Friday, November 16, 2012

Friday's Old Fashioned: The Man With The Golden Gun (1974)

James Bond movies are rife with what the esteemed Roger Ebert has deemed the Fallacy Of The Talking Killer. It states: “The villain wants to kill the hero. He has him at gunpoint. All he has to do is pull the trigger. But he always talks first.” This, of course, presents Agent 007 ample opportunity to make his requisite escape. “The Man With The Golden Gun” (1974), Roger Moore’s second film in the series, is no different.


A suitably weird Christopher Lee, the title character, Francisco Scaramanga, is the world’s finest assassin and has lured James Bond to his island hideaway. He sits down to dinner with Bond. He pulls his gun – his golden gun (loaded with golden bullets). He explains he could have shot Bond when he landed. But he did not specifically because he lured Bond for a beachside duel, Assassin vs. 007. Thus, in this scenario the Talking Killer is not a Fallacy and Christopher Lee, who also has some gobbledygook about evildoing solar power (theoretically the film is about Bond's attempts to retrieve the "Solex Agitator" from the clutches of the villain), sells the character’s vanity with slimy sublimity.

Alas, that is virtually the only thing I liked about “The Man With The Golden Gun”, aside from Britt Ekland’s bikini but that goes without saying. As much as I adored “The Spy Who Loved Me”, I detested this entry, and quite possibly the dye was cast from the moment Scaramanga was revealed to possess……a third nipple. Really? A third nipple? Jesus, Mary and Joseph. Is that supposed to be clever? God knows I love “Elizabethtown” more than any man alive but even I cringe when Paula Deen references the relative with the third nipple.

This suggests the lamebrain ideas at the core of the film. It also might suggest the writer’s room was ornamented with a festive bowl of coke. The opening sequence, after the third nipple’s introduction, is Scaramanga and an adversary stalking in each other in Scaramanga’s custom-made funhouse complete with wax figures. This funhouse is returned to for the (sort of) climax. I can only imagine co-writers doing lines, blaring Olivia Newton John and thinking that a third nipple, funhouse shootout, naming a character Nick Nack and adding an obnoxious Louisiana tourist to TWO (!) chase scenes (on water and in the street) were the epitome of high (groan) comedy.


Looking to cash in on the kung fu craze of the era, the film travels to Hong Kong and places Moore in bouts of not only kicking and karate chopping but sumo wrestling for which the poor, expressionless man is vastly ill equipped. The scene involving his near escape from the two sumo wrestlers is as poorly conceived and edited as you are likely to see in a big time Hollywood release. And these problems speak to the movie as a whole – its action sequences are uninventive and unmemorable (never has a flying car looked so pedestrian) and their awfulness is only augmented by the film’s ho-hum idle talk.

Britt Ekland, meanwhile, might be fetching as Bond sidekick Mary Goodnight and she may totally rock that aforementioned bikini but the script does not shy away from making her spectacularly stupid. In fact, it goes so far as to make it so the last 30 minutes of the film could not even exist without her stupidity. I don't mind suspending disbelief for the sake of a little plot advancement - I truly don't - but can't that be achieved without making a critical character a whopping moron?

And what’s stupidest of all is forsaking the only thing it had going for it - the timeless tradition of symmetry in regards to the opening funhouse shootout paving the way to a closing act funhouse shootout - for pursuit of the Solex Agitator before the Solar Plant blows up. Never has a climax been so anti-climactic.

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