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Bond Pretitle Sequences: Live and Let Die

Simon Pitt | Film | Wednesday 7th August 2013

I’m watching all of the Bond pre-credit teasers one after another.

All the Bonds. All the Gun Barrels. All the action. Well, the first five seconds of it.
Live and Let Die

When I was little, I didn’t realise that films had plots. I remember this quite vividly. I knew they had a theme, and a limited set of characters, but I didn’t realise that there was a continuing narrative throughout them. But then I didn’t know how to tie my shoelaces either, so maybe that’s not so surprising.

Watching Live and Let Die, I’m beginning to wonder if my five-year-old self wasn’t on to something. The opening sequence is a collection of three seemingly unconnected vignettes. None of which feature Bond or provide any hint of a link between them together.

In the first, a boring looking Hungarian is addressing the United Nations. Everyone looks riveted. In particular, the United Kingdom representative, who seems to have gone to sleep. He also has a spare chair beside him; so either there’s a really small person sitting there or his colleagues haven’t even bothered to turn up.

Wednesday, 4th March. Had pie for lunch then a nap. When I woke up, MI6 had sent a spy to kill a load of people

Up in the translation booth, someone unplugs his headphone input, and plugs in a bomb detonator. Somehow, this plays a sound so loud it kills the UK representative. I’m not sure I really understand this. That’s not how headphones work.

It’s a strange way to kill someone, too. After all, surely the man in the translation booth would see a sinister figure behind him, messing about with the headphone input at exactly the same time the UK representative died, clawing at his headphones?

Strangely, no one reacts to his death. They probably think he’s nodded off. From what we hear of the speech, it wasn’t very good. Or perhaps they’re suffering from the bystander effect like the witnesses of the murder of Kitty Genovese in 1964, just nine years earlier.

The guy nearest the camera looks like he's biting his lip to stop himself laughing

We cut to New Orleans, where a suited man is watching the Fillet of Soul. The Olympia Brass Band is playing “Just a Closer Walk with Thee” (Trivia fans, take note. That would be a good question for an impossibly difficult Bond-themed pub quiz). “Who’s funeral is it?” Agent Hamilton asks the sinister man who sidles up to him. “Yours,” he says, and stabs him. The coffin drops down onto him and picks him up. I’ve always wondered how that works. I mean, where does the body go? Interestingly, there’s an overly-detailed interview with Robert Dix, who plays Hamilton, and explains that there were bars inside the coffin which he grabbed onto. You’re really beginning to scrape the bottom of the interview barrel when you spend five minutes talking to someone who’s only in the film for ten seconds.

With Hamilton holding on, the trumpeter sounds the start of the more lively “Joe Avery’s Piece” and the mourners start dancing.

One man is literally jumping for joy. Literally. Jumping. Can you believe that?

It’s a memorable sequence. I’d largely forgotten about the strange audio murder, but this one stayed with me. In fact, the first time I saw it, I remember my mum coming into the room and saying, “Oh this is a good bit.”

I can’t help thinking, though, that it’s an unnecessarily convoluted way of killing someone. I mean, that’s a lot of conspirators. I criticised Blofeld in For Your Eyes Only for telling the vicar his plan, but I take that back. He was positively cryptic compared to this lot.

As I’m watching this sequence, I’m also a bit worried. Is this racist? Is it suggesting that this entire black community is a bunch of murderous criminals? Even their grieving widows are accessories. There’s a protracted sequence where we see everyone dancing, and the director goes to length to show us a whole community in on the murder, from children to grandmas.

Finally, we come to the third act. The Live and Let Die pre-title sequence does, at least, follow the time honoured tradition of the splitting the sequence into three parts. In this final section, we cut to the fictional island of San Monique. Finally, there is a hint of a plot here; we saw the representatives of San Monique at the United Nations, pointedly not helping the UK diplomat.

What we don't realise is the man really likes snakes, he's just scared of goats

A tribal ritual thing is going on, with a white man tied to a pole. The snake bites him and we crash into the titles. Overall, it’s four and a half incomprehensible minutes.

Interestingly, it’s the only pre-title sequence that makes no reference to Bond at all. Although Bond doesn’t appear in The Man With the Golden Gun, there’s at least a statue of him. Here, we could be watching any film.

This is Roger Moore’s first outing as Bond, and it’s strange not to have a dramatic Bond reveal in the pre-credit shot. In fact, we meander into Bond immediately after the credits when M wakes Bond up at this flat. It’s a pathetic introduction to Bond, as he tries to hide the fact he has a woman in his flat. It’s like his dad has come into his room and he’s trying to hide his dirty magazines. Bond’s a grown man, for Christ’s sake. He makes a sloppy cup of coffee too; it goes all over the saucer.

Sort it out Bond, this is pathetic

We learn after the title sequence that the three men are British agents. When we heard him, though, Agent Hamilton sounded Canadian. Actually, more accurately, he sounded like Scott Tracy from Thunderbirds. The reason he sounds like Scott Tracy is because, although uncredited, he is Scott Tracy. I was disproportionately excited when I discovered that my ears hadn’t deceived me. Shane Rimmer (the voice of Scott) was also in Diamonds are Forever, You Only Live Twice and played Commander Carter in The Spy Who Loved Me. I think he may hold the record for the most different roles in Bond films.

In a five-minute interview with Richard Nix (as the face of the man who is stabbed) about his role he doesn’t mention this. He’s only on screen for a few seconds, so would wouldn’t think he’d run out of things to talk about. It’s a strange bit of dubbing. If Hamilton is meant to be a British agent, you wouldn’t think the director would redub his American accent with a Canadian one. It doesn’t make much sense to me.

I know how you feel, Hamilton

As with The Man with the Golden Gun, this sequence sets up some sequences that we come across again later on in the film. When we see The Olympia Brass Band again, we know what is coming. Similarly, when the snake handler returns for another sacrifice, again, we know this has all panned out before.

The Live and Let Die title sequence, like The Man With the Golden Gun, continues the trend we’ve seen in the last few films of being a prologue, introducing key plot points. We see hints of this in The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker as well, although both of those only briefly cover plot points, before introducing Bond. Interestingly, it took For Your Eyes Only, an absolutely awful Bond opening sequence, entirely unrelated to anything except Broccoli’s vindictiveness, to lead to reinvention of the opening section. Since then, all films have just been an action packed introduction to Bond, with no reference to the central plot, except in passing.

Although I mocked The Olympia Brass Band segment, and remain a bit worried that it’s massively racist (along with the whole film, with its Blaxploitation archetypes and “pimpmobiles”) it is a stylish and memorable sequence. The over the top method of assassination is another theme of Bond, like the “three blind men” of Dr No, or Oddjob’s bowler hat. It’s artistic and extravagant, in a way that Bond films often are.

Name Rank and Number I think he got the Point Do all those vodka martinis silence the screams of all the men you've killed? Listen Carefully 007 Perfect for relaxing after a hard day at the office SP will return


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