ABC’s Bond movie of the week last night was Live and Let Die, which is without possible question the worst of all the Bond films. Yep, I said worst. The film that I see most often cited as the worst, A View to a Kill, is nowhere near as bad as this film. Let me count the ways that Live and Let Die is horrible:
1. It’s the most sexist Bond film ever. Now, the Bond films will never be listed in Great Cinematic Hallmarks of Women’s Equality, but a nadir was reached with this one. Here we have women more blatantly manipulated as sex objects than in any other Bond flick, with Bond stacking the deck of Tarot cards for no other reason than he wants to get it on with Solitaire. The other women are portrayed as stupid and incompetent.
2. It’s the most racist Bond film ever. Yes, it was made in 1972, but so what? Casablanca was made thirty years before that, and it managed to give us a black character that wasn’t a complete caricature. This film’s blacks are either stupid or evil, and in a few cases are stupid and evil. Yaphet Kotto actually played a halfway decent villain, but every other black in the film reeks with the air of stereotype and disdain.
3. The film isn’t content to paint its women and black characters with a stereotypical brush. We also get some Southerners, the type who would later be seen in The Dukes of Hazzard. There is a writer out there, somewhere, who thought that the character of Sheriff JW Pepper was a good idea.
4. This criticism probably isn’t fair, but the film’s automobiles are all those ugly, gigantic 1970s gas-guzzlers that you now see populating junk lots. Cars in a Bond film should never be ugly.
5. Q does not appear at all in this film.
6. The film’s action sequences are dull, dull, dull. The only moment of any excitement at all is the moment when Bond escapes the alligator farm, but then we head into a speedboat chase that goes nowhere.
7. The theme song to Live and Let Die, by Paul McCartney and Wings, would actually be one of the better Bond songs if not for the ridiculous middle “funk” section (“When you got a job to do you gotta do it well….”) that sticks out like a sore thumb. The film’s music isn’t horrible, but John Barry is certainly missed.
Live and Let Die is not the film that started the trend in Bond films toward self-parody (that would be Diamonds Are Forever, Connery’s last official Bond film), but this film picked that ball up and ran with it. Roger Moore is typically blamed for this, but I’ve always wondered: to what extent is the actor to blame for deficiencies in the material to begin with? Once the self-parody trend wore off in For Your Eyes Only, Roger Moore was able to demonstrate that he could bring just as much gravity and lethal cunning to the Bond part as Connery.
Next up (I think): The Man With the Golden Gun.