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The 007th Minute: a review series

Live and Let Die

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#1 Jim

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Posted 23 September 2012 - 04:58 PM

OK, so the last one was a bit unrestrained, directionless and flabby, a scattergun and largely busked collage of old tat with a distractingly sinister undertone to it all. The film it was purporting to criticise wasn’t much better, but I suppose I could argue – if bothered (not very) – that “review” and “reviewable” being of similar hopeless natures is a tremendously funny joke and, more pompously (it is possible) that Diamonds are Forever is a corrupting influence not only on the young but also on the decayfrayed and moth-chewed, i.e. me.

Its corrupting influence on the next few films is a popular perception, that it was with Diamonds are Forever that the rot set it, that shocking rot of making millions of dollars, oh that hateful, hateful money. The burden. Oh, the humanity. Will no-one think of the children? Tonally, its successor does look like someone was thinking of the children as ostensibly it appears to be a gentler affair, or at the very least a far more even one, absent the violent mood swings of Connery’s Fat Vegas Comeback Special. Obviously that’s only perception; it’s simply much, much better at disguising its bipolar, filleted soul, if only by dint of having an actual story this time, to distract one from all the jarring inconsistency that’s still jumping about like youths at a (ahem) “jazz funeral”. I don’t want dancing like that at my funeral, although I am trying to engineer it that there will be a good fight when they find out that all the money’s been left to, oh I dunno, some donkeys or something.

Trying to convince you this one’s going to be a little more focussed on whatever the hell is meant to be going on, even though it’s bound to be the same old cack really, quick-ish run through of what we’ve got going down in funky town prior to the 007th minute. Bit of a chicka-wah-wah jazzy Bond theme going on there and then OH MY GOD IT’S SHAKYCAM ZOOMING IN ON THE UNITED NATIONS; BOURNE WAS SET IN NEW YORK AND WAS ALL SHAKY AND THEY ARE JUST COPYING BOURNE AGAIN, I TRUSTED THEM AND NOW THEY HAVE JUST SHAT IN MY SORBET etc. Interesting seating arrangement at the U.N. – Hungary, Sweden, two representatives from Nowhereland (probably Canada), Honduras (played by the look Tom Jones is currently bestowing upon a bemused nation) and then the UK. Mystifying order, really, unless it’s “Ascending order of per capita production of amateur pørnography per square mile” or “nations least likely to win Eurovision again (except Honduras))”. Right, so fatty gets his brain dynamited (that would have been a great effect, c’mon) by an evil plunger – you know it’s evil, there’s a red wire, ooh – but it was a boring speech anyway and really only of interest to Hungarians, so probably about leather jackets, Croatian prostitutes or ham.

Next, a really oddly deserted New Orleans with a funeral starring Winnie Mandela – not the only one she’s been involved in I daresay – and it’s all quite quiet so far; not the scene, the soundtrack. And the scene, obviously. But by this stage in the film, David Arnold would have given us about an hour of his …y’know, that stuff he does, flinging notes and chords and noise at us as if they were in danger of dying out and he had to collect it all in one place all at the same time. Little fat jolly-faced chap with knife was played by (science fact!) Harry Saltzman who, being a bit of a loony, took it upon himself to empathise with his cast by blacking up. Their reaction is unknown. Stabbed “Hamilton” (har de har har), a man with an American accent but who we later learn from M was “on loan” to the Americans. Is this really how it works? Blimey. Did we just lend Burgess and Maclean to the Russians, expecting them back at the end of the season? What did we get in return for loaning (oh, I am bereft of ribs, for my sides have split) “Hamilton”? Bet it was Shane Rimmer; it usually is. Hang on, Lickle Harry Saltzman gets away with this murder and another one later – no retribution whatsoever. Bond doesn’t even get to be actively obnoxious towards him which is a surprise because he achieves it with practically everybody else. Unless this wee chap is the owner of the hat seen later on, and he did indeed lose a fight with a chicken. Well, he did indulge in fowl play. (Sorry).

A lot of grooving ensues and doubtless some less enlightened souls will assert that this is a tacitly racist depiction of “black” people in the out-of-control limbs and jibbering and jabbering and not making a whole heap of sense and waddling about, but writing as a “black” “man” I can confirm that this is exactly how I was behaving in 1973 so as far as I’m concerned it’s entirely factual.

