The Man with the Golden Gun is a difficult one for me. I think over the years I’ve learnt to appreciate the film (expect for Lulu’s Bond theme) but you can tell this film was in transition.
I love Roger Moore. I grew up on him as Bond. But in The Man with the Golden Gun, you can tell he hasn’t settled into making Bond his own.
What kind of Bond was he supposed to be? Moore is naturally a charmer, yet he had traits that were comparable to Connery’s Bond, who could charm and act deadly in one swift move. Clearly Moore wasn’t comfortable with a tough Bond (or at least a Connery Bond). To this day, he still reacts in horror when he pushed a young Thai boy off a boat in one scene. Why does he react in this way? It’s because Roger Moore’s other day job other than Bond is a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador. I know it feels like double standards, but don’t worry Sir Roger Moore, we forgive you 🙂 . How could we not!
Behind the scenes, cracks were appearing, in particular with the producers, Saltzman and Broccoli. They were united during the 60s when they started. But this was the 70s and Bond clearly needed redefining for the new decade. They both had different opinions whether Roger Moore should play Bond (Broccoli more apprehensive than Saltzman) and what direction the Bond franchise should take. In the end, Saltzman parted ways with Broccoli after The Man with the Golden Gun. His other interests besides Bond landed him in financial trouble. He filed for bankruptcy and sold his shares of Bond to United Artists.
The concept of The Man with the Golden Gun is not bad, certainly a lot better than I remembered when I watched it for the first time many years ago. Bond is targeted by a man called Scaramanga. He has a golden gun, he’s a gun for hire and he never misses his target. He also has three nipples! Not that having three nipples is important but the way the film highlights it as if Scaramanga is an abomination. But it is halfway through the film where the decent concept is replaced with stupidity and jokes that take away from the overall story; Bond in a ninja suit fighting off sumo guys, Kung Fu girls to the rescue, flying cars, the redneck sheriff from Live and Let Die – all these feel like an unnecessary distraction rather than enhancing to the overall plot. However, I absolutely love the bridge jump. It has to go down as one of the best James Bond stunts. Yet, despite saying that, was that whistle noise necessary?
Britt Eckland (Goodnight) – bless her but her performance is not one of my favourite Bond girls. Maybe in my mind I have this idea where the Bond girl is suppose to be Bond’s equal, like a femme fatale – someone who is irresistibly strong and at times independent but is always in a situation that could compromise her. But her greatest strength is making Bond work hard for the cookie! Yet in The Man with the Golden Gun, she is one of the dumbest Bond girls alive, like a damsel in distress who constantly needs her white knight to save her. Even Bond regularly quips to her about her stupidity. Yes Bond…she is. She comically gets herself locked in Scaramanga’s car boot, knocks out a henchman that starts a chain reaction that blows up Scaramanaga’s HQ and uses her ass to accidently set off the master override switch. Her bikini is memorable, especially to one henchman who STARES AT IT FOR A LONG TIME. Mate, you should have gone to Specsavers, or at least ask her out on a date if you were THAT interested. But at the end of the day, Goodnight is just plain annoying along with the redneck Sheriff who they didn’t need to bring back. In Live and Let Die, the sheriff (J.W. Pepper) was the perfect (and comically annoying) balance to a dominant all black cast. Here in this film, it almost begs the question, “what are the chances that the sheriff was holidaying in Thailand?” I’ve heard of “expanding your horizon” yet Sheriff Pepper doesn’t even look like he owns a passport! With his quick judgment on different cultures he was still allowed into the country?!
The film’s saving grace other than John Barry’s heavily oriental influenced soundtrack is Scaramanga, played by Christopher Lee. Take away the flying car, the three nipples and his little friend Nick Nack, Scaramanga’s persona brings this film to life and it’s fitting that a class actor such as Christopher Lee plays the role. Christopher Lee knew Fleming from their army days and is related to him – he is his cousin. The way he plays him is very interesting and every word he says, he does it with sincerity. I wished they spent more delving into this character and left out the gimmicks that spoil the film.
Fans often criticize the final climax between Bond and Scaramanga, but somehow, I think it works. I think it’s clever. Scaramanaga’s fun house always gave him the advantage. He was familiar with the maze and knew every trick despite Nick Nack’s attempt to make the challenge difficult with each new opponent. At one point, he hides Scaramanga’s golden gun in order to test Scaramanga’s survival instincts and his value as a true marksman. Yet Bond outsmarts Scaramanaga. He wasn’t familiar with the rules or the layout. Yeah he essentially cheats, but by pretending to be a waxwork is his way of getting an advantage on him, which Scaramanga doesn’t expect. This scene illustrates Bond’s quick thinking and resourcefulness.
But because The Man with the Golden Gun is such a mix bag, there is no way I could put this film higher than the other Bond films. It’s the inconsistencies and the tendency to play the joke card that ultimately spoils the film for what could have been a good Bond film.
The Countdown So Far:
Check back next week Wednesday to find out which Bond film comes in at #19.