12 June 2007 | Maciste_Brother
A nice change from the usual formula
Often cited as one of the worst James Bond films, THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN is one of my favorite of the series. Though I've seen every 007 films, some several times, I cannot describe myself as being an avid fan, so I can't be bothered with who was the best Bond and which film was most faithful to the books and which Bond girl was the best, etc. Differentiating one Bond film from the next is almost like differentiating one Twinkie from another Twinkie: simply put, it's formula film-making. With GOLDEN GUN, I can sorta see why some might think it's not up to the usual 007 extravaganza: it just doesn't follow the formula like other Bond films. There are no gadgets here and the ending is not as spectacular as other Bond flicks or some characters (the sheriff) might seem trite but of all other 007 adventures, this is the most down to earth one. I love the fact that there's no huge battle at the climax or ridiculous gadgets (the invisible car in DIE ANOTHER DAY, for example). This a Bond adventure that can actually be described as being sorta believable, which is no mean feat.
What's remarkable about GOLDEN GUN is the cinematography. The composition, the natural colors, the realism of it all. I've just watched the latest DVD edition and the image is clear and beautiful. Gone is the grubby cinematography of LIVE AND LET DIE. But it's also not as super-slick as other Bond made before or after this one. It's an odd thing to cite beautiful cinematography for such a commercial project as this one. The most stunning scenes are at the end, when Bond flies to Scaramanga's secret base.
The other great thing about GOLDEN GUN is casting Christopher Lee as Scaramanga. It's his best role/performance ever. And he's the best villain in any 007 film. Scaramanga is a real character, not a cartoon villain like 90% of Bond villains. The fact that the story is about two men going mano a mano is also a nice change from the tired "villain who wants to dominate the world" plot line. Casting Lee as Scaramanga was a stroke of genius. He's what makes THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN so memorable.
Lastly, the other memorable element is John Barry's score. It's one of his most evocative for a James Bond film. When I hear it, I can't get it out of my mind.
As Bond girls, Britt Ekland and Maud Adams are absolutely gorgeous. Though Adams' acting can be described as stiff, she's one of the classiest and is the saddest Bond girl ever (her actions propel the story) while Ekland is funny as the ditsy operative. The belly dancer at the beginning was, hmm, scary looking though.
The film's biggest weak points are: the script, which is sorely underwritten in some spots; the re-introduction of JW Pepper character, which even if he's quite funny here, is just too improbable; and the blatant AMC product placement. The last two points almost make GOLDEN GUN "jump the shark" but after the excellent climax, all is forgiven.
But the big glaring mistake in THE MAN WITH GOLDEN GUN, and probably the main reason why so many Bond fans don't like this film, is the fact that Bond doesn't appear before the opening credits. No kick-ass intro action scene with Bond in a jet-pack or falling out of plane without a parachute that sets the tone for the rest of the film. I have to admit that the film seems to be missing something because of that.
Even so, there are still many other reasons why GOLDEN GUN is my favorite: the entire karate school scene, which is the high point of the film. The abrupt "kick to the head" joke was even copied years later with Indy shooting the big man with the big sword in RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK; the arena scene (excellent direction there); the whole 1970s look; a confident Roger Moore who gives his best performance as 007 and says some of the funniest one liners of the series with impeccable timing. And let's not forget about Herve Villechaize as Nick Nack. He almost steals every scene he's in, which is either good or bad, depending on how you like him. In closing, THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN has just the right balance of seriousness, action, acting, exotic locations and humor.