As the eighth film in the James Bond series, Live and Let Die marked a new era, as Sean Connery had left the role for good, opening the door for Roger Moore to embody the character. Moore had been aware as early as 1966 that he might be a possible contender for the role, but it wasn’t until Connery announced that he was done after Diamonds are Forever that Moore was approached for the lead in the next film.
Live and Let Die is also a unique entry in the series because it was made at the height of the “blaxploitation era.” Films of this type featured (among many things) a large black cast, ethnic slurs agains white people (i.e. “crackers” or “honky”), and soundtracks laden with funk or jazz elements. This film contains several of these elements, so the entire story should be viewed as a product of its time.
In Live and Let Die, Bond (Moore) must stop the dictator Kananga (Yaphet Kotto), and a mysterious drug lord named Mr. Big from ruining the economy by flooding the drug market with tons of free heroin. Along the way, Bond encounters a mysterious woman named Solitaire (Jane Seymour in the role that earned her international fame) who has the power to tell the future by reading tarot cards. References to tarot and voodoo are rampant in the film, and it is hinted that one of the villains is actually a supernatural figure (based on the ending of the film).
Property of Eon Productions
The title song, ironically enough, was performed by Paul McCartney with his band Wings (this was after the Beatles had broken up). I say “ironically” because all the way back in Goldfinger, Bond had quipped that drinking Dom Perignon above a certain temperature was “as bad as listening to the Beatles without earmuffs.” (To be fair though, at the time of filming, Beatlemania had not quite begun to take off, so I think Bond can be forgiven for his comment.) So it is somewhat ironic that a former Beatle was performing a song for a James Bond film. And McCartney did not just perform the title song, he also composed the piece, as John Barry was unavailable during production to create the theme himself. In fact, this was the first Bond film to be opened with a true rock ‘n roll song, and it proved to be very popular.
The title sequence features a rather creepy cut-shot of a woman’s face turning into a burning skull. A large portion of the sequence plays out through the eye socket of this skull. There are women (some with exotic “tribal” markings) in silhouette and also visible, staring off into the distance. These images are placed against a background of flames and neon fluorescent lights.
Credit to Art of the Title
This is one of my favorite Moore Bond films, and it proved that the series was capable of changing lead actors and still thriving.
On a side note: if Yaphet Kotto looks or sounds familiar, that’s because he’s also known for appearing in Alien (1979).
Tomorrow: The Man With the Golden Gun (1974)– Bex
Check out the rest of the “Introducing James Bond” series here
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