Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Most Secret - Live and Let Die

1973 (I should explain for new readers that I like to set the scene a bit, with some background. Maybe some of you aren't bothered with context, so the meaty bits are below.) So, where were we?
1973, With the oil crisis looming and another banking crisis – this is '73, right? - Nixon is inaugurated for a second term even as Watergate bubbles to the boil. The Paris Peace Accord ends US involvement in Vietnam. The UK enters the EEC, while the Icelandic Cod War – I'm not joking – escalated. Well, we all love cod. On a louder note, the IRA were turning the heat up, with schoolchildren attacking squaddies in Northern Ireland and a series of murderous bombs at major London Railway stations and across the Capital. The Old Bailey, that symbol of British injustice – or oppression (viewpoint dependant) was targeted. The Governor of Bermuda is assassinated.
ABOVE: The oil crisis
In science and technology it was an interesting time to be around; the first mobile phone call is made, by a Motorola employee. The US starts the Skylab launches to build the first manned space station, Pioneer 11 is launched to look around the Solar System whilst the Mariner 10 probe heads for its (1974) rendezvous with the planet Mercury. The Soviet Union wasn't twirling its thumbskis either – the Mars 5 probe is up and manned flights resume after the Soyuz tragedy in 1971.

Both Miller Lite and the Pink Floyd album Dark Side of the Moon make their debut, whilst in construction, the Sears Tower is topped out in Chicago (-Chicago). The World Trade Center – of course, in New York opens for business. How writing those words must have changed for the writer since then; the exuberance and excitement of such an achievement now forever overshadowed by the fate of those towers.

Births and Deaths; That year saw proud parents posing with babies Eva Herzigova, David Blaine, Juliette Lewis, Kate Beckinsale, music stars Sean Paul and Akon (No, I haven't the faintest) future boxer Oscar De La Hoya and master of cool Adrien Brody.
ABOVE: The fashion of the time. Startling!

We lost so much more – yes, even Juliette and Adrien can't tip the balance here, just consider these names;
Lyndon Bird Johnson, Edgward G Robinson, Noel Coward, Picasso, Betty Grable, Veronica Lake, Lon Chaney Jnr, Director John Ford, JRR Tolkein and singer Bobby Darin. The US WWI flying Ace turned racing driver Eddie Rickenbacker passed away. We lost Bruce Lee.

As well as The Little Dragon, two other events of import came to the notice of the then five year old Volcano Cat; Elvis Presley's landmark live-by-satellite Aloha from Hawaii Concert and on July 6th the UK premiere of Live and Let Die, the Eighth James Bond film.

Blaxploitation – what's with that, then? Well, from the get-go, Bond has kept with the times – from Dr.No and his Atomic threat through the Space Race (You Only Live Twice) to the energy crisis and Kung Fu craze of Man with the Golden Gun and so on. Live and Let Die came out at the height of Blaxploitation. Beginning with films such as Shaft (1971) films featuring black casts in gritty urban settings struck a chord with the disaffected black youth – and the youth in general. Suddenly everyone wanted to be hip, to 'stick it to the man', dig?. Stars were born; Jim Kelly (Black Belt Jones, Enter the Dragon) a real-life Karate champion, Fred Williams (Black Caesar, Three the Hard Way), Moses Gunn and Richard Roundtree (Shaft). With soundtracks filled with rich funk and soul the appeal of these films was spotted by Screenwriter Tom Mankiewicz, who took Fleming's original work apart, ditching a racket on an island salvaging gold coins for heroin.

The Music; Paul and Linda McCartney wrote the title song, a blistering entry in dramatic rock with an orchestral uplift that makes for a stunning opener. McCartney's fee was rumoured to be so high a 'proper' composer was unlikely to be found for what remained of the music budget. Whatever the truth of that, a 'proper' composer was found; none other than the Beatles Producer George Martin wrote the film score, but a real highlight came from some of Mr.Big's organisation – the Olympia Brass Marching Band adding a touch of gallows humour. 
BELOW: Raising his glass, new Bond Roger Moore soon found himself in at the deep end. A far cry from the rooftop bar at the Dorchester (Left) 

Wotsit all about, then? - Volcano Cat takes an in-depth squizz at the filum (SPOILER ALERT)

The United Nations, New Yoik City... and a meeting is underway. The Hungarian delegate is busily boring the pants off an assortment of foreigners who are clearly thinking about whether they can make it to Macey's for a bit of expense-account card fraud before closing. But what's this? - up in the translator's room there's sinister unpluggery – the feed to the Yooknighted Kingdom representative is hooked up to what looks like one of those exploder boxes you always see in films. (You know – the plunger comes down and the bridge goes up, just as the train's a comin') Someho this sends a pulse of deadly sound effect through his earpiece and he collapses. The delegates from San Monique seem unimpressed...

