The Man With The Golden Gun (1974) REVIEW
Directed by Guy Hamilton
Produced by Albert R. Broccoli & Harry Saltzman
Screenplay by Richard Maibaum and Tom Mankiewicz
Based on The Man With The Golden Gun by Ian Fleming
Starring Roger Moore, Christopher Lee, Britt Ekland, Maud Adams, Herve Villechaize, Soon-Tek Oh
Music by John Barry
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Coming hot on the heels of Live And Let Die, Roger Moore had already proven that James Bond could be played by an actor other than Sean Connery (George Lazenby wasn’t given a fair chance by critics or fans back in the day). Now with his second outing as the British Secret Agent, can Roger Moore solidify his place in James Bond history?
When James Bond’s life is threatened by the deadly hit-man known only as, Scaramanga, a deadly game of cat and mouse ensures as Bond travels to various locations in Southeast Asia hoping to stop the man, before the million-dollar killer gets him. Throw in some beautiful locations, attractive Bond girls and actions scenes aplenty, and you have yourself another cracking James Bond adventure.
Now, doesn’t that sound exciting?
I would hope so, because it took me about 10 minutes to write a plot outline engaging enough to make this entire review payoff. You see, what I failed to mention in the plot outline were the out of character moments from Moneypenny and M. The ‘no reason to explain himself’, Lieutenant Hip and the returning for no reason, J.W. Pepper. That’s only mentioning problems with characters in the film and not the plot itself, so allow me to unpack what we have so far, because it get confusing for no reason.
A golden bullet with 007 engraved on is, is sent to M’s office. Bond gives us the exposition of who Scaramanga is, yet no one knows what he looks like. Okay I’ll but it for the sake of the film. M’s takes him off the current mission, some solar energy mumbo jumbo, and insists 007 go into hiding. Of course, Bond doesn’t listen and goes after Scaramanga. After a brief scene where Moneypenny is rude for no apparent reason, Bond retrieves a bullet from the belly of a dancer. Don’t worry, she only had it as a good luck charm. Its here that Bond gets into a fight with a bunch of heavy set goons for the sake of an action scene, and figures out via Q, the bullet was made in Macau.
Bond travels there, finds the golden bullets are handed to Scaramanga’s sex slave, Andrea Anders, who is played perfectly by Maud Adams. And lets make no mistake here, Andrea is Scaramanga’s sex slave. I mean during one scene of the film, he comes to her in bed, runs his golden gun along her face and gets upset it is not turning her on. She is a sex slave, plain and simple; which will explain things a little later on. At the Bottoms Up Club (fantastic name), Bond is almost killed by Scaramanga but instead, he is arrested by Lieutenant Hip and taken away. Of all the times to act suspicious and avoid questions, this is possibly the worst time. However thats exactly what Hip does when questioned by 007. And for no reason whatsoever, because minutes later, he is revealed to be working with him. Yet we have this silly 5 minute sequence where shifty eyes are in full effect all to try and ramp up the suspense.
After meeting up with M on a decommissioned ship, Hip reveals the man Scaramanga killed was in fact a scientist in possession of a solex device. And since Scaramanga had the opportunity to kill Bond and didn’t, we find out he was never after 007. Instead he was hired by Hai Fat, to retrieve the solex device. So stupid, because there goes the whole cat and mouse game. But lets go on.
Thanks to Q branch, Bond gets himself a third nipple, and manages to fool people into believing he’s Scaramanga. Eventually he is knocked out and taken to ‘school’. Another pointless section of the film. Because of the recent rise of kung fu films in the early 70’s, the producers thought it was worthwhile to throw some in. So they did. An utter waste of film devoted to the karate scene which ends with Hip again proving useless as he drives off leaving Bond behind. Cue a boat chase and the reappearance of J.W. Pepper. Of all the returning case in the 007 franchise, we get the racist Sheriff from Live And Let Die.
Scaramanga in the meantime, kills Andrea, manages to retrieve the solex device and kidnaps Goodnight, a very beautiful, Brit Eland. Nick Nack, Scaramanga’s personal…helper prepares lunch while 007 arrives on the hit-man’s island. Remember, this film was all about the cat and mouse game between the two killers. And so far in the story, Scaramanga has had the opportunity to kill Bond twice, and both times let him live. He respects the secret agents and has no reason to kill him.
Oh I should also mention the golden bullet sent to M’s office was done so by Andrea. She wanted her master dead and decided instead of doing it herself, she’d get Bond to do it for her. So now, the only reason this movie continues moving forward is because of the solex device. A plot point briefly mentioned at the beginning and scattered throughout the middle part. Now it’s the major plot point and the reason Bond is after Scaramanga.
Worst part of it all, once Bond arrives on the island, Scaramanga turns into a kid. He wants to show his new ‘friend’ all around the island and tell him how the solex device works. It can harness the energy of the sun, much like any modern day solar panel, and store the energy. Scaramanga intends to sell the device to the highest bidder and will even throw in a ‘Golden Gun’ which can fire the energy as a laser. This is his whole scheme. Not world domination, but free energy. A hit-man has decided that a million dollars per kill isn’t good enough and wants to invest in solar energy.
I mean, can the plot of this movie be any worse, or am I just going crazy here? Finally after 1 hour and 45 minutes on the clock, the cat and mouse game reignites as Bond and Scaramanga face off. SPOILERS!!! Bond wins. The deadly game is finished but Bond has to save the world and retrieve the Solex device. He does so and escapes with Goodnight and captures Nick Nack in a suitcase. End movie.
Holy crap, I’m so sorry for that lengthy plot outline, but it was needed, really needed to get my feelings across.
