Live and Let Die stars Roger Moore, Yaphet Kotto, and Jane Seymour and was directed by Guy Hamilton. It tells the story of James Bond, played by Roger Moore in his first outing as the character, as he investigates the murders of three spies only to find himself tangled up in a web of gangsters, voodoo, and tarot. This really was an unstable time for the Bond franchise, wasn’t it? Five years, three movies, and three different Bonds ñ two of which being brand new to the series.
For some reason though, the introduction of Roger Moore as Bond didn’t feel quite as jarring as Lazenby’s introduction only two films before. I think a big part of that simply comes down to mental preparation. The switch to Lazenby was the first Bond transition we had, so it felt really weird, but by the time Moore came on the scene, people had gotten more accustomed to swapping out Bond actors. That fact alone can’t account for all of his success here though. He had an inherent knack for playing this type of character, coming off a 7 year run of playing Simon Templar on the spy thriller show The Saint and I think he slips into the role of Bond quite nicely.
Objectively speaking, Live and Let Die probably has the best theme song of the bunch so far, but I think my nostalgic heart still remains slightly in favor of Goldfinger for that number one musical spot. But man, the musical interlude in this one is just so good ñ definitely the most rockin’ of the Bond themes. Would you believe that despite having heard this song since I was a kid, it wasn’t until I was 24 years old that I realized it was a Bond theme? Seems to be a sad trend for me. As far as the actual movie, the quick pacing of the film makes it feel like one of the most briskly-moving Bonds yet. Unfortunately, as seems to be common with the franchise, there’s a bit of a lull at around the midpoint that slows things down a tad too much.
Luckily, some pretty crazy action sequences get things moving again, but storywise at least, I still think I enjoy the first half of the movie more than the second half. Actually, I think that’s been the case for me with nearly every film in the franchise so far. Despite that shortcoming, the smuggling plot’s actually pretty engaging and I had a good time with this oneÖ even though it’s the second smuggling-centric Bond we’ve had in a row. Keeping in line with the general franchise flux, this film is all over the place with regard to tone and genre.
It’s mostly an action film, but has dashes of espionage, crime thriller, blaxploitation, and swampsploitation thrown in for good measure and frequently bounces back and forth between being semi-serious and absurdly comical. In addition to the genre and tonal rollercoaster, this film takes us all over the place ñ London, New York City, New Orleans, and yet another Caribbean Island (the 3rd in 8 movies). Mysticism, voodoo, tarot cards ñ it’s all here and yet somehow the movie never gets too wildly off-track. Except maybe for Kanaga’s exit from the film ñ that’s easily in contention for one of the most ridiculous moments in the entire franchise. And what about Roger Moore as Bond? Once again, I like him. He doesn’t bring the emotional depth to the role that Lazenby did, but instead seems to be slightly more in-line with Connery’s interpretation of the character. The charm’s back, but in a much smoother and less aggressive way.
He manages to still play the character as cool and sexy without the sleaziness that clung to Connery’s Bond at times. But probably Moore’s greatest contribution to the character was his humor. Yeah there were lots of quips and one-liners in the earlier films, but the delivery feels way more natural here and is a big improvement on the stiff attempts at humor that came beforeÖ which is definitely a good thing considering how silly this movie gets. For all of its silliness, there’s a lot to like about Live and Let Die. Funeral parades, cigar parasailing, and a flying lesson that won’t soon be forgotten.
There’s a surprisingly good extended boat chase, plenty of alligators and crocodiles, and of course Moneypenny’s wonderful, yet brief contribution. While the film doesn’t quite get the franchise back on track, it’s a pretty significant course correction and a big step in the right direction. Alright let’s talk about the pros and cons. Pro number one is Roger Moore as Bond. I know I said this same kinda thing for both Connery and Lazenby’s first outings as Bond too, but its true. Moore’s definitely a different Bond, but I think he brings a lot to the role and the film benefits as a result. Now I’m not necessarily saying he’s any better or worse than our two previous Bonds, he just excels at different aspects of the character. He brings a lot of humor and charm to the role and also does a pretty good job is an action sequence.
The second pro is that this is an interesting movie. That might sound a bit simple or generic to put as a pro, but it’s one of the things that always stands out to me about it. I mean the story has a few inevitable dragging moments, but this movie just covers so much ground that it’s almost impossible not to be sucked into it. The basic plot is pretty solid and then all the silly weirdness really keeps you interested cause you have no idea what to expect next. On the con side, the biggest issue for me is just how all over the place the film is.
You could take somebody who’s never seen this movie before and show them random clips from this movie that are 20 minutes apart from each other and they’d probably guess that you were showing them a bunch of different movies. As fun and entertaining as it is, this movie is incredibly tonally inconsistent and all of the genre shifts don’t quite work in a cohesive way. The second con has gotta be the racial overtones. Quite a few of the early Bond films had issues with racial stereotypes and while this one somehow doesn’t feel quite as offensive as some of those, it’s still a bit odd at points.
There are definitely a lot of scenes that perpetuate some stereotypes like all of the Harlem jive stuff and the voodoo. But then on top of that, every single one of the bad guys is black. They’re very competent and intelligent villains and the movie really emphasizes that by counterbalancing them with the ridiculous buffoon of a racist southern sheriff, but it still all kinda leaves a bad taste in your mouth. I’m gonna give Live and Let Die 3.5 out of 5 paws.
It’s a little inconsistent and not quite peak-level Moore Bond, but it’s still a fun intro to our third Bond and an incredibly interesting watch. I would recommend Live and Let Die to Bond fans who want to see something a little different. Obviously we’ve got Roger Moore as Bond here which is definitely different, but that’s not where the differences end.
There’s some diversity to the locations in this one, bouncing from Harlem to New Orleans, to a tropical island. And even the general story and tonal approaches are a little different, but nothing’s so crazy that it’s unrecognizable as Bond. And even if you don’t really care too much about the franchise, this is still a solid movie for anyone looking for some decent and enjoyable 70s action. If you liked Live and Let Die, I would recommend the 10th Bond movie, The Spy Who Loved Me for some more Roger Moore-led globetrotting Bond. It’s arguably his best outing, so if you liked him here, you’ll definitely want to give that one a watch.
If you liked the henchmen here, you should watch the 3rd Bond film, Goldfinger, for arguably the best henchmen in the franchise: Oddjob. And if you enjoyed the boat chase; you’ve gotta watch Gator. I think of it every time I see this movie and it too has some crazy boat stunts. Alright, a couple questions for you guys. Number one: Have you seen Live and Let Die? If so, what’d you think of it? And number two: Which Bond actor has the best introductory movie? Be sure to leave your answers in the comments below so we can get a discussion going.