Whose funeral is it?

Cut to New Orleans, Louisiana, where a man in a spy suit stands wearing his spy hat smoking a spy fag as he spies on a restaurant, a shady joint named the Fillet of Soul. This is Hamilton, the CIA agent – played by Bob Dix. As he stands there, the aforementioned Olympia Brass Band comes marching around the corner, playing a lament with slow dignity, grieving mourners following the procession. A polite little man (Veteran jazzman Thomas 'Kid' Valentine) is standing next to Hamilton, who asks whose funeral it is and finds out the hard way – a knife to the ribs. The coffin is lowered over Hamilton's body for a second, scooping the corpse up with some hidden trickery. The tempo changes to an upbeat jive reminiscent of 'Rock around the Clock' and the 'mourners' start dancing happily.

Meanwhile on the Caribbean island of San Monique, a sinister voodoo ritual is enacted, frenzied natives writhing in apparent ecstatic possession as a man tied between two wooden poles is first bloodied then menaced by some loon with a snake and a goat on his head. Looks green and rubbery to me – the snake, that is. It bites him (apparently) and he's gawn....GAWN!. The sound of strings descending takes us into the opening titles. As befits the ominous overtone of the song, the titles feature (mostly) black girls with voodoo motifs on their skin, burning skulls and Maurice Binder once more steers a tight course between nude and rude – he so obviously just scraped some of these images past the censors he deserves the 'Near the Knuckle' award for 1973. The song is hot, pacey and vibrant – the credits illustrate it perfectly. And so to the film proper...

A beautiful young woman sleeps, her face a picture of contentment, her head resting on the chest of Roger Moore. A rude buzzing awakens him and he checks his watch (one of those new fangled LED Pulsar jobbies that lights up with red numbers at the push of a button – and batteries that went flat faster than my jokes...) hold on, its 5:48, what the Dickens?... slipping into his monogrammed dressing gown, 007 opens the door of his flat to find Bernard Lee – I mean 'M' – and Moneypenny are paying him a visit. With the lights on, we see the full effect of what might be described as décor...
ABOVE: Bond's Omega Submariner

How to describe this monument to Bachelor life in the early seventies? - it's a split-level deal, a front door opening straight into the lounge with the bedroom off to the side up some stairs, carpeted with the plushest fabric outside of the jungle room at Graceland. The lounge is a riot of panelling, carafes and a portrait of some Naval ancestor that appears to be a warning of the horrors of gout.
Anywhat – M hasn't come for a good laugh at Bond's taste in interior design, three of our agents are dead!. Roger adroitly steers M away from his bedroom – lord knows what he was after in there – and to the kitchen to admire his jelly moulds, orange sandwich maker, rotary spice rack and tiles so striking the bloke fitting them should be... he makes M a cup of coffee with what looks to be a grinder and espresso machine designed by Q. M reveals the three men were keeping tabs on Kananga, the ruler of San Monique. There's a lot of grinding and frothing and M is unimpressed – 'Is that all it does?' being his pithy remark. There's some banter about a missing Italian agent, Miss Caruso – just as Moneypenny enters Chez Bond and the half-naked girl in question slips past to retrieve her clothes and hide in the wardrobe – for some reason by the front door. Penny gives 007 his ticket to New York and his Rolex – Q has repaired it – and Bond can't resist demonstrating the magnet, which whips crusty old Bernard's spoon across the room. Moneypenny retrieves the Boss' coat and prevents him discovering Miss Caruso. Bond shows what the watch is really for by unzipping her dress. Just as she'd got into it!.

Take it easy, Charlie

A Jumbo takes off – and a Tarot reading is given, an unseen woman laying the cards out to foresee a man's arrival, travelling quickly and with purpose. He will oppose, bringing violence and destruction!. She could have guessed he was 007 too, if she'd read the back of them cards... Bond arrives in the US of A and is met by his CIA driver, Charlie. There's a call on the car phone – Felix Leiter, who else?. Felix is on a stake-out, in a suite packed with state of the art seventies electronics. (And, isn't that the WTC being built behind the building he's in?) This time round, David Hedison does the honours, anticipating his return in Licence to Kill. The CIA is keeping tabs on Kananga, but before James can meet up with his old buddy, a Pimpmobile pulls up, driven by a massive black dude – this is Whisper, (Earl Jolly Brown) one of the bad guys. He has a neat poison-dart gun mounted in his side mirror, shooting poor Charlie and forcing Bond's car to crash, JB only just managing to steer the careening motor from disaster.

