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Guy Hamilton
Roger Moore, Yaphet Kotto, Jane Seymour, Clifton James, Julius Harris, Geoffrey Holder
Tom Mankiewicz, based on the novel by Ian Fleming

Roger M007re is James Bond.

James Bond is sent to New York to investigate the mysterious deaths of several British agents. He soon senses that there is a drugs link between the notorious Mr. Big, and Dr. Kananga, the secretive owner of a small Caribbean island. However, Kananga is not a man to be dealt with lightly, and the fact that his beautiful Solitaire has already been seduced by 007 makes matters worse.
Rated PG.

Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English DTS 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Mandarin Chinese

Runtime: 121 min.
Price: $89.98
Release Date: 12/12/2006

• Audio Commentary by Director Guy Hamilton, Actors Yaphet Kotto, Jane Seymour, Julius Harris, Madeline Smith, Clifton James, David Hedison, Lois Maxwell, and Gloria Hendry, Supervising Art Director Syd Cain, Co-Art Director Peter Lamont, and Special Effects Supervisor Derek Meddings
• Audio Commentary with screenwriter Tom Manklewicz
• Audio Commentary with Actor Roger Moore
• “Bond 1973: The Lost Documentary”
• “Roger Moore as James Bond, Circa 1964”
• “Live and Let Die Conceptual Art”
• 007 Mission Control Interactive Guide
• “Inside Live and Let Die Documentary
• “On The Set With Roger Moore” Featurettes
• Photo Galleries
• Booklet
• Television & Radio Spots
• Trailers

Available Only as Part of “The Ultimate James Bond Collection Volume Three”

Score Soundtrack

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Live and Let Die: Ultimate Edition (1973)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (December 19, 2006)

When I was young and my heart was an open book, I used to say, "Live and let live." But if this ever-changing world in which I live in makes me give in and cry, say, "Live and let die."

(Yes, that probably was the crummiest opening to a review I've ever written. Live with it!)

Interestingly, Paul McCartney - who already was viewed with suspicion by the era's "counterculture" - caught a lot of flack for taking on the assignment to compose and play a Bond theme song in 1972. According to Nicholas Schaffner's wonderful book called The Beatles Forever, "Rolling Stone had broken the news of McCartney's commission to write thriller music in tones so snide you would have thought Paul had been caught playing golf with Spiro Agnew. 'So it's come to that,' groaned the Stone. For Paul to get involved with a slick thriller was seen as yet another in a long line of sell-outs."

Of course, once everyone actually heard the song in question, all was forgiven. Between Live and Let Die and Band On the Run, 1973 was the year that put McCartney back on the map as a creative force with which to reckon. (Can you believe that it lost the Academy Award to sappy dreck like “The Way We Were”? Yikes!)

Yes, I'm spending an awful lot of time focusing on this song, but can you blame me? McCartney's explosive little rocker is easily the best thing about Live and Let Die. (Actually, it's also unquestionably the best Bond theme song of them all, but that's a different matter.) For Roger Moore's first turn as our favorite secret agent, the producers concocted a surprisingly low-key and unmemorable affair. Die is a mildly interesting and enjoyable film, but it's definitely not Bond's finest hour.

I found the filmmakers' decision to make Die such a small-scale picture pretty surprising. In many ways, the movie's comparable to 1981's For Your Eyes Only, as both represented conscious steps back from the over-the-top gadgetry and mayhem of previous pictures. For Die, they even went so far as to fail to include "Q" (Desmond Llewelyn), as reliable a Bond institution as there is. Until his death after 1999’s The World Is Not Enough, Llewelyn appeared as "Q" in all of the Bond pictures since the second one - From Russia With - save for the exception of Die.

This "retrenching" made sense in the case of Only since it followed on the heels of possibly the most extravagant and outrageous Bond of them all, 1979's Moonraker. The series had pushed farther and farther into comic book territory, and it was smart of them to try to bring Bond back to a more realistic situation.

In regard to Die, however, I don't see the reasoning behind this move unless they just wanted to save money. Yes, the prior Bond flick - 1971's Diamonds Are Forever - was fairly extravagant and outlandish, but the series had already "retrenched" to a degree with 1969's On Her Majesty's Secret Service. It didn't seem to need that readjustment at that time.

