Hello everyone and welcome to the ninth edition in my series of reviews chronicling the James Bond film franchise. Tonight our film of choice is 1974’s ‘The Man with the Golden Gun’ starring Roger Moore in just his second outing as the noted British super-spy, agent 007, James Bond. With this movie Roger Moore became the first actor since Sean Connery to appear in more than one movie as Bond, and so with that then you could officially say that the Roger Moore era was finally in full swing, and unlike previous would be replacements, this was one Bond who had true staying power. I wrote at length about Moore’s methodology and comparisons with Connery in my last review so I’ll be brief here, the bottom line being that Moore more than held his own in the role here, which is why he is one of only two individuals so far who can be truly said to be synonymous with the role of James Bond. Others have played the role well, but few have truly embodied Bond to the public as completely as Connery and Moore did (and still do).
This movie is notable in that it is the final entry in a trilogy of films directed by Guy Hamilton, starting with Connery’s last official EON produced Bond movie,’ Diamonds are Forever’ and continuing on to Moore’s first official Bond movie with ‘Live and Let Die’. You can pretty much sum up all three of these Bond films in just a couple of sentences. They were all fairly entertaining in that classic tongue in cheek kind of way that you come to expect from old school Bond movies, yet not particularly noteworthy for any other reason whatsoever in terms of creativity, drama, or character development, that sets apart the fairly decent to good Bond films from the truly great ones. Basically, they were fun, but ultimately very forgettable, which is surprising when you consider that this same director gave us what many consider to be the be all end all of James Bond films in ‘Goldfinger’, just a decade prior to his directing this one.
The Man With the Golden Gun’s principal background when it was released was the energy crisis that Great Britain and most of the world was tangled up in during the early 1970s, as can be seen here by the fact that the item most sought after in this the movie is a device called a “Solex Agitator”, invented by a brilliant scientist named Gibson, which can supposedly harness the power of the sun and turn it into a usable form of energy. This little plot device supplies the motivation necessary to get all the principle players in place, and get the ball rolling on this fun little romp of a film. The main story here kicks off when James Bond is called into M’s office once again, and there receives a note, along with a golden bullet which came in the mail with his agent code number ‘007’ etched into it. It doesn’t take Bond long to pick out that this is a death threat direct from ‘The Man With the Golden Gun’ himself, that being the infamous international assassin Francisco Scaramanga (played here by Christopher “Dracula” Lee), who is presently charging one million dollars per hit, or so Commander Bond informs us. And so with nothing but his wits and a little bit of background information on Scaramanga, Bond sets out to show this overpaid super-villain that he’s picked the wrong stiff assed Brit to trade ammo with.
Scaramanga, the films’ principle villain, is hired by Hong Kong billionaire Hai Fat, to assassinate the aforementioned Mr. Gibson, and retrieve the solex agitator device from him. When not at the beck and call of wealthy criminals the world over, Mr. Scaramanga lives in virtual seclusion on a tiny island, with a complex mansion hidden deep inside said island, his only companion being his midget (I’m sorry.. little person) companion and chief servant, Knick Knack, his current mistress, the lovely Miss Anders, and one other employee who looks after the complicated solar setup he has located within his complex personal fortress. He spends his free time dueling with other gifted marksmen and hoodlums from around the world who come to his island retreat to test their skills (and presumably win a fair amount of cash), but who then have to navigate their way through his high tech maze located inside the walls of the vast complex, just to ultimately wind up the victims of this draconian madman. Part of this bizarre maze he has set up includes a life sized and realistic looking stand up of James Bond himself, which he uses frequently for target practice.
The abovementioned Miss Anders, is played here by Maud Adams in her first of three Bond movies, and first of two in which she plays a key Bond Girl, the latter being Octopussy, of which she played the title character herself. She along with Ms. Mary Goodnight, played here by Britt Ekland make up the two main Bond girls in this movie. Other feasts for the eyes include a seductive belly dancer early on who has an interesting souvenir located within her belly button, and a half dozen or so oriental beauties who comfort Bond after he gets characteristically KO’d by an unsuspecting thump to the back of the skull by the movie’s main henchman, Knick Knack. Ms. Goodnight, whom Bond meets in Hong Kong, apparently has some sort of history with Bond that we are not privy to, and she is none too pleased to have to play second fiddle to Miss Anders, while Bond does his usual best to “interrogate” her. So, as usual, we find our hero in the midst of many, many beautiful women. Where does he ever find the time for all this gun play in the meantime?
