Apr 19, 2014

Review: The Man with the Golden Gun (1974)

The Man with the Golden Gun is the follow up to Live and Let Die and is the final movie in the series to be directed by Guy Hamilton. This is where Roger Moore really steps into the role of Bond with total ease. I do prefer Sean Connery as James Bond but I think that Roger Moore makes Bond his own in this sequel and I like the results. He has this kind of, alternative classiness if you will. The choices of suits and the smoking of a cigar are worlds apart from the type of style that Sean Connery's Bond followed. He's not an evolution per se, but a revision and I'm cool with that.

The story involves James hunting down a world class assassin by the name of Fransico Scaramanga played by the ever glorious Christopher Lee. I love this man and I love him in The Man with the Golden Gun. Scaramanga is known to charge $1 million per hit, uses a golden gun as his weapon of choice and is an extremely skilled shooter so Bond can't take him lightly. An item of importance called the Solex which could solve the energy crisis going on in the 70's is also in play between both men so it makes for an interesting matchup.

After the traditional opening scene and the average opening credits, James Bond enters M's office and is asked if he knows who Scaramanga is. James is an encyclopedia of knowledge so of course he does. Right away Roger Moore demonstrates that he's taken over the role and he means business.

The Roger Moore era is known as campy and a sort of self-parody but The Man with the Golden Gun hasn't reached that point yet. There are actually some pretty dark moments such as James pointing a rifle at a man's genitals or threatening to break a woman's arm with no iota of mirth. He's dead serious. There are also no gadgets to speak of which is a nice break.

The action sequences are nicely done once again. The car and boat chases are simple and get the job done without being too long. One thing though that was just bizarre and misplaced was the use of a whistle sound effect during a spectacular car stunt. It kind of just underscored the effort because it is a cool stunt. There is  a familiar face though who's back and provides some good supporting comedy. In terms of fight scenes though, The Man with the Golden Gun attempts to leverage the popularity of martial arts films that's a bit of a failure. It's totally unnecessary and I don't really believe that Roger Moore could take on two sumo wrestlers.

 I've said it before and I'll say it again, Christopher Lee is a man of class, distinction and he plays Scaramanga perfectly. How he can play a character with a third nipple and not come off as ridiculous is a miracle. He practically overshadows James Bond himself for how much presence he brings to the screen and he's without a doubt one of the most memorable Bond villains in the series. His sidekick Nick Nack is also pretty creepy.

The Bond girls this time around are not as memorable as those in Live and Let Die, particularly Mary Goodnight who is treated pretty poorly by James and commits blunder after blunder so she's not a particularly strong character.

There's some beautiful cinematography for the sequences that were filmed in Thailand and John Barry's return to score this Bond entry is very welcome. There are a few minor problems with The Man with the Golden Gun but I see it as a step up from Live and let Die. Taking over the role of James Bond from Sean Connery is no easy feat but I think Roger has done it in his own way and it works. There will always be debates about the Connery and Moore eras but in the end this is James Bond and I hope it lasts forever.


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