BlogalongaBond: Live and Let Die darling…

What is BlogalongaBond? Find out here.

Before we go on read this from The Incredible Suit. I reference his Live and Let Die piece a couple of times.

Yet again, for the second consecutive BlogalongaBond assignment, I am technically a month behind. The reasons for my unacceptable tardiness are threefold. Firstly the less than dynamic duo of procrastination and laziness, have repeatedly thwarted my plans. Secondly I have been at least a little bit busy. And finally, as other bloggers have noted, BlogalongaBond is becoming something of a chore, largely due to the depressing arrival of a certain Mr Moore.

For a particular breed of Bond fan, Roger Moore represents all that is disappointing about the character’s cinematic outings. How long has it been since a 007 adventure that lived up to its full potential? How many years and projects have been letdowns because of the identity crisis which Moore’s commercially successful casting only deepened? With Live and Let Die the franchise embraces the formula of silliness established in Diamonds are Forever,  so that it begins to feel like a franchise as we know them today, with the perfect salesman to pitch the same old idea to audiences for over a decade.

As the films become more formulaic, so does my writing…

The Bond:

Our great and glorious leader, The Incredible Suit, has already covered Roger’s failures very well and also explained why Lazenby’s legacy meant it wasn’t entirely his fault that James Bond would move further and further away from Fleming’s original creation. He also qualifies his criticisms by saying he likes Roger Moore.

I too like the man and the actor. He was the Bond I grew up with, the Bond endorsed by my parent’s generation. He handles a one liner with the care, professionalism and skill of a grand English butler. His undeniable wit somehow makes lines from Tom Mankiewicz’s script work, such as “Don’t worry darling, it’s just a small hat, belonging to a man of limited means, who lost a fight with a chicken”. But re-watching Live and Let Die this time it was his insufferable Englishness that was also the worst thing about the new Bond. The first Englishman to play him overcompensates by adding “darling” to everything and merely raising an eyebrow in the face of thuggish danger. He is far too fluffy for Bond, even if he can do the humour and the love scenes excellently.

The Girl:

Speaking of love scenes, let’s talk about the girls. Well there’s only really one worth talking about, despite Rosie Carver’s bumbling prominence at points. Jane Seymour’s Solitaire is in many ways one of the most intriguing romantic interests of the series. But in others she is mere eye candy. Seymour’s performance is occasionally so moronic it seems transplanted from a modern
video game and is nevertheless secondary to her stunning looks, which defy
description. She simultaneously convinces as a sexy, all knowing master of the
cards and a recently deflowered, vulnerable virgin but not because of any conscious acting on her part.

Then there’s her character, Solitaire. The interesting thing about her is that her powers for predicting the future through occult, voodoo card reading nonsense are never properly or logically discredited. The script leaves the issue hanging,
thrusting the film further into the blaxploitation genre so popular at the time. Or rather it doesn’t. An explanation is provided. Bond does shatter her gift but not by exposing scientific trickery or her own deception. He simply steals her innocence. And thus Solitaire becomes a fascinating case study and symbol for all the women Bond “encounters” (I mean penetrates). On the one hand he freed her from imprisonment, awakening her adult self to the pleasures of life. On the other, who knows what damage might’ve been done?

The Villain:

Apart from Moore’s nonstop “darlings” the most frustrating thing about Live and Let Die is the terrible waste of an adversary that should have been formidable and refreshing. Initially Mr Big/Kananga and his henchmen are a welcome, realistic change from a succession of Blofelds, ending with Charles Gray’s posh version with a fondness for drag. But again The Incredible Suit insightfully and amusingly points out the fatal flaw of the bad guys here, which is, mainly, their inability to fatally wound our hero. Granted Bond makes it through all his missions looking unfeasibly suave but here the plot is driven by botched assassinations, to such a damaging extent that suspension of disbelief is catastrophically challenged, even for a Bond film, and plenty of fuel is provided for scathing parodies such as Austin Powers in the future.

Of course the other key thing about the villains in Live and Let Die is that they are all black. There’s no doubt that there are elements of the film that would be racist by today’s standards, perhaps including its representation of black murderers and criminals as rather inept and useless. The whole production jumps fully onto the blaxploitation bandwagon to give Bond a new flavour to go with his new face. Despite the fact that I’m bemoaning the film’s lack of grit and menace if it had pushed things further it may have looked far more dated today and been more than borderline racist. So I guess what I’m saying is, every cloud…

Other:

Live and Let Die boasts Paul McCartney’s title track, which probably remains the best of the whole series. Its score, even minus John Barry’s brilliance, is also outstanding in places with its echoes of the theme song and distinctive influences from black culture.

Does anyone else now find the boat chase sequence overlong and incredibly dull?

Conclusion:

Perhaps the real reason I was reluctant to jump into the BlogalongaBonding saddle again was because however disappointing Moore’s films are, his Bond is not all bad. It isn’t Fleming’s Bond but thankfully it is not a rehash of Connery’s either. Fans that share my view of the series will want to preface every review of a Moore film with a rant about him. Yes they still enjoy parts of his films, yes he is fun but he doesn’t do the character justice and his light hearted years wasted too much time. But for BlogalongaBond we have to get that out of our system here and try to think of something new to say about why the rest of his films baffle, confuse, irritate or, indeed, delight.

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