Here’s a review by Jonathan of Robbin’s Realm of The Man With The Golden Gun (1974).
“The Man with the Golden Gun”
The familiar theme music begins. Written by Monty Norman, and performed by the John Barry Orchestra, this particular theme is used in association with only one character throughout all of cinematic history – 007, James Bond. In this particular outing, the iconic character is portrayed by Golden Globe winner, Roger Moore (For Your Eyes Only). He is walking, whilst being followed by a gun scope. Midway through his walk, Bond stops, turns, takes aim, and fires his Walther PPK gun. This causes the screen to drip blood red, as if 007 has just vanquished the latest criminal mastermind he had been in pursuit of.
Cut to the opening scene on a private beach, where Hervé Villechaize’s (Fantasy Island) character, Nick Nack, is carrying a tray of champagne to his boss, Francisco Scaramanga, portrayed by BAFTA winner Christopher Lee (Horror of Dracula). The role of Scaramanga was originally offered to, and turned down by, Academy Award winner Jack Palance (City Slickers). Mr. Scaramanga, it is shown to the viewer, possesses an odd bodily feature, a third nipple. Immediately, after delivering the tray, Nick Nack leaves and greets another man (Marc Lawrence). He is a suit wearing, gun toting, hit man. Scaramanga yells for Nick Nack to bring him Tabasco. Nick Nack makes a gesture, letting the gunman know to be quiet, so as not to alert his boss to his presence. The hired gun, nods his head in understanding.
Nick Nack leads the man inside of Scaramanga’s house. The man snaps his fingers, and Nick Nack takes an envelope containing cash, out of his shirt pocket, indicating that the payment is only half, and that the man will get the rest later. He instructs the assassin to wait for Mr. Scaramanga in another room as he goes to bring his employer the Tabasco sauce he requested. (As an aside: Christopher Lee is the cousin of James Bond creator Ian Fleming.)
Once inside the room, the man removes his gun from his carrying case. When Nick Nack delivers the Tabasco sauce, he tells his boss that his steam bath is ready. When Scaramanga enters the room, the assassin fires a shot at him, which misses. The overhead lights turn red, and Scaramanga hits the floor. Nick Nack is watching the events unfold from a hidden slot in the wall. Scaramanga throws a small weight across the room, to distract the gunman, who takes another shot, and again misses. While on the floor, Scaramanga reaches for a cage containing guns, but it is locked. Nick Nack’s voice is heard on a loud speaker saying: “oh, that would have been too easy.”
The viewer is shown that Nick Nack is in a control room. He begins to make things happen, such as projecting a holographic image, dangling a skeleton from the ceiling, playing old time western music, while a robot in a cowboy getup moves about the room firing a gun. The assassin returns fire, thinking it is Scaramanga who is doing the shooting. As the gunman moves from one room to the next, the theme of the room changes from the wild west to 1930s, Chicago. Four more robotic men, one of whom resembles Al Capone, begin firing fake bullets at the assassin, who, after shooting Capone’s arms off says: “Al, wherever you are, please don’t hold it against me.” That is just one of the many cheesy moments that take place throughout the film.
Meanwhile, Scaramanga is on the lookout for his gun, a fact which is made known to the viewer by Nick Nack, who asks over the loudspeaker in the control room: “I wonder where you can find your gun Mr. Scaramanga?” Nick Nack tricks Scaramanga at first. The hit man, who has discovered the location of the gun, is waiting for Scaramanga to show up. Scaramanga appears; the gunman takes two more shots at him and misses. Once Scaramanga has retrieved his special weapon, a golden gun, he takes one shot at the would be assassin’s head, killing him instantly. Right afterward, a mannequin of James Bond appears on screen, as the lights are turned back on.
Nick Nack comes out to congratulate his boss on once again besting an opponent. Scaramanga fires a few shots, removing the fingers from one of the hands of the Bond mannequin. After this, a song relevant to the particular film begins. It is a ridiculous song, sung by the singer Lulu, most famous for singing the title track to the film “To Sir With Love.” I know two things for certain heading into the one and only Bond film I had never seen, which is the reason I decided to review this particular movie in the first place: The opening bullseye walk segment would come before anything else; and after an extended opening, there would be a theme song accompanying the credits, before the remainder of the 125 minute film was shown.
“The Man with the Golden Gun,” was directed by BAFTA nominated Guy Hamilton, who in addition to this Bond film, directed three previous films in the franchise: “Goldfinger,” “Diamonds Are Forever” and “Live and Let Die.” The movie was co-written for the screen by Emmy nominated Richard Maibaum, who wrote the screenplays for thirteen Bond films, including “Dr. No,” the first Bond film, which starred Academy Award winner Sean Connery (The Hunt for Red October), and Tom Mankiewicz (The Eagle Has Landed). The film which is a mixture of action, adventure, and thriller, premiered in Japan on December 14, 1974. The budget for the movie was approximately thirteen million dollars. The film would wind up grossing a total of twenty-one million, making it one of the lowest grossing Bond films, a fact, which almost caused “The Man with the Golden Gun” to be the last Bond film ever made. Of course it wasn’t, because “The Spy Who Loved Me,” which also starred Moore as James Bond, was released in 1977.
