Wednesday, 26 June 2013



I know, I know, rewatching James Bond films is so last year. It's something you only really do when revisiting the series in preparation for the new one, which I did last year, all of them, in order. You don't pick and choose in a Bond retrospective, so I even made myself sit all the way through Thunderball, which is a terrible film and by far the dullest of the entire saga. But sometimes you just get the urge to slam one of them on: there's an evening free and nothing much else on the shelf catches your eye. Well, that's my excuse.

Though there are a few good things in the ninth James Bond film The Man With The Golden Gun, there are far more seriously bad things. The plot makes no sense (even by second-tier 007 standards), the jokes and one-liners are mostly awful (even by second-tier 007 standards) and the female characters are appallingly treated (even by second-tier 007 standards). The return of comedy racist JW Pepper from the previous movie is nothing short of an embarrassment, the title song is sub-par (though certainly not down with Madonna's caterwauling on Die Another Day or Jack White and Alicia Keys' random honkings for Quantum Of Solace) and even reliable old Maurice Binder's title sequence full of naked women isn't as visually striking as usual. All things considered it's a massive drop from Live And Let Die, which is also badly flawed but still a personal favourite from the end of Bond's golden age.

The film's Ace Of Trumps is the ever-magnificent Christopher Lee as Scaramanga, the charming and urbane yet terrifying million-dollar assassin. As is so often the case, whenever he's on screen the movie perks up enormously, but the rest of the time you're constantly reminded just how shoddy the rest of the film is and you end up in knots trying to fathom what the hell is going on. Why does Bond have to go to Beirut to retrieve a bullet when he's just received one in the post, especially when it was never confirmed that the Beirut bullet was Scaramanga's anyway? How did Andrea (Maud Adams) manage to acquire a golden bullet without Scaramanga noticing its loss? How come a two-bit gunsmith like Lazar knows of secret agent James Bond's reputation? How does Lt Hip know Bond has been taken to the karate school, and why does he drive off and leave him? Why does Scaramanga have a funhouse built into the back of his house? And why has Hi Fat built his solar power plant there, in one of the least accessible parts of the world?

Britt Ekland's character in particular is atrociously treated: most notably when she's about to give her all to Bond, when he bundles her into a wardrobe and proceeds to spend the next two hours shagging someone else ("Don't worry," he tells her afterwards, "your turn will come"). She's abducted with facepalming ease by the villains and spends the last third of the movie running round in a skimpy bikini and being leched at by a grimy mechanic before causing the place to blow up, accidentally nearly killing Bond by backing into a control panel and setting it off with her bum. I don't think you need to be Andrea Dworkin to find all this a bit questionable, even for the 1970s.

The car chase is pretty good, and the legendary "spiral loop" stunt is brilliant, but it's marred by [1] JW Pepper and [2] the inclusion of a swanee whistle on the soundtrack. John Barry's score has terrific moments, especially for the scenes in Scaramanga's surreal obstacle course/ghost train/hall of mirrors. Herve Villechaize makes for an interesting henchman, and Roger Moore basically does the Roger Moore thing, which I admit I enjoy. But boy, does the bad outweigh the good. Comedy racism and comedy sexism might have been acceptable back in 1974 but it feels genuinely objectionable today, the plot is utter gibberish and for all the flak that Moonraker gets, The Man With The Golden Gun is for me the lowpoint of the Moore years. I really hope they spend at least two years on the next Daniel Craig one so I don't have to stick this one on again for a while.



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