Welcoming a guest post from Realweegiemidget Reviews’ very own Darlin Husband…
My Darlin Husband tells you more on The Man with the Golden Gun (1974).
The Man With The Golden Gun (1974) Official Trailer – Roger Moore James Bond Movie HD, Movieclips Classic Trailers
After a wee bit of encouragement from yours truly, my Darlin Husband now makes his second appearance on my blog. His first appearance was here, in my first post for the 80s League collaboration with his thoughts on Knight Rider‘s talking car Kitt in my post, Five Fave 1980s Film and Telly Cars.
Now he joins Barry and me on the final day of our Christopher Lee Blogathon… with his post on The Man with the Golden Gun (1974)…
The Man with the Golden Gun
The Man with the Golden Gun (1974) was the third Bond film of the 70s. It followed Live at Let Die in 1972 as unlike the present era of reshoots and pandemics, Bond movies were released at a regular clip, at a rate of one every two or three years throughout the 60s and 70s. Live and Let Die was Moore’s first foray and was a major hit. Unlike the poor “other guy” George Lazenby who never had the opportunity to be appreciated as anything but a Poundshop Sean Connery, Moore quickly established his very own Bond – less the rough charisma of Connery, more the smooth English gentleman he had perfected as Simon Templar in The Saint.
The film begins with a Mafia hoodlum (one of the Vegas gangsters from Diamonds are Forever?) visiting a mysterious island (real-world location in Thailand – the island became a long-term tourist attraction on the back of the film). The hitman is greeted by sinister midget henchman Nick-Nack (Herve Villechaise, later to become famous as another sinister midget henchman role as Ricardo Montalban’s sidekick in Fantasy Island). The hoodlum is enticed into a duel with the eponymous Man with the Golden Gun, Scaramanga, played by Christopher Lee, dressed in a tracksuit more reminiscent of a 1970s British gym teacher than an international assassin.
The duel takes place somewhere deep in the island layer, a sort of deadly Madame Tussauds without the gift shop and long queues of schoolkids and foreign tourists. The hoodlum is quickly dispatched, fooled by a waxwork of Scaramanga. Scaramanga then blows away a waxwork of Roger Moore (presumably he hasn’t had time to at least provide an animatronic eyebrow). Cue the title sequence with music from Lulu. No slight to the legendary Scottish performer, but it’s not one of the best Bond title songs, and certainly falls short when compared to Live and Let Die‘s classic from Wings. I can’t imagine Guns and Roses ever covering the Man with a Golden Gun, let’s put it that way.
Bond is called into M’s office, where he is presented with a golden bullet inscribed with “007”. The notorious assassin, the Francisco Scaramanga a.k.a “The Man with the Golden Gun”, has apparently taken out a contract on Bond:
James Bond : I mean sir, who would pay a million dollars to have me killed?
M : Jealous husbands! Outraged chefs! Humiliated tailors! The list is endless!
007 is ordered to lie low and takes him off his current mission to track an energy scientist, Gibson, developer of the “Solex Agitator”, the film’s McGuffin, which was the key to the “oil crisis” (a major preoccupation of the time). Bond decides not to take his no doubt generous civil service vacation time and goes rogue to track down Scaramanga first. He goes to Beirut as a fellow agent was murdered by a golden bullet, lodged inside the navel of a belly dancer. Cue punch-up with heavies, Bond accidentally swallows the evidence and following what presumably is an unfortunate laxative experience delivers the bullet to Q. It turns out the bullet is made by a Portuguese arms dealer, Lazar, in Macau (at the time a Portuguese colony). Lazar reluctantly agrees to contact Scaramanga – after being threatened by Bond aiming a gun at his crotch with one of the great Moore one-liners – “talk now, or forever hold your piece”.
