After several British agents disappear, presumed dead, James Bond travels from New York to the Caribbean on the trail of a mysterious drug lord known as Mr. Big. His first port of call is the small island owned by Dr. Katanga, and home the beautiful Tarot reader Solitaire.
After the debacle that was George Lazenby, and the hasty and expensive re-employment of Sean Connery for Diamonds Are Forever, this was a real test as to whether the franchise could ever cope with a new Bond. The pressure was on to get off to a flyer or Roger Moore, a handsome TV actor more debonair than versatile, would end up just as swiftly on the refuse pile and a new toupee would have to be ordered for the ageing Connery.
Putting Guy Hamilton back in the director’s chair was a sound move, he had made Goldfinger, the most assured and dynamic of all 007 movies, and with a direct and fine-tuned script from old-hand Tom Mankiewicz, they did what they had to do — hit the ground running. This is good quality Bond, managing to reinterpret the classic moves — action, deduction, seduction — for a more modern idiom without breaking the mould. The film, with its rich Caribbean locations and crazy-spooky asides, manages to be more playful than before — Moore’s chosen approach — without tipping into the painful parody of his later films. On one side we get the use of alligators as stepping stones and the pompous puffball of rootin’ tootin’ Sherriff Pepper, caught up in the thrilling boat chase. On the other, the genuine aura of threat through weird voodoo henchman Tee Hee, and the leaning toward — what’s this? — realism in Mr. Big’s plot to take over the drug trade from the Mafia.
Naturally, there’s much of the regular Bondian kerfuffle — a stoney faced M, an irascible Q, the gadgets and Jane Seymour as one of the more memorable lady loves Solitaire — but delivered with a lighter touch. It can’t quite muster an explosive third act to match previous jaunts, but Moore had got his feet under the table.
A modernised Bond is dragged kicking and screaming into the 70s