Director: Guy Hamilton
Starring: Roger Moore, Yaphett Koto, Jane Seymour
Release Date: July 6th 1973 (UK)
Hello there and welcome to the first of one of the series’ highlights, the Roger Moore years. OK, it may have been four straight films with a change of Bond actor in each, but this is the first in a long stretch with the same actor in the role. In fact with the various measures the producers took to not have Roger compared to Sean (drinking Whiskey instead of a vodka martini, carrying a Magnum Revolver instead of a Walther PPK at least at first), Roger himself wanting to avoid being compared with the Scotsman, it is arguable that the role of James Bond himself faded into the background in favour of being simply Roger Moore.
Live and Let Die does follow its literary basis somewhat, although it has to be said much less so than OHMSS did. One small detail it changes is that in the book, Felix Leiter loses his leg and arm to a shark attack, but in the film this is entirely absent. Strangely it is utilised in Licence To Kill in 1989 which has the same actor playing Felix, even with the 16 year gap between the two.
The story is fairly average, a somewhat blaxploitation themed story here. Perhaps it is the only time Bond will ever be described as being a part of the Blaxploitation genre, it serves fairly well, although it must be noted that the villian of the piece, Mr. Big (Yaphet Kotto) is supposed to be Dr. Kanaga in disguise. Except the prosthetics are laughably poor and to some (including me), it is a bit of a surprise that they were supposed to be seen as two different characters and taken seriously as such. For a production company who basically have a licence to print money with this Goose which lays Golden Eggs, it is simply inexcusable that this should happen, especially to such a good actor and how this company can justify not having the money to afford making any more make up more believable than this is an enduring mystery. This helps to bring the overall quality of the film down somewhat and in many respects, only serves to undermine Roger Moore’s first entry into the series.
It must be noted also that for whatever reasons, behind the scenes the buisness relationship between the producers of the series, Albert Broccoli and Harry Saltzman was well on its way to souring and it is arguable that the overall quality of this film and the next, The Man With The Golden Gun suffer badly as a result. In fact, if it was not for the fact this film is the first to feature Roger Moore as James Bond, a man who would be in the role for the next twelve years, this film would be as forgettable as the next in the series.
It is by no means a bad film, but there are so many better ways for you to spend just over two hours. And they all involve Jane Seymour not just becoming a Bond aligned character out of seemingly nowhere. Please do not expect me to say much good about the next in the series, perhaps its very nadir, 1974’s The Man With The Golden Gun.