Viking Night: Live and Let Die
By Bruce Hall
December 13, 2017
So the replacement Bond didn’t work out, and wouldn’t you know - for the second time in three years, it was time to recast the role yet again. Not willing to take any risks, United Artists attempted to try to lure a reluctant Connery back into the fold. When begging and pleading failed, they simply backed a dump truck full of money up to the man’s house and waited.
It worked, although I’ve always assumed the negotiations took place over the phone. The Connery who appears in Diamonds are Forever looked like he’d just sprinted over from the craft services table right before the camera rolled. He huffs and puffs and sweats his way through the first truly mediocre Bond film, and wisely declined to drag himself out of bed for the sequel.
Once again, it was time for a change. Connery had been a fit 29 years old when he was first cast, and he left the role as a musky, well-fed man in his forties.
Today it’s natural so see a curiously young looking actor cast in a franchise role, on the idea that they’ll eventually “age” into it. Not so back in the day, when an already middle-aged Roger Moore took over as the world’s most debonair secret agent. At the time he was in better shape than his predecessor, who when last seen had tragically succumbed to dad-bod. But to my eyes, Moore always seemed more comfortable with wisecracking subterfuge than with punching faces in, which is the way Bond had done things in the past.
Case in point - Live and Let Die. It’s most notable not just for being Moore’s debut, but for Paul McCartney’s popular theme song. Both of those are important things, because they portend a dark future for the franchise. While I do like McCartney’s song, he supposedly wrote it in about an hour, and with more than a little indifference. Having revisited it prior to writing this, I once again came away with mixed feelings.
Obviously, a former Beatle half-assing it beats my best work any day of the week.
But this is a song that stands out mostly by virtue of being unconventional. And in the pantheon of Bond themes it lands in the middle of the pack, thanks to people like Madonna, Rita Coolidge and “That Band That Sounds Like Duran Duran But Isn’t” padding the bottom of the list.
As a film, Live and Let Die is considerably less campy than Diamonds are Forever (which can best be described with either the term “devastatingly unwatchable” or “unforgettably horrific”). It starts out a little like the first Bond film, with multiple British agents murdered overseas, and Bond dispatched to New York to investigate.
He is immediately identified because in a place like Harlem (more on that in a moment), can a British guy in a designer suit asking questions about the local heroin trade be anything BUT a record producer or an MI6 agent? Not only are the murdered British agents complicit in their own deaths by reason of stupidity, Bond nearly is as well.