After his brief return to the franchise in Diamonds are Forever, Connery is gone for good and Roger Moore has taken his place. Leaving behind SPECTRE for the time being, Live and Let Die takes a slight detour from the usual Euro-villains to bring us the creepiest Bond adventure yet as 007 gets caught up in voodoo in America’s Deep South.
Being a woman and a Bond fan can be a very troublesome experience at times. The sheer frustration the character can drive you to is amplified tenfold when Roger Moore is on-screen. Moving away from the steeliness of Connery, Moore is the embodiment of the sort of patronising sexism which drive women to shrieking madness, only to be met with an off-hand quip and a look of loathsome pity.
With that in mind, I venture upon Roger Moore’s lengthy stint as Bond with no small amount of dread. Case in point: at the age of 46, Moore beds the 22 year old Jane Seymour, tricking her into sleeping with him and taking her character Solitaire’s virginity in the process, all while referring to her repeatedly as ‘darling’. This isn’t helped by Solitaire’s complete ineptness at everything, resorting to that old ‘oooh, James’ line every 5 minutes to remind you she’s utterly pathetic.
Having said that, Live and Let Die is possibly Moore’s strongest appearance as Bond, with subsequent entries depleting in quality as time goes on and Moore ages substantially. Bond faces African-American gangster Kananga (the great Yaphet Kotto) and his formidable henchmen Tee Hee and Baron Samedi, who make for some of his most memorable nemeses. Clearly riding on the coattails of the Blaxploitation subgenre (Shaft was ’71 and Superfly ’72), it makes for fun, if at times questionable viewing. Kananga remains the only black antagonist within the Bond series, and he’s into voodoo. Bravo.
Still, the formidable Baron Samedi brings an almost supernatural element to the series which we never really see again, but it gives the film a distinct flavour. Tee Hee is the smiley, more talkative counterpart to Richard Kiel’s Jaws, whose hook-hand gives him a sinister edge (and Moore more fodder for puns). As Live and Let Die draws on it becomes more and more ludicrous, most notably with Kananga’s demise at the hands of a compressed air pellet (‘he always had an inflated opinion of himself’).
Where Connery was hard as nails and happy to sort out any problem with a brutal punch to the face, Moore makes up for his lack of strength or imposing physique by distracting you with stunts. There’s a couple of impressive ones on display here: namely his escape from the crocodiles and the speedboat jump, but you can’t help but feel that Bond has lost his edge somewhat. The softer, less handsome version of Sean Connery, he’s the ploughman’s lunch to Connery’s steak and chips: cheesey, tasteless and a bit crap. Only six more films to go…
Bond theme: Wings… only the band The Beatles could have been! Alan Partridge’s favourite band provide one of the series’ most memorable themes. With a change of Bond came a change in tone, and so for the first time it was a rock band who set the tempo for what was to come. It was the most successful Bond theme commercially up to that point, but was succeeded again by Carly Simon’s ‘Nobody does it Better’ a few years later.
Best one liner: You can’t go two minutes without a pun from Roger Moore, and they are all groan-inducingly terrible. One line though had me in fits of giggles: ‘I once had a nasty turn in a booth’ Bond remarks, after revisiting a club where he had unexpectedly sat at a rotating booth last time.
Glamorous locations: Bond returns stateside again after Diamonds are Forever, this time leaving behind the glamour of Vegas for the sleaziness of New York’s Harlem and New Orleans. Seeing Bond awkwardly exploring African American neighbourhoods is good for the odd laugh. He also returns to Fleming’s favourite destination the Caribbean, this time with Jamaica standing in for the fictional island of San Monique.
Girls: Bond hooks up with CIA double agent Rosie Carver (Gloria Hendry), the first black woman to appear in the series as a romantic interest, but unsurprisingly offed after their brief fling by the bad guys after Bond suspects she’s working for Kananga. The main Bond girl of note is Jane Seymour’s young tarot reader Solitaire, who Bond tricks into sleeping with him, because he’s such a good guy. He’s also seen entertaining a young Italian woman by the name of ‘Miss Caruso’ in one of the film’s opening scenes, after she hides from ‘M’ in a nearby wardrobe.
Gadgets: His magnetic watch comes in handy when unzipping Miss Caruso’s dress. ‘Sheer magnetism, darling’ he quips as he drags her zip down. ‘Fuck off, James’ you dearly wished she quipped in response. In a moment of sheer irresponsibility, influencing teenage hooligans across the country, he also seemingly invents the ‘flamethrower spray can’ in order to kill a snake in his hotel room. Bastard.
Classic moment: Stuck in the middle of a lake and surrounded by crocodiles, Bond takes the logical option and runs across the croc’s backs as if they were stepping stones. This sort of silliness is the sort of thing only Moore manages to get away with, but with the stuntman performing the stunt for real it is also pretty impressive. The attempts that didn’t make it into the film are terrifying to say the least:
Low point: Apart from the general racist overtones infused throughout Live and Let Die, the low point is surely Sheriff J.W Pepper. He is the absolute worst, and quite possibly the most offensive depiction of a Southern man ever committed to screen. ‘What are you? Some kinda doomsday machine boy? Well WE got a cage strong enough to hold an animal like you here!’ If only there were a cage to hold him… he appears again in The Man With the Golden Gun, and is twice as irritating.
TELSTAR’S BIG BOND COUNTDOWN WILL RETURN WITH… THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN