Saturday, July 20, 2013

007 Project #21: The Man with the Golden Gun

The Man with the Golden Gun

There should never, ever, be a slide whistle in a James Bond film.  Ever.  I don’t care if it was filmed in the 1970’s, when the slide whistle was the opus of modern comedy.  There should never, ever, be a slide whistle in a James Bond movie. 


It was with the blowing of the aforementioned low-brow woodwind that what had been setting up to be a promising second showing from Roger Moore turned into something unrecognizable as a James Bond movie.  The Man with the Golden Gun starts you off with everything you want from another great Bond film, but then decides to go the other way, thanks, and ends up being a farce.  Everything in the first half of the film belongs in a great Bond flick.  You have a gimmicky villain with a master plan (a bit too grand for my tastes, but that’s ok); you have a suave Bond who is great with the ladies and constantly in peril, and you have the MI-6 gang doing their thing. There is action, there is intrigue; Bond is beating up karate students and romancing slightly horse-faced French belly dancers.  These are exactly the things you want from a Bond movie.

Then, somewhere around the 1:15 mark, things go terribly wrong.  The harbinger of doom is the implausible appearance of the redneck, racist Louisiana sheriff who provided meager comic relief in the previous film.  When he first shows up you think, oh great, what a dumb cameo.  And then he gets in the car with James and appoints himself James’ sidekick for this part of the mission.  So he rides shotgun during a rather uninteresting car chase which culminates in a Dukes of Hazzard level stunt requiring Bond’s car to jump a large inlet whilst turning a corkscrew in the air.  This absurd feat is punctuated by the absolutely unacceptable blowing of a slide whistle.

This 30-seconds of belly dance romance was a way better Bond movie
It’s possible you could overlook this part, if the thing that followed did not rival it in stupidity.  Apparently the car driven by Scaramanga can be easily converted into an airplane by simply attaching a few wings and what appears to be a mini jet engine.  Now keep in mind, this is an American car most likely made in Detroit out of real metal.  Yet the car takes off like a champ and goes soaring over the Hong Kong skies.  Once this happens there is really no turning back and things are only further compounded by a bumbling Bond girl who plays for cheap laughs like something out of Scooby-Doo.  All of this makes the reasonably Bond-level doomsday device at the end seem extremely foolish, wherein a better movie it would have worked.

The film concludes in classic Bond style, but by that point I have been lost.  The showdown on Scaramanga’s isle is pretty much exactly what you want and the denouement on Scaramanga’s ship follows suit, but all of the nonsense that precedes is damage done and the taint is impossible to deny.

Moore is solid again in his sophomore effort as Bond.  He is comfortable in the role, suave, intelligent and built for action.  True he looks extremely awkward in the karate fight scenes, but he’s also a fairly lanky Brit doing combat with lithe Asian martial artists.  His performance in this film, against the challenging odds of an absolutely ridiculous second act, solidifies him as a smart choice for the role.

Scaramanga is an excellent Bond villain. Like Goldfinger and a few others in previous films, he is intelligent and cunning with a gimmick that makes him unique without being bizarre.  Christopher Lee is exceptional in the role.  Herve Villechaize is fantastic as Nick Nack and transcends his Fantasy Island stereotype.

Britt Ecklund is a beautiful girl, but not a great sidekick

Goodnight is very fetching as Bond girls go, but she is bumbling and air-headed in a way that really cheapens the role.  Much like Tiffany Case in Diamonds are Forever, Goodnight is more Jar Jar Binks and less Chewbacca as a supporting character goes.  Maud Adams holds promise as Andrea, but ends up being a dead end.  If only she had a naughtier name.  Then again full frontal pool nudity and the name Chew Me didn't catapult Francoise Therry to Bond girl stardom.

Overall, The Man with the Golden Gun has all of the makings of a great Bond film, but it is plagued by asinine 1970’s pop movie trappings that completely undermine its potential.  A decent plot, a great villain, and a strong showing by Roger Moore cannot overcome the disappointment of a bumbling Bond girl, a doofus comic relief character, and ridiculous stunt devices.

Aimee Says:

This movie really wasn't so bad. I think we've all had enough of the hick Sheriff character, but I don't think it holds the movie back as much as it could. Stan was almost personally offended by the corkscrew jump but in all honesty, I thought it was pretty cool, and it set the tone for the film to be a little sillier.

Now, whether or not a James Bond movie should be a little sillier is up for debate. I'm inclined to say that it's usually better when Bond is slick and exciting, but Moore's Bond is a playful change of pace, and I think he can carry it off.

That being said, I have my limits, and they were tested. Specifically, while watching Christopher Lee and Herve Villechaize drive an AMC car of some type into a special barn where it was given wings. The duo then pilot/drive this abomination off into the sky. It doesn't even look cool; it looks like something from the cover of one of the less-popular Choose Your Own Adventure books.

Like this movie, almost all choices lead to sadness

All in all, the film is a little too wacky for its own good. The Bond girl is abysmally stupid, and I hate that, because I believe they could have gone the other way with her fairly easily. Her ineptitude adds nothing to the film; it is lacking even in quaint charm. I liked the look of Maud Adams here but luckily, we'll see her again in a few films, and it will be awesome.

Moore, Lee, and Villechaize knock it out of the park, but unfortunately the park is a little small; maybe even a little silly. It's a bit like having major-league baseball players descend upon a T-ball field--sure they excel, but what the hell are we watching?

I definitely didn't hate this movie, but it stands forever in my memory as the Bond film which caused Stan and I to have an extremely heated and unexpectedly serious fight that very nearly ruined the entire evening. This fight, when taken down to its essence, was a classic pitting of views. You see, Stan was aggravated that they never do more with Scaramanga's superfluous nipple after having made such a big deal about it and I felt it was fine and what more could you do? Was it supposed to shoot lasers?

And now I must retire, because I'm starting to feel the need to argue the point again.

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