Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Monday, May 5, 2008

THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN


THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN (1974). Director: Guy Hamilton.

The film throws out the storyline of Ian Fleming’s novel of the same name, but retains the arch villain, master assassin Scaramanga (who gets one million dollars per hit) and also pits him against Bond. The locale is switched from Jamaica to Southeast Asia, and instead of a bunch of mafioso at a planned resort, the supporting cast includes a sinister businessman and his allies at a Kung Fu school. (As a sop to the Kung Fu/martial arts craze of the time, one of Bond’s associates has two schoolgirl nieces who are experts at karate and join in a battle at one point.) The prize everyone wants in this venture is a solar cell that helps power a huge solar battery and laser gun on Scaramanga’s island retreat. As in the novel Scaramanga -- well-played by Christopher Lee -- has three nipples, and his first long-ago murder had to do with a circus elephant. Mary Goodnight (Britt Ekland), 007's former secretary in the novel, is a sort of half-assed agent/assistant in the film. Maude Adams appears as Andrea Anders, who is Scaramanga’s lover but wants Bond to free her of him by killing him. Herve Villichaize is fun as Scaramanga’s little assistant Nick Nack, who hopes his boss will die so he can inherit everything he owns. Dressed in costume as a li’l devil, Nick Nack figures in an amusing scene when Bond is attacked by two huge Sumo wrestlers.

007 does not appear in the lengthy prologue (which depicts a gunfight between Scaramanga and an ill-fated hit man played by Marc Lawrence) except as a life-size dummy. The fat cop, J. W. Pepper, who first appeared in Live and Let Die, shows up again and is just as unfunny as before, serving only to slow down the action and irritate the viewer. Roger Moore is okay doing the rough stuff with the ladies and others – he slaps around Maud Adams at one point when she won’t give him information – but not nearly as convincing at it as Sean Connery was. The climactic duel between Bond and Scaramanga in a kind of fun house atmosphere may have influenced John Gardner when he wrote the climax to his novel "Never Send Flowers." The theme song is mediocre – not one of the worst, but hardly top-drawer, either. Pop singer Lulu does an okay job although her vocal peculiarities may not be to everyone’s liking. M has a headquarters inside the derelict Queen Elizabeth ship we see overturned in the harbor.
The Man with the Golden Gun is not a bad film and will hold your attention, but it is lesser Bond, without a single really outstanding sequence that stays in the memory (although there is some suspense worked up over the business with Bond working on the solar device at the end involving the laser beam). The photography is good but not great, and director Guy Hamilton seems to do little more than cover the action. Some beautiful locations, however. It is an improvement over Live and Let Die but not on the level of the Roger Moore 007s that would come later.

Verdict: Has its moments. **1/2.

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