Roger Moore is as divisive a figure as Bond. He is the first Bond to stop playing it straight and to see the character as one that could be played with his tongue shoved into his cheek. His years as Bond are characterised by one liners, raised eyebrows, silliness, absurdity, giant men with metal teeth, and camp. For some, he ruined Bond by making it a laughing stock while for others, it was refreshing to see a charming guy with great timing have some fun with the whole. Whichever your opinion, with Roger Moore’s Bond there are some high-highs and some low-lows:
Live and Let Die (1973)
Bond the Third: For 1973’s Live and Let Die Bond had regenerated into Roger Moore. Lazenby wasn’t getting a second spin of the wheel and though Connery had come back for one more (and one million pounds) he was not going to keep going.
Live and Let Die’s plot is basically that Blaxploitation movies were popular in 1973 so the producers wanted to make one and shoehorn Bond in there. Also something about poppy fields. This was definitely one of those Bonds where it’s never a hundred percent clear what the details of the bad guy’s plot are or what Bond’s mission is.
Race: Bond movies have a lot of issues with their depictions of race. Up until this point it had mostly been depictions of Asians, but Live and Let Die branches out into African-Americans. There’s a sense that this movie is what a white Englishman believed America to be in the 70s. The black people in it are presented as gangsters or Voodoo Gods. Mr. Big, the gang leader Bond is pursuing says lines like ‘Names is for tombstones, baby’ and ‘Take this honkey out and waste him.’ Which feels again like what an Englishman sat at a typewriter in London might think people talk like after watching Superfly after his wife and children have gone to bed. However; as unnatural and uncomfortable some of the race stuff is in this movie, it in pales in comparison to the book which is just unpleasant. The movie at least feels as though it’s trying to be hip and cool, while the source material was clearly written by a white man who was born in 1908.
Creepy Seduction: Live and Let Die is not a great movie but it is a great introduction to Moore as Bond. It gives him a chance to fight, to have a chase, to drop some one liners, and to seduce a woman by lying to her and making her think that them having sex is inevitable, but he’s actually tricking her and using her one skill against her, and endangering her life in the process. Wait, what?
Yes, we’ve moved away from Connery’s no means yes style of seduction into something that is presented as being witty and mischievous until you give it a single second’s thought and it becomes exploitative. The scene in question in which Bond rigs the tarot cards of Mr. Big’s psychic, Solitaire, so that they are all The Lovers card is played for ‘Oh, Bond, you cad!’ style reactions but is actually pretty gross.
Overall: Live and Let Die is a passable Bond film. It is a little slow and spends too much time getting to the main plot but there are some cool set pieces like the boat chase, the crocodile farm, and pretty much anything involving the Baron Samedi character. This movie works best as an intro to Roger Moore. It sets the table out clearly and lets us know that this is going to be a Bond who has a little more fun, a lot more one liners, and who is actually pretty creepy about how he goes about charming women.