Review: Live and Let Die

[Originally published in Movietone News 24, July-August 1973]

Sean Connery knew when to get out. The new James Bond film is a poor-kid’s followup to the modest achievements of the preceding seven Fleming adaptations (I’m not counting the multi-director fiasco Casino Royale, backed by a different producer). The double-entendres fairly double over with arthritis, the girls and the bad guys are a dreary lot, and the big set-piece, a motorboat pursuit through twisty inland waterways, is a protracted steal from The Mechanic. Sex was real—i.e., had something to do with emotions—only in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (and why hasn’t Peter Hunt directed anything since?), but even the Playmate-style romps of the other Bond flicks had some verve and wit about them; here either the couplings are all but accidental or the implicit logic behind them threatens to plunge the film into a neurotic introspection that the writer, the director, and the star are unprepared to risk.

The new James Bond is also a washout: Roger Moore, who has more failed TV series behind him than anyone else still pretending to stardom, hasn’t the ironic fibre or sheer strength of presence that made the complacency of Connery’s James Bond not only tolerable but also amusing; nor does he suggest the doltish vulnerability of George Lazenby in the role (O.H.M.S.S.). It is appropriate that Bond’s occasional CIA-sidekick Felix Leiter, who started out as Jack Lord in Dr. No and became a dull, long-limbed blond Aryan neuter in Thunderball (Rik van Nutter), has been modified to suit the contemporary mood of disenchantment with such Special Services: David Hedison plays him as a business-suited, briefcase-toting, Gardol-smile junior vice president who has to keep pulling Moore’s branch manager 007 out of scrapes that might embarrass the company. For a little while it seems as if we’re going to have some fun with a black Mafia in Harlem and New Orleans (a streetside assassination momentarily recalls the drollery of previous Bonds), but soon the film turns shockingly ugly in its conscienceless toadying to all racist prejudice: if we can keep our heads straight, we are invited to laugh at redneck lawmen one moment and feet-do-yo’-stuff, voodoo-spooked blacks the next.

RTJ

LIVE AND LET DIE
Direction: Guy Hamilton. Screenplay: Tom Mankiewicz, after the novel by Ian Fleming. Cinematography: Ted Moore. Music: George Martin.
The Players: Roger Moore, Jane Seymour, Yaphet Kotto, Julius W. Harris, Geoffrey Holder, David Hedison, Bernard Lee, Lois Maxwell.

Copyright © 1973 Richard T. Jameson