Friday, 26 August 2011

BlogalongaBond / Live And Let Die: The Assassin's Guide To Failure

So here we are. The beginning of James Bond: The Sitcom Years. There's a new 007, and he's charming, handsome, handy with a one-liner and about as close to Ian Fleming's creation as I am, i.e. Not Very.

Let me be clear: I like Roger Moore. Despite all the evidence to the contrary, he is a good actor, and he's quite rightly assumed the position of National Treasure for his resolutely British self-deprecation, his charity work for UNICEF and his heady days as an ambassador for knitwear. He's also about the only actor who could get away with something like this:
He is, however, the worst thing that ever happened to James Bond. Now I'm all for a bit of levity in a Bond film – God knows they’d have long since become extinct if they hadn’t developed a sense of humour - but Rodge's inability to take any of it seriously just seems like a lack of respect. His insistence on breezing through his entire tenure as if he’s telling a long joke in an after-dinner speech means that there are now seven Bond films in which Fleming's cruel, brutal cold warrior is all punchline and no punch.

Moore isn't entirely to blame: following the "disaster" of George Lazenby, producers Broccoli and Saltzman deliberately steered their new star away from the Connery model by making him drink bourbon instead of Martinis and smoke cigars instead of cigarettes. They even had M and Moneypenny inexplicably pop round to his questionably decorated flat to brief him on his new mission, which is unforgivable. The obvious consequence of all this is that not only is the new guy not Sean Connery but he's also not James Bond, despite what his ludicrous monogrammed dressing gown says. He's just Roger Moore.
Still, we're stuck with him, so what about the rest of Live And Let Die? Well, it's not very good: moments of promise are soon smothered by Bond's cringingly sexist dialogue, the arguable racism or plain old bad filmmaking. There's a complex and interesting relationship between the villain and the girl that gives them both layers of subtlety rarely seen in a Bond film, but it's stomped on by Bond's excruciating "there there, darling" condescension towards her. Likewise, the excellent work put in by the cast of black actors is all but undone by having nearly every single one of them play a bad guy. Even the film's potential high point, a speedboat chase through Louisiana's bayous, is fluffed by frustrating stop-start editing decisions and the unwelcome appearance of a stupid fat redneck comedy cop.

Live And Let Die's least welcome legacy, though, is the villain's staggering inability to successfully assassinate James Bond, which would feed legions of awful parodies and Bond haterz for decades to come. It's one thing to leisurely explain your diabolical scheme to the hero while he unties himself from his sloppily-tied clove hitch, but it's another thing entirely for you and your asinine assassins to balls up his murder on no fewer than ten occasions in one film. It's enough to make you wonder if they've been taking lessons...

How To Die And Let Live:
A Ten-Step Guide To Being A Bad Bad Guy

If you have every opportunity to shoot Bond, don't. Go for his taxi driver instead, then speed off before the car crashes. Under no circumstances hang around to have a crack at 007 should he lean forwards to take control of the car.
Don't kill Bond in that quiet corner of Harlem; take him for a walk first, preferably past some convenient street furniture with which he can attack you. Don't worry: all he'll do is kick you and leave you, rather than kill you in case you try again.

If your human minions are proving useless, give the job to a dumb animal. Snakes are ideal: they're slow, easy to spot and made of highly flammable rubber.
Snake fail? Try a lady. Not only are they good for providing confusing plot twists but there's also surely no way they'll fall for the notorious fanny magnet, thereby switching sides (again). As an added bonus they can do all this in a string vest.
Has Bond discovered your heroin farm? Best send a helicopter to shoot at him, but only once. They'll miss him by inches before immediately declaring him lost and giving up and going home for a nice cup of tea and a Hobnob, but at least they tried.
If Bond tries to escape in a very slow wingless plane with a pensioner on board, your crack team of henchmen can't fail. The worst they'll do is miss him altogether, let him pass, then - despite not being hurt - watch as he makes a crap quip and wanders off.
Now you've got him, give Bond a tour of your heroin factory before leaving him on an island surrounded by stupid reptiles. Don't hang around to make sure they eat him, it'll be fine. It's not as if he can use them as stepping stones to escape, is it?
Speedboats are an ideal way to catch Bond. It's not as if your men are so unfeasibly stupid that they'll repeatedly drive into swimming pools or trees, AND you'll have the help of the Louisiana State Poh-leece's most competent officers.
If all else fails, feed Bond to the sharks yourself. Don't remove his watch though, in case it has a hitherto-unknown function that may help him in exactly this situation, and don't forget to turn your back just long enough for him to escape.
Don't worry if you've unexpectedly exploded, there's always your top henchman to finish the job in the final scene, even though he could have done it at any point. His unique disfigurement will almost certainly not be his ultimate downfall.

The music
It's not all bad. Live And Let Die immediately atones for the series' weakest pre-title sequence with the series' greatest theme song. Wings - "the band The Beatles could have been" (Partridge, 1997) - cruelly rocket expectations for a world-class Bond film to the moon with their blistering title track, and George Martin delivers an archetypally seventies score with more flare-flapping funk than a pimpmobile full of Isaac Hayeses.

