Sunday, August 28, 2016

Live And Let Die

Roger Moore’s first turn as James Bond also marks the beginning of the series’ aping of current cinema trends, which continued through the Daniel Craig era’s copying of the Bourne movies. LIVE AND LET DIE wears its blaxploitation influence on its sleeve, right down to the casting of Yaphet Kotto, who went on to co-star in FRIDAY FOSTER and TRUCK TURNER, as its villain. Strictly in terms of international box office dollars, LIVE AND LET DIE became the most successful 007 film produced up to that time, so there was no doubt James Bond would return in THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN.

Directed by GOLDFINGER’s Guy Hamilton, the eighth 007 picture contains terrific action sequences, including a double-decker bus passing under a short bridge, Bond’s escape from a crocodile swamp, and a spectacular boat chase in which a speedboat jumps 110 feet over a road. It also boasts an Oscar-nominated theme song by Paul McCartney and Wings (which lost to the treacly title song from THE WAY WE WERE) and the gorgeous Jane Seymour (DR. QUINN, MEDICINE WOMAN), then 21 years old, as Solitaire, a psychic who retains her powers only as long as she remains a virgin — a status Bond quickly remedies.

The plot by Tom Mankiewicz (DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER) sends Bond to Harlem to investigate the murders of three MI6 agents. He meets Solitaire, the moll of black druglord Mr. Big (a disguised Kotto), as well as his CIA contact, Rosie Carver (BLACK BELT JONES’ Gloria Hendry), and the vicious Dr. Kananga (Kotto), the dictator of a Caribbean island who also manages a multimillion-dollar heroin operation from there. Bond follows the bouncing ball to the Caribbean, Louisiana, and back to Kananga’s island for the climax.

David Hedison (VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA) plays the reliable CIA agent Felix Leiter (he would reprise the role in LICENSE TO KILL), and Clifton James (LONE STAR) regrettably plays the ridiculously stereotyped Southern sheriff J.W. Pepper (why he returned in THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN is beyond reasoning). Especially of note are Julius Harris (BLACK CAESAR) as hook-handed Tee Hee, Earl Jolly Brown (BLACK BELT JONES) as quiet Whisper, and choreographer Geoffrey Holder (ANNIE) as Baron Samedi, all members of the Bond Villains’ Henchmen Hall of Fame.

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