Live and Let Die
Live and Let Die (1973) is the eighth instalment of the James Bond franchise, which starred Roger Moore in his first appearance as 007.
Bond is sent to investigate the mysterious deaths of three MI6 agents. From Harlem to New Orleans to the Caribbean Island of San Monique, Bond tries to pin all three together.
In his investigation, Bond comes across mob bosses, a dictator, a voodoo occult, and a few Bond girls as he tries to get to the bottom of the killings.
The movie was directed by Guy Hamilton and produced by Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, and was a Box Office success. However, some criticized the movie for the use of ‘banal villains’ with too realistic plans, and has been retrospectively castigated for its use of Blaxploitation.
Roger Moore was also criticized as not living up to the standard set by Sean Connery as Bond. But was it really that bad? The movie cast was star studded and offered a different take on Bond films.
Moore played an excellent Bond with some great action scenes and some memorable one-liners. There was no Q and only a couple of gadgets used, no DB5 or any super car, but there was plenty of chases to excite viewers.
The story had a more believable plot, and it does stereotype blacks as drug dealers, but this was the early 1970s. That said, the Bond villains and their plans are more realistic, and with the twists, use of voodoo and connections in three locations makes it an interesting and exciting watch.
Live and Let Die – Synopsis
There are three separate killings of MI6 agents, one at the United Nations in New York, one at a funeral march in New Orleans, and another in the Caribbean Island of San Monique.
James Bond is sent to investigate the mysterious deaths and his first stop is New York City, where he meets with old friend and CIA counterpart, Felix Leiter. Bond discovers the deaths are linked to a powerful voodoo leader, Dr. Kananga, who’s also the dictator of the small Caribbean nation of San Monique.
Bond’s investigation takes him to the Harlem restaurant bar Fillet of Soul, where he wants to meet with gangland boss Mr. Big. While here, he meets Solitaire, a virgin tarot reader with the power of predicting the future through her cards.
Bond meets Mr Big’s henchman Tee Hee Johnson, who has a pincer-tipped prosthetic arm after an accident at a crocodile farm. Tee Hee takes Bond’s Walther PPK and beds it with his pincers as Bond looks on in disbelief.
Mr Big comes into the room just to dismiss Bond and tells his henchmen to ‘take this honky out and waste him.’ Before Bond leaves he asks Solitaire to predict his future with her tarot cards – he chooses ‘The Lover’ card, which clearly worries Solitaire.
Bond gets away from Mr Big’s henchmen and discovers the mob boss is working with San Monique leader Kananaga, but can’t connect the two.
Bond then travels to San Monique, where he meets Rosie Carver, a local agent working for the CIA, who’s checked into his hotel as Mrs Bond. They share some moments together before they go out with Quarrel Jr., to infiltrate Kananga’s operation.
But Bond is suspicious of Rosie being a double agent and tries to get information from her while they’re spending some time together near Kananga’s hideaway. Rosie sees one of Kananga’s scarecrows with surveillance cameras in and she runs off terrified knowing that Kananga has seen her. But as she’s running away she’s shot by a hidden gun in one of the scarecrows.
Bond then goes up to Kananga’s home where Solitaire operates her future readings from. Bond meets Solitaire again and tricks her into believing she’s picked ‘The Lovers’ card from him. She now believes her fate is sealed and they’re to become lovers, but 007 used a full stack of cards with ‘The Lovers’ to fool her.
Bond then seduces her, and she loses her virginity to him, which also means she’s lost the power to read the future through her cards. She then realizes Kananga will kill her, so she cooperates with 007.
Bond and Solitaire try and escape and they discover Kananga’s huge opium fields. The scarecrows have tracked them so Kananga sends a helicopter to gun both Bond and Solitaire down. They run and find an old double decker bus, which they use to get to the port where Quarrel Jr is waiting for them.
Bond then goes to New Orleans where he heads to a bar in the French Quarter. Here, Bond meets up with Mr Big who removes his prosthetic face to reveal himself to be Kananga. The mob boss then tells Bond of his plans to distribute free heroin to bankrupt other dealers and ultimately dominate the heroin market.
Kananga then gets his henchman Tee Hee to take Bond to be eaten by crocodiles at the local crocodile farm, which is also a heroin farm. Tee Hee is feeding the crocodiles and chatting with Bond as they go out on the pier, but then withdraws the pier as Bond is stranded on an island with a load of hungry crocodiles closing in on him. Bond escapes by jumping on a few of them and getting to land before he blows up the crocodile/heroin farm.
Bond then heads back to San Monique where Kannaga has decided to sacrifice Solitaire after he discovers she’s slept with Bond. In a harrowing scene, Kannaga’s henchman Baron Samedi initiates a local voodoo ritual with a venomous snake to kill Solitaire.
Bond rescues Solitaire before a fight with Samedi ensues. In a dramatic climax, Bond throws Samedi into a coffin full of snakes and seemingly kills him, causing everyone around them to flee in fear. Meanwhile, having planted devices earlier in the poppy fields, Bond watches as they explode in the distance.
