IT'S THE ONE WHERE
James Bond looks different. Again.
The deaths of three agents put Bond on the trail of a nasty, heroin dealing, leader of a small Caribbean island. So he heads to Harlem, New York and New Orleans to investigate. Of course Bond also flirts with Moneypenny, the secretary, he nails every broad with a pulse, including his first black woman, played by Gloria Hendry, a fresh-faced Jane Seymour, and an adorable tiny Italian thing.
There's a speed boat chase, Bond has a magnetic watch that can deflect bullets (which is not possible, according to Mythbusters), and we get the first title song that's actually any good.
THE SECRET PLOT TO RULE THE WORLD AWARD GOES TO...
Pimp-looking drug baron Kananga who thinks that giving away a lot of free heroin will somehow put everyone else out of business, allowing him to take over the entire North-American market. He's assisted by a smiling pimp-looking henchman with an iron claw, several regular pimp-looking henchmen, and the entire population of Harlem. In fact every black pimp-looking person in sight seems to work for him.
So Roger Moore takes over the iconic role of James Bond. How do we feel about that? We hate it.
Moore was 46 when the film came out, and he looks it. He's clearly seen better days, and it's more than a little creepy when he jumps into bed with one young beauty after another. The problem isn't all the things the filmmakers have done to make Moore different than Connery - and they've done quite a few - the problem is all the things that make him seem like a butler, rather than a secret agent. God, he just looks so damn British!
A man's got to know his limitations, so when this stiff Brit stumbles into Harlem and - wait for it - doesn't blend in, he can't be surprised! He just can't. It makes him seem like an idiot. Bond is so far out of his element here that he couldn't look more ridiculous, even if he tried. Of course the bad guys immediately catch him! Why wouldn't they? He's the only white guy in a ten block radius! Unsurprisingly Bond is once again nearly killed several times, and once again only escapes due to sheer luck. Why didn't they change THAT part of the story?
Then there's the plot. Heroin dealing in America is hardly a job for Her Majesty's Secret Service. They justify it by including the deaths of a few British agents, but it just doesn't sit right. On top of that we're dealing with Voodoo, and superstitious nonsense like Tarot cards, which is just not worthy of Bond. Don't get me wrong, Voodoo can be extremely scary, but the way they treat it here, just makes it seem like a joke. Oh, look what the simple-minded black folks believe in, isn't that cute?
Maybe I'm reading too much into this, but the film in general just seems extremely racist to me. It could just be the fact that every black person in sight dresses like a pimp, and they are ALL involved in drug-dealing.
In the later years inventive action-sequences, with a touch of humor, became a staple of the Bond franchise. That seems to start here. At one point Bond attempts to escape a bunch of pimp-looking henchmen by stealing a small plane, but of course he doesn't just fly away, oh no! He drives around the airport, disabling the cars one by one. The sequence could have worked if the simple solution wasn't so obvious... Get the hell out of Dodge, you're on a freakin' plane, genius! Later we get a speed boat chase. That might have worked too, but for some reason we leave Bond during this chase, to follow a bunch of clumsy, racist, redneck cops, as they struggle to catch up with the boats. An odd choice, and a scene more fitting for Cannonball Run. The sequence is also too long, it just becomes boring by the end.
When the biggest drama in a cool action movie with a secret agent is a moment when our hero is almost bitten by a very small snake, you're in trouble. If the course charted by this film is anything to go by, the continued adventures of James Bond, by way of Roger Moore, will be a world of hurt. For the viewers that is.