Watch The Man with the Golden Gun (1974), Story, Stars, Reviews & All You Want To Know About A Great Movie
The Man with the Golden Gun (1974)
James Bond is targeted by the world’s most expensive assassin, while he attempts to recover sensitive solar cell technology that is being sold to the highest bidder.
The Man with the Golden Gun is a 1974 spy film and the ninth in the James Bond series produced by Eon Productions, and the second to star Roger Moore as the fictional MI6 agent James Bond.
A loose adaptation of Ian Fleming’s posthumously published 1965 novel of the same name, the film has Bond sent after the Solex Agitator, a breakthrough technological solution to contemporary energy shortages, while facing the assassin Francisco Scaramanga, the “Man with the Golden Gun”. The action culminates in a duel between them that settles the fate of the Solex.
The Man with the Golden Gun was the fourth and final film in the series directed by Guy Hamilton. The script was written by Richard Maibaum and Tom Mankiewicz. The film was set in the face of the 1973 energy crisis, a dominant theme in the script; Britain had still not yet fully overcome the crisis when the film was released in December 1974.
The film also reflects the then-popular martial arts film craze, with several kung fu scenes and a predominantly Asian location, being set and shot in Thailand, Hong Kong, and Macau. Part of the film is also set in Beirut, Lebanon, but it was not shot there.
The film was met with mixed reviews, and some critics described it as the lowest point in the canon up to that time. Christopher Lee’s portrayal of Scaramanga as a villain of similar skill and ability to Bond was praised, but reviewers criticised the film as a whole, particularly its comedic approach and the performances of Moore and Britt Ekland.
Whilst profitable, the film is the fourth lowest-grossing in the series, and its relatively modest returns by comparison with those of Live and Let Die (1973) reportedly placed the continuation of the franchise in jeopardy. It was the last Bond film to be co-produced by Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, with Saltzman selling his 50% stake in Danjaq, LLC, the parent company of Eon Productions, after the release of the film.
The Man with the Golden Gun (1974) Trailer
The Man with the Golden Gun (1974) Reviews
Few will argue that The Man with the Golden Gun is the silliest of all the James Bond motion pictures (Casino Royale excepted).
From the return appearance of Sheriff J.W. Pepper (Clifton Davis) to the ridiculous martial arts fight where two schoolgirls best dozens (while Bond stands by and looks amused), this 007 adventure consistently skirts self-parody. Yet, after the dreariness of Live and Let Die, the upbeat change-of-pace is refreshing. And, while million-dollar-a-shot hitman Scaramanga (Christopher Lee) isn’t a typical Bond villain, he’s closer than anyone from the previous film.
This is Roger Moore’s second outing as Bond (and the ninth film in the series), and, while he still hasn’t fully grown into the role (that doesn’t happen until The Spy Who Loved Me), he’s more comfortable here than in Live and Let Die, showing signs of a unique characterization. All the regular supporting players are back: the humorless M (Bernard Lee), the crusty Q (Desmond Llewelyn), and the ever-faithful Moneypenny (Lois Maxwell, starting to look a little too old to engage in playful sex jokes with Bond).
The Man with the Golden Gun has two parallel plots that eventually dovetail into one. The main story deals with Bond’s attempts to find ace hitman Scaramanga before the elusive assassin fires a bullet with “007” on it.
Meanwhile, Scaramanga and the British government are both in pursuit of a vital component for a solar energy converter. Hundreds of millions of dollars are at stake, since whoever builds this converter will have carte blanche where solar power is concerned. (Remember that this movie was released in the midst of the ’70s energy crisis, when a worldwide push for alternative energy methods was underway.)
Christopher Lee, the consummate bad guy from Hammer’s horror films (he was always the monster opposite Peter Cushing’s protagonist), infuses Scaramanga with a sinister demeanor. In fact, although The Man with the Golden Gun is overflowing with campiness, Lee never participates. Scaramanga is played straight: an egotistical hermit who kills for sport and harbors a secret admiration for 007.
There are two Bond girls: Britt Ekland as Mary Goodnight, 007’s inept assistant, and Maud Adams as Andrea, Scaramanga’s mistress. Herve Villechaize (“The plane! The plane!”) is on hand as Nick Nack, right-hand man to Scaramanga. Soon Taik Oh is Hip, Bond’s local contact (this film’s Felix Leiter role). Clifton James makes an encore appearance as the buffoon J.W. Pepper, this time vacationing in the Far East. He joins Bond in one of the film’s best sequences, a spectacular car chase that ends with Scaramanga literally flying away.
Rarely does The Man with the Golden Gun take anything seriously. Mary Goodnight is as clumsy as they come. Pepper and Nick Nack are cartoonish. There are more jokes-per-minute than in any other Bond film. Even John Barry’s score is less earnest than usual, and the opening song is ridiculous. Regardless, and despite an unnecessarily protracted denouement that had me wondering if the film was ever going to end, The Man with the Golden Gun is still fun.
It’s about as far from Ian Fleming’s vision of the superspy as the filmed interpretations have ever gotