The Man With The Golden Gun (1974)

Director: Guy Hamilton
Starring: Roger Moore, Christopher Lee, Britt Ekland, Maud Adams, Hervé Villechaise, Demond Llewelyn, Bernard Lee
Music: John Barry
Title song performed by Lulu
Based loosely on the novel by Ian Fleming

The Man With The Golden Gun is the most psychedelic of the Bond series or at least tries to be. The villains lair, which is revealed in the opening sequence, and features in the finale is a carnival of flashing coloured lights, revolving mirrors, robotic toys and wall high video screens. But despite all the toys it isn’t that trippy. As such, it provides the setting for one of the Bond series weakest endings. The story for two thirds of it’s running time is okay, but it is always leading to the showdown between Bond and The Man With The Golden Gun, Francisco Scaramanga. And that showdown is a bit disappointing.

James Bond (Roger Moore) is summoned to M’s office. M (Bernard Lee) presents Bond with a package that has been sent to M.I.6 headquarters in London. Inside the package is a golden bullet and etched on the side are the numbers 0-0-7. It looks like somebody wants James Bond dead, and that someone happens to be Franscisco Scaramanga. Scaramanga is the world’s most expensive and dangerous assassin. He is known as the ‘man with the golden gun’ because he always uses a gold bullet to kill his targets. On top of that, he charges one million dollars for every target – it’s not bad work if you can get it! M relieves Bond from duty. M.I.6 cannot jeopardise a mission by having an agent shot while on active duty. Bond suggests that if he found Scaramanga first, then the tables would be turned. M agrees and begins tracking down the mysterious ‘man with the golden gun’.

Bond’s first port of call is a nightclub in Istanbul. A Double-O agent had been killed there many years previously by Scaramanga. The agent had been with an exotic dancer named Saida when he was killed, and now she uses the remnants of the bullet as a lucky charm, wedged in her navel. After some gentle coercion, Bond obtains the bullet and takes it to Q-Branch. Q (Desmond Llewellyn) examines the bullet and the mineral content of the gold that it was made from. Q ascertains that the gold could have only come from one part of the world, the Far East, and only one man in that part of the world is equipped to make some specialised bullets. His name is Lazaar and he works out of Macao.

Bond pays a vist to Lazaar and threatens to kill him unless he leads him to Scaramanga. In fear for his life, Lazaar offers to help, but he is only a small link in the chain. He takes the golden bullets to a casino where they are collected by a lady. As it happens, Lazaar has another shipment of bullets ready to be delivered. As he takes them to the casino for collection, Bond follows and watches.

At the casino, the bullets are collected by Andrea Anders (Maud Adams). She leaves and catches a hydrofoil to Hong Kong and then checks into a hotel, all the time with Bond discreetly on her trail.

Later, Bond convinces one of the hotel staff to open the door to Andrea’s hotel suite. Inside she is taking a shower and does not hear Bond enetre the room. After she has exited the shower, Bond asks her where he can find Scaramanga. She refuses to say. In one of Roger Moore’s more brutal scenes as Bond, he gives her a backhand across the jaw and then literally twists her arm. She tells Bond that Scaramanga has an appointment that evening at a Hong Kong night club called the ‘Bottom’s Up’.

As this Bond film is set in Asia, and at this time Kung-Fu films were exceedingly popular, it is not surprising that The Man With The Golden Gun jumped onto the martial arts bandwagon. The scenes aren’t too successful because Roger Moore is not too convincing as a martial artist, and most of the scenes fall to Lieutenant Hip (Soon-Tek Oh), who plays Bond’s contact in Hong Kong.

The Man With The Golden Gun of the title is played by Christopher Lee, and he is pretty good in the role, but he is at his most charming and menacing when he is simply conversing with Bond. Whenever Scaramanga has to engage in any type of action it comes off as silly (this probably has more to do with the script, than Lee’s acting ability). On such scene is where he has to slide down, on the soles of his feet, an embankment of flattened steps (don’t ask!), and then roll into a somersault, grab his gun and fire at the target. Equally silly, is when he has to pilot a flying car. Lee is at his best as an urbane gentleman – not as a two bit action hero.

Hervé Villechaise is Scaramanga’s diminutive manservant Nick Nack who at the height of 3′ 11″ is not a particularly threatening henchman. In fact, he is one of the few villains in the Bond series who is not killed.

There are two main Bond girls in The Man With The Golden Gun. The first is Maud Adams. Adams plays Andrea Anders, the woman who sets the whole chains of events in motion by sending James Bond one of Scaramanga’s golden bullets. The bullet usually signifies the recipient is to be the next target for assassination by The Man With The Golden Gun, but in this instance it is simply a ploy to drag James Bond into Miss Anders game. And she is quite prepared to use her body to sweeten the deal, if it will get her what she wants.

The next Bond girl is Britt Ekland as Mary Goodnight. Goodnight is the good girl in this movie, but she is also lumbered with some awkward comic relief moments.

After George Martin had taken over the musical reigns for Live And Let Die, it was back to the maestro, John Barry for the score to The Man With The Golden Gun. It was Barry’s seventh score for a Bond movie, and it is lighter than previous scores, to suit Roger Moore’s lighter interpretation of Bond. But as always, it is good to have John Barry back in control, and in the chase sequences where he, once again, comes into his own with pounding rhythms and driving horns to underscore the action.

The Man With The Golden Gun is one of the weaker Bond films. This is mainly due to the ending. The duel between Bond and Scaramanga works on paper, but not particularly well cinematically. And when the gunfight moves into Scaramanga’s funhouse, the ending becomes repetitive – because we have seen it in the pre-title sequence. It is also predictable – again the pre-title sequence enables you to guess what happens next.

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