Monday, August 29, 2016

The Man With The Golden Gun

Quite a letdown after Roger Moore’s 007 debut in LIVE AND LET DIE, the ninth in the James Bond series stands as the second worst (just ahead of DIE ANOTHER DAY). One of THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN’s rare bright spots is Hammer horror star Christopher Lee, his cousin Ian Fleming’s choice to play Dr. No (the part went to Joseph Wiseman). Lee co-stars as Scaramanga, a tri-nippled assassin who makes a million bucks per hit and wants to control the solar energy market with a high-tech device on his private island.

Like LIVE AND LET DIE, THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN was directed by Guy Hamilton and written by Tom Mankiewicz, who shares credit with Bond veteran Richard Maibaum (GOLDFINGER). It looks cheap — unusual for a James Bond movie — the sets are uninviting, and most of the performances are abysmal. Sadly, what should have been the film’s most outstanding setpiece — Bond spinning an AMC Hornet lengthwise in midair — is ruined by a tasteless sound effect of a slide whistle — another indication nobody was taking this film seriously enough.

Bond (Roger Moore) opens the film minding his own business until Scaramanga’s calling card — a golden bullet — arrives at MI6 headquarters with “007” carved into it. Since nobody knows what Scaramanga looks like, Bond has his work cut out for him, but he manages to track the killer as far as Andrea Anders (Maud Adams), Scaramanga’s moll. That lead doesn’t pan out, and neither does Bond’s infiltration of the estate of Thai mobster Hai Fat (Richard Loo from all those 1940s WWII movies). At least it leads to Bond fighting a pair of sumo wrestlers (a fine idea) and then an entire karate school in an action scene inspired by the popular martial arts movies then glutting drive-ins.

In addition to Adams (later in OCTOPUSSY as a different character), Bond dallies with Britt Ekland (THE WICKER MAN) as Mary Goodnight, possibly MI6’s most inept agent. Somehow more embarrassing are FANTASY ISLAND star Herve Villechaize as a dwarf henchman ignominiously trapped in a suitcase and Clifton James, returning from LIVE AND LET DIE, as bigoted Louisiana sheriff J.W. Pepper, who is inexplicably shopping for an AMC automobile on his Bangkok vacation.

THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN was a major box office disappointment, grossing almost 40% less worldwide than LIVE AND LET DIE. This may have spurred producer Cubby Broccoli to up his game with the next feature, giving THE SPY WHO LOVED ME higher stakes, more scope, less comedy, and double the budget.


Anonymous said...

Actually I think Moonraker is the worst Bond film.

Alan's World said...

I absolutely concur with Anonymous that MOONRAKER is the worst Bond film ever, together with A VIEW TO A KILL with DIE ANOTHER DAY not falling far away.

Marty McKee said...

MOONRAKER is awful, no question. But I find it more watchable than GOLDEN GUN or DIE ANOTHER DAY. I love the stuff in outer space, and the gadgets are fun. It has a really good score (as most of the pre-Craig Bonds do).

Joe Kenney said...

Sorry to disagree with everyone, but I love Man With the Golden Gun -- the most '70s Bond movie, complete even with brief flashes of nudity. I also love Moonraker. Saw it for the first time since I was a kid the other year and couldn't believe how FUN it was, something missing from the Bond franchise these days. The Bond producers today would NEVER have the courage to send Bond into space. Also I thought the film looked great -- it seemed to pick up the mantle laid down by early Connery classics Thunderball and You Only Live Twice. In fact, the design of Drax's space station was sort of ultramod, more late '60s than late '70s, and in many regards Moonraker could've been where the franchise was heading if Connery hadn't decided to leave after YOLT.

If you ask me, any Bond film with "starring Daniel Craig" in the opening credits is the worst Bond film -- by a country mile.

Kurt said...

I liked The Man With the Golden Gun also. But I was around 12 when I saw it first time just after it was released. Live and Let Die was way cooler to my tastes though. I have to say that it was the last Roger Moore version of Bond I liked. I agree that Moonraker was the worst. And Octopussy was one of the only movies I fell asleep watching in the theater. So maybe Man With the Golden Gun stands out as a good movie next to those others. I haven't seen it in decades.