Bond-a-Thond #8: ‘Live And Let Die’ (1973)

MTV Movies Blog is currently running what we call the Bond-a-Thond. Every Wednesday we’re taking a look back at a single (official) Bond film, giving you the vitals and seeing how it holds up, right up until the release of “Skyfall” on November 9. Feel free to watch along with us and share your thoughts or just kick back and enjoy the Bond.

Live and Let Die (1973)

Plot: Three MI6 agents die while tailing the mysterious dictator of a small Caribbean nation, and Bond is sent in to investigate.

Title Meaning: “Live and Let Die” has no direct connection to the film, other than sharing a name with Paul McCartney’s theme.

Bond: Roger Moore, the third Bond, makes his debut.

Villain: Yaphet Kotto pulls double duty playing the dictator Dr. Kananga and Harlem crime boss Mr. Big. Geoffrey Holder plays the minor but memorable role of Voodoo master, Baron Samedi.

Bond Girl: Solitaire, a gifted tarot card reader, played by a very young Jane Seymour.

“Bond, James Bond” Occurrences: 1

Martinis: 0

Card Games: 2

Cigarettes Smoked: 2 cigars

Explosions: 10

Tuxes Worn: 0

Kills By Bond: 5 + 1 snake

Most Creative Kill: During his climactic fight with Kananga, Bond shoves a shark gun capsule into his mouth, which releases pressurized air and sends him floating into the rafters, causing him to explode.

Gadgets: Magnetic watch

Mental State of Miss Moneypenny: Willing Confederate

First Occurrence of Sex: 7 minutes in

Sexual Partners: 3 (Italian agent, Rosie, Solitaire)

Most Unrealistic Moments: Not counting Kananga’s explosion, two highly coordinated murders involving funeral processions boggle the mind with their complexity.

Most “Bond” Moments: To escape an alligator enclosure, Bond walks across the backs of several gators.

Sign of the Times: “Get me a make on a white pimpmobile.”

Place in Bond History: “Live and Let Die” marked the beginning of Roger Moore’s reign as Bond and a very different 007. The shift from Connery to Moore is as clear as day, even in this first film. While Lazenby got by largely on an imitation of what Connery did with the character, Moore always seemed content to go his own way.

Review: Once again, time has caught up with Mr. Bond, and the result is not pretty. For the first time in the series, “Live and Let Die” engages African American culture and does so in a way that must have caused a few incredulous head shakes even in 1973. Almost every African American character is a villain or betrays Bond, and while a lack of subtlety when handling race has always been a forte of the series, the caricatures of “Live and Let Die” hit close to home.

Even if you’re able to look past the race issue, “Live and Let Die” underwhelms. The transition to Roger Moore in the lead role makes Connery’s absence all the more notable. Things like Bond’s trickery when seducing Solitaire comes off as particularly manipulative and creepy when delivered in Moore’s softer, more delicate voice.

The color of the Caribbean and Voodoo culture cannot do enough to disguise another boilerplate Bond plot. Once again, a villain attempts to flood a particular market—in this case heroin—in order to gain control of it. The film’s most extended action sequence, the overly long boat chase sequence, fails to establish any stakes; we simply have no idea why the chase is taking place or where it’s heading, which, oddly enough, sums up the movie.

The Bond-a-Thond will return next week in “The Man with the Golden Gun.”

What do you think of “Live and Let Die”? Let us know in the comments below and on Twitter!