CAST: Roger Moore, Christopher Lee, Britt Ekland, Maud Adams, Hervé Villechaize, Desmond Llewelyn, Bernard Lee, James Cossins, Lois Maxwell, Richard Loo, Soon-Tek Oh, Marc Lawrence, Marne Maitland, Carmen du Sautoy, Francoise Therry, Sonny Caldinez, Clifton James
RUNNING TIME: 125 mins
BASICALLY…: Whilst trying to stop solar cell technology from falling into the wrong hands, James Bond (Moore) is targeted by the world’s most expensive assassin, Scaramanga (Lee)…
NOW FOR THE REVIEW…
With No Time To Die being pushed back all the way to November, the world needs its fix of Ian Fleming’s ace secret agent to tide them over until then. That’s why, every week until it finally comes out, we’re going to be taking a look at each previous movie in the series to see if, and how, they hold up today.
This week, Roger Moore faces off against Dracula himself, Christopher Lee, in The Man with the Golden Gun – but before that legendary showdown, you have to sit through a particularly dumb entry which mixes awkward action and even more awkward comedy to make, you guessed it, a rather awkward movie.
In this one, Bond (Moore) goes on the trail of Francisco Scaramanga (Lee), a mythic and costly assassin who reportedly charges “a million a shot” (according to Lulu’s bouncy titular theme), and has enough wealth for him to cosy up on a secluded island somewhere in Thailand, with his mistress Andrea (Maud Adams) and even his own dwarf manservant Nick Nack (Hervé Villechaize). Bond’s search for Scaramanga coincides with a mission to retrieve a stolen device which can harness solar energy, and puts him in contact with numerous allies and foes, among them a school of martial arts students, millionaire industrialists, and – perhaps most frightening of all – fellow agent Mary Goodnight, played by Britt Ekland.
Mary Goodnight, plain and simple, is the worst part of this film. She is initially there to help out on Bond’s mission, but it soon transpires that she really serves no purpose to the overall film, except to be the token Bond girl which means dressing in alluring nighties and bikinis, and contributing absolutely nothing to the overall plot. What little she does in the film is mostly just a bunch of stupid things that are entirely of her doing; in the middle of a mission, when she is entrusted with the film’s main MacGuffin, knowing full well the stakes should it end up in Scaramanga’s hands, what does she do? Trail Hervé Villechaize with about as much subtlety as an anteater in an ant farm, and follow him to his car where – of course – she ends up being thrown in the boot and captured by the bad guys. As soon as you’re over that bit of blatant stupidity, she strikes again during a core moment within the film’s climax, in which she accidentally does something so dumb that it borders on self-parody. By the time that the movie does wrap up, you’re wondering what Moore’s Bond actually sees in her, because she certainly doesn’t have brains to match her ravishing beauty, and Ekland’s acting isn’t especially strong enough for her to be a suitable match for the more sophisticated Moore (who here settles into the role a lot easier than he did in Live and Let Die). From what I understand, Mary Goodnight was a recurring character in the original Ian Fleming stories, and was considered a close and resourceful ally for Bond who actually provided some solid support whenever he needed it; that certainly isn’t reflected in her one and only appearance in the film canon, and thank goodness it was only one because the stupidity and incompetence of this character very nearly ruined the film for me.
Thankfully, Christopher Lee is also there to bring some gravitas to the material; the legendary actor is great casting as the latest foe for Bond to go up against, because he has a very intimidating and sinister presence but also a level of charm and charisma to a point where you can understand how this guy acquired the wealth and reputation that he has. Scaramanga is a character you honestly want to see more of than even Bond, with his wild backstory involving being raised in a circus which is disappointingly laid out for us via clumsy exposition near the start being something that you’d pay good money to see a movie about, because it makes an already alluring villain all the more interesting.
Instead, we get a lot more of the same that’s done to middling effect, and while some of it is fun to watch there’s a lot more that’s somewhat tedious, with humour that feels very forced. Case in point: there is an extended chase sequence around the end of the second act, and like Live and Let Die it suddenly turns into a buddy comedy when the Louisiana sheriff from the last film randomly shows up to accompany Bond on the case (this was apparently the result of director Guy Hamilton enjoying the character so much he asked the writer of this film to fit him in, even if it makes absolutely no sense as to why he’s there in the first place). His uncouth manner is obnoxious enough, but the forced humour manages to seep into the action itself, with one impressive piece of stunt work having a comedic slide whistle being played over it, immediately ruining what little respect you already had for it.
It’s a rather annoying film, because there are definitely some good things to enjoy about this film – mostly Christopher Lee having fun as the film’s big bad – but it’s marred by some really stupid decisions and even stupider characters which leave you more irritated than satisfied. It’s probably my least favourite of the series so far, but that’s not saying much because I am aware that there is some even dumber stuff to come later on that diminishes even this film.
SO, TO SUM UP…
The Man with the Golden Gun has a few notable highlights, particularly Christopher Lee who has a great presence as the film’s villain, but it’s mostly an annoying ride with some tonally inconsistent action sequences, and some dumb writing which makes characters such as Britt Ekland’s Mary Goodnight really unbearable to be around.