LIVE AND LET DIE - Blu-ray review

...one of the weakest of all James Bond films.

DeanWink

"Live and Let Die" marked a new direction for the James Bond franchise as Sean Connery was out and Roger Moore was in as the super-suave British agent. I had grown up with Moore as James Bond and can remember going to see "A View to a Kill" and other films starring Moore in the theaters. For me, Moore was James Bond and it wasn't until I was older that I learned to appreciate what Sir Sean Connery had brought to the role and found a greater appreciation for the more serious films that started the franchise off. Nowadays I put Roger Moore just ahead of Timothy Dalton as the second worst actor to portray Bond. The films with Moore in the lead role are caricatures of what was done with star Sean Connery and director Terence Young.

In "Live and Let Die" Bond (Moore) finds himself in New York City and meets up with Felix Leiter (David Hedison) as they are suspicious of a Caribbean dictator Dr. Kananga (Yaphet Kotto). While in New York City, an attempt is made on Bond's life and other Double-O agents are killed. This leads Bond from the Big Apple to the Big Easy as Bond discovers that Mr. Big (Kotta, again) is perhaps behind the attempt on Bond's life. During his trip to New Orleans, Bond meets up with Solitaire (Jane Seymour), the film's Bond girl and tarot-reading assistant to Kananga and Mr. Big. Bond's first encounter with Kananga results in Bond being attacked, but escaping death a second time.

The next location Bond finds himself in is the Caribbean island San Monique, where Kananga is the dictator. There he discovers that somebody has checked into the hotel as Mrs. Bond and finds the person responsible is CIA agent Rosie Carver (Goria Hendry). Bond and Rosie find a quick romance as Rosie is frightened and her loyalty is questionable. When Bond finally realizes that Rosie is working for Kananga, she is killed by an armed scarecrow that had her screaming in horror due to suspicious on the voodoo believing island. After Rosie is killed, Bond hires boatman Quarrel Jr. (Roy Stewart), the son of Bond's boatman Quarrel from "Dr. No." The suave British agent soon stacks the Tarot deck and begins a sexual relationship with Solitaire.

Dr. Kananga's plot is to become the ultimate drug kingpin. He uses his knowledge of voodoo to strike fear into the hearts of those that work for him. Bond discovers that Dr. Kananga and Mr. Big are the same person, but he and Solitare are captured and set up to become sacrifices in a ritualistic voodoo ceremony. A few more events unfold as Bond manages to leave San Monique and ends back up near New Orleans. A tremendously comical set of chases unfolds. Bond first escapes capture in a double-decker bus and then a boat chase unfolds as Bond looks to escape the evil henchmen of Dr. Kananga and a heavily stereotyped Sheriff Pepper (Clifton James) is left to clean up the mess, but manages to arrest Bond. Eventually Bond returns to San Monique to save the day, but I won't spoil any more of the story.

This eight James Bond film brings Bond into the Seventies with reckless abandon and racially fueled humor. The film throws out works like ‘honky' to bring some humor to a world where racial tensions were part of living in the Sixties. I found it surprising that "Live and Let Die" was filled with so much racial humor and stereotypes. The bi-racial relationship between Bond and Rosie was another example of how the filmmakers wanted this film to hopefully reach out to an urban audience or capitalize on the sensibilities of the time. I can recall a KKK joke and some other moments that would be frowned upon in today's ultra-sensitive era.

So how is "Live and Let Die" with Roger Moore becoming 007? The film is over the top and silly. Sheriff J.W. Pepper, Mr. Big and many of the other characters in the film are so heavily stereotyped that it is impossible to take them seriously. The incredible ease at which Bond can seduce the virginal Solitaire was humorous as well. However, it was the double-decker bus chase and power boat chase that left me in stitches. These moments were so over the top that it was impossible to take this movie seriously. The one liners thrown out by Roger Moore will likely roll eyes before tickling funny bones. The movie is fun, but it is nothing like the movies starring Sean Connery and Roger Moore's humorous playboy take on the role of James Bond is a great departure from what Connery did for five films.

"Live and Let Die" is one of the weakest of all James Bond films. It doesn't hold up well in today's world and is so far over-the-top and thin in story that the movie is more of a guilty pleasure than a classic entry in a legendary franchise. Moore brings a suave and arrogant demeanor to the British agent and although I grew up loving him as James Bond, my more mature years easily have me preferring the work done by Connery, George Lazenby or Daniel Craig. These movies became popcorn films during the Roger Moore years and this is an opening statement that Bond movies had simply become funny, action-packed stories where a serious nature was completely left behind. Out of all of the James Bond films, this is one of the few that I simply do not care for.

Video:

What is with filmstock from the early Seventies? These films just do not hold up and the 1973 picture contains a few moments that shine in high definition, but in general "Live and Let Die" is not a large leap over the DVD releases. The 1.85:1 picture nicely fills a 16x9 display and is mastered with AVC MPEG-4 compression. Watching "Live and Let Die" I couldn't help but feel the movie looked dated. It looked older and less impressive than the three Connery films I watched prior to this film. They were roughly ten years older and looked far better. There were still some good moments with very good detail. Coloring does hold up rather well and aside from some scenes where the color has lost a little luster, everything looks natural. Black levels are good enough to match the dated-looking scenes around them. Thankfully, the source materials were very clean and "Live and Let Die" doesn't show any troublesome flaws from the source materials.