Last thing we witnessed – hang on, where’s Bond?, oh don’t say he’s got himself stuck in the door again, the deep-fried fool, live and let diet, tsk! – was some entertaining moments on San Monique Delacroix, to give it its full name, an island in the Pinewood Garden (why can’t this be a euphemism? WHY?). A third victim, and we’re not actually told yet that he’s British – he could be anything, even French or something equally horrendous. Why must we assume that because he is white, he’s British? It’s this sort of presumptive, casual utter racism about white persons that dates the film horribly. In due course we will “learn”, because it’s vital, that this is Baines, with whom Bond shared a bootmaker (an eminently Roger Moore line, no-one else could really get away with it but I mean, seriously, a what?). Subjected to the vile indignity of watching bad dancing, Baines doesn’t look happy at all; perhaps his new boots are hurty. All this malarkey and all he did was stumble into some shrubbery. I did that once, although I had enjoyed two pints of gin. Perhaps that’s what happened to Baines too; he looks like a drinker. Not too keen on Snakebite, though.

All very strange, slightly disconcerting and disjointed, and this continues into the song. Possibly diluted by years of tedious overexposure in signalling the raucous crowdpleasing singalong end of multiple Royal events – various Jubilee concerts, the opening of the Duke of York’s latest chin, Princess Diana’s funeral, that sort of thing – this must have been a little, y’know, unexpected back then. Louche Shirl and her unpeeling caress of docile sluttiness and then… this thing, this wild and glorious thing, helped on its crazy old way completely marvellously by the titles which have, even before the 007th minute, brought one burning skulls and the best – by far the best – word-by-word introduction of the name of a Bond film yet. Those opening moments of the titles – Roger Moore as 007 (coming back to him in a moment), wide-eyed girl’s match-head going flambé, LIVE. AND. LET. DIE., just watch it again: it’s a major Bond moment, it truly is. You know you couldn’t possibly be watching anything else, even though you would have sworn that you’d never seen anything like it. That balance, achieved more often than not and increasingly difficult (although the Skyfall trailer does bode well) that’s what’s kept it all going. Fifty years. Blimey.

We’ve just been told that Paul Rabiger is “Chief Make-Up”, presumably some sort of distant relation of Chief Buthelezi or, given the unfortunate “Mr Big” mask, it’s Chief Wiggum, and we’re then ordered to give The Other Fella “Hell”, which is sound advice because giving him cake makes him prone to bloat, as we reach

0.06.00 - 0.07.00 Live and Let Die

A woman dances in front of some optical fibres as the noise just starts getting even more insane. That sentence pretty much tells us that what we have here is a ) James Bond and b ) Maurice Binder and c ) reassuring, but reassuringly different. Quite a bit of what we have witnessed so far meets the evident desire to introduce a new Bond without making the same errors that smothered George Lazenby’s efforts, the constant reminder of Connery. There are few if any acknowledgements of the change of actor, which only goes to help Roger Moore settle in. Such references as there are subtler than those inflicted upon OHMSS. So the usual crowd of hangers-on are kicking about (apart from Q; ah, who cares?), but there’s a twist! They’re not in the office! They arrive at Bond’s shagshack terribly early in the morning. Is 5.48 really that early? I’ve usually breakfasted by then and have a good seven hours of the day before the children bother to get up. Fair enough, Bond does look about fourteen here and he has a teenage boy’s “beige” sheets, so I suppose it’s all consistent. The plot set up is largely Dr No and his murderlerating of British agents but there’s a twist! There’s no Buddy Holly / Ben Wishaw to call W6N, which saddens, although admittedly Baines isn’t as much of a hottie although his chebs are probably the same size. We see Bond’s flat, but there’s a twist! It seems to be an underground lair and, looking at it closely, appears to be a sodding museum, it’s brimful of quite ghastly nautical tat. It even has a coffee shop in which the staff don’t know how to work the machine and it takes a geological age to get an espresso. Same/different interface paradigm. There is, I suppose, a fairly patent Connery homage towards the end in the way Dr Kananga swells up as a blimp.

The dubbing editors were Teddy Mason / Jimmy Shields (please don’t read that as Teddy Mason stroke Jimmy Shields, that’s a very mucky stage direction) and Chris Lancaster. Few new names kicking about these credits, but enough of the familiar to hold on to. A partial rebootmaker, then. Sound recordists John Mitchell ampersand Ken Barker have fortunately recorded a lot of sounds, including the sound of a villain encountering death by flatulence (I mean, seriously who did think that was a good idea?) and I really don’t want to know how they foleyed it, but I’ve a vague and unsettling feeling they may have met my mother-in-law. That, or it’s a homage to the novel’s chapter “The Undertaker’s Wind”, and yes I suppose he’s also off to N***** Heaven too but we won’t be talking about that here. The sound’s certainly currently all over the place in the “song”. Linda’s hammering away at that keyboard with at least two fingers, if not three. When it’s performed now, this bit comes with the keyboarderator hammering at a Bontempi with a prosthetic leg. It is unclear what Sir Paul is telling us at such a juncture although these days one doesn’t so much as listen to the man as wonder what colour his hair’s actually meant to be. Live and Let Dye.

