The Man With The Golden Gun (1974 United Artists)

 

This is another 007 adventure which gets trashed by many critics. Perhaps because it’s subdued in tone, possibly abnormally so for a Bond movie. As if the film itself is depressed. Well, in 1974 the world was in a depressed state–because of the energy crisis, which M and Bond remind us of in one of their dialogue exchanges. The vibe surrounding here is the most peculiar of them all: it’s very Asiatic/kung-fu in tone, and very downbeat. It’s definitely no extravaganza like, say, The Living Daylights, but an attentive viewing of the Man With The Golden Gun should prove very rewarding. This is the last of the ‘old-fashioned’ Bond films.

It just doesn’t follow the formula like other Bond films. There are no gadgets here, Q appears to only give information, and the ending is not as spectacular as other Bond flicks or some characters (the sheriff) might seem trite but of all other 007 adventures, this is the most down to earth one. I love the fact that there’s no huge battle at the climax or ridiculous gadgets (eg. the invisible car in Die Another Day). This a Bond adventure that can actually be described as being almost believable, which is no mean feat. What’s remarkable about Golden Gun is the cinematography. The composition, the natural colours, the realism of it all is clear and beautiful. But it’s also not as super-slick as other Bond product made before or after this one. It’s an odd thing to cite beautiful cinematography for such a commercial project as this one. The most stunning scenes are at the end, when Bond flies to Scaramanga’s secret base.

The other great thing about Golden Gun is casting Christopher Lee as Scaramanga. It’s his best role/performance ever. And he’s the best villain in any 007 film. Scaramanga is a real character, not a cartoon villain like 90% of Bond villains. The fact that the story is about two men going mano a mano is also a nice change from the tired “villain who wants to dominate the world” plot line. Casting Lee as Scaramanga was a stroke of genius. He’s what makes The Man With The Golden Gun so memorable. Lastly, the other memorable element is John Barry’s score. It’s one of his most evocative for a James Bond film. When I hear it, I can’t get it out of my mind. As Bond girls, Britt Ekland and Maud Adams are absolutely gorgeous. Though Adams’ acting can be described as stiff, she’s one of the classiest and is the saddest Bond girl ever (her actions propel the story) while Ekland is funny as the ditsy operative.

For me, the sexy belly dancer was most beguiling, Carmen Du Sautoy. The film’s biggest weak points are: the script, which is sorely underwritten in some spots; the re-introduction of JW Pepper character, which even if he’s quite funny here, is just too improbable; and the blatant AMC product placement. The last two points almost make Golden Gun “jump the shark” but after the excellent climax, all is forgiven. But the big glaring mistake, and probably the main reason why so many Bond fans don’t like this film, is the fact that Bond doesn’t appear before the opening credits. No kick-ass intro action scene with Bond in a jet-pack or falling out of plane without a parachute that sets the tone for the rest of the film. I have to admit that the film seems to be missing something because of that. Its almost too quiet. Quite impersonal.

Even so, there are still many other reasons why The Man With The Golden Gun is one of my top five Bonds : the entire karate school scene, which is the high point of the film; the arena scene (excellent direction there); the whole 1970s look (I can even breathe in the seediness); a confident Roger Moore– who gives his best performance as 007 and says some of the funniest one liners of the series with impeccable timing. And let’s not forget about Herve Villechaize as Nick Nack. He almost steals every scene he’s in, which is either good or bad, depending on how you like him. In closing, The Man With The Golden Gun has just the right balance of seriousness, action, acting, exotic locations and humour. Postscript: its a pity that the car stunt was spoiled by a cheesy sound effect but such is life! And the less said about the crappy theme ‘tune’, (it must be the worst in the series) vomited up by Lulu, the better. 🙂

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Comments

  1. Couldn’t agree with you more on Christopher Lee, Scaramanga is easily my fave Bond villain too!

    Liked by 1 person

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