Review: James Bond movie series, part 4
By Ujjwal Dey
LIVE AND LET DIE
Wow! Now that’s the way to introduce a new star as James Bond. This movie is magnificent. The perfect launch vehicle any actor would want when getting into a successful franchise.
Sir Roger Moore makes a thrilling, action-packed debut as 007.
This was the first Bond movie to have a rock song as the title song. Performed by Paul McCartney (The Beatles), the song “Live and let die” is easily among the most popular and recognised songs from any Bond movie. The music of this song is thrilling as we imagine what may come ahead.
Also, I believe this movie started the Bond movie trend of having James Bond do things that make him destroy private, public and all other property around him, as he executes his mission; a walking demolition man, blasting away with gunshots and explosions all around.
This Bond movie also for the first time does not deal with a large international enemy with hopes of world domination. The enemy is a relatively tamer gang of drug smugglers who are as reckless with their killing as the man with the license to kill.
It features the first black Bond girl as well, a double agent.
Thrilling scenes include the awesome crocodile farm from which Bond escapes. The stunt was performed by the man who owns this real farm, who suggested that escape to the filmmakers. This man had a sign out front “Trespassers will be eaten” and the filmmakers went ahead and contacted him only to be so impressed as to use it in the movie and use the man’s name as the name of the villain – “Kananga”.
Another great sequence is the speed boat chase which is quite lengthy but you will have your eyes on the screen for every second of it. The jump over the bayou and over the Sheriff’s car was so good that it accidentally made a Guinness World Record with 110 feet cleared.
Then there is Bond running off by using an ancient double-decker bus.
The airplane lesson he gives, using the flying machine to give the bad guys a run around the hangar is impressive as well.
So many great scenes – and those are just the action sequences.
Frankly I got a cultural shock from this one – but having seen how Steven Spielberg has been racist and ridiculous in his depiction of India and people of India in his movie “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom”, I know better than to judge any culture by some fiction movie/ book.
Critics today see this movie as classic case of blaxploitation. The filmmakers used the idea of black gangsters as villains at the time due to the Black Panthers being in the news in those years. Bond movies have always included some current news for making their adventures sound real – refer review of “You Only Live Twice” on that.
Anyway, the black actors do a marvellous job.
Geoffrey Holder who is a genius of sorts with success in art, theatre, writing, choreography, singing, dancing, costume designing, etc. stars as “Baron Samedi” – the evil voodoo man for Dr. Kananga. His screen presence is awesome and he stands an impressive 6’6” (200 centimetres). He also did the choreography for “Live and let die” which I seemed to enjoy more than many of the action sequences. The voodoo dances and the funeral dance are so perfectly done that you would believe the whole fictional occult business. And he just doesn’t die, even with Bond apparently having blown the guy’s skull off with a clean shot.
Dr. Kananga is also played well, a corrupt Caribbean Prime Minister who is revealed to have more than a casual connection to Mr. Big. The dictator Dr. Kananga has fields of heroin poppies and a lab on his island state and he has Mr. Big distributing the drugs, 2 tons of it for free. The connection between these 2 intriguing villains is revealed eventually to James Bond (and to you of course).
So no SPECTRE or any great Cold War villain here. But the witch doctor and the dictator and his main henchman “Tee Hee Johnson” (with a metal hand), are doing as much damage. Three agents dead without a trace. Bond is dealing with more than just crime; he is dealing with the supernatural.
The movie introduces Jane Seymour as the virgin high priestess named "Solitaire", who is used by Dr. Kananga to predict the future for his benefit. She is easily among the most beautiful Bond girls ever in any movie.
So, will Dr. Kananga have his monopoly on drug market through free dump of 2 tons of heroin? What do the tarot cards have in store for Bond, or for “Solitaire”?
This one is actually a more thrilling adventure and a better blockbluster debut as James Bond than even Sir Sean Connery’s debut in “Dr. No”.
Comparisons: I would say Sean Connery looks like a true spy, with his brutish nature masked with wit and charm.