Dr.Kananga and his entourage – which includes a rather haughty looking Jane Seymour, enter the Embassy of San Monique, exchanging clothes from smart business suits to, well pimp outfits. Is it fancy dress?. Clearly aware of the CIA bugs riddling the place, Kananga plays a recording to cover his exit (a trick Roger Moore uses in his last Bond, AVTAK.) The pimpmobile turns out to be registered at a nearby place called – wait for it, the Oh Cult Voodoo Shop. In the shop, Bond follows Whisper into a basement garage to examine the Pimpmobile as, above, the entourage enters a hidden lift behind a trick cupboard. Bond ducks as the duded-out procession departs in a Cadillac Fleetwood pimpmobile through a car lift to street level. Hailing and tailing, Bond is himself followed by a black dude to Harlem. Special mention here to a nice performance from Arnold Williams as the jovial cab driver. The follow takes 007 to the Fillet of Soul, but his progress is being reported by a network of informants. Did I say Fillet of Soul?, that rings a bell...

Names is for tombstones, baby!

Inside the joint and it's a wonder the jukebox doesn't screech to a halt – Her Majesty's representative to Harlem is the only white face in it. The place looks like Malcolm X has just left – and the less said about some of the sartorial efforts on show the better. Bond takes his seat, which takes him for a spin, the wall revolving to leave him in a room filled with black henchmen packing heat. Still, friendlier than the bar...

Jane Seymour is sat at a table playing cards, we learn her name; Solitaire, but she seems immune to the 007 charm. Enter Tee-Hee, played with considerable charm by Julius Harris. Clearly more than just a henchman, Tee-Hee laughs at everything, despite the handicap of a metal pincer for a right arm. Alarmingly, Solitaire can tell Bond is tooled up by a glance at her cards, more alarmingly, Tee-Hee mangles his Walther PPK with an effortless twist of his pincers. The door to a conference room slides open to reveal an extraordinary figure in a purple velvet suit with a snazzy suede trenchcoat. Christ alone knows what's with this outfit – and I'm allowing for the fact that the Seventies was the Decade taste forgot. Clearly this is the guy running things!. Snubbing Bond's attempt at introduction, he orders him to be wasted, but the two guys picked for the job pretty well fall over without much help from James. (One problem with the Moore Bonds was that his fight scenes never really convinced in the same way as Daniel Craig's punch-ups do now.)

Remember the dude following Bond?, meet Harold Strutter of the CIA (Lon Satton), who gives 007 a ride, explaining that he was a guest of Mr.Big, the crimelord running all the rackets in Harlem. Amusingly, Strutter doesn't go in for clunky old car phones – he's got a genuine Felix Lighter!, a radio disguised as a car cigarette lighter and we learn Kananga is off to San Monique. Time for Jimmy to pack his trunks...

The San Monique nightlife next, a floor show is on at a luxury hotel resort, with an extraordinary and unique figure. Baron Samedi, (French; Saturday) the Voodoo God of cemetaries and Chief of the Legion of the Dead. A tall figure in white topper and tails, the dancer and choreographer Geoffrey Holder steals the film from the outset; you just know this tourist act conceals darker motives. Bond checks in and is told Mrs.Bond has already done so. Mrs.Bond? - is Diana Rigg a zombie?. Bond orders a bottle of Bollinger and two glasses just in case, before (The first time Bolly gets a mention in the 007 films) taking a bath – which is the same as you or I having one, but with more checking the room for bugs and a hair brush that sends morse code. Whisper turns up dressed as a waiter with the champers. Luckily, Roger Moore's contract stipulated he get boxes of Monte Cristo cigars big enough to, well, batter a snake with. Such as the one slithering up behind JB as he tends to his toilet - as every schoolboy kno, aerosols make handy flamethrowers and 007 flambés it with his body spray. A sinister shadow on the louvre door alerts Bond to the presence of an intruder – and the absence of his gun. Someone's nicked it!, honestly you can't trust anyone these days. A gun is poked through the door and Bond judo-flips what, with the benefit of slow-mo looks suspiciously like a blacked-up stuntman in drag onto the bed. With the lights on we can see its Gloria Hendry, aka 'Mrs.Bond' actually Rosie Carver, the CIA's worst agent of all time. Has she been sent to kill Bond with her deadly blundering?.

