Ricky Church continues his countdown to Spectre with a review of The Man with the Golden Gun…
While Roger Moore’s first outing as Bond in Live and Let Die was a too campy in some aspects, there were still some moments of seriousness in the film. Moore’s follow-up adventure goes in completely the other direction; The Man with the Golden Gun is campy, comedic and silly, never quite taking itself seriously for the majority of its runtime.
In The Man with the Golden Gun, 007 seemingly becomes the target of the world’s most deadly assassin, Francisco Scaramanga, renowned for his million dollar a hit contracts, accuracy and use of a golden gun. This begins a cat and mouse chase between the two as Bond investigates the assassin’s connection with an energy company and culminates in a classic mano-a-mano duel on Scaramanga’s private island. It makes for an interesting premise, especially as Scaramanga is presented as a dark mirror image of Bond, but unfortunately the film doesn’t realize its potential.
Once again, Moore delivers an adequate, yet very campy take on the secret agent. He quips whenever he can and doesn’t seem to take the role too seriously, though there are moments where Moore dispenses with the campiness altogether. One moment in particular is when Scaramanga compares himself to Bond, making 007 angry and retorting when he kills he does so in order to protect his country, not because he likes it. It’s a moment of seriousness that gives viewers a bit of depth that hasn’t been seen in a Bond movie for a while.
These brief moments of seriousness and character depth are hampered by the film’s campiness, especially whenever Scaramanga’s sidekick/butler Nick Nack or Mary Goodnight is onscreen. In the case of the latter, Goodnight, as played by Britt Eckland, is arguably the worst Bond girl in the whole franchise. She’s a blonde bimbo who can never do anything right, screws Bond’s plans up on more than one occasion and is played mainly for laughs. There is absolutely nothing resembling the classic Bond girl within her. Sheriff Pepper’s return and team-up with Bond certainly doesn’t make Man with the Golden Gun any better either. In fact, the only real redeeming aspect of this film is the late and great Sir Christopher Lee as Scaramanga (In an interesting bit of casting, Lee was Ian Fleming’s step-cousin and regular golf partner and was originally sought by the author to play Dr. No).
Even though everything around him is silly, Lee still instills a sense of seriousness to this deadly villain. He’s absolutely charming and steals the scene whenever he’s onscreen and the conversations between him and Bond are excellent. Scaramanga isn’t the typical Bond villain either; much like Kananga or Goldfinger before him, Scaramanga isn’t interested in world domination. His only motivation is purely monetary and taking pleasure in his skill. What sets him even further apart from other villains is his respect and admiration for 007. He sees their battle as a professional, and almost friendly, rivalry, believing they’re both cut from the same cloth. The charm he imbues when he meets with Bond isn’t out of arrogance or show, Scaramanga is purely genuine. Lee’s portrayal of the villain elevates the film, but still not nearly enough to make it good.
The Man with the Golden Gun is a very weak Bond film that overloads on campiness. The few moments of seriousness and character development are hindered by the story’s relentless silliness. Moore is good with what he’s given, but still far too campy as Bond. Christopher Lee’s gravitas is the film’s only saving grace, but its not nearly enough to overcome all the campy elements, such as Scaramanga’s flying car or Mary Goodnight especially. While it is not a forgettable film, it certainly is an embarrassing part of the 007 franchise.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ / Movie: ★ ★