Yaphet Kotto just died. He had a deep gravitas, and his turns as the cynical working-class stiff (be it in Blue Collar, Brubaker or doomed on the ship in Alien) were always spot on. His best work, however, was probably on TV in his 122 episode run as Captain Al Giardello in Homicide: Life on the Streets, where he played the rock solid center in the world of Baltimore’s murder police.
Kotto’s first big role, however, was as the diabolical, charming Bond villain in Live and Let Die, Roger Moore’s first in the series and his best (just a hair better than The Spy Who Love Me). Here, Moore is physical, and even has a hint of menace, as he gets to the bottom of an international drug conspiracy engineered by Kotto. Sharks, alligators, snakes, spooky voodoo rituals emceed by the old Seven Up pitchman Jeffrey Holder (“ahahahahahahahahahaha”), high-speed boat chases . . . it’s all rip roaring fun (and ahead of its time – it’s 1973, and Bond couples with an African American fellow agent, Rosie Carver). It also features the best Bond song (which is one of the few decent songs by Wings).
But Kotto was a blast (figuratively, and at the end, indulging in a cheezy Bond quip, literally). Funny, from debonair to frightening in an instant, and playful. One of the best and more accessible Bond villains.
Because during COVID, I have some extra time on my hands, here is my list of Bond films, best to worst.
1) Casino Royale (Craig)
2) Goldfinger (Connery)
3) From Russia with Love (Connery)
4) On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (Lazenby)
5) Skyfall (Craig)
6) Live and Let Die (Moore)
7) Quantum of Solace (Craig)
8) Thunderball (Connery)
9) The Spy Who Loved Me (Moore)
10) Dr. No (Connery)
11) The Living Daylights (Dalton)
12) You Only Live Twice (Connery)
13) Never Say Never Again (Connery)
14) Moonraker (Moore)
15) Licence to Kill (Dalton)
16) For Your Eyes Only (Moore)
17) Tomorrow Never Dies (Brosnan)
18) The Man With the Golden Gun (Moore)
19) Goldeneye (Brosnan)
20) The World is Not Enough (Brosnan)
21) Die Another Day (Brosnan)
22) Octopussy (Moore)
23) Diamonds are Forever (Connery)
24) Specter (Craig)
25) A View to a Kill (Moore)