With Sean Connery officially departed and the catastrophe of George Lazenby put to bed, a search began for a new James Bond. Rather than trying to find someone to replace Connery, EON decided to take the character and the franchise in a different direction and cast Roger Moore, famous for playing suave characters in television shows like The Saint and The Persuaders he brought a different spin to the British super spy and MI6 agent in his debut outing Live and Let Die.
While investigating the Dr. Kananga, the dictator of a small Caribbean island, 3 undercover agents are killed in mysterious circumstances. Flying to New York City to investigate, MI6 agent James Bond (Moore) immediately finds leads to Mr. Big (Yaphet Kotto) a ruthless gangster. After escaping some henchmen, he meets Solitaire (Jane Seymour) a virginal tarot card reader and together the duo must link Mr. Big with Kananga and stop a huge heroin deal from taking place.
Made during the height of the Blaxploitation era, Live and Let Die features the first African-American Bond girl to be romantically linked to the lead character as well as focusing on African-American cultural centres like Harlem and New Orleans. Cashing in on the Black Panther movement and the popularity of films like Shaft, Live and Let Die proved a commercial success and Roger Moore was accepted as the next true incarnation of Bond.
Live and Let Die boasts 3 of the most memorable Bond villains in the form of the face-changing Mr. Big and his two henchmen Tee Hee (with claws for hands) and Baron Samedi (a Voodoo Priest). Following a simple plot to do with drug trafficking, it also marked the first non-meglomaniac plot for Bond to solve. Rippling with one of the most popular Bond title songs by Paul and Linda McCartney it also has a soundtrack of blues and jazz from Louisiana, and in one memorable scene the Dejan’s Olympia Brass Band perform a funeral march. However, despite feeling very new and different to the Connery era, Live and Let Die has its faults.
Leaning heavily away from the more cold and calculated elements of the Connery era, Live and Let Die paces itself well in the first two-thirds, but sadly runs out of steam in its finale. Having moved everything in place to have an ending match the ludicrous You Only Live Twice, what the audience actually get is crocodile stepping stones and stereotypical Southern police officers. It also hinted at the more camp-filled elements that would become a mainstay of Moore’s era as Bond. Still as a first outing, Live and Let Die stands tall as one of the better Bond films and possible Roger Moore’s best work as the lead.