James Bond Retrospective: Review of THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN

(I am a pretty huge James Bond fan, so with the new SKYFALL coming out November 9th, I thought it would be cool to re-watch every Bond movie and review them on the site, counting down the days until the latest one is released)

This was the other one I never saw as a kid.  I think there was probably 2 of them I hadn’t seen when I was younger (ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE being the other).  I finally saw it back in the late 90’s, and I didn’t really care for it.  I was pretty disappointed.  Then when I rewatched it in 2006, I liked it much better.  I did just watch it again yesterday, and when I put the DVD in I had no clue if I was going to like it again since I’ve been discovering that I haven’t been digging many of the Bond films so far.

M informs Bond that he has been targeted by the world’s top assassin, Scaramanga (Christopher Lee).  Since this jeopardizes any mission 007 would be working on, he has been put on sabbatical.  Since Bond can’t stand to NOT do anything, he sets out to find the man who put a hit on him.  He also gets the help of a sexy MI:6 agent named Goodnight.  The two of them discover that Scaramanga has something to do with some solar power crisis thing, and must be stopped.

After the disappointing pre-title sequence of the previous film, this one is a vast improvement.  Bond still isn’t in it, but it sets up the villain quite well.  It opens with some thug arriving on an island, only to be greeted by a midget named Nicknack, who leads him into a sort of funhouse, which is where Scaramanga plays a game of cat and mouse with him.  It ends with the thug getting shot in the head by the top assassin.  Then we see a realistic wax figure of James Bond, and Scaramanga then proceeds to shoot off its fingers.  Then BAM!  The John Barry composed song rams its way onto the soundtrack.  It’s an extremely aggressive song that has kick ass vocals by singer Lulu.  Not a bad way to start.

Well…  I don’t know what was wrong with me in 2006, because I was right the first time I saw it.  It’s not very good.  Like all Bond films, there are at least some good moments and sequences, but as a whole it’s lacking.  After the energetic title track, we get a pretty boring briefing scene when M tells 007 what is going on.  There’s not much energy here.  There is a good fight when Bond is trying to get a bullet from Scaramanga’s gun from the naval of a belly dancer.  And the scenes inside the funhouse are pretty wicked.  I loved the design of it.  I did like M telling Q to shut up when the master of gadgets can’t help himself when bragging about technology.  Composer John Barry returns this time after taking a film off, and he’s back with a vengeance.  The score is one of the most thrilling soundtracks of the series.  Oh yeah, there’s an unbelievable car stunt that has Bond flipping his vehicle all the way around in mid-air and landing perfectly.  This was before all that CGI bullshit.  That was impressive.

Roger Moore is still good as 007.  The character just comes naturally to him.  I just wish the material were better.  The infamous Christopher Lee plays the main villain, and if I’m being honest, I was a bit let down.  When you read a description of the character (the world’s deadliest assassin) and imagine a Christopher Lee at the top of his game in the role, your expectations go through the roof.  He definitely doesn’t do a bad job,  but his performance just isn’t that inspired.  I kind of found him a bit bland, and it kills me to say that.  But… love the third nipple.  Yikes!  Britt Eckland as Goodnight is more annoying than sexy.  Not sure what qualifies her character as a secret agent.  She proves to be pretty incompetent.  Also, for a Bond girl, I didn’t think she was all that attractive.  Maud Adams plays Scaramanga’s lover.  She’s okay, but doesn’t necessarily set the screen on fire.  Herve Villechaize (Tattoo from FANTASY ISLAND) plays Scaramanga’s henchman nicknack.  He’s more of a novelty than actually being a good villain.  Not too impressed there.

I suppose there’s some “all right” action scenes, like when Bond fights in a karate dojo, and I loved the airplane car.  But then there was a boat chase that doesn’t even come close to the one in LIVE AND LET DIE.  Even though there was plenty of action, I found myself getting bored often.  Helming his 4th Bond film, Guy Hamilton has seemed to run out of steam.  There’s no energy or freshness to be found.  No urgency.  The film does work when it focuses on more of the cat and mouse aspects between Bond and Scaramanga, but when the movie tries to be bigger, it doesn’t quite succeed.  The movie does a decent job building up to a duel between 007 and the deadly assassin, but the final confrontation itself is pretty underwhelming.  “That was it?”, way my reaction to the outcome.

I must also mention that again, Clifton James as J.W. Pepper from LIVE AND LET DIE makes an appearance and it’s even more distracting this time.  He’s on holiday with his wife in Japan, and coincidentally ends up in a car that Bond happens to commandeer during a high-speed pursuit.  It really doesn’t fit the movie and seems to be included only to satisfy fans of the character.  There’s absolutely no reason for him to be here.  He’s super annoying, though I did get a kick out of Bond impersonating him (“I sure am… boy!”).  If we’re to take a Bond movie seriously, the filmmakers are going to have to take themselves seriously first.  Roger Moore is more than capable of being in a great Bond flick, but he needs to find the right filmmakers to make it happen.  I don’t know why the screenwriters would think that J.W. Pepper would make this movie better.

So far Roger Moore is a great Bond, but has been in 2 lousy films.  Let’s hope they get better!  This one has all the right ingredients to be a great Bond flick, I mean Christopher Lee is your main villain!  I don’t exactly know how they screwed this up but they did.  It’s not God awful, but it’s flat, bland and to put it plainly, just boring.  An uninspired Bond movie.  007 deserves better than this.  ★★ (out of ★★★★)

- Rated PG but would at least be PG13 today.  But possibly rated R because of a few gunshot wounds to the head, which normally constitutes and R these days.  It also has some sensual looking shadows during the title sequence, and some language and sensuality. 

- Running time: 2hrs 4min.

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Categories: Austin Kennedy, DVD/Blu-ray Reviews, Reviews

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2 replies

  1. Agree this is one of the Bond films I can’t really remember the end to. The nest two or three are the best Moore ones I think

  2. This 8 minute pre-title sequence is much more boring than the three agents being killed of the last film. And it is such a flat introduction of Scaramanga. Why did you like it better than the last pre-title sequence? The opening is also too abrupt starting in M’s office. I love Moore in the first hotel scene, and then going to the club. In the karate chase scene, why didn’t Bond just hop in the back of the car, or why did they leave without him? I do not understand Pepper’s return in this film either. He spoils the film and makes me sympathize with Moore for being stuck in a bad production when handling the role so well. Perhaps it was designed to entertain British audiences, having a fat lame racist American alongside the great classy British gentleman. I agree with your claims about the directing and the boring flat nature, although both boat chases in both movies were unnecessary let alone boring. And the final duel was exciting, because you expect him to take the place of his plastic self, but you never see how he changes so quickly, and gets back up from the bars underneath. It was not underwhelming, in fact it was overwhelming compared to how underwhelming Scaramanga is the whole movie.The escape and the solar device in the end is great too, Nick Nack throwing bottles and being sandwiched into a suitcase is even more ridiculous then the Bombe Surprise from Wint and Kidd in Diamonds are Forever. The car plane looks great,and Moore is very enjoyable as Bond!

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