James Bond rewatch: ‘The Man with the Golden Gun’

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001. The story

James Bond gets the heads up about a vicious contract killer, and there’s a bullet with his name (actually, his number) on it. The entire plot is based on a clever sleight of hand (the villain isn’t even that bothered about Bond until very late on in the film), but soon descends into an incoherent mess.

Those who are happily convinced that Moonraker is the low point in the series are advised to give this another chance. Or rather, don’t.


002. The villains

Christopher Lee as Scaramanga begins a noble tradition of great actors playing great Bond villains in not particularly good movies. The fact that he doesn’t even regard Bond as a real adversary (his ‘I hope our swords do not cross again’ actually seems sincere, rather than a threat) makes him an interesting baddie, but he’s let down both by his harmless side-kick Nick Nack and also by having a base that’s entirely empty of easy-to-shoot lackeys.


003. The girls

Maud Adams as Andrea Anders is the best of a weak bunch – it’s not surprising that she was asked back to the franchise for the title role in 1983’s Octopussy.

Britt Ekland is given the kind of poorly-conceived ‘dumb blond’ character that gave Bond girls a bad name, serving merely to annoy Bond and get shoved into cupboards and car boots. However, she does enable Christopher Lee to utter one of the film’s better lines: “I like a girl in a bikini. No concealed weapons.”


004. Best moments

Give us a minute. In truth, there’s not a great deal to choose from here, as everything seems plodding and cumbersome. However, the car jump is one of the franchise’s finest stunts, even if it is thrown away with a comedy slide whistle sound effect), while the first on screen meeting between Bond and Scaramanga is undeniably full of menace.

There’s also lots of subtle underplaying in the scene where M (Bernard Lee) harrumphs and moans at Bond, officially putting him on enforced leave, while at the same time – by a choice lack of words – allowing Bond to do what he wants.

However, one of the film’s best ideas is the secret base located in a submerged ship – all crazy angles and disconcerting lines. For a moment, it looks like the film is about to get significantly better. And then: it doesn’t.



005. Trivia

» The Man With The Golden Gun isn’t the first Bond film – or even Bond book – to have a Man With A Golden Gun as the villain. That honour, somewhat unsurprisingly, falls to Goldfinger.

» The novel is the last to be written by Ian Fleming before his death, whilst the film is the last to be directed by Guy Hamilton.

» Christopher Lee’s tan is achieved with full body make up.

» The cork-screw car jump is also credited with being the first stunt ever to be calculated by computer modeling.

» The Martial Arts sequences don’t appear in the book, but are added to the film, since that genre was coming into fashion at the time.



» Bond: “I am now aiming precisely at your groin. So speak or forever hold your piece.”

» Bond: “Who’d want to put a contract on me?”
M: “Jealous husbands! Outraged chefs! Humiliated tailors! The list is endless!”

» Scaramanga: “A duel between titans… my golden gun against your Walther PPK.”
Bond: “One bullet against my six?”
Scaramanga: “I only need one, Mr. Bond.”

» M: “I almost wish that Scaramanga had a contract out on you.”

» Scaramanga: “You get as much pleasure out of killing as I do, so why don’t you admit it?”


007. The verdict

Oh, it’s all a bit of a slog, isn’t it? There’s the suffocating sense throughout that everyone involved has pretty much given up. There are long sequences in which almost nothing happens. It’s distractingly misogynistic, even for a Bond – and particularly for Roger Moore – with him twisting Maud Adams’ arm behind her back, threatening to break it, all the while smarming like a wife beater.

It’s a waste of a good villain, who gets killed off in a somewhat perfunctory fashion at least ten minutes before the end, and that’s before a ‘comedy’ epilogue involving a midget that Mike Myers would be able to copy without much adjustment in Austin Powers.

If the franchise had ended here in 1974, it would have been considered a humane death. Luckily, and somewhat surprisingly, James Bond would make a grand return after a three year break in The Spy Who Loved Me.


What do you think of The Man with the Golden Gun? Let us know below…