I think that the smaller scale of Die backfired on the producers for one crucial reason: it put much more of the emphasis on our new Bond, Roger Moore. The merits and flaws of Moore as Bond have been endlessly debated and will continue to be argued as long as people watch the films. Personally, although I grew up with Moore in the character and spent much of my life with the view that he was the definitive Bond, I now don't much care for his work in the role. He seems much more like a valet than Bond; he's simply too mannered and "proper" for the part.

While Moore would eventually grow into the role and make his own take on Bond more palatable, he was on shaky ground for Die, and that's what makes the film's tighter focus more problematic. Unusually, we don't see Bond during the customary pre-title sequence. Instead, we view some scenes that set up the storyline. Our introduction to Moore as 007 comes in typical Bond fashion: he's snuggled up to some cutie in post-coital contentment. Reality intrudes as boss "M" (Bernard Lee) and secretary Moneypenny (Lois Maxwell) make a rare housecall to roust Bond for a new adventure.

This opening scene sets the stage for how Moore will play the part, and it does so poorly. Bond tries very hard to conceal the presence of his "guest" from "M" and Moore makes him look much too flustered as he does this. There's little of his usual strength and self-assurance, and it feels a little like an outtake from an episode of Three's Company. Bond also makes cappuccino for "M" in a scene that's supposed to once again remind us of Bond's sophistication and taste; cappuccino and espresso were apparently much more foreign to folks in 1973. Unfortunately, the way Moore futters about with the machine and carefully concocts the coffee reminds me too much of Felix Unger. Connery could have made these scenes work, but Moore simply seems much too prissy for a secret agent with a license to kill.

Is it unfair to compare then-newcomer to the role Moore to established Bond Connery? In this case, no, because that's exactly what everyone who saw the film would do. Moore received a break from the fact that he wasn't the first "new Bond" after Connery; George Lazenby flopped in the role in 1969 before the producers enticed Connery to return one more time. This probably helped him, since Lazenby got audiences used to the concept of the "new guy."

If Moore directly followed Lazenby, that'd be one thing. But since Connery came back for Diamonds Are Forever, that put Moore back in the unenviable position of following him into the role, and the comparisons do not favor Moore. As I mentioned earlier, Moore eventually took the role as his. While he was never as good as Connery, he at least made the part acceptable and less wimpy than he was here. Moore just seemed to spend the entire Die shoot adjusting to the part, something that negatively affects the quality of the film.

Overall, I like the idea of a simpler, less fantastic Bond film; the paring down worked pretty well in Only. Unfortunately, the problem with Die is that not only do we have a somewhat weak hero, as played by Moore, but the story itself is something of a dog. Actually, there really isn't much of a story. Guy has some agents killed, guy turns out to be a drug lord, Bond stops him - the end. The drug lord in question, Kananga (Yaphet Kotto), has some of the usual aspirations to grandeur. By initially distributing heroin for free, he intends to drive his competitors out of business and then charge out the vein for it when he achieves a monopoly. However, little drama stems from this. It's not like he's acquired any kind of "doomsday weapon" or anything; he's just going to milk some junkies.

Kotto's always been a fine actor, and he brings his imposing stature to the role. It's a poorly written part, but Kotto makes it more memorable than it should have been. Kananga's not one of the better Bond villains, but Kotto at least makes him interesting.

Jane Seymour plays our main "Bond girl," Solitaire. She holds the distinction of being one of the few Bond females who didn't vanish into oblivion after working in the film, though I'm not sure that being Dr. Quinn is actually better than oblivion. She's a pretty but tremendously slight presence. One gets the impression that she falls over when attempting to blow her nose. One of the stronger Bond women she is not.

Die did achieve a form of progressivism with the interracial pairing of Bond and Rosie Carver (Gloria Hendry). You know, it'd be interesting to see what races Bond hasn't boffed. I know he first went Asian in You Only Live Twice, and he's been with some Latin women. When's he gonna bag an Eskimo?

Anyway, the filmmakers handled Bond's "jungle fever" tryst with admirable restraint. In the era of the "socially conscious" TV show - where various societal issues were crudely thrown in the faces of the audience - Bond's dalliance with Carver is portrayed as just another score for him. There's absolutely nothing about the way she's portrayed or the event is enacted that makes it stand out that "Bond's bagging a black babe!" I wish they could have found a better actress than wooden and stilted Hendry, but still, I’m happy with the presentation of this potentially controversial tryst.