As far as gadgets and the like, this movie has little to provide on the Q side of things, besides a fake rubber nipple that Bond uses to impersonate Scaramanga (whom it should be noted has three nipples) with and fairly basic honing/recording device located on the button of Ms. Goodnight’s outfit. But on the villains side, you have a plethora of goodies, from a car to airplane conversion kit, to Scaramanga’s nifty little single shot golden pistol that he can disassemble into smaller pieces that resemble various everyday objects, at a moment’s notice for easy concealment, and finally, the real golden gun of the film’s title, a futuristic cannon looking device that shoots out destructive blasts of energy collected straight from the sun itself.. On the car side of things, this is about fourth or fifth straight film not to feature a classic Bond car equipped with all the various goodies such as ejector seats and machine gun headlights, but, Bond makes up for this by commandeering various vehicles throughout the film including a sleek looking AMC Hornet that he uses to jump over a river, by catapulting off a conveniently placed broken down old bridge. I mentioned that there were few exceptional gadgets featured in this film from MI6’s side, however, there is one location used in the film that was particularly ingenious, that being the recently wrecked RMS Queen Elizabeth, an old British Navy vessel, that had recently upturned, and was used in this film as a state of the art secret hideout for the heads of British intelligence.
Also returning in this movie from Live and Let Die is the character of Sheriff JW Pepper, who is now on vacation in Hong Kong and bumps into Bond a couple times. I don’t know how or why he was brought back for this movie, but, suffice to say, he’s as annoyingly unfunny in this movie as he was in the last one. Bond’s other ally in this movie is Lieutenant Hip, who is Bond’s primary contact. Hip also has two young nieces who help out Bond in a massive karate battle later on in one of the film’s lighter moments. While watching those two schoolgirls cleaning house on all the fully grown men decked out in their karate gi’s, I was momentarily put in mind of the big finale of Kill Bill Volume One. That battle was a prime-example of the Kung-Fu craze that was going on in Hollywood around this time, and just like the last Bond film was all about Blacksploitation, this movie had no trouble letting the Asian stereotypes come flying out one after another, from karate henchmen, to sumo wrestlers, and of course, the aforementioned oriental gals who lend Bond a helping hand, and a few grapes, at one point before a battle of his own.
In the end of course, Bond and Scaramanga meet up on Scaramanga’s island hideaway for a final showdown between the two titans of marksmanship. Scaramanga enters the battle with his specially designed single shot golden gun, while Bond relies on his ever trustworthy Walther PPK, which has seen him through numerous scrapes in the past. Scaramanga was perhaps the best Bond villain of the Roger Moore era. I enjoyed Lee’s performance here in the role very much, and also liked the camaraderie and respect displayed between the two assassins, one who kills for King and country, the other who does it for the almighty dollar. Of course whatever professional admiration Bond has for Scaramanga is not enough to offset the fact that he is, in the end, a murdering scoundrel who must of course be laid to rest, for the good of mankind in general, which Bond is naturally more than able to do.
To wrap this review up here, I will say that this was probably one of the weaker overall Bond films, as far as having any tangible substance whatsoever, but all things considered, it was still darn good fun for the most part. Hong Kong provided an excellent back drop for Bond to ply his trade, as he is a character that thrives on exotic foreign locales. Add in a few gorgeous ladies, an eccentric villain with a hopelessly complex plot for world domination, and you’ve got yourself a sure fire recipe for a good afternoon’s entertainment, 007 style. Roger Moore, while not my favorite Bond, is a competent hand at the role, and has his own way of endearing himself to you after a while, which he does here just fine, and would continue to do for the next half a dozen Bond films he would star in. So with all that said, I give this film a modest rainy day recommendation, and bid you all a fond Bond farewell for now. Don’t fret though, for James Bond will indeed return next time out in my review of ‘The Spy Who Loved Me’. Thanks for reading.