Logline: Bond is led to believe that he is being targeted by one of the world’s most dangerous and expensive assassins: Francisco Scaramanga.
Often regarded as one of the worst Bond films, The Man with the Golden Gun is much better than its reputation suggests. Moore’s sophomore outing as Bond is underrated and features one of 007s greatest adversaries – Scaramanga, played by the great Christopher Lee.
Lee is the film’s greatest asset and is one of the most noteworthy actors to have appeared in the series. He steals every scene in which he appears. My only complaint is that I wish he were in the film more. Herve Villechaize is great as Scaramanga’s small sized henchman Nick Nack. As Bond, Roger Moore is solid and enjoyable in the role as usual. The main Bond girl this time is Mary Goodnight, played by the stunning Britt Eckland. The character is a damsel in distress and comes off as rather foolish. Andrea, played by Maud Adams, is much more interesting.
The film works best when it focuses on the cat-and-mouse game between Bond and Scaramanga. The solex agitator device is the film’s Mcguffin and serves only to move the plot forward. The film has many memorable sequences, including the scene at the karate school, which is great fun. This scene employs martial arts, which was popular in films at the time. The finale takes place on the small island that appeared in the intriguing pre-title sequence. These scenes are great and provide a satisfying conclusion to the film. The island has now been dubbed “James Bond island” and is a popular tourist destination in Thailand. The title song performed by Lulu and composed by John Barry is much maligned but I enjoy it. Barry himself was quoted as saying: “It’s the one I hate most.”
The Man with the Golden Gun is an improvement over its predecessor Live and Let Die (1973), but there are still several things that prevent it from being a great Bond film. While I did not mind the character of Sheriff Pepper in Live and Let Die, I find him much more intolerable here. His return is completely unnecessary. The aerial stunt, in which Bond drives a car off an angled ramp and it turns 360 degrees, is astounding but marred by an awful slide whistle sound effect. It is no secret that James Bond is misogynistic. In fact, some later films in the series joke about this aspect. The Man with the Golden Gun must be one of the most sexist films in the series, though and I suspect feminists would have a field day discussing the film.
Even though it was profitable upon its release, The Man with the Golden Gun ranks as the fourth lowest grossing Bond film of all time. When it was released in 1974, reviews were mixed, at best. The general status of the film has not changed much with the passing of time. In fact, the film is regarded by some critics as the absolute worst Bond film. Despite its flaws and often poor execution, The Man with the Golden Gun is fun and does not deserve its rather poor reputation. In terms of Roger Moore’s outings as 007 though, the best is yet to come.
Rating (out of ****): ***