Other racially-flavored aspects of Die do not fare so well, however. Bond's experiences in Harlem are laughably stereotypical of the black culture of the period, as calls of "jive turkey" and "honky" abound. Man, did people ever actually talk like that? Regardless, it looks tremendously silly and dates the film badly. I could have done without the sight of the "pimpmobiles" as well; it all seems like a Shaft movie gone wrong.

Well, at least they kept the main characters away from that side of things other than Kananga's ridiculously stereotypical alter ego, "Mr. Big," who makes few appearances in the picture. Our main heavy always has to have a right hand man, and in this case, it's quite a right hand! TeeHee (Julius W. Harris) stands as a precursor to later baddie "Jaws," but instead of vicious metal choppers, TH has a crushing artificial arm. Harris plays the part with a disarmingly good-natured quality; TH doesn't seem terribly menacing most of the time, but that's ultimately kind of spooky, because his implicit threat remains. He's no Odd Job, but TeeHee's a pretty good second banana. I also like “Whisper” (Earl Jolly Brown), Kananga’s tubby, soft-spoken goon. Something about his rasping, quiet speech makes him particularly ominous.

Considering that the filmmakers overtly scaled back the theatrics for Die, one curiosity is the movie's big action piece, an extended boat chase down a Louisiana bayou. While this scene contains some exciting stunts, it goes on for far too long and ducks into some weird places along the way. In the interest of alleged comedic relief, we meet redneck stereotype Sheriff Pepper (Clifton James) when he enters the chase. The inclusion of Sheriff Pepper and his cohorts really makes the chase very disjointed. We frequently lose sight of Bond himself for seemingly extended periods of time. It's an oddly cobbled together bit, and it simply doesn't work.

The Pepper bits are also plain and simple tacky. They very nearly submerge the movie with their barely-hidden racial animosity, and they feel awfully out of place here. They’re not even remotely funny, and I find the Pepper character to be annoying at best, loathsome at worst. Audiences must’ve liked him, as he returns for an even more insulting turn in 1974’s The Man With the Golden Gun, but I truly disliked him.

Despite my complaints, Die remains a decent Bond film - it's just not a special one. Except for the never-ending Pepper nonsense, I had a pleasant enough time watching it, but it's not one I'll want to view with a great deal of frequency. Overall, it's not as good as any of the Connery Bonds, but it stands up against the other Moore entries well enough. Perhaps that’s damning Die with faint praise, but it’ll have to do.

The DVD Grades: Picture B-/ Audio B+/ Bonus A-

Live and Let Die appears in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 on this single-sided, dual-layered disc. The movie has been enhanced for 16x9 TVs. While perfectly watchable, this was one of the weaker Bond “Ultimate Edition” transfers.

Sharpness was the main concern. While the movie usually boasted adequate to good definition, more than a few shots looked rather soft. This permeated close-ups as well as wide shots and created a mix of distractions. Some of this resulted from light edge haloes, though I noticed no shimmering or jagged edges. Source flaws were delightfully absent, as the movie presented clean visuals at all times.

Colors usually fared well, but they also could be a bit erratic. The movie featured many settings with broad, vibrant tones, and for the most part, these came across well. I thought a few scenes were a little flat, however, and the colors didn’t always appear as dynamic as expected. Blacks were fine, and shadows mostly seemed good. Some low-light shots appeared slightly muddy, but the majority demonstrated good delineation. Perhaps I’ve been spoiled by the high quality of the other Bond UEs, but this one only mustered a lackluster “B-“ for picture.

For this “Ultimate Edition” of Live and Let Die, the film received two new multi-channel remixes. The DVD includes Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 soundtracks. Surprisingly, the movie’s original mono audio fails to appear here. This was disappointing, to say the least.

Don’t interpret that as a criticism of the 5.1 tracks, however, as both work very well. The two sounded very similar to me. The DTS mix was noticeably louder than the Dolby track, but once I compensated for volume, the differences vanished.

While the tracks failed to reinvent the wheel, they expanded the monaural material well. Music fared best, as the score demonstrated excellent stereo imaging. I particularly liked the 5.1 remix of McCartney’s terrific title tune. This used all five channels in a fun way and created a very interesting rendition of the song.