The colour is by Rank Film Laboratories and all characters and incidents are fictional, blahdy blah. Don’t be fooled by this. A politician exploits gullible belief in a crackpot religion to fool simple-minded voters into keeping him in power whilst he pursues utterly criminal capitalist money-making schemes overseas for himself and his cronies. No, you’re right, it couldn’t happen. Total fiction.

It’s interesting that the next lot of names are of those who co-ordinated the stunts, and that it’s now “stunts” and has moved on from the previous “action sequences”, which always did sound a little sniffy. Man, we ain’t got no “action seeeee-Quen-ces”, we got STUNTS, brudder, and my giddygoo, what cunning stunts they are. I suppose “stunt” may define a moment as such and there’s no moment more defining Live and Let Die than Ross Kananga and the alligators. It’s such a stupidly dangerous thing to do for the sake of some light entertainment that it’s still pretty amazing. This is no Moon Buggy, no sitting in a crane whacking about a camp old man, this is lethally dangerous. It’s only a film. There’s a reality to the work of Messrs Simmons, Kananga, Smith, Chitwood, Comeaux and Bennet that – Lazenby tumbling about as an exception – may have been lost in the past few. Roger Moore is in the boat. Roger Moore is in a swordfight. Roger Moore is in that out of control car. Roger Moore is still thin enough that it could have been him on the crocodiles or kissing Madeleine Smith. It’s all still sufficiently convincingly staged that although there’s a lot more stunt work in this film that I ever remembered, it’s yet to become a total lie that it’s Roger Moore as James Bond. The boat jump, the bus crash, all good stuff, all look like he was there and I suspect he was. Granted, the Harlem alley fight hasn’t much spice but then one hardly notices given that one’s wondering how they managed to find anywhere quite so ghastly to film, outside of Bracknell.

There’s a lot of imagination going on with the stunts – more so than endless circuits of a Nevada car park - and again, same but different, it’s fun and stuff that James Bond would do. This new, active James Bond, anyway. Give him a few years and it’ll go a bit lumpy but it is a joy to rediscover how much running and jumping about Roger Moore is up to here, and that he was better at action that I ever used to give him credit for. Some questionable character traits aside, he’s a tremendously watchable James Bond here, and these folks at this point in the credits, they made him look good rather than old. Splendid work.

Filament lady’s having it go all purply and green now and it’s slightly unclear what she is miming. I’m wondering if those fronds are actually lifesize and she’s really, really tiny. Perhaps she’s warding off an ant. Giving it some cavort, has to be said. Not an easy tune to dance to, so let’s not mock too much, especially as it’s now gone all relaxy and stringy and the optical filamenty chaps have taken it upon themselves to turn a very lovely blue and just in time to introduce the star of the show. Good though he is, it’s not Roger Moore. Great though he is, and more on this shortly, it’s not Yaphet Kotto. Geoffrey Holder, choreographer as credited, utterly dominates this film because he’s just so damned terrifying. To an extent the performance – and as the performance is so overwhelming, the film – is made by that final, brilliant moment on the front of the train (what an ending) but during the rest of it he’s such a cackling loon that he cannot fail to entertain even if there is possibly a risk that he overshadows the principal villain completely, although it’s hard to see though how anyone could really compete with “Zombie Weirdo Undead Hench”. Suggest it now and he’d have to have “issues” and try to cop off with Sophie Marceau. Stuff that; Baron Samedi (that’s Saturday for those of you who speak French. No it’s not, it’s Saturday for those of you who don’t. Those of you who speak French already know) would just bite her head off and do something completely unspeakable to the corpse, chortling like a demon; far more engaging. Whenever he turns up, it’s utter bliss. I’d love a laugh like that. Would be great in supermarket queues. I anticipate that they would “disperse”. Genuinely an unexpected item in the bagging area.

The sort-of Archbishop of Canterbury of this Voodoo jape, he’s at his most demented towards the end, when Bond interrupts the convening of the San Monique Delacroix General Synod with a big silver gun, shoots a lot of sword-wielding foreign types in a joke evidently stolen from Raiders of the Lost Ark eight years in advance and the Baron keeps getting himself unkilled, the nutter. Quite how the film retains its kiddie-friendly certificate with this gigantic lump of Mad leaping out from behind gravestones is unclear, especially as he’s involved in the most peculiar image of the film (an achievement in a film full of them), when half his head is, well, shot off frankly and he just rolls his eyes upwards to look at it, smoking away. Stuff of really satisfying nightmares. That the remainder of the cast manage to shoehorn in any sort of performance of their own is an achievement, given this gleeful scene-larceny. As for the choreography, it’s probably best summed-up by the contortionist who repeatedly thrusts his underpanted crotch at us. That is entertainment. The Actor Pursss Brushman “talking” about Stockholm Syndrome or Helsinki Hurtyhead or Oslo Orribleness, or whatever it was, is not. Given that he’s undead, they really should bring Baron Samedi back. Rumour has it he’s the new M. Admit it, you’d like that. Plenty of sins to think on, one imagines, and that won’t be Bourbon he’s drinking.

