Horror Film Review: Live and Let Die (dir. by Guy Hamilton)


I know what you’re going to say before you say it.

“Okay, Lisa,” you sigh, “I hate to tell you this but Live and Let Die is not a horror film.  Live and Let Die is a James Bond film.  In fact, it’s the first one to feature Roger Moore in the role of Bond.  It’s the one where Yaphet Kotto is the guy who’s both a Harlem drug dealer and a world leader and he’s planning on importing all this heroin from Haiti or somewhere and Bond runs off with his Tarot card reader who is played by Jane Seymour, who has mismatched eyes, just like you!”

“Thank you,” I say in my shy little way as my cheeks flush red and my mismatched eyes glance downward.

“However,” you continue, “it’s hardly a horror film.  Live and Let Die is just the James Bond film where they go to Louisiana and end up chasing each other in boats and then Clifton James shows up as this redneck sheriff and its just kinda embarrassing.”

“May I speak now?” I ask as I narrow my multi-colored eyes at you, “Now, to be honest, I’ve only recently started to really watch all of the old school James Bond films from the 60s and the 70s but Live and Let Die is actually one of my favorites, even with Clifton James as Sheriff J.W. Pepper.  I mean, the film’s actually a lot of fun, Yaphet Kotto made a great villain, and even if Roger Moore wasn’t quite as sexy and dangerous as Sean Connery was, at least he wasn’t all stiff and humorless like Daniel Craig.  In fact, I think it could be argued that Live and Let Die was the first — and maybe only — truly Grindhouse James Bond film.  I just find it interesting how the whole film is basically a hybrid of all of the big exploitation genres of 1973.   The scenes in Harlem and really the film’s entire plot is pretty much ripped off from blaxploitation while the voodoo scenes all have this kind of campy, Hammer feel to them.  Even the scenes in Louisiana are an homage to the southern car chase movies that were apparently big at the drive-ins back then.”

“That’s all good and well, Lisa, but how does that make Live and Let Die a horror film?  And don’t say it’s because Felix Leiter is played by David Hedison, the star of the original Fly because–”

“Hold on,” I say, “this is the point where we show the trailer.”

“Okay, Lisa Marie,” you say, “now that you’ve indulged in your bizarre trailer fetish, explain just how exactly this is a horror film and don’t try doing that thing you always do where you link it to some weird-ass thing that happened to you like ten years ago.”

My nostrils flare as I begin, “Ten years ago, me and my family were taking a vacation in voodoo country…”

“Lisa Marie, did you not read the previous paragraph?”

“Oh, sorry.”  I pause in order to get my thoughts straight in my head.  “Well, first off, let’s start with the opening credits.  Now, I’ll be honest here and admit that I’ve always kinda wanted to be one of those girls that are always dancing around naked during the opening credits of all the old school James Bond films–” 

“That’s a shock.”

“–so I always end up paying attention to those opening credits.  I mean, that’s my time to fantasize about being in a James Bond film.  And I have to say, the opening credits of Live and Let Die — Agck!  Seriously, everyone always spends so much time talking about how great the theme song is that they kinda miss just how freaky and nightmarish those opening credits are.  I mean, seriously, when you’re at home alone and you’re watching this in a dark room, these opening credits are genuinely unsettling.  Here, check them out.”

“Okay,” you say, “I can see how the credits might freak you out but that’s just like 2 minutes of a two hour film–”

“Oh my God, I’m so not even done yet!” I snap, “This film isn’t about James Bond fighting drug dealers.  All of that stuff with Yaphet Kotto and the heroin and all that — it’s all just an excuse to get to what the film is truly about: James Bond vs. Baron Samedi, the man who can not die!  As played by Geoffrey Holder, Baron Samedi’s only in a few scenes but he dominates the entire film.  I mean, it’s actually kinda funny because every time Baron Samedi shows up, someone dies but the film comes to life.”

“In fact,” I continue, now pretty much talking to myself, “when Baron Samedi first appears in the film, he’s killing this poor, terrified man by holding a poisonous snake up to the man’s face and oh my God, that scene freaked me out when I first saw it!  In fact, it’s the only scene from a James Bond film that’s ever given me a nightmare.  Even Eva Green drowning in Casino Royale didn’t freak me out as much as that snake scene did and you know I’m a lot more scared of drowning than I am of snakes.  Which is odd since I live in Texas and there’s a lot more snakes around here than large bodies of water…”

“Slow down and breathe, Lisa Marie,” you say, “you’re getting off topic.”

“Right, sorry.  Anyway, it’s a scary scene precisely because Baron Samedi seems to be enjoying killing the man so much.  Then again, it could also be the fact that Baron Samedi had the most evil laugh ever.  Seriously, listen to it in the scene below.”

As you watch the scene, I continue to speak, my words tumbling one after another out of my mouth, “But the scariest Baron Samedi scene isn’t even on YouTube.  Seriously, YouTube sucks.  I hate YouTube.  I mean, you can find a thousand videos of silly people doing that Wii workout game in their underwear but you can’t find the freakiest Baron Samedi scene ever.  Seriously, forget about Occupying Wall Street.  Let’s occupy freaking YouTube and demand–”

“Focus, Lisa.”

“Sorry.  Anyway, the freakiest scene in Live and Let Die and I would dare say the freakiest scene of the entire James Bond series, comes towards the end of the film.  Baron Samedi pops up out of this grave and James Bond like shoots him and blows off half his forehead, right?  And Baron Samedi just stand there perfectly still and emotionless.  Then, his eyes slowly roll upward and stare up at where his forehead used to be.  So, Bond shoots him like three more times and Baron Samedi just collapses like a rag doll.  And then, suddenly, Baron Samedi — forehead intact — pops out of another grave and does that evil laugh of his!  Oh.  My.  God!  It is so freaky!  I was watching it and I was just like…AGCK!

“And that,” I conclude, “is why Live and Let Die is a horror film.”

However, now that I’m finished, you don’t reply.  I look up and I see that you’re gone.

And in your place…

18 responses to “Horror Film Review: Live and Let Die (dir. by Guy Hamilton)

  1. Live and Let Die is actually one of my favorite Bond films outside of the Connery ones. I will agree with you on how this particular entry in the Bond series has a major grindhouse feel to it.

    Whether it’s horror will depend on how people react to Baron Samedi. I was young when I first saw this film and every scene he was in was the one’s where I hid behind my hands.

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  2. I have to agree with Arleigh on this. Geoffrey Holder was pretty creepy in this. Part of me hoped they would consider having him show up now and then in other films (much like Jaws), but maybe one film was enough. I’ve always loved the theme song to this one, too.

    Great Horror pick, very unexpected and imaginative! 🙂

    Like

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  5. The most disconcerting scene in the film is the funeral march at the beginning. Many years before I watched the film in its entirety, I recall seeing the funeral march scene on television (not even knowing what the film was). I was absolutely horrified. There’s something really disturbing about the sinister dressed up as the festive.

    As for Mr Geoffrey Holder, he has the greatest profile photograph on IMDB.

    Ever.

    http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0390305/

    As long as I’m here, I think that the late Julius W. Harris deserves a mention for his role as Tee-Hee. Harris appeared in numerous blaxploitation films around the time that he appeared in “Live and Let Die”. They even made a Tee-Hee doll!

    Throw in Yaphet Kotto as Mr.Big–you can’t go past that trifecta of villains. What a great film!

    Like

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  10. I loved reading this review. You’ve got a genuine humor and wit that most online movie reviewers as 90% of them think that they are waaaay funnier than they actually are.

    We already know this is the Blaxploitation Bond Movie but you make an intriguing and excellent case for this being a Grindhouse Movie as well. Extra points.

    The only real problem I have with this movie? There should have been more of an effort on the part of the makeup people, the screenwriters and Yaphet Kotto himself to convince us that Mr. Big is actually a different person from Dr. Kananga. When Mr. Big rips off his face to reveal Dr. Kananga it should be a “Holy shit!” moment but it ain’t because we’ve figured out long before then they’re the same guy.

    And if you ever meet my wife Patricia get her to tell you the story about when Geoffrey Holder helped her catch a cab in midtown Manhattan during a torrential downpour. It’s a charming story.

    Like

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