Live and Let Die (1973)

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Live and Let Die (1973)

James Bond is sent to stop a diabolically brilliant heroin magnate armed with a complex organisation and a reliable psychic tarot card reader.

Live and Let Die is a 1973 spy film. It was the eighth film in the James Bond series produced by Eon Productions, and the first to star Roger Moore as the fictional MI6 agent James Bond. It was directed by Guy Hamilton and produced by Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, while Tom Mankiewicz wrote the script. Although the producers had approached Sean Connery to return after Diamonds Are Forever (1971), he declined, sparking a search for a new actor to play Bond; Moore was signed for the lead role.

The film is based on Ian Fleming’s 1954 novel of the same name. The storyline involves a Harlem drug lord known as Mr. Big who plans to distribute two tons of heroin for free to put rival drug barons out of business and then become a monopoly supplier. Mr. Big is revealed to be the alter ego of Dr. Kananga, a corrupt Caribbean dictator, who rules San Monique, a fictional island where opium poppies are secretly farmed.

Bond is investigating the deaths of three British agents, leading him to Kananga, and he is soon trapped in a world of gangsters and voodoo as he fights to put a stop to the drug baron’s scheme.

Live and Let Die was released during the height of the blaxploitation era, and many blaxploitation archetypes and clichés are depicted in the film, including derogatory racial epithets (“honky”), black gangsters, and pimpmobiles.[3] It departs from the former plots of the James Bond films about megalomaniac super-villains, and instead focuses on drug trafficking, a common theme of blaxploitation films of the period.

It is set in African-American cultural centres such as Harlem and New Orleans, as well as the Caribbean Islands. It was also the first James Bond film featuring an African-American Bond girl romantically involved with 007, Rosie Carver, who was played by Gloria Hendry.

The film was a box-office success and received generally positive reviews from critics. Its title song, written by Paul and Linda McCartney and performed by their band Wings, was also nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Song.


Live and Let Die (1973) Trailer

Live and Let Die (1973) Reviews

“Live and Let Die” is the ninth James Bond picture, and not exactly the best. It has all the necessary girls, gimmicks, subterranean control rooms, uniformed goons and magic wristwatches it can hold, but it doesn’t have the wit and it doesn’t have the style of the best Bond movies.This may have something to do with the substitution of Roger Moore for Sean Connery as 007. Moore has the superficial attributes for the job: The urbanity, the quizzically raised eyebrow, the calm under fire and in bed. But Connery was always able to invest the role with a certain humor, a sense of its ridiculousness. Moore has been supplied with a lot of double entendres and double takes, but he doesn’t seem to get the joke.
The plot this time begins in the usual way, with the disappearance of what are inevitably described as “three of our best men.” One died in New York, one in New Orleans (during a funeral that turned out, alas, to be his own) and one in the Caribbean. Needless to say, a string of coincidences link the murders and they seem to lead to Mr. Big. Mr. Big is played, I guess, by Yaphet Kotto.I have to guess because either I wasn’t listening or it was never quite explained whether Kotto was fronting for Big or was really Big all along and just pretended to front for him. Not that it matters; the movie doesn’t have a Bond villain worthy of the Goldfingers, Dr. Nos and Oddjobs of the past.The bad guys, indeed, are a little banal. In the past, Bond has conquered evil scientists bent on enslaving the world. He has broken up a scheme to destroy our space satellites with laser beams. He has, let’s see, saved the dollar by protecting our gold supply (something the current administration is less successful at).That’s big-time stuff. But this time, all the bad guys are doing is growing a billion dollars worth of heroin in order to take over the illegal dope industry from the mob. (They’re black, but the movie’s ads mercifully refrain from promising they’ve got a plan to stick it to the man, maybe out of deference to Bond’s British origins. This is, after all, Discover America summer.)

There are a few elements every Bond movie absolutely must have, and “Live and Let Die” has them. It opens, of course, with a meeting with M and the faithful Miss Moneypenny. It has Bond arriving at the Caribbean hideout by man-bearing kite. It has a spectacular chase (this one involves speedboats, but isn’t as much fun as the great ski chase two Bonds ago).

It has a spectacularly destroyed villain (he swallows a capsule of compressed air and explodes). It has the girls. And it has Bond exhibiting his mastery of the better things in life by asking room service for a bottle of Bollinger – not cold, but “slightly chilled,” please.

And it does, to give it credit, have the one basic Bond scene that always seems copied from the previous Bond movie: The penetration of the underground citadel. This scene always begins with Bond pressing a bidden lever or discovering the secret door. Then there’s a shot of a vast underground cavern, which is filled with uniformed functionaries who hurry about on mysterious scientific errands.Bond slips unobserved from one hiding place to another; is discovered; eludes his pursuers; watches as six hired goons hurry past; and then goes through another door and unexpectedly finds the villain waiting there for him. The dialog here is always the same, something like “Come in, Mr. Bond, we’ve been expecting you . . .” And then . . . but do you get the same notion I do, that after nine of these we’ve just about had enough?
  • Roger Ebert  –  Roger Ebert
  • Roger Ebert was the film critic of the Chicago Sun-Times from 1967 until his death in 2013. In 1975, he won the Pulitzer Prize for distinguished criticism.

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Live and Let Die (1973) Credits


Live and Let Die movie poster

Live and Let Die (1973)

Rated PG

121 minutes


Jane Seymour as Solitaire

Roger Moore as James Bond

Clifton James as Pepper

Geoffrey Holder as Samedi

Produced by

  • Harry Saltzman
  • Albert Broccoli

Music by

  • Paul
  • Linda McCartney

Based on the novel by

  • Ian Fleming

Directed by

  • Guy Hamilton

Screenplay by

  • Tom Mankiewicz

Photographed by

  • Ted Moore


Live and Let Die (1973) Plot

Three MI6 agents are killed under mysterious circumstances within 24 hours in the United Nations headquarters in New York City, in New Orleans, and the small Caribbean nation of San Monique, while monitoring the operations of the island’s dictator, Dr. Kananga. James Bond, Agent 007, is sent to New York to investigate. Kananga is also in New York, visiting the United Nations. After Bond arrives, his driver is shot dead by Whisper, one of Kananga’s men, while taking Bond to Felix Leiter of the CIA. Bond is nearly killed in the ensuing car crash.

The killer’s licence plate leads Bond to Harlem where he meets Mr. Big, a mob boss who runs a chain of restaurants throughout the United States, but he and the CIA do not understand why the most powerful black gangster in New York works with an unimportant island’s leader.

Bond meets Solitaire, a beautiful tarot reader who has the power of the Obeah and can see both the future and remote events in the present. Mr. Big demands that his henchmen kill Bond, but Bond overpowers them and escapes with the help of CIA agent Strutter. Bond flies to San Monique, where he meets Rosie Carver, a local CIA agent. They meet up with Bond’s ally, Quarrel Jr., who takes them by boat near Solitaire’s home. When Bond suspects Rosie of being a double agent for Kananga, Rosie tries to escape but is killed remotely by Kananga.

Bond then uses a stacked deck of tarot cards that show only “The Lovers” to trick Solitaire into thinking that fate is meant for them; Bond then seduces her. Having lost her virginity and thus her ability to foretell the future, Solitaire realizes she would be killed by Kananga, so she agrees to cooperate with Bond.

Bond and Solitaire escape by boat and fly to New Orleans. There, Bond is captured by Mr. Big, who removes his prosthetic face and reveals himself to be Kananga. He has been producing heroin and is protecting the poppy fields by exploiting the San Monique locals’ fear of voodoo priest Baron Samedi, as well as the occult. As Mr. Big, Kananga plans to distribute the heroin free of charge at his restaurants, which will increase the number of addicts.

He intends to bankrupt other drug dealers with his giveaway, then charge high prices for his heroin later in order to capitalise on the huge drug dependencies he has cultivated.

Angry at her for having sex with Bond and that her ability to read tarot cards is now gone, Kananga turns Solitaire over to Baron Samedi to be sacrificed. Kananga’s henchmen, one-armed Tee Hee and tweed-jacketed Adam, leave Bond to be eaten by crocodilians at his farm in the Deep South backwoods.

Bond escapes by running along the animals’ backs to safety. After setting the drug laboratory on fire, he steals a speedboat and escapes, pursued by Kananga’s men under Adam’s order, as well as Sheriff J.W. Pepper and the Louisiana State Police. Most pursuers get wrecked or left behind, and Adam is killed in a boat crash by Bond.

Bond travels to San Monique and sets timed explosives throughout the poppy fields. He rescues Solitaire from the voodoo sacrifice and throws Samedi into a coffin of venomous snakes. Bond and Solitaire escape below ground into Kananga’s lair. Kananga captures them both and proceeds to lower them into a shark tank. However, Bond escapes and forces Kananga to swallow a compressed-gas pellet used in shark guns, causing his body to inflate and explode.

Leiter puts Bond and Solitaire on a train leaving the country. Tee Hee sneaks aboard and attempts to kill Bond, but Bond cuts the wires of his prosthetic arm and throws him out the window. As the film ends, a laughing Samedi is revealed to be perching at the front of the train.


Live and Let Die (1973) Box office

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Live and Let Die (1973) Critical Response

The film was released in the United States on 27 June 1973. The world premiere was at Odeon Leicester Square in London on 6 July 1973, with general release in the United Kingdom on the same day.[36] From a budget of around $7 million,[37] ($43 million in 2021 dollars[38]) the film grossed $161.8 million ($988 million in 2021 dollars[38]) worldwide.[37]

The film holds the record for the most viewed broadcast film on television in the United Kingdom by attracting 23.5 million viewers when premiered on ITV on 20 January 1980.


Contemporary reviews

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times stated that Moore “has the superficial attributes for the job: The urbanity, the quizzically raised eyebrow, the calm under fire and in bed”. However, he felt that Moore wasn’t satisfactory in living up to the legacy left by Sean Connery in the preceding films. He rated the villains “a little banal”, adding that the film “doesn’t have a Bond villain worthy of the Goldfingers, Dr. Nos and Oddjobs of the past.”

