Roger Moore marks his debut as British secret agent James Bond in one of the series’ best films. Great gadgets, bad guys, Bond Girls and car chases – Live and Let Die has it all.
Live and Let Die represents one of my earliest memories of the eponymous British spy. It was an instant favourite as a child with its mixture of Roger Moore’s English-gent wit alongside the macabre voodoo magic of Yaphet Kotto and his gang of cronies. In director Guy Hamilton’s film (the third of four Bond film’s Hamilton would make), Bond is dispatched to New Orleans to investigate the deaths of a number of undercover agents. There he finds the mysterious Solitaire (Jane Seymour), a beautiful, nubile woman with long, flowing brunette hair who works for chief villain Kananga (Kotto) to instruct him on future events through tarot cards. Bond’s investigation leads him to the Caribbean island of San Monique (don’t put it on your wish-list for holidays because it’s fictional) where he discovers Kananga’s big secret as well as his two terrifying henchmen – Baron Samedi (Geoffrey Holder), a voodoo occultist, and Tee Hee (Julius Harris) who has a steel pincer for a hand.
The film is notable for a number of reasons. The James Bond franchise needed an injection of innovation and vitality to excite audiences who had experienced Bond for over ten years and now wanted something new. That “something” was Roger Moore. An Englishman and star of British TV series The Saint and The Persuaders, was brought in by producers Harry Saltzman and Albert R. Broccoli to take Bond into a new era during the 1970s. The key ingredient of Moore’s reign as 007 was his ability with the one-liner with far better delivery and timing than Sean Connery. That meant the Bond films during this time concentrated more on the humour than the brawn, with Moore’s Bond relying on a good gadget from Q to get him out of trouble.
Live and Let Die holds up particularly well today despite it being Moore’s first outing in the shoes of Great Britain’s most famous secret agent. The daring decision to feature a largely African-American and African-British cast has to be applauded, especially during the volatile transitional period following the civil rights movement in America. Yaphet Kotto turns out to be one of the better baddies in the Bond franchise with his expected comeuppance being particularly memorable. There’s genuine menace facing Bond in the film and that is down to some superb casting and brilliantly realised villains. The henchmen – Baron Samedi and Tee Hee – are two of the best – fiendish and frightening but also underpinned by darkly comic humour that works so well alongside Moore’s frequent quips. The film also benefits from Jane Seymour, a strange and ambiguous Bond girl but certainly one of the most alluring.
Roger Moore’s debut as Bond is terrific entertainment – it is, along with Moonraker, the one I remember from childhood and it is still as exciting today as it was then.
Directed by: Guy Hamilton
Written by: Tom Mankiewicz
Starring: Roger Moore, Yaphet Kotto, Jane Seymour, David Hedison, Bernard Lee
Released: 1973 / Genre: Action-Adventure / Country: UK / IMDB