Dialogue usually stayed focused in the center. Indeed, while the occasional line was localized to the sides, the remixers showed less ambition in that regard compared to some of the other UE soundtracks. The effects also broadened well but were less forceful than with other Bond remixes. They spread reasonably well to the sides and rears but never came across as particularly lively. Still, the soundfields offered a good sense of setting and action.

Despite the age of the material, sound quality was solid. Speech seemed concise and crisp, with no edginess or other worries. Effects were clear and fairly dynamic. A few action sequences demonstrated lackluster dimensionality, but most showed positive breadth and punch. Music remained the best part of the package, as the score and songs sounded vivid and full. Overall, the audio seemed pleasing and earned a “B+”.

How did the picture and audio of this “Ultimate Edition” compare to those of the original 1999 special edition? Both demonstrated improvements, though in terms of the visuals, I saw less growth than I’d hoped. The 1999 DVD was a mess, as it suffered from a mix of problems. The UE boasted much greater cleanliness, but its colors were less satisfying, and both showed some problems with definition.

As for the audio, the 5.1 mixes certainly provided greater depth and power than the 1999 DVD’s mono track. It remains unfortunate that the UE fails to offer a cleaned-up version of the original one-channel audio, though. As much as I enjoy the remixes, I always like to be able to listen to the theatrical audio as well.

The UE offers all the same extras as the prior release along with some new ones. I’ll mark this package’s exclusives with an asterisk, so if you fail to see a star, the component also appeared on the original set.

On DVD One, we start with three separate audio commentaries. The first features a mixture of comments from director Guy Hamilton, actors Yaphet Kotto, Jane Seymour, Julius Harris, Madeline Smith, Clifton James, David Hedison, Lois Maxwell, and Gloria Hendry, supervising art director Syd Cain, co-art director Peter Lamont, and special effects supervisor Derek Meddings. All of their remarks are taken from separate interviews and they are melded together with the assistance of a narrator John Cork.

This commentary looks at the film’s opening sequence, the titles and theme song, locations and stunts, effects and other visual elements, stunts and action, characters and performances, cast and crew information, and a mix of anecdotes related to the movie. Plenty of good information appears, but some problems come along the way. There’s a lot of dead air, and that slows the progress. Though there’s more than enough good content to sustain us, the flaws mean this isn’t one of the best commentaries.

The second track offers a running, screen-specific chat with writer Tom Mankiewicz. Unfortunately, this track contains even more dead air than does the first commentary, as Mankiewicz falls silent too often. However, he’s fairly interesting when he talks. Mankiewicz covers a mix of production topics, with an obvious emphasis on the script. He discusses differences writing for Sean Connery and Roger Moore, and he also gets into racial sensitivity in regard to Die. Were it not for the copious amounts of dead air, this would be a good commentary. As it stands, the results are decent at best.

For the third commentary, we hear from *actor Roger Moore. He provides a running, screen-specific chat. As with other Moore tracks, this one uses the movie itself as a moderately loose framework for his remarks. He discusses how he became Bond, his relationship with Paul McCartney in the Sixties, thoughts about cast and crew and their interactions on the set, his work for UNICEF, locations, shoot specifics and other reflections on his work.

As usual, Moore’s remarks tend toward the anecdotal, and that’s what makes them interesting. He tells stories well and spices up the commentary with plenty of amusing and intriguing little tales. My only complaint comes from the amount of dead air we find; Moore goes silent too often, especially in the movie’s second half. Despite that negative, though, this is another charming and entertaining commentary from the actor.

Over on DVD Two, the Declassified: MI6 Vault presents three elements. *Bond 1973: The Lost Documentary runs 21 minutes, 39 seconds as it displays the standard mix of behind the scenes footage and interviews. We hear from Hamilton, Moore, Kotto, stuntman Eddie Smith, and producer Cubby Broccoli. The program looks at Moore’s casting and preparation for the role, basic processes behind the Bonds, cast and crew notes, dance choreography, locations and specifics of the shoot.

Don’t expect to learn a ton from the program’s details, as they stay rather superficial. I do like Smith’s comments about challenges faced by black stuntmen, though. In addition, the material from the set offers a lot of great shots. We find many nice elements that flesh out our view of the production, and they make this a winner.

