The Man with the Golden Gun (1974)

<strong class="MovieTitle">The Man with the Golden Gun</strong> (1974)

(On Blu Ray, September 2018) Roger Moore’s second outing as James Bond isn’t particularly good, clearly showing how the producers didn’t yet understand how to best use Moore’s debonair natural charm. The Man with the Golden Gun doesn’t manage to control its comedic impulses, sometimes trying to bring back the written Bond’s violence and at other times going way too far in silliness. It starts with a disappointing theme song that can’t manage to do honour to its fantastic signature riff (à la Live and Let Die) with on-the-nose silly lyrics and a weak vocal performance. The odd thing about the film is that it does have undeniable strengths: Moore is naturally likable, Scaramanga is a fantastic idea for a villain, Christopher Lee is exceptional as the antagonist and the corkscrew jump two thirds through the film is easily one of the most spectacular shots in Bond history. Alas, each one of those aspects is undermined by filmmakers who don’t quite understand how to showcase their assets: Bond is too often unnecessarily aggressive or rough, Scaramanga’s build-up isn’t matched by the third act, Christopher Lee isn’t given much to do, and the stunt is accompanied by a stupid slide whistle sound (and wrapped in dumb dialogue between Bond and one of the worst characters in the series), deflating the impact of the shot. The entire film is like that: Bond Girl Britt Ekland makes a strong first impression as a Foreign Service agent able to verbally spar with Bond, then devolves into an idiotic damsel-in-distress throughout the movie. The film’s third act sputters through an anticlimactic duel and a butt-activated solar death ray. Even the film’s attempt to cash on the early-seventies kung fu craze (after doing its best with Blaxploitation in the previous instalment) feels like an extraneous afterthought with an incredibly dumb payoff. I still have some enduring sympathy for the Moore-era Bonds because that’s when I first encountered the series (between Moonraker and For Your Eyes Only), but my patience was sorely tested with The Man with the Golden Gun—In fact, I almost snapped at the film’s iteration of the series’ frankly insulting seduction plot device. At least there’s a bit of a bedroom farce to take the edge off, but despite the winged cars, exotic trips through Southeast Asia and the great idea of using the Queen Mary wreck as a secret base, The Man with the Golden Gun is just frustrating. Fortunately, the next instalments of the series would learn how to best use Moore’s specific take on the character.

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