Sunday, 11 January 2015

Sources of Inspiration | Live and Let Die

Johnson: There are two ways to disable a crocodile, you know.
Bond: I don't suppose you'd care to share that information with me?
Johnson: One way is to jam a pencil in the depression hole behind his eyes.
Bond: And the other?
Johnson: The other's twice as simple. You just put your hand in his mouth and pull his teeth out.

There's nothing people like more than someone quoting lines from a movie before they're said on screen. When I do it, I can tell from the stern frowns and the shaking heads that everyone is glad I did.

I don't know why, some films just stick in my mind. And not just the odd quote, the entire movie, almost from beginning to end.

It's hard to imagine that something you can remember that well doesn't have an influence on you.

Live and Let Die is one of those films. Although short of knowing how to disable a crocodile, I'm really not sure how.

Not only is it a memorable film for me, it's also one of the best Bond movies of all time - up there with Goldeneye, The Living Daylights, and From Russia With Love. And, it achieves this with Roger Moore as Bond. Unbelievable.

Why is it so good?

Well, you have the exotic locations - New York, New Orleans, the Louisiana Swamps, and the Caribbean. You have the ingenious ways to try and kill Bond - a snake in the bath, a murdered limo driver, the shark. You have the use of overblown stereotypes - a Louisiana hick, a Harlem pimp, a Caribbean voodoo curse.

Then, of course, you have the standard James Bond fashion parade. Well-tailored suits, perhaps a little too long in the collar, and the black turtleneck for sneaking about in.

And, let's not forget the bad guys underground base, built under a haunted Caribbean graveyard, with a submarine ready to ship heroin to the States. Standard.

All this, just to dominate the American drugs trade. The guy already owns a Caribbean island, has a seat on the UN, and owns a chain of restaurants. What more does he want?!

There are a host of other personal favourites in the movie. Those, for whatever reason, have left their line-grabbing imprint on me.

“Hey man, for twenty bucks I'd take you to a Ku Klux Klan cookout!”

First up, the Harlem Taxi Driver. This guy takes Bond to his (supposed) death twice, once in Harlem and once in New Orleans. Those sideburns, that taxi. Classic.

“I once had a nasty turn in a booth”

The Fillet of Soul restaurants, that Dr. Kananga plans to offer up free heroin through, serve up live music, pool, and burger and fries for under a dollar. Puts the likes of Byron to shame.

“Lesson number four: Follow the scarecrows”

If I ever visit the Caribbean, I will never trust a scarecrow with a coconut for a head. CCTV for eyes, a pistol in it’s mouth - pure evil genius.

“You picked the wrong parish to haul ass through, boy. Nobody cuts and runs on Sheriff JW Pepper. And that's him speakin' that, by the bye!”

Just like the CIA’s Jack Wade, here’s a character so ‘good’ they used him twice. A fat ball of Deep South stereotypes. A clueless, klutz of a racist, who spits tobacco, and shoots rabid dogs in his spare time, his brother-in-law Billy Bob owns the fastest boat on the river. That said, he does manage to catch up with Bond where the bad-guys fail.

“My regards to Baron Samedi, man - right between the eyes”

A genuine spirit of voodoo, Baron Samedi is a top-hat wearing, cane-carrying, nine-foot tall man who appears to ceremonially kill the enemies of Dr. Kananga, and can also be found playing the flute in the local graveyard.

Even after Bond kills him - with extreme ease, involving a sword fight and a coffin full of snakes - the ending makes it clear that he’s not entirely dead. Perhaps because Bond didn’t take the advice of the man who shares his hairbrush, Quarrel Junior.

Each of these scenes, each of these lines, and more, stay with me - for good or bad. Taxis in New York, coconuts, and soul food restaurants just wouldn’t spark the same thoughts each and every time I see them.

It's something I can’t undo and this, along with all the other films I can remember line-after-line from, has to alter my outlook on life, my perception of sights, sounds, and events, and the reason I do what I do.

If only my parents could have sat me in front of concertos, discussion on advanced mathematics, or the plays of Shakespeare. Who knows where I would have ended up! Probably sneaking off halfway through to watch endless repeats of James Bond movies and Simpsons episodes, so I doubt anything would have changed.

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