Sunday, February 19, 2006
(Mushtown Media Corp. would like to apologize for a certain negligence in posting the usual brilliant essays on culture and politics. We shall not apologize or offer any excuses, except to say that it’s Bill Clinton’s fault. We shall try to update more often, but we can make no promises. We now return to James Bond week.)
THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN
When last I posted, we were in the middle of James Bond week. I have still not been able to get On Her Majesty's Secret Service and I still have not viewed either of the Timothy Dalton Bond films. BUT, I did watch The Man with the Golden Gun so we can take another view of Roger Moore. This is a little more fair for Moore because the other Moore film I reviewed, A View to a Kill, is loud and stupid whereas Golden Gun is a much better film (despite a few stupid bits, and what sort of Bond film doesn't have a stupid bit here and there?).
The Man with the Golden Gun is the second Bond film with Roger Moore, and it was released in 1974. It was the first Bond film I saw on the big screen (when I was ten years old) and I remember it being REALLY NEAT. In addition to Roger Moore, it featured Christopher Lee, Britt Ekland, Maud Adams, Hervé Villechaize (as Nick Nack) and Clifton James (as Sheriff J.W. Pepper, the Louisiana state policeman he played in Live and Let Die). And it was pretty awesome!
I haven't seen it since then. So I decided to watch it and see how it holds up thirty years later. And it rocks!
I have to admit that I don't remember that first screening all that well. I remembered that the man with the golden gun is Scaramanga, the greatest assassin in the world, played by Christopher Lee. (He has three nipples!) I remembered his sinister, little assistant Nick Nack, and Britt Ekland as Mary Goodnight, the somewhat clumsy agent who hinders Bond as much as she helps. And I remembered Clifton James as the Louisiana lawman vacationing in Thailand who ends up getting mixed up in this latest Bond adventure.
But beyond that, all I could remember was that it was awesome, to my ten-year-old mind at least.
I am happy to report that it holds up pretty well. The thing I really like about The Man with the Golden Gun is how low-key it is, relatively speaking. The heart of the film is not some world-threatening scheme by SPECTRE or some other organization bent on world domination. The focus is on Bond's conflict with Scaramanga. Who is the most-skilled assassin? Who is the world's greatest hunter of men? Scaramanga takes great joy in the conflict. Bond has been sucked in through a series of manipulations and circumstances. Much of the film echoes The Most Dangerous Game, except that Scaramanga truly is a sportsman, allowing himself a single bullet in the competition as he allows Bond six bullets.
Oh, yeah, there's a bunch of other stuff going on. Scaramanga has gone into "business" with a corrupt financier who has the secret of something called a "solex applicator" (or something) that will revolutionize world energy uses. But he's not trying to blow up Fort Knox or cause the Third World War or take over the world. If Bond fails, the consequences are this: Scaramanga stays in business and makes a lot of money from the solex thingie. It's a very personal conflict for Bond (he’s acting unofficially) and yet he pursues his goals with the same passion and commitment that he always maintains.
Moore is pretty good. His only weakness is that he's not Sean Connery. (Sean Connery IS James Bond!) I like the Roger Moore Bond films anyway. Christopher Lee is a very sinister and threatening Scaramanga. He's especially good in several scenes where he is playing host to Bond. He loves killing, and he admires Bond. He has been hoping for such a contest at some point. Scaramanga tells Bond that they are the same, an assertion that Bond disputes successfully and forcefully. (It's a great acting moment for Lee and Moore both.)
Maud Adams is very good and very beautiful as Scaramanga's girlfriend. And Britt Ekland rocks. She plays Mary Goodnight, one of the more interesting Bond girls, a fellow agent of British intelligence with a propensity to bumbling and awkwardness that is very endearing and quite funny. She's kind of a female Inspector Clouseau. (Did Britt learn a thing or two when she was married to Peter Sellers? Or is this an intrinsic part of her charm, something Sellers found attractive?)
Clifton James and Herve Vallechaize are also very good. Altogether, this collection of actors endows The Man with a Golden Gun with one of the best casts for any of the Bond films.
The film has its weaknesses. The final showdown between Bond and Scaramanga is a bit anti-climatic. The whole subplot with the solex widget never quite makes sense. And there's one scene in particular that is almost as unspeakably dumb as pretty much any scene in Die Another Day. Bond has been captured by the bad guys and he comes to in a dojo where he must engage in combat with various martial arts practitioners. His Hong Kong assistant drives up, they manage to fight off a whole army of king fu masters, and then, when there's a small break in the action, the guy who has come to save him DRIVES OFF WITHOUT BOND FOR NO REASON! That's pretty dumb. Fortunately, Bond doesn't really need his help and he gets away in an exciting speedboat chase down the river.
The Man with the Golden Gun is my favorite of the Roger Moore James Bond films, with a great cast, some great scenes between Bond and Scaramanga, great action scenes and plenty of surprises for cinema fans and Bond fans alike. Highly recommended, even for people who think SEAN CONNERY IS JAMES BOND.