The Man with the Golden Gun

  • man_with_the_golden_gun_ver1Year:  1974
  • Director:  Guy Hamilton
  • Series Rank:  #22
  • Year Rank:  #87
  • Oscar Nominations:  none
  • Nighthawk Nominations:  none
  • Bond Girl:  Britt Ekland (Mary Goodnight), Maud Adams (Andrea Anders)
  • Bond Villain:  Christopher Lee (Scaramanga), Hervé Villechaize (Nick Nack), Richard Loo (Hai Fat)
  • Bond Support:  Bernard Lee (M), Lois Maxwell (Moneypenny), Desmond Llewelyn (Q), Soon-Tek Oh (Lt. Hip), James Cossins (Colthorpe)

If Live and Let Die was the Bond blaxploitation film, then The Man with the Golden Gun is the Bond Shaw Brothers film, including a scene where four people, two of them teenagers, manage to take out an entire dojo of villains.  I have this film ranked as one of the worst of all the Bond films and if you want to know how bad it is, consider that they managed to finally have Christopher Lee play a Bond villain and it’s still terrible.  To be fair, that’s not Lee’s fault, as the scenes with him are rather effective – the problem is that every scene without him is generally pretty awful, and thinks to the excruciatingly bad performance by Britt Ekland, even some of the scenes with Lee aren’t all that good (but that’s her fault and not his).

britt_ekland_new_gallery_2Really, what was director Guy Hamilton thinking?  Hamilton had been effective as the director of Goldfinger, so the producers had brought him in for the similar-themed Diamonds are Forever, and then kept him on for the first two Roger Moore films.  This is definitely a case of the law of diminishing returns as each Hamilton film is worse than the previous one.  This one veers too broadly towards comedy.  Yes, the Bond films have often been funny, ranging from some visual humor to the constant puns (well, puns aren’t funny no matter what Veronica thinks).  But The Man with the Golden Gun desperately wants to be a comedy.  It has Mary Goodnight, the most inept agent in the British service (played with an excruciatingly lack of acting by Britt Ekland) – the film would be over much earlier if she hadn’t been so stupid as to follow the villains while she already had, in her possession, what the service needed, and then get thrown in the boot of a car.  amc-hornetThere is a brilliant stunt where Bond has to do a 360 with his car and they undercut it by putting it in slow motion and playing a slide whistle underneath the stunt.  And worst of all, as a passenger in the car, we have again, Sheriff C.W. Pepper, the annoying idiot from Live and Let Die who should have never been brought back (and, as Veronica points out, first, would never have vacationed in Thailand, and second, who would ever be buying a car while on vacation?, which is the only reason he’s in the car when Bond takes it).  Not to mention there is the scene where Bond and three others (two of whom, as I said, are teenage girls) take on an entire dojo of villains and win.  At least Live and Let Die made decent use of the blaxploitation tropes; this film just wants to throw in some martial arts to pull in fans of the genre and then let it all go.

Christopher-LeeAll of that would be frustrating enough if this was just a bad Bond film.  But this film has Christopher Lee as the villain (who was Fleming’s step-cousin and his golf partner), and Hervé Villechaize as his sidekick (I should point out that I have never actually seen Fantasy Island, so while I’m aware of him yelling “Ze plane!  Ze plane!” it doesn’t actually color my perception of him).  Lee has that commanding voice and he’s the master shot in this film.  We expect a grand stand-off between him and Bond at the end, but instead the producers thought there were pacing problems and cut it way down.  Yes, because the answer to pacing problems in a film is to cut parts of the showdown with the villain while making more use of the bumbling idiocy of the female lead (there is a long bit after Lee is dead where Goodnight almost manages to fry Bond while he’s trying to get back the piece she should have given over to him rather than chasing . . . oh, the hell with it).

Maud Adams the man with the golden gun with gun at neckSince I haven’t yet mentioned Maud Adams as Andrea Anders, the other Bond girl in the film, I feel I should.  She is Lee’s mistress in the film but she decides to turn on him (without much of an explanation).  At one point she comes to Bond’s room (when Goodnight is already in his bed).  He throws Goodnight in the closet while he bangs Anders, then, in the morning, pulls Goodnight out of the closet, so that he can presumably sleep with her too.  It’s such an absurd scene and makes no sense, but they had to give Anders her moment with Bond before she can be killed.  And of course she is killed.  Has any Bond girl other than the main one ever survived a Bond film?

nick_nack_herve_villechaize1One last word about the villains.  Christopher Lee, of course, has a masterful screen presence and you always want to hear him speak.  He also has a third nipple, the plot point of which involves Bond wearing a fake third nipple, which, going into watching this with Veronica was the only scene in the film I actually remembered because it’s so ridiculous.  But Villechaize is actually really effective, partially because you never really know who he’s trying to get killed.  Unfortunately, they undercut him as well by bringing him back for the (already tired) trope of having the minor villain try to kill Bond when you think he’s safely away with the girl.  It’s even on a boat again, like it was in Diamonds are Forever.

There were a lot of calls at this point for Eon Productions to just hang up Bond’s coat forever and end the series.  It desperately needed something good to happen.  Somehow, against all the odds, given the results of the first two Roger Moore films, that was exactly what would happen.