Live and Let Die: Horribly dated
Action and theme tune6
Ivan Radford | On 13, Sep 2021
Roger Moore. Whether you love him or hate him, there’s no denying that he made the part of James Bond his own. Swanning in after Connery’s suave but rough gentlemen and Lazenby’s romantic, resourceful sleuth, Moore turned 007 into a figure of fun, veering from playful joker to eyebrow-raising sleaze-ball. It’s an interpretation to go with the times, after Connery’s jarring return in Diamonds Are Forever confirmed that 007 in the 1970s would be taking on a camper tone, and needed someone else who could make that work.
Unfortunately, Roger Moore’s debut outing gives him plenty of chance to showcase his comic timing, but does so while also being horribly racist. Guy Hamilton enjoys his third stint at the helm, crafting some stunning set pieces and balancing humour and peril – from a double decker bus going under a bridge to Bond being surrounded by crocodiles, not to mention the first full-on speedboat chase in the franchise’s history. Even the opening sequence feels like a nice twist on expectations, as Bond doesn’t feature in it at all – a surprise swiftly followed by Paul McCartney and Wings’ banger of theme tune.
Sadly, that’s where the positives end, as the script that goes with all this is steeped in woefully dated stereotypes. The excellent Yaphet Kotto is wasted in the part of villain Kananga, who is a drug dealer from Harlem and also a Caribbean dictator, who rules the fictional island of San Monique. His team includes Baron Samedi (Geoffrey Holder), who appears to practise voodoo, and Solitaire (Jane Seymour), a tarot card reader who can only use her powers if nobody sleeps with her.
If they sound like dodgy clichés without much thought given to them, that’s because they are – the film trades in Blaxploitation tropes and archetypes but doesn’t try to understand them. It’s a shallow exercise in appropriating another culture and genre that lacks the self-awareness to do anything smart or even subversive – even CIA agent Rosie Carver (Gloria Hendry) is a wasted opportunity and portrayed as a clueless obstacle who mostly gets in Bond’s way.
The whole thing culminates in a dire attempt at a memorable death scene that plays out as incompetent at best and racist at worse, thinking that audiences won’t be able to spot the difference between a person and a balloon. The result is enough to make anyone raise an eyebrow – and not in a good way.