THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN (1974)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 2 hours 5 minutes

MPAA Rating: PG

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Directed by: Guy Hamilton

Written by: Richard Maibaum & Tom Mankiewicz

(based on the novel THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN by Ian Fleming)

Starring: Roger Moore, Christopher Lee, Britt Ekland, Maud Adams, Herve Villechaize, Richard Loo, Soon-Tek Oh & Bernard Lee

The ninth Bond film in the franchise and third choice in my retrospective (of 11 planned reviews) before SPECTRE arrives in November, MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN is often referred to by fans and critics alike as one of the worst movies in the series. It’s nowhere near as ridiculous as MOONRAKER, but GOLDEN GUN wastes a potentially great premise by trying to mix other genres into its plot and winding up with an uneven mess as a result. Instead of simply trying to be a fun spy movie, this 1974 Bond entry also attempts to cash in on the kung-fu craze (that was big at the time) and frequently uses too much over-the-top comedy. What potentially cool plot was screwed up on its journey from script to screen?…

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A golden bullet has arrived at MI6 with “007” scratched into it. The secret organization believes that James Bond has been targeted by world-famous assassin Francisco Scaramanga. As a result, Bond is ejected from MI6 and takes to the streets of Beirut and Bangkok to find why this mysterious hitman wants him dead. The only problem is that 007 doesn’t have a clue as to what the man looks like, other than the assassin having a third nipple on his chest. Eventually, a cat-and-mouse game between Scaramanga and Bond erupts with a bland conspiracy that you don’t really care about at the center.

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After Sean Connery retired from being Bond, Roger Moore took on the role for the next seven films in the series. To say that Moore was a bad choice is an understatement. I’m judging strictly off of his performance in MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN, but he appears to lack any of the charisma or charm that Connery had. He feels much more like a typical action hero than the suave secret agent that 007 is meant to be. Bond’s smart-aleck one-liners don’t hit nearly as well either due to Moore’s wooden line delivery. If Roger Moore is the most annoying Bond that I’ve seen thus far, then Britt Ekland is by far the worst Bond girl. Her ditsy persona and one-note personality come off as downright annoying. However, she isn’t nearly as horrible as Clifton James’s Sheriff Pepper. This loud-mouthed, Southern-fried comic relief character is actually recurring from LIVE AND LET DIE (the previous Bond film) and somehow became a fan favorite. His scenes are brief in this film, but he still manages to be aggravating in his own backwards way.

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The best part of this ninth 007, without a doubt, comes in Christopher Lee as the villainous Francisco Scaramanga. His secret lair is over-the-top and so is his midget sidekick, but Scaramanga comes off as an interesting Bond baddie nonetheless. Lee manages to salvage a bit of every scene he’s in based purely off his screen presence and acting ability. Neither of these qualities are enough to make up for MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN ruining a potentially awesome premise with oddball tonal shifts into kung fu and comedic territory. About halfway into this film, Bond gets into a fight with a pair of sumo wrestlers and gives one of them a wedgie. He also attends a martial arts tournament. These scenes don’t even feel like they belong in a Bond adventure at all. The cheap sense of humor can be summed up in one moment. Bond disguises himself as Scaramanga by adding a prosthetic third nipple to his chest and reveals it with a musical cue. When he disregards the latex nipple into the bushes, he says “titillating.” I feel that moment speaks volumes by itself.

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The most disappointing thing about MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN is how great this movie might have been. You have James Bond facing off against an insane hitman with Christopher Lee in the title role. However, the movie bogs itself down with cheap shots at humor (as opposed to genuinely funny one-liners), a Bond without charisma in Roger Moore and a script that too often exploits the kung-fu craze that was big at the time. MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN doesn’t want to be a Bond movie and suffers for that. I’m sure there are worse Bond flicks (I hear that MOONRAKER and DIE ANOTHER DAY are both terrible), but MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN is the first major disappointment I’ve had in this franchise thus far.

Grade: C-

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