Live and Let Die (1973)

Live and Let Die (1973), directed by Guy Hamilton.

Someone is killing agents in America. Bond discovers a link between Mr Big's heroin trade in Harlem and and a Caribbean voodoo island. Some spooky goings on with a fortune teller and the seemingly unkillable prankster-god Baron Samedi.

Roger Moore's first Bond film (#8 in the series) is not good, but still a bit better than I recall. He slips into the role with ease, giving it his own stamp: less physical, more dispassionate, mostly unconcerned with his assignments. As we've come to expect, he rides around in lots of little vehicles and, guns apparently being of no use against him, the bad guys try snakes, alligators and sharks. Sharks again. He'd be dead without that magic magnetic watch with optional power saw.

Since someone keeps taking away his little PPK, he gets a more authoritative revolver and, in a scene worthy of 1930s pulp adventure fiction, the White Hero crashes into the voodoo ceremony, shoots a bunch of attendees and rescues the Lovely White Victim from their unspeakable rites. Then -- you won't believe this -- they penetrate the Evil Overlord's vast underground facility beneath the poppy fields. Where there are more sharks. Dr No would weep with jealousy.

Excitement during an extended speed boat chase grinds to a halt with the appearance of comical Sheriff J.W. Pepper and his stock southern cronies. We have not seen the last of him, alas.

Riding the Blaxploitation wave was an odd choice. At one point Felix Leiter actually yells "Get me the make on a white pimpmobile!" It seems like every black person in Harlem and New Orleans is a Mr Big employee, not to mention the voodoo island. On the one hand, the Bond series must develop: you can't keep making 1962 plots. But jumping on the latest fad (always a sign of studio marketing genius) makes you wonder if they care about the Bond mythology. I actually admire Roger Moore for navigating this material just by staying in character.

Introducing Jane Seymour. Per tradition, Solitaire can do magic only while she remains a virgin, which is obviously a problem with Bond in the neighborhood.

Famous Paul McCartney theme song, also used as effective incidental music. Grammar: who needs it?

Available on Blu-ray. We're back to 1.85 aspect ratio.