The Man with the Golden Gun (1974)
The Man with the Golden Gun (1974)

Genre: Action and Spy Running Time: 2 hrs. 5 min.

Release Date: December 20th, 1974 MPAA Rating: PG

Director: Guy Hamilton Actors: Roger Moore, Christopher Lee, Britt Ekland, Maud Adams, Herve Villechaize, Clifton James, Richard Loo, Marc Lawrence, Bernard Lee, Lois Maxwell, Desmond Llewelyn

 


 

I

n an extremely isolated, island mansion, a dwarfish butler plays games on owner and ex-KGB hitman Francisco Scaramanga (Christopher Lee) and his assassin guest. The massive dwelling is filled with circus-like, house-of-horror mazes and gadgets, including wax statues, rotating mirrors, and pulsing lights. It’s arranged as a grotesque test of skills for Scaramanga, who prides himself on his trick-shot abilities. And his next quarry is MI6 agent James Bond (Roger Moore) – which forces Secret Service leader M (Bernard Lee) to take 007 off his current case for fear of Scaramanga making a surprise appearance. Nothing is known about the professional killer’s whereabouts, and no picture is on file – but his signature weapon is a golden gun that shoots golden bullets.

Journeying from Beirut (where he has to fend off an Alfred Hitchcock lookalike thug) to Macau, Bond determines that if he can track down Scaramanga first, he’ll gain the upper hand. Tracing the maker of the golden projectiles, he discovers Andrea Anders (Maud Adams), Scaramanga’s mistress, who directs him to the Bottoms Up Club, where yet another golden bullet finds a target – a scientist working to resolve the energy crisis by devising a key component to a solar power station. He’s employed by Hai Fat (Richard Loo), a wealthy Bangkok industrialist with the criminal connections necessary to attract Scaramanga – but, unbeknownst to Bond, the cunning mastermind has already infiltrated the estate.

“The Man with the Golden Gun” starts with a rather ludicrous scenario (which sadly foreshadows the same miserable gimmick for the climax) and digresses into one of the most generic title sequences and theme songs of the franchise. Pre-credit introductions continue to go downhill, inexplicably straying away from the intense, action-fueled introductions that would eventually become somewhat of a competition for subsequent entries to attempt to outdo one another. For yet another Bond feature that runs over two hours, the pacing is contemptible, mixing in action scenes at a rate even slower than the purely comedic skits, headlined by the return of character actor Clifton James (from “Live and Let Die”) as a racist Louisiana policeman (coincidentally on vacation in Bangkok).

The film rapidly falls apart when Bond is forced into random acts of pursuit and flight, playing games with an evil genius as well as with liaison officer Mary Goodnight (Britt Ekland), an inept young woman dismissed by Bond (not unlike Moneypenny). She does, however, have the sense to call him out as a man who uses women as “passing fancies” – a lengthy list that Goodnight doesn’t want to join. Not unexpectedly, she still ends up in his arms; but in a peculiarly saddening scenario, she also winds up stuffed into a coat closet (in the very same room) while Bond makes love to Anders.

Christopher Lee presents a sporting, gentlemanly type of enthusiastic archenemy, while miniature henchman Nick Nack (Herve Villechaize) is memorable solely for his physical characteristics and not for a creatively designed foe. And Moore (in only his second try at Bond) gets to be extremely unconvincing as a martial artist, though somewhat believable as a frequent escaper – even if Scaramanga takes the cake by flying away in his car-plane hybrid at the culmination of a destructive chase through the bustling streets of Thailand’s primate city. Strangely, after such an elaborate (and lengthy) setup, the ultimate showdown of the two expert marksmen is rather drab and grandly anticlimactic.

– Mike Massie

  • 3/10