Live and Let Die – 4 stars

Late Roger Moore Bond films, with the cornball quips and the hideous 80s fashion, obscure the fact that Moore used to be a pretty cool James Bond.  After the confusion of George Lazenby’s bizarre withdrawal from the series having only done one film (On Her Majesty’s Secret Service) Sean Connery was hurried back to woo Jill St. John in Diamonds are Forever for a then-astronomical $1 million.  But Connery was finished, so Moore was signed up (he’d already played a secret agent – Simon Templar – on television’s The Saint) .

Live and Let Die has Bond tracking Dr. Kananga (Yaphet Kotto), the dictator of a small Caribbean nation, after MI6 agents start dropping like flies.  Kananga is into drugs and voodoo, using Solitaire (Jane Seymour) and her gift with tarot cards to his advantage (until Bond deflowers her and she loses her “sight”).  Paul McCartney and Wings produced a rollicking theme (ranked number two here), there is a tremendous cigarette boat race, and Bond effectuates one of his better escapes from a Florida crocodile farm.

The new Bond presents as unflappable, as well as perpetually amused.  He’s also the horniest of the Bonds.  Moore, who just wrote a book on his time as Bond, articulated both his admiration for current Bond Daniel Craig and his own ethos:  “Now they’ve found the Bond—Daniel Craig…. I always said Sean played Bond as a killer and I played Bond as a lover. I think that Daniel Craig is even more of a killer. He has this superb intensity; he’s a glorious actor.”

Moore also identified his principal weakness as Bond: “Quite honestly, I do everything the same and I think everything comes out the same, whether I’m flinching as James Bond or raising my eyebrows as Simon Templar.”  His casualness often borders on disinterest and a certain “mailing it in” approach results.

As for the film, it has two primary faults.  First, an annoying Louisiana good ole’ boy, Sheriff Pepper (Clifton James), brought in for broad, Jerry Lewisesque comic relief.  Second, a very poor finale, with the delightful Kananga dispatched in a manner way beyond the special effects capabilities of the time.  He deserved better.

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