Here's where casting Roger, sorry, Sir. Roger starts to make sense; the humour. If you can't be a convincing killer, a wickedly sharp tongue in cheek sense of humour is your best weapon. He cracks a few dry ones about the snake and an ominous voodoo warning in the shape of a miniature top hat with bloody chicken feathers.
ABOVE: The Lobby Cards

And so to breakfast. Bond has one of those ridiculous fruity-flowery arrangements that only seasoned waiters can serve with a straight face – especially when confronted with an Englishman in a singlet and a pale blue – get-up of some sort. Safari pyjamas comes to mind. Here's the other memorable aspect of the Moore Bonds – especially the early ones. Designing his own clothes in cahoots with Cyril Castle, the man certainly had style. Anyone else would have looked a total pumper in these rigs, but our man in San Monique wins the style wars with cool, British élan. A quick pause to dab a moist tear with my union flag hankie and we move on. Someone has sent 007 a message in the form of a tarot card, The Queen of Cups, whatever that means.

Meet the man who shares my hairbrush

James takes Rosie for a ride – first in his (rented) Mini Moke, sadly not a 'Q'-car, then on a boat with Quarrel Junior. Below decks, Rosie accidentally discovers a spy radio set-up and a gun. Does Quarrel Junior want revenge for Senior?, not a bit of it – he's the agent 007 has been working with – the man on the other end of the morse hairbrush, so to speak. There's a goof about safety catches then Rosie points out the way to where Baines (The snake, remember?) was killed. Up in her house on the cliff, Solitaire is reading for Kananga. Using her weird powers, she divines Bond's approach, but we learn Rosie is doing the double – on double-oh seven!. Rosie is indeed misleading James, taking him for a ride in the hills. Now me, if I were a spy sensing treachery – I'm more of a pliers and cigarette sort of person, but not a bit of it. Roger suggests a picnic – there's a hamper in the car for just such an eventuality. Perhaps a truth drug in the pate?. No, just Dom Perignon. Bond interrogates her by making her wear his singlet and bonking her by a stream. He shows her his card – the one sent to him and whips out his Walther – (which is odd considering he'd lost it), a desperate Rosie screams – there's a voodoo coconut!. And, before you can ask if the Voodoo Coconuts were a sixties psychedelic group – the poor girl scarpers, right past a coconut in a top hat. With cameras for eyes and a gun in its mouth. Makes me feel odd just writing about it... Bond arrives to find his singlet in need of a good clean and Rosie lying dead in it.
ABOVE: Madeline Smith, Gloria Hendry and Jane Seymour provide the glamour and the love interest

Kananga is unhappy with Solitaire – she seems to be rebelling against his authority and his plan to capture and kill Bond has backfired, with Rosie eliminated before she revealed the truth. The question is, where can Bond be now?. Well, he's flying his kite – a hang glider to be exactific. Towed by Quarrel's boat, Roger enjoys a leisurely aerial cigar before cutting the cable away and swooping on an unsuspecting henchman to land in the grounds. I swear – and people of a certain age from Britain will agree – I wouldn't be surprised if JB produced a box of Milk Tray. (Even the music sounds suspiciously like a send-up). After a bit of Full Monty trousers and reversable jacketry Bond is in, but to what purpose?. Not sure I'd ever hang-glide into a place to get a girl – but that's exactly what Bond has in mind, convincing her its in the cards; they will be lovers!. Sure enough, she chooses 'the lovers' – it must be fate, or naughty James has stacked the deck...

These days a man in his mid-forties tricking a teenage girl into the sack carries a stiff sentence, but this was then – and love is made. Apparently. Now Bond needs to know where Kananga is – but Solitaire cannot 'see' him, having lost more than her virginity. The poor girl's petrified – and even Bond looks a touch windy at the thought of the retribution to come, yet having described losing her cherry as a 'violation' doesn't stop her wanting more... women!.

It's sure going to be a beautiful day...

The next morning Bond and solitaire set off to find what Kananga's been hiding on that island of his. Ignoring the scarecrows placed to warn off the superstitious, they come across a rather quaint little church with a rudely thatched roof and a small graveyard – in which sits Geoffrey Holder, playing his flute. He gives 007 the most memorable weather forecast ever, before pulling his flute apart to reveal it's really a walkie-talkie and warning Kananga of Bond's approach. Bond stumbles across a covered field of opium plants – but has no time to discuss it, a chopper roaring up to strafe the pair with machine gun fire. They reach the road, but not safety, heading for an old London Bus. However, the San Monique PD are all in Kananga's pocket and give chase. Bond hares off in the bus, with Solitaire in the back. There's an enjoyably predictable chase, but then Bond has to swerve to avoid a broken down lorry – onto a track heading for a low bridge!. Good old Quarrel (Junior) is there at the jetty and they escape. Next stop; New Orleans – where James intends to pick up where Hamilton left off...

