Movie Review – Man With The Golden Gun, The

Principal Cast : Roger Moore, Britt Ekland, Christopher Lee, Maud Adams, Herve Villechaize, Clifton James, Richard Loo, Soon-Taik Oh, Marc Lawrence, Lois Maxwell, Marne Maitland, Desmond Llewelyn, James Cossins, Chan Yiu Lam, Bernard Lee, Sonny Caldinez.
Synopsis: James Bond is targeted by the world’s most expensive assassin, while he attempts to recover sensitive solar cell technology that is being sold to the highest bidder.


Roger Moore’s second outing as James Bond, British super spy and all-round man-whore, is a semi-serious, semi-comedic Asian-flavoured action flick that will satisfy quite a few of the franchise’s long-standing fanbase, despite age having wearied some of the tropes and clichés offered up in this, director Guy Hamilton’s final stint behind the camera (and, reportedly, an experience he regretted) after three previous instalments. The film is perhaps best known for two things: the celebrated Christopher Lee as the villainous, and somewhat venal, antagonist Scaramanga, and a much hyped stunt involving a barrel roll across a river that remains one of the film’s high points. The film is also known for favouring the delectable form of Britt Ekland in various states of costumed minimalism, with rampant misogyny allowing Hamilton’s camera to objectify the actress for as long as is possible without undercutting the movie. Although the film wasn’t particularly successful commercially, my rewatch of this film in several decades brought back a flood of memories of thinking it was better than it is, but in saying that The Man With The Golden Gun is actually pretty decent for early 70’s Bond.

When Bond (Roger Moore) is targeted by the mysterious and highly successful assassin Scaramanga (Christopher Lee) for a bullet, the spy is pulled from his current mission to recover a missing solar power agitator and sent across to Macau to confront the killer. While there, he stumbles upon fellow MI6 Agent Goodnight (Britt Akland), with whom he casually flirts, while discovering that the solar thingamajig and Scaramanga are linked together by Thai billionaire Hai Fat (Richard Loo) in order to blackmail the world. AS Bond tracks the mysterious Scaramanga across the globe, and eventually back to his offshore Chinese hideout, he must thwart the assassins plans and get past the tiny but deadly Nick Nack (Fantasy Island’s Herve Villechaize) but also Scaramanga’s beautiful lover, Andrea Anders (Maude Adams), along with a completely unnecessary sidekick in the form of Clifton James’ hideously over-the-top Sheriff JW Pepper, from Louisiana y’all.

As a kid, I never really thought Roger Moore suited the James Bond character. Between Sean Connery’s suave, debonair early take to Timothy Dalton’s ice-cold portrayal, my experiences with Moore as the eponymous British spy were less forgiving because I always thought of him as a bit of a dandy, a bit too up himself for my liking. His era’s late-stage Dad Joke innuendo and one-liners might have appealed to some people but I kinda found them a bit tiresome, and until now I’ve never really wanted to reappraise Moore’s seven-film stretch as Ian Fleming’s popular literary icon because I figured it won’t have aged all that well. I’m going to be honest, my earliest memories of this film as a younger lad mainly centered around how creeped out I was by Herve Villechaize’s appearance, his bulbous face and titter-totter acting ability sending shivers up my spine (and not in a good way); while the tiny actor has a legacy well outside this film, I’m pleased to say that as Nick Nack, he now isn’t the worst thing in this movie.

The Man With The Golden Gun actually stretches the character of Bond a little, in that it pits the spy up against his virtual equal – Scaramanga is a darker reflection of Bond, one that isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty for profit, although exactly how you don’t laugh a dude with an extra nipple off the screen continues to baffle me. Christopher Lee makes a terrific acting foil for Moore, who remains pretty square-jawed and crisp in his performance here, leaving the “comedy bits” to a wide array of supporting actors populating the screen. Lee has an enigmatic presence and seems to be delighting in one-upping his top-billed co-star in terms of pure theatricality, with Guy Hamilton restraining the amount of screen-time he gives the venerated actor to ensure maximum bang-for-buck return. True to form Lee, absolutely sells himself beautifully, and I would argue is the strongest aspect to the whole production. By contrast, poor Britt Akland is objectified beyond belief in this project, which is perhaps to be expected in the franchise but seems particularly obsequious here. The actress isn’t very strong against Moore or her other co-stars, and her character is terribly written, but the fact she’s hot as hell to look at goes a long way to avoiding this being a true turkey of a role. Maud Adams also vamps it up as Scaramanga’s lover, a character who also spends a great deal of time being male-gazed by both Hamilton’s roving camera and Moore’s smirking Bond, and while the character has some intrinsic value there’s almost no development to speak of.

