Time: 125 Minutes
Roger Moore as James Bond
Christopher Lee as Francisco Scaramanga
Britt Ekland as Mary Goodnight
Maud Adams as Andrea Anders
Director: Guy Hamilton
James Bond (Roger Moore) is tasked with recovering a device that can harness solar energy. At the same time, he finds himself targeted by Francisco Scaramanga (Christopher Lee), the world’s most costly contract killer.
I started the Roger Moore era of James Bond with Live and Let Die and was rather let down. So as I was going into the follow up The Man with the Golden Gun, I wasn’t really sure how I was going to find it. I’ve seen some people regard it as one of the worst Bond films but I went in open minded, I just wanted a more entertaining and fun movie. Having seen it, The Man with the Golden Gun absolutely has a lot of issues but I enjoyed it more than I thought I would.
The plot is easier to follow compared to the last movie, its relatively entertaining but at the same time not that memorable. It definitely ups the silliness and camp over the last movie, for better and for worse. The plot is definitely silly, there’s a car that turns into a plane, and there’s even a plot point about Christopher Lee having a third nipple, which is rather amusing. However it does have an issues with the plot and story, in that it doesn’t have much of them. It drags in the middle especially, with a lot of padding. There’s even a random martial arts sequence in the middle that doesn’t do anything but pad the runtime. One of the most interesting parts of the film for me was the cat and mouse plot between Bond and Scaramanga (Christopher Lee), spy vs assassin. Unfortunately there should’ve been a lot more of this, this premise has a lot of potential but the film didn’t really take advantage of this. Later on the plot introduces some higher stakes, with a conflict being about solar cells technologies turning the power of the sun into a weapon, which feels very out of place in the plot. However you could make the argument that just about everything in this movie is out of place. As for the third act, while the showdown between Bond and Scaramanga might seem a bit anti climatic at first, I appreciate it being different from some other Bond overblown climaxes.
Roger Moore returns as James Bond and for what its worth, I like him more here compared to his appearance in Live and Let Die. He’s definitely more comfortable in the role, however he’s still a little bland and settling into the part. It’s also pretty clear that the filmmakers weren’t really sure what to do regarding the portrayal of Moore’s Bond. He has some harder edged moments, some of it works like when Bond is pointing a custom gun at someone as he’s interrogating him about specific golden bullets. Most of the time its more on the side of uncomfortable, the prime example is a scene in a hotel room with Maud Adams where he slaps her and threatens to break her arm. It certainly doesn’t help that Roger Moore himself didn’t look comfortable doing this, especially as it doesn’t fit this mostly lighter portrayal of Bond. There’s even a scene where he pushes a child off his speeding boat during a boat chase, it’s almost funny how needlessly mean they made this version of Bond. Britt Ekland is the main Bond girl named Mary Goodnight, and was one of the worst characters in the movie. I can’t really say that it’s Ekland’s fault for this, the writing for the character is just terrible. She’s supposed to be a Secret Service agent but the character is unbelievably ditzy and makes a lot of outright dumb decisions. She’s definitely intended to be comic relief but she’s rather unfunny. Maud Adams is also here as a Bond girl, she’s better than Ekland here and it is a good performance but like with Moore’s Bond I don’t think the filmmakers knew what to do with her character. Her being sort of a tragic figure being trapped as the mistress of the main villain was out of place with the absurdity of the rest of the movie, making some of her moments feel unintentionally uncomfortable.
This movie is mainly known for having the villain (Francisco Scaramanga) played by Christopher Lee, and he really is the best part of the movie, making the character quite a presence throughout. Unfortunately, the writing for the character wasn’t the strongest, even inconsistent especially when it came to his motivations. Lee is doing the heavy lifting here and thankfully Scaramanga is present throughout the whole movie. It’s particularly compelling when he and Bond share screentime. Hervé Villachaize is also a memorable henchman as Nick Nack. One unwelcome return from Live and Let Die was Sheriff J.W. Pepper played by Clifton James. For what its worth I thought he was a little more bearable in this movie but that’s not saying much. It made sense for him to be in the last movie since he was a Louisiana sheriff, it did not make sense for him to vacation to Thailand to coincidentally come across Bond yet again.
Guy Hamilton is the director and most of his work is solid on a technical end, though some of the decisions weren’t the best. There are some solid action, camera work, stunning locations and sets. The third act climax with the duel was particularly quite enjoyable. It also features one of the most iconic stunts in James Bond history where a car jumps off one end of a broken bridge, performing a corkscrew turn, and landing on the other side, all of this practical. The only thing bringing it down was a random slide whistle sound added in which completely takes you out of it.
I found The Man with the Golden Gun enjoyably silly, but I am fully aware that part of my enjoyment was after being let down with the last movie. If I revisited it, I think I’d have harsher thoughts with it. Looking back at it, it had just as many cons as it did pros and while I enjoyed it more than Live and Let Die, it is a much messier movie. It also had a lot of missed opportunities, especially with the idea of Bond being up against a deadly assassin, and they really didn’t take advantage of that. While it’s definitely on the weaker side of Bond, there’s some enjoyment to be had from the action, some of the camp elements, and Christopher Lee.