Friday, April 27, 2012

Film Review: The Man with the Golden Gun


The Man with the Golden Gun 
  • Publisher: United Artists
  • Studio: Danjaq / EON Productions
  • Director: Guy Hamilton
  • Producers: Albert R. Broccoli, Harry Saltzman
  • Writers: Richard Maibaum, Tom Mankiewicz
  • Release: 20 December 1974 


The Girls: Mary Goodnight (Britt Ekland).  One of the worst leading-role Bond Girls, for reasons such as her habit of accidentally making life difficult for 007.  In her first scene, she comes in by blocking a taxi with Bond in it, while he's trying to tail another car.  Her low point has to be near the end, when she leans back on a console and her bum pushes the switch to turn on the solar collector - with Bond inside it.  And she has no idea how to turn it off - ya think she could've felt the switch pushing against her skin and tried flipping it back!? 1 out of 5.  Andrea Anders (Maud Adams), Scaramanga's mistress, is a much more sympathetic character, seeing as how she wants out of her relationship and is willing to betray him of her own accord.  Shame she gets shot for her efforts.  5 out of 5.

Other Allies: Lieutenant Hip (Soon-Tek Oh).  Bond's contact in Hong Kong, not given much to do.  J.W. Pepper (Clifton James).  Hoo boy, if you hated him in Live and Let Die, you'll hate him ten times more this time around.  Annyoing, crass, and foul-mouthed (relatively speaking, for a PG-rated Bond film), you'll be thankful for the elephant who pushes him in the river in one scene. 1 out of 5.

The Villain: Francisco Scaramanga (Christopher Lee).  A freelance assassin who uses the titular Golden Gun and charges US$1 million for each hit.  Now this is a quality performance: think Bond, but with his own warped set of morals.  Shot by Bond during their duel.  Fun Fact: Christopher Lee was Ian Fleming's cousin.  5 out of 5.

Other Henchmen: Nick Nack (Herve Villechaize).  Scaramga's servant.  To Goldeneye 007 fans: he's the midget in the Bond universe, not Oddjob.  But, why did he have to be a midget in the first place?  Hung out to dry by Bond, presumably left alive.  3 out of 5.

The Gadgets: Bond doesn't use much of his own gadgets, apart from a fake third nipple to pass as Scaramanga.  On the other hand, Scaramanga steals the show with the eponymous Golden Gun, assembled from a pen, lighter, and cigarette case.  And he owns a car with an airplane attachment.   And he had a laser gun installed in his home.   Awesome!  Evil, but awesome.  5 out of 5.

The Locations: Lebanon, Macau, Hong Kong, and Thailand.  Fun Fact: The island from the final act, filmed at Khao Phing Kan off the western coast of Thailand, garnered enough fame from its use to take on the nickname "James Bond Island".

The Theme Song: Performed by Lulu.  Another crunchy, classic-rock joint, but prone to moments of camp, like the movie itself, and not as memorable as the one from the previous film.  2 out of 5.  Fun Fact: Alice Cooper recorded his own theme song for the film, which he claims was to be used at one point.  It ended up on his album Muscle of Love.

The Opening Credits: While also a little boring, this is the first opening credits scene I can think of that used shots of nude women in full light (as opposed to silhouettes), strategically covered by things like rippling water, lotus pads, or the Golden Gun itself.  Funny where you can find innovation these days.  3 out of 5.

The Novel: The book sharing this film's name was published in 1965, months after Ian Fleming's death.  Continuing the plotline from You Only Live Twice, it shows promise: After suffering amnesia and being re-programmed by the Soviets, 007 re-joins MI6 only to attempt an assassination on M - and fail.  He is then given a low-key assignment in order to prove his loyalty - investigate Francisco Scaramanga, this time an uncouth American gangster with a simple golden revolver.  The plot is considerably weaker by the film's standards, concerning a real-estate deal between gangsters and KGB agents.  Maibaum and Mankiewicz were right to give it an overhaul for the silver screen - and it wouldn't be the last time, either.

The Plot: The film starts by establishing the character of Francisco Scaramanga, living well on his island off the coast of China, and holding a duel with an anonymous gangster - which he wins.  Cue opening credits.  At MI6, the delivery of one of Scaramanga's golden bullets - with 007's number on it - convinces M to take Bond off his current assigmnent, lest he take a golden bullet of his own.  Recalling another 00 agent to befall that fate, Bond travels to Beirut and takes a clue - the bullet that killed him - from the property of a belly dancer.  With Q's help, he traces the bullet to its Macau-based manufacturer, Lazar.  Lazar confesses that he has another shipment of bullets ready, so Bond tracks the delivery to a Miss Anders, Scaramanga's mistress.  Interrogating her, she informs him of Scaramanga's plans for that night.

These plans involve a meeting with a Mr. Gibson, the subject of 007's previous assignment, at the Bottoms Up topless bar.  As Gibson walks out, he is shot by Scaramanga, and Bond, waiting outside, is detained by the police.  While being ferried around Hong Kong Harbour, he makes a break for it and finds himself at MI6's base in the half-sunken Queen Elizabeth ship.  There, M berates 007 for failing to retrieve Gibson's project - the Solex Agitator, a device used to convert sunlight into electricity - but 007 brings up another lead - Hai Fat, an industrialist, may have hired Scaramanga to kill Gibson.  Thus, Bond heads to Hai Fat's estate near Bangkok, posing as Scaramanga, and makes a suggestion to put out another hit on 007, to draw out the real Scaramanga.  Bond is invited back to the villa for dinner, but is instead knocked out by Nick Nack and finds himself next in a martial arts school.

After getting pulled in for a few sparring matches, Bond makes a break for it and escapes via a motorboat chase.  Meanwhile, Scaramanga takes over Hai Fat's position... the hard way.  That night, Miss Anders makes a visit to Bond's hotel room and makes him a deal - the Solex in exchange for killing Scaramanga.  He meets her at a kickboxing match the next day, only to find her dead.  Bond manages to sneak the Solex over to Goodnight, but she gets locked in the trunk of Scaramanga's car.  A car chase ensues, ending with Scaramanga putting a plane attachment on his car and flying off.  007 follows the signal from Goodnight's homer to Scaramanga's home, on an island in the South China Sea.  Scaramanga is on hand to provide him with a tour of his new solar power plant, and together they discuss his plan to gain a monopoly on the solar energy market.

After exchanging pleasantries over lunch, the two hold a duel.  Scaramanga disappears into his funhouse maze, with Bond in pursuit.  Inevitably, 007 gains the upper hand.  Meanwhile, Goodnight manages to knock out her captor... by dropping him into a vat of liquid helium.  Before this distruption can cause a chain reaction, destroying the plant, the two race to steal back the Solex and flee the island.  Their R&R is interrupted by Nick Nack, but Bond leaves him out to dry.  You are now free to turn off your TV.

I'm tempted to put The Man with the Golden Gun on record as the worst James Bond film, or at least, the James Bond film I hate the most.  So many elements go wrong, from lame characters like Goodnight and the returning J.W. Pepper, to the corkscrew car jump -- the slide-whistle sound effect they put in for some odd reason makes it a Crowning Moment of Awesome and a Dethroning Moment of Suck at the same time.  (P.S. Hope you like TVTropes lingo.)  If there's anything that saves this movie, it's the presence of Christopher Lee as Scaramanga.  As for the plot, the two components (Gibson and the Solex, and hunting down Scaramanga) seem incongruous, and could've been better-served by each being the focus of separate films, but you'd be surprised how they make it work.  3 out of 5.
The Call: 45% (D-)

IchigoRyu will return in
The Spy Who Loved Me

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