Roger Moore on the other hand is more suave. He has the casual style of fun quips and polished actions.
From the latter lot of actors to play Bond, I would say Daniel Craig takes after Sean Connery – both having a very similar personality as James Bond.
Pierce Brosnan seems to take after Roger Moore and surpasses Moore in the smart, charming, suited action hero, demolition man, girl-magnet, but not a muscular hunk – type of James Bond; a perfect “gentleman”.
So, Roger Moore certainly deserved the role of 007 after Sean Connery refused to reprise the role. Moore is tall, handsome and has that wonderful voice and diction which is required since Bond talks not just with his fists but also with his sharp tongue.
Very good recovery of the franchise after their main man Connery quit.
Jeremy Brett was also considered for the role of James Bond for this film and I will forever remain curious as to how he would have been as 007. Of course there has never been as great a Sherlock Holmes as played by Brett and I am sure he would have perfected Bond’s character as well.
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THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN
Another interesting villain, again not dealing with large villainous organisations. This one is not a great follow-up to “Live and let die” but that was always hard to do. An entertaining movie, again with some good action and Roger Moore in his element as a suave gentleman with lot of style.
This was the fourth and final Bond film to be directed by Guy Hamilton.
The best stunt was of course Bond racing his car over a broken ramp to have the car do a 360 degrees spin in midair and land on its wheels on the other side of the broken bridge. This stunt was copyrighted by EON Productions and done after having chanced upon a physics simulation by Cornell University.
Apart from the car chase there is also a small chase on the motor boats in the waterways of the East.
“Sheriff J.W. Pepper” of “Live and let die” returns in this movie as a tourist only to be in the same car as James Bond. Good fun!
Someone has dared to message MI6 with an open threat to kill James Bond. A golden bullet has arrived with the number 007 on it along with the fingerprints of “Scaramanga”. Apparently the best for-hire hitman has his eyes on Bond. No one has ever seen Scaramanga, the man who uses a golden bullet for his targets. And he only ever needs one bullet to make his kill.
So Bond is withdrawn from the current assignment of recovering a device that harnesses the power of the sun which would solve the world’s energy crisis.
But it seems Scaramanga has his eyes on the device and Bond has walked into his scheme to sell it to the highest bidder.
This nuisance of 007 is dealt with by using the goons of Scaramanga’s associate, a wealthy businessman named Hai Fat of Thailand. Then the businessman tries his entire school of martial arts to knock off Bond. But it seems Bond with his local contact manages to survive this assault.
Scaramanga is played well by Cristopher Lee, a successful actor who has played prominent villainous roles in “Star Wars” and “The Lord of the Rings trilogy” later and previously known for his Dracula roles. At 6 feet 5 inches, he is among the tallest actors and has been around for a long time.
Also, Scaramanga is a well-defined character. Unlike other Bond villains, here we really get to know a lot about how he has become “The Man with a Golden Gun”. We get to know his childhood influence and we get to know how he enjoys killing and using his gun. A good psychological character sketch as can be possible in an action movie.
Then of course there is Scaramanga’s mistress who plays a key role and James Bond of course is admired by both, the girl and her villainous master, for his ability to execute and to survive.
So while she wants something from Bond, Scaramanga himself wants Bond as the perfect adversary – a challenge that needs to be conquered to have his own huge reputation expanded to even greater heights. So we see a duel – “pistols at dawn” which Scaramanga calls “a duel between titans” – and Bond and Scaramanga hunt each other on the latter’s island. The lackey of Scaramanga, is the midget named “Nick Nack” who is much a villain as any other minion as seen in previous Bond movies.
Good comic relief comes in the form of “Mary Goodnight” who is the inept clumsy assistant assigned to Bond in the Far East. She does seem useful at times, but Bond knows what she is good for of course (wink, wink). It would also have been good to find out more about "Chew Me", the cameo Bond girl at the Thai businessman's mansion.
Overall a good entertaining movie.
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To Be Continued... ...