The Man with the Golden Gun is… a hard one to like. It annoyingly has a great lead villain in Christopher Lee’s Scaramanga, but it’s lost in a sea of poorly written and timed gags and martial arts scenes… Welcome to the Roger Moore era proper! Let’s take a closer look, then… because we must.
In London, a golden bullet with James Bond’s code “007” etched into its surface is received by MI6. It is believed that it was sent by the famed assassin Francisco Scaramanga, who uses a golden gun, to intimidate the agent. Because of the perceived threat to the agent’s life, M relieves Bond of a mission revolving around the work of the solar energy scientist named Gibson, thought to be in possession of information crucial to solving the energy crisis with solar power. Bond sets out unofficially to locate Scaramanga…
*spoilers appear from here on out!*
Cast of Characters:
James Bond is disgusted with the idea of a poor child holding onto his boat…
James Bond (Roger Moore) – MI6 agent 007, James Bond is always on a case, even if he’s been officially taken off duty…
Francisco Scaramanga (Christopher Lee) – Scaramanga is the world’s best assassin, using a golden gun to kill his targets in one shot. He’s a big fan of James Bond, and sees him as the only man to potentially equal him…
Mary Goodnight (Britt Ekland) – Goodnight is a young MI6 agent who… well, to put it bluntly, is an idiot. Like, a complete “blonde airhead” type character… For some reason.
Andrea Anders (Maud Adams) – Andrea is stuck under the thumb of Scaramanga, being used pretty much as an object he has sex with before he goes out and kills someone… Lovely.
Nick Nack (Hervé Villechaize) – Dwarf manservant of Scaramanga. He has been promised all of Scaramanga’s island and wealth if he manages to create a game that ends in his death… Scaramanga’s death, not his… that would be weird and vastly unfair.
Q (Desmond Llewelyn) – The MI6 Quartermaster, in charge of all sort of odd gadgets.
Hey look! It’s a man… with a golden gun!
This should really be in the bad given how it’s handled, but I do really like Scaramanga’s backstory and character, and he’s brilliantly played by Christopher Lee (unsurprisingly!). An assassin so skilled and confident in those skills that his paid manservant is given the task of settling an elaborate game where he is at a disadvantage against his opponent in order to make things interesting for him. Sadly the elaborate game is full of fun fair rides, games and animatronic cowboys… oh and a waxwork of James Bond that’s so lifelike it looks like Roger Moore with crab makeup on (stupid HD blu-ray scan!). Ignoring the sillier aspects, that’s a really fun villain, and there are times we see him kill people and / or how he treats Andrea and you get a real sense of how deeply unpleasant he is. When Bond sits next to Andrea and talks for a bit before he notices she’d already been killed is chilling, made better by Scaramanga sitting next to him and complimenting himself on the shot… sadly Nick Nack with a packet of peanuts somewhat ruins the mood, but hey-ho…
We get the first proper loony Q scene, complete with large gun going off in the background. These are the right kind of silly in Bond, and I still miss them in the more realistic Craig era.
“Oh my gosh! A table! What do I do now? Whoops, I’ve pushed the self-destruct button with my arse. Silly me!”
Yeah, pretty much everything else. First thing’s first, why oh why did they bring back Sheriff JW Pepper? The blatantly racist Southern stereotype from Live and Let Die was among the worst things in it! Now not only do we see him make fun of “triangle heads” on vacation in Thailand, but he later joins Bond for the big car chase! As if the comedy slide-whistle sound wasn’t bad enough on the iconic twisty car jump, you have JW Pepper acting like an idiot either side of it… Properly ruins any scene he’s in…
I started off feeling sorry for Goodnight, the way Bond treated her (including putting her in a wardrobe while he has sex with Andrea, despite the fact she could have easily made it out of the door…) but by the end of the film… Wow. The frustration as she did one “whoops! Silly me!” airhead scene after another. How on Earth did she get the job?!
Then there’s Nick Nack, who is just put in for laughs because of his height, any potential menace in his scenes, including a sudden jump from the ceiling towards Goodnight with a knife in hand, is ruined by a comedy soundtrack in the background and general “little person humour” of walking underneath people etc.
Then there is the scene where Bond is “taken care of” by being put in a dojo where they seemingly kill each other in sparing matches. James Bond takes on their top student and just manages to get out alive, then Bond’s Thai contact Lt. Hip and his two teenage daughters beat the crap out of nearly the entire dojo by themselves. Such an odd scene, even amongst everything else in this film!
Oh and there was some sort of sub-plot about a solution to the energy crisis, but… Didn’t really matter much in the end.
Oddjob he ain’t (unless you’re playing Goldeneye on the N64!)
The Man with the Golden Gun has so much wasted potential. Scaramanga was a great villain, both written and played, but everything else surrounding him in the movie is… well… bad. Misjudged comedy, both jokes and slapstick, that just isn’t funny (especially JW Pepper!) I think I’d vote this above Diamonds are Forever this time round, as at least this had a single good point going for it across the film, but yeah… it’s not very good. At all.