Roger Moore made a very good Bond debut with Live and Let Die, so today’s film, The Man with the Golden Gun, would show me how well his portrayal would hold up.
One thing I’ve noticed about the two Roger Moore films I’ve seen so far is that, yes, while they are more playful and light in tone, they seem to have ramped up the action and stunts. In other words, they are closer to what a blockbuster film as we know it today might be, and perhaps they were, in fact, the trendsetters for the big action pieces we regularly see at the theaters. Having said that, I thought The Man with the Golden Gun started off promisingly, but quickly became a bit dull and ended up disappointing me overall. I had a better experience with Live and Let Die, but I’m also already comfortable with the sort of Bond that Roger Moore will be.
As I mentioned, the beginning scenes gave me high hopes for the remainder of the film. The first thing that set my heart aflutter was the appearance of Nick Nack (Hervé Villechaize, better known to me as Tattoo from the TV show Fantasy Island), dressed in a butler’s outfit and carrying a tray of champagne to an attractive woman sunbathing on a beach. So far, so good. As he approaches the woman, no less than Christopher Lee steps out of the surf to join them. Finally, as if Tattoo, a beautiful woman in a swimsuit, and Christopher Lee weren’t enough, we soon get a close-up of Lee’s chest, which reveals the curious presence of a third nipple! Throw in a shootout amidst carnival games and funhouse attractions, and I’m not sure I could have conceived a better intro if I was on acid.
Now, I won’t go so far as to say it was all downhill from there, but the movie certainly failed to maintain the same kind of entertainment value for its duration. The plot focuses on an assassin-for-hire, Francisco Scaramanga (Lee), who takes over a Chinese businessman’s shady enterprises to take control of some form of advanced solar cell, but the movie often loses sight of its plot and spends too much time on Bond-centered vignettes. The martial arts school scene, the boat chase immediately following, and the car chase (impressive as it was), are all examples of this. Pure action for the sake of action, which I suppose is not always a bad thing, especially when you have muscle cars doing barrel rolls over rivers and transforming into auto-planes.
I also thought the reappearance of Sheriff Pepper from Live and Let Die was completely unnecessary. I didn’t find his comic relief to be all that relieving in the first Moore film, and I didn’t find him any more endearing or enjoyable here. His role also smacked of a bit of racism, what with his calling all the Asians he encountered “pointy-heads,” but in a film where a Chinese tycoon lives in Thailand and displays statues of Japanese sumo wrestlers in his garden, I suppose that’s to be expected.
All the usual Bond conventions are present as well. There are cutesy names like Mary Goodnight and Chew Me; Bond conspires with his enemy’s mistress, Andrea Anders (played by Maud Adams), to defeat him; Scaramanga treats Bond to first class service, including a full tour and explanation of his evil toys; and his enemy’s henchman (Nick Nack, in this case) reappears in the final minutes after his boss has been defeated, only to be easily handled by Bond. These are not criticisms by any means; in fact, they are more like a warm blanket and a hot cup of tea, reminding me I’m at home in familiar territory.
The Man with the Golden Gun wasn’t terrible, but I didn’t think it was one of the stronger Bond films either. The action, superfluous as it was, actually managed to wow me on a couple of occasions, and Christopher Lee is probably one of the most capable actors to be featured in any installment thus far. Bond himself also showed a bit of his “old” self, manhandling an uncooperative Anders a bit and playing “bad cop” for the first half of the film before settling back into his charming ways. I thought the movie could have done without Sheriff Pepper, as I mentioned, and the final duel between Bond and Scaramanga was so poorly shot and edited, in my opinion, that I wasn’t really able to follow along, making it rather less exciting than it should have been. It seems a good number of people enjoyed The Spy Who Loved Me, so hopefully that will yield a better viewing for me.
Favorite line: Tossup between “I’ve never killed a midget before, but there can always be a first time,” and “He must have found me quite titillating,” the latter being spoken after Bond applies a prosthetic third nipple to fool someone into thinking he’s Scaramanga.
Favorite moment: This has to be when Scaramanga escapes the car chase by attaching giant wings to the top of his car and flying off. Bond stares up at the sky with a look on his face that almost made me think he was going to say, “Where does he get those wonderful toys?”