Wednesday, April 25, 2012

50 Years of 007 - Live and Let Die

Cody watches Roger Moore mess with the babe with the power in his Bond debut.

With Sean Connery having fulfilled his one film deal to return to the Bond series in Diamonds Are Forever, Eon Productions were again faced with having to find a new actor to play James Bond. Diamonds screenwriter Tom Mankiewicz was writing the next film as well, and he tried to entice Connery back again by giving him a preview of what he had in store.

For his second Bond script, Mankiewicz had chosen to do an adaptation of Ian Fleming's second Bond novel, Live and Let Die. Mankiewicz felt that this would give them a chance to do something a bit edgier, since all of the villains in the story are black. It was perfect timing for such a move, as the successful wave of blaxploitation films had just recently begun with the release of Sweet Sweetback's Baadassssss Song and Shaft. Live and Let Die would share its release year with many blaxploitation movies, including Coffy, Black Caesar, Cleopatra Jones, The Mack, Detroit 9000, Scream Blacula Scream, and Shaft in Africa.

Despite the promising sounding setpieces that Mankiewicz described to him, Connery made it clear that he was completely done with the series. He would never play Bond again. (Yes, he would.)

I would think the most obvious alternative would be to pull John Gavin back in, since he had been signed to play Bond in DAF until the deal was made with Connery, and was still paid in full for the role he never had to perform. But I haven't seen reference to Gavin still being considered a possibility after that.

United Artists had interest in hiring a famous American actor for the role, and names like Clint Eastwood, Robert Redford, and Paul Newman were floated around. One American actor who gets singled out as a consideration in the documentary on the Live and Let Die DVD is Burt Reynolds. At the time of this Bond search, 1972, Reynolds was thirty-six years old and had fourteen years of screen acting under his belt, a whole lot of television and a handful of movies. And he was still making some appearances without his iconic mustache, one mustache-less role being in 1972's very popular Deliverance. So at that point, Reynolds as Bond wasn't as unthinkable as it is now, but it's still quite hard to imagine. Would the character of Bond and the agency he was working for have been altered if an American had been cast? Reynolds is about as American as it gets, very strongly tied to the American South in my mind. Fittingly, since he's a Georgia boy.

Reynolds as Bond was as unfathomable to producer Albert R. "Cubby" Broccoli as it is to me, and he insisted that whoever they cast would have to be British.

The choice they ultimately went with was Roger Moore, a British actor who had been in the frame to play Bond since the beginning, though he was always busy with other projects when casting time came around. In 1964, he even made an unofficial appearance as James Bond on the TV comedy show Mainly Millicent, in a sketch about Bond running across female Russian spy Sonia Sekova (the show's star, Millicent Martin) while on vacation. Bond and Sekova have a history together, they're attracted to each other and try to be civil, but neither trusts that the other is really on vacation. The full seven minute clip can be seen on the Live and Let Die ultimate edition DVD and Blu-ray.

With the casting of Moore, Eon secured an actor who would stay in the role for more than a decade.

Following Moore's rendition of the gun barrel shot, his first Bond film doesn't begin with the typical pre-title action sequence, and this is actually the only pre-title sequence in the series that doesn't feature a hint of Bond himself at all. Instead, it's a depiction of the murders of three men in separate locations.

First, an ambassador from the United Kingdom is killed in the middle of a meeting at the United Nations building in New York. Someone sneaks into the translator booth, pulls the jack carrying the translator's voice to the ambassador's headphones out of the soundboard and replaces it with a jack connected to some kind of device with a plunger. When the plunger is pressed, a strange, loud sound is pumped into the ambassador's ears and somehow causes him to drop dead.

In New Orleans, a man hanging out on the sidewalk outside a club called the Fillet of Soul watches a jazz funeral make its way past. He doesn't realize that he's watching his own funeral. He's stabbed, put in the casket and carried on down the street.

Glimpsed in the United Nations meeting was a representative from the (fictional) Caribbean island of San Monique, and that island is where the third murder occurs. A man tied to a pole at the head of a lively ritual is bitten by a snake held by a man called Dambala, who wears a goat's head on top of his own. The snake's venom causes almost instantaneous death, and as the man slumps over, the film segues into the title sequence.

