Sunday, July 20, 2008
Remembering James Bond: Names Is For Tombstones Baby!
Live And Let Die 1973.
2/3's blaxsploitation and 1/3 Smokey And The Bandit It's impossible to comprehend Live And Let Die unless you can set your brain to 1973 before diving in. Unfortunately the blaxploitaion movie was already on the way out by the time LALD hit the theaters so the movie was almost instantly dated. And as you might guess LALD'S social message hasn't really dated well either. The bad guy, named Kananga/ Mr. Big is played by Yaphett Koto, is both a small time island dictator and a Harlem crime boss. Where as other James Bond villains before Kananga had big time plans of starting world war three, whipping out the human population with or becoming the worlds most powerful man Kananga is essentially a Black Goldfinger. Only instead of Gold his plan is to have a near monopoly on Heroin which he plans on growing in his country of San Monique (Fictional) and then distributing ( for free at first) in the United States through a chain of Filet of Soul Restaurants. Kananga uses a fortune teller the High Priestess Solitaire (Jane Seymour) Who will lose her powers once she has sex which Kananga plans on happening as soon as she is no longer any use to him. (This is one of many things about the movie that has caused some to label it as highly racist)
For an Hour and half all of the villains are Black as is most of the cast. James Bond has his first sex with a black woman ( Rosie Carver) then gets her killed shortly afterwards when he discovers she is not CIA but working for Kananga. An hour and a half into the movie we are introduced to Sheriff J.W. Pepper from Louisiana a stereotypical slow whited, racist, redneck whose character was written into the movie to provide humor and also a White villain thus keeping people from claiming every villain or idiot in the film was Black.
What's There to Like? This is Roger Moore's first Bond film and he is quite good. The film at least tries to feel like Dr. No in some of the situations and the fact that certain characters are related to characters from Dr. No. The race humor while being UN-PC and offensive to some is to me quite funny and almost all of it is directed at James Bond and J.W. Pepper. Paul McCartney's theme song and this movie would be high on my James Bond list if for no other reason than this conversation...
Mr. Big: [to his men] Is THIS the stupid mother who tailed you uptown?
James Bond: There seems to be some mistake. My name is...
Mr. Big: Names is for tombstones, baby! Y'all take this honkey out and WASTE HIM! NOW!
What's not to like? The Occult, Blaxploitaion, Safari Suits, Hillybilly racist sheriffs...this movie is 70's to the core and it's got more than it's share of camp. If your idea of Bond is strictly serious OHMSS or CR than skip this one. Also I can't stand Jane Seymour. Not because of this movie. She's OK here and she was certainly attractive but after that Horrid Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman and her work with the Television Nazi's I have just no use for her.
My Verdict: When I rank this one I usually rank it high at about 5th on my James Bond List. The things I like about it are the things many people, especially the Fleming purist, can't stand. But I think humor is a good thing and really this movie isn't much different in style and is much better than the Connery flick Diamonds Are Forever which came before it. I Like the From Russia With Love, On Her Majesty's Secret Service, Casino Royale serious type James Bond films but I also believe there is plenty enough room for The Live And Let Dies of the series. And if it's camp...so be it.