THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN (United Artists, 1974)
★ The ninth James Bond film produced by Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman. US release date: December 20, 1974. Budget: $7 million. Worldwide box office gross: $97.6 million (US domestic gross: $21.0 million; international gross: $76.6 million). Running time: 125 minutes.
James Bond (Roger Moore) is summoned by M (Bernard Lee) and informed that he has received an unusual piece of mail: a solid gold bullet engraved with his number—007. Bond knows what this means: it’s the ominous calling card of deadly assassin Francisco Scaramanga (Christopher Lee), a hired killer who charges his clients $1 million per shot. After Scaramanga murders a solar energy expert, Bond learns that the assassin may be responsible for stealing the “solex agitator,” a device that can turn solar energy into a deadly beam weapon. From Beirut to Macao to Bangkok, to the exotic islands off the coast of Thailand, Bond trails Scaramanga—a chase that leads to the ultimate showdown.
Behind the Scenes
The Man with the Golden Gun was a 007 misfire. Is director Guy Hamilton the same filmmaker who directed Goldfinger? Apparently not, because The Man with the Golden Gun is about as subtle as an elephant stampede—which would have been included in the film had producer Harry Saltzman gotten his way. (See “Saltzman and the elephant shoes.”)
The biggest problem with the film is that the title villain, Scaramanga, portrayed by Christopher Lee, is much too sympathetic. In fact, the part was a respite for Lee, who for years had been typecast as fiendish horror villains like Dracula and Frankenstein’s monster. As Scaramanga, by contrast, he’s a dashing high-priced assassin with a great-looking girlfriend, a sleek wardrobe, and an incredible island home. At one point in the story, Scaramanga even tells Bond a tragic tale of how his pet elephant was brutally killed in the circus, and how he turned to a life of crime by bumping off the elephant’s murderer. This type of story reveals the similarities between Bond and Scaramanga and how they should have been fighting on the same side—but does nothing to increase Scaramanga’s potency as a classic Bond villain.
What’s more, M and Q are reduced to a couple of insufferable magpies, Bond’s Far Eastern secretary, Mary Goodnight, who was such a fine character in the books, is portrayed by Britt Ekland as a blundering buffoon, and the action sequences all lack credibility. One of the movie’s most innovative stunts—the 360-degree bridge jump during a car chase in Thailand—is ruined by slow-motion photography, a slide whistle sound effect, and a gratuitous appearance by bumbling Louisiana sheriff J. W. Pepper (Clifton James) from Live and Let Die.
High points: Hervé Villechaize as Nick Nack, the perfect Bond henchman (a kind of miniature Oddjob); those incredible prehistoric islands off the coast of Thailand; and the crackling title track by pop star Lulu. A file-and-forget-it Bond adventure.
|James Bond||Roger Moore|
|Francisco Scaramanga||Christopher Lee|
|Mary Goodnight||Britt Ekland|
|Andrea Anders||Maud Adams|
|Nick Nack||Herve Villechaize|
|Sheriff J. W. Pepper||Clifton James|
|Hai Fat||Richard Loo|
|Miss Moneypenny||Lois Maxwell|
|Chula||Chan Yiu Lam|
|Naval Lieutenant||Michael Osborne|
|Communications Officer||Michael Fleming|
|Screenplay by||Richard Maibaum|
|Producers||Albert R. Broccoli|
|Associate Producer||Charles Orme|
|Directors of Photography||Ted Moore BSC|
|Oswald Morris OBE DFC AFC BSC|
|Music by||John Barry|
|Title song performed by||Lulu|
|Lyrics by||Don Black|
|Production Supervisor||Claude Hudson|
|Assistant Director||Derek Cracknell|
|Location Manager (Thailand)||Frank Ernst|
|Location Manager (Hong Kong)||Eric Rattray|
|Special Effects||John Stears|
 “The Man with the Golden Gun (1974),” The Numbers, accessed June 10, 2020, https://www.the-numbers.com/movie/Man-with-the-Golden-Gun-The.