One of my favorite Maurice Binder title sequences, this one features flaming skulls, a touch of voodoo and lots of darkness. And of course, naked ladies. Playing over it is my absolute favorite of the title songs, performed by Paul McCartney and Wings. I love classic rock, I love McCartney and The Beatles (I listen to them without earmuffs, despite that ill-advised line in Goldfinger), and this song is great. It still gets regular play on the radio stations I listen to, I just heard it a few days ago.

McCartney isn't the only Beatles representative on Live and Let Die, the score was also composed by Beatles record producer/arranger George Martin.

Straight after the titles, we get our first look at the new actor playing James Bond, in bed with a lovely young woman, an Italian agent named Miss Caruso (Madeline Smith) who has accompanied Bond back to his flat after successful completion of a mission in Rome. She's not supposed to be there, so Bond has to hope she stays out of sight when M shows up at his door for an emergency meeting at 5:48 in the morning.

Although Mankiewicz thought it would be edgy and daring to do LALD, this scene lets us know that, following in suit with Diamonds, they're still keeping things very light. The comedic tone of the Roger Moore era is established here, as Bond is briefed on his next mission at the same time that a more subdued version of a Three's Company scenario plays out in his home.

Bond makes M some coffee and M tells him of the three men whose murders we have witnessed; Dawes in New York, Hamilton in New Orleans, Baines in San Monique. They were all MI6 agents working on the same case, investigating San Monique, keeping an eye on its prime minister. Now Bond is tasked to find out why they've all been killed.

Moneypenny arrives to see Miss Caruso, wearing nothing but panties and a blanket, hide in a closet. She helps the woman avoid M and delivers to Bond his gadget-equipped watch, newly repaired by Q. With the pull of a button, the watch emits a magnetic field strong enough to deflect a bullet at long range. Or make a spoon fly across the room and stick to it. Much later in the film, we'll discover that this watch has another special feature - the face quickly spins so that the bezel (I think that's what it's called) can be used as a saw.

Since Moneypenny makes this gadget delivery, the film has leapfrogged a Q scene, making this the first in the series that doesn't have an appearance by the armourer/quartermaster, and remained the only film without one until 2006's Casino Royale.

After M and Moneypenny have left, Miss Caruso exits Bond's closet, having put her dress on. Bond has some time to kill before he has to catch a flight to New York, so he puts his watch to use, magnetically unzipping Miss Caruso's dress...

As a Pan Am flight carries Bond across the Atlantic, a woman gives the villain a Tarot card reading. The cards reveal that a man is traveling toward them, he will oppose, he brings violence and destruction.

Reaching New York, Bond is met with violence and destruction. A ride sent to the airport for him by his friend Felix Leiter of the CIA is driving him into the city when a car sent by the villain pulls up beside them. The villain's car, described as "a white pimpmobile", has gadgets of its own, and the driver - a henchman called Whisper - is able to use a monitor to aim a deadly dart fired from the passenger side mirror. His target: Bond's driver's temple. For a harrowing moment, Bond is trapped in an out-of-control vehicle driven by a corpse.

Once the vehicle has come to a crashing halt, Bond makes a call to Leiter, who is heading a team that's keeping surveillance on Doctor Kananga, the diplomat from San Monique. A trace on the pimpmobile's license number leads Bond to a store called the Oh Cult Voodoo Shop, where he notices Whisper disappearing into a back room, leading to him spotting the pimpmobile parked in a garage.

Leiter and his men believe that Kananga is busy practicing a speech in his office, but he's fooling them with a pre-recorded tape. The CIA agents are also unaware of a doorway hidden behind a large dresser in Kananga's bedroom. This doorway leads not into some kind of secret passageway, but directly into an elevator that goes down to the garage that Bond is in. It's not quite clear how the agents missed this.

Bond is checking out the pimpmobile when he sees Kananga's female companion and a couple of his men exit the elevator, get in a car and drive off. Bond catches a taxi and tails the car. I don't understand why he would think they were someone to follow when his would-be assassin is right there at the voodoo shop, but who am I to question Bond?