Minor supporting roles to Richard Loo, as the odious Hai Fat, Marne Maitland as a gunsmith, and Soon-Taik Oh as an associate of Bond throughout the story, have solid plot/exposition value. Arguably the worst aspect of the film, however, in terms of cast and character, is poor Clifton Collins as redneck Louisiana Sheriff (inexplicably on holiday in Thailand for some reason, complete with tobacco-stuffed cheeks) who is awarded zero points for turning this “comedic” character into one of the most annoying things in this movie. From his continual “hey boy” dialogue towards Bond, to a hee-haw accent and some execrable pratfalls, Collins might have been doing what he was asked to do but that doesn’t mitigate just how terrible he is in this. I can forgive several of the Asian actors not having a natural way with English or perhaps even Western filmmaking, and the surprisingly stiff MI6 roster of M (Bernard Lee), Q (Desmond Llewelyn) and Moneypenny (Lois Maxwell) feel positively clunky at times (you know, that stiff-upper-lip best-o-British me laddo kind of shit) but having to put up with Clifton Collins’ awful JW Pepper really doesn’t feel worth the slog.

In terms of action, the film really rips along, filling in its lengthy two hour runtime with plenty of anachronistic 70’s stuntwork and charm. There’s a protracted martial arts sequence obviously leaning heavily into the influence of Bruce Lee’s popularity of the day (RIP), the aforementioned corkscrew stunt across a river, a car that turns into a plane, several fistfights, lots of running and jumping, and naturally a climactic showdown at an island lair Dr Evil would be proud of. The stunt work is extremely good, the lavish locations are well presented (although the cinematography feels a little cheap at times) and the steady-as-she-goes editing is augmented by some ropey ADR and foley work that definitely places this film firmly in the 1970’s. Arguably the most surprising thing here was just how often James Bond got to fuck women in this. He flirts like a crazy man, can barely keep his eyes off Adams and Ekland (truth be told, neither could I) and he spends a considerable amount of screen time bedding both babes as he goes along. The film also flirts with lewdness at times too, a particularly jaw-dropping moment in which a naked woman swimming in a pool is ogled by Bond (and by extension, the viewer) to the point my wife even asked what the film was rated; Hamilton isn’t afraid to dally with not quite hiding a woman’s outline in silhouette or some opaque glass. Compared to more recent Bond films post-Dalton there’s a lot of skin here and a sizeable amount of boobs and bum, and it’s overt. I’d forgotten just how puritan Daniel Craig’s Bond films had been when it came to sexuality and the male gaze, so delving into bum-titty Bond was a bit of a shock.

I had a pleasant enough time with The Man With The Golden Gun. It’s not a bad film, in the sense of remembering when it was made and the bizarre Bad Guy Plans plot (a solar powered laser that only works when the sun’s out… seems like it might be best to attack at night instead of in broad freakin’ daylight, hey Bond?) and a lot of it is quite fun to watch. There’s some moments of kookiness that feel out of date, the Bond character sure is a lot more virile and stalker-sexy than more recent iterations, and Moore is definitely well suited to this material (the film is based on the first posthumously published spy novel by Fleming, who passed in 1964) yet you still have to consider just how misogynistic, anti-feminist this franchise could be. So when it comes to the female characters, almost all of them appear in some form of undress or skimpy outfits somewhere along the way. Still, it’s Bond, and again I’m reminded of just how pinpoint accurate Judi Dench’s first scene as M with Brosnan turned out to be – “…a relic of the cold war, you’re a sexist, misogynistic dinosaur…” In the case of The Man With The Golden Gun, this is absolutely spot on.

Who wrote this?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *