Man with the Golden Gun was, in many ways, the end of an era for James Bond. It’s the final film produced with the Cubby Brocolli and Harry Saltzman, with Cubby-and later his heirs Barbara and Michael J. Wilson-taking control of the series from then on. (With the exception of Never Say never Again). The next films would overhaul Roger Moore’s portrayal of the character somewhat.
It’s also the last of the 70’s films to be shot in a sort of reduced widescreen ratio, with a much wider look for the next film, The Spy Who Loved Me.
It’s also somewhat of a mess. While Roger Moore’s Bond was somewhat more of a gentlemen in “Live and Let Die”, “Man” tries to fit him into a more Conneryish mold, with him just kind of being standoffish, kind of a jerk, and cold and sometimes indifferent. I mean, to a degree Bond is supposed to be a cold-hearted agent, but even this is going a bit too far-and it’s not one of his strengths as an actor unfortunately (Moore actually found some of Bond’s colder moments in his films-such as kicking Locque’s car off a cliff in “For Your Eyes Only”-sort of uncomfortable).
A green Roll royce.
Bond even pushes a kid trying to hassle him into purchasing a wooden elephant out of his boat-which is a bit ironic given that Moore would eventually become a UNICEF goodwill ambassador. Even M and Moneypenny sort of come off as unpleasant, especially in the film’s opening scenes.
The film also sort of repeats a lot of the faults of it’s two predecessors by pushing too much campy comedy into the series. While this is sort of a hallmark of the series as a whole sometimes-especially Moore’s era-it seems somewhat even more forced here. Sheriff J. W Pepper-the comic relief from “Live and Let Die’s” speedboat chase-shows up here once again, and is even more shrill here.
Plus like in “Diamonds Are Forever” when he swaps IDs with Peter Franks, EVERYONE seems to know who Bond is, if only by reputation if not by sight (Bond poses briefly as Scaramanga-a cover which fails because the bad guys already know what Scaramanga looks like). So much for being a ‘secret’ agent.
The film’s signature stunt is even somewhat played for laughs-the complicated AMC hornet car jump-which required early computer simulations to perfect-is kind of ruined by a slide whistle.
As for the Bond girls, Britt Ekland as Mary Goodnight (Who is Bond’s secretary in the novels, which she sort of does in this film; in the other films her role in the novels is pretty much supplanted by Moneypenny). She’s mainly portrayed as a major ditz, especially in the end of the film where she pretty much messes up Scaramanga’s fortress by dropping a guard into a tank that’s supposed to be at zero, and nearly zapping Bond with a laser by accidentally pushing a button with her butt.
Maud Adams does much better as the trapped Andrea Anders, Scaramanga’s girlfriend who pretty much sets the whole plot in motion by delivering a custom-made golden bullet to MI6. She’s one of the few Bond girl actresses to appear in more than one film (as a different character though) as of course she later plays Octopussy-also showing a lot of range since Andrea and Octopussy are pretty much very different characters.
There are certain things the film does right, however. The location shooting-primarily in Thailand and China-is very nice-especially Scaramanga’s island fortress. The wreck of the Queen Elizabeth II also serves as an interesting hidden tilted MI6 station, a break from the usual setting of M’s London office.
Bond also has a memorable ally in Hong Kong with Lt. Hip:
and his two karate-fighting nieces:
Of course there’s Christopher Lee as Scaramanga, which is a pretty good performance full of understated menace and his fancy lifestyle is sort of a darker version of Bond’s own. It’s a bit of a shame though, that instead of just wanting to kill Bond, he sort of has a more typical Bond villain plot-stealing an energy device known as the solex agitator to gain a monopoly on solar power…and a big laser.
That’s another thing about Scaramanga-Bond is pretty much gadgetless in the film-The AMC hornet is simply something he borrows, and it’s really just him and his PPK. Scaramanga, on the other hand, has a flying car:
A complex funhouse complete with a shooting gallery with robots and mirrors to confound intruders and serve as training for Scaramanga himself:
And the Golden gun itself-in fact a combination of a pen, cigarette holder, cufflink and lighter- which also has one of the film’s best gags-as Scaramanga relinquishes a regular gun- “a harmless” toy as he calls it, in hence “unarming” himself-and then offers Bond a cigarette from the holder.
The final duel between Bond and Scaramanga is also memorable-it’s not so much fighting as a game of cat and mouse-with Bond cleverly taking the place of Scaramanga’s funhouse dummy of him to take him out.
Of course the impact of this is somewhat downgraded as the film takes another twenty minutes to end, with Bond fleeing the fortress and then in a dumb fight played strictly for laughs with Scaramanga’s henchmen, Nick Nack. Although it’s kind of interesting that Nick Nack is one of the few Bond henchmen to actually survive-although unlike the seemingly indestructible Baron Semedi or Jaws, Bond is able to simply best him by capturing him and putting him up in a wicker basket.
This also happens at the same point Bond’s actual name is sung in the ending version of Lulu’s title tune. Other Songs in the series-Thunderball, Spy Who Loved Me, You Know My Name etc. of course allude to Bond, but they never say James Bond, or 007. Except this one.
“Goodnight, goodnight, sleep well my dear, No need to fear, James Bond is here!”
Speaking of music, John Barry returns to the series after skipping “Live and Let Die” (Which is okay, as LALD has a memorable and different score all it’s own). MWTGG sort of has a more traditional Bond song, although Barry’s Bond theme now sounds far more orchestral than the usual well-known Guitar riff. This would pretty much continue for every future Bond film he scored.