by Ken B.
The James Bond films have been around since 1962, and as time progresses, so do filmmaking trends. 1973 was the era of a popular subdivision featuring an urban black setting and aimed at a similar audience. Live and Let Die features some of the clichés of 1970s action filmmaking in general, and could have been a clever timestamp of the period – and sometimes it is – but this eighth installment has this weird tendency to feel like some kind of parody of the series instead of a legit Eon installment. Is this because of a changing of the lead role? Was this done just to show the absurdity of a character being played by a different actor all of the sudden? I don’t know. People liked Sean Connery, and then Roger Moore shows up all of the sudden. I’m not sure whether this merited a reformation of the series, but it’s clear that the moods of the films were different between the two eras.
Following the murders of three British agents within the space of 24 hours, Bond is called in to investigate whether these events are related, and they sure appear to be, as the missions of the deceased individuals were all related to the head of a small island called San Monique, Dr. Kananga (YAPHET KOTTO). As evidenced by the opening sequence, accompanied by a song written by Paul & Linda McCartney, there’s a certain type of supernatural undertone to the supporting characters. A Bond girl, Solitaire (JANE SEYMOUR) is a tarot card reader. Chunks of the movie take place in New Orleans, home of the “Louisiana Voodoo”. It’s certainly a noticeable factor of the film.
This isn’t my favorite 007 movie, far from it. There’s just something missing from it. The whole parody current that jolts through several times in Live and Let Die’s 121 minutes. This in itself poses the question of whether I, reviewing this 40 years post release, in a filmmaking period where send-ups to movie are commonplace, may have hurt my impressions. It also doesn’t help that 75 percent of parody movies are hopelessly inept. Maybe Live and Let Die doesn’t work for me because of how incredibly dated it seems. Most Bond movies are relatively timeless, but this one, with hairstyles, expressions, and clothes that are very of the time period encircling the neutrally dressed and spoken James Bond inserts another bizarre component.
Despite being by no means a solid installment, Live and Let Die is an important part of the 007 history. Introducing Moore, who would spend the next twelve years in the part of the eternal agent, this movie should still be viewed by those with an interest in the series. Besides, there are redeemable parts, like the speedboat chase at the end and Clifton James giving a great comedic performance by the odd and somewhat bigoted sheriff J.W. Pepper. At two hours, it’s not too long and doesn’t feel too long. By saying Live and Let Die wasn’t my favorite James Bond movie didn’t mean it was a bad movie – it’s simply mediocre as a whole with occasional moments of good entertainment.
Now, please tell me why jazz funerals haven’t caught on worldwide yet.