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Film Review: Live and Let Die
In 1973, Guy Hamilton released Live and Let Die, based on the 1954 book of the same name by Ian Fleming, as the eighth film in the James Bond series. Starring Roger Moore, Jane Seymour, Yaphet Kotto, Julius Harris, David Hedison, Clifton James, Geoffrey Holder, Roy Stewart and Earl Jolly Brown, the film grossed $161.8 million at the box office.
Assigned to a case involving a voodoo using drug lord, James Bond is sent to New Orleans. However, after rescuing Kananga’s tarot reading fortune teller, he finds himself targeted by everybody.
As a segue from the Connery to the Moore eras, Live and Let Die is quite good, despite it not being the latter's best entry into the series. The film’s plot is better than the last three films, even going so far as to break away from the New Orleans stereotype of it always being Mardi Gras. Rather, the plot starts out with a jazz funeral in order to do away with the agent staking out his quarry, which is a fascinating and unexpected during a first watch. What's more is that this is the only Bond film that has something to do with the paranormal and, in doing so, has quite a few interesting points. For one, Kananga is always one step ahead of Bond, which could be ascribed to the fact that he has Solitaire’s fortune telling going for him. That and the fact that everybody Bond seeks assistance in Harlem from just happens to be working for Samedi. Then there’s Baron Samedi who doesn’t do much other give an entertainingly overblown performance. At the same time, the film leans toward him being the real Samedi of voodoo mythology, with him laughing on the back of a train after he’s supposedly dead. Him doing so answers no questions, leads to some odd implications and makes for a creepily fun ending. The boat chase is also one of the best chases in the series.
There are some problems though, such as Bond using a serrated edge in his watch that was never mentioned before. It comes out of nowhere and feels like a last minute addition to make it so that Bond could escape. Being the most plausible gadget in the series, it should have gotten a proper mention. Further, the scene where he escapes the crocodiles is cool, it’s kind of implausible.
As for other characters, there’s a lot of them in the film that end up being quite memorable. Sheriff J. W. Pepper is a fantastic character. He may be a backwards and uncouth hillbilly sheriff but he’s a capable cop, able to subdue and arrest a dangerous henchman. He’s only thwarted by Bond launching a boat over his head and for other henchmen crashing into his car. Kananga’s henchmen are pretty interesting as well, such as Tee Hee, the guy with a mechanical hand who acts like he's quite happy through the entire film and talks to Bond like he’s an old friend while getting him into position for crocodiles to eat him. The way he’s dispatched is one of the most memorable moments in the series too, having Bond throw him out the window of a train and disabling his hand.
As a villain, Kananga is good. He’s not trying to take over the world like Blofeld, instead settling for being a drug lord, and seems to realize that Bond needs to be dead, As such he orders his henchman to kill him during their first meeting. In addition, the film establishes that Kananga values the lives of his underlings, shown when he tests a shark gun by shooting a couch rather than the henchman sitting on it. The mistake he makes that leads to his downfall isn’t made out of stupidity either, but ignorance of Bond having a magnetic watch.
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Evening Standard British Film Awards
- Best Film
Golden Screen Awards
- Golden Screen
- Best Music, Original Song
- Album of Best Original Score Written for a Motion Picture
Golden Satellite Awards
- Best Classic DVD Release (for "The James Bond DVD Collection," volumes 2 & 3)