on May 26, 2001
I know this one doesn't usually appear near the top of many critics' Best Bond Movie lists, but it's near the top of mine. Roger Moore was really in his prime in this one, and this was one of his tougher, more physical Bond performances. Moore has always been suave, and he posesses perhaps the best comic timing and delivery of any of the Bond actors, and he uses that well in Golden Gun. Also, in regards to the melody of the title song, and it's use throughout the movie, this is, IMO, the most effective scoring in the whole Bond series. There are great, exotic locales, exciting stunt sequences, and definitely one of the strongest villains in the whole series. I thought Lee's character of Scaramanga was perhaps a bit more realistic than many Bond villains, as he was more of an intelligent, psychotic loner rather than some megalomaniac set on world domination As a fan of the series, I also appreciated the Bond vs. Scaramanga final showdown as a nice change of pace from the common large scale "good commandos" vs. "evil army" battle that's used in a lot of Bond films. I also find the J.W. Pepper character to be one of the funniest in the series, so his appearance was a plus for me--this Bond movie had just enough humor to enhance the action and make it fun, without it going overboard and getting too cheesy, as they did with some of the later Moore movies. I just found this movie to be incredibly entertaining, and it just had that great Bond "feel" to it. Great picture and sound on the DVD, and a really cool documentary on the stuntmen and stunts from the whole series.
on September 28, 2000
When I first saw "The Man with the Golden Gun" on its release I had mixed reactions about it. "Live and Let Die" had been such a departure from the James Bond we had been used to seeing, it was good to see some of the old elements return to this film.
The character of James Bond had been revamped in "Live and Let Die" in an attempt, I suppose, to dissociate Roger Moore's interpretation of Bond from that of Sean Connery's. In "Live and Let Die" gone were the "Martinis shaken not stirred," the Dom Perigone, Bond's virility, worldliness and sardonic wit. Even his wardrobe was over-the-top.
In "Live and Let Die" gone also was John Barry's score, Desmond Lewelin as Q, M's briefing at "Universal Exports" headquarters, the gambling casinos, engagingly futuristic and lavish sets, the sensuous and worldly bevy of Bond women.
"The Man with the Golden Gun" opens with Maurice Binder's gun barrel trademark, accompanied with the "James Bond Theme" this time played on strings, instead of guitar. That was a real innovation by John Barry, which he continued to use for Roger Moore. It was clearly evident Barry was back.
The first camera shot is of a surrealistically exotic locale on a beach where a beautiful girl towels down a tall ark man emerging from the water. The man is Scaramanga, the Man with the Golden Gun. John Barry's familiar background music accentuates the Epicurean surroundings and the film immediately looks like it has returned to more familiar Bondian territory.
As the film unfolded many of the aforementioned elements missing from "Live and Let Die" returned. There also seemed to be a more substantial plot as it initially unfolded. However, there were still undesirable elements that crept into the film as it progressed.
Britt Ekland seemed like she would have been a natural throwback to the sex symbols of the 60s akin to previous Bond Girls such as Ursula Andress, but her vaudevillian interpretation of Mary Goodnight was a fatal flaw. Another flaw was the return of Clifton James as Sheriff J.W. Pepper. Their performances were distractions from the main plot hindering the continuity of the story line.
The film flounders in the middle until it gets back on track when Bond finally travels to Scaramanga's island for a face to face confrontation. The film follows the Bond formula here. The villain gloats as he gives Bond a tour of his lair and technical wizardry he has acquired. They dine over some dialogue on the merits of good vs. evil and in the end come to the final showdown.
I'll admit that I always had a soft spot for this film ever since I first saw it. It returned many familiar elements absent from "Live and Let Die." For instance, we see Bond return to the gambling tables via the Casino de Macao. Many fans greeted the return of these elements in a positive response. Other fans still recognized the questionable elements that were still present in "The Man with the Golden Gun" and found these deplorable and responded accordingly. To older Bond fans the return of Sheriff J.W. Pepper wasn't exactly a welcome sight.
An often-overlooked asset to this film is Maud Adams' performance as Andrea, Scaramanga's beautiful mistress. She brings genuine compassion to the role as the tormented individual who can not escape her master. Only before each killing does Scaramanga exploit her sexually in ritualistic foreplay to increase his aim on the unfortunate individual he has been contracted for. In one scene Scaramanga cruelly rubs the golden barrel of his pistol against her lips in a symbolically phallic gesture in a moment of triumph after a successful killing. You can see the pain on Andrea's face and you feel empathy for her. Even though she appears here in the prerequisite sacrificial lamb role, she stands out as one of the best Bond girls of the series.
Lee's performance as the enigmatic Scaramanga was refreshingly energetic. He gave the assassin an amiable quality on the surface hiding a darker side beneath the skin.
Roger Moore's performance was an improvement over his first interpretation of Bond as a foppish and silly dandy. Moore appeared to give Bond a tougher edge in this one even though the script attempted to undo him. Given Roger Moore's previous performance and his meager screen accomplishments as Bond at that point in the series, the "duel between titans" it was not.
Some of the cinematography was very good. Bond's solo flight through the uprooted rock formations near Phuket, Thailand to Scaramanga's island was impressive. In the pre-title sequence there is an excellent camera shot that follows gangster Hood and Nick Nack through an anteroom. As they enter the parlor the camera continues to dolly forward while the lens zooms back giving the viewer an impression of the expanse and opulence of Scaramanga's domicile, a melding of the man-made with nature's volcanic rock.
Production designer Peter Murton's work on this film has always been underrated. Scaramanga's posh living quarters overlooking his grotto rivaled earlier set designs by Ken Adam. Also very impressive were extraordinary miniatures by Derek Meddings.
One bit of innovation combing location filming, miniatures and set design was the use of the half-submerged Queen Elizabeth, its hull at a 30-degree angle, scorched and rusted at rest in Hong Kong harbor. Hidden in the bowels of the sunken ship is the headquarters for the Hong Kong station of the British Secret Service. "It's the only place in Hong Kong where you can't be bugged" says a naval officer to Bond.
John Barry's scoring gave the film his much-needed familiar sound. Even though it was apparently much loftier, it was still very welcome.
If this were to be the last film in the series it would have been a sad final testament. Luckily greater things were yet to come. One is able to look back and just enjoy it on the beautiful DVD.
In Roger Moore's second outing as 007, he's more comfortable in the role but still not up to Connery's more brutish agent. Bond is very stylish here and Moore looks great in formal wear to be sure. He could have used a little more practice in the martial arts department, preparing for a film that features...martial arts.
Bond appears to be destined for an assassin's bullet when a gold one appears at headquarters with his name on it. With the help of the "Q" branch, it is determined that the source of the bullet and threat is coming from a mysterious gun for hire named Scaramanga (Christopher Lee). The search for Scaramanga leads Bond to Hong Kong and Macau and eventually to small islands in "red" China territory.
Actually the first half of the film is pretty convincing and set up pretty well. Then, out come the gags and J. W. Pepper (Clifton James), the dufus sheriff from Louisiana who is in the far east on vacation. Sure he is. Bond is also on the lookout for a small device which is some kind of trigger for harnessing the Sun's energy as a power source. Gee, 40 years later we still haven't figured it out.
All of this gobbledygook is just the lead-in to Bond and Scaramanga's eventual gun fight. You'll have to guess who wins. While Lee is very effective as a villain and Bond babes Maud Adams and Britt Ekland add visual splender, on the whole, "Golden Gun" must be considered one of the weaker Bonds.
This Blu ray transfer comes in 1080p with a 1.85:1 aspect ratio. In general, the film looks pretty good. The colors are excellent and the night time scenes are well presented. Close ups are very good. Some of the scenes appear a little soft and you will see appropriate grain throughout. The audio was a little disappointing. Even with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 option there really is little movement from the subwoofer. Very little from the surrounds either. Pretty boring. Extras include the usual trailers, back lot interviews about the production and several segments involving the use of stuntmen in this and other Bond films.
on May 21, 2015
When I was a kid, I had the impression that The Man With The Golden Gun was one of the better Bonds, mainly because Christopher Lee was such a good Bond villain. Later I found out that the film isn't highly regarded, but I watched it again anyway and thoroughly enjoyed it. Lee is fantastic as Francisco Scaramanga (what a name!), the man with the superfluous third nipple (hello Krusty), especially at the end when he's loving that James Bond has come out to duel him (and especially when he plays with his new laser beam, and tells Bond in a crazy-but-childlike-voice "this is the part I really like"). Herve Villechaise is funky weird as the deadly Nick Nack (sort of a counter to Richard Kiel's Jaws from the next film), and the barrel roll stunt is a scream, as is Clifton James as the recurring Bond goofball Sheriff JW Pepper (a lotta people don't like him, but he kind of grew on me in this film, with his talk about "little brown pointy heads.", and all the "BOY!" stuff that he and Bond do). The scenes in Thailand are interesting and goofy (the long tail boat getting split in two), and all sorts of other nuttiness (the kung-fu battle in the school, for example), and a lack of Bond gizmos (although Scaramanga's golden gun made out of practical objects, his flying car, or his horror maze of death, are pretty good substitutes). Sadly, the plot isn't very interesting when we get to the end (wow - solar power sure is DEADLY!!), but the twists and turns are interesting, especially the bit about the real sender of the golden bullet, and the part about the double cross. The scene in Beirut is classic ("I've lost my charm", "Not from where I'm standing."), as is the fight in closed quarters when a mirror is knocked out of place and we briefly get a glimpse of the camera crew (a similar mishap occurred in Stephen Spielberg's Duel). Bond's final duel with Nick Nack is sheer animal nuttiness - "I've never killed a midget before, but there an always be a first time."
