The Road To Spectre: The Early Moore Years (1973-1974)

With 007's most notorious villainous organisation set to make its return in Spectre later this year, and the James Bond franchise celebrating fifty years in cinema with its last installment Skyfall, Ben has taken the opportunity to take in every Eon Productions Bond film in order, from the series' beginnings in 1962 to the present day. Now pay attention...

'Moore's relatively lighter Bond - an unflappable British gent who can handle himself in a scrap - feels much more comfortably placed to take the secret agent forwards'.

When Roger Moore took over the role of 007 from Sean Connery in 1973, what the Bond franchise needed was both a fresh approach and some stability. Whilst it's debatable how much of either Moore's first film Live And Let Die delivers, it certainly goes all out to take the series in a different direction.

From the start, returning director Guy Hamilton shifts both the focus and attitude away from the "Bond formula", which the series had essentially stuck with from Thunderball onwards. Gone are the megalomaniac plans for world domination, replaced instead by drug baron Mr. Big (Yaphet Kotto) and his ruthless bid to control the international heroin market. Hamilton gives us Bond meets blaxploitation ("Bondsploitation", if you will); an approach which fits more pleasingly during the enjoyable action sequences than it does in the dialogue-based scenes, but that undeniably brings a fresh approach to what was at the time a noticeably tired franchise.

Effortlessly suave from his introductory scene onwards, Moore nonetheless takes most of the film to feel genuinely comfortable as Bond, ultimately managing to satisfyingly settle into his take on the character at some point during the final act. Connery's Bond - a "relic of the Cold War", to steal an apt phrase from a much later film in the series - undeniably seemed at odds with the campier tone the franchise had almost entirely adopted by his final appearance in Diamonds Are Forever. In contrast, Moore's relatively lighter Bond - an unflappable British gent who can handle himself in a scrap - feels much more comfortably placed to take the secret agent forwards.

As commendable and entertaining as Live And Let Die is, however, there are problems littered throughout too frustrating to ignore. The voodoo elements of the story start well, but the plot steadily becomes more and more muddled with regards to whether we're actually meant to believe that magic exists in the world of Bond (case in point: the film's final shot). Live And Let Die also serves up some of the most dissatisfying characters seen in a Bond film before or since, such as CIA Agent Rosie Carver (Gloria Hendry), whose potential to herald progress in the series as a black female operative is squandered through having her demonstrate everything that's wrong with the Bond franchise's antiquated approach to women at this point. Far worse, however, is Sheriff J. W. Pepper (Clifton James), a bigoted Louisiana loudmouth and the series' first attempt - and first total failure - at outright comedy.

Whilst Live And Let Die in the end offers a decidedly mixed start for Moore's 007, The Man With The Golden Gun unfortunately goes one further and delivers the first genuinely bad Bond film. The redeeming features of Hamilton's fourth and final directorial contribution to the series are few and far between, and are mostly by virtue of Christopher Lee's theatrical turn as titular baddie Francisco Scaramanga. The story's concept of having Bond face off against a villain who credibly represents his opposite number also holds potential, even if Hamilton's execution is considerably ill-judged.

The problems, however, start very early on thanks to a script that is lazy, uninspired and shamelessly overladen with exposition. From an intriguing starting point, very little actually happens for a large chunk of the running time, stretching matters out through nonsensical developments such as Bond being held captive at a martial arts school. MI6 operative Mary Goodnight (Britt Ekland) continues the problems raised by Hendry's role in Live And Let Die thanks to her painfully stereotyped "stupid blonde" characterisation, with Ekland putting in a decidedly ropey performance to boot. The icing on the cake? The return of J. W. Pepper, winning the prize for least welcome recurring character in a Bond film, inexplicably holidaying in Bangkok and given more screen time than before, during which he grates at every moment.

It must be said, however, that whilst Moore's opening brace of Bond films arguably takes the franchise to a lower point than ever before, the blame should not be directed towards the leading man. Hamilton's legacy as a Bond director is one that gets consistently worse with each successive feature. Whilst he may be responsible for one of the most commercially and critically successful entries of the series with Goldfinger, the fact that The Man With The Golden Gun would become Hamilton's last Bond film is in hindsight one of the best things to ever happen to the franchise.

Live And Let Die

The Man With The Golden Gun

By Ben Broadribb. Ben is a regular contributor to Film Intel, having previously written at Some Like It Hot Fuzz. He is normally seen in the wild wearing t-shirts containing obscure film references. He is a geek, often unashamedly so. He's also on and Twitter.


  1. While I liked those 2 films. I saw them as transitional films of sorts where I think the creators had a hard time trying to fit Bond in with what was happening in cinema during the 1970s. They tried to make him relevant in these niche-genres where some of it worked but some of it didn't. I think there was a reason for a three-year gap between The Man With the Golden Gun and with The Spy Who Loved Me where it was clear that Cubby Broccoli needed to figure out how to bring Bond into a new decade and make him cool again. Once again, he had to go back to Fleming.

    1. I think you're right. The transition wasn't just from Connery to Moore, but from the '60s to the '70s. I think a key problem with Live And Let Die is that they tried to make Bond fit into the decade a bit too much - making him seem somewhat hip when actually he should be behind the times. There's a line from Goldfinger where Bond says "That's as bad as listening to The Beatles without earmuffs" which shows perfectly how out of touch he is from the time he's living in. That gets lost in these first two films from Moore.

      As I say, I find Live And Let Die commendable in its attempt to shake the series up from its stupor, even if it fails at least as often as it succeeds. Golden Gun is just a poor film in so many ways however, certainly one of the worst of the whole series. I'll leave my thoughts on Moore's third film for my next article though...