Plot: What’s it about?
In the early seventies, Sean Connery returned for one more time as agent 007 in Diamonds Are Forever after the disappointing returns of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. When it came time to cast another actor as Bond, they didn’t have to look far. In the process, it setup a few changes that would only last a few movies and a fresh yet debonair take in the form of Roger Moore. It’s three locales, a few predictions and the struggle to Live and Let Die.
Through the international world, three agents in three different places turn up mysteriously dead. Agent 007 (Roger Moore) is assigned to get to the bottom of it from “M” (Bernard Lee) in the comfort of his own home. In his meticulous search all lies to a well connected man named Mr. Big who owns the restaurant “Fillet of Sole”. Little does Bond realize that Mr. Big takes on a different persona of a drug lord named Kananga (Yaphet Kotto) and he manages to stay a step ahead of the game with the assistance of a second in command with a hook (Julius Harris) and a tarot card reader named Solitaire (Jane Seymour).
This Bond film can never be pointed out as the best of the Bond series or in the Roger Moore series. Despite that, it’s a decent affair that has some excitement, a few little tricks here and there and a taste of the early seventies. Moore makes a decent 007 that has the charm and the humor but this entry for this agent lacks danger mostly on his part.
Kotto makes a better villain as Kananga than as his alter ego Mr. Big as the latter is reduced to less than five minutes of screen time. He has a toughness and some smarts but his weakness is in his reliance of his associates.
Jane Seymour makes her debut as Solitaire and her appearance hasn’t much changed and she serves as a satisfactory Bond girl.
Through this Bond affair, it is “Q”-less and it’s downsized to a lower aspect ratio (the latter also being the case for Man with the Golden Gun as well as the look), but there are some exciting moments and some amusing situations but the overall result is a marginally positive affair that is a good introduction to Roger Moore giving him time to grow in the role and not difficult to get used to in this period of readjustment. There are some amusing gadgets and some tense situations but it’s a good but not great entry into the longest running film series.
Video: How does it look?
Live and Let Die is given the anamorphic 1.85:1 (downsized) treatment and the results are a mostly clean print with hints here and there of grain and speckles. The transfer keeps up throughout with a hint every once in a while of a bit of age in the print. It is a better look than the previous video release that was less than spectacular and the DVD is an improvement over that but not a total improvement. A good job.
Audio: How does it sound?
The digital mono track of Live and Let Die provides a better than expected experience as the score and the effects come across without being reduced to being solely in the middle as the channels play out with the dialogue and effects and even though it has it’s normal muteness of the seventies films, it remains a great affair when the music kicks in or when the action is high.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This “Special Edition” DVD of Live and Let Die pulls out all the stops and gives a great assortment of extras starting with two commentary tracks. The first is with director Guy Hamilton and various cast and crew and even though it’s compiled from interviews and sound bites of the time, it provides a very good history of the film that matches up nicely with the film as it’s running and some intriguing info is shared throughout this track.
The second track is with writer Tom Mankiewicz and he remains a most interesting listen seeing the film from his point of view and what he wanted to do with the film and what he ended up with in the end and his description of his Bond experience on this film as a whole. Although it suffers from the unexpected gap or two, it remains an entertaining listen.
After the film, the Special Features extras include a twenty nine minute documentary entitled Inside Live and Let Die and covers some things that were already mentioned on the commentary track along with a few other clips, some more insights (Diana Ross: Bond Girl?) and a nice flow that has been constant amongst the 007 documentaries that have made them a breezy and entertaining experience and this is certainly no exception. It is a very good piece that goes along with the film nicely
Next there is a still gallery which has some nice pictures from the production as well as some nice poster art.
After there is a theatrical trailer and a rough looking teaser trailer along with two TV spots (they must’ve had the same announcer for the entire Moore run), two radio spots, an intriguing UK Milk Board commercial (a future idea for a Got Milk? ad perhaps) and a trailer for the Playstation “Tomorrow Never Dies” game.
Finally there are two featurettes involving Roger Moore on the set and both of these are interesting entries. The first “The Funeral Parade” covers a piece of the opening teaser where Roger chats up about the actor involved which is a most intriguing short.
The second “Hang Gliding Lessons” goes through Bill Bennet and how he demonstrated some of the hang gliding techniques on location and how his expertised was used for Roger Moore in the final film with most interesting results.
Live and Let Die provides an entertaining film that is a marginally positive affair for agent 007 but the nice assortment of extras make this effort a better than expected entry into the Bond series on DVD.