The costumes were designed by Julie Harris and although the seventies Bond films come in for some fairly lazy criticism of how the hero was clothed, they’re not that outlandish, even here. Bond is largely splendidly dressed – the suit, coat, gloves and Royal Navy tie in the Harlem scenes are exceptionally nice – although I’m not going to insult you with any defence for the monogrammed dressing gown nor the pastel blue suit with vest and (God Almighty) a white belt. I suppose it’s an update Connery’s Crab Key/Maimi Beachwear of a similar ghastly hue. Still, he’s on holiday, ambling around on a half-hearted investigation whilst getting to go to some very lovely places. Time’s been reasonably gentle on Dr Kananga’s outfits too, he’s still looking sharp, and obviously most of what poor old Jane Seymour has to strap herself into is meant to be for comic value, but as far as practically everyone else is concerned, the decades have demonstrated the mean streak Bond exhibits when holding Rosie Carver at gunpoint (with very thin wrists, I might add: evidently not a fourteen-year-old boy after all, they seem to have strong wrists; I know not why). The leopardskin, the suede, the collars, the hats, the could all be forgiven by the argument that they are contemporaneous and realistic to a particular time but given that there’s a guffawing, leering unmurderable maniac cavorting about in a top hat and rags, there’s a limit to “realism”. Everything is very “colourful”, and I’m being fairly careful in the use of that word, but equally so it is gruesomely dated. There have not been 50 years of Shaft films. It’s the trap the Bond series sometimes get itself into when seeking to be hip and groovy and rock-on daddi-o and follow trends; a lack of confidence in accepting that it itself is the trend and everything else is just a temporary parasite. It may have wanted to look up-to-the-minute here, but that minute passed long, long ago. You can see why, at least insofar as what people wear in the current Bonds, that they tend not to do this and go for fairly muted and classic, the principle being that the film could be seen as occurring anytime, and not watched through dark glasses with a carrier bag on one’s head. On that point, one has one’s reservations about A View to a Kill, but those will be expressed when we dance into that fire, later, save to observe that the Moorera (it’s one word, it’s better that way) is bookended by two films positively nailed onto their respective decades. There may be a lengthy piece about how those two films demonstrate social progress between their years, although this is a flawed theory as they have similar points: Bond sleeps with a “black lady”, there’s a non-comedy policeman, the villain is creating a monopoly in something one needs to be able to function on a daily basis, the villain turns into an airship or something and there’s an ancient leering cadaver shoved in there to make one feel unsettled at how inappropriate much of it is.

Casting directed by Weston Drury Jnr and although one suspects that the casting of Roger Moore was more – much more, Roger Moore – in the hands of the Salty Veg, “junior” does appear to have rustled up an interesting lot of folk here. Jane Seymour, for example. Quite what the mother of Edward VI could bring to the role of Voodoo Witch was unclear, although as she died in 1537 it’s a funny joke at the audience’s expense that Baron Samedi is not the only zombie kicking about. Likening Ms Seymour’s performance to one of the brain-sucking walking dead is perhaps a bit unfair although I have never worked out, if she has been a prisoner all her life in that massive chastity belt of a house on a fly-speck of an island in the Caribbean, quite where it was that she acquired that accent of hers. It suggests time at an English or Swiss ladies’ boarding school and the chances of coming out of one of those shrieking Virgin Megastore hellholes “intact” are pretty damned low. Me lads (and here I am referring to my two eldest sons, not my testicles (for once)) were invited to a “prom “(oh dear) at one of these earlier in the summer and they’re still shakily traumatised now, having been set upon by a pack of pubescent velociraptors of lust with the (actually) stated aim of “draining all the moisture from your body”. I think you can get an A* in that. Solitaire can only have obtained quite such beautiful vowels by extra sessions with the Deportment and Elocution Master and marvelling at his diction. This realisation – that she’s basically a trust-fund strumpet with a Paul Daniels Magic Set – changes the power dynamic in the film utterly. The first time she meets Bond and he picks “The Lovers”, who’s to say she hadn’t loaded the pack too and every action hereafter is to lure Bond in? There’s an International Baccalaureate in that too, probably. It’s a more – much more, Roger Moore – positive reading of what appears to happen, a mean trick by Bond just because he needs to give his lads some exercise and roger more. As well as deeply sinister, Bond’s extremely foolish here – he likes carrrdds and gambling, and having someone around able to predict the outcome would have been a bit of a winner. Twerp. Oh, and probably rapist. But mainly twerp. He could have made a fortune and bought yet another model ship for his flat. Inveigling an innocent into bed because it is apparently [chosen religion’s] will…hmm… perhaps he is still playing a saint after all.

