To start off, “Live and Let Die” has one of the worst pre-titles sequences in the history of Bond franchise. There’s not much to it; just a couple of deaths – one being brought upon by a fake-looking, rubber snake. In my opinion, the producers should’ve introduced Roger Moore’s James Bond with a little more flair, rather than having M and Moneypenny walk in on him while he’s fooling around with an “associate”.
In true cinematic James Bond fashion, the film hardly follows Ian Fleming’s novel of the same name. However, many will say that racism litters the film, as it supposedly does in Fleming’s novel, also. In both cases, my opinion is that those who say such things just need to get off their politically-correct high-horses.
The characters of this film aren’t as well written as the characters in “Diamonds Are Forever”, but they suffice. Roger Moore’s debut act as James Bond is surely memorable. He’s not quite the humorous Bond as he later turns out to be, yet he’s not 100% like Fleming’s Bond either. It’s definitely his own breed of Bond, and in this film, it works well. The seriousness of the character balances well with the humor and cheesiness of the film. Yaphet Kotto plays the “two-faced” villain, Dr. Kananga. I think this is the best performance of the film, as Kananga appears to be a menacing, unpredictable villain. Kananga’s henchmen are mediocre, though. We’re given Julius W. Harris’ “Tee-Hee”, who sports a mechanical arm, with a claw at the end. That’s about as interesting as he gets, and certainly doesn’t rank up there with Red Grant or Professor Dent. There’s also “Whisper”, played by Earl Jolly Brown. The character looms around in the background of most of Kananga’s scenes, and has a very low, near-inaudible voice. Jane Seymour’s portrayal of Solitaire isn’t anything special, but it works. She more or less plays a quiet, virgin, tarot card reader, and that’s about as deep as the character is. Throughout the film, you’ll also run into some annoying characters, such as Rosie Carver, and J.W. Pepper. Gloria Hendry’s portrayal of Rosie Carver is over-the-top. After a while, you may find yourself hoping for her death. Clifton James’ J. W. Pepper is a bit more tolerable, but that stereotypical “Billy Bob”/redneck/half-witted Southerner act gets old after a while. The shame is that EON will bring him back in the next film – “The Man With the Golden Gun”.
George Martin – famous for producing The Beatles albums – provides his first [and last] score for the Bond series. While the score isn’t the worst non-Barry Bond score, it certainly doesn’t rank up with Barry’s past scores, either. I do quite enjoy the motif that uses the film’s theme song, though. Regarding the theme song, which is performed by Paul McCartney and Wings, it has to be one of the best of the series. It’s very different from the past themes we were offered, and introduces the new Bond era in a rocking fashion. The vocals are great, and the instruments are fantastic. It’s an all-around awesome, memorable, and iconic James Bond theme.
As far as locations go, the EON team doesn’t fail to impress. James Bond travels to my stomping-grounds of New York, then to New Orleans, and to Jamaica, which doubles as the fictional country of San Monique. The locations in this film were quite admirable. I’d like to see Bond head to New York once more, actually.
I thought I’d mention that this film tends to mimick “Dr. No”, in a way. The scene in which Bond, Leiter, and Quarrel, Jr. are planning to infiltrate San Monique reminds me most of “Dr. No” – it’s very much like the scene in which Bond, Leiter, and Quarrel attempt to infiltrate Crab Key. I think it was a good homage to “Dr. No”, even if it wasn’t intended.
Overall, “Live and Let Die” works decently. There are plenty of cheesy aspects of the film, a lack of characterization in some areas, but a relatively down-to-Earth plot. The score was decent, and the locations were satisfying. Roger Moore does well in his debut Bond film, but I don’t think it ranks anywhere near Sean Connery’s debut. I think this is definitely one of Roger Moore’s better Bond films, though.