After the mistake that was George Lazenby, replacing Sean Connery again was always going to feel risky. It was necessary, Connery was looking far too old to be playing Bond seriously in Diamonds are Forever but anyone stepping into those iconic shoes would have a challenge on their hands. I was even more put-off that it was Roger Moore.
Roger Moore isn’t even close to Sean Connery. I don’t mean in general acting talent or anything quite like that but just in style, pose, manner and look. Roger Moore is a classic, English gentleman. Suave, sophisticated and almost above all of the tasks he is required to do. He doesn’t look like a man who is willing to get his hand’s dirty and certainly doesn’t strike me as a suitable replacement for the aggressive, strong but cool Connery that has played Bond so well so far.
It doesn’t help that the first time we meet our new Bond, he is being slightly too cocky. He is hiding a woman from M (still played brilliantly by Bernard Lee) and then uses a magnet to remove her dress, almost looking at the camera with his raised eyebrow and knowing smile. It is the chauvinistic 70s and Roger Moore represents it all.
To his credit though, he saves himself as the film goes on. It is a very different Bond movie to what we have seen so far. It is much darker, dealing with voodoo and ritualistic killings from the outset and introducing a menacing and creepy villain in Baron Samedi. The story itself is much more mature, not dealing with world domination and secret, satellite lasers, but with heroin smuggling and international crime. It feels more like the Bond we have today, even if the package begins to show it’s dated look.
Roger Moore can also hold himself in the action sequences too. He manages to get in a whole manner of scrapes and fights which he convincingly portrays and with only one major set-piece, a speedboat chase through the New Orleans swamps, Moore has less to do than Connery ever did.
The lack of long, extended action sequences doesn’t matter though because this is less about the action and much more about the chase of the villain. We go from New York, to New Orleans and back and forth multiple times while we try to figure out who is behind it all. It is telling that we have two major henchmen, with metal armed Tee-Hee being the other threat, because the reveal of the major bad guy is slightly under-whelming and very obvious.
The more interesting aspect is in the Bond Girl. For once she seems to have a much more integral part to the story, playing on the idea of voodoo and Tarot Cards, Jane Seymour’s Solitaire is both sexy and relevant to the story. Bond takes advantage, as we still haven’t got past the more sexist era of the spy, but she has much more to do and contribute than the last few Bond Girls have.
It isn’t just Bond’s treatment of his Bond Girl which shows the film’s age. There is a slightly racist tone with some of the first act, as Bond tracks down the villains he finds himself in Harlem and we get a lot of 70’s Blacksploitation stereotypes, especially in the way the characters talk to Bond. It jars but not quite as much as the inclusion of comic relief, Sheriff Pepper, played by Clifton James. This character is like nothing we have had in Bond before and means we still get the “silly” that has run through the last few movies.
It also leads us to the most ridiculous Bond moment since he “became Japanese.” Watching Bond escape a very cool trap, surrounded by alligators and stuck in the middle of their lake, by running over their backs to safety is just so far removed from Dr No or From Russia with Love that it often doesn’t feel like we are watching the same character anymore.
It all ends with a classic finale though and the now customary false finish, with one last battle to end the film. Even though the face of Bond has changed, some of the classic tropes, albeit not necessarily positive ones, still remain.
Overall, Live and Let Die is a decent enough introduction to the new face of Bond. Although Roger Moore feels far removed from Connery, he manages to hold his own when it counts and is convincing enough as 007. The story feels like it has changed tone too, dealing with threats that don’t include world domination. A good Bond Girl and decent henchmen can’t quite distract from silly moments and crazy new character though.
Rating – 3
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