‘The Man With the Golden Gun’ Review: You’re That Secret Agent!

Posted in The Screening Room by - January 17, 2016

My third feature film up for review this month is director Guy Hamilton’s final Bond film, The Man With the Golden Gun from 1974. Despite the fact that it is one of the lowest grossing Bond films of all time, and that it’s poor performance and its extravagance nearly made it the last Bond film of all time, it’s core concept, that of the golden gun, is one so pervasive that many films and games make reference to it, even if the Bond series doesn’t exist in their worlds. In fact, the idea of a golden gun that shots golden bullets and kills anybody in one shot is so interesting to the human mind that one of the prop guns was stolen in 2008 and is valued at roughly 80,000 pounds.

The movie opens on Nick Nack, Scaramanga’s midget lackey, who is apparently supposed to hire assassins to try and kill his boss at his home base, in the hopes of training for his planned fight with Bond. Apparently, should the assassin manage the task, Nick Nack gets all of his boss’ money. Meanwhile Scaramanga sends a golden bullet to MI-6, and they put Bond on sabbatical until the threat of the man with the golden gun is resolved. Bond, of course, goes solo to try and hunt down his enemy. At the same time Britain is dealing with an energy crisis that threatens their economy. This eventually gets tied in with Bond’s quest to kill Scaramanga. The interesting thing about the plot is that Scaramanga, who some how takes over the solar power laser gun game after he kills his employer, apparently has no idea how any of his stuff works. In his obligatory “here’s my plan” section, he says multiple times that he doesn’t know science, and Bond essentially explains it all for him. Of course, by the end Bond kills Scaramanga and the island explodes.

There are many entertaining moments in The Man With the Golden Gun. Lazar, the gun smith, is pretty awesome. Simply the existence of a custom gun shop capable of making golden bullets and a gun made to be fired by a man with only three fingers is a great addition to the world of James Bond. The MI-6 headquarters built inside the wreckage of the Queen Elizabeth is also an interesting visual setting. Scaramanga’s island fun house is one of the more colorful and entertaining locals in the film. The site of the final showdown, the place has wax body doubles, one of which is of Roger Moore, halls of mirrors, perspective illusions, and colored lights all operated by Nick Nack.

The movie also contains the famous spiral bridge jump, which was one of the most complex in movie history, and is said to be the first calculated by computer. It’s also accompanied by a slide whistle that director Guy Hamilton and Composer John Barry would both come to regret. Man With the Golden Gun stars Roger Moore reprising his role as Bond, alongside the esteemed Christopher Lee as Scaramanga. The theme song is performed by Lulu, a songwriter from Scotland that I’d never heard of.

Unfortunately the producers attempted to make Moore’s Bond tougher, but unfortunately only did so by having him rough up a woman in this movie, showing him shoving a poor kid off his boat, and having him speak in a rougher tone of voice than before. There’s a certain meanness to Bond that hadn’t been there before.

Where as with my last review I discussed the treatment of African Americans in Live and Let Die, this time I have to mention the portrayal of Asian characters. Unlike the potential for complex racial depiction in Live and Let Die, The Man With the Golden Gun shows Asians as little more than blank slates for kung fu. I use the term Asian because it’s never really clear if there’s one country or multiple. Scaramanga lives on an island vaguely located near China and Thailand, the Queen Elizabeth is near Hong Kong. It’s hard to keep track of where exactly Bond is. During his journey Bond beats a sumo wrestler by giving him a wedgie. Bond is also knocked unconscious and then taken to a martial arts school where he watches the students do maneuvers until they attack him. Even the villain, Hai Fat, arguably the craftsman of a much larger crime then simply threatening James Bond, is brought in, killed off, and then never mentioned again. The small benefit to this method of ethnic depiction is that two young Asian women get to save Bond from his own lack of actual combat skill, at least tacking a few points on for adding female characters to a bond world almost devoid of capable women.

The film seems to use the same tactic to ward off criticism however, with a return of the inept white racist sheriff from Live and Let Die. In this film he’s on vacation, and he calls the natives “little brown water hogs” and that they should “get out of those pajamas”. He’s in a pointless cameo about an hour in, and he pops up again going for a ride along in Bond’s car.

Aside from the two martial arts master women, there’s also an agent working alongside Bond named Mary Goodnight. When Bond makes a pass at her she shuts him down, accompanied by the random applause of the people in the cafe. Of course, as soon as Bond gets to his room she’s there flat out saying that she’s weak. The other female character is Andrea, Scaramanga’s mistress. In one scene Scaramanga slowly puts the barrel of his golden gun in to her mouth. She has sex with bond while Goodnight is hiding in the closet. Goodnight goes to sleep in the closet and then Bond says “Your turn will come, I promise.” Don’t worry reader, her turn does come by the end of the film.

All in all, The Man With the Golden Gun is an interesting little flick with some real quality visuals. It’s extravagance, while costly for the production studio, paid off for the audiences in interesting set pieces and highly complex stunts. Of course, the film waivers in spots, with a sometimes plodding pace, but for a Bond film that only has six deaths, only one of which is a result of Bond’s handiwork, it still manages to be an entertaining movie.

Final Say: Watch It

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Born in Arizona, he currently resides in Denton, Texas. When he isn't watching movies he's playing board games and drinking whatever he can get his hands on. John watches Djimon Honsou movies because he likes Spawn, which had Michael Jai White.
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