Film Review: The Man with the Golden Gun
In 1974, Guy Hamilton released The Man with the Golden Gun, based on the 1965 novel of the same name by Ian Fleming, as the ninth film in the series. Starring Roger Moore, the film also starred Christopher Lee, Britt Ekland, Maud Adams, Herve Villechaize, Richard Loo and Clifton James. Grossing $97.6 million at the box office.
When sent after a device that can harness the power of the sun called the Solex Agitator, James Bond crosses paths with the assassin Francisco Scaramanga who has a golden gun that carries only one bullet. However, that's all he needs.
The Man with the Golden Gun isn’t the worst film in the series, but it’s far from anything that can be considered good. Scaramanga, and Lee’s performance, are practically the only good parts of the film. The antithesis of Bond himself, Scaramanga is professional killer whose skill matches that of Bond’s and he knows it, shown when he tells Bond that the two of them aren't so different. What's notable about this is that Bond flatly denies it as he only kills when he is explicitly ordered to by his government with those he kills being killers themselves. On the other hand, Scaramanga is shown as enjoying his job and is so sure of his abilities that he only uses a gun that carries one bullet. There's only one real thing that makes the man a super villain anyway and it isn't the calling card that Bond gets due to him not the one that sent it. Rather, it's how he wants to steal the Solex Agitator and sell it. What's more is the fact that Scaramanga didn't even send Bond that calling card means that the desire for a showdown with Bond hadn't crossed his mind until he was aware the agent was tracking him down. The best aspect of Scaramanga's character is that though he wasn't aiming to kill Bond in the first place, he can't pass up the opportunity to go head to head with the man known as the world's greatest spy.
Yet, while Scaramanga, and therefore Lee, are great in this film, the plot given for the actor and the character to work with was very lacking. The aforementioned showdown should have been one of the best points in the series; two men of equal skill in a shootout, where one man only needs one shot. Despite the film employing a fantastic concept, Scaramanga just keeps running away and the whole thing turns into an anticlimax. It continues in the film's final fight between Bond and Scaramanga's henchman, Nick Nack. He kicks Bond in the shins, throws bottles of wine and Bond is able to best him with a suitcase. It just feels pointless and unnecessary.
That's not the whole problem as half of the film is just unnecessary padding. The first third has Bond going to Beirut to find the slug of a bullet fired by Scaramanga that killed 002, so he can discover who made it and lead him to Scaramanga, The scene’s result is him swallowing it, necessitating his stomach getting pumped. This is irrelevant because Bond already recieved a bullet, which is how he believed Scaramanga warned him. If he already had a whole, intact bullet, then there was no reason for him to go find the slug. Half of the last third could have been avoided had Goodnight not been so blatantly idiotic as well. She had the device and Scaramanga is no longer a threat to Bond. The film could have ended with MI6 having retrieved it and leaving Scaramanga alone. In spite of this, she just had to get in the car just to see where he was going, which lead to the anticlimactic showdown.
One other aspect the film has going for it is the fascinating stunt on the bridge where the car Bond is driving does a barrel roll. As a stunt that actually happened, it looks downright amazing. Regardless of how good it is, the stunt was completely ruined by a slide whistle sound accompanying the roll.
The film features the return of Sheriff J. W. Pepper too, which it quickly ruins. He was a half decent police officer in the previous film and here, he's turned into nothing but a buffoon. Instead of any semblance of competence, he becomes a redneck on vacation to Thailand where he is eventually arrested by the local police. The only good aspect to his return is the redundant exclamation he utters when seeing Bond.
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Golden Screen Awards
- Golden Screen
Academy of Science fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films Saturn Awards
- Best DVD/Blu-Ray Collection (Bond 50: The Complete 22 Film Collection)