Thursday, 26 May 2011

Roger Moore's First - Live & Let Die (1973)

The first Bond film to star Roger Moore, Live and Let Die is an enjoyable international adventure, flawed by some episodic storytelling and dubious racial politics in its tale of corrupt Caribbean politics and voodoo.

Roger Moore, already familiar as an action hero as The Saint (ITV, 1962-69) and half of The Persuaders (ITV, 1971-72), does well as Bond. His characterisation is noticeably more relaxed than his predecessors; more cheerful and less brutal. He still exhibits the misogyny of the character, notably in his patronising treatment of Rosie (Gloria Hendry), and in his references to women as commodities. Moore delivers the dialogue with an attractive laid-back charm and obviously enjoys the generous selection of schoolboy puns and one-liners. He looks less confident in the fight sequences than the previous Bonds but his presence is sufficient to hold together the plot.

Yaphet Kotto makes a strong impression in his double role, especially during his elegant speeches to Bond, but his character is more mundane than is usual in the Bond films, with rather modest ambitions compared to the grandiose plans of previous villains. The use of heroin dealing does, however, lend the film a gritty and contemporary feel which suits the excellent New York location shooting. The rest of the impressive Black cast are somewhat wasted, with only Julius Harris' sardonic Tee-Hee and Geoffrey Holder's sinister, semi-supernatural Baron Samedi standing out.Holder gets the most memorable image in the film as he laughs maniacally on the back of a train during the end credits. Jane Seymour is given little to do, but makes a stylish appearance as Solitaire.

The action scenes are lavish and well choreographed but the speedboat chase - another Bond tradition - is overlong and not as exciting as it might have been. Tom Mankiewicz's script paces the story well and gives plenty of opportunities for the new Bond to find his feet, although the comedy scenes involving J.W. Pepper are somewhat jarring. The main disappointment is the absence of the customary 'office' scenes at the beginning, which means that 'Q' does not appear. Guy Hamilton's direction is at its best during the well-staged pre-credits sequence and the voodoo ceremony scenes. As a whole, this is an entertaining Bond film but less memorable than the best of the series.

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