Live and Let Die (Guy Hamilton, 1973) marks the first outing of Roger Moore as the iconic 007 character. Moore’s dry and more refined portrayal of Bond deliberately contrasts Connery’s rugged tough-guy persona which set the franchise on a new path. Building on the genre of blaxploitation, Live and Let Die is a more serious and daring film, designed to tap into gritty realism and timely social issues, at least on the surface. Screenwriter Tom Mankiewicz played up the comedic elements of the plot in order to highlight Moore’s acting strengths. As a result, the film occasionally struggles in finding an adequate balance between drama and farce. Yet, its insistence on difference from, rather than simple replication of the formula, ultimately registers as its greatest strength.
The film’s pre-credit sequence is particularly notable in this context given that Bond is entirely absent from it. I vividly remember looking for Bond as a kid, feeling disappointed that the film did not offer the series’ signature action-driven spectacle. Today, I appreciate this act of revisionism as a way to build up the introduction of Moore and setting the mood for an espionage crime thriller.
The stand-out scene, to this day, remains Bond’s encounter with a group of crocodiles. The mix of close-up and wide-angle shots creates an engaging crescendo of suspense and anxiety. This shot reverse-shot pattern can sometimes feel too drawn out, but Hamilton’s direction keeps the scene focused and impactful throughout. And then there is the actual stunt, Bond running across four alligators. It happens quickly, almost too fast to take it all in upon first viewing, but the physical dexterity of the stuntman, coupled with the real-life threat, remains a high point of the series.
Live and Let Die is not the type of Bond film Roger Moore would become known for, but it remains one of his best efforts overall.
This blog will return with … The Man with the Golden Gun.