Posted December 2, 2010 by editor in Retrospectives
 
 

The Man With The Golden Gun


For his last Bond film, Guy Hamilton really stepped his game up a notch to deliver another visually exciting picture. It may reek of the 70s in many places, but he has to be applauded for his choice of locations and sets to add some drama and beauty to the projects he has taken on. The opening sequence sees not our hero, but our villain (recalling, perhaps, the opening of From Russia With Love), taking out a rival at his private island base amidst a fun house of smoke and mirrors. The apostrophe on this scene is the appearance of a waxen life-like image of Bond in the centre of this mini labyrinth. Scaramanga is about to make it all personal.

 

Lulu sings one of the more rock-‘n-roll tunes from the franchise which then leads onto the main body of the film. The promise of the pre-credits continues as Bond is shown the present Scaramanga sent him (A bullet with 007 etched onto it). This finds Bond taken off assignment and unofficially goes to see if he can track Scaramanga down.

 

This section of the film sees the filmmakers deliver one of my favourite Bond puns, whilst trying to extract information from an arms dealer, Bond points a rifle at the villain’s groin and says “Speak up, or forever hold your peace.” Priceless Moore dialogue.

 

Clifton James returns in comedy form from Live And Let Die as policeman JW Pepper, but on his holiday this time. He also has more priceless lines of dialogue including “I know you! You’re that secret agent. That English secret agent, from England!” This all happens along the road to what is the stand out stunt of the film where Bond has to get his car from one side of a river to the other using a broken bridge. Pepper catches on to this quickly with a shake of his head and a “You’re not?” to which Moore cuts him off with “I sure am Boy!” and then proceeds to take credit for the fantastic and perfect jump that then takes place. Although it is a shame about the comedy music that accents the twist in the jump. Silence though, would have been golden.

The first two Moore films delivered decent baddies and some colourful support along with the tongue in cheek humour before the following two films set their eyes on bigger productions.

 

Scaramanga’s evil plan is perhaps not one of the most memorable of the series. The energy crisis, big lasers and corporate takeovers. Scaramanga though, remains thoroughly interesting throughout, not only as an imposing figure to Bond, but also his own mistress with whom he shares some very threatening moments. Even in his business ventures he is a gentleman who will quickly turn the threat around on people.

Mary Goodnight is one of the least memorable leading ladies in the Bond pantheon (and probably gets my vote for the worst and least appealing – well what good is she in the film? And in between the action she merely whines about not getting Bond when he’s busy bedding another to which Bond lets her know that she will get her turn???!). Maud Adams fares much better as the villain’s lady and gets to go out in one of the most visually interesting  scenesin a Bond film to date. Bond sits next to her at the sports arena only to shortly thereafter discover that she is already dead and has been sat there like a mannequin with the life shocked out of her. It’s such a creepy image and quite haunting with no sense of whimsical romance. Goldfinger may have the painted lady, but this is equally cruel a demise and is superbly portrayed onscreen.

 

But pitting Bond against Scaramanga is quite a tense rivalry. Which brings us to the casting of Christopher Lee, who is probably the perfect choice at the time to match Moore as a gentleman as well as an assassin. Somehow Goldfinger makes it to the top of the best Bond villains ever list a lot of the time, but for a tubby German who had the fortune of delivering (through a dubbed voice) one of the most memorable lines of dialogue – he wasn’t really much in the way of a formidable foe to Bond. Lee on the other hand frankly belongs high in the list as he brought brains and brawn.

This is perfectly (even laughably) juxtaposed with his sidekick Nik Nak who is a ¼ of his size, but still a sneaky little bastard. But this being a Moore film, his comeuppance isn’t one of cold bloodedness, more a case of punishing a naughty child in a blackly humorous way.

 

It is a shame then that The Man With The Golden Gun tips its balance in such a rickety way. It is very often brilliant, but then sometimes just as often terrible. I’d warrant that the highs outdo the lows, but the lows are often unforgiveable if you have just come off a Connery film. If you accept Moore as Bond and that his films are very different in tone, then this film fares much better and is probably one of his best with probably the best villain. But close your eyes and imagine Connery in the part – Suddenly this becomes an absolute classic with two big name actors going against each other in what could be a very dark film indeed.

 

The end  duel is still very clever and makes great use of disorientation and demonstrates that Moore could have been a more cunning spy than he ever dared to be. The game is a tense ride for both the viewer and the players, which of course ultimately sees the villain technically destroyed by his own creation. In his effort to create a game to make him a better hunter, he ultimately has created for himself the ultimate trap that he eventually succumbs to. The better man, Bond. Out thinking his opponent.

 

Steven Hurst


editor