The casting’s biggest plus here is Yaphet Kotto, who amidst all the ludicrous hi-jinkery gives what I still firmly believe is one of the best performances as a villain in the entire series, but one that always seems slightly neglected. Yes, I know it all ends in a hateful way – why they didn’t have him eaten by the shark as per (ish) the book I’m not sure; perhaps “There always was something fishy about him” wasn’t that good a line – but don’t let that cloud the judgment of the rest of it. It works both ways – Elektra King has a splendid death, but what precedes it is a monument to colossal poverty of interest. The particularly dynamic thing they have Kananga do here is really engage with Bond on an emotional level, and frequent flights of intense – and credible - rage really do bring home how upsetting it must be to have one’s schemes and domestic arrangements disrupted by this – let’s face it – really annoying man, with his quips and his leering and massive cigars and nicking one’s bird and his punchable face and general all-round nggggggggg. Homaged (probably deliberately) by Jonathan Pryce later in the series (another villain I like that no-one else seems to), we do get to see some human reaction to Bond here. Up until now, the villains have tended to be stand-offish and proud – this is expressly not a characteristic of Dr Kananga. The post-Butterhook (great line) scene with Solitaire is raw and brutal and possibly the first time we’ve actually witnessed Bond’s effect on other people, the inconsiderate ratbag. He really doesn’t take their feelings into account, does he? It’s a world away from the hissop-drenched bon mots of Charles Gray’s ennui or Adolfo Celi seething quietly but shrugging it all off with a wave of a harpoon.

This isn’t to say it’s all boiling-over menace that Kotto brings us; most of the time (when not made up as Pennywise the clown) he’s patently having a bit of a hoot and the look, that look, of determined, fiendish glee on his face when cutting Bond’s arms for the shark, it’s spine-shivering. It’s an unfairly ignored defining performance of the series – the filmmakers perhaps reflecting on the detachment the Diamonds are Forever Blofeld, whose diffident boredom in his own scheme is so obvious one could dig bits out of it with a spoon. What we have here is our first emotionally engaged bad guy and some of the strongest evidence against the indolent observation that the Bond films don’t require or exhibit much in the way of acting. He’s a brilliant contrast to Roger Moore, and I’m really not talking “colour”; Moore suppresses his energy (to great effect – it must actually be quite hard to always appear so relaxed and takes more talent than he’s officially allowed to have) whereas this guy just lashes out in wild mood swings. Bit like Max Zorin; another Moorera bookend (the rest of Moore’s villains tend to been as generally even-tempered as his Bond). A roaring rampage of lust, a big old bucket of crazy, we couldn’t have asked for a stronger villain to get this v2.0 of Bond underway.

The major cause of his ire, that Bond plays Solitaire before he does, does bring up a disturbing suggestion – and I think it’s intended – about Kananga. When chiding her for not spotting a man in a hang-glider despite that particular night evidently being blessed with broad daylight, he burbles on menacingly about Solitaire’s mother (Freecell) losing the power and being no use to him, and that it’s all his right to take away. So, seriously, is he her dad or something? He does seem a likely amount of years older than her. That adds, y’know, a bit of … hmm to it all. Hmm.

Hmm.

And, yet, it’s Scaramanga and Zorin and Drax who tend to dominate the Moorera for “memorable” villains; why is this? Is it that their plots had wider scope? Well, probably. This one is a bit “smaller” in its immediate conception and although Live and Let Die always seems to be quite popular with civilians (i.e. real people, not Bond fans), I’d lay my loaded deck against yours (this is not a euphemism although, saying that, the offer stands) that none of them could actually recall what the villain’s up to in this one. Hindsight continuity raises an interesting ponder though. What happens here is that James Bond disrupts aggressive free enterprise once more (that’s not a swamp of Black Russians, JDubya; you’re quite right to ask whose side Bond is really on). In effect he saves the Mafia and keeps narcotics distribution in the hands of a whole heap of people rather than just the one, an action that sets up the “War on Drugs” to fail spectacularly. Berk. Additionally, it just keeps the door open for the likes of Franz Sanchez so ultimately Bond is responsible for him existing at all. It’s a subtle set-up for the film’s unofficial sequel, Licence to Kill, with its same source material and same Leiter. No wonder Bond looks so miserable throughout that; everything that happens was largely his fault 16 years earlier when he was quippier and had less terrifying hair. It’s not anger, it’s not revenge. It’s guilt.

