Sunday, November 10, 2013
MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN, THE
(December 1974, U.S.)
For the absolute die-hard, no bullshit James Bond fan (like my fellow blogger and friend in California, Richard), there are, understandably, many reasons not to like the ninth Bond film, THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN. To begin with, the concept of silly is definitely starting to set in here. As an example, I could likely go on forever about the Bond villain's car with wings soaring into the air, which in my opinion, is second in stupidity only to the invisible car driving on the ice in DIE ANOTHER DAY (2002). And really, are any of us supposed to take the likes of little Hervé Villechaize seriously as a Bond villain; even a sidekick Bond villain?? Finally, in terms of the ol' Bond girl-o-meter, I highly doubt that Britt Ekland as Goodnight will go down in Bond history as nothing more than an astoundingly stupid blonde British agent, and that's very likely being kind! Finally, as LIVE AND LET DIE seemed to take advantage of the popularity of 1970's Blaxploitation films, THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN doesn't miss a chance to pay homage to 1970's martial arts films, à la Bruce Lee, with a sequence of its own.
(okay, I know...I'm dwelling on the Bond negative here!)
To it's credit, though, THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN takes on a rather serious tone in it's mission of not only figuring out the mystery of Francisco Scaramanga (played by Christopher Lee in a villainous role he was simply made for) and his personal mission to gun down the great James Bond, but also the strong issue of the energy crisis which plagued a good portion of the 1970s. While many fans might disagree with me, this is also one of Roger Moore's strongest performances as Bond and by far, one of the more serious. This is the only Bond film of his where he actually hits a woman across the face and threatens to break her arm. Those who may remember Maud Adams better in her lead role in OCTOPUSSY (1983) can take note that she gives a noteworthy performance in a lesser role as Scaramanga's frightened mistress, who, like many other secondary Bond girls, ends up dead about midway through the film.
From Beirut to Bangkok, we follow Bond's thrills and adventures in bringing down Scaramanga's evil and dastardly plan for wealth and domination over the world's solar energy. The final duel of pistols on the beach between Bond and Scaramanga is particularly original in that it attempts to bring the good and the evil to a closer and more personal level, and you know who ultimately wins, don't you?? The exotic island serves as a lush and tranquille background for what will inevitably turn into a war zone as Bond brings his inevitable destruction with him that more often than not, ends with the sort of climactic explosion that this Bond films particularly loves to see! But I have to say, if for no other reason at all, THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN pays off when we get to experience the character of Louisiana Sheriff J.W. Pepper (played again by Clifton James) from LIVE AND LET DIE all over again, though I must confess, what this redneck version of Americana is doing vacationing in an exotic land like Bangkok is beyond me! Still his racist, very un-pc character is lots of fun to watch and listen to, particularly when he refers to every man as, "Boy!" And while many may consider the scene of the AMC Hornet leaping in mid-air at 360 degrees over a broken bridge an over-the-top stunt that exploits the actions of Evel Knievel of the time, just keep in mind that the stunt was all real and all genuine performed by a real stunt man. In other words, no computers and no special effects! So stupid or not, that has to count for something, doesn't it?
So if THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN is not your favorite cup-of-tea-James Bond, you've probably got justifiable reasons for feeling that way. Look at it this way, though; if you're looking for others to compare it to in terms of "not-so-great" Bond films, just consider ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE, the bulk of Pierce Brosnan's Bond films and the tragedy that was QUANTUM OF SOLACE! Just sayin'...
Favorite line or dialogue:
Sheriff J.W. Pepper (just before Bond jumps his car over a bridge): "You're not thinkin' a...?
James Bond: "I sure am, BOY!"