Audio:

The changing of the guard from Connery to Moore wasn't the only change with "Live and Let Die." The film became the first Bond film to showcase a rock song and the Wings title song sounds very good on Blu-ray. Secondly, longtime composer John Barry was replaced by George Martin for this film and his theatrical score sounds good, but lacks Barry's familiar touch. The English 5.1 DTS HD Master Lossless Audio soundtrack works a little better in handling vocals than "Thunderball," but I still found the volume of vocals to be a little lacking. There was a little more movement between channels with this 5.1 mix over the previous films as the original English mono mix (which is included as well) was a little newer and had more life to it than what any of the Connery films possessed. The subwoofer and rears are mostly ignored, but "Live and Let Die" is the best sounding of any of the films so far in the series on Blu-ray. I imagine that will change as I prepare to watch "Die Another Day" and "For Your Eyes Only."

Extras:

The only Roger Moore title released in the first wave of Bond titles on Blu-ray finds three commentary tracks under "MI6 Commentary." The first Commentary by Sir Roger Moore finds the film's star discuss his involvement in the film and the 007 franchise. Moore provides a dry, but informative commentary track. He is very deliberate in his speaking, but it was nice to hear Bond talk about Bond and other things such as his work as a Goodwill Ambassador. The second Commentary by Director Guy Hamilton welcomes back Ian Fleming Foundation personality John Cork as Jane Seymour and numerous others join Hamilton as Cork narrates a large number of interview segments. Cork does an absolutely wonderful job in this role. The Commentary by Tom Mankiewicz is sans Cork and finds the screenwriter for "Live and Let Die" talk about the film. I found this to be the second best commentary on the disc after the interview collection and Mankiewicz is far easier to listen to than Roger Moore.

The five familiar subtitles are back for "Live and Let Die." The "Declassified: MI6 Vault" typically contains all the heavy hitting items and continues to do so for this film. Three features are found here. Bond 1973: The Lost Documentary (21:41) focuses on the entire Bond franchise up until "Live and Let Die" and they discuss how Moore was the preferred Bond from "Dr. No" and finally was able to take the role in the eighth film. Moore provides a lot of time in interviews and discussion and this was a nice vintage piece, although Moore continues to come across as very dry. Roger Moore as James Bond Circa 1964 (7:44) shows footage from a 1964 television show "Mainly Millicent" where Moore portrayed Bond long before he took the reins in 1973. It was quite interesting to see a very young Roger Moore as perhaps the most handsome Bond ever filmed. The Live and Let Die Conceptual Art (1:39) looks at early conceptual poster art for the film and the Credits complete this section.

"007 Mission Control" sadly returns with its collection of scene jumps based upon whether or not the scene contains "007," "Women," "Allies," "Villains," "Mission Combat Manual," "Q Branch" or "Exotic Locations." The Exotic Locations (4:31) has Maude Adams continue her role as narrator of the various locations used during filming and "Live and Let Die" gets her assistance as well. The rest of the items contained under the various tree of submenus are simply quick access points to scenes in the film. Another simple submenu for "Special Features" is the "Image Database" which contains an Image Database that holds photographs from the film and production of "Live and Let Die." There are a few nice pictures to be found here.

"Mission Dossier" is another worthwhile stop through the tour of special features found on these ports of the previous "Ultimate Edition" DVD releases. Inside Live and Let Die (29:47) is a nice look back at the making of the first Roger Moore film and this featurette goes into detail about the handing over the reins from Connery to Moore and what was needed to move the James Bond franchise from the 1960s to the 1970s. I was surprised to learn that Burt Reynolds was a choice for the role, but "Cubby" decided Reynolds was too short and not British. On Set with Roger Moore: The Funeral Parade (1:42) finds Moore talking about Richard Dix and how his son Bob Dix made a quick cameo in the film. This brief vignette was about that cameo. On Set with Roger Moore: Hang Gliding Lessons (3:58) was another short vignette that looked at the film's hang gliding and talks briefly about the sport and technology of hang gliding.

The final submenu selection not yet covered is the "Ministry of Propaganda." The "Theatrical Archive" includes only two trailers. Much More… Roger Moore (2:52) introduces Moore as James Bond and markets the new film based upon the new actor. Everything You Ever Loved In a Bond Film (1:47) helps people forget they loved Sean Connery. The "TV Broadcasts" contains three items that begins with the UK Milk Board Commercial (1:01). This is a nice little advertisement for milk. It's a Matter of Live, It's a Matter of Death (1:00) and It's a Matter of Live and Death (:32) are the standard television ads for the film. The "Radio Communication" submenu is slimmer as well with only two items. Livelier, Deadlier (:33) and All Against One Man (1:01) are the two radio spots included on the Blu-ray disc. All ads were themed similarly, but the two-for-one ads and the "Bond Sale" are a thing of the past after Moore took over.

Closing:

While I grew up watching Roger Moore star as James Bond, I've found myself among the camp that feels Sean Connery is the best actor to portray the iconic British MI6 agent. Daniel Craig is off to a good start, but he is taking it back to more serious times. Moore is the poster boy for the ‘fun Bond' where one-liners, gadgets and over-the-top stunts replaced a hardnosed Bond as played by Connery. This is among the very bottom of any of the Bond films and is heavily laced with stereotypes that hurt the film as well. The Blu-ray release looks decent enough and sounds clean, but this release isn't a huge step up over the DVD releases. The bonus features includes a nice snippet with Moore as Bond nearly ten years earlier. The rest of the bonus materials help save this release, but "Live and Let Die" is better left dead.

Ratings

Video
7
Audio
6
Extras
6
Film Value
5