What are the odds? - the Taxi Driver from New Orleans International airport looks just like Arnold Williams from Harlem – it is Arnold Williams from Harlem!. Mr.Big has sent him to collect Bond and Solitaire in a tricked-out cab with kidnappers locks and a glass screen, taking them to Lakefront airport where one of Mr.Big's main men Adam (Tommy Lane) is waiting. Bond hoofs it over to a waiting plane at a flying school, taking the unfortunate pupil Mrs.Bell (Ruth Kempf) for a ride involving lots of cars skidding around and some rather novel stunts that might seem passé to today's audiences, but they were all done 'for real' and I think they hold up well. The chase winds up on a spot of genuine humour and, safely back at the Royal Orleans poor Felix is left to placate the enraged flying school proprietor while Bond attends to matters sartorial with a fitting from the hotel tailor and some new ties.

The local Fillet of Soul is once more under scrutiny, this time from Strutter of the CIA. If he wanted to find out what happened to Hamilton he's in luck. The Olympia Band goes past playing their dirge again. Those mourners look familiar... 007 and Felix turn up unaware of Strutter's premature demise and head into the Fillet. Spurning the waiter's offer of a booth by the wall – our Jimmy isn't making that mistake twice, oh no – they sit at a centre table as BJ Arnau comes on stage to sing the theme song. How did she know?. Anyway, in the midst of her classy rendition, Felix is called away to a phoney phone call and – whoosh!, Bond is whisked down into the basement, table and all. A puzzled Felix returns to find a replacement table sitting innocuously.

Quite revealing

Bond is dazzled by some lights, which fade to reveal a subterranean conference room in the seventies go-nuts style. White rug, a perspex and metal table, hidden lighting and some henchmen adorn the brightly-lit scene, as does Solitaire, who is playing cards as if she still has the power of the Obeah. The smiling menace of Tee-Hee is foremost, but Bond's attention is on Mr.Big who sits at the far end of the table. Bond seats himself, but the chair is a spring-loaded trap and his arms are held immobile. Mr.Big – who appears to be auditioning for the Black & White Minstrel Show asks Bond if he has messed with Solitaire, but Bond will only speak to the gentleman concerned with her bedroom arrangements*, Kananga himself. (*And, perhaps if virginity was paramount, giving her a double bed may not have been Dr.Kananga's best move). In a scene that's pure Scooby-Doo, Mr.Big rips away his face! - yes, it's a mask, Mr.Big is Kananga!.

Bond pieces it together – Kananga supplies the heroin which his alter-ego 'Mr.Big' distributes through his Fillet of Soul chain. A clever subterfuge – but there's more; instead of entering the market by selling his junk, Kananga intends to give it away gratis – ensuring a steady supply of gratefully loyal addicts before charging a hefty price to cash in on his crop. But Kananga's question remains unanswered; can Solitaire still 'see'?. Using Bond's watch – luckily without setting off the gimmicks – he asks her to use the cards to determine the serial number (The Rolex Submariner that surely remains one of the most handsome of watches). If she gets it wrong, Bond loses a pinkie... to Tee-Hee's pincer. Lets hope she gets it right – that rug will never fit in the machine. Apparently satisifed, Kananga gives the nod and Bond is released to put his watch on and get knocked out in true 007 style. This is worth a brief detour in itself – if my calcumalations are correct, James Bond gets one on the back of the nut in twelve films. (From Russia With Love, Goldfinger, YOLT, OHMSS, Diamonds, all the Moores except The Spy Who Loved Me and Licence To Kill...)

Kananga isn't fooled – Solitaire's answer was wrong, and he gives her a slap for letting Bond have his way with her. Samedi enters the room to add uncanny menace and laugh a bit. Cut.

Trespassers will be eaten

Bond is taken to a Crocodile farm owned by Kananga. Inside a ramshackle shack conceals a surprise; some briefly-glimpsed metal containers and a standard-issue Bond villain lab where white-coated lab-ticians are doing science stuff with drugs. Outside, Bond starts to have misgivings and Julius Harris steps up Tee-Hee's level of menace. This is one of the best performances in the film and Harris manages to retain his charm throughout, feeding the crocs and 'gators and pointing out the one that took his arm. Bond is left high and dry on a tiny island as the gantry leading to it is wound back in. Spotting a promising boat, he tries his magnetic watch, but the boat is tethered. 007 is surrounded by hungry crocogators and it looks like an early lunch. He makes a dash for it, using the backs of some unsuspecting crocs as stepping stones. They make it snappy (One taking a chunk out of Roger Moore's expensive crocodile shoes being worn by Ross Kananga, the actual owner of the croc farm – and inspiration for the name of the Baddie - who was doubling for Moore). Bond lays a hasty meaty trail and opens the gate, torches the building and half-inches a speedboat. With Adam in hot pursuit by car – and calling up reinforcements in fast boats, 007 tears through the Loo-whee-zee-anna bayou at a high rate of knots. Adam speeds past a cop car and pursuit is given. The scene that follows runs like an ad for the Glastron boat company, with various models whizzing along, but never mind.

