Live and Let Die

dir. Guy Hamilton

TIFF Cinematheque - Retrospective

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Roger Moore took over the Bond mantle for this excellent and perennially underrated entry, in which 007 follows a trail of drugs, murder and voodoo from Harlem to New Orleans to a haunted isle in the Caribbean.

Well-known TV playboy Roger Moore launched his long-running tenure as 007 with this perennially underrated effort, which brings an intriguing supernatural slant to the Bond universe. Bond heads to the US after three MI6 men are simultaneously murdered while investigating one Dr. Kananga (Yaphet Kotto), and follows a trail of drugs and murder from Harlem through Louisiana to the Caribbean island nation of San Monique, which Kananga rules through fear of voodoo. Seducing Kananga's Tarot-reading mistress Solitaire (a stunning, pre-Medicine Woman Jane Seymour), Bond uncovers Kananga's plan to corner the US market in heroin and must then race for his life via plane, train and speedboat. While its attempt to ride the contemporary blaxploitation wave with its all-black roster of baddies led to some (not entirely unwarranted) charges of racism, Live and Let Die nevertheless offers much vivid villainy via Kotto's cultured Kananga, hook-handed giant Tee Hee (Julius Harris), and the ominously cackling Baron Samedi (Geoffrey Holder), as well as plenty ofdiverting vehicular destruction, including a protracted speedboat chase through a serpentine Louisiana bayou. The film also features one of the series' best musical scores (courtesy Beatles producer George Martin) and theme songs, with Paul McCartney's reggae-fied title track being perhaps the most famous Bond theme after Shirley Bassey's "Goldfinger."