Over the last several months, members of the CBn Forum have been reviewing all the James Bond 007 films in the “Countdown Threads“. If you wish to join in on the forum discussion all you have to do is register. Now here are some selected reviews, varying in opinion, of The Man With The Golden Gun…
‘The Man With The Golden Gun’ by Turn
Along with Moonraker, The Man With The Golden Gun is often considered the least of the James Bond films. Ironically, both rank above such “classics” as For Your Eyes Only and The Spy Who Loved Me on my list. I’m not sure what it is about The Man With The Golden Gun that people dislike. I’m guessing the rather forced comedy and lack of huge action. But look past that and you have a James Bond movie that author John Brosnan said was “out of step with the other films of the ‘70s.” I find that a good thing. It doesn’t try so hard to slam you over the head all that and entertains in a different way.
The Man With The Golden Gun was made during a period where the films were somewhat scaled back. I believe the film benefits from this. Instead of worrying what big stunt or special effects sequence would dominate the next scene, it allows the film to concentrate on other things. The world’s greatest secret agent against the world’s greatest assassin is a hell of a concept. The film reminds me a little of Dr. No in the sense that Scaramanga really doesn’t show up until the final third of the picture. But his presence hangs over the first two thirds. Christopher Lee is perfectly cast as Scaramanga, a major improvement over the character from the Fleming novel, who was basically just a hood who was a talented shot.
One of the more maligned characters in The Man With The Golden Gun is Nick Nack. Some people dislike him because he is seen as non-threatening and no challenge to Bond. I like the character. He’s not some Odd Job or Red Grant clone. He’s not threatening in the conventional way, but he helps Scaramanga become the million-dollar success he is in less obvious ways, making him as dangerous as if he were 6-4 and 250 pounds. When he tells Bond “If you kill him, all this be mine,” you really have to wonder if he’s being sincere or not, which makes more sense than the big guy who will defend his master’s honor even when he knows all is lost. This way, it puts Scaramanga as the focus of the dangerous villain. Most villains in the series are big talkers who only fight to the finish when their henchmen are dead.
Mary Goodnight is also very disliked. While she is sometimes awfully stupid, she isn’t Stacy Sutton, either. That character will always rank at the bottom for me. Unlike Goodnight, who is basically a secretary, Sutton is supposed to be a trained geologist and somebody who is supposedly level-headed but comes across as a bimbo. Since Goodnight isn’t presented to be someone with a high education, she may be bound to make mistakes.
Better is Maud Adams. I remember finding her incredibly attractive just by her pictures on the movie edition of the novel when I was a kid. She makes a nice damsel in distress. The scene of Scaramanga stroking her with the golden gun and her reaction is one of my favorites from the film. J.W. Pepper is a distraction, but doesn’t kill the film for me. What’s funnier is seeing James Bond driving an AMC Javelin instead of an Aston Martin or BMW. Now that’s an amazing feat.
As for Roger, he’s in fine form with a nice combination of a bit more seriousness without being too far overboard on the wisecracks. There’s none of the forced toughness imposed in For Your Eyes Only.
While The Man With The Golden Gun may not rival its follow-up in terms of interesting action scenes, it doesn’t underachieve there either, like The World Is Not Enough. And it’s not one continuous chase like in Live And Let Die. The whole Scaramanga thing is enough to distract from the lack of big action for me. And you actually have a feel for the location as opposed to many recent movies. For instance, does anything really feel like Die Another Day is taking place in Korea? Hi Fat’s garden is one of the more interesting locations used in the series.
The Man With The Golden Gun is, admittedly, filled with flaws. It seems most stem from Guy Hamilton, who was revealing his limitations as a Bond director and coasting on his success with Goldfinger by this point. Probably the biggest offender, for me at least, is the scene where Hip drives off without Bond. What the hell were they thinking there? The karate battle itself could have been so much better. Some amusing scenes for sure, but Chula is one of those smirking villains who deserved much more than just a roundhouse punch to wipe that look off his face. Repeating the fun house thing at the climax probably wasn’t a good thing, either. And Hamilton reportedly told the actors to play things lightly when it could have had more edge in certain scenes.
John Barry’s score also adds a lot to this one. I find it strange so many don’t like it much. Knowing he had only 2 weeks to compose it makes it that much more of an achievement. Especially in light of David Arnold having 2 years to work out his scores and yet still repeats things from previous scores.
So, while it’s not one of the highest profile films, The Man With The Golden Gun is a nice, off-beat film that works in its own way. Taking a break from the please-at-all-costs attitude works for it and people should give it a second look and try to enjoy it in that way. I just hope nobody takes that it wasn’t a massive box office success as criteria it’s a bad film.
‘The Man With The Golden Gun’ by Moonraker
It’s not that bad really, but it’s flaws outshine the highlights. The Bond girl gives Bond girls a bad name, and the plot doesn’t make complete sense, the music isn’t jawdropping, and Bond isn’t at the top of his game. But Christopher Lee is the perfect villian and is a treat to watch in this film. The car stunt was fantastic but utterly ruined by the wistle effect. An entertaining film, not the best but not the worst.
‘The Man With The Golden Gun’ by Hrabb04
Another slap in the face to the estate of Ian Fleming and Ian Fleming’s James Bond. Not even bothering to adapt the damned novel, the creators instead come up with an ultra-stupid plot sending Roger Moore on to the Far East, where it’s not You Only Live Twice anymore. With lame direction from Guy Hamilton, the people behind this travesty show they just don’t get Bond. Hamilton definitely did not. Britt Ekland proves she was nothing more than just Peter Sellers’ girlfriend, while Maud Adams shows she should have been the Bond girl for the whole movie. There is no chemistry among the regular players.
Best things: Chris Lee as the villain and the score by John Barry
In an alternate realty, Sean Connery, a full partner with Broccoli and Saltzman, is 007 in this one, with Jack Palance as the villain. It’s just like the book with the shoot out in the Jamaican swamp. It would be a nice way to bring Connery back to Jamaica over 10 years after Dr. No, bringing him back on top after getting amnesia in Japan.
‘The Man With The Golden Gun’ by Skudor
The scenery is probably the one thing that keeps The Man With The Golden Gun off the bottom of my list. The film is dragged down by Britt Ekland’s appalling acting, the annoying (although quite amusing) appearance of J.W. Pepper, the flying car… Scaramanga’s hall of mirrors (a case of taking Scaramanga’s circus background too far) and his silly private nuclear plant (oh dear). The last cut to the movie is Roger Moore as Bond – never my favourite and therefore unable to drag the film up in a way that Sean Connery could have.
Christopher Lee is usually very good, and doesn’t disappoint here.
‘The Man With The Golden Gun’ by tdalton
This is just simply a turkey of a movie. Poor acting, poor direction, and a poor storyline keep this movie from even getting off the ground.
Roger Moore, who was decent in his first go around as Bond in Live And Let Die seems to have lost his way in The Man With The Golden Gun. He just seems to sleepwalk through the role, as if there is no purpose of him even being there. He is not helped, though, by the horrible script that tries to throw in some nonsense about a solar agitator to give the villian a huge scheme for Bond to destroy.
Sometimes, low-key is what is needed in a Bond film, and if there were ever a film that this was true for, it’s The Man With The Golden Gun. Instead of Bond having to track down who has the solar agitator, why didn’t the writers just keep the plot to Scaramanga trying to assassinate Bond. It could have been much better this way, with Bond and Scaramanga playing a cat and mouse game throughout the film. Unfortunately, this is not the case and the film becomes a tangled mess.
Christopher Lee is well cast in the role of Scaramanga, but he’s not given anything to do. Britt Ekland is one of the worst Bond girls ever, only in front of Halle Berry’s Jinx. Goodnight could have been such a good character, but Brit reduces her to a complete moron. The only reason that she beats out Jinx as a Bond girl is that she’s easier on the eyes. Both of their performances, though, were just dreadful.
Maud Adams is terrible in her role as Andrea Anders. She is much better a few years later in Octopussy. Even M and Q are made to look like incompetent fools in this film. It’s just a downright awful film that the producers should consider withdrawing from the official 007 series and consider going back and remaking.
The musical score is okay, but LuLu’s title track is flat out awful. If they wanted someone to sound like Shirley Bassey, as LuLu has claimed that she was forced to do when recording the track, then John Barry should have just gone out and gotten Shirley Bassey to do another Bond theme. Just let the performers perform it the way that they would normally, that’s why you picked them instead of Shirley Bassey!
It’s good to see that they recovered from this one to make one of the finer entries, The Spy Who Loved Me, but The Man With The Golden Gun leaves an unnecessary black-eye on the Bond franchise. It could have been so much better, yet it self-destructs on practically every level.
On the whole, a solid film.
‘The Man With The Golden Gun’ by trumanlodge89
I must admit, for everything wrong with this film, its one of my guilty pleasures. Moore does his job in this one, and he has some of his best one liners in The Man With The Golden Gun. (“I shoooooore am, boooooy!”) Maud Adams is underused in this movie. Her chemistry with Moore is outstanding, and I’m sure that is why she returned for Octopussy. Britt Eckland as Goodnight is easy on the eyes, but completely pointless.