Unfortunately, the Bond girls aren't all that great - Maud Adams is okay as Andrea Anders (they gave up trying to give her a sexy innuendo-laden name, like Dixie Normous, or Lotta Fagina), and she and Bond have an interesting lover's tension between them, while Britt Ekland is okay as the young-sis Bond lover wannabe Mary Goodnight. Sadly, the theme song by Lulu isn't much (interestingly, Adams returned - and put in a much better performance - in Octopussy, the only major Bond girl to do so).
The bonus features, as always, are superb. First we get the archival stuff, like "The Russel Harty Show" (2:57), with a twee Roger Moore interview. "I don't mind being branded." "It was very uncomfortable, but it looked romantic." We find out that Herve Villechaise was supposed to be in Dune, probably an early attempt that never came to fruition. "They're writing a part for me." Also that he studied painting, then went to the US on a painting scholarship. "On Location with The Man With The Golden Gun" (1:32) takes place outside the real Bottom's Up Club, where Moore again mentions that he doesn't mind being typecast. "The children can eat. My children, that is." Bottoms Up Club was hit with an indecency investigation a bit later. "Girls Fighting" (3:27) shows the two tae kwan do martial artists Cheung Chuen Nam and Joie Bejjajiva practicing shots with the thugs, outtakes that were never used, either because they were sloppy or because you get a flash of panties now and then. Nice! "American Thrill Show Stunt Film" (5:15, with or without commentary) has a great fuzz guitar intro, as they talk about designing the astro spiral jump, with WJ Milligan. Computer knowledge by Calscan. Great computer simulators. Fortran computers could solve in 20 seconds mathematical equations that would have taken a year to solve by conventional calculations. Slow spin, then later to 98,000 spectators. A building full of texans went berserk! Hey, wait a minute... it's a promo film, with cheezy pitches like "You'll benefit from..." "The Road to Bond - Stunt co-ordinator WJ Milligan (audio only)" (8:01), talks about JM Productions from Buffalo. Milligan himself tells his life story, and the story of the barrel roll, which involved "a lot of engineering, a lot of mathematics, and a lot of computer simulation." First try was done driverless. No goals left after you've done a Bond film... "Guy Hamilton - the Director Speaks" (5:02), the man talks about how he was a tea boy in a studio in France. Assistant to Carol Reed!! "Exotic Locations" (4:53) is the usually kiss-up-y stuff. "Inside the Man With The Golden Gun - an original documentary." (30:58) explains how this was the final Bond book, published posthumously. They originally wanted Jack Palance to play Scaramanga. Moore knew Christopher Lee since 1948, and Christopher Lee and Ian Fleming were cousins, and both had been in the secret service. Has a photographic memory, and could speak to Ekland and Adams in their native language Swedish. Nick Nack originally called Demitasse. Continuity lady even gets to speak about her experiences on the set! In Phuket there was no hotel, so the crew stayed in a brothel that had been done up nice(r), the girls sent away for a week. "It's much more common than people think," Moore says about superfluous nipples, and "you can't go too wrong in Hong Kong." Bumps Millard drove the barrel roll car. Harry Salzman's last film as producer. "Double O Stunts (29:00) shows the stunts from Dr No to The World Is Not Enough, pretty exciting. The documentary is dedicated to Desmond Llewelyn, who died that year. "Always have an escape plan."
Ministry of Propaganda includes a theatrical archive with "Coming For Christmas" (1:54) and "A Man Called Scaramanga" (3:17); TV broadcasts has "James Bond on the Job" (1:02) and "The most exciting adventure" (1:14); Radio Communications has "Get Ready" (1:02),"Collision Course" (0:30), and "The greatest 007 adventure of all" (0:30), which they probably have in every Bond trailer gallery.
Image database has some nice ones, such as portraits (17), Press conference (2), Phuket (29), Bangkok (17), Bonding with AMC (8), Dojo 007 (11), Aboard Scaramanga's Junk (6), Hong Kong (7), Pinewood (11), the Golden Gun (2), and Around the world with 007 (7 - how appropriate!!).