Film Review No.181: The Man With The Golden Gun

I do love the posters from this era of Bond. They have a uniform design that runs though each but are valid pieces of art in their own right. Plus you can pretty much see the whole film in one image. Anyway, on to Roger Moore 2, The Man With A Third Nipple. Now we haven’t quite reached the more troublesome Bond films yet. But, as with live And Let Die, there are signs that something is not quite right. Click the link for the review!

In The Man With The Golden Gun Bond finds himself potentially the target of a master marksman by the name of Scaramanga (Christpoher Lee). Bond gets removed from a case involving a new energy source and is given time off to lay low and avoid his would be assassin. Obviously Bond just goes after him following a trail of clues left by the death of another agent. Before too long Bond believes he is close to finding Scaramanga when suddenly the scientist he had been keeping an eye on before is killed by an unknown assassin. Turns out Bond wasn’t the target at all. But the death of the scientist and a link to a wealthy businessman, one wealthy enough to employ, say someone of Scaramanga’s skill, sends Bond on a new trail. Also there’s a Kung Fu fight scene and that hick sheriff from live And Let Die inexplicably gets drawn into the adventure whilst in Thailand.

The blatant attempts to make Bond more culturally relevant have been toned down a little from the previous film. This is in part thanks to the return of John Barry as the films composer and because the Kung Fu sequence is kept as it’s own little event rather than being a reoccurring theme. This is a good thing as Live And Let Die veered a little too close to trying to be a Blaxploitation film at times. The Kung Fu aspect plays out in a sequence after Bond gets captured and instead of being imprisoned he is sent to a martial arts school. Why? I have no idea. I guess Scaramanga had ordered he not be killed. Or they just felt like wasting 15 minutes of our time.

Obviously this is before Christopher Lee got his lightsabre.

Scaramanga makes for a solid and more interesting villain than most Bond films have. He’s portrayed as being a mirror image of Bond. He’s a killer who enjoys the challenge of killing a target. The film opens with a man arriving on the island to kill Scaramanga. The man is assisted by Scaramanga’s servant Nick Nack (Herve Villechaize), making it look like he’s betraying his boss. Turns out Scaramanga has set all this up and Nick Nack is there to try to make it trickier for him to succeed to help enhance the thrill of the kill. He’s a well written character and, as you’d expect from Lee, he’s enthused with just the right amount of charm. His signature weapon, a golden gun made up of a lighter, a cigarette case, a pen and which uses cuff links as a trigger and can only carry one golden bullet is quite an inspired idea. It’s a weapon that can be hidden easily and represents how confident Scaramanga is in his abilities. It’s gleaming complexity and limited firing capability exemplifies his hubris whilst it’s power, capable of firing straight through someone at long range represents the strength of fear and control he has over others such as his lover Andrea (Maud Adams).

The film does maintain the lighter tone set by Live And Let Die and with it comes some out of place moments. As mentioned Sheriff JW Pepper (Clifton James) makes a random appearance for a few sequences in Thailand. He;s there to spout his Nawlens style quips at henchmen chasing Bond and later joins Bond as a passenger in his car for a chase. This leads to the films one truly great stunt. A barrel roll flip of a car from a broken bridge over a river. The stunt was meticulously planned and one of the first to ever have been trialled in a computer simulation before being executed. It went perfectly and was shot in one take. And then John Barry put a bloody penny whistle sound effect on the jump and the editor cuts as quick as he can back to JW Pepper being a fool in the back seat of the car. Great stunt undermined by stupidity. Barry later admitted he regretted adding that effect. It really ruins a stunning moment.

In a Bond film the humour should be kept to his quips. They serve as a disarming mechanism for all the killing and womanising he does. Moore was always good at them. The trouble with the humour in his films is that gradually his quips are secondary to the slapstick, such as Bond swallowing a bullet slug by accident here, and they just serve to disarm the entire world the film is set in. I know there’s a lot of people that like Roger Moore’s films, I’d imagine they also like most of their films devoid of threat and filled with idiotic humour. I prefer the more serious Bonds with the humour kept in check. There’s a sequence in this film that almost plays out like something from a farcical comedy as Bond is about to have his way with the dumbest female agent MI6 has to offer in Mary Goodnight (Britt Eckland) only to be interrupted by Scaramanga’s girlfriend Andrea. He has Mary hide under the bed sheets first and then hides her in a cupboard so he can get to seducing Andrea and keeping her from discovering Mary. It plays out exactly how you’d expect.

Obviously Bond will bed them after they get done doing karate and stuff. Wait, how old are they?

Mary Goodnight serves the same purpose here as the past few ditzy Bond girls have. She’s there to look pretty, be an idiot and if at all possible both ruin things for Bond and/or get captured. Goodnight manages all of that. Andrea should have been the Bond girl here. She hates Scaramanga but is too scared to leave him. She’s the one that really needed saving, not Goodnight after she bungles her way into the boot of Scaramanga’s flying car. Yes a flying car. Can’t hate on that gadget too much because very similar practical inventions of flying cars really did exist back then. Still stupid though. Anyway, Andrea gets killed and Bond just gets on with it. Lee does his best to make the scene work, it’s the first scene him and Bond share on screen together, but the fact her body is just left where it was (in a packed sporting arena) just gives her death a feeling of literally being a throwaway event.

I’ve been quite harsh on this film but that’s only because it came so close to being a genuinely interesting Bond film. The villain is a lot more effective as he’s actually a real threat to Bond personally. He has some vague allusions to upsetting the balance of power in the world but it’s played off as being a potential method of income rather than anything he really cares about. What lets the film down is exactly what let down the previous entry. It’s the cartoony moments, forced humour and poor female characters that all drag the film down. It’s honestly so close to being a good Bond film but instead it’s a vodka Martini that’s been stirred instead of shaken and laced with the bland taste of disappointment. Also some twat put ice cubes of lame in it and that just waters everything down. Hey it’s the Spy Who Loved Me next! That’s the first one with Jaws in it! To be fair The Spy Who Loved Me is considered the best Roger Moore film. Not seen it for years though. Lets see how this goes.


About lvl54spacemonkey

Just a dude who likes movies and games and has delusions of working in one of those industries. Write screenplays and work on short films in my spare time. Most of which never get finished. View all posts by lvl54spacemonkey

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