The Man with the Golden Gun (1974)

Ian Fleming's The Man with the Golden Gun (1974)

Synopsis:

Agent James Bond (Roger Moore, The Cannonball Run), the man with the license to kill, finds out that there is a price on his head. It seems that someone has hired the world’s greatest hit-man, Francisco Scaramanga (Christopher Lee, Horror of Dracula), to kill him. Bond and a clunky but beautiful agent, Mary Goodnight (Britt Ekland, The Wicker Man), set out to find the dangerous Scaramanga before he finds them.

Reaction & Thoughts:

“Miss Anders… I didn’t recognize you with your clothes on.”

If Live and Let Die (1973) drew its inspiration from the popular blaxploitation movement, The Man with the Golden Gun rides on the coattails of the ’70s kung fu craze. The franchise always knows how to exploit a popular trend and the film reflects the appetite for all things Asian. The Man with the Golden Gun is definitely an improvement over the previous movie, which was lacking in some areas.

Written by Richard Maibaum and Tom Mankiewicz (Superman: The Movie), and directed by Bond veteran Guy Hamilton (Goldfinger and Diamonds Are Forever), The Man with the Golden Gun has some fine action sequences, most notably an all-out martial arts mad-fight that is just so much fun to watch!

There is, however, some annoying recycling here. The boat chase is almost identical to the one in Live and Let Die and Sheriff J. W. Pepper, played by actor Clifton James (Cool Hand Luke and tick…tick…tick…), the bumbling hick from the previous movie, makes an unexpected cameo appearance. I didn’t mind this character as much as other viewers, but he really doesn’t belong here — it struck me as just plain lazy writing.

The Man with the Golden Gun is at its best when focused on the cat-and-mouse game between Bond and super-villain Scaramanga. The story suggests that the smooth but deadly Scaramanga is like an evil version of the hero, and that’s very interesting. Scaramanga can be described as Bond’s alter ego, forcing 007 to see himself as others see him: a paid assassin with a “superman complex.”

I liked the idea of self-reflection, but truth be told this kind of introspective approach doesn’t lend itself to exciting adventures and the movie tends to be a bit slower than your average Bond movie. I think this is the reason the movie ranks low among fans of the franchise — The Man with the Golden Gun is one of the lowest-grossing films in the series. That’s really too bad because this is, in my humble opinion, one of the most interesting and best-acted movies in the long-running franchise.

Christopher Lee gives one of the best performances in a Bond movie. In fact, Lee’s Scaramanga is my favorite Bond villain! Hervé Villechaize (Tattoo in the TV series Fantasy Island) is a lot of fun as Scaramanga’s diminutive but deadly henchman. The ladies are gorgeous but not all that interesting: Britt Ekland and Maud Adams (Rollerball) (she plays Scaramanga’s troubled girlfriend) are mostly window dressing.

The title song is performed by Scottish pop singer Lulu (“To Sir with Love”). Most people don’t like the song, but I thought it was a pretty cool tune. It’s a naughty song filled with sexual innuendos and I thought Lulu did a great job. Interestingly, American singer Alice Cooper (“Welcome to My Nightmare”) was hired to do the song, but his version was rejected by producers Harry Saltzman and Albert R. Broccoli.

Conclusions & Final Thoughts:

Lukewarm box-office returns (for a Bond movie) and behind-the-scenes drama nearly made The Man with the Golden Gun the last 007 adventure. The film does have some flaws, but it remains one of the most intriguing if less admired films in the franchise — it’s one of my favorite Moore/Bond movies! Color, 125 minutes, Rated PG.

James Bond will return
in
The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)

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