Richard Schickel, reviewing for Time magazine, described the film as “the most vulgar addition to a series that has long since outlived its brief historical moment — if not, alas, its profitability.” He also criticized the action sequences as excessive, but noted that “aside an allright speedboat spectacular over land and water, the film is both perfunctory and predictable—leaving the mind free to wander into the question of its overall taste. Or lack of it.”[41]

Roger Greenspun of The New York Times praised Moore as “a handsome, suave, somewhat phlegmatic James Bond—with a tendency to throw away his throwaway quips as the minor embarrassments that, alas, they usually are.” He was critical of Jane Seymour and Yaphet Kotto, the latter of whom he felt “does not project evil.” In summary, he remarked the film was “especially well photographed and edited, and it makes clever and extensive use of its good title song, by Paul and Linda McCartney.

” Charles Champlin of the Los Angeles Times likened Moore as “a handsome and smoothly likable successor to Sean Connery as James Bond.” He further noted that the script “uses only the bare bones of Fleming’s story about evil doings which link Harlem with a mysterious Caribbean island. The level of invention is high, but now and again you do sense the strain of always having to try harder because you’re No. 1. If one menacing viper is good, three or a coffinful full are not inevitably better. But the action never slumps, and the series never seemed more like a real cartoon.”[43]

Arthur D. Murphy of Variety wrote that Moore was “an okay replacement for Sean Connery. The Tom Mankiewicz script, faced with a real-world crisis in the villain sector, reveals that plot lines have descended further to the level of the old Saturday afternoon serial, and the treatment is more than ever like a cartoon. Unchanged are the always-dubious moral values and the action set pieces. Guy Hamilton’s direction is good.”


Retrospective reviews

Chris Nashawaty, reviewing for BBC, argues that Dr. Kananga/Mr. Big is the worst villain of the Roger Moore James Bond films.[45] Also from BBC, William Mager praised the use of locations, but said that the plot was “convoluted”. He stated that “Connery and Lazenby had an air of concealed thuggishness, clenched fists at the ready, but in Moore’s case a sardonic quip and a raised eyebrow are his deadliest weapons”.[46]

Danny Peary, in his book Guide for the Film Fanatic, noted that Jane Seymour portrays “one of the Bond series’ most beautiful heroines”, but had little praise for Moore, whom he described as making “an unimpressive debut as James Bond in Tom Mankiewicz’s unimaginative adaptation of Ian Fleming’s second novel … The movie stumbles along most of the way.

It’s hard to remember Moore is playing Bond at times — in fact, if he and Seymour were black, the picture could pass as one of the black exploitation films of the day. There are few interesting action sequences — a motorboat chase is trite enough to begin with, but the filmmakers make it worse by throwing in some stupid Louisiana cops, including pot-bellied Sheriff Pepper.”[47]

Ian Nathan of Empire wrote “This is good quality Bond, managing to reinterpret the classic moves — action, deduction, seduction — for a more modern idiom without breaking the mould. On one side we get the use of alligators as stepping stones and the pompous pitbull of rootin’ tootin’ Sheriff Pepper caught up in the thrilling boat chase.

On the other, the genuine aura of threat through weird voodoo henchman Tee Hee and the leaning toward — what’s this? — realism in Mr Big’s plot to take over the drug trade from the Mafia.” He concluded that “Moore had got his feet under the table.”[48] IGN ranked Solitaire as 10th in a Top 10 Bond Babes list.[49] In November 2006, Entertainment Weekly listed Live and Let Die as the third-best Bond film.[50] MSN chose it as the thirteenth best Bond film[51] and IGN listed it as twelfth-best.[52]

On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 65% from 51 reviews, with an average rating of 5.7/10. The website’s critical consensus reads: “While not one of the highest-rated Bond films, Live and Let Die finds Roger Moore adding his stamp to the series with flashes of style and an improved sense of humor.”[53] On Metacritic, the film has a score of 55 based on 9 reviews, indicating “mixed or average reviews”.


Live and Let Die (1973) Accolades

Award Category Recipients Result
Academy Awards[55] Best Original Song “Live and Let Die”
Music and Lyrics by Paul McCartney and Linda McCartney
Evening Standard British Film Awards Best Film Guy Hamilton Won
Grammy Awards[56] Album of Best Original Score Written for a Motion Picture or a Television Special Live and Let Die – Paul McCartney, Linda McCartney and George Martin Nominated
Satellite Awards[57] Best Classic DVD Release The James Bond DVD Collection (Volumes: 2 and 3) Nominated
Saturn Awards[58] Best DVD Collection James Bond Ultimate Edition Won

Live and Let Die (1973) Movie Info

When Bond (Roger Moore) investigates the murders of three fellow agents, he finds himself a target, evading vicious assassins as he closes in on powerful Kananga (Yaphet Kotto). Known on the streets as Mr. Big, Kananga is coordinating a global threat, using tons of self-produced heroin. As Bond tries to unravel the mastermind’s plan, he meets Solitaire (Jane Seymour), a beautiful tarot-card reader, whose magic is crucial to the crime lord.


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