Christopher Lee is really the only thing that makes this movie stand out. He is perfect for Scaramanga. The scene where he caresses Anders with the golden gun is particularly chilling, as is the murder of Hai Fat.
The movie as a whole looks poorly put together. The editing is somewhat sloppy, and it seems may shortcuts were taken. Why is Roger Moore a cowboy in the funhouse scene. Couldn’t they make a wax replica of Bond for the funhouse as well? The “wax” Moore is clearly moving in the PTS. The flying car is pointless (and looks horrible), and what is with that SLIDE WHISTLE?
Lulu’s theme song is particularly annoying. Someone recently suggested this movie be remade with Eric Clapton singing the theme. This version sounds so much better in my head.
‘The Man With The Golden Gun’ by Freemo
Not flawless by any means, but not near as flawed as people suggest, colosally underrated, and perhaps the last “real” Bond film, before the series got diluted by actions scenes, gadgets, and the dreaded “formula”. Bask in the travelogue flavor, revel in the fact that we’re seeing the series’ best villain in Scaramanga, the real dark side of Bond, and probably Moore’s best performance as 007.
What about Bond’s visit to Lazar’s shop, Bond smacking Andrea around, and Bond’s lunch with Scaramanga? Three wonderful scenes, the latter of which I’m putting in as a late entry for best scene in the series. These are where we really get to see “James Bond”.
People point out many flaws in this movie and I won’t deny the slide whistle during the spiral jump, and JW Peppers return, but Mary Goodnight? A wonderful, light character. A bit of a bumbler, but so what? Wonderfully played, and the film is richer rather than poorer for her inclusion. The title song cops an undeserved hiding too. What’s wrong with it? I think it’s catchy and kinda cool.
Not perfect, but very, very good.
‘The Man With The Golden Gun’ by ACE
Firstly, Roger Moore’s performance is excellent. There are three scenes where he is better than Sean Connery.
1) After the much vaunted slapping of Andrea (Moore flinches!), 007 tells her that he would inform Scaramanga of this meeting if she double-crosses him. The line about the bullets being very expensive is funny and cruel and the scene is played with a genteel sadism which Moore excels at.
2) This quality is prevalent throughout Bond’s toying of Lazar (“…or forever hold your piece!” – again funny, yet cruel)
3) Bond’s luncheon with Scaramanga at the end. This last scene is particularly well-written and acted evoking genuine dramatic tension. In all these scenes, Moore is cold and professional and conveys the capability of his licence to kill. Even throwing the canal-urchin off his boat is a consistent choice in performance – something that might not happen in these days of “protecting the star.”
The release of the Solex at the end is also gripping, again through Moore’s performance – he’s actually acting; desparate and concerned.
Peter Murton’s designs, obviously influenced by Ken Adam, have immense creativity (the capsized HQ, Scaramanga’s junk and island). The notion that the sets weren’t adequately used because there were not thousands of extras milling about misses some points. The entire island, because of its power source and labour-saving devices, is capable of being run by few staff.
STORY AND CHARACTERS
The story is Bondian and has new relevance in these eco-friendly times (see “Sahara”). It is fresh because there are no nuclear weapons or Russians or SPECTRE. Thankfully, it didn’t end up as “Shane” reworked! The Andrea sub-plot is clever (re-worked in Licence To Kill with Lupe) and the scene of her being caressed by the golden gun is potent. Hai Fat, Nick Nack and Scaramanga are well-played and written. Christopher Lee was a break from the starchy villain and there was a classy, other-worldliness about him that worked so well.
The locations are terrific, refreshing, visual stunning and relevant. I know this film has been criticized for being built around the locations but remember the days when Bonds were actually shot where they were set? The photography is crisp and a testimony to Ted Moore and Oswald Morris.
Barry’s main theme is a energetic experiment with Lulu singing her heart out (and the inspiration for Duran Duran) while the instrumental version has a menacing yet romantic gravitas.
FLAWS AND WHAT IF?
There are many problems with the film, granted. Certain characters could have been cut. Mary Goodnight as written and performed is not good. Had there only been one girl, a more romantic, sexy relationship could have been established (Barry’s theme is haunting and romantic). No bedroom farce, Bond could have “rescued” Andrea, freeing her from sexual slavery thereby besting Scaramanga yet again. Sheriff Pepper need not have returned – Bond just steals the Hornet car on his own. Finally, of course, Hip’s kung-fu nieces could have been dispensed with. Bond should have had a real tough dukeroo with Chula and then dived through the wall and runs straight to the klong.
