Live and Let Die (1973)



"You see, sir. By pulling out this button, it turns the watch into a hyper-intensified magnetic field. Powerful enough to even deflect the path of a bullet - at long range, or so Q claims...""You see, sir. By pulling out this button, it turns the watch into a hyper-intensified magnetic field. Powerful enough to even deflect the path of a bullet - at long range, or so Q claims..."

“You see, sir. By pulling out this button, it turns the watch into a hyper-intensified magnetic field. Powerful enough to even deflect the path of a bullet – at long range, or so Q claims…”


Live and Let Die, the 8th Eon produced James Bond film and 9th overall starts in a similar fashion to how Dr. No begins. 3 (compared to 1) supposed top, high ranked agents are taken out and killed (one in an exotic location) which sends in a higher ranked agent to take their place in an investigation. Beyond the derivative opening scene, Live and Let Die as an installment in the 24-film franchise takes a different path than its predecessors. For one, there is zero mention of SPECTRE or Bond’s arch-nemesis Ernst Starvo Blofeld nor any association that they exist in this film. To that, Live and Let Die looks more like a spin-off if James Bond had some free time to kill between saving the world from total destruction. 

There is also a new face playing the titular role that was played by two actors in which one absolutely laid the foundation for how this character should look, act, speak and fight while making the effort and danger look non-existent. Sean Connery is Bond no more, now its Roger Moore’s turn taking on Bond, adding his own flair and personality to the role. Connery left giant shoes to film and Moore does his best to take on the spotlight in his first appearance but it’s not the same. 


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The focus in this film isn’t on the globe-trotting adventure to stop a megalomaniac super-villain from world domination in some form or another and stays local to the United States southern States. Following the same formulaic method of constructing a Bond film, Bond gets his assignment from M (Bernard Lee), has a fleeting moment with Miss Moneypenny (Lois Maxwell) and gets his state-of-the-art tech gadgets from Q (Desmond Llewelyn). All the same ingredients that we’ve seen before that make any Bond film easily recognizable if brand new to the franchise or not.  These are franchise staples that if not included will easily stand out like a sore thumb. 

Replacing the SPECTRE employed or associated super-villain is a drug-trafficker who moonlights as a small fictional island’s corrupt dictator. Or is it the other way around? Either way, Mr. Big/ Dr. Kananga (Yaphet Kotto) has a lot on his plate to deal with on a day-to-day basis (I wonder how many air miles he has). Mr. Big’s grand scheme isn’t liquidating the United States Gold supply ala Goldfinger or creating biochemical warfare that Blofeld attempted or destroying a space satellite or the theft of two atomic bombs. No – Mr. Big’s plan is to distribute 2 tons of heroin in the United States for free to then hike up the price and monopolize the market. What draws Bond and MI6’s involvement leads back to the 3 murders which puts Bond on Kananga’s tail.

By the 8th film in this franchise, the music is equally as important as the film itself. Composer Monty Norman has created an iconic sound that is one of the most recognizable pieces of music in pop culture. Along with John Barry who composed films 2-7 and gave each film a unique theme song that pairs well with the film’s mood. Who doesn’t know “Diamonds Are Forever” performed by Shirley Bassey or for this film “Live and Let Die” written by Paul and Linda McCartney and performed by Wings. Each film and theme song has its own identity that stands apart from the next film in the series while still having enough connective tissue to tie these stories into a larger picture.

As far as Moore goes, he’s better than Lazenby but not at the same level as Connery. As far as I’m concerned, no one comes close to how comfortable Connery played the role, even Craig. Moore does have the charm, charisma, and physique to pull off the action and seduce the current Bond girl but there’s something missing – Moore is trying too hard to be Connery’s Bond instead of letting Bond come to him and putting his own personality into the role. Connery also knew how to pull off a suit. Bond is stoic, level-headed in the face of danger but has a soft side to him. Connery set the standard in which to date the men playing Bond are 1-3. 


Speaking of Bond Girl’s, Live and Let Die is the first Bond film to have a woman of color as the first reluctant love interest Roger Moore seduces – Rosie Carver (Gloria Hendry). Bond meets Carver on the fictional Island of San Monique where Bond doesn’t break a sweat when a poisonous snake is dropped into his hotel’s bathroom in a murder attempt. After Carver comes Solitaire (newcomer Jane Seymour), Kananga’s psychic and tarot reader that seemingly controls his every action. Both Moore and Seymour are too stiff in their performances – the blame can’t necessarily be placed solely on them, most of it comes from returning screenwriter Tom Mankiewicz’s screenplay.

Many of the issues in Live and Let Die stem from the screenplay. Unevenly paced, super-stylistically 70’s ascetic that doesn’t age well in costume and production design, a poor villain that’s in the film less than his vice-gripped handed henchmen and a tad too long for its own good, this is the first swing and a miss in the franchise. Normally we’ve gotten lucky with a single or a double. The boat chase scene had no business lasting that long or feature a character that’s more fitting for The Dukes of Hazzard. Possibly the worst written police character and performance in any film. 

Live and Let Die finds comfort in its reoccurring supporting roles of M, Q, Moneypenny, and Felix Leiter (David Hedison), its beautifully crafted action and stunt set pieces, Ted Moore’s cinematography and the tried-and-true Bond formula, but they aren’t enough to carry a film that was doomed from the first frame. 



Written By: Tom Mankiewicz

Directed By: Guy Hamilton

Based on: Live and Let Die by Ian Fleming

Production Company: Eon Productions

Cinematography: Ted Moore

Music: George Martin

Release Date: June 27, 1973

Running Time: 2 Hours 1 Minutes

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 67%

My Score out of 5: 2.5 out of 5

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