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-

GOLDFINGER (1964)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 1 hour 50 minutes

MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Goldfinger poster

Directed by: Guy Hamilton

Written by: Richard Maibaum & Paul Dehn

(based on the novel GOLDFINGER by Ian Fleming)

Starring: Sean Connery, Honor Blackman, Gert Frobe, Shirley Eaton, Harold Sakata, Bernard Lee, Desmond Llewelyn & Lois Maxwell

The third Bond film in the franchise and the second of eleven that I plan on reviewing (in lieu of the upcoming SPECTRE), GOLDFINGER serves as the film that really perfected the Bond formula. As enjoyable and influential as DR. NO is, it also has a few kinks in its gears. For example, the title villain was underutilized and Bond wasn’t exactly given a vast range of ridiculous gadgets to use. Neither of those things is an issue in GOLDFINGER, because this might hold up as one of my favorite Bond films by the time I’m done with these retrospective reviews. Opening with a solid first scene, stylized credits and a catchy theme, GOLDFINGER starts off strong and keeps that momentum going throughout the whole film.

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James Bond (a.k.a. 007) has just successfully completed a mission and is relaxing in a Miami hotel. It turns out that there were ulterior motives for Bond taking a vacation in Florida. MI6 has instructed Bond to keep an eye on another hotel guest, the robust Auric Goldfinger. What begins as a simple assignment quickly turns personal when Goldfinger kills a woman whom Bond took to bed. 007 makes it his mission to take down Goldfinger and thwart his insane secret plot, but this will be difficult when the baddie has a high-powered laser and an unstoppable Korean bodyguard (Oddjob). Bond’s only hopes come in high-tech gadgets, his own ingenuity and seduction powers that seemed rendered useless on the risqué-named Pussy Galore.

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Sean Connery slips into the skin of Bond with expected style and panache. Honestly, there isn’t a whole lot you can say about his performance other than he’s Bond. I’m not able to separate him from the character and that’s a good thing. The main draw for GOLDFINGER are the side characters. Auric Goldfinger may go down as one of the greatest Bond villains ever. Instead of making stupid mistakes that stereotypical Bond villains usually make (e.g. escapable traps and not sticking around to watch Bond die), Goldfinger has the balls to actually try to casually kill Bond with an inescapable trap…which leads to a tense conversation as Bond tries to plead for his life in a roundabout way. Oddjob is a Korean thug who uses his steel-rimmed hat to kill targets. It’s an idea that’s so silly that it works and leads to a memorable showdown between Bond and the hat-wielding thug. The only real female character comes in Pussy Galore. Yes, Bond is still a chauvinistic pig, but this is also poked fun at in his conversations with Pussy.

Goldfinger (1964)

I think the main quality that makes this Bond film stand out is that it has a great sense of humor. It had established certain clichés at this point (including the “Bond, James Bond” line) and began poking at them in this third film. When 007 begins to introduce himself to a disgruntled female driver, she cuts him off and doesn’t let him finish his famous introduction. It’s a nice little wink and nudge towards the viewer that made me laugh. The film is also loaded with a ridiculous entertainment factor that primarily focuses on being fun, rather than being dark or intense. Goldfinger’s ultimate plan is silly, to say the least, but still fits perfectly within the context of this hugely enjoyable spy movie. It certainly helps that GOLDFINGER is fast paced from beginning to end, leaving little room for the movie to drag or become weighed down by exposition.

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Ultimately, I imagine GOLDFINGER will wind up as one of my very favorite Bond movies. It definitely knows the kind of film it is (like DR. NO) and fully embraces that in the best ways possible. Certain spy movie clichés (insane gadgets) are still being introduced in this third Bond entry. Others (diabolical villains with insane plots) are being expanded upon. Well-known clichés of the Bond series are also being poked at in funny ways. All in all, I has a complete blast watching GOLDFINGER and highly recommend it as one of the best early action movies of its type.

Grade: A+

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