LIVE AND LET DIE
Directed by GUY HAMILTON Screenplay by TOM MANKIEWICZ
There is a new James Bond Roger Moore of Sainted TV memory and a new angle to his latest adventure. In this incarnation, 007 is the Great White Hope. He goes about beating up black men who are doing a little heroin smuggling to finance a Caribbean dictatorship and, perhaps, take over the U.S.
after they've turned it into a nation of junkies with their free-sample program.
Both novelties are deplorable, and Live and Let Die is the most vulgar addition to a series that has long since outlived its brief historical moment if not, alas, its profitability.
Moore is afflicted with coolness unto death; one half expects some plot revelation a saliva test, perhaps to explain that the bad guys somehow got him hooked before the picture started.
None is forthcoming, so probably what we have here is a case of belated fastidiousness: an actor trying to dissociate himself from a project turning sour all around him.
As for Bond's new character as a racist pig, there is a dubious rationale for it. Through the years he has kicked and chopped his way through most of the other races of man, so it could be argued that it is just a matter of equal rights to let blacks have their chance to play masochists to his pseudo-suave sadist. Not surprisingly, this strained justification fails to relieve the queasiness Live and Let Die induces. Why are all the blacks either stupid brutes or primitives deep into the occult and voodooism? Why is miscegenation so often used as a turn-on? Why do such questions even arise in what is supposed to be pure entertainment?
In part, the answers lie in the fact that the so-called entertainment is never really entertaining. A couple of solid citizens, Yaphet Kotto and Geoffrey Holder, are underemployed as an island dictator cum pusher and his witchdoctor hireling while Jane Seymour, Gloria Hendry and Madeline Smith are comely enough but curiously sexless sex objects. They, like Moore, suffer a sort of weightlessness, a lack of humanness, which is what Sean Connery as 007 lent previous Bond adventures. The raunchy adolescent humor that helped audiences giggle past the ugly inhuman stuff in previous Bond films like Goldfinger and Diamonds Are Forever is rare and surprisingly inept. The vehicular chases that have proved commercially successful in other films are here rendered five times, which is four more than any movie needs. Setting aside an allright speedboat spectacular over land and water, the film is both perfunctory and predictableleaving the mind free to wander into the question of its overall taste. Or lack of it. *Richard Schickel