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Live and Let Die

movie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Live and Let Die

Starring: Roger Moore, Yaphet Kotto
Director: Guy Hamilton
Rated: PG
RunTime: 121 Minutes
Release Date: June 1973
Genres: 007, Action, Suspense

*Also starring: Jane Seymour, Clifton James, Geoffrey Holder, Bernard Lee, Lois Maxwell

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1.  Steve Rhodes review follows movie reviewvideo review
2.  Andrew Hicks read the review movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review

Review by Steve Rhodes
1½ stars out of 4

Where is SPECTRE when you need it? Why waste the talents of that superspy James Bond on something as mundane as tracking down a drug trafficking operation? Devotees of the great Bond expect him to fight organizations ready to set off the next world war. Even if we are ready to lower our expectations, the eighth Bond film, LIVE AND LET DIE from 1973, still disappoints at almost every turn.

Marketed as "Get Moore!", the show, starring Roger Moore, delivered even less the one episode, ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE, that starred George Lazenby as Bond. Whereas Lazenby tried to imitate Connery's style, Moore doesn't seem to think style is even necessary. He takes a by-the-numbers approach to the role.

Roger Moore, the third actor to play the classic James Bond character, lacks the confidence and savoir-faire one has rightfully come to expect from our hero, 007. Although Moore adequately copes with every situation, he frequently seems less in charge than just drifting along.

With Moore's lack of charisma, it will be interesting to see if he eventually warmed up to the role in subsequent episodes. In this one he acts like he is playing in some inconsequential TV movie of the week. (Our family is watching all the Bond pictures in sequence, and since I have not seen most of them since their original release, I remember only parts of them.)

The beautiful and intelligent Jane Seymour, who went on to play numerous other roles, my favorite being her part of Emma Fogarty in the TV series "The Onedin Line," is listed in the opening credits as making her movie debut. Actually her part in the film, as a fortuneteller named Solitaire, who works for the story's villain, is her fourth movie. Solitaire, with way too much makeup, wears such outlandish outfits as a massive, red and green sequined cape with a large headdress. Although we know now that Seymour's talent later blossomed, in this move little of it is in evidence.

The black drug dealers in the movie with their big Afros, long sideburns, and exaggerated gestures reminds one of those 1970's low-budget films sometimes referred to as blacksploitation flicks. One expects that genre's star, Pam Grier, to show up at any moment, but she doesn't.

Set again in the Caribbean, the story pulses with a voodoo rhythm and has poisonous snakes slinking around every corner. Bond goes to the island to investigate a death, and after he arrives, more occur. Geoffrey Holder, who did the famous 7-UP "uncola" commercials plays a mysterious character who sings, dances and, of course, bursts out with his signature, big, wicked laugh.

Yaphet Kotto, last seen in the awful TWO IF BY SEA, plays the story's villain Kananga, a.k.a. Mr. Big. Arguably the happiest bad guy Bond ever faces, he smiles so much that he never appears the least bit menacing.

In the worst part of the movie, Clifton James attempts the part of Sheriff Pepper, a cliched, tobacco-chewing, redneck sheriff. His overacting is so pathetic that it is embarrassing to watch.

The best scenes in the show involve New Orleans jazz-style funeral processions. Twice, as a bystander watches and wonders who the corpse is, he is killed and put in the casket, and the happy mourners crank up the music to celebrate.

Another good sequence has Bond driving a double-decker bus with crooked cops in hot pursuit. When the cops see a low bridge sign they smile from ear-to-ear since they figure they've got him now. In the predictable result, Bond guns the engine and shears the top off smoothly.

Bond has a lot of little gadgets this time, including a small transmitter the size of a pack of cigarettes that is used to send Morse code. Some of Bond's futuristic technology has become commonplace today. Typical of this is a wristwatch with a digital (red LED) readout rather than an analog dial. M is impressed that Bond has a coffee grinder and an espresso machine in his kitchen.

"Live and Let Die," the movie's theme song that is sung and played in several renditions in the picture is the best part of this lame movie. I hope Moore develops some charisma and style in his later Bond films. Why Ian Fleming reportedly thought Moore would be the best person to play Bond continues to baffle me.

LIVE AND LET DIE runs 1:59. It is rated PG for violence and sexual innuendo and would be fine for kids around nine and up.

My son Jeffrey, almost 9, liked the movie but complained that there were "too darn many snakes." He liked Moore as Bond but not as much as Connery. He said the movie was much better than his least favorite, the Lazenby one, ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE.

Copyright 1998 Steve Rhodes

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