It’s funny, but I’ve noticed that apart from the first 3 Connery films, the Bond films never seem to have a decent “run” of quality pictures. Anything that manages to be half decent and entertaining gets slapped down by an absolute clunker of a follow-up. Case in point, The Man with the Golden Gun.
The Man with the Golden Gun (1974)
I’m not even sure how to start talking about this one. I’m going to lay on my nudie lady cards on the table and say straight off that I don’t like this one. Whilst Live and Let Die had its tongue in its cheek, MWTGG‘s tongue is fighting for mouthspace with about 50 cocks. The film pretty much goes full-on comedy with cartoony action, silly one-liners and a general sense of fucking around at the expense of the audience that undermines what could have been a great story.
“You’re that secret agent! That English secret agent! From England!”
James Bond (Roger Moore) is sent a golden bullet with his number on it, leading him to believe he is the next target of the world-infamous assassin, Francisco Scaramanga (Christopher Lee) aka “the man with the golden gun”. Bond starts following a trail that will lead him from Macau to Hong Kong as he tries to track down the world’s most expensive killer. I really like the concept behind the story. It’s a refreshing change of pace from “mad bastard tries to take over the world” card that is so often played in the Bond films. Roger Moore is fully in “uncle telling inappropriate jokes at a wedding” mode with about the same amount of success. I really like Christopher Lee as Scaramanga, it’s just a shame they don’t really give him enough to sink his teeth into. Scaramanga is probably the most obvious dark version of Bond the series has had. It’s a nice touch that Scaramanga is a fan of Bond’s- even going as far as having a life-sized waxwork of 007 in his funhouse. Bond lass du jour is Mary Goodnight (Britt Ekland), who is so similar to the equally useless Tiffany Case in Diamonds Are Forever it’s slightly unnerving. Goodnight starts out all interesting an’ shit, even turning down Bond by refusing to be one of his “passing fancies”, but the very next scene she’s in a shorty-short nightie trying to suck face with him. All she does is get captured and fuck things up. Just like Ms.Case she gets taken to the baddie’s lair for the final act and spends the explosion-filled climax in a bikini. Thankfully, there is one character who I didn’t hate- Scaramanga’s hard-done-by girlfriend Andrea (Maud Adams). Adams gives a nicely understated performance and her death is one of the only things in the film that has any resonance whatsoever.
Before I work the cinematic ribs some more with my flurry of earth-shattering wordpunches, I will note a couple of things I like about the film. I love the design of MI6’s topsy-turvy secret headquarters inside the wreckage of the RMS Queen Elizabeth. I like this awesome corkscrew stunt. I also quite like Scaramanga’s fucked-up funhouse. Yeah, it’s cheesy, but it’s pretty creepy too. I like the sense that Scaramanga sharpens his mad killing skillz using it. The way the golden gun is assembled out of everyday things like a pen and a cigarette lighter is pretty clever. Christ, that’s really about it. I will say this for the film though, it’s impossible to be bored by it. It chops and changes location, sequence and characters so much it’s quite a pacy flick. That doesn’t make it any good, however. It just makes it energetically shit.
If you watched that stunt vid up in that them thar previous paragraph, you’ll have noticed quite a few of the things that are wrong with the film. God knows why, but J.W. Pepper (Clifton James) makes another hefty appearance in this film, to the delight of absolutely fucking nobody. All he does this time is call all the locals “pointy-headed” and “brown”. Also, there’s that ludicrous slide whistle accompanying that seriously impressive stunt, which sabotages its awesomeness almost entirely. Actually, let’s talk about the women a bit more. Something I wish they’d expanded a bit more on is Scaramanga’s relationship with the unfulfilled Andrea. She’s sick of being in a loveless relationship and only getting laid before Scaramanga’s next hit. She’s the one who sent the bullet to MI6 to get Bond to waste ol’ Mangie. There’s a damn creepy scene where she’s in bed all alluring like and Scaramanga floats in and starts caressing her with the golden gun. Brr. Actually, there’s quite a bit of gun sexualisation on display. If you can tear your senses away from Lulu’s terrible title track with abysmal lyrics during the opening titles, you’ll notice there’s a lot of gunbarrel handjobs going on. Goodnight is also terribly written, constantly wanting to bed Bond despite being treated like second-hand shit.
The Man with the Golden Gun is just plain bad. It’s not the worst thing evarr and doesn’t begin to plumb the depths that Thunderball and Diamonds Are Forever do, but it’s pretty fucking rotten. The thing that I can’t get over is the wasted potential. Lee is fantastic at playing villains and I really get the sense he’s trying to bust through the rest of the sodden mass that is the film. There’s so much odd crap in this film I haven’t even had time to mention the flying car or the fake third nipple, each of which would have usually had their own paragraph if there wasn’t such a deluge of shite to deal with. One to forget.