The Man With The Golden Gun (1974) Film Review

Directed by: Guy Hamilton

Screenplay by: Richard Maibaum & Tom Mankiewicz

Starring: Roger Moore, Christopher Lee, Britt Ekland

Running time: 125 minutes

J’s Verdict: ☆☆1/2

Right out of the gate, The Man With The Golden Gun has one of the more stranger openings of the Bond films – a gangster, dressed like he belongs in a film set in the prohibition era, engages the mythical hitman Scaramanga (the legendary Christopher Lee) in a Cat-and-mouse duel inside a carnival funhouse…in Scaramanga’s personal island.

Past the truly rockin’ theme song belted out by LULU, M invites Bond into his office to ask him what he knows about Scaramanga. Evidently, that’s everything. Exposition filled out in one big chunk just like that. It’s strange and slightly clunky but okay, I’ll roll with it.

A golden bullet with 007 etched onto it is delivered to M16, giving Bond the idea to go after the man behind it, despite M’s suggestion of personal leave. Oh – and there’s something about the energy crisis needing to be on the back burner while this cat-and-mouse chase continues.

I tend to rate Bond films on how much enjoyment I get out of them. They are, after all, escapism pictures – the cinematic equivalent of cotton candy, with camp and sex and chemical x mixed in for good measure – and for the most part, the film has its strengths.

I did enjoy the character of Scaramanga (played here by the legendary Christopher Lee) as he is an exciting counterpart to James Bond, the other side of the coin and definitely a worthy foe in all aspects.

It’s their cat-and-mouse stand-offs that drive the film, offering up some of the more exciting sequences, including that eye-widening, breath-catching car corkscrew – even despite the strange inclusion of the slide whistle (the heck?).

It helps that gets a wonderful monologue during the mid-section of the movie that dives into his background and elevates the tension right down to the final duel with Bond.

Speaking of Bond, Roger Moore seems more relaxed this time around in the role, with the lighter approach – the quips, the sumo-wedgie, the constant Goodnight-jabs – being right up his alley. Moore does dry wit perfectly for my money.

I will note the slight edge to Bond here, something not really seen in Live and Let Die. At one point, Bond corners a gunsmith with his own new piece of work – aiming right at his crotch – for information on the whereabouts of the man with the golden gun. At other points – hell, did he really just call Nick Nack (played wonderfully with sass by the late Hervé Villechaize) a ‘fink’ – what?! Bond is stone cold.

The Bond Girls this time around are Mary Goodnight, played by Britt Ekland, and Andrea Anders, the femme fatale played by Maud Adams.

Adams is wonderful as Anders, filling her with a sense of strength and iciness that makes her character stand out amongst the Bond femme fatales.

Britt Ekland, likewise, is wonderful in the role, but her arc across the film is strangely all over the place. Like Tiffany Case from Diamonds are Forever, Goodnight starts off seemingly strong — and there’s a moment where I felt, Hey, she’s going to stand her own against Bond, not give into his manly manliness and her her job done as his equal. Then, in the second and third acts of the film, her character changes completely, morphing from a seemingly hardened individual to a Bond fangirl and bumbling sidekick, one whose chiseled behind factors into the ending is a strange way.

And then there’s Clifton James back as Sheriff J. W. Pepper, who happens to be vacating where Bond happens to be investigating – and even ends up tagging along after a series of contrived-but-admittedly-slightly-entertaining events. For some reason he’s back. Don’t ask me why.

Look, I found The Man With The Golden Gun entertaining to watch and there’s a lot to enjoy here, but I feel the film doesn’t entirely work as a whole, from the spotty writing to the slow pacing and casual racism.

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