The clothes
I don't know much about costume design but looking at the clobber on show in Live And Let Die is like having Huggy Bear throw a fondue party in your eyeballs. For far more informed opinion than I could ever hope to impart, check out these / three / posts at the massively-collared Clothes On Film.

The stunts
Live And Let Die's lengthy boat chase might be (i.e. is) a failure in terms of editing and direction, but the stunts therein are typically eye-popping, especially the record-breaking speedboat jump. The bus which transforms from a double to a single decker via the intervention of a low bridge is also noteworthy, and the sequence in which Bond attempts to wrest control of a car from his dead chauffeur is more exciting than you probably remember.

And finally:
Trust Roger Moore to take the series' best running double entendre and give it a new twist for the female-empowering new decade:

Rosie Carver, an inexperienced CIA agent, is terrified by the sight of a dead snake. She rushes into Bond's arms for comfort.

Oh, I should have never gotten into any of this!
I'm going to be completely useless to you.

Oh, I'm sure we'll be able to lick you into shape.

BlogalongaBond will return with The Man With The Golden Gun

What the hell is BlogalongaBond? I'll tell you.
Further BlogalongaBondareading here


  1. Why does The Incredible Suit go OTT with huge upper case letters to crassly draw attention to the double entendre jokes? They are so, nudge nudge, know what I mean, nudge nudge, obvious that even Sheriff J.W. Pepper would see tham coming (coming - get it - nudge nudge) a mile off.)

    A woman walked into a cocktail bar and asked the barman for a 'Double Entendre' so he gave her one. (HE FUCKED HER as The Incredible Suit would spell out in case you didn't get it.)

    1. Why? Because it's very funny. We all know the double entendre and innuendo and don't need it spelling out or enhancing, which is why TIS does it. It's assuming that we haven't got the gag and doing us a favour by pointing it out.

      Frankly I think it's very funny and hope you CARRY ON REGARDLESS!

    2. It's a good reference. This should explain everything and make you laugh, Tony Cox.

  2. My favourite scene from Live and Let Die is Mrs. Bell's flying lesson.

  3. The expectation of a double entendre's joke to be subtle and 'hidden' is then subverted by the most simple and blunt explanation. That is, by its very nature, funny. Doing it in huge upper case letters therefore heightens the subversion, making it a little bit funnier.

  4. I found it funny and am sufficiently acute (if that's the opposite of obtuse) to get the reasoning behind the joke without explanation (thanks for nothing Anonymous!).

    I liked it. It made me chuckle.

    And that was laughter despite the fact that you were destroying one of the three best Bond films of all time. LALD is a masterpiece and your words will make a delicious meal if/when you see sense.

  5. Cracking movie, cracking wardrobe, amazing boat chase (gives me goosebumps thinking about it) and awesome cigar smoking whilst handgliding by Mr Roger M

  6. This film was why I stopped watching Bond Films. The only Bond is Connery.

    And when when the bad guys turned their backs and WALKED AWAY from alligator island, I almost left the theater. Even if they knew for certain bond would die, bad guys would still have liked watching him scream while his guts were ripped out.

    But the last straw for me was the magnetic watch.

    First of all, I was disgusted that Q gave bond a MAGNET. A machine-gun car? Okay. A tracking beacon in his shoe? Well... okay. But a magnet? were they expecting Bond to spy on a science fair? What possible use would they expect it to serve? That watch could have been little gun or a radio or a fuck-lube dispenser.

    There's also the fact that magnetic force gets weaker with the CUBE of the distance, not the square, like light. A magnetic field strong enough to pull things 100 feet away would be so intense near the watch that it would tear all iron from his red blood cells, right through his wrist and form a pattern in the air like iron filings near a refrigerator magnet.

    And don't EVEN get me started about the magnetic source.

    If the magnet was not an electromagnet, it would have pulled on everything throughout the whole movie. He couldn't get in a car because his watch would slam against the metal door with his arm in it. The magnet in Goldfinger could lift a whole car, and even it could never move things 50 feet away.

    Sure, it could be shielded with a nickle-iron alloy that allows magnetic fields to flow through it, and maybe bond was removing the shield when he fucked with his watch on the island. The problem with this is even if the shield was molybdenum permalloy, it was about a foot thick, a field that strong would not flow within the shield and back to the other pole of the magnet, but would instead saturate it and and Bond's arm would still stick to cars.

    Now if his watch was an electromagnet, it could be switched off. But if Q could stuff that much power into a watch, the energy required to generate that a field that moves stuff 100 feet away, field would be far more useful if it drove an infrared laser. With that much current, Bond could cut through literally anything just like a light sabre.

    Hmm, I wonder why Q didn't think of that?

    - faye kane, homeless brain
    Astrophysics/math chick who'll let any man anywhere do literally anything he wants to her

  7. Faye. I have an erection.

  8. I would add that they have the opportunity to shoot Bond with a scarecrow gun, but go for Rosie instead. Yeah, that was stupid.