Bond and Solitaire run and go down into Kananga’s cavernous hideaway. He arrests them both and ties them up on a lever above a shark tank. Kananga then slices Bond’s arm so droplets of blood fall into the water, before his henchman Whisper sends them down into the shark infested water.
Bond uses the magnetic Rolex watch given to him by M to attract a mini saw and free himself and Solitaire. A fierce battle with Kananga then ensues, with both men falling into into the water. As a shark approaches, Bond inserts a compressed-gas pellet into Kananga’s mouth, causing him to inflate and explode, and with it ending his drug empire.
After the investigation is done, Leiter sees Bond and Solitaire off on the train. However, their journey is far from over as Tee Hee, who has infiltrated their room, attempts to kill them.
An intense fight ensues as Tee Hee uses his powerful prosthetic pincers to gain the upper hand against Bond. However, Bond manages to outsmart Tee Hee by snipping the limbs in his prosthetic arm, causing the pincers to malfunction and lock onto the shutter. With Tee Hee momentarily incapacitated, Bond throws him out the window, putting an end to the threat.
Roger Moore as James Bond in Live and Let Die
Roger Moore admitted he was apprehensive about taking over Connery, after the way the public and critics took (didn’t quite take) to George Lazenby.
He said when he was first offered the job, he’d be practicing his lines and saying them out loud in a Scottish accent. Then Director Guy Hamilton told him, ‘Look, Sean was Sean, and you are you, and that is how it is going to be.’ And that’s how it was for the rest of Moore’s tenure as the new and next Bond, James Bond.
Roger Moore was already famous in the UK after appearing in TV shows The Saint and The Persuaders, and his quintessential English accent and more lighthearted mannerisms, meant we had to adhere to a new James Bond.
Live and Let Die is the first of seven Roger Moore Bond films, and its more outward looking in its attempts for us to understand this new Bond. Moore comes across as an impeccable man of breeding with a mean streak towards his foes, and ironically his lovers. He had all the suave and sophistication that Connery had, and even introduced his own eyebrow raise to charm the women – not sure if that worked.
With no inner emotions to offer during the film, the way Moore elegantly handles the action scenes, and the way his sinless charm works with all the Bond girls fall is testament to Roger Moore’s guise.
The first we see of Moore he’s in bed with an Italian agent Miss Caruso, and we see the way Moore’s Bond will behave as he uses the magnetic Rolex to unzip her dress before he sets off on his investigation. She’s surprised by his light touch, which he tells her, ‘it’s sheer magnetism.’
Then when he goes to San Monique his first night is spent with Rosie Carver, but he leaves the island with another Bond girl Solitaire.
But it’s the action scenes that make Live and Let Die truly memorable. From the double decker bus chase, to the white-knuckle speed boat chase and Bond’s daring escape from the crocodile farm, these moments contribute to the virility of the new James Bond.
And of course, Moore delivered some of the best James Bond quotes in Live and Let Die. When Mr Big peels off his prosthetic face to reveal he’s actually Karanga, Bond simply says, ‘Quite revealing.’
And then towards the end of the movie, Bond forces Kananga to swallow a compressed-gas pellet, causing him to inflate and explode. Bond quickly tells Solitaire of his opinion of the former mob boss, ‘He always did have an over-inflated opinion of himself.’
Played by Yaphet Kotto, Dr. Kananga is the San Monique dictator, who also disguises as Mr Big when in America. Ultimately, he’s a drug lord whose aim it is to dominate the heroin market in America.
His plan is to distribute lots of heroin free so his rival drug dealers go bankrupt, and he will step in and start charging for his strong and powerful heroin.
He runs his empire through a voodoo occult which ensures the locals in San Monique are paranoid, but has businesses in New Orleans and Harlem, too.
Bond can’t put together how Kananga and Mr Big are linked until Kananga pulls off the prosthetic face he has on to reveal Mr Big is actually Dr Kananga.
The villain was critiqued unfairly as his plan wasn’t as ambituios as some of the previous Bond villains, but Kotto plays a really good part and his loud and demonstrative personality really makes a mob boss.
He’s killed when he fights with Bond in a shark infested pool, during which Bond shoves a compressed-gas pellet. The pellet releases the compressed air and inflates Kananga, who flies up out of the water like a balloon and bursts everywhere.
Tee Hee Johnson
Tee Hee Johnson, played by Julius W. Harris, is the main henchman of Kananga in the James Bond film, Live and Let Die. He is known for his prosthetic right arm which features a powerful claw.
He and Bond engage in multiple physical altercations throughout the film. In their first encounter, Tee Hee disarms Bond and bends his gun with his claw. Later, Tee Hee leads Bond to a crocodile farm and leaves him stranded with the crocodiles closing in on him.
In the final confrontation, Bond and Tee Hee fight in a train cabin. Bond ultimately defeats Tee Hee by snapping the metal ligaments in his arm with pincers and shoving him out of the train window.
Played by Jane Seymour, Solitaire is a powerful and mysterious tarot card reader who is also a key figure in the villainous organization led by Dr. Kananga.
Kananga uses her for her vision that she can see what’s going to happen in the future through her tarot cards. Bond is immediately drawn to her, and asks to pick a car from her to predict his future. He chooses ‘The Lover’ card which she knows means he and she will become lovers.