Bond follows the gun shipment to Hong Kong, meeting up with Mary Goodnight (Britt Ekland). The bullets are being delivered by Scaramanga’sgirlfriend, Andrea Anders (Maud Adams, who would later play the eponymous Octopussy). A bedroom farce – a hallmark of 70s comedy – ensues with Bond stashing Goodnight in a hotel cupboard while he spends the night with Andrea. The descent into 70s wink-wink-nudge-nudge sex comedy leads to the Bottoms Up strip club to meet Gibson, the inventor of the Solex Agitator and Bond’s original mission. Gibson is assassinated outside the club and the Solex Agitator is quietly stolen by Nick Nack. Bond is arrested by Hong Kong policeman Hip and taken to a most incongruous secret MI6 base, the wreck of the Queen Elizabeth in Victoria Harbour (the same ship was the location of the climax of the novel version of Diamonds are Forever, changed to a Cunard liner in the movie).
He teams up with Hip to go to Bangkok to meet Hai Fat (the terrible punning continues) a Thai businessman suspected of ordering Gibson’s hit. Posing as Scaramanga by using a fake nipple (Scaramanga has an odd mutation, sporting three of them), Bond is captured and forced to partake in Hai Fat’s martial arts school, where students duel to the death. Bond is rescued by Hip and his two schoolgirl nieces, who successfully fight off an entire dojo.
It transpires that Andrea sent the bullet to Bond, in order that Bond take out Scaramanga whom she fears and wishes to escape. She meets up with him again at a Thai boxing arena to deliver the Solex: unfortunately, she has been already been killed by Scaramanga while sitting in the crowd. Bond manages to get the Solex to Goodnight, but she ends up trapped in the boot of Scaramanga’s car.
A chase ensues: unfortunately, one of the most irritating characters in the franchise, the redneck sheriff JW Pepper (Clifton James) from Live and Let Die, happens to be on holiday and ends up in the passenger seat. Why the producers thought to bring back Pepper is an odd decision; perhaps redneck sheriffs were a popular comic standby of the time (witness the success of multiple Burt Reynolds movies). The chase includes, according to the Guinness Book of Records, the first “Astro Spiral” corkscrew jump of a car – regrettably let down by the odd tonal choice of a comedy whistle sound effect. Scaramanga’s car, it turns out, can actually fly and he and Nick Nack make their getaway with Goodnight still trapped in the boot. An unusual twist as usually it’s 007 driving the gadget-powered automobile.
As Goodnight managed to plant a homing beacon, Bond is able to track Scaramanga to the island shown at the beginning of the film, which is located in Red Chinese territory. Scaramanga destroys Bond’s plane with a Solex-powered laser. After dining with Bond and Goodnight he challenges Bond to a duel. The dining scene has one of the best Bond/villain verbal exchanges:
James Bond: When I kill, it’s on the specific orders of my government. And those I kill are themselves, killers.
Francisco Scaramanga: Now, Come, come, Mr Bond. You disappoint me. You get as much fulfilment out of killing as I do, so why don’t you admit it?
James Bond: I admit killing you would be a pleasure.
Francisco Scaramanga: Then you should have done that when you first saw me. But then, of course, the English don’t consider it sporting to kill in cold blood, do they?
James Bond: Don’t count on that.
The duel commences, as before concluding deep in Scaramanga’s waxwork shooting gallery. Posing as a mannequin (an Oscar-worthy performance from Moore), he shoots Scaramanga. Goodnight knocks one of Scaramanga’s henchmen into a cooling vat, setting off the obligatory destruction of the villain’s lair, a common Bond trope. Goodnight and Bond escape in a Chinese junk, where Nick Nack tries to make one last attack (the loyal henchman’s final revenge – another trope since From Russia With Love). The film concludes with a terrible Moore sex pun and end credits, the unfortunate midget tied to the mast.
So how does The Man with the Golden Gun stack up as the best or worst of this long-lived franchise?
While the film did well at the box office, it was slated by critics at the time for its Carry-On level of humour and lack of originality. Even today, it is not in the top 10 of favourite Bonds, unlike other Moore classics such as Live and Let Die or the Spy Who Loved Me, let alone the all-time classics such as Goldfinger, Goldeneye or From Russia with Love, or even the guilty pleasures like Moonraker.