Bond's taxi tails Kananga's people through the city. He's observed all along the way by people who radio in reports of every bit of his progress. The tail ends at a Fillet of Soul club in Harlem. Bond enters the club, the only white person in the area. "Can't miss him, it's like following a cue ball."

When Bond takes a seat in a booth, the wall and his seat are spun around into a secret part of the building. The Harlem headquarters of a gangster called Mister Big, filled with several armed henchmen. Bond is told to relax and wait for Mister Big.

Sitting at a table in the room, dealing out Tarot cards, is Kananga's female companion. "007" is not-so-subtly hidden in the design on the back of her cards. Bond introduces himself to her, "My name's Bond. James Bond." If the reveal of Roger Moore's face had been held off until that line, like Connery in Dr. No and Diamonds Are Forever and Lazenby in On Her Majesty's Secret Service, we wouldn't see Bond's face until almost 23 minutes into the film.

The girl is called Solitaire, and she's played by the stunning Jane Seymour. Solitaire is very dismissive of Bond at first. She knows who he is and why is there, and he's made a mistake. He will not succeed. A joke is made at Bond's expense when he picks a Tarot card and it turns out to be The Fool. "You have found yourself." Bond gets another chance to pick a card when he asks Solitaire if the cards show anything about his future. This time, the card is The Lovers. He shows it to Solitaire and asks, "Us?" He's not subtle, and she's clearly surprised to see that this is the card he's drawn.

Bond is disarmed by a henchman called Teehee - "Funny how the least little thing amuses him." - who has a hook hand strong enough to bend the barrel of Bond's gun. Mister Big then enters the room, not interested in Bond at all. Bond starts to introduce himself, "My name is --", but Mister Big interrupts him, "Names is for tombstones, baby." I love that line.

Mister Big orders his men to take Bond out and "waste him." There was a scene similar to this in the book, one of the men who takes Bond out of the room was Teehee and Teehee was dead by the end of the chapter. Teehee does not accompany Bond out of the room here, so the character gets to survive a bit longer.

Two henchmen lead Bond down an alley at gunpoint, but Bond manages to avoid execution by pulling some fire escape stairs down, smashing them into the side of one of the men and then grabbing the handrail and swinging around to kick the other man across the chest. Neither of these are particularly devastating blows, but both men are subdued by them and one of these guys is later mentioned to have died from the hit.

Black CIA agent Harold Strutter shows up in the alley to get Bond and drive him out of Harlem as they both ponder how and why Doctor Kananga and Mister Big would be connected. Strutter was one of the people we saw giving reports on Bond's tailing progress earlier, but he was talking to his fellow CIA agents instead of whoever the other observers were reporting to. Strutter used a CB mic for that, but when Bond gets into Strutter's car, a superfluous gadget is thrown in - the cigarette lighter is actually a two-way radio in contact with Felix Leiter. There's nothing neat on Leiter's end, he has to listen through a phone.

Leiter has just found out that Kananga is leaving on a private plane back to San Monique, so Bond is booked on the next available flight to the island.

Bond checks in to his hotel in San Monique, where a musical extravaganza featuring a man portraying Baron Samedi - "voodoo god of cemeteries, the man who cannot die" - is being performed in the courtyard, and is given some odd news: "Mrs. Bond" checked in earlier and is waiting for him.

"Mrs. Bond" requested a bungalow with more privacy, but Bond quickly discovers that there is no privacy in his room. This is an example of the type of hotel room scene that I said I liked in the Thunderball article. Bond uses a device to check for bugs and discovers that the place is wired for sound.

When Bond orders room service, it's delivered by Whisper. Bond doesn't recognize him, since he chose to follow the random people from the elevator out of the parking garage, and Whisper doesn't try anything, in fact he just kindly asks Bond if he'd like him to open the champagne bottle for him. But someone has set a snake loose in Bond's room, which he notices just as it's about to slither up to his feet. Using some spray deodorant and his cigar, he blasts the snake with a stream of flame.

