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review added: 9/21/99



Live and Let Die

review by Bill Hunt, editor of The Digital Bits

The James Bond Special Edition DVD Collection


Live and Let Die: Special Edition

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs
Live and Let Die: Special Edition
1973 (1999) - MGM/UA

Film Rating: C+

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): C+/B-/A+

Specs and Features:

121 mins, PG, letterboxed widescreen (1.66:1), 16x9 enhanced, single-sided, RSDL dual-layered (layer switch at 1:30:20, in chapter 35), Amaray keep case packaging, 2 audio commentaries (one with director Guy Hamilton & others, and one with writer Tom Manckiewicz & others), On the Set with Roger Moore featurettes (The Funeral Parade & Hang Gliding), The Making of Live and Let Die documentary, still gallery, 2 theatrical trailers, 2 TV spots, 2 radio spots, UK Milk Board commercial, Tomorrow Never Dies Sony Playstation game trailer, booklet, "computer interface" style animated film-themed menu screens with sound and music, scene access (48 chapters), languages: English (DD 2.0) and French (DD 2.0), subtitles: English and French, Close Captioned

Live and Let Die was Roger Moore's first run at the role of 007, and it's surprisingly good fun, in a glib, campy sort of way. I've never been a big fan of Moore as Bond (loved him as The Saint though - go figure), but he's okay here, if only for the fact that he doesn't look like an old man yet (anyone remember Ffolkes? Yikes!). As a Bond film, this one pales in comparison to the rest of the series, but it's still worth a look.

This time around, 007 finds himself on the trail of a megalomaniac named Dr. Kananga (played by Yaphet Kotto, who also appears as Mr. Big - Kotto's the best reason to watch this film). Kananga deals heroin to the world from his Caribbean island empire, and Bond is sent after him when a trio of British agents mysteriously bite the dust while investigating the drug trade. When 007 arrives in New York and tries to enlist the help of his old friend Felix Leiter (David Hedison), an attempt is made on his own life. The clues eventually lead him from the streets of Harlem, to San Monique, to New Orleans (and the bayous of Louisiana), in search of his would be assassin. Along the way, he crosses paths with Kananga's thugs, a redneck Sheriff named Pepper (Clifton James), and of course, still manages to entice a female CIA agent (played by Gloria Hendry). All the while, he's being tracked by the mysterious Solitaire (Dr. Quinn's Jane Seymour, in her first film appearance), a priestess of Tarot in Kananga's employ (gee - I wonder if Bond sleeps with her?). Some solid (if overlong) action sequences and a couple of good laughs can't quite save this film. And "Q" has nothing new for you here - he doesn't make an appearance. But like I said, it's still worth a watch, as Moore's first turn in the part of our favorite secret agent.

Live and Let Die has never been released on DVD before, and this new special edition disc is welcome indeed for its extras, if not quite for its video and audio quality. The disc presents the film in anamorphic widescreen, which would be great if it looked better. The print used for this transfer seems to be of lesser quality - it shows some very coarse grain (more than one would expect, but I can live with it). And it exhibits tons of dust flecks and other debris (which I have more trouble with - a simple cleaning of the film might have done this transfer wonders). There are also lots of scratches on the emulsion, which show up as tiny white spots in the picture. And, of course, edge enhancement abounds. Still there's good news - the print is entirely watchable, once you get used to it, and the color and contrast are both excellent. This could have looked better... but it could look a lot worse too.

The Dolby Digital audio is also somewhat disappointing - it's only 2.0 (French 2.0 is also included). For stereo audio, the sound here is adequate. It's a bit tinny from time to time, and is overall lacking in bass, but the dialogue and music are clear and well-mixed. Again, it could have been better, but it's okay once you get used to it.

The special edition materials on this DVD are what really makes it worth a look - the disc is packed with extras. You get a pair of audio commentary tracks, featuring director Guy Hamilton, screenwriter Tom Manckiewicz, and others. There's a still gallery with tons of photos, artwork, press materials and the like. A 30-minute documentary, The Making of Live and Let Die, takes you behind-the-scenes with the cast and crew (and it's narrated by Patrick Macnee of The Avengers fame). You get a pair of featurettes On the Set with Roger Moore, which show the actor at work on the funeral parade and hang gliding scenes (notice Moore's "deer-in-headlights" expression as he prepares to take to the sky in the glider - funny!). There's also the Tomorrow Never Dies Playstation game trailer, 2 theatrical trailers, 2 TV spots, 2 radio spots, and a booklet. But my favorite extra is a funny commercial spot for the UK Milk Board, which shows cast and crew chugging frothy glasses of milk while shooting the speed boat stunt - it's definitely good for a laugh. And of course, you get those amazing animated menu screens, courtesy of 1K Studios (click here for a sneak peak). They feature flaming skulls, sultry female silhouettes, and a nifty computer interface menu, which gets you into all the good stuff on the disc - you just have to see them to understand how cool they are. 1K definitely deserves some major kudos here.

As with the other new Bond DVDs, the Live and Let Die: Special Edition streets on 10/19, and will be available by itself (SRP $34.98), or in the new James Bond DVD Gift Set (SRP $199.98) . The film certainly isn't the best of 007, nor is it the best of Roger Moore. But the extras definitely make this DVD worth owning, especially if you're a Bond fan. Enough said.

Bill Hunt
billhunt@thedigitalbits.com

A look at 1K Studio's animated menus for Live and Let Die...
Live and Let Die menu animation

Live and Let Die menu animation

Live and Let Die menu animation


The James Bond Special Edition DVD Collection

Live and Let Die: Special Edition


The James Bond DVD Collection, Volume One


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