Live and Let Die marked the start of Bond as the trend-chaser than the trend-setter it had been in the 60s. In the previous decade, the success of Bond spawned multiple copy-cats on the small and large screen such as The Man from Uncle, The Avengers and Our Man Flint. In the 70s, an era when the public perhaps had cooled somewhat on government spies in the wake of detente and Watergate, Bond tried to stay relevant by throwing in whatever was cool on other showings in the theatres. Live and Let Die is heavily influenced by the Blaxploitation movies that were all the rage in the early 70s, such as Shaft and Cleopatra Jones. Moonraker at the end of the decade was a ludicrous (albeit highly enjoyable) attempt to go full sci-fi in the wake of Star Wars. And it’s no coincidence we are introduced to a Jaws – albeit in giant human henchman form – in The Spy Who Loved Me. The Man with the Golden Gun is no less derivative – being made at the height of the kung-fu craze spawned from Hong Kong classics such as Enter the Dragon, we have our martial arts tournaments and deadly duels on remote tropical islands. Its other shortcomings perhaps make these trend-chasing scenes more obvious, even though they are no more egregious than other Bond movies of this era.
One particular highlight is Lee’s Scaramanga. Outside of Blofeld, played by multiple character actors in the non-Roger Moore Bond movies (the character of Blofeld was conspicuously absent in the Moore films other than an unnamed pre-credits sequence in For Your Eyes Only, due to a complicated lawsuit – as with Terry Nation’s Daleks, the only thing a great British fictional villain has to fear is copyright law), Scaramanga is perhaps one of the most well-known and oft-quoted Bond villains.
Without doubt, he is one of the best cast, with Christopher Lee having played the protagonist not only in the afore-mentioned Wicker Man but in multiple classic British horrors of the Amicus and Hammer era (and in his later career, Count Dooku in the Star Wars prequels and Saruman in Lord of the Rings). He also had the personal distinction of being cousin to Ian Fleming. Lee drips with charming, cool, sociopathic menace and as always brings gravitas even to the flimsiest of characters. Originally the role of Scaramanga was offered to Jack Palance, while Lee was an early suggestion of Fleming for the role of Dr No. Accepting the role of Scaramanga meant that Lee had to turn down a part in Tommy, to be replaced by Jack Nicholson – multiple might-have-beens of cinematic history.
It is noteworthy that the novel was originally written in 1965, after the author’s death the previous year. The novel was in an understandably unpolished state and doesn’t rank among the best (it has an odd Manchurian Candidate subplot involving Bond being brainwashed by the Soviets to assassinate M). It’s not surprising therefore that the movie is only very loosely based on the book – however throughout the 1970s and 80s the movie adaptations pretty much abandoned any pretence to borrow much more than the titles from the Fleming originals (and even abandoning that practice once they had run out of even the titles of the short stories).
For all the negatives, The Man with the Golden Gun is still an enjoyable film from a time when a Bond movie was intended to be fun rather than the miserable mid-life crisis of the ongoing Daniel Craig era. The exotic locations and action are top-notch and the film has a nostalgic charm, and Roger Moore always elevated even the most leaden script with his charm and humour.
The Christopher Lee Blogathon 2021
This film review was added to my and Barry from Cinematic Catharsis’ Christopher Lee Blogathon. Other posts with this cast include Christopher Lee in Airport 77, Space 1999, Charlies Angels and Dracula 1972 AD. Other reviews with this cast include Roger Moore in the Cannonball Run reviews HERE and HERE. I also reviewed Roger Moore in his leading role in A View to a Kill and North Sea Hijack / ffolkes HERE. He also stars in A View to a Kill and The Wild Geese. The Man Who Haunted Himself is reviewed HERE. He is remembered HERE in a number of his films. Herve Villechaize in Fantasy Island.
A big thanks to Darlin Husband for letting me publish his great post. Financial compensation was not received for this post. All opinions expressed here are his own. If you are involved in the entertainment or blogging industry and would like to be featured or promoted here, please drop a line to me via my Contact Me Page.