Adam gets ahead of Bond and is preparing to shoot him when the Long arm of the Law shows up; Sheriff JW Pepper is here!. He is portrayed, of course by Clifton James – at the time of writing in his mid nineties and living in New York city, a much-decorated veteran of the War in the Pacific. I'll stick my neck out, for what that's worth; racist redneck Sheriff is probably more of a bullseye than most stereotypes. For the time and the place, he wouldn't have raised even Roger Moore's famous eyebrows. There seems to be much hand wringing and cringeworthy attempts to condemn the character now, but judging any film from 1973 by 2013 standards seems ludicrous to me. Onwards.

The boat chase is fantastic; not least for Jerry Comeaux' World-record breaking jump as Bond's boat hits the bank and goes airborne to clear the road and hit water on the other side. The chase boat hits the Sheriff's car – an accident in real-life, but deemed funny enough to stay in the film. By the time JW is on his feet, Adam has scarpered, but he commandeers a passing State Police car and chase resumed. Bond's boat seems to change colour at this point, one shot showing a bronze coloured model; next frame Bond's back in the red 'jump' boat. Whatever, he beaches the red boat on a plantation garden, the two stooges chasing him landing up in a swimming pool - and Bond gets in the, em, bronze one – never mind the continuity, enjoy the ride - which continues in true 007 style.

Secret Agent? - on whose side?

Roger Moore did much of the boat driving himself, all credit to him. He cracked a tooth in rehearsals so was probably able to appreciate the enormous risks the stunt team were taking. The gags really pile up here, thrills and spills all the way. JW is obsessed by now; determined to catch the 'Black Russians' he is chasing. (He seems to equate crime with Communism). There's a river-block at Miller's bridge – which the racing boats go through without slowing down. This calls for JW's brother in law, Billy Bob, at the State Wildlife Ranger Department who has the fastest boat on the river. Right up until Adam butt-strokes him – that's butt as in gun, concerned reader – and nicks it. Are all the boats on this river Glastrons?, seems so... but this one is the riverine version of an exocet missile and all it needs is wings to fly. After a hysterically un-pc joke referencing black brothers in law we see a rich young couple being married on the lawns of the family estate. Ahhh, bless... Bond skims across the lawn and back into the river, while Stuntman Eddie Smith manages to slither over the grass and straight through the wedding cake!. I mention him because it is a fantastic stunt in it's own right – yet almost immediately theres more; Bond and Adam's boats skid over the road and the cop cars pile up in approved comedy chase movie style. Clearly the producers of Smokey & the Bandit and the Cannonball Run were fans. The chase winds up with Bond at a boatyard where he quickly fills a bucket with petrol and flings it into Adam's face, blinding him. On the return pass, 007 sends the baddie's boat hurtling into an old landing ship. KaBOOM!. The now famous pr picture of Roger Moore holding a glass of chilled port framed by the explosion in the background is a personal favourite. Felix and co. are waiting at the quayside to tell James the bad guys have decamped to San Monique, taking Solitaire with them, but not before poor JW is foiled as he is finally about to slap the cuffs on Bond for wreaking havoc across his turf.

San Monique; another night, another voodoo ritual. Felix drops James and Quarrel Jnr off by boat. Ashore, Quarrel sets aside some scuba gear – including a nifty shark gun which Bond will need on the way back. 007 sneaks up on the bizarre proceedings, suitably equipped in black rollneck and trousers and dressed with a tan shoulder holster. Or was that the other way around?. Either way, having gone for low-vis clothing, he's kitted out with a MASSIVE shiny Magnum (A nickel plated Model 29). If he runs out of bullets, he can signal for help. At a guess, the popularity of the Dirty Harry movies might have influenced this choice. (And yes, readers, Elvis had TWO model 29s, but in standard 'blued' finish). Solitaire is hauled out, her prostrately screaming figure carried to the sacrificial posts as some acolytes in a zombie-trance deposit a coffin. Oh-oh. Ditto that oh-oh!; it's goaty-bloke again – remember him?.The coffin is full of snakes, one of which still looks green and rubbery. Guess which one he chooses?. Up in the poppy fields, Quarrel places some incendiary bombs, the timers set to midnight. Solitaire is petrified as Mr.Goaty-Hat menaces her with the snake. Bond consults his watch – which seems to be running a touch fast, if you ask me and takes aim with the magnum, but before he can fire the snake is whisked away and the ritual is put on hold. What's going on? - three solemn discipolytes (!) emerge from the little chapel and reverently place an old white topper on a grave, which is tapped three times with a machete.

The Bond films have given us some memorable scenes – Shirley Eaton's 'corpse' covered in gold paint, Blofeld's volcano hideaway; Baron Samedi rising from the grave and into his hat is right up there. His long limbs and face painted to resemble a skeleton, the Baron stands still – a weird and terrible vision of the other-world. He shuts his eyes, then opens them; the signal for goaty to finish Solitaire off. Bond blows goaty away and then blows the Baron's head off. But what's this? - the 'Baron' is actually just a dummy!, a clever copy. Shooting a few of the faithful, Roger grabs a machete to cut the terrified girl free – just as the poppy fields go up in flames. They go to make a run for it, but another Samedi rises (from another grave; which looks like a goof until you see the underground scene) to stand there before the crowd. Bond looks unimpressed, but this one is real – and, grabbing a machete, the sinister figure attacks, 007 throwing his empty magnum away (– note to Q; spare bullets!.) After a brief tussle, Roger socks him into the coffin full of snakes – and they aren't happy about it. Tapping the gravestone thrice, Roger and Jane are lowered into Kananga's cavernous underground lair, but Roger's machete seems to have vanished and it's a punch-up with some goons.

Now, call me anal, call me Susan for all I care – but one thing that every good Bond baddie must have is a decent siren – you know, the sort of one that makes the same noise as a U-boat klaxon in the war films. Kananga has gone to all this trouble and all he gets is a bell off a 1960's British ambulance. Tring-tring; I had a better bell on my pushbike. All the money seems to have gone on those metal sliding doors that Blofeld et-al must get from some weird catalogue. Oh yes, the film; henchmen charge around as the fugitives hide in the caverns. At this point you half-expect to see Bruce Lee coming the other way. Sneaking past the guards, Bond goes through another brushed stainless door. Might be aluminium.

Ah, Mr.Bond, there you are!

Yes, Kananga's been expecting Bond. Glass in hand he's all charm, as he welcomes Bond and Solitaire to his sanctum sanctorum – the geology of the rocks suggesting we are rather nearer London than Jamai-I mean, San Monique. The place looks like a Playboy feature on stylish living, the kind of place the Man of '73 would inhabit. Quarrel surfaces and tells Felix Bond's wetsuit is gone – mistakenly thinking this means he's on his way. Perhaps he passed him underwater. (I know; picky-picky...) Considering he's just lost a fortune, Kananga's in good spirits – the poppies will grow back; he's more interested in Bond's shark gun, retrieved from the beach when his men discovered the cache of gear. Think you have a bad boss? - when he shoots the sofa you are sat on with a compressed air pellet you can complain... poor Whisper is tipped onto the floor, much to Kananga's amusement. The tour begins with Kananga acting as guide; is he hoping to sell the place?. There's an 'Underground Monorail' – which, as we are underground I'll just call a monorail.

In the main cavern Bond and Soli are bound to a hoist which is used to move the heroin, packed in the metal containers we had a glimpse of earlier in the lab at the Croc farm. There's a pool, but drowning doesn't seem to be the idea; Kananga uses Bond's own dive knife to cut his arm. Whisper hoists them up over the water and Bond spots one of the shark pellets, quickly using his watch magnet to snatch it up. (Or maybe it was the obvious fishing wire you can see attached to the pellet)
Bond's blood drips into the water, but he quickly hides the pellet in his mouth as a distracted Kananga orders Whisper to raise a gate to allow some sharks in. Not for the first time, 007 can be glad Q is a clever-clogs; as well as a magnet, the Rolex has a rotary sawblade for a bevel, which cuts through James' Bonds. Whisper whispers for help, Bond kicks him into a container and seals it.

