Sunday, 14 August 2011

Live and Let Die (1973)



Starting next month, all of the James Bond films that I watch for Blogalongabond are going to have to be on DVD, because Live and Let Die is the last of the series that I have on video. Pretty piss-poor taped-off-the-telly quality video at that! Obviously, whenever it appeared on TV, it caught me off guard as I missed the very beginning; the image blurs into focus just as one agent is getting fried through his hearing aid as a smug Kananga looks on.

As the exposition continues, it became apparent that I might not have missed that much, as two more agents are dispatched (stabbed, and death by unconvincing snake) for getting too close to discovering what the baddie (Kananga/Mr Big) is up to. James is therefore called into action to investigate. He travels to New York (where he meets yet another Felix Leiter), New Orleans, and finally San Monique in the Caribbean where Mr Big is in charge. It turns out that Kananga is producing lots of Heroin; he intends to give away two tonnes of it, flooding the market, putting his competitors out of business, creating many new addicts, and then making a fortune when he sells his product in the future.

Following the dirge of DAF, LALD is a breath of fresh air. OK, so Moore is old, slightly camp, has huge nipples and makes bad jokes; but where Sean was lackadaisically carried along by the events of the last film, Roger drives the film forward, is fairly engaging, and actually cares about what he’s doing. The third actor to play Bond in as many films, Roger is already 46 when he makes his first outing, 5 years older than Sean was in DAF. This is of no consequence in LALD however, as Roger still looks “young”, and being a bit older allows the character to be more sarcastic than he has been in the past; particularly as he rolls his eyes at Solitaire’s dogmatic belief in the tarot cards. However, at the risk of getting ahead of the Blogalongabond mission, when Sir Roger calls time on his 007 career it looks all kinds of wrong as he gets it on with the young girrrrrlssss (I’m picturing Father Jack Hackett here).

But for now Moore seems to be everything we could want from a 70s secret agent. Suave, sly (hiding Italian ambassadors in his cupboard), quick on his feet, and able to evade henchmen while driving double-decker buses/aeroplanes. Far from being the aged agent we perhaps all think of, Roger immediately seems completely at ease and perfectly capable of handling his license to kill. We are even treated to a rare view of international espionage’s most eligible bachelor’s pad; and we see that he is now a very modern agent with all mod cons. Well, a coffee maker with a milk-frothing attachment anyway; and some lovely golden cockerels on his kitchen wall. If he could just do something about those blazers...

So much for the main protagonist, what about the main antagonist? Yaphet Kotto is Kananga/Mr Big; and bugger me, I never knew that he was Parker in Alien! As Kananga (such a cool name), he is alright, nothing more. I think that because there is such a sinister Voodoo undertone throughout the film, this dilutes out any menace that Kananga has. He pops up every now and again, usually when 007 is disappear-ed from a Fillet of Soul club, but is generally one dimensional I thought. That is until near the end when he suddenly perks up as he is explaining his dastardly plan; just before his frankly ridiculous death!

The women were a bit wishy-washy I thought. Rosie tries to be her own woman, and stands up to Bond; cyanide apparently preferable to sleeping with him. Of course that only lasts 15 seconds until she is scared by a hat and demands 007 to spend the night with her! Solitaire’s character has more potential, but once the cards tell her that Bond will be her lover, her actions become inevitable. I know all the women are conquests for 007, but he seems to be particularly patronising towards Solitaire: “poor innocent girl believing the cards, I’ll make her see reason!”

Having said all that; from the iconic title song played over a flaming skull, to the moment that old-hooky gets thrown out of the train window, I thought that LALD was an entertaining mission for 007. Alright, so it had its hammy moments; not least the inflated death of Kananga, or the least convincing prosthetic attachment since Carl Weather’s wooden hand in Happy Gilmore; but rather than being tiresome, this kind of nonsense added to the fun. Even the irritating crazy yokel sheriff (who needed subtitles), was useful in the way that his antics broke up quite a long boat chase; which, although it was a bit Dukes of Hazzard, never got boring like the car chase in DAF did. I’m sure the music score was as good as usual, but given the poor recording quality I hardly noticed it I’m afraid.

Towards the end I was quite struck by the similarity with Enter the Dragon (bear with me). Heroin production, running around an underground base, and 007 was even wearing a black burglar outfit. Initially I felt sure that LALD must have taken the idea from Bruce Lee, but on further consideration I realised that they must have been released at a similar time. Actually the London premiere of LALD was 21 days before Enter the Dragon was released in Hong Kong! Quite a coincidence; or perhaps irrelevant! Anyhoo. All in all, at this stage, the future looks bright and blazing for Roger and 007, only time will tell whether this optimism is justified.