The 8th official James Bond movie. Bond is sent to the United States, tasked with bringing down a heroin smuggler that poses a danger to the world.
The first Bond film which does not feature Q, the head of Special Ordnance Branch. The character did appear in Dr. No but under his real name of Major Boothroyd (he wasn't played by Desmond Llewelyn in that film either). Fans demanded Llewelyn's return, and he appeared in 11 more Bond films from 1974 to 1999.
With producers and critics afraid that the Bond franchise was dead forever with the absence of Sean Connery a new search begins to see if anyone can fill the shoes of 007. In the end Roger Moore is chosen to play the role in the film that many consider one of the best Bond film. In Live and Let Die Bond must fight two villains Mr. Big and Dr. Kananga of which their relationship is a mystery.
At the United Nations Kananga (Yaphet Kotto) and Solitaire (Jane Seymour) witness the murder of a representative of the United Nations. Meanwhile a MI6 agent is also murdered while on a stack out in New Orleans as well as another in the Caribbean by a voodoo doctor.
Bond attempting to take back control
Back in London Bond is awoken in his home by M (Bernard Lee) and Moneypenny (Lois Maxwell). There Bond is sent to New York to disover why they were murdered and why there seems to be a connection to Dr. Kananga who is the prime minister of the Caribbean island the agent was murdered on. While being driven to his old friend Felix Leiter (David Hedison), who has Kananga under surveillance, Whisper (Earl Jolly Brown) kills Bond’s driver with a secret gun causing Bond to crash. Calling Felix Bond finds out that the car is registered to a Voodoo shop. Once there Bond follows Whisper through a back door into a parking lot where Whisper joins Solitaire and Tee Hee (Julius Harris) down into Harlem and into the bar.
Bond and Tee Hee
In the bar Bond is tricked by a false door and meets Solitaire while waiting for gangster Mr. Big who works for Kananga. There Tee Hee breaks Bond’s PPK with his metal claw and tries his best to flirt with Solitaire. Without a conversation Mr. Big orders Bond to be killed out back. Thankfully Bond is saved by CIA agent Harold Strutter (Lon Satton). Together the discuss why are Mr. Big and Kananga are working together. By car phone Felix informs Bond that Kananga is returning to his Caribean Island where Bond gives chase.
Bond and Rosie
In San Monique, Kananga’s island, Bond meets Rosie Carver (Gloria Hendry) Bond’s San Monique contact after being nearly assassinated by a snake. The next day Bond receives a tarot card from an anonymous source. With Rosie Bond charters a boat from Quarrel Jr. (Roy Stewart) to see the spot that the agent was killed at. In passing Bond discovers the personal home of Solitaire. Meanwhile Solitaire gives Kananga a tarot reading by phone warning him that Bond has arrived. After flipping over The Lovers card for the second time, in referance to Bond, Solitaire lies and says it’s the Death card. With the reading over Kananga orders the death of Bond and reveals that Rosie is a double agent.
Bond in Solitaire's chair
While enjoying a picnic Bond forces Rosie to reveal her true identity as a double agent. After seeing a scarecrow that frightens her Rosie decides to run but is instead shot by one of the scarecrows. That night Bond uses a glider and enters Solitaire’s home. Cheating Bond uses the tarot to convince Solitaire to sleep with her causing her to lose her powers. Fearing for her life Solitaire decides to escape with Bond through the jungle.
The next day while making their way past the scarecrows Bond and Solitaire run into Baron Samedi (Geoffrey Holder) who reports their location to Kananga. After finding Kananga’s poppy fields Kananga orders the death of Bond. After being chased by a helicopter the two of them hijack a double decker bus and are chased by Kananga’s men. They make it to Quarrel Jr.’s boat and fly to New Orleans.
Kananga reveals himself as being Mr. Big
Entering a cab Bond and Solitaire are trapped and taken to an airport to be flown to Mr. Big. Solitaire is taken by the henchmen as Bond escapes and teams back up with Felix. Entering a bar waiting for Strutter to show up Bond is once again is tricked by a trap door and slides right into Mr. Big’s office. There Mr. Big rips off his makes revealing the fact that he is actually Kananga. Kananga reveals his plan to distribute heroin for free driving other criminal family’s out of business and once the number of addicts double Kananga’s personal crop would by worth billions. Kananga continues and tests Solitaire to see whether or not she slept with Bond and lost her powers. When she falls Kananga has Bond taken by Tee Hee.
Tee Hee takes Bond to the heroin lab and alligator farm and leaves him to be eaten by alligators. Bond escapes and blows up the plant and then proceeds to escape again by boat through the swamps of New Orleans.
Back in San Monique Bond attempts to save Solitaire from being sacrificed by Baron Samedi. After throwing Baron Samedi into a coffin full of snakes Bond and Solitaire retreat into Kananga’s secret fortress underneath the voodoo church. There Kananga attempts to feed Bond and Solitaire to the local sharks but again Bond escapes and kills Kananga.
While Solitaire and Bond enjoy their victory on a train Tee Hee shows up and attempts to kill Bond but is thrown out the window. The last shot is Baron Samedi, alive, riding on the front of the train.