A NEW PRE-TITLE SEQUENCE?
I have never been a fan of the the pre-title fun house sequence. Perhaps this, too, could have been reworked. Bond fails to protect Bill Fairbanks. Fairbanks was to meet with Prof. Gibson regarding the Solex Agitator and Bond was to accompany them. Failing to save Fairbanks from Scaramanga (scene ends with him finding remains of the bullet, thereby cutting the awful “Beirut” sequence), which together with the delivery of a golden bullet after the titles, gives 007 a greater impetus to find his man.
Furthermore, Bond’s motivation is sharply refined. He feels guilt for Fairbanks’ death – was the bullet meant for him? Bond must find his man. However, the delivery of the golden bullet to Bond signifies Scaramanga’s determination. Introduce Scaramanga in the body of the film with a shorter Fun-House sequence culminating in the shooting of Bond’s dummy.
HAI FAT’S GARDEN
The Sumo-wrestler garden fight could have been tougher. I can imagine a garden full of “statues” coming to life menacingly to apprehend Bond when touched by moonlight.
FLAT ON HIS COUP DE GRACE
The end could be a cat-and-mouse chase throughout the entire island (and junk) with Andrea breaking free and helping Bond since she knows the place. Bond replacing his dummy could still be retained as it is a great touch (thus retaining the great Cockney rhyming slang quip, “Flat on his coup de grace”).
I know it is silly to “re-imagineer” a Bond film. Many people have placed the blame for the (relative financial) failure of The Man With The Golden Gun on a variety of things including its poster artwork! I think the reasons are a little more complex. The Man With The Golden Gun was released less than 18 months after Live And Let Die, a shorter time span than normal, which suggests a rushed pre-production schedule. The curiosity factor for Moore had gone as this was his second Bond film (a common cause for less-than-expected results). Eon Productions was in a state of flux (Cubby vs Harry/Mankiewicz vs Hamilton/Thailand vs them all!) and the budget for the film was, in real terms, lower than the recent entries. This was because UA, who were recovering from a major re-organization at the start of the 1970s (which would lead to mutiny in 1978), were reluctant to fully back any project. Marketing and competition factors in the Xmas of 1974 would also have reduced box office for the film. Despite all this, The Man With The Golden Gun was still one of only the small percentage of studio films that would make any profit whatsoever. The film’s success was such that the same people responsible for it were scheduled to make The Spy Who Loved Me. Artistically, its huge flaws accepted, The Man With The Golden Gun ranks way up there.
‘The Man With The Golden Gun’ by Genrewriter
Easily the worst of the series, this takes a good premise-Bond and Scaramanga as opposite sides of the same coin, and needlessly tacks on a “relevant” subplot that just gets in the way. Christopher Lee and Roger Moore are good but the rest of the actors play characters that are either badly written (Goodnight), annoying (Nick Nack) or just plain out of place (J.W. Pepper). Humor is also used very badly with the slide whistle over the bridge jump being the worst offender. Worst of all, the film is simply quite dull. A very disappointing misstep.
‘The Man With The Golden Gun’ by Bond111
Completely underwhelming and tepid Bond “misadventure”. It doesn’t really contain any notable action scenes, the locations seem bland and uninteresting (aside from James Bond island), the Bond girl is stupid and doesn’t serve any purpose, and John Barry’s score isn’t quite up to par. The film’s only commendable point is Christopher Lee’s presence. It’s a pity he couldn’t have starred in a much better Bond production.
It was released just one year after the previous film, and it shows.
‘The Man With The Golden Gun’ by Qwerty
It’s not a horrible film really, it’s just not a good one. I suppose an exception to the theory that a Bond film is usually as good as it’s villain is this film. Francisco Scaramanga is an inspired villain, going for the dark side of James Bond or the mirrored image – completely opposite. His lines are well crafted and he’s probably the best character in the film.
Mary Goodnight however, is not so good. She’s not really horrendous, but she’s just nothing special. Her sometimes blunderous actions: cutting Bond off, getting herself and the Solex locked in Scaramanga’s car, knocking Craw into the liquid helium, hitting the button to open the shutter, etc… detract from her character. Andrea Anders is a somewhat more interesting girl, but her lack of screentime prevents her from leaving a real big impact in the film.
The plot would have worked better had they spent more time developing it and deciding where they really wanted to go with things.
That said, the locations are pretty nice at times.