Thursday, May 29, 2014

Ten Statements About....LIVE AND LET DIE (1973)

"In my first act to try and destroy this fanchise, I figured I'd
dress up as a Chicken Elvis Showgirl."
“You do know what the Queen of Cups means in an upside down position? A deceitful, perverse woman. A liar, a cheat, and I'd like some answers now."
“Please... uh... You don't understand, sir. They'll kill me if I do."
“And I'll kill you if you don't."

1) Welcome to the Roger Moore era of Bond, an unfortunate time where the disparity between the good and the bad films is at its greatest.  This is one of the good ones....

2) ...even though it features the second of three nonsensical Tom Mankiewicz scripts, perhaps typified by the way Bond is literally led around by the nose by the rather extensive conspiracy of Black America that plagues him from the second he steps foot in New York.

3) The biggest problem with Moore’s interpretation of Bond is his simple unwillingness to take the role seriously.  Even here we see Moore quipping and punning in a way that burst the seams of the film’s veracity with an unheard of viciousness.  And given how there are some moments (admittedly created because Mankiewicz didn’t know the Bond he was getting) that hint at a colder, more matter-of-fact Bond Moore could have become, the overabundance of easy humor can be annoying.
This dancing, incredibly tall, weirdly made up black man
is brought to you by Nightmare Fuel, for all your
sleepless needs!

4) Look, I’ll admit that the Mr. Big disguise fools no one, but it doesn’t change the fact that this is the most intriguing collection of Bond villains we’ve seen in a while.  From Yaphet Kotto’s Kananga to Julius Harris’ Tee Hee to Geoffrey Holder’s Baron Samedi, this is a strong selection of opponents for Bond, each one having his own distinct and colorful personality.  It’s this group of baddies who manage to lift the story up over the nonsensical parts, smoothing over what would be rough terrain,

5) This Bond film is unique in that it not only includes supernatural elements, but takes them for granted.  The clairvoyant Solitaire who loses her powers with the loss of her virginity and the near silent Baron Samedi who seemingly comes back from the dead not once, but twice both add a texture that other Bond films just don’t have.
"I know, I know...but I get better once I remove this
stupid mask."

6) Was there ever a time when Jane Seymour wasn’t hot?  Even dressed in that Chicken Elvis Showgirl outfit she uses to read her cards in San Monique, she’s smoking.

7) Between the New York, New Orleans and Jamaica-standing-in-for-San-Monique, this is one of the tattiest looking Bonds of all.  All the settings have this dull, run down look to them, and some of them look like ghettos.  Granted, part of the film’s motif is contrasting the natty Bond with the garbage strewn and ugly surroundings he’s moving through, but it wears on you after a while.

8) God, Bond’s outfits are awful.  The tailored suits are fine, but trading in the regular tuxedo for the Canadian one (i.e. jeans and jeans jacket) over a wife beater or a leisure suit is such a terrible idea.
"I had this dream where I was a frontier doctor
 in the Old West..." 

9) Go away, broad comedy characters like Aviation Student Old Lady and...shudder...Sheriff Pepper.  Just...go away.  And speaking of broad comedic characters....

10) Gloria Hendry’s Rosie takes the previous film’s Tiffany Case and removes all the competence from her, leaving just the bungling goofball of that film’s third act.  It’s impossible to take Rosie seriously, so much so that when Mankiewicz gives her a heel turn (a turn that’s not so much foreshadowed as out and out handed to us), we don’t fear for Bond’s safety at all.

And if you think Rosie is bad, wait until you meet Mary next film....

Overall...even though the plot is nonsensical and the attempt to drag Bond into the 70‘s are laughable, the combination of the film’s energy and its villain set make for a fun and engaging entry in the series.

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