*Roger Moore as James Bond, Circa 1964 goes for seven minutes, 44 seconds. Introduced by producer Michael Wilson, this offers a glimpse of Moore’s brief turn as Bond in an old series called Mainly Millicent. It’s a ridiculously overacted and unfunny attempt at comedy, but it’s very cool to see as a historical curiosity.

The “Vault” finishes with some *Live and Let Die Conceptual Art. Narrated by Michael Wilson, this 99-second clip displays unused ideas for the movie’s poster art. These are usually pretty rough, but they offer an interesting look at potential ads.

With that we head to the *007 Mission Control Interactive Guide. This splits into components under seven different headings: “007”, “Women”, “Allies”, “Villains”, “Mission Combat Manual”, “Q Branch”, and “Exotic Locations”. An odd form of “greatest hits”, this simply presents a few selected scenes that match the topics.

“Locations” (4:29) gives us a narrated set of clips. Maud Adams chats over the scenes and tells us about the locations. That makes it more useful than the others since they just show snippets from the final film. The rest of the set is a waste of time.

Heading to Mission Dossier, we begin with the 29-minute and 45-second Inside Live and Let Die. This includes comments from Hamilton, Mankiewicz, Moore, Kotto, Seymour, Lamont, Hendry, Harris, James, former UA executive David Picker, and bus stunt driver Maurice Patchett. It covers the casting of a new Bond, story issues, stunts, locations, casting, and other general production topics.

Die seems to have been a difficult production, and this program relates the experience well. It's not tremendously thorough, but it covers the necessary topics efficiently and elegantly. To be honest, I liked this documentary more than I liked the film itself! It's a very entertaining piece of work.

Additional "behind the scenes" footage can be seen in the two segments under the heading On the Set With Roger Moore. One of these shows the "Funeral Parade" sequence that comes at the start of the film. Moore offers some comments about the actor used in that scene, and the segment lasts 102 seconds. The other clip details the "Hang Gliding" scene, and it shows us Moore as he's about to take flight; this piece fills three minutes, 58 seconds. I don't know if these were part of a larger program, but they're both decent and interesting.

Under Ministry of Propaganda, Die teems with promotional materials. Two trailers - one theatrical, one "teaser" - appear. The shorter one is essentially an abbreviated version of the longer ad. Unlike some "teasers" - like the classic Terminator 2 clip which shows the T-100 assembly line - this one does not feature anything unique.

In addition to the trailers, two television spots and two radio ads are included. In both cases, the first one lasts one minute and other is 30 seconds. Also, as with the trailers, the shorter one in each category is just an abbreviated version of the other.

One interesting advertisement featured here is a clip done for the UK "Milk Board”. No milk mustaches here: instead we see clips from the boat chase interspersed with behind the scenes footage of that segment. Of course, to keep up their strength, Moore and other crewmembers make sure to down some milk in between shots! Pretty funny stuff.

I'm not a huge fan of production photos, but those who like them will be happy with the more than 170 presented here. These span nine different subdomains. The vast majority of the photos can be found in the “Filmmakers” section. The other eight areas contain far fewer pictures; some of them only have two or three photos per heading! It's a good idea but poorly executed here. Still, if you like these kinds of photos, you'll probably find it to be worth the effort.

Finally, the Die DVD includes a nice booklet. It offers some fun facts about the production. You'll hear some of them elsewhere, but most aren't repeated in other areas.

Live and Let Die remains a pretty mediocre Bond movie. It offers some decent action but I’d rank it among the franchise’s least compelling efforts. As I’ve always said, even problematic Bond still boasts entertainment, but this one just doesn’t deliver the goods in a consistent manner. The DVD comes with acceptably good picture, solid audio and a long, interesting roster of extras. It’s not a very good movie, but the DVD is usually satisfying.

Should folks who already own the prior release pursue this Ultimate Edition? Yes, though this isn’t the “slam dunk” I’d hoped it would be. The new supplements provide some very nice elements, and both audio and visuals demonstrate improvements. However, the picture still suffers from some problems, and the disc lacks the movie’s original monaural soundtrack. This is definitely the best Live and Let Die on the market, but the DVD’s a bit of a disappointment due to a few flaws.

Note that this “Ultimate Edition” of Live and Let Die can be purchased only as part of “The Ultimate James Bond Collection Volume Three”. This five-movie set also includes On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, From Russia With Love, For Your Eyes Only, and GoldenEye.

To rate this film visit the original review of LIVE AND LET DIE

Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main