The Man with the Golden Gun (1974)
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The Man with the Golden Gun is the follow up to Live and Let Die and is the final movie in the series to be directed by Guy Hamilton. This is where Roger Moore really steps into the role of Bond with total ease. I do prefer Sean Connery as James Bond but I think that Roger Moore makes Bond his own in this sequel and I like the results. He has this kind of, alternative classiness if you will. The choices of suits and the smoking of a cigar are worlds apart from the type of style that Sean Connery's Bond followed. He's not an evolution per se, but a revision and I'm cool with that.
The story involves James hunting down a world class assassin by the name of Fransico Scaramanga played by the ever glorious Christopher Lee. I love this man and I love him in The Man with the Golden Gun. Scaramanga is known to charge $1 million per hit, uses a golden gun as his weapon of choice and is an extremely skilled shooter so Bond can't take him lightly. An item of importance called the Solex which could solve the energy crisis going on in the 70's is also in play between both men so it makes for an interesting matchup.
After the traditional opening scene which is pretty offsetting and the average opening credits, James Bond enters M's office and is asked if he knows who Scaramanga is. James is an encyclopedia of knowledge so of course he does. Right away Roger Moore demonstrates that he's taken over the role and he means business.
The Roger Moore era is known as campy and a sort of self-parody but The Man with the Golden Gun hasn't reached that point yet. There are actually some pretty dark moments such as James pointing a rifle at a man's genitals or threatening to break a woman's arm with no iota of mirth. He's dead serious. There are also no gadgets to speak of which is a nice break.
The action sequences are nicely done once again. The car and boat chases are simple and get the job done without being too long. One thing though that was just bizarre and misplaced was the use of a whistle sound effect during a spectacular car stunt. It kind of just underscored the effort because it is a cool stunt. There is a familiar face though who's back and provides some good supporting comedy. In terms of fight scenes though, The Man with the Golden Gun attempts to leverage the popularity of martial arts films that's a bit of a failure. It's totally unnecessary and I don't really believe that Roger Moore could take on two sumo wrestlers.
I've said it before and I'll say it again, Christopher Lee is a man of class, distinction and he plays Scaramanga perfectly. How he can play a character with a third nipple and not come off as ridiculous is a miracle. He practically overshadows James Bond himself for how much presence he brings to the screen and he's without a doubt one of the most memorable Bond villains in the series. His sidekick Nick Nack is also pretty creepy.
The Bond girls this time around are not as memorable as those in Live and Let Die, particularly Mary Goodnight who is treated pretty poorly by James and commits blunder after blunder so she's not a particularly strong character.
There's some beautiful cinematography for the sequences that were filmed in Thailand and John Barry's return to score this Bond entry is very welcome. There are a few minor problems with The Man with the Golden Gun but I see it as a step up from Live and let Die. Taking over the role of James Bond from Sean Connery is no easy feat but I think Roger has done it in his own way and it works. There will always be debates about the Connery and Moore eras but in the end this is James Bond and I hope it lasts forever.
One of the lesser Bond movies, still fun but story and action wise not as exciting. The Mary Goodnight character and chief J.W. Pepper are terrible. Great villain though and the car stunt is amazing.
Christopher Lee is excellent as the titular golden-gun- armed man and the film does boast a high level of adventure. Unfortunately the marks in its plus column end there and it's a shame that Lee's brillance is wasted.
The film's story is one of the poorest and most boring conceived for a Bond film. The dialogue dances around plot details but doesn't fully explain just what the heck we're all concerned about until the final showdown - there is no doomsday clock counting down to armageddon leaving us all a little bored. While revealing the master plan at the end is standard fare for a Bond film, the nearly two hours spent on wide shots, jumping around every Asian city as Bond faces off against every Asian stereotype imaginable make viewers anxious for the film to end by the time we learn what the Macguffin (in this case a "Solex agitator") we've been chasing is all about.
One can't help but wonder if the film wasn't made simply to put Bond face-to-face with an assassin.
The film contains notable low points such as Bond doing Evil Kneivel car jumps accompanied by an inexplicable slide-whistle sound effect added in post-production, and a loud-mouthed American whose sole purpose is to be loud.
Bond's female counterpart this time out, Mary Goodnight, like so many female characters in this film, is disrespected on so many levels that you just feel sad for her by the end of the film. Her bumbling around the solar array flailing at buttons would be worthy of parody by Austin Powers. Women are often nothing but sex symbols in Bond's world, but this film seemed to cross a line.
Ultimately, the film is vaguely offensive on so many levels to so many groups (women, Asians, little people) and drags on through inexplicable moment after inexplicable moment so many times that you're better off watching the trailer than committing two painstakingly dull hours to the full film.
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