A good Bond film? I can't put my goldfinger on it...
The Man with the Golden Gun is directed by Guy Hamilton and stars Roger Moore as Agent 007. It is loosely based on the novel of the same name by Ian Fleming and also stars Christopher Lee, Britt Ekland, and Maud Adams.
Just so it's clear to everyone, it was never my intention from the beginning to review each Bond film in order. I don't expect to have reviewed all 24 Bond films by the end of this month (other life responsibilities, FYI), though I am planning to review at least one film for each major actor to have portrayed Bond over his film history. I likely will go back to Mr. Sean Connery, but now seems like the right time to get our first look at Roger Moore, who I have always thought made a fitting Bond because he looked the part so well.
The Man with the Golden Gun was Moore's second appearance as Bond, but I have a special relationship with this particular Bond film, simply because it was the first Bond film that I fondly remember watching from start to finish. Now having watched it again however many years later, I can now better understand why the film isn't hailed as one of the better ones in the saga. It was close to being the final James Bond film, with several behind-the-scenes problems and the breakup of long-time producer duo Harry Saltzman and Albert R. Broccoli threatening to put Bond into permanent cold storage. Probably not, because the film industry is so allergic to originality nowadays that someone would've eventually resurrected Bond from the dead.
In The Man with the Golden Gun, Bond is assigned to locate a device called the Solex agitator, which is capable of harnessing the power of the sun. However, the device is also sought out by Francisco Scaramanga (Lee), a famous assassin who uses a golden gun and has a midget sidekick named Nick Nack (Herve Villechaize). Bond is assisted in his mission by Mary Goodnight (Ekland).
- Christopher Lee, a man infamous for his countless number of villain roles, was a natural selection to play a Bond villain, and you can just tell how much he's enjoying the role. Scaramanga is made out to be similar to Bond in many ways, essentially being Bond's equivalent in terms of marksmanship and capability of winning a battle of wits. Lee provides the role with menace and a cunning interior, as Scaramanga frequently attempts to get the upper hand on his foes through double crossing and tactical evasion, particularly in the opening scene in which Scaramanga leads a man through his private island's fun-house. Scaramnaga uses the same tactic on Bond later on, but you can guess who gets the last laugh during that encounter. What is bothersome is how Scaramanga is seen sparingly until the film's final 30 minutes (Bond doesn't actually MEET Scaramanga until the last half hour), leaving you at times to wonder if the movie secretly turned into, I don't know, Bond's Travels Abroad or something else with a stupid name like that.
- I am under the notion that every actor that has been blessed with the role of James Bond over the years has felt so honored by having the role that they want to give back and deliver a performance with a 110 percent effort. That notion is completely shot down by the kind of performance that Roger Moore gives in The Man with the Golden Gun which is....bland at best. Moore looks as if he's just going through the motions, combating Scaramanga and seducing women as if he was already bored with the role and lost the enthusiasm to go through with some of Bond's most famous character traits. Not helping the cause is Britt Ekland, who is only slightly better as Mary Goodnight. Goodnight is given the dumb blonde personality, with Ekland's acting resembling a spy whose overly giddy about being on their first-ever mission. There's also barely anything given to Goodnight's character to potentially elevate her above "Bond sex object", the lowest level for a female Bond film character. The result is one of the weakest Bond, Bond girl duos in the entire series.
- The Man with the Golden Gun is also hampered by a tongue-in-cheek approach, with double-entendre dialogue ("Bottom's Up") and one of the most out-of-place sound effects I think I've ever heard during an action scene. A city car chase ensues between Bond and Scaramanga, eventually reaching a straight side road which Bond drives on for a few minutes. He then notices a broken, twisted ramp that he uses to do a 360 degree spin. By itself, this is easily one of the coolest car stunts ever done in a Bond film, but while the car spins, a slide whistle sound effect plays. Why? What in the world was going through composer John Barry's head to think that a comical sound like a slide whistle was a good idea during the film's best stunt? Add on the fact that there aren't any effective one-liners, and you've got yourself a film that is clearly attempting to be somewhat goofy, but simply is not successful in doing so.
So you can best describe The Man with the Golden Gun like this: a Bond film whose best parts are completely ruined by its bad parts. An enjoyable performance by Christopher Lee nearly goes to waste thanks to the lethargic efforts of Roger Moore, whose performance here makes it rather surprising that he was able to hold on to the role of Bond for another decade. This is also another Bond film without any notable gadgetry, which is more often a letdown than an advantage. The whole thing is one of the weaker entries in the Bond film series, though the presence of Christopher Lee keeps it from being one of the most forgettable.
Recommend? Only if you're a die-hard Bond fan. Even then, I can't guarantee you'll enjoy it.
Here you'll find my reviews on just about any film you may have seen. I try to avoid major spoilers as much as possible. I structure my reviews in the following way: