Live And Let Die (UK - BD)
Names are for tombstones, baby. Take Scott McKenzie out and waste him...
Following the deaths of British agents, M sends James Bond to New York to investigate the diplomatic team of the small island of San Monique, led by Dr. Kananga. There he learns that Kananga has ties to the heroin dealer Mr. Big and meets Solitaire, a young tarot card reader who acts as a fortune teller for Kananga. The action then moves to New Orleans and San Monique, where Bond must discover the link between Dr. Kananga and Mr. Big and stop their diabolical plan before it’s too late…
With George Lazenby a distant memory and Sean Connery deciding to hang up the tuxedo for the second (but not last) time, Roger Moore gets his chance to play 007. This is one of the Bond movies that I have watched to death down the years and re-watching it for this review, it’s clear to see why it was always in the video recorder in my youth. Live and Let Die is full of classic Bond characters and moments that live on in the memory. We’ve got the speedboat chase, Bond versus a pool of crocs (the animals, not the neon shoes), the double-decker bus chase and the fight on the train between Bond and the metal-clawed Tee Hee.
Yaphet Kotto is a great bad guy as Kananga, although something I noticed this time was that he becomes very manic during the final showdown in his underground lair (which surely inspired the first Austin Powers movie). Maybe this was an intentional character trait or maybe it was just due to this scene being filmed a long time before or after the rest of the movie. Either way, it stood out to me now where it hadn’t before. Tee Hee, Whisper and Baron Samedi are just some of the interesting characters we meet along the way, but I’m trying my best not to describe them as ‘colourful’ characters because race plays such an important role in this movie.
Released just two years after Shaft, this entry in the series draws on the Blaxploitation genre and issues of race. One thing was obvious to me—this screenplay would not have been made in this form nowadays. If Spike Lee bitched about there being no black characters in Clint Eastwood’s Flags of Our Fathers, I’d expect his head to explode while watching Live And Let Die. With the exception of an FBI agent and one of his colleagues, every black person in this movie is a bad guy. I mean every black person. During the opening scene, I’m now left to question whether everyone in the funeral march is part of Kananga’s gang. If not, they are celebrating purely because a white man has died. Maybe I’m reading a little too much into it, but I still struggle to see how these PC times would accept a new movie like this.
Roger Moore’s first appearance as 007 is still one of my favourites from his time in the series, even if the only heroic thing he does in his first scene is act as a barista. The producers knew that Moore had more of a talent for comedy than Connery so there are plenty of one-liners that are generally well-placed, but became close to parody by the time A View to a Kill came around. It’s also interesting to note that following the supposed ‘reboot’ with Goldeneye, within four movies the series had yet again descended into big-budget farce with Die Another Day, which shows how writers of Bond movies can easily fall back into a comfort zone of overblown action and cheap jokes. There are a few touches of mis-placed comedy here though, with the first appearance of Sheriff JW Pepper and some unnecessary gags during the speedboat chase.
The standard of the James Bond transfers is pretty high on Blu-ray, especially considering the age of some of these movies. Live and Let Die is another colourful movie, with bright primary shades, although some scenes appear noticeably darker than others. As a matter of fact, the quality between one shot to another becomes apparent and draws the viewer’s attention to the editing. The scene where Bond flies into San Monique on a hang glider is an example of this. When flicking between shots of Roger Moore and footage of the stuntman who actually did the hang gliding, the difference is quite obvious. Close ups of Roger Moore are dark and rich with detail. The shots of the stuntman are lighter and the film stock appears to be slightly damaged. Some dark scenes do show signs of dirt and grain but it’s not all that obvious and it’s still clear that this disc is a significant improvement over standard definition DVD.
Here we get another DTS-HD Master Audio track remastered from the original Mono. The surround effects are more obvious on this release than on some of the others, with moments in the forest on San Monique allowing plenty of effects to come through the rear speakers. George Martin’s score and the theme song are undoubted highlights, with both sounding very strong here. The dialogue can sound a little muted at times and there was one particular moment where I noticed an obvious drop in quality. When Bond is talking to Felix Leiter after the boat chase, Leiter’s voice changes in tone significantly after he hands Bond some tarot cards. He goes from sounding like he’s in the scene to sounding like his head is in a bucket. It’s just for a couple of lines and this problem doesn’t occur again later on, but I thought it was worth mentioning.
‘I’m Roger Moore. I’m the fellow down the end of the barrel,’ is how Sir Roger Moore’s commentary track (the first of three) begins. His discussion is very laid back and filled with anecdotes about how he got the role and his long-standing relationship with Paul McCartney. The second commentary is another track edited together form interviews with the director Guy Hamilton, Yaphet Kotto and Jane Seymour among others. It’s a more technical commentary and no time is wasted to throw more detail about the production in your direction, like the first time the producers heard the theme song, which I still think is the best Bond theme so far (sorry, a-ha fans!). The third commentary comes from screen writer Tom Mankiewicz, who talks about the structure of classic Bond movies and the work he did to bring this story to the screen.
‘Bond 1973: The Lost Documentary’ is an old featurette about the making of the movie that includes details about the choice of Roger Moore to play 007. We see how some key scenes were planned and filmed and get to spend some time with Baron Samedi, who turns out to be a professional dancer. ‘Roger Moore as James Bond circa 1964’ is an interesting addition—it is a scene from the comedy sketch show ‘Mainly Millicent’ which is technically Roger Moore’s first appearance as James Bond. To round out the ‘MI6 Vault’ section of the disc we get a gallery of conceptual art for the movie poster.
The main highlight of the ‘Mission Dossier’ section is ‘Inside Live and Let Die’, a retrospective documentary from 1999 that looks back at the production. The producers were eager to keep Roger Moore’s performance away from his mannerisms as Simon Templar in The Saint and who knew that Burt Reynolds was a favourite to take over from Sean Connery? Bond with a ‘tache? No thanks. ‘On Set with Roger Moore’ is a brief shot of the man himself relaying an anecdote on set and we also get a short clip of Roger Moore getting hang gliding lessons. A set of trailers and a production gallery finish off the extras.
Live and Let Die is an enjoyable movie and as Roger Moore’s first appearance as Bond, it’s still one of his best. However, time hasn’t been as kind to it as I’d thought. Maybe that’s just because I’ve seen it so many times that I’ve really started to pick holes in it. The transfer is as good as we can expect from a movie pushing forty years old and the commentary-heavy extras complement the movie well.
Review by Scott McKenzie
General viewing, but some scenes may be unsuitable for young children
Release Date: 20th October 2008
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English, Dolby Digital Mono English, Dolby Digital Mono Spanish, Dolby Digital Mono French
Subtitles: English HoH, Dutch, Portuguese, Spanish, French, German, Swedish, Norwegian, Finnish, Danish
Extras: Commentary with Roger Moore, Cast and Crew Commentary, Commentary with Tom Mankiewicz, Bond 1973: The Lost Documentary, Roger Moore as James Bond Circa 1964, Conceptual Art, Inside Live And Let Die, On Set With Roger Moore, Trailers, Image Database
Easter Egg: No
Director: Guy Hamilton
Cast: Roger Moore, Yaphett Kotto, Jane Seymour, Bernard Lee, Lois Maxwell
Genre: Action and Adventure
Length: 121 minutes
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