Live and Let Die (1973)
No one every defends the Bond movies for being works of supreme intellect. Not even the newest one which Sam Mendes brought to life pretty flawlessly...it's good and entertaining; but it doesn't compare to "high drama"—whatever that may be. Still, you can't deny that the Bond movies are hilariously campy and over the top. Stupidity abounds in their framework—this is quite intentional, which would then prove that they are smarter than they appear. They're smarter by purposely being dumber...or something like that.
Yet with "Live and Let Die" which brings in the era of Roger Moore as Bond (as of this moment, the longest reigning Bond actor) as "You Only Live Twice" did, the film crosses the boundary between intentionally stupid and unintentionally racist.
In all the Bond movies prior, there was a certain regard of England as superior to America...you can't avoid it. With this piece, it's ashamedly up front and bare for everyone to see. The movie looks down on America as a place of lesser intelligence, more brutality, and complete diversion from morality.
Opening to a montage of scenes in which MI6 agents get bumped off in increasingly ridiculous fashion, James Bond is woken up early in the morning by M and Miss Moneypenny, who tell him that it's time to get packed and go down to the Caribbean to investigate the death of the agent...so it's exactly like "Dr. No" except in place of nuclear death it's complete heroin addiction—I guess that's a fair enough trade.
Bond travels to the voodoo laced land and discovers a racist notion—all black people know each other. Seriously, if this film was trying to be anything but offensive it failed. Every single black character is nefarious and there is not a single white villain in the entire film.
Working from a script that screams stereotypes at the viewer, "Live and Let Die" tries to walk the tightrope between classy and campy. It misses both of its aims and plunges into blood-filled water.
Bond comes across the beautiful fortune teller Solitaire (Jane Seymour). I shouldn't be surprised by the names of the women in this series, but this one really cracks me up...Solitaire? the name for a tarot card reader? Hilarious.
Anyways, Bond draws a card from her deck that has a picture of lovers on it and she is immediately plagued with the thought of sexual intimacy with 007. Not that she wouldn't find it pleasing, but she is more worried about her loss of power. You see, her clairvoyance only works because she is a virgin...ah, yes, the virginal seduction.
Apart from the tedious amounts of cliches inserted in the film, which are not at all bearable, "Live and Let Die" showcases all sorts of dialogue issues...most notably, how every black character speaks.
Coming across a completely incompetent agent, Rosie, (who coincidentally looks stunning in a bikini...who's surprised?) Bond has to show her exactly how to be a good spy, i.e. just be a man.
After all the voodoo and the mismatched culture obliterating, we get the Bond spin on a redneck, who is anything but likable. An idiot, tobacco chewin', cussin', son of a Bond film, this sheriff ruins one of the finer moments of the film: a relentless and exciting boat chase.
The film does have very entertaining moments, and completely irrational funny deaths. Still, it's one of the weaker Bond movies.
It recycles so many scenes from previous Bond films that it feels more like you're watching a commercial for the franchise instead of an original movie.
Perhaps the biggest star to come from the movie is Paul McCartney, whose title singin' song is one of the more enjoyable aspects of the movie. John Barry's wonderful score is missing, replaced by a clunky mess by George Martin.
Guy Hamilton is still directing, though this is his penultimate 007 film...one can only hope his last venture is better than this.
Posted by Micah Jones