Live and Let Die ★★★★

007 Rank-A-Thon

At last a realistic Bond villain, at least in terms of his aims and the method by which he's setting out to achieve it, flooding the US with a couple of tons of opium (it sounds much more charming than heroin) which will be given away for free thereby knocking out all the competition in one fell swoop. I'm not sure it would actually work out like that but it's not completely unrealistic and what's more the price tag of $1 billion still sounds fairly impressive.

Of course Bond, British Intelligence and the CIA have no idea that's what's going on, instead they're following a trail of dead bodies left by Dr Kananga, head of San Monique, which instead of covering up what he's doing only serves to draw attention to it. Which is a bit careless of him.

First things first though, the theme song. I am not a great fan of Paul McCartney's music (heresy, I know), but I love this song, I could do without the reggae bit, but the way it suddenly picks up the pace and goes wildly bombastic is great. And more than just being the theme it is woven into the tapestry of the film, turning up as part of the score and being reinterpreted for a night club scene.

And that's the only thing that's different, ignoring Roger Moore whose regeneration as Bond isn't remarked upon at all. The film is clearly influenced by the Blaxploitation films, taking cues from other genres is not something Bond had done before or I think since. But it works nicely with it's amazing pimpmobiles, fashions, views of rundown 70's New York and 'Fillet of Soul' chain of clubs, a shop name pun worthy of Bob's Burgers.

On the subject of fashion there are some questionable choices of outfits by Bond here, the cool 60's look is blown out of the water by some awful clothery, most notable of which is an ensemble which reminds one, and not in a good way, or Randy Quaid's blue leisure suit in National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation. Ugh. It's fine for other characters to changes in fashion but Bond should have stuck to classic cool. This is something we're going to need to get used to for many films to come though.

In other regards Moore he's fine although I am left with the feeling that he's rather absent from the film, where Connery and particularly Lazenby feel like they're in amongst the action, Roger is nowhere to be seen, only an unconvincing double. Mind you he's half as old again as Connery was when he started his career as Bond, close to 50 than 40. Which I guess is why he does more acting with his eyebrows than with his fists. And there's a noticeable uptick in the number of puns, a most unwelcome turn of events for the series.

Having said that his advanced years seem to be no impediment to his way with the ladies, most notably Jane Seymour as Solitaire. But the method used to get her into bed is surely as close to rape as you can get as he stacks her deck of Tarot cards, something in which she believes so strongly that she submits to him because she believes her destiny is irresistible. He might as well have given her a dose of Rohypnol.

Mind you he clearly feels some guilt, confessing to her after they have done the deed and far from being upset she brushes it off and wants some more of his sweet, sweet loving. So clearly she was up for it.

Oddly Q is entirely absent, even if he sends Bond a present, a watch with a super powerful an electromagnet built in (God knows how it's powered). And M and Moneypenny have to go and visit Bond rather than the other way around. What the hell's up with that? Had someone accidentally destroyed the set of M's office?

Yaphet Kotto as Kananga is great, but he's great in everything. And as I've said before this is finally a villain who lives in the real world with all the cynicism of Big Pharma he's going to run all his competitors out of business and have all of America's junkies to himself. Plus he has the two things that all good Bond villains need, a shark tank and monorail. Although his makeup department need a good talking to, his disguise is fooling no one and it would have taken hours to apply those prosthetics to no effect whatsoever.

His henchmen are just as entertaining, Tee Hee with his mechanical claw hand and Baron Samedi who thinks everything is hilarious. You might also include the world's least ninja bunch of assassins who knock off unsuspecting agents hanging out on New Orleans street corners. You'd think being accompanied by a jazz band would attract attention to you're murderous deeds, but apparently not.

We do get a couple of notable action sequences with the bus (which counts as the Bond car for this episode) and the alligators which are dealt with much more swiftly that I remember, before we get to the film's pièce de résistance, the speedboat chase.

Do you know what? I don't car that it's clearly some other bloke in the boat, it's just great, fast boats on water, on land, in the air and a bloody big explosion to finish it all of. Plus Sheriff J W Pepper who alarmingly keeps calling Kananga's lackeys 'boy' which seems racist until it turns out that that's how he refers to everyone. Worse than that he keeps spitting everywhere. Disgusting.

This is a great start to Moore's reign as Bond. The man was a true gent.

Paul liked these reviews