Sunday, 25 September 2011

The Man with the Golden Gun (1974)

The man with the arched eyebrows is back, and on the trail of Francisco Scaramanga the titular Man with Aurum Armoury. James receives a golden bullet with 007 etched into it, indicating that he has been targeted for assassination. He therefore decides to track down Scaramanga before he is tracked down himself and eliminated; the story culminating in a one on one duel on a remote island.

I really liked the idea of the duel between these two shooters, Scaramanga being 007's equal in the use of weapons; it should have been a tense, gripping finale. Unfortunately it is all a bit campy and psychedelic, no doubt Scaramanga’s circus history showing through; but this rather destroys any tension that there might have been. Though to be fair, the way in which 007 nails Scaramanga shows a cunning more typical of Dr No Bond, which is cool in a film which is surprisingly bereft of gadgets, also like some of the earlier films.

The plot is fairly straight forward, and is fairly succinct in itself; it is just spoilt by too much “comedy”, and some rather bizarre script:

“I always thought I loved animals, Then I discovered that I enjoyed killing people even more.” ??

The worst offender is the return of J.W. Pepper, on holiday in Bangkok from Louisiana. Now, I realise that I did defend his inclusion in LALD to an extent, arguing that his interruption of the boat chase prevented it from becoming stale and monotonous. But, was he really that good an idea that it was worth bringing him back? In a time when the franchise can't string two consecutive Felix Leiters together, Clifton James is allowed to reprise his foolish role! Just when you think that it can’t get any worse as an elephant tries to pickpocket him and he heeeelariously falls into the water, he’s feckin’ back again, chewing the cud in the car chase and calling everyone Bwaaaoooy! This nonsense, and Hip’s nieces turning out to be karate experts (just an excuse for another fish-hooked eyebrow) are the worst offenders. Though an honourable mention should go to the random Clanger noise as the car loops over the broken bridge!

“The fried mushrooms look terribly interesting.” WTF?

This is not to say that the film is awful; there are plenty of shining moments. There is a pretty good scrap in the belly-dancer’s changing room near the beginning, and it is good to see that someone tries to attack 007 with a chair. Though, are we really meant to believe that the mangled bullet passed through Bond’s digestive system without it shredding his guts? There is also some good banter between Bernard Lee and Desmond Llewelyn when they are discussing the origin of the golden bullet, and again later after Scaramanga has escaped. The car chase was pretty dynamic too, and well filmed; it was just spoiled by unrealistic and unnecessary pile-ups, and of course JW.

Roger still seems to be enjoying the role and is very comfortable in it. Christopher Lee is very good, he is always very cool, calm and calculated, but he just lacks the extra menace that would make him a great villain. Maud Adams is very good as Scaramanga’s kept woman, Andrea Anders. She essentially engineers the entire premise of the film. She is smart, manipulative, knows precisely what she wants and how she will get it; almost a perfect Bond girl; except she dies! Presumably Britt Ekland is the main girl, and although she is by no means good in TMWTGG, she is very sexiful in that bikini! Another honourable mention should be made here to Choo Mee; is she the first Bond Girl to be naked for all of her screen time?

“I maybe small, but I never forget.” Huh?

The Man with the Golden Gun is an enjoyable romp; however it is a couple of great characters short of being a great film, and a bit too full of redneck Louisiana sheriff and other “comedy” moments, to be up there with the best of the 007 series so far. No matter how much furniture fighting there may be!

Order of Preference so far: