Live and Let Die
|Live and Let Die (1973) is the eighth spy film in the James Bond series, and the first to star Roger Moore as the fictional MI6 agent James Bond. The film was produced by Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman. Although the producers had wanted Sean Connery to return after his role in the previous Bond film Diamonds Are Forever, he declined, sparking a search for a new actor to play James Bond. Roger Moore was signed for the lead role.
The film is adapted from the novel of the same name by Ian Fleming. In the film, a Harlem drug lord known as Mr. Big plans to distribute two tons of heroin free to put rival drug barons out of business. Mr. Big, however, is revealed to be the disguised alter ego of Dr. Kananga, a corrupt Caribbean dictator, who rules San Monique, the fictional island where the heroin poppies are secretly farmed. Bond is investigating the death of three British agents, leading him to Kananga, where he is soon trapped in a world of gangsters and voodoo as he fights to put a stop to the drug baron’s scheme.
Live and Let Die was released during the height of the blaxploitation era, and many blaxploitation archetypes and clichés are depicted in the film, including afro hairstyles, derogatory racial epithets (“honky”), black gangsters, and “pimpmobiles”. It departs from the former plots of the James Bond films about megalomaniac super-villains, and instead focuses on drug trafficking, depicted primarily in blaxploitation films. It is set in African American cultural centres such as Harlem and New Orleans, as well as the Caribbean Islands. It was also the first James Bond film featuring an African American Bond girl to be romantically involved with 007, Rosie Carver, who was played by Gloria Hendry. Despite mixed reviews, the film was a box office success and was nominated for an Academy Award.
Three British (MI6) agents, including one “on loan” to the American government, are killed under mysterious circumstances within 24 hours while monitoring the operations of Dr. Kananga, the dictator of a small Caribbean island called San Monique. James Bond (Roger Moore) – agent 007 and sometimes referred to as simply ‘007’ – is sent to New York, where the first agent was killed and where Kananga is currently visiting the UN, to investigate. Just after Bond arrives in New York, his driver is killed by another motorist while taking him to meet Felix Leiter of the CIA and Bond is nearly killed in the ensuing car crash.
The driver’s killer leads Bond to Mr. Big (Yaphet Kotto), a ruthless, cunning, gangster who runs a chain of Fillet of Soul restaurants throughout the United States. It is during his confrontation with Mr. Big that Bond first meets Solitaire, a beautiful virgin tarot expert who has the uncanny ability to see both the future and remote events in the present. In disguise as Mr. Big, Kananga demands that his henchman kill Bond, who manages to escape unscathed. Bond follows Kananga back to San Monique, where he subsequently meets Rosie Carver, a CIA double agent, who is subsequently murdered on the island by Kanaga’s scarecrow men after Bond suspects her of working for Kananga. Later he meets the boatman, Quarrel Jr., who takes him to Solitaire’s home. Using a stacked tarot deck of only cards showing “The Lovers”, Bond tricks her into thinking that seduction is in her future and then seduces her. Solitaire loses her ability to foretell the future when she loses her virginity to Bond and is forced into cooperating with Bond to bring down Kananga.
It transpires that Kananga is producing two tons of heroin and is protecting the poppy fields by exploiting locals’ fear of voodoo and the occult. Through his alter ego, Mr. Big, Kananga plans to distribute the heroin free of charge at his Fillet of Soul restaurants, which will increase the number of addicts. Kananga also believes that other drug dealers, namely the Mafia, cannot compete with his giveaway, to which Kananga can later charge high prices for the heroin after he has simultaneously cultivated huge drug dependency and bankrupted his competitors. Kananga’s men capture Bond and Solitaire at the New Orleans airport. Bond does not identify Mr. Big, as the latter is wearing a plastic gangster mask. Kananga rips off his mask and asks a disgusted Bond if he slept with Solitaire, using Bond to test her abilities. Kananga turns Solitaire over to Baron Samedi to be sacrificed after he discovers that her ability to read tarot cards is gone. Kananga leaves Bond with his one-armed henchman, Tee Hee Johnson, who takes Bond to a crocodile farm community in the Louisiana backwoods. Bond escapes being eaten by the crocodiles by running along the animals’ backs to safety. He sets the farm on fire and steals a speedboat, engaging in a chase with Kananga’s men, local Sheriff J.W. Pepper (Clifton James) and the Louisiana State Police. Later, back in San Monique, Bond throws Samedi into a coffin of snakes and rescues Solitaire from the voodoo sacrifice with a .44 Magnum Smith & Wesson Model 29 revolver. Bond and Solitaire escape below ground into Kananga’s lair. Kananga captures them both and proceeds to lower them into a shark tank. Bond escapes and forces a shark gun pellet in Kananga’s mouth, causing him to literally blow up like a balloon, float to the top of the cave, and explode, killing him. After the job is done, Felix leaves Bond and Solitaire on a train out of the country.
Tee Hee Johnson follows Bond and Solitaire onto a train and tries to kill them both, but loses his prosthetic arm in a fight with Bond and is flung out the window. As the film ends Bond comforts Solitaire and a laughing Samedi is revealed perched on the front of the speeding train.