Live and Let Die (US - BD RA)
Gabe prefers the original title: "Leave Me Be, and I'll Leave You Be. Is That Cool?"
Live and Let Die is one of my personal favourites among Roger Moore’s Bond films, but it’s not one I’ve seen in a very, very long time. It’s definitely not one of the ‘best’ films in the series, but it stands above much of the cannon for simply being different. So many of the Bond films, especially the Roger Moore films, are interchangeable to passing fans like myself. Live and Let Die has the advantages of a colourful underlying ‘religious’ theme, a super colourful villain, one of the hottest Bond girls in the series’ history, and the distinction of sticking Bond in traditionally black settings like Harlem, New Orleans, and the Caribbean.
The original Fleming novel was apparently edited for US release to alter its not too subtle white fright undertones, and though quite different, the final film is still pretty controversial. It’s nice that most of us are post-politically correct enough to get over the fact that basically all the film’s baddies are black guys, but in the end the iffy treatment is really what makes the film most memorable (speaking as a casual viewer). The Caribbean religious elements are oversimplified to a sort of bone-in-the-nose extent, which is undeniable stereotyping, but the intelligence, sophistication, and cunning of the black villains puts them on such an equal footing with Bond that their colour doesn’t really matter.
Looking back on the film I’m taken a bit aback by its slightly sloppy direction, but the art direction and amusingly haphazard editing is very charming. The whole thing begins to deteriorate around the third act when the villain’s plot is revealed and the characters move away from the wacky art direction into another Bond boat chase. It’s a good chase, but there are so many Bond boat chases that the film starts to roll back into the interchangeable Roger Moore zone. Though the final Voodoo ceremony is pretty freakin’ memorable, and Yaphet Kotto’s final scene is a blast (badum bash) the movie really starts to drag. Now I say ‘interchangeable Roger Moore zone’ without first mentioning that this was Moore’s first shot at Bond, and I really should note how gracefully he reinvented the character.
Live and Let Die is the first of these new Blu-ray releases that hasn’t blown me away. The print looks older than the others, the grain is thicker, the details are less exacting, and the look is generally flatter. I learned from the short remastering documentary on Dr. No that Live and Let Die was one of the few films in the collection that actually had some digital tinkering, but it’s also the first which displays noticeable artefacts and other age problems like flicker. My biggest concern is the general darkness of the frame, which I’m not entirely sure is actually a problem. The garish colour schemes are very satisfying in their purity and relative cleanliness, but there’s not a lot of even shading or subtle blends. The blacks, though almost unbelievably deep and pure, bleed out a bit, and the contrast is a little jarring. Still, there’s no confusing the transfer with a standard definition release for overall clarity and colourful punch.
The song ‘Live and Let Die’ has got to be one of the all time greatest guilty pleasure tracks. It belongs on a shelf in some kind of so far over-the-top it’s genius museum next to ‘Classical Gas’, and on this DTS-HD Master Audio track it kicks some really heavy ass. Live and Let Die may be a slight disappointment in the video department, but its audio quality is awesome. Most of the audio bombast surrounds George Martin’s ‘70s infused score. The instruments all sound wonderfully natural, the bass is punchy, and the separation of elements is impressive for an older film. The rest of the track matches the other releases in cleanliness, clarity, and warmth.
This disc houses three commentaries, one with a solo Sir Roger Moore, another group edit featuring director Guy Hamilton, the producers, some of the other actors, and a moderator, and a solo track with writer Tom Mankiewicz. Moore’s track is pleasant enough, but pretty slow and sparce, and surprisingly technical. The group track is less jam-packed than Dr. No or From Russia With Love, but features some valuable and detailed comparisons between the original novel and final film. For my money Mankiewicz’s solo track is actually the best on the disc, as it’s the most fully formed and consistent. Mankiewicz’s attention is obviously skewed more towards screenwriting, but he’s a wellspring when it comes to the filming process and history of the films as well.
The archival features start with ‘Bond 1973: The Lost Documentary’, an information packet made to excite 1973 audiences at the prospect of the first Roger Moore Bond movie. The featurette is generally an elongated trailer, but it’s pretty long (at just over twenty minutes) and is actually quite entertaining. ‘Roger Moore as James Bond, Circa 1964’ is an excerpt from a 1964 variety show where Moore spoofed Bond almost ten years before he officially played the character in theatres, and is a very cute addition to the disc. The ‘MIG Vault’ also features a collection of conceptual art.
Again, as per the rest of the Blu-rays, the ‘Inside’ documentary is brought over from the old special edition DVD, and revamped in HD. ‘Inside Live and Let Die’ is another solidly entertaining entrée in the documentary series, covering the second exit of Connery, bringing Moore onto the film, the script and pre-production, the stunts (which mostly seem to have went awry), and the reception in a super speedy half hour. The doc covers a lot of the same stuff that’s already on the commentaries, but it’s a quicker meal. The behind the scenes featurettes are completed with two short ‘On Set’ bits, ‘The Funeral Parade’ and ‘Hang Gliding Lessons’. The rest of the extras are completed with more trailers, TV and radio spots, and more interactive image databases.
Ultimately a bit too busy a film, Live and Let Die holds distinction among the Roger Moore Bond films, and not only because it was his first shot at the character. It’s not a personal favourite, but it’s memorable, and doesn’t really start to sputter until the final act. This Blu-ray release is a slight disappointment in comparison to the Connery discs, which are visually about as close to perfection as we can expect, but the lossless, revamped audio is awesome, and the DVD port extras are satisfying.
Review by Gabriel Powers
Some material may not be suitable for children
Release Date: 21st 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, French, and Spanish
Extras: Roger Moore Commentary, Director/Cast/Crew Commentary, Writer Commentary, Inside Live and Let Die, Featurettes, Trailers, TV Spots, Image Galleries
Easter Egg: No
Director: Guy Hamilton
Cast: Roger Moore, Yaphet Kotto, Jane Seamore
Genre: Action and Adventure
Length: 122 minutes
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