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BlogalongaBond: Live And Let Die
Bond
timdalton007
With no chance of Sean Connery returning to play 007, producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman had to prove to critics that James Bond's time had not come and gone. To do it, they brought in an actor better known as Simon Templer and Brett Sinclair on the Saint and The Persuaders, respectively, Roger Moore. Updating Ian Fleming's most controversial novel, Live And Let Die, the producers, writer Tom Mankiewicz, and director Guy Hamilton choose to embrace the action packed comical Bond film as seen in the previous Bond film Diamonds Are Forever. Unlike that film, which turned out to be a very mixed bag, it works here.

Roger Moore's debut as Bond sets up the tone of the films to come. Roger is more comic than Connery or Lazenby and in his later films is stuck with very bad one liners. But here, Bond's one liners are mostly well written and while Moore is mostly comedic, when a serious moment comes, Moore for the most part can play well. Moore makes his own Bond and steps out of Connery's shadow so well that it is extremely hard to make a comparison. On the down side, the more comedic 007 doesn't help the film in the realism department and that hurts the film quiet a bit: that Bond simply isn't believable.

In the casting of Solitaire, Jane Seymour fits Ian Fleming's description of the character to perfection. Not only does Seymour look the part, she also plays the part well. Given that in both the novel and the film, Solitaire is a poorly defined character who Bond saves at every possible chance, Seymour plays the role with believability that is rarely matched by an any other Bond girl. While some of the lines are cliché, the tarot card and ESP abilities of Solitaire give Seymour a chance to show off her considerable talents that have only improved over the years since this film.

In Doctor Kananga, we get the first African American villain in a Bond film. Yaphet Kotto brings considerable menace to the character that is turned on and off as Kananga is both a public figure and then as drug lord Mister Big. It must be noted the well done plot twist of Mister Big being Kananga, though it doesn't make a lot of sense. Two things ruin an otherwise memorable character: his plot and his death. What is earth-shattering problem that created by dumping free heroin on America's streets? It isn't as big as say irradiating Fort Knox or unleashing a biological weapon on the world. His death is completely absurd and doesn't even seem realistic.

The supporting cast is mainly African American actors and actresses playing villains. That fact brings out the fact that while this a 007 adventure, it is also jumping on the blaxploitation bandwagon of the early 1970's and serves to date the film. Those actors are underwritten and way too often used for comic relief. Tee Hee and Whisper are two examples of this. Despite numerous attempts to kill Bond, they fail and Bond eventually gets rid of them easily. Rosie Carver is another example. She is an interesting character who is underwritten to the extreme and we come off not caring that she is dead.

While on the subject of the supporting cast, it should be note that David Hedison makes a great Felix Leiter. The bad memory of Norman Burton's Leiter is washed away as this Bond and Leiter share a very believable friendship. It is only a shame that the character doesn't appear again for 14 years as he could have added a lot to the Moore films. If there is one outstanding example of a bad character in this film, it has to be Sheriff J.W. Pepper. This type of character is out of place in a Bond film and one almost wonder's what everyone was thinking when this character was added. Most if Pepper's lines are cringe worthy, though the scene at the end of the boat chase where Pepper confronts Bond is the film's best comedic moment.

The film can be best viewed as a chase film. The film is really a bunch of chases that the plot revolves around. While this is usually the kiss of death for any film (look at 1997's Tomorrow Never Dies for example), it works here. The chases are well done and, despite thirty plus years of other action films, are exciting. The tension in the film is primarily found in these chases and fights that test's the abilities of 007. While humor fills these chases, which ruined many chase sequences in Diamonds Are Forever, it works here. If there is anything to complain about these chases, it is the occasional lack of music. This is no more apparent than in the film's best chase: the boat chase.

The boat chase is the film's lengthiest sequence and with good reason. The boat chase takes us across the buoy and showcases some amazing stunt work. The chase is occasionally hampered down by appearances by J.W. Pepper and his merry band of idiot cops. The chase is one of the better sequences to appear in the series and has truly stood the test of time.

The music for the film marks a milestone in the Bond films. This was the first time ever John Barry didn't compose any music for the film. George Martin, a long time Beetles producer, was hired to the score and he created the best non-Barry Bond score until David Arnold's score for Tomorrow Never Dies 24 years later. The score has a great feel to it and doesn't feel dated at all. Martin is however guilty for leaving some of the action unscored. The boat chase is for the large part unscored, but when the music comes on the excitement. Martin does a very good take on the James Bond Theme, giving it a much-needed boost for the film and it is so undated that it appeared in trailers for The Living Daylights fourteen years later. The film's score is built around an excellent main title song. The song is an unabashed rock song, but it fits very well with Maurice Binder's title sequence. It is an excellent song and a truly classic song.

With a good main cast, a shaky supporting cast, good action sequences, an excellent tile song and a wonderful score by George Martin, Live And Let Die is certainly an improvement over Diamonds Are Forever. Though when it is viewed in context with the rest of the series, it comes off as above average. One thing is clear though: Live And Let Die saved James Bond.