The one thing about Kananga that does irritate a bit is that his is a classic example of the villain drawing Bond’s attention directly towards him, albeit this would be shockingly poorly homaged by Die Another Day and Graves’ out-of-nowhere invitation to Bond to come along to Iceland – why does he do that? Anyway, back on this one, if there had been no pimpmobile and no boothturns and none of that sort of stuff, Bond would have got absolutely nowhere, particularly because of his reliance on Felix Leiter and his unfeasibly long telephone cord and natty man-bag.

Maurice Binder’s titles are, let’s not wordmince, exquisite. Wild in (mainly) black and red, consciously making an effort here after the muted display for Diamonds are Forever, this song certainly giving him much to play with and substantial opportunity for disjointed eroticism and exploding skulls. He’s also introduced that lovely, lovely floaty/watery font effect for a lot of the credits and albeit that’s something that I seem to recall having been ripped-off in many a pastiche, from memory it only occurs here and in the next film. I would love to see that make a comeback, just helps me get in the mood for “Bond”. It’s possible that he’s overexerted himself here as from now until Licence to Kill (and especially Licence to Kill) there aren’t that many new things on show, and the titles for the Dalton films in particular don’t stand adequate testament to the patent talent that these ones demonstrate, tending to fall back on some guns, bright lights and fairly static women over whom Mo spunks his junkanoo. Admittedly, the nature of this film’s occult imagery must help and he’s added to the tone beautifully here, not least with what’s about to appear on screen, a slow image of a woman in what appear to be widow’s weeds, blue and white smoke billowing around here as her head gets bigger until we realise she’s another match-head and then her skull explodes again. Fab. Parental Guidance – sit a five-year-old in front of this and you’ve either got a Bond fan for life, or serious trouble with the NSPCC. It’s worth the gamble.

The production was supervised by Claude Hudson, Derek Cracknell Assistant Directed, or directed the assistants (bit unclear) and Bernard Hanson managed the location, of which there is more than one and, unlike the preceding film, the lead actor does appear to actually go to them all. Roger Moore pratting about in a swamp, Roger Moore striding through Harlem, Roger Moore topless in Jamaica, largely for the benefits of the pervy killer scarecrows and a reassurance that one doesn’t have to look like one’s been carved out of marble by a Renaissance Bachelor to play James Bond, Roger Moore driving a Mini Moke and a bus and a boat: it’s outdoorsy, it’s fresh and lively and although it’s the United States again, this time they’ve picked visually appealing and unusual and interesting bits in which to do visually appealing and unusual and interesting things, rather than drive around a parking lot in a hatchback or slog through some crummy desert in a moon buggy (which is just another car chase when it comes to it) or lumber about an oil rig trying to avoid being fed salad. Ted Moore (B.S.C. – Bye-bye Sean Connery) and his photography also happen to make the North Shore of Jamaica look really splendid and other-worldly, clues there as to why Fleming bothered with it. My mother “fell” pregnant with me (how does one “fall” pregnant? It suggests a really precise aim) at the time of the filming of this. She is from just outside Montego Bay, I was born there and she still lives there and she could of course tell me many anecdotes about how exciting it all was back in late 1972, except she cannot for at that time she happened at that time to be living in the wrong Kingston (-upon-Thames, not –upon-Caribbean), the irresponsible cow. It could have been worse – it could have been Kingston-upon-Hull. This doesn’t stop her claiming now, as do all her friends, that she was an extra in the film, although oddly she has never been able to identify herself. My likening her to a one-hundred-year-old croc didn’t go down that well.

Hang on, he is singing “…ever-changin’ world in which we live in”, I’m sure, just at that bit. Still, what does he know, he died in 1966. Another zombie. So, the title song is composed by Paul and Linda McCartney and performed – because that’s definitely the word – by Paul McCartney and Wings, albeit Paul McCartney is performed by Baron Samedi. One wonders what they were all on and, despite the evidence of this dirty voodoodling lunacy, why it is that popular perception has Lennon as the edgy one and McCartney about as threatening as a day-old puppy? It must chafe so. Imagine there’s no heaven. No, John, you hairy Scouse fool, one has to imagine that there is a heaven. This is how faith works, you horrible nasal imbecile; taking it upon oneself to believe all sorts of idiotic mumbo-jumbo rubbish is basically the point. Imagining there’s no countries and nothing to kill or die for slightly makes the concept of James Bond redundant, doesn’t it? Bugger off back to bed, there’s a good chap, and try to come up with something as inventive as this.