Kananga rushes Bond with the knife, (which seems to have been re-ground, but better than stabbing a National Treasure such as Sir.Roger) the two combatants engaged in a vicious fight to the finish. They struggle, ending up in the water, Kananga desperately trying to alert Bond to the deadly sharks scything through the water towards them. Bond gets behind the villain, pulling the pin on the shark pellet which he jams in Kanangas mouth, forcing him to swallow it. With what must be the world-record loudest fart, Kananga's hyper-inflated body flies out of the water and explodes into tiny pieces. To say this is daft as an ending doesn't come near it – but one good thing about almost any death in the Moore 007s is they are followed by a light-hearted gag, a tradition started by Connery's Bond, but one tailor made for Roger Moore. You get the Bond of the times; the harsh times now call for an animal in a suit, the Seventies were – as I can attest, a gentler, happier time in general. The Bond of the time reflects this nicely.

Unlucky at cards...

Bond and Solitaire take the train to New York. What can they do on a train for sixteen hours?. You dirty devils, really! – they play Gin Rummy, naturally. However, in the mail van, a pincer cuts its way out of a mail sack. Having beaten James at cards, a fruity Solitaire is ready for her next Lovers Lesson, waiting for James to attend to his ablutions. The fuses are shorted and Tee-Hee – it is he tips the bed up, trapping the hapless girl. What is it about James Bond and trains? - a vicious fight ensues, far more so than the one with Kananga. Perhaps its the confined space, but the two batter the granny out of each other – all the more impressive considering Messrs Moore and Harris were, in real life, good friends. Tee-Hee gets the upper hand – sort of, slowly choking Bond with his metal arm, but 007 reaches out for Solitaire's grooming kit, getting hold of her clippers to 'ping!' 'ping!' clip the wires, locking the mechanical pincer onto the window rail. Lifting Tee-Hee by the legs pushes the sliding window open, and he is launched - minus his arm – into the night. A miffed Solitaire hotly asks what he is doing. With his by now trademark charm, Bond replies.“Just being disarming darling”.

The train thunders through the night, Baron Samedi perched gleefully on the front fender, laughing demonically.

The End of Live And Let Die
James Bond will return in
The Man With The Golden Gun

Who's in it, then?
As well as the cast already named, Roy Stewart plays Quarrel, Jnr.

Who's not in it?
Desmond Llewellyn as Q was due to appear, but his character wasn't included. He was said to be 'Fuming' at the decision.

Toys for the Boys
Actually there's a fair few gizmos in this one; from the Dunham Coach designed Corovado pimpmobile driven by Whisper with it's dart-firing mirror to Bond's Shark Gun. His coffee machine could have come straight from Q's lab...

Random things wot you should know
Maurice Patchett, a London Transport instructor came down to Jamaica to teach Roger Moore how to drive a London Bus. Moore said that there was a little flag that appeared when the brakes failed; it appeared and they did. Patchett himself did the driving for the more dangerous stunts.
The record boat jump?; 110 feet.
The hapless CIA driver Charlie is played by stunt driver and co-ordinator Joie Chitwood, who performs several stunts on the picture.
Thats odd...
Why didn't Solitaire mention Kananga and Mr.Big were one and the same?.
Also, not a plot hole, but annoying: in the scene where Bond discards the 'lovers' cards, the action is frozen, leaving a blurred, but frozen thumb on screen for just long enough to notice. This also happens on the boat with Felix freezing. Presumably done to match sound to vision, but some dubbing errors lead to mismatched vocals.

You slagged it off, so why should I bother?
I love film. I love Bond films, if I point out the geek stuff and the goofs, it's out of obsession and affection. This is the Bond I grew up with; the one I 'was' in the playground at school, the Coolest Man in England. This came a bit too early for me; I was five, but it caught up with me many years ago on a far-off Boxing Day. For the Johnny-Foreigners out there, Boxing Day was always when they put a Bond on. Wars would stop for it, it really was that sort of a deal. Live and Let Die has been with us, me for forty years. It has dated, faded and been superseded by newer, bigger, sparklier movies. It's a time capsule, but a wonderful capsule in which you can watch Roger Moore at forty five when he looked the business, but wasn't fully relaxed into the role and it's one of my favourites to this day. I've spent a few weeks in the company of this film; I've never watched it frame by frame and, the odd mistake notwithstanding – it repaid each viewing. Get it, watch it – even if you've seen it a hundred times, watch it CLOSELY, every scene. Notice the little oddities; that tall henchman from Mr.Big's harlem headquarters is holding the flag near the end of the Voodoo Scene, where did Bond leave his machete?. Don't wait for Boxing Day.
ABOVE: Merchandise for the film was limited, but high quality

Oh, if you want to go deeper still, get hold of the old Pan book Roger Moore as James Bond 007 – it's his diary covering the shoot. It provides an unrivalled account of the making of a Bond film, with unique photos by his wife at the time, Luisa. 
BELOW: The Voodoo Code. See if you can decode the message on the title banner...

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