Her powers come from her virginity, which she must maintain in order to keep her abilities. But, another meeting with Bond he tricks her this time into choosing ‘The Lover’ card from a deck of cards that are all ‘The Lovers’.
She then goes to bed with Bond and loses her virginity and with it her power to see the future. She then becomes Bond’s aid in helping him bring down Kananga and his drug empire.
Played by American actress and former Playboy Bunny Gloria Hendry, Rosie Carver is a CIA agent working undercover in the San Monique, supposedly to assist Bond in his investigation.
Bond meets Rosie when he checks into his hotel and she’s already checked in as his wife Mrs Bond. She becomes the first ever black Bond girl after they spend some time together, but Bond is always suspicious of her motives.
She’s initially presented as a strong and capable agent, but Bond’s suspicions turn out to be true as it’s later revealed she’s working for Kananga.
After confessing to Bond, she sees one of Kananga’s surveillance voodoo scarecrows and runs away. Unfortunately, the scarecrows are everywhere and one of them has a hidden gun inside, which guns her down.
Miss Caruso is a minor character in Live and Let Die. Played by Madeline Smith, Miss Caruso is an Italian agent that’s absconded with Bond after he’d finished a job there.
She’s in the first scene we see Bond, when they’re in bed but are awoken by M, who’s there to tell Bond about the 3 dead MI6 agents. She hides while M is there, but Miss Moneypenny sees her as she runs into the cupboard.
After M and Moneypenny leave, Bond goes to the cupboard she’s hiding in and they start kissing. Bond then tries out the new magnetic device on his wristwatch and pulls down the zip on her dress with it. We don’t see her again, but she is Roger Moore’s first Bond girl.
Best Scenes in Live and Let Die
Crocodile Jump Escape
Bond is taken to a crocodile farm by Tee Hee Johnson, who’s been ordered to kill Bond. As they’re going out on the jetty Tee Hee is feeding the crocodiles and telling Bond how one day he got too close to one, so much so it attacked him and bit off his right arm.
Bond is alarmed, and as he turns around he sees Tee Hee moving back on the motorized jetty and leaving Bond stranded alone on a small island with crocodiles closing in on him.
The only way out is through the water, so Bond thinks quickly and makes a break for it by running over the top of the crocodiles stepping on them to get to the mainland.
Director Guy Hamilton insisted that they use real crocodiles for the filming and hired a local Jamaican crocodile farm. The owner of the crocodile farm, Ross Katanga was also hired to do the stunt, which almost turned fateful as he misjudged the jumps and almost had his foot bitten on the fourth take. The fifth take was a success and its what we see in the film.
Bond steals a speedboat in an attempt to outpace his pursuers. Kananga’s henchmen prove no match for Bond’s expert boating skills and start to crash one by one.
Sheriff J.W. Pepper, played by Clifton James, and the Louisiana State Police are waiting at the riverbank, thinking they have Bond cornered – But with remarkable skill, he accelerates his boat and gracefully jumps the bank, soaring over the police cars and into the other side of the swamp, then disappears into the horizon.
One of the henchmen in a following boat then tries the same stunt but lands smack into Sheriff Pepper’s police car. The Sheriff makes a return in the cast of The Man with the Golden Gun, this time holidaying in Bangkok.
Bond’s speedboat jump actually made it into the Guinness Book of World Records for the distance it covered. One hundred ten feet – a record which stayed unbroken for three years.
An unexpected plot twist transpired when the second boat crashed into Sheriff Pepper’s car, which wasn’t originally part of the script. However, the unforeseen collision was kept in and mad it an even more thrilling chase scene.
Magnetic Rolex Wristwatch
M gives Bond a magnetic Rolex wristwatch at the start of the movie, and he tries it out with a teaspoon while he’s making a coffee. The spoon flies towards the watch, which impresses Bond.
After M has left, Bond goes back to the cupboard where Miss Curaso is hiding, they start kissing again and Bond uses the wristwatch to unzip her. She can’t feel his touch and tells him he has a delicate touch, to which Bond replies: ‘Sheer magnetism, darling.’
He uses the wristwatch later to try and attract a boat to get away and the boat is coming towards him, but unfortunately is tied up. Bond makes the most use out of the wristwatch, however, when he’s tied up with Solitaire above the shark pool.
He uses the powerful magnet to attract the metallic compressed-gas pellet that he shoves into Kananga’s mouth. He also uses the dial which turns into a circular saw to cut through the rope that’s tying them up.
Live and Let Die – A Great Start to a New Dawn
Live and Let Die marked a new era for the James Bond franchise, introducing a new actor in the lead role and a new approach to the series. Despite mixed reviews, the film was a commercial success and remains a favorite among Bond fans.
Though the film lacked the familiar elements of previous Bond films such as Sean Connery, Blofeld, Q, and flashy cars, Live and Let Die presents an enjoyable experience with exciting action sequences and memorable characters.
The villain Kananga’s plot in this film was more grounded in reality, which was a change of pace from the typical Bond films but it was fitting with the political and social climate of the time.