The Man with the Golden Gun (1974) starring Roger Moore, Christopher Lee, Britt Ekland, Maud Adams, Hervé Villechaize, Clifton James, Bernard Lee, Lois Maxwell, Desmond Llewelyn directed by Guy Hamilton Movie Review

The Man with the Golden Gun (1974)   3/53/53/53/53/5

Roger Moore and Britt Ekland in The Man with the Golden Gun

It's a Goodnight for Bond

I've heard "The Man with the Golden Gun" described as the stupidest of the official James Bond movies, yet whilst there is plenty of stupidity and purposeful comedy it's by no means as stupid as some of Roger Moore's later outings as James Bond. In fact whilst some of the moments of comedy are cringe worthy some of it is genuinely amusing and by that I mean when 2 Chinese school girls end up defeating an entire martial arts school as James looks on bemused. But the thing with "The Man with the Golden Gun" is that the franchise was still trying to redefine itself, to settle on the perfect sort of story and humour to suit Roger Moore's version of Bond and in a similar way Roger Moore was still defining his version of the character. As such you can see things progressing, certain things don't work other things do and it is entertaining.

When M (Bernard Lee) receives a bullet with Bond's number on it they link it back to million dollar hit man Scaramanga (Christopher Lee - The Three Musketeers) and believe that it is a warning for Bond (Roger Moore - Live and Let Die. Instead of waiting for Scaramanga Bond goes in search of him and finds that Scaramanga is linked to the death of a scientist behind a revolutionary new solar power technology. But when James tracks down Scaramanga and learns the truth as to what is going on it can only ever end in one way.

Christopher Lee and Maud Adams in The Man with the Golden Gun

Again with "The Man with the Golden Gun" we have a different sort of story as here we have Bond initially going after assassin Scaramanga because he believes that Scaramanga is being paid to kill him. This evolves as we have a secondary storyline about solar technology which evolves to become the main storyline when James realises that Scaramanga is actually after the technology rather than killing him. It is in many ways one of the most simplest storylines and the difference of having James going after an expert assassin rather than an evil genius makes it that little bit more interesting especially with a couple of nice twists along the way.

Now the thing is that whilst we have these differences "The Man with the Golden Gun" is still very much a movie built on the basics which are fundamental to a Bond movie. We have a bad guy, his quirky henchman and Hervé Villechaize as Nick Nack is definitely quirky, plus we have beautiful women and plenty of action. And as such it is fair to say that at times "The Man with the Golden Gun" is a little tedious because you know along the way we will have Bond charming his way into a bed or two, escaping, getting in to a few fights before defeating Scaramanga at the last just in time to stop something bad from happening. It is a set up which works when you haven't watched a lot of James Bond movie but when you have the familiarity breeds a little contempt.

To counter act this familiarity and in redefining the franchise it is fair to say that their is more purposeful comedy, heck any movie which gives its bad guy a supernumerary nipple, third nipple to you an me, is trying to be amusing even if the third nipple is an important part of the story. Some of these attempts to be more comical work and as already mentioned the scene which features James bemusingly looking on as two school girls kick the butts of an entire martial arts school is one of the better moments. Sadly there are equally some terrible moments and any scene which features the return of Sheriff J.W. Pepper as a racist tourist are simply painfully bad, bad on so many different levels. And there is also the element of more innuendo creeping in and whilst some of it is intelligent and funny there is equally some which just stupid.

But whilst "The Man with the Golden Gun" is quite a mixed bag it does have two things going for it and the first of which is Roger Moore. Moore's version of Bond was still a work in progress at this point and whilst he was definitely more comfortable than in "Live and Let Die" he was still trying to get the balance of charm and action right. It is almost right and it is most certainly much better when in later movies the balance went completely wrong and Bond became a cheesy joke. The other good thing is Christopher Lee as Francisco Scaramanga and ironically Lee doesn't really do anything that special other than exude confidence. But because Lee makes Scaramanga a confident man in control even when surprised it makes him believable as a villain.

Actually I tell a lie as there is another thing going for "The Man with the Golden Gun" and it is impossible not to like Hervé Villechaize even when he is playing evil midget henchman Nick Nack. Yes certain scenes border on the stupid which feature Nick Nack but the evil relationship he has with Scaramanga is pure gold. Sadly the sexy women are not pure gold and whilst Britt Ekland maybe be stunningly beautiful her performance is most certainly isn't.

What this all boils down to is that "The Man with the Golden Gun" is another good Bond movie from Roger Moore's era. It is more stupid than the previous movie but some of the stupidity adds to the entertainment. And whilst Moore turns the dial up a notch on being ever so charming it's still not the painful cheesy charm which was to come further down the line.