Posts Tagged ‘The Man with the Golden Gun’

An onslaught of cringeworthy double entendres and a frenzy of wah-wah guitar heralds the next phase in our quest to make the ‘James Bond’ tag swell up to the point where it bursts. Yes, it’s 1974’s The Man with the Golden Gun, a rare example of a rush-released Bond film – in this case, done so in order to consolidate Roger Moore in the part.

As I mentioned when I was talking about Live and Let Die the other day, this is a Bond movie which seems like more of a period piece than many. Ian Fleming’s original plot is almost totally dispensed with, in favour of a storyline revolving around the then-topical energy crisis (that’s what you go to see a Bond film for, to be reminded of grim current affairs issues), extensively flavoured with locations and sequences that seem very much inspired by the previous year’s smash hit Enter the Dragon (a film with its own debt to Bond, of course).

Having said all that, the last couple of times I’ve seen this movie it hasn’t really reminded me of a kung fu movie as much as something equally exploitative and even less respectable. To be blunt, in many ways this seems like a really sleazy movie – I expect you could edit some proper soft-core stuff in here and it wouldn’t seem that out of place (the edit that ITV4’s showing has, on the contrary, had at least some of the really gratuitous stuff snipped). There’s a lot of suggestive stroking of gun-barrels, and the rather salacious incorporation of a number of Asian babes in an even more advanced state of undress than usual. In many ways it all seems just a bit more coarse and obvious than you’d expect for a Bond movie.

Whether this was a conscious stylistic choice or just the inadvertant result of setting the majority of the film in Hong Kong and Thailand I’m not sure. What does seem to have been deliberate is the choice to funny the movie up – hence the return of comedy redneck J.W Pepper, the inclusion of a pair of kung fu fightin’ schoolgirls to save Bond’s bacon, and giving Bond a properly dippy blonde foil. Despite all this the script also seems intent on hardening up the image of Moore’s Bond – he’s considerably less laid-back than usual here, verging on the snappy in places, and even slapping a woman around at one point. As a result the tone of the film seems to shift from scene to scene almost at random.

It’s not all bad, though, as the movie isn’t completely bereft of good Bond stuff – the sequence in the kung fu school has its moments, and the car chase towards the end is okay (the corkscrew car jump still looks great). But the main saving grace of The Man with the Golden Gun is the actor in the title role. 

A guy arrives at Christopher Lee's island by seaplane looking for a girl... what do you mean, this is the wrong Britt Ekland movie?!?

I’ve thought for a very long time that Christopher Lee is one of the most underused actors in cinema, in that he so very rarely gets given enough to do. Even in all the Hammer Draculas, with his name above the title, all he does most of the time is sweep about the place and glare viciously at the supporting cast. He was fairly fresh from The Satanic Rites of Dracula, his final outing in the fangs, when he made this film and he does seem to relish the opportunity to play a part with (relatively) more depth and complexity (and, of course, dialogue). I expect the chance to work on his tan also made a nice change for him. Being Christopher Lee, he does take it all a bit more seriously than it probably deserves, but this is surely only to the great man’s credit.

Take out Christopher Lee and this would surely be bottom-of-the-barrel Bond, down there with Octopussy and Diamonds are Forever. As it is, this isn’t really premium stuff, and the franchise is fairly obviously in need of the kick up the backside it would receive prior to the next installment, but you’re never more than a few minutes away from a memorable moment of one kind or another. Passable, but undemanding.

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