what would come to be regarded as Moore staples, namely, witty rejoinders and a bemused attitude toward this whole spying business. Not the most explosive, titillating, or nail-biting Bond adventure by any means, Live and Let Die is nevertheless an efficient and enjoyable film, Roger Moore clearly doing his best to offer an inoffensive, acceptable replacement to Connery, all the while tinkering with his vision of what Bond would become.