James Bond Rewatch – Live and Let Die (1973)

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Tarot readings are one of Bond’s many skills

Roger Moore is my favorite James Bond, and Live & Let Die is my favorite Bond film.

Do you remember your 1st Bond film in the theater? (Mine was 1979’s Moonraker, which has SPACE in it, and thus I loved it.) So it’s natural that Moore was ‘my’ Bond.

Moore also did the most Bond movies, clocking in with seven feature films. Sean Connery, the most iconic 007, had six. Daniel Craig will have four when No Time to Die comes around. Pierce Brosnan has four as well, leaving Timothy Dalton with two, and poor Lazenby in the rear with a solo effort. George Lazenby actually did a fine job, and his movie — On Her Majesty’s Secret Service — is underrated and offered some needed world-building. I won’t spoil what happens, but you might shed a tear.

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Hell, that was in 1969…so keeping spoilers secret now is a little pointless, but maybe you haven’t seen it. If you’re doing a Bond rewatch before No Time to Die finally comes out, don’t skip the Lazenby one. (Also, there’s some wild skiing. It’s really not bad.)

Give me Moore!

The two Bonds I like most are Roger Moore, first, and then Connery. I prefer a charming, funny rogue. With inept henchmen and silly death contraptions and overblown villains with grandiose schemes. To me, that’s a Bond movie. It may not be the most popular opinion, but it’s mine.

The follow-up by Timothy Dalton left me cold. Who was this guy? He certainly had no charm. Then I kind of skipped out through the Pierce Brosnan years. He was handsome and seemed competent, which is me damning him with faint praise. He did look the part.

I never saw Skyfall, a very popular film. I was turned off by the brutish, tortured version of the superspy in Casino Royale and never came back. On this major 2021 James Bond rewatch, I’ll see what I think of Dalton, Brosnan, and Craig from a later perspective.

Live & Let Die, the movie

It’s no surprise I love this one. Live has Roger Moore in his first movie, sliding right into the part Connery left behind. It’s arguably the most fun of all the 007 outings! Bond jumps a speed boat over a road-based police blockade. There’s a New Orleans funeral parade, complete with jazz, Mardi Gras feathers, and deadly little tricks.

What else? Creepy Tarot readings. Sharks in a villain’s lair with frickin laser beams on their heads. Opium poppy plantations in Haiti. No, Jamaica? Whoops — checking — a fictitious island called San Monique.

Crocodiles. Lots of snakes. And zombies! ZOMBIES in a James Bond movie. How can you beat this?

And then there are the characters. Police Sgt. Pepper, a mash-up of Boss Hog and Roscoe from the classic 1980s TV show Dukes of Hazzard. Pepper cameos in the next film too (The Man with the Golden Gun) which earns Live & Let Die some rare series continuity points.

We also get the fabulous Voodoo Priest — known to people in my generation as the 7-Up Crisp and Clean and NO CAFFEINE Guy, Geoffrey Holder. (“Crisp and clean and no caffeine… Never had it, never will. Ah ha haaaa…”)

Solitaire, the Tarot reading Bond girl was clever and sweet, and one of my favorites. Jane Seymour did a nice job with a role that could have gone all wrong (Virgin Goddess who loses her powers after losing her virginity — thus the name Solitaire). The movie is also notable for Rosie Carver (played by Gloria Hendry) as the first African American Bond girl to grace the franchise. In 1973, this was a big deal to the adults. As a child, I didn’t notice.

It’s still good

This movie holds up after all the years. I was nervous that this rewatch would be frustrating, but I’m relieved and satisfied. There’s adventure, exciting scenes of peril, important safety tips (hey kids — you can kill a snake with hair spray!), and a real thrill of seeing the supernatural infuse a mainstream spy movie. The usual travel scenes give good value: boating out to — and hang gliding into — a gorgeous tropical island.

Moore is not as hammy as he gets later (eg – Octopussy) and seems suave without being demeaning to modern eyes. There’s also a priceless early scene with M and Moneypenny. BONUS: we get to see James’ actual home and how he decorates it — it would be fun to look at everything on the walls and shelves to see if there are references to previous films. But perhaps movies didn’t offer a lot of Easter eggs back in the 70s.

Live & Let Die, the song

The titular theme song offers a stunning left turn with an aggressive rock ballad, somehow still sounding like a James Bond title song. Paul McCartney’s Wings did a bang-up job with this one.

It’s my favorite Bond theme song. In my favorite Bond movie.

Essentially, everything comes together perfectly in Live & Let Die. (And no, saying Come Together was not an intentional pun when talking about McCartney.)

A classic Geoffrey Holder Seven-Up crisp and clean commercial for you:

I was a child for these, but they stuck in my head, like all of the bizarre goodness characterizing TV commercials in the 70s and 80s.

Here’s the official trailer to get you in the Moore mood:

It’s hard to believe this is Moore’s first Bond film. He steps into the role like he’s been doing it for years. I didn’t realize this until I started my 007 series rewatch. #TheMooreYouKnow

RIP Dr. Kananga

Sadly, word has gone out recently that Yaphet Kotto, the wonderful Bond villain Dr. Kananga, died on March 15th, 2021. He also had a memorably noble role in the iconic 1979 blockbuster Alien and worked with The Arnold himself in The Running Man.

At the time there weren’t a lot of black actors working in sci-fi or genre fiction. Interestingly, Kotto turned down the roles of Lando Calrissian in Star Wars and Captain Picard in Star Trek!

The Guardian reports: Kotto said he was inspired to go into acting by watching Marlon Brando in On the Waterfront as a teenager, and later by Sidney Poitier in The Defiant Ones, which was released in 1958: “Standing right there on the screen was this tall black man and I said to myself, ‘I could be like him.’

Farewell, Yaphet, and thank you for being a trail-setter among my generation, who needed to see strong black characters in film from an early age on.

Classic 007

I recommend this Live & Let Die to all modern aficionados of the James Bond series who haven’t checked into some of the earlier offerings. It’s a good time — just a fun adventure with that classic early 007 feel.

Grade: A

About The Peetimes: Classic Bond movies are pretty easy to get Peetimes for because they have so many set-piece scenes. You can always pick one to sum up that doesn’t detract from the main story. Anyway, I have a good Peetime for you in Live & Let Die.

There are no extra scenes during, or after, the end credits of Live and Let Die. (What we mean by Anything Extra.)

Movie Released: 1973-06-27

Rated: (PG) NA
Genres: Action, Adventure,Thriller Spy
Starring: Roger Moore, Yaphet Kotto, Jane Seymour, Clifton James
Director: Guy Hamilton
Writer(s): Tom Mankiewicz (screenplay by)
Language: English, Hungarian
Country: UK

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1 thought on “James Bond Rewatch – Live and Let Die (1973)”

  1. I like you really liked these Bonds, and you are right Timothy just was not as good as the others, he had no humor or style like the others, I have watched every Bond movie out there (Including the Bond movie that Connery did after he said he would never do bond again and that year 2 bond movies came out, and also the comedy bond movie Casino Royal) a few things that made this movie stand out to me as this was during a time when a white guy would not go into a black neighborhood and visa versa, but Bond went in not scared or anything and while of course they tried to kill him a few times, I think they all respected each other. Another thing about this movie you have to remember this was all before CGI and fake special effects, so yes a boat did that jump (I think at the time it broke a world record) and planes where smashed and so on, so everything you see really happened and had real stunt people doing them. Thank you for the memories by writing about a favorite of mine.

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