Welcome to my review of The Man With The Golden Gun, the ninth part of my challenge to review all of the James Bond films. I’m watching each film in turn and trying to figure out which one is my favourite. For more information, see my introduction here. You can read my review of the previous film, Live And Let Die, here. Spoilers follow.
The Man With The Golden Gun
(dir. Guy Hamilton, 1974)
I was pleasantly surprised by Live And Let Die. After spending years disliking Roger Moore as James Bond, I was relieved to see that many of my fears were unfounded. Yes he was a bit of a camp Bond, yes he was a bit more nudge-nudge-wink-wink than Connery. But the film, flaws and all, was good. I started looking forward to the rest of the Moore films a bit; maybe they weren’t as bad as I remembered!
The Man With The Golden Gun is not as bad as I remembered, but it’s definitely not the best in the series.
This is not Roger Moore’s fault, funnily enough. He’s actually playing a rougher Bond than he did in Live And Let Die; he has moments where you can see the edge of a man who knows he has a target painted on his back. Even the ladies get to see a Bond more akin to Connery: Andrea Anders (Maud Adams) nearly has her arm broken by 007, while Goodnight (Britt Ekland) is forced to spend a night in a wardrobe while Bond sleeps with Andrea later in the film. Moore in this film doesn’t play a likeable Bond, but an understandable Bond. He plays James Bond the Bastard.
The film isn’t let down by its villain or plot, either. Christopher Lee brings years of playing the ultimate bad guy to his role as Scaramanga, a hitman with an inferiority complex. He’s a bastard too, and one of the best moments of the film is the one where he points out to Bond that the only difference between them is their pay grade.
There’s some business with solar power in the story, which is largely an excuse for Scaramanga to have a big solar-powered laser in his island fortress. But mostly the story is about Bond hunting Scaramanga. This is because Bond is not being hunted by Scaramanga, initially at least. Scaramanga knows who Bond is, and expresses an interest in killing Bond in the pre-credits sequence (he has a Bond waxwork, which is very fortunate for Bond in the climax), but he’s not looking for Bond when the film starts. It’s a decent plot, as they go.
The problem is that the plot is padded out. Bond doesn’t immediately chase Scaramanga; he goes to find a golden bullet that killed fellow agent 002, even though he already has a golden bullet in his possession. Scaramanga’s partner-in-crime, Hai Fat, refuses to kill Bond immediately, instead putting Bond in a martial arts school so that he can be beaten up (and then escape, of course). I’m counting any scene with Goodnight as needless padding, as she’s so annoying that I wondered why this new Bastard Bond didn’t just put a bullet in her head (in particular at the end of the film, where she nearly gets Bond killed several times). In fact, if not for Goodnight (who we’re told is actually a British agent!), the film would have ended about an hour early with a resounding success for 007’s detective skills. She’s that incompetent.
The action of the film feels weaker as well, because I think it’s meant to be funnier (in contrast to Bond’s darker attitude). Bond is rescued from the aforementioned martial arts skill by two schoolgirls, which is fun but a mite dissatisfying. Scaramanga and Bond’s final fight is plain weird and somehow manages to be simultaneously drawn out and over too soon. Finally, Bond has a fist fight with Nick Nack, Scaramanga’s dwarf henchman at the end of the film. I think it’s meant to be played for laughs. It’s not funny.
Speaking of humour, I mentioned in my review for Live And Let Die a hick sheriff who annoyed me; he’s inexplicably back in The Man With The Golden Gun, despite this film being set in Thailand (at least, I think it’s in Thailand, because I swear Bond travels between Hong Kong, Japan and Thailand without actually moving), and this time someone thought it necessary to give him an expanded role. This is symptomatic of all the humour in the film. It’s brasher and more stupid, and mostly forced.
Here’s an example of the humour that also serves to illustrate my lasting impression of the whole film: the very impressive car stunt, which involves a 360 degree sideways roll as the car leaps over a broken bridge. It was the first film stunt to be modelled on a computer. It’s brilliant. And someone added a sodding slide whistle to it.
Title song: Lulu’s The Man With The Golden Gun is not the best song in the franchise, although the number of double entendres in the lyrics make it worth a listen. Still, not as bad as the version sung by Alice Cooper, which was apparently the second choice.
Greatest moment: The car stunt, if you have the volume turned all the way down. Otherwise, possibly the moment where Bond threatens a gun manufacturer by pointing a rifle at the man’s crotch—or, more specifically, one inch below his crotch.
Worst moment: The car stunt, if you have the volume turned up. Otherwise, every scene with Goodnight in it. Honestly.
Best gadget: Q’s back in the film, but he doesn’t give Bond any gadgets at all. However, Scaramanga’s golden gun—made out of a cufflink, a pen, a lighter and a cigarette case—is one of the best gadgets in the series so far, and (much like the gold painted girl in Goldfinger) has deservedly become an icon of the franchise.
James Bond: Who’d want to put a contract on me?
M: Jealous husbands, outraged chefs, humiliated tailors; the list is endless.
Most obvious product placement: Two products get a mention here: Tabasco sauce, whose product is mentioned in the very first line of the film, and the American Motor Company, who apparently had a very large showroom in Thailand, and whose cars are so successful that everyone in the country appear to driving them—especially Bond.
Verdict: I didn’t hate The Man With The Golden Gun. It was a fun film, although I can’t recommend it nearly as much as Live And Let Die. I struggled to rate it alongside You Only Live Twice, Bond’s other oriental adventure. Marginally, despite the virtues of Christopher Lee, the golden gun, Roger Moore being actually quite good, and no one painting Bond orange at any point, it loses: blame it on the hick sheriff and the bloody slide whistle.
- On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (dir. Peter Hunt, 1969)
- From Russia With Love (dir. Terence Young, 1963)
- Goldfinger (dir. Guy Hamilton, 1964)
- Live And Let Die (dir. Guy Hamilton, 1973)
- Dr No (dir. Terence Young, 1962)
- You Only Live Twice (dir. Lewis Gilbert, 1967)
- The Man With The Golden Gun (dir. Guy Hamilton, 1974)
- Thunderball (dir. Terence Young, 1965)
- Diamonds Are Forever (dir. Guy Hamilton, 1971)
I’m looking forward to the next film, The Spy Who Loved Me, as several people have made the mistake of telling me that it’s one of Moore’s better entries to the franchise. Catch me next time to see if they’re right!