The Man With The Golden Gun (1974) Director: Guy Hamilton
The second of Roger Moore’s James Bond films, The Man With The Golden Gun is also the ninth Eon Bond film. This was the fourth and final Bond film directed by Guy Hamilton. It was the last film in the series to be co-produced by Albert “Cubby” Broccoli and Harry Saltzman jointly because their fraying relationship was no longer salvageable. By all accounts The Man With The Golden was a disaster on and off the screen -even Roger Moore has called it one of the worst in the Bond series.
The Man With The Golden is a very loose adaptation of the Ian Fleming novel of the same name. Christopher Lee plays an international assassin named Francisco Scaramanga who is located in Asia (Christopher Lee is the only good thing about this movie). The movie opens with Scaramanga killing an assassin in a shootout at his remote lair filled with mirrors and traps and narrated by his Asian midget associate named Nick Nack (played by Hervé Villechaize who was apparently voracious in his appetite for Asian prostitutes during production). In the next scene, a golden bullet is sent to MI6 outlined with “007” on it. Bond is then sent to track down its manufacturer in Macau (he finds a belly dancer wearing a golden bullet attached to her belly button). This leads Bond to Andrea Anders, the mistress and lover of Scaramanga. She leads James Bond to the next project: Scaramanga is stealing a device called the “Solex Agitator” which is a key component of a solar-powered space station. Bond is re-assigned to capture the Solex device. In a somewhat ridiculous side-plot, Bond travels to Bangkok to meet the men suspected of ordering a hit on a man named Gibson, the man Scaramanga killed to retrieve the Solex. Bond poses as a Scaramanga but his ploy is destroyed when Scaramanga himself appears behind the scenes and a group of martial arts students are instructed to kill Bond, but he escapes on a boat. Scaramanga then kills the man with his golden gun. Bond makes contact with Andrea Anders, Scaramanga’s lover again and she promises to meet Bond at a fighting match the following day with the Solex. But when Bond arrives, he sees that Anders has been shot in the heart with Scaramanga’s golden gun. Scaramanga, himself, then suddenly appears and during the course of their conversation, Bond sees the Solex on the floor and conceals it. Bond smuggles the device to his allies and chases Scaramanga. He also encounters J.W. Pepper on vacation in Asia- the unfortunate American sheriff who is every stereotype of a heavy, rural, southern white American (he also appeared in Live and Let Die). Pepper’s character was a carryover from Live and Let Die and was inspired by the crew’s true interactions with racist southern policemen while shooting in Louisiana.
At any rate, Bond tracks Scaramanga to a remote island where Scaramanga demonstrates the power of his energy beam to destroy Bond’s getaway plane. Scaramanga then proposes a duel with Bond and the fight leads into Scaramanga’s funhouse lair. Bond outwits and kills Scaramanga, escaping from the island, and then killing Nick Nack in a surprise attack at the end.
The Man With The Golden was not a particularly profitable film at the time of its release. The plot and goofy acting placed the future of the Bond saga in jeopardy as did the deteriorating relationship between the producers. This little project of mine to watch all the James Bond films has turned out to be a mostly disappointing idea. For example, while watching The Man With The Golden Gun I kept asking myself, what is going on? Bond is suddenly in Macau, and then he is in Thailand -why? What exactly is Scaramanga trying to accomplish? Why does he reveal his weapon to Bond and then propose a duel which turns into a shootout? Why not just kill Bond like so many other enemies? So many questions, and so few answers in the James Bond world. I suppose these movies were never really meant to be rationally analyzed. United Artists rushed Eon to production with this film and it shows.