It’s burny skull time once more and, ooh, hands in prayer over a naked girl’s bottom. Will they open so we see her Tee-Hee? I do hope so. So, the music score was by George Martin and it’s an odd one, this; not the music itself but the fact that for great sodding chunks of the film, there isn’t any. What there is of it is fun and distinctive and, particularly the bit played under Bond and Solitaire’s first chit-chat, rather beautiful but great long passages of (especially) the bayou chase just rely on ambient noise, the (admittedly splendid) sound of the boats’ engines and the background wailing of a tedious Southern stereotype. When the music does turn up, it’s a pleasure and perhaps one is spoiled (literally) by the Arnoldhat of every last nanosecond of a film having to be fully and utterly muzaked to death, but this score is so much fun it’s a shame we don’t hear more of it. Obviously, it’s the first time since Dr No since we haven’t been Barryed and perhaps George Martin did come up with something that John Barry would not have. “Could not have” would be a gross insult: Barry patently demonstrated “some” range in all of his previous scores, so it’s not as if this would have been beyond him, but it’s hardly a regret that he didn’t do it; what we have here is novel and entertaining and, when it does bother to attend, pretty bloody good.

Tom Mankiewicz is on his own for this one, and once again, he’s given them all some splendid, florid dialogue to get through, not least the wonderful observation about names being for tombstones and pretty much everything Bond says. What he has Bond do is of more “concern”. Patently there’s a hard core of folk who would never accept Roger Moore as James Bond on the basis that he’s too light, too flippant, and there are times throughout his seven films when he is indeed depicted as The Fool who sails through in underwhelming peril whilst mad things happens, then he blows up a base, cue snog, cue song, cue James Bond returning. On this evidence though, especially in the attitude to women, he’s harder and nastier than the Bond of the books who, albeit frequently given unpleasant private thoughts, tends to be outwardly gentlemanly and protective around the majority of them, even when curing them of gay. MooreBond here is an utter, utter bastard to Rosie Carver (who appears to have come dressed in homage to Marouane Fellaini for no evidently explicable reason) and things don’t improve much when seducing Solitaire into a night in her (rather dull) bedroom. The next film’s even more questionable. Quite odd. A veneer of manners and charm to get by, but underneath it all, morally dodgy and with a capacity to be utterly perfidious? Keeping the British end up, I suppose.

Fortunately, there are characters more – much more, Roger Moore – appealing in the film and lots of people have quite a bit to do. Fortunately, unlike its immediate predecessor, much of what they do is germane to the actual story. Tee-Hee, as an example, could come across as a bit of a thug but he’s lucid and says fun things, is the source of the butterhook joke which is probably the best throwaway line Bond has, and benefits from a great introduction, bending Bond’s phallic least little thing to stop him annoying the laydee. Also quite fond of “Adam”, a consistently malevolent bod who provides some splendid aggression and seems to be the only person in the film who remains completely unimpressed by or respectful of Bond, which is quite a refreshing attitude to take by this stage: nice to have someone who doesn’t want to swap pithy barbs, just out-and-out wants Bond dead.

…Sheriff Pepper… well… some of it’s fitfully amusing, most of it goes on far too long and labours the joke. This review is brought to you by Sheriff Pepper. I suppose creating an idiot white man helps detract from the inevitable accusations that would come with having villainous black characters, although they’re carefully and rather deliberately stated to be on Bond’s level of intellect, if not higher, resourcefulness and style (although the dialogue given the goons in the pursuit around the airport hangars is a bit rum). I suppose Sheriff Pepper is such an extreme caricature that it cannot be seriously taken to mean anything very sinister and I suppose it seeks to assert that in mocking him, and with all that “cueball” stuff earlier, one is only being racist about one’s own race, which is fine (a ludicrous assertion, and especially so given Strutter’s wincing reference to “spades” and he can say this because he is black, can he? I see.). I suppose making such a character a fool undermines their “views”. I suppose having such a character means you can get away with the stuff you were itching to put in there anyway (and entirely justifying his reappearance for this purpose next time around). Is making the villains all quite serious (or at least, un-buffoony) is any less objectionable, though? Black people can be idiots, y’know. They’re people. One wonders if in trying to shy away from mocking the actions of certain characters, it falls into the trap by the back door anyway. True, Rosie Carver is a hate-filled creation, but that of course is nothing to do with her skin but because she is a womankiewicz.

One also wonders if this isn’t worth bothering one’s (exceptionally) pretty little head with and just accept Manky’s entirely justifiable observation that it’s a James Bond film and he’s going to win whoever he’s up against. Is You Only Live Twice racist against the peoples of Worksop? Is Octopussy rasci… actually, not a good example. Ah well, maybe it’s not something to be that worried about any more, plenty of people have seen the film and enjoyed it over the years and, of course, Sheriff Pepper’s genial approach to “other” folks is only a homage to Ian Fleming after all.

Oh my norks, those hands are going to part and we are going to see her botty-bot. Oh, what a shame, it’s just a chapess doing some Binderwrithing. Maurice, you’re such a tease.

