"THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN" (1974) Review
What can I say about 1974’s "THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN"? It is not the worst James Bond movie I have ever seen. I can think of at least two or three of which I have a lower opinion. But I do believe that it is the worst Roger Moore film in the franchise.
Apparently screenwriter Tom Mankiewicz believed the same. He made the decision to bow out of adapting Ian Fleming's 1965 novel, before the script could be finished. The plot for "THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN" focused on the Solex Agitator - a device which can harness the power of the sun. Before Bond could investigate the death of scientist who was thought to be in possession of information crucial to the creation of the Solex Agitator, he has to find out why hitman Francisco Scaramanga had sent a golden bullet to him.
It turns out that Scaramanga’s long-suffering mistress, Andrea Anders, had sent the bullet to Bond, hoping that he would kill the hitman. Eventually, Bond teams up with MI-6 agents Mary Goodnight and Lieutenant Hip against Francisco Scaramanga - The Man with the Golden Gun and his employer, billionaire Hai Fat. Eventually Scaramanga kills Hai Fat and become the sole possessor of the Solex Agitator. He also kills Andrea and kidnaps Goodnight. Bond tracks Scaramanga to an island of mainland China, where the action finally culminates in a duel between the two men - Bond's Walther PPK against Scaramanga's Golden Gun.
I must admit that the movie’s plot seemed interesting. It certainly did not seem like the disappointment that "LIVE AND LET DIE" turned out to be. I thought it was a lot better than the plot created by Fleming for his 1965 novel. The problem with"THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN" is that it was so poorly executed . . . especially by director Guy Hamilton. There seemed to be a lack of style or substance in how the movie was directed.
Roger Moore’s performance did not help matters. After his impressive debut in his previous movie, many Bond fans made a fuss over the fact that Moore’s Bond seemed nothing like Connery’s Bond. Which led to Moore being forced to attempt a recapture of Connery’s style. And it did not work. He came off as false and almost wooden. Only two scenes saved Moore’s performance from being a complete bust – his encounter with the Macao gunsmith, Lazar ("Speak now or forever hold your piece.") and the Bond/Scaramanga confrontation during luncheon on the assassin’s island when Bond expresses his dislike of Scaramanga’s suggestion that the British agent is nothing more than a fellow assassin.
Speaking of Scaramanga, EON Productions had the good fortune to cast Christopher Lee (the future Count Dooku and Sarauman) as the movie’s main villain, expert assassin Francisco Scaramanga. The scene that featured Scaramanga's recollection of a pet elephant produced a very poignant performance from Lee. In fact, only Lee and South Korean actor, Soon-Tek-Oh (who portrayed MI-6 agent Lieutenant Hip) seemed to be the only two cast members who gave consistently excellent performances throughout the entire film.
I certainly cannot say the same about the other supporting cast members. Herve Villachaise (four years before "FANTASY ISLAND") simply annoyed me. Maud Adams seemed to be her usual wooden self. Britt Ekland, although a good actress, had the bad luck to portray the annoyingly clumsy Mary Goodnight. Bernard Lee seemed a bit over-the-top in his constant annoyance toward Bond and Hip. Even worse, I never understood M's willingness to blame an innocent Bond for the death of government scientist Dr. Gibson. Desmond Llewellyn's portrayal of Q struck me as equally annoying as M seemed to find him. I do not even recall the quality of Lois Maxwell’s brief performance as Moneypenny.
I must admit that cinematographers Ted Moore and Oswald Morris beautifully captured the exotic allure of Southeast Asia. It seemed a pity that John Barry could not produce a memorable score and that Don Black wrote what I consider to be the second worst Bond theme song (performed by Lulu) in the franchise’s history. Oh well. Nothing is perfect. Unfortunately for"THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN", it was far from perfect. But it was still entertaining.
R.I.P. Sir Christopher Lee (1922-2015)