What went wrong here? Why was the cat and mouse game played up but never dealt with until final moments? Why was the mystery of Scaramanga revealed within the opening act? The movie could’ve been avoided had Andrea just killed her sex master before the events of the film took place. Nope, she dies after sleeping with Bond and revealing her master never planned to kill him at all. He simply respected 007.
Andrea’s actions put the entire films events into the pointless category. Had she simply poisoned his wine, or stabbed him after sex, instead of sending a bullet to M’s office, it would’ve been over. What if Bond had gone into hiding as M originally suggested? Her plan would’ve failed.
This massive plot hole bugs me so much when watching The Man With The Golden Gun. Even as much as James Bond being a recognised figure with the universe. HE IS A SECRET AGENT! How people know of him, I’ll never understand that, nor can I ever excuse it.
In the same senseless vein as Andrea Anders, we also have Lieutenant Hip. He is introduced and completely fails as a character. He arrests Bond, fails to indignity himself and is meant to be helping. 007 could’ve (and should’ve) killed him. Hip was working with the guy, and purposefully misleads him, wrong move. He even manages to lose the Solex device which turns out to be the Macguffin. Such a bad joke. I haven’t been this angry with a Bond film since Diamonds Are Forever!
Producers aren’t excused here either, and they clearly must have been on something to bring J.W. Pepper back. Admittedly, it’s only for a few scenes, however his racist comments and attempts at humour just don’t fly with me. They fit the tone of the film, I understand that, but he is so out of place I can’t understand why he is here?
I will admit, that although Andrea Anders’ plot to lure Bond into a death match with Scaramanga is silly, she is played well by Maud Adams. She looks stunningly beautiful and her fear of Scaramanga is clearly evident on screen. The moments she shares with Bond are well played out. Here she has the man that can kill her Master, yet he’s threatening her life. That is a powerful moment and shows just how ruthless Moore as Bond, can be. Now when her character is killed off, I’ll admit, it still shocks me.
She’s very much played up as the main Bond girl with Goodnight (more on her later), being the ditsy side girl Bond would bed and eventually move from. But it’s the reverse here. That’s one of the few things The Man With The Golden Gun does well, it surprises you.
Brit Ekland, whom I only know from the original The Wicker Man, brings Mary Goodnight to life. Apparently she’s a character from the novels (haven’t read them yet) and was a recurring figure. Here, the writers provide the dialogue to suggest such a relationship with Bond, but the chemistry doesn’t feel that way. Don’t worry, I won’t complain about setting up Goodnight in multiple films and having this be her big payoff. Nope, simply saying it’s a part of the film which doesn’t work for me. Her character does, but not the implied history.
A year previous to this release, Ekland was seen on screen showing full frontal nudity (The Wicker Man). I’m pretty show the producers decided from that moment, Brit was the only choice for Goodnight. I’m not complaining, she is very sexy in The Man With The Golden Gun and manages to show plenty of skin here, especially the later part of the film. I find her to be an enjoyable presence throughout, but can’t stand that she plays hard to get at dinner, only to give into Bond in the very next scene. Way to ruin a strong character moment.
Goodnight also happens to provide a bit of unintentional stress later on, when her rear end sets off a chain reaction almost killing Bond and herself. For a (secret) agent, she proves extremely gullible. How someone with her intelligence and lack of skill is an agent, I’ll never know.
Nick Nack is enjoyable in the brief scenes he has. I do believe his short stature works to the advantage of the film. It plays up the humours elements already present and goes from there. He has a crazy relationship with Scaramanga, wherein Nick Nack sets up challenges for him to test his boss. But is still as loyal as a puppy. This is a strong relationship, and one of the highlights.
Another highlight easily stems from every second of screen time where Scaramanga is involved. I absolutely love his character (for the most part) and although he is a hit-man, for the most part, he seems loyal. Christopher Lee is in excellent form here bringing as sense of class and elegance to the character. His deep commanding voice would’ve worked better had the character not been seen until later moments of the film, but I can’t fault producers for wanting to take advantage of such a classic actor. Worth mentioning is the fact that Christopher Lee was step-cousin to Ian Fleming, and had his name thrown around during the casting process of Dr. Julius No in Dr. No (1962).
Now for the big one, Roger Moore as James Bond. What I needed to say about him in the role was said during my review for Live And Let Die. After a 3 years absence from watching the 007 films, These viewings have surprised me. It has allowed me to break down my thoughts on the films and actors portraying the character, but most of all, it has let me see each actor in a new light. So far, I’ve been surprised, but none more so than Roger Moore.
Everyone sees this portrayal of James Bond as more light hearted, and thats true for the most part, but Moore also happens to be a fairly cold hearted person. In both films so far, he has threatened people without breaking a sweat, both of which are women. Moore shows no remorse when doing so, and even drops the cold hearted attitude as soon as he gets the information needed. I really like how Moore brings him to life, and appreciate his rendition more with each film. He can drop the one liners just as easily as he can throw a punch.
At the end of this review, I still have some very big issues. You see, for all the beautiful locations and set pieces on offer, we have plot holes. For all the fun characters and cat and mouse game, we have the solex sub (main) plot. For the gorgeous Mary Goodnight, we have the confusing as hell Andrea Anders. I love the fact Roger Moore is even more comfortable in the role, but can’t stand the pointless moments which seems to drag on.
The Man With The Golden Gun is a film which can easily be skipped with no ill effects. Actually I recommend passing on this film and paying more attention to the other Moore films. A shame really, because if more time had been spent on the plot, this could’ve been a more enjoyable and entertaining 007 outing.
James Bond will return in The Spy Who Loved Me