Thursday, 30 December 2010

The Man with the Golden Gun (1974)

I’m now determined to work my way through all of the Roger Moore James Bond movies, And they’re proving to be considerably more enjoyable than I’d expected! Last night it was The Man with the Golden Gun.

With Christopher Lee as the villain you’d think you couldn’t go wrong. And you’d be right. He’s a splendid villain, striking just the right balance between scenery-chewing and genuine menace. And this movie boasts not one but two Bond girls! There’s a serious glamorous Bond girl (Maud Adams) and an equally glamorous comic-relief Bond girl (Britt Ekland). But let’s face it you can’t have too much feminine pulchritude in a Bond movie.

Christopher Lee is Scaramanga, the world’s most expensive hitman. Nobody knows what he looks like, but his signature is that he always kills with a golden bullet. In fact he fires the golden bullet from a golden gun. He can afford such indulgences, since his price is a cool one million dollars per hit. And it now appears that his latest target is Agent 007.

Bond is naturally keen to find Scaramamaga before the mysterious assassin finds him. His search takes him to the usual array of exotic locations, and eventually to Scaramanga’s lover, the beautiful Andrea Anders (Maud Adams). Of course it turns out that this was no simple hit and that much more is at stake, and that Scaramanga has his own agenda.

Bond has two assistants this time, a tough Thai cop and a beautiful but not overly efficient British secret agent named Mary Goodnight (Britt Ekland). Miss Goodnight is however keen to help. She also seems rather keen on getting Bond into bed.

Scaramanga has an assistant of his own, the pocket-sized Nick Nack (Hervé Villechaize, best known as Ricardo Montalban's midget assistant in the Fantasy Island TV series.

This movie doesn’t have as much spectacular gadgetry as the typical Bond movie but it still has plenty of impressive action sequences. And Scaramanga’s solar cannon is fun. Mention should also be made of the British secret service headquarters in Hong Kong Harbour - I won’t spoil it by revealing the location but it’s a nice touch, and wonderfully British.

It also departs from the usual style in that the chief bad guy isn’t just pulling the strings behind the scenes. He’s an action hero as well, and while Bond is stalking him he’s also stalking Bond. And he’s a villain with a lot more overt physical menace than the typical Bond diabolical criminal mastermind. It’s a variation that works pretty well.

Maud Adams has the looks but her performance is perhaps just a little less than riveting. It’s fortunate that Britt Ekland is on hand. At this point I have to make a confession. I rather like Britt Ekland. OK, she was never going to pay Lady Macbeth, but to be fair she was never daft enough to think she could. She knew her limitations and worked within them. And for this kind of light comedy role combined with a rather charming dolly-bird style of glamour she’s just right.

Moore is in fine form. In only his second outing in the role he already seems quite at home. There’s quite an emphasis on comedy in this film, with Clifton James providing additional comic relief in the role of Sheriff J. W. Pepper (which he also played in the previous film, Live and Let Die).

The sets aren’t as elaborate as in some of the other Bond movies, but they are cleverly done. Scaramanga’s fun-house is very effective.

There’s action, there’s fun, there’s glamour. There’s not really much to complain about here. It’s a pretty worthy addition to the Bond canon.


venoms5 said...

I like this one, too, but feel it's one of the weakest of the entire series. The stunt with the car, though, is a highlight in my view.

Shaun [The Celluloid Highway] said...

Something of a let down after Moore's first Bond adventure LIVE AND LET DIE. The duel between Scaramanga and Bond, which should have been the key component of the film is all too brief and lacks suspense. An earlier scene in which the two duellists have lunch is far more tense. Not one of Roger's best but still fabulously entertaining - the song by Lulu is pretty awful too.