Floating in, it’s all produced by Harry Saltzman and Albert R. Broccoli and it’s quite fitting we have these two turn up in this 007th minute. Your main star has gone, the first replacement “failed”, the lure back was successful but an incoherent mess, Bond’s in a bit of a state by this stage, frankly. And instead of trying to make another stately Connery film, or something a bit less weird to ensure your leading man wasn’t overwhelmed, you went and produced this looser, more – much more, Roger Moore - casual-feeling, totally mad thing, all crocodiles and rubber masks and bell-bottom pantaloons and zombie death cults. I suppose the logic would be that if Roger Moore could survive this, that the audience wouldn’t lose sight of him despite all the wackiness going on around him, he was going to succeed. It works. Moore is as magnetic as his watch, largely because, a few glitches aside, he’s terribly easy to watch and is a sensible and reassuring – and fun - presence around which they can get away with some very, very unusual ideas. It does all come across as a reversal of Connery, whose spiky presence is the only glue keeping Diamonds are Forever together and which had to be muted in You Only Live Twice lest it react badly to its insane surroundings. Roger Moore’s Bond allows them to keep his character reasonably consistent and watchable throughout his tenure whilst upping the weirdness that surrounds him – black magic witches, apparently invisible space stations, metal-teethed giants, Steven Berkoff, triple-nipple, supertankers, spectacle, spectacle, spectacle – and with a lesser or different Bond, it could all have collapsed horribly. Anyone else wouldn’t have had the strength of character and, as already observed, what Moore makes look shockingly easy was the result of proper talent in doing so. For other reasons patently one of the finest men of our lifetimes, for professional reasons Roger Moore was an absolute, critical requirement for the development and survival and continued entertainment value of the James Bond series. Seven films, some of which aren’t that super, but he never actually let us down. Messrs Saltzman and Broccoli, in your decision-making here, a tip of my small, chicken-feathered hat.

Upon which, we reach 0.07.00.

Of what follows, most of what I wanted to say was sprungboard out of the 007th minute itself. It’s by no means a perfect film, it could definitely do with a bit more – much more, Roger Moore – pace in a number of places (although it may be the absence of music that makes it feel slow) and still the tone for Bond going forward is yet to settle, but it’s an improvement over its predecessor in three key areas. Firstly, the tone is much more even and although there is still this mix of unexpected cruelty and broad comedy, it’s not as far at the extremes of either as Diamonds are Forever. Secondly, it bothers to trouble our minds with something that’s nearly a story and not just some ideas that could be displayed in a completely different order and still make as much sense. Thirdly, and critically, it does feel fresh but still identifiably Bond and much of that, because he’s not surrounded by dinner jackets and martinis and Aston Martins and Q, comes down to Roger Moore himself. After Diamonds are Forever, James Bond’ difficult seventh jazz-funk album, there was a clearer new direction emerging here. What the particular 007th minute itself shows is that they weren’t afraid of being bold – very bold, quite noisy actually - in bringing in a new Bond. No longer the insecure reminders of Bondsh Pasht, we’re doing something different now – and it sets up a healthy precedent, one that’s stood them well over some fairly traumatic moments when changing Bonds at other times. By no means as radical a shift as the Casino Royale one, the poppyseeds of bold decision-making and trying new things out are here in Live and Let Die; if it’s alterations you wish to make, you get away with more – much more, Daniel Craig – if the big part (fnarr) is perfectly cast.

It was.

James Bond will return in the 007th minute of The Man with the Golden Gun. Jacques Stewart once lost a fight with a chicken, but then he doesn’t like cock fights. Much.

#2 Simon

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Posted 23 September 2012 - 10:36 PM

Some beautiful and, not untypically, very humorous observations there.

Not least of which are, foleyed mother in laws, the 16 year old mistake and 'falling pregnant'.

Also, of Roger Moore, 'For other reasons patently one of the finest men of our lifetimes, for professional reasons Roger Moore was an absolute, critical requirement for the development and survival and continued entertainment value of the James Bond series.' Wonderfully put.

#3 Matt_13

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Posted 24 September 2012 - 12:04 AM

"...or lumber about an oil rig trying to avoid being fed salad."

Brilliant. Another marvelous read. Thanks Jim.

#4 DaveBond21

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Posted 24 September 2012 - 04:34 AM

Excellent. Makes me want to watch LALD right now but also reminds me of how well I know every scene. As a kid in the 1980's, this one seemed to be on TV every week. LALD, DAF, TSWLM and Moonraker are the ones I remember watching so often between 1985 and 1987.


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#5 Dustin

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Posted 14 November 2012 - 01:33 PM

Extremely overdue: http://commanderbond...7th-minute.html

#6 Jim

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Posted 15 November 2012 - 07:09 PM

If anyone's interested, 2013 promises / threatens The 007th Chapter.

The same but, y'know, books.



#7 Dustin

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Posted 15 November 2012 - 07:11 PM

Awesome, can't wait to air out New Year Eve's alcohol vapour!




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