Once the film resumes, Bond has been summoned to the office of his boss ‘M,’ acted by Bernard Lee (The Third Man). Moore’s character is surprised by the news he receives, once he arrives, that he is being removed from his current assignment, dealing with a scientist named Gibson (Gordon Everett). A golden bullet with the engraving of 007 has been received at headquarters. There is no doubt as to who sent the bullet. The only problem is, that while it is known that Scaramanga is a former K.G.B. assassin, there is no known photograph of what he looks like, thus placing Bond’s life in considerable danger. Bond strikes a deal with ‘M’. He asks if he could get back to work, if he were able to track down and positively identify what Scaramanga looks like; it is a request which the curmudgeonly ‘M’ agrees to.
Bond begins his hunt for Scaramanga at a nightclub where the assassin killed one of his fellow double 0 agents, 002. The golden bullet he used was not recovered. However, that is because it is being worn, as a good luck charm, in the belly button of a dancer who the agent was spending time with when he was murdered. After Bond retrieves the bullet from the dancer, who is quite displeased that her gold has been taken, he brings the bullet to ‘Q,’ played by Desmond Llewelyn, a character as familiar as Bond himself, who appeared in a total of seventeen Bond films. (As an aside: Llewelyn, played the character of, and was billed as, ‘Q’ in all of the Bond films he appeared in, except for the movie “From Russia With Love” where his character is called Boothroyd.)
With the help of ‘Q,’ 007 is able to trace the bullet back to the man who made it. At first, the bullet maker is reluctant to talk about a client, but Bond, using the bullet maker’s own weapon as a motivating tool to make him speak, finds out what the man knows. From there, Bond goes to Hong Kong, where he confronts, in an uncharacteristically violent manner, Scaramanga’s lover, Andrea, portrayed by Maud Adams (Octopussy). While she submits to Bond’s arm twisting tactics, she only winds up providing 007 with the location of Scaramanga’s next hit. In fact, if Scaramanga wanted to kill Bond, he could have done so easily, and it would have been the end of James Bond. Instead he takes out Gibson. Ushered away quickly by Soon-Taik Oh, also known as Hip, who is working in conjunction with the British government. He gets Bond out of the crime scene area, before he can be questioned by the Hong Kong police.
Meanwhile, a device known as the Solex agitator, that has the capability to power a solar station, has been stolen by Nick Nack, which doesn’t sit well with headquarters. Bond is given a new task: to not only eliminate Scaramanga, but also, to get back the powerful object that has been taken.
007’s next move is to impersonate the man he has ultimately been tasked with killing. He needs to do this in order to meet with Richard Loo’s character of Hai Fat. Fat is a well known, wealthy, businessman, who wields a tremendous amount of influence in his area of the world, and lives in a heavily guarded mountain retreat. Loo’s character is the person who ordered the hit on Gibson, and unbeknownst to Bond, is aware of the deception Moore’s character is trying to pull over on him. When 007 arrives at Fat’s compound, Scaramanga, is already there trying to convince Hai Fat that Bond needs to be taken out. When 007, posing as Scaramanga, meets with Hai Fat and makes the same suggestion, Fat feigns a touch of outrage at the idea, even though he knows it is really 007 he is conversing with. He is not overly pleased at the thought, or so he lets Bond think, of having to pay another one-million dollar fee for an additional assassination. Fat informs Bond that he will think things over, and asks him to join him for dinner later that evening. When Bond returns to Fat’s palatial home, he is attacked.
To write more about the specifics of the film, would only serve to ruin it for those of you who have not seen it. In general, the film, is mediocre, especially for a franchise whose offerings I normally enjoy. There was too much silliness involved in this Bond outing. As I stated previously, I wanted to review the film, because it was the only Bond film, I hadn’t watched. When I learned that Christopher Lee, who played the iconic role of Dracula in a number of Hammer Horror Films, was the main villain, my expectations were, perhaps, raised a bit too high. There are those of you, who after watching this film, might feel it is better than mediocre. I didn’t feel the story was that interesting or strong, and certain scenes just bordered on the absurd, but if you’re a Bond fan, and like me, want to know you’ve completed watching all the films, I am afraid you’ll just have to endure more than a bit of stupidity.
Additionally, for that matter, you’ll also have to deal with a much meaner Bond, especially as his actions pertain to his treatment of women, which I didn’t like seeing from 007. Bond is supposed to be a seducer when it comes to members of the opposite sex, not be a brute.