Once again producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman were forced to recast the role of James Bond which was still the largest film franchise the world had ever seen. Both Tom Mankiewicz and Guy Hamilton rejoined the crew after Diamonds Are Forever. The decision of which book to adapt was actually given to Mankiewicz who thought that since all of the villains were black it would be a risky move that could pay off since it was during the time of the Black Panthers.
Ross Kananga: Alligator King
While Mankiewicz was writing the script Guy Hamilton visited New Orleans for location scouting. Hamilton was opposed to doing Mardi Gras since something similar was in Thunderball but decided to go with the jazz funerals instead. To justify shooting in New Orleans Hamilton quickly came up with some other plot ideas to shoot in the city such as the boat chase. While scouting the team passed a sign that said “Trespassers will be Eaten” and the team decided to take a look. There they found a crocodile farm ran by Ross Kananga who became the inspiration for the villains name in the film.
For some time Burt Reynolds was the front runner for the title role of which Guy Hamilton agreed. However Broccoli had several points of contention, Burt Reynolds wasn’t over six foot tall nor, and more importantly, he wasn’t British. At one point Mankiewicz even tried to get Sean Connery to return in his iconic role once again but the actor turned it down with a definite, no. Actor Roger Moore was friends with Broccoli and Saltzman long before being cast as James Bond. One day out of the blue Saltzman and Broccoli called Moore up and asked him to be the next James Bond to which the actor agreed. With Moore cast Mankiewicz quickly retooled the script to play to Moore’s strengths.
Even though Moore was confident in playing the role the comparisons between him and Connery couldn’t be ignored. Moore was very scared about saying the famous Bond, James Bond line without imitating Sean Connery. Also in the press releases the animated face was still of Sean Connerys which Moore asked to be changed. Guy Hamilton suggested that many of Bond’s recognizable lines would be cut so that any more comparisons between the actors could be reduced.
For the role of Solitaire Mankiewicz wanted to change the race of the actress to black but instead the producers went with the novel instead and started looking for a caucasian actress. Finishing up a series Jane Seymour was cast for the role almost the instant she entered the audition room with Saltzman.
Julius Harris who plays the part of Tee Hee wasn’t even aware he had the part until Guy Hamilton asked him what kind of weapon would Harris like to have. Harris was tired of seeing henchmen with guns and asked to have something unusual like a hook. Seeing that many of the villains were to be filled with black actors Mankiewicz decided to throw in a white character that would be a comedic punching bag, and so was the creation of Sheriff Pepper played by Clifton James.
Filming the boat chase
Before much of the cast was even set production on the massive boat chase had already began. Even though much of the swamps were over grown with reeds several spots were found that made great places to shoot the chase even though they were situated around peoples homes. Stunt coordinator Jerry Comeaux over saw all the boat stunts on the film and performed many of the boat jumps in the sequence. On October the 16th 1972 the filming on Live and Let Die started with the boat chase. During rehearsals the boat Moore was in ran out of gas at high speed and tossed the actor in the the back seat were he nearly lost his teeth and for a time couldn’t feel his leg.
Harry Saltzman unhappy with the setbacks
With two more accidents on the wedding stunt Guy Hamilton decides to stop filming for the day but when they came back to shoot the bayou had completely flooded and shooting became impossible. Within days Roger Moore is then hospitalized with kidney stones making the cast and crew begin to think that the film is under some kind of voodoo curse.
With Moore out of the hospital the cast and crew moved to Jamaica to shoot on location. Unfortunately the curse seemed to have followed them. One of the motorcycle stuntmen was charged with jumping his bike off a bridge and into the ocean. At that spot much of the rocks and coral were removed to prevent any injury but instead of hitting the spot that was clear the stuntman found the spot that was clear. Thankfully he walked away with minor injuries.
Filming the bus stunts
For the double decker bus stunts the producers hired an actual bus driver form London. When it came to the stunt that was to knock off the top half of the bus the driver became concerned that it would work for he had only seen the top have get only half way sheered off. The driver thought that a certain speed would have to be necessary to actually pull it off which ended up only being about forty miles per hour.
Filming continued on Ross Kananga’s alligator farm. Kananga was a notorious character on set spreading story’s about himself amongst the crew such as that he was part Indian, had a pet lion (that the alligators ate), and was capable of spotting the alligator that killed his father. During shooting Moore came up with the idea to were alligator shoes for the scene. After an alligator almost got Moore he quickly re thought his decision. When it became clear that no other stuntman would perform the stunt to walk on the backs of the alligators Kananga volunteered himself. The alligators were tied down by their legs so that they would move for the stunt however after the first failed attempt the gators knew that Kananga was coming which made it increasingly difficult to perform the stunt. There were only five attempts.
Kananga escaping to safety
Back on Pinewoods Studios the voodoo ritual scenes were filmed at the same time. Much of the cast on screen had a few of snakes. The previous voodoo victim actually fainted once cut was called and the dancer that was handling the snakes was actually bitten. Geoffrey Holder who played Baron Samedi was the most frightened of the snakes and was very reluctant to fall on the coffin full of them. Thankfully members of the royal family visited the set that day and Holder performed the scene.
Opening to a successful box office the producers felt confident in the fact that they had finally discovered their new James Bond. Live and Let Die, for many, is one of the better Bond films in the entire franchise even though some of the racial overtones and over long action sequences deter others from enjoying the film as much.