Saturday, February 2, 2013

Double Oh...8: Live and Let Die

Live And Let Die Preamble: Alright, here we go.  Roger Moore as Bond.  My Bond.  Well, "My Bond" only in the sense that it was only Roger Moore Bond movies that I grew up with, having never seen a Connery nor a Dalton.  I suppose you could say that Pierce Brosnan was actually "My Bond" but I don't know anyone who would actually cop to that.  I have to be honest and say I don't really recall most of the Moore-era Bond movies I have watched, not fondly or at all really.  I have a vague impression of them but I really don't know that I spent all that much time with JB in my youth.  Before watching this one, I couldn't tell you whether I had or had not seen it before... after watching it, turns out I had, many times, but only half of it, consistently beginning around the Boat chase.  In fact, when I think of Moore-era Bond, this is what I think of.  I'm not sure if that bodes well for the rest of them or not.

There's a lot of bad guys in this one, perhaps the most eclectic roster of all Bonds.  Mr. Big, I believe is supposed to be a black albino.  He's the head of an expansive drug operation in Harlem, operating out of a secret lair underneath (behind? I'm not exactly certain the spatial relation) a night club called A FILLET OF SOUL.  They also have a bunch of drug fronts, one a voodoo supply shop called OH CULT VOODOO SHOP.  Bless this film and it's corny heart.
  Mr. Big has a bunch of henchmen, most of which don't get called by their names very often, so I had to look them up.  My favourite was Whisper (Earl Jolly Brown), the hoarse henchman who seems to be everywhere at one, and consummately ineffective.  He has the oddest body shape, kind of like a Blue Meanie.
  Then there's the giant with the claw hand, apparently named Tee Hee (Julius Harris).  He smiles a lot and has a claw hand (which looks very much like he's holding onto a prop under his extended suit sleeve, which, naturally, is exactly what he was doing) and he's a freaking monolith.  He also keeps alligators and crocs (which is how he lost his arm) down in Louisiana.  He's very memorable, but he'd be even more memorable if he had a name that was actually used throughout the film.
  Bond learns that Mr. Big has connections to Dr. Kananga (Yaphet Kotto), a powerful man on the tropical island of San Monique.  Kananga is growing a tremendous amount of poppies, enough for 2 tonnes of heroin... which he and Mr. Big plan to continuously give away for free, driving all the competition out of business, leaving them and only them monopolize the marketplace.  Is so crazy it just might work!  Wait, no, it's just fucking crazy and it would never work.  What kind of junior highschooler thought up this genius scheme.  Oh, and it turns out that Big and Kananga are one and the same, that it wasn't albino skin but exceptionally terrible prosthesis.  He did look a little like Chris Noth though.
  Last but not least on the villain roster, the 7-Up uncola man himself, Geoffrey Holder as Baron Samedy, a voodoo priest who I was never quite sure was legit or just an act for tourists.  He's a delightful presence though underutilized.

Bond Girls: Solitaire is a Tarot reader for Kananga, like her Mother was before her.  She was disposed of by Kananga after she had Solitaire, since, apparently, you have to be a virgin to be a Tarot reader.  Jane Seymoure looks young...very, very young...almost child-like... too young for Bond to deflower her, thus robbing her of her power, or at least her belief in her power.  It's a particularly caddish thing for Bond to do, as deplorable as what he did to Pussy Galore, tantamount to the same thing.
  Rosie Carver comes in as his rookie CIA contact.  She a little too demure (she shrieks and screams an awful lot for a CIA agent) and definitely lacking confidence, but has just enough to tell Bond "no" more than once.  Classic Bond is as persistent as ever, wearing her down and sexing her up, just before putting a gun to her head (again classic Bond).  Rosie, turns out, is a double agent, and she's killed by one of Kananga's security voodoo totem guns.

Theme/Credits: I'm just not sure what they're going for in this opening sequence.  Is it supposed to be sexy, or creepy?  The fact that you can quite clearly see nipples in the opening sequence is totally counteracted by the fact that the woman's head turns into a flaming skull.  Later on there's some weird interpretive dance thing going on which I just don't get, and by and large this title sequence confuses me.
  As for the theme by Paul McCartney and Wings, well, Live and Let Die is a classic, manic and intense, but it's also not a very good song.  McCartney is famous for his erratic song structure, his numerous switch-ups, but these are just laughably discordant.  When groovy breakdown happens over the title sequence I expect to see Igor and the Wolfman from Hilarious House of Frightenstein dancing in front of the bluescreen, not curvy naked women.  Then there's the part where it gets all bouncy and... wow.  Terrible.  The lyrics, what little there is of them, they're not so good either...
What does it matter to ya
When you got a job to do
You gotta do it well
You gotta give the other fellow hell
Really, Paulie Mac?
I like the Guns'N'Roses version better.


Bond:  We're introduced to a new Bond as he wakes up in bed with a young Italian woman, really setting the tone for who this Bond is... a glib old creeper.  Moore was already 45 when he started in the role, and though he's very handsome, the pairing of Bond with women who could be his daughter gets kind of gross, very quickly. Bond's rather libido focused  even moreso than Connery or Lazenby were. Moore owns the role of Bond from the get go.  Having played the Saint for seven years and playing on the Persuaders just prior, he was already well versed in this kind of role.  This Bond is a little more dependent on his guns, gadgets and improvisation skills than his fighting prowess.  Also this Bond is an expert barista, with a super-duper espresso maker created by Q in his kitchen.

Movie:    Ah, Live and Let Die, the Blaxsploitation Bond.  The first half of the film is very much a product of the genre with Bond very awkwardly, but also quite knowingly inserted into the mix.  The Harlem in this movie looks like a bombed out wasteland for some reason.  Exceptionally grotty.  When Bond makes his first trip to San Monique, he enlists the help of Quarrel Jr., an odd continuity connection to Dr. No (especially since Bond basically got Quarrel Sr. killed).  Bond films have never been shy about camp, and the shenanigans at the airstrip, where Bond coaches a novice pilot around the tarmac avoiding gunfire and ultimately taking out the bad guys.  There's an odd and lengthy sidetrack during the boat race sequence (the film is keen on its comedic diversions) with Good Ol' Boy Sheriff J.W. Pepper as he tries to chase down the reckless speedboats. It's real Dukes of Hazzard type stuff.  The film climaxes on San Monique, with Solitare the victim in a hoary stereotype of a Voodoo ritual... it's totally ridiculous posing as creepy. But then, I don't think they were going for authenticity. Another shark grotto makes an appearance in a Bond movie as 007 faces off mano y mano against a knife wielding Kanaga and defeats him by feeding him a compressed gas bullet (so he inflates and pops like a balloon).  Weirder than that though... just what was that Yaphet Kotto fighting style?  As exploitative as it is, and as creepy as the Bond/Solitare dynamic is, I quite enjoy this one.

Q gadgets: a magnetic watch. bug detector. portable teletype machine, shotgun with compressed gas pellets

Classification (out of 01.0): 00.7