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Sunday 14 July 2019

Burl reviews Live and Let Die! (1973)

Ha ha, it’s Burl, plain Burl, here to shake and stir you with a James Bond movie review! This one is Live and Let Die, which I believe was the debut of Sir Roger Moore in the superspy role; and frankly, with this one as the first, I wonder how Sir Roger lasted as long in the part as he did! How did he even get to Moonraker? The only thing longer in the part than he was, by the time he was done, was his tooth! Ha ha!
Well, maybe that’s not a very good joke! But neither is this a very good movie! I used to think kindly upon it, it being buoyed in my memory by the voodoo elements of the plot and the crude scarecrows that frightened me so much as a youth! I was and am a horror movie fellow, so those things attracted me! But they’re just not as scary now, and the movie is consequently less entertaining!
I think I’ve nailed down what it is that makes Moore my least favourite Bond: he just can’t deliver the smarmy lines without seeming smarmy himself! And I don’t necessarily think this is Moore’s fault; to the contrary, I think it might be to his credit! Maybe, being a gentleman, he just wasn’t able to inhabit that aspect (as written by the 70s-era screenwriters) of Bond’s character! This level of strutting sexism was cartoonish even then, and it would take a real true believer to sell this stuff in earnest!
Another thing: The picture’s bad guy, Yaphet “Eye of the Tiger” Kotto , at one point accuses Bond of being a poor loser, and do you know what? He is! Every time a lady gets an ERA-era zinger over on him, Bond pulls a sour face and immediately tries to reinstate his masculine superiority by some petty act of revenge! And indeed he does come across as something of a dunder-klumpen whenever things don’t go his way!
The female lead here is Domino, played by Jane Seymour from Lassiter, who reads Tarot cards and indeed seems to have some kind of supernatural power! About the best bit in the picture, cinematically speaking, is the cross-cutting between Bond’s flight to New York and Domino’s totally accurate prognostications of his visit and what it will bring! I guess it’s the only time this series ever trafficked in the uncanny, and it’s one of the few distinguishing aspects of the picture!
Another such aspect is the great gallery of distinctive black actors, like Julius Harris and Geoffrey Holder and Gloria Hendry and Earl Jolly Brown! And, ha ha, not to mention the terrific Kotto! They help the picture mightily, despite the sour tastes of colonial-era racism that occasionally intrude! And too bad that Southern-fired sheriff had to be shoehorned into the already too-long bayou boat chase, calling people “Boy-y-y-y” like some hick Angus Scrimm! And it was this same ‘baccy-spitting ultramaroon whom they decided to bring back in the next installment, The Man With the Golden Gun, even though they had a perfectly good stinger at the end of this one: Geoffrey Holder, sitting on the front of the train and laughing his uncola laugh! Ha ha! So why not bring Holder back, at least for the pre-credit sequence in the follow-up?
Well, that wasn’t what they chose to do, but at least they hired Christopher Lee and put an extra nipple on him, ha ha! Anyway, Live and Let Die gives us Bond on the trail of a heroin smuggler who’s been killing the agents previously on his trail, and who has grander plans than the usual drug lord, and uses voodoo trappings as well as murder to spook people away from getting too close! We get action in New York, some fictional Caribbean country, New Orleans, and the bayous of ‘weeziana, which is where that sheriff comes in! None of it’s terribly exciting, and though there are some okay moments here and there, and a unique, if silly, demise for the bad guy, I can give this nought but one and a half inflating leather sofas!

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