No time for rest yet, Bond's very busy few minutes continues when someone with a gun shows up at his door. He disarms them and tosses their stunt double onto the bed before he discovers that this is an ally, the woman who's been referring to herself as "Mrs. Bond" - CIA agent Rosie Carver (Gloria Hendry), on her second mission. Her first was to aid Baines, the MI6 agent who was killed in San Monique at the beginning of the film.

Rosie's an attractive young woman, so Bond almost immediately tries to get her into bed with him. She turns him down with a handshake and heads off into the second bedroom - and lets out a scream. A voodoo warning has been left on her bed, a small, tattered tophat with bloody white feathers stuck in it. Bond brushes it off, "It's just a hat, darling. Belonging to a small-headed man of limited means who lost a fight with a chicken." But it has freaked Rosie out enough that she's too afraid to sleep alone. And so Bond gets what he wanted.

The next day, Bond and Rosie charter a boat to take them to the island location where Baines was killed. There was no San Monique in the novel, the latter chapters were set in Jamaica, where Bond befriends local MI6 representative Strangways and islander Quarrel. Both of those characters returned and were killed off in the sixth novel, Dr. No, but since that was adapted into the first film, they're already dead in the cinematic continuity. So instead of Quarrel, the man who Bond charters the boat ride from is Quarrel Jr.

Bond and Rosie's trip just happens to take them near the home that belongs to "the Kananga woman." Bond got an idea that Solitaire was near when a Tarot card was delivered with his breakfast that morning. The card, the Queen of Cups, warned of a deceitful woman. That card coupled with strange behavior from Rosie as she takes him around the island leads Bond to confront her about who she's really working for. Bond gets no information out of her before she's frightened off by the sight of a voodoo scarecrow.

Not only are these scarecrows set up around the island to scare off the superstitious, they're also Kananga's surveillance systems and security measures. As Rosie runs away, she's killed by a bullet fired from a remote controlled gun in the mouth of a scarecrow.

Kananga is also noticing strange behavior from his female companion. Solitaire is unnerved when The Lovers card again turns up during a reading about the future, and she lies to Kananga about what she's seeing. Solitaire's mother had also worked for Kananga, but she lost her power of perception and became useless to him. He fears that the same is happening to Solitaire.

That night, Bond infiltrates Kananga's compound by hang gliding in from the sea, gaining altitude by sailing it behind Quarrel Jr.'s boat and then detaching himself to fly onto the island. The filmmakers had been thinking of including hang gliding in a Bond film for a while, it's mentioned in the DVD commentary that a sequence was considered for Thunderball, and I've read that one was in a draft of the Diamonds Are Forever script. Perhaps Bond was meant to hang glide onto the roof of the Whyte House hotel/casino? Hang gliding over Las Vegas would've been an impressive sight.

Bond enters the house, sits at Solitaire's Tarot table, puts on her cloak and is dealing out cards when Solitaire walks in. She orders him to put the cards down, it is a blasphemy for them to be handled by someone without the sight. Bond pushes the fact that the cards said they would be lovers. Something that's impossible, it's forbidden for her. But she really believes in the cards, doesn't she? Bond tells her to pick a card. She does. The Lovers. Solitaire can't fight her fate. They are to be lovers. As Solitaire and Bond kiss, we see that he had stacked the deck - every card in his hand was The Lovers.

As they lie in bed together after the fact, Solitaire finds that she has lost her perception along with her virginity, and Bond finds that she doesn't have much useful information to give him about Kananga's activities.

It's while Bond and Solitaire make their way across the island, headed for where Quarrel Jr.'s boat is docked, that Bond discovers what Kananga has going on, stumbling across a massive poppy field. "A simple matter of heroin smuggling." The discovery of the poppies coincides with Kananga's men locating them and a chase ensues. Bond and Solitaire manage to make it to the boat in a stolen double decker bus, and Bond doesn't even let a low clearance slow them down.

It's time for Bond to get out of San Monique, and he makes his next stop New Orleans. He and Solitaire fly in to New Orleans International Airport, then catch a taxi... and find themselves in Mister Big's clutches. The taxi driver is the same man who drove Bond to the Fillet of Soul in Harlem. With the flip of a couple switches, a partition cuts the driver off from his passengers/prisoners and their doors lock.

The taxi takes them to a waiting private plane, which some henchmen try to force Bond onto. There's a scuffle, which leads to a chase around the Bleeker Flying School. Carloads of henchman pursue Bond, who drives around in a small two-seater plane with an old woman who was expecting a flying lesson sitting in the second seat. Bond never does attempt to take off, content to just cause a bunch of damage on the ground. This is a short, fun sequence, the sight of cars smashing into parked planes is pretty unique. Right before the wings of Bond's plane are smashed off by closing hangar doors, his elderly passenger drops an S-bomb - "Holy shit!" A first for the series.

With Mister Big's henchmen having made off with Solitaire while Bond was busting up planes, he knows that the place to look for is a local Fillet of Soul. There is one, and Leiter and his men have also arrived in New Orleans, so Strutter has been tasked to keep an eye on the club. Strutter stands outside the Fillet of Soul in the exact same spot Hamilton stood at the beginning of the film, and when a jazz funeral starts to go past, we know he's doomed.

Bond and Leiter arrive at the Fillet of Soul and Bond turns down a seat in a booth for a table near the stage. Leiter is soon called away from the table, told that there's a phone call for him from Strutter. A woman singer comes out on stage, performing the film's title song. They had the song done earlier for this than they tend to these days, recently the songs haven't been done until after filming was finished.

Avoiding the booth doesn't work out for Bond; his seat and table descend into the floor and are quickly replaced by waiters so that Leiter won't realize what happened when he gets back. Bond again finds himself in a secret quarters of Mister Big.

Mister Big has a very important question to ask Bond, in regard to Solitaire, "Did you mess with that?" Bond won't answer, that's between himself, Solitaire, and Kananga. Mister Big persists, "Did you touch her?" Bond says he'll tell Kananga when he sees him.

In the novel, as there was no San Monique, there was also no island diplomat named Kananga, there was just Mister Big. The film flips it around. Mister Big has a strange, sickly look to him, and we find out why there's something off about his appearance when he peels his face off. There isn't really a Mister Big, it's just a disguise worn by Kananga.

Now Bond has the villain's set-up figured out, and Kananga fills in the blanks for him. Kananga is growing thousands of acres of poppies, protected by voodoo theatrics. He distributes the heroin through the Fillet of Soul chain as Mister Big. Kananga's plan is to give away two tons of heroin for free, putting his criminal competitors out of business and doubling the number of addicts. Once he's cornered the market on heroin in the United States, he'll start selling it at high prices.

The villain's plan is also different from the novel, which had nothing to do with heroin distribution. The Mister Big of the book didn't really have a big plan for Bond to thwart, he was simply salvaging the treasure of a 17th century pirate called Bloody Morgan and using the riches to help finance the Soviet organization SMERSH.

Bond still refuses to tell Kananga whether or not he "messed with" Solitaire. Since Kananga knows that Solitaire will have lost her powers if he had, he decides to test her abilities. He asks her a yes or no question - whether or not the registration number on Bond's watch is 3266. If she gets the answer wrong, Teehee will snip the little finger off Bond's right hand.

Bond's little fingers were in danger in the book as well; in his first encounter with Mister Big in Harlem, Bond's left little finger is broken by Teehee.

Solitaire gets the answer wrong, but Kananga is kind enough to spare Bond's little finger and even give his watch back to him. Then Teehee knocks Bond out and, along with Whisper, takes Bond away to be killed.

So now the film has gotten two scenes out of the one encounter with Mister Big and Teehee in the novel, and remember I said earlier that Teehee was killed when he led Bond away from that meeting. It doesn't happen after this scene, either. Mankiewicz throws another curveball to the literary fans and again gives Teehee a reprieve.

The man who played Baron Samedi in the San Monique hotel musical performance enters the room as Kananga talks to Solitaire about her betrayal. Samedi gleefully celebrates the fact that Solitaire has signed her own death warrant, he even sets fire to the High Priestess Tarot (which represents Solitaire like The Fool represents Bond) and hands the flaming card to Kananga.

Teehee and fellow henchmen take Bond to "The Farm", an alligator/crocodile farm where several thousand of the reptiles serve to keep trespassers away from the shack that houses Kananga's heroin production facility. Teehee checks in on the operation and announces that the heroin is to be shipped out that night.

Then Teehee takes Bond out to be killed in an overly complicated manner. The hook-handed henchmen stirs up the alligators and crocodiles by throwing some raw chicken around, confiding in Bond that one of these creatures is how he lost his arm, then leaves Bond stranded on a small patch of land in the midst of reptile-infested waters.

Teehee and the other henchmen leave Bond to be eaten while they go back into the heroin shack. Not one man stays outside to make sure that Bond is killed. They could've just shot him, they could've just thrown him into the water if having him eaten alive was so important. Instead, they just leave him standing there. These guys have no sense.

Bond tries to use his magnetic watch to pull a canoe over to his tiny island, but it doesn't work. The canoe is tied with a rope. His gadget is useless. Then, Bond lucks out. Several of the reptiles rise to the surface of the water side-by-side, creating a living bridge between his patch of land and the edge of the water.

This sequence was filmed at an actual alligator/crocodile farm in Jamaica, which the filmmakers ran across during location scouts. The farm was run by a man named Ross Kananga, and Mankiewicz decided to name the villain in his script after him. The real Kananga also ended up being a stunt double in the film; he stands in for Bond and performs the moment where Bond runs across the backs of the snapping reptiles.

Out of that dangerous situation, Bond sets fire to the heroin shack and escapes from The Farm in a speedboat. Almost until it was time to film the following sequence, it was merely described in Mankiewicz's script as "the most terrific boat chase you've ever seen." Lasting around 16 minutes, this sequence involves several boats, cars, henchmen, locals, a wedding, Louisiana police officers, and a lot of vehicular mayhem. It lives up to Mankiewicz's description, it is the most terrific boat chase I've ever seen.

Coming into play during the chase sequence is Louisiana Sheriff J.W. Pepper, a backwoods good ol' boy caricature played by Clifton James, who delivers a hilarious performance. Pepper is very perturbed that his swamp is being overrun by "black Russians."

When the boat sequence is over, it's time for Bond to head back to San Monique, catch up with Kananga, destroy the poppy fields, and save Solitaire from being killed the same way Baines was in the beginning.

This time Bond is infiltrating Kananga's part of the island by water, with Quarrel Jr.'s boat anchored off shore. There are known to be sharks in the area, so Bond's equipped with a "shark gun", which fires compressed gas pellets that cause whatever they're shot into to inflate to bursting. For shooting baddies once he's on land, Bond has left his Walther PPK behind and brought along a .44 Magnum.

Bond does save Solitaire from Dambala's snake, then goes to confront Kananga for the last time. There is a bit here that feels unnecessary to me. Instead of a battle, the interaction with Kananga is rather low-key, and he even captures them and, of course, puts them in danger from an animal species. Bond and Solitaire are tied up and lowered toward water with sharks in it, Kananga having cut Bond's arm with a knife to entice the fish with fresh blood. Mister Big put Bond and Solitaire in a situation involving rope, water, and sharks (and barracuda) in the novel, but it wasn't like this. His literary method of attempted murder did end up being used in a later film, For Your Eyes Only.

Bond's gadgets finally do him some good here and he gets out of this rather quickly. Kananga is then given the worst main villain death in the series. With this and the end of Diamonds Are Forever, it seems like giving his villains a satisfactory demise was not Mankiewicz's strong suit. Kananga's death is better than Bond swinging Blofeld's Bathosub around, but it's ridiculous and very cartoony. Yaphet Kotto was great in the role, his character deserved something better than what he gets.

Live and Let Die is not particularly faithful to its source material. Like with Diamonds Are Forever, Mankiewicz takes elements, scenes, characters from the novel and follows along a similar path at times, but at other times diverges completely.

One section of the novel involves Bond and Solitaire traveling on a train, and Mankiewicz gives that a nod with the film's epilogue, where Kananga's last remaining henchman is finally taken out. Guess who it is?

Bond and Solitaire's train destination in the book was Florida, a location where events occur that are left out of the film. These events were able to be used for the set-up of another Bond film, Licence to Kill, which was released sixteen years later. They involve Felix Leiter, and interestingly the same man who plays Leiter in Live and Let Die, David Hedison, returned to play Leiter in Licence, making him the first actor to play the character in two films.

Live and Let Die is a very fun movie. At times it's quite silly, but I thoroughly enjoy it. It's one of my favorites in the series, an entertaining Bond film filled with elements that appeal directly to my cinematic tastes. I'm a fan of blaxploitation movies, so I enjoy seeing Bond playing in that world. The mild horror/voodoo angle is cool. And the double decker bus chase, the airport scene, and the 16 minute boat sequence are prime examples of the slam-bang 1970s vehicular mayhem that I love. I've previously written on the blog about movies like Smokey and the Bandit; Race with the Devil; Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry; Duel; and The Car, so of course the chase sequences in here very much appeal to me.

I first watched Live and Let Die in 1995, and I might even know what day it was - November 17th. The day that the Bond movie GoldenEye was released. I'm sure that LALD was in my VCR that night, but I can't remember if that was the first time I watched the movie, if I was rewatching it, or if I had just put it in to listen to the title song again.

Roger Moore makes a strong debut as Bond. He's different than his predecessors, taking a much lighter approach. He comes off as amused and above every situation that he finds himself in. He can be made to look ridiculous, he can be called a fool, and yet he never comes off as anything less than the coolest man on the planet. I have issues with the Moore era overall and feel that he was kept in the role for way too long, but in Live and Let Die, he is awesome.

Recently, the internet press has been creating a nonsensical uproar over the fact that Bond will be seen drinking a Heineken in Skyfall. Somehow this news has caused people to jump to the conclusion that Bond will be giving up his trademark martinis and sticking exclusively to Heineken. They've even gotten Bond girl Maud Adams to give a disapproving quote about the situation. Bond will actually be drinking both a Heineken and a martini over the course of the film. He does not drink a martini in Live and Let Die, he's more in a mood for champagne and bourbon this time around, so think of the net rage that today's press could stir up over this movie: Bond doesn't drink a martini, but he does make M an espresso.

From the beginning of the series, supervising art director Syd Cain had been the lead art director or production designer on every Bond film that didn't have Ken Adam as the production designer. His work on LALD would be the last time he worked on a Bond film in that capacity, and his last credit on one of the films for quite a while.

At the helm of Live and Let Die was a director working on his third Bond film, Guy Hamilton, with a cinematographer working on his sixth, Ted Moore (Moore had only missed You Only Live Twice and On Her Majesty's Secret Service.)

Hamilton had been too exhausted by the making of Goldfinger to stay on and direct its follow-up, Thunderball. He returned to the series on Diamonds Are Forever and was obviously not spent by his experience on that one, as he was able to get this film into theatres 18 months later.

And he wasn't done. Hamilton's fourth Bond film would be in theatres just 18 months after Live and Let Die.


  1. It's a fine debut for Mr. Moore - with the great line in the trailer "It's the Bond that gives you more. Much more. Roger Moore!" I first saw this one aired on ABC sometime in the 80's. I'm with you - the mix of Bond, blaxploitation, voodoo, and Joie Chitwood's Stunt Driving Team par excellence makes for some great Bondian fun - even if the story diverges a lot from the Fleming original. I worked on a few projects with an Emmy-winning costume designer named Peggy Farrell - she was awesome to talk to - and imagine my delight when she told me she had worked on Live and Let Die as one of the main costumers for the American-shot sequences. She told me that Broccoli and Saltzman were the greatest producers she ever worked with - with fine catered food for everyone - limo service to the set for crew - and champagne flowing at all times. I wish I could have been there with her.

  2. Another cool personal connection for you to have to the series. From what I've read and heard, it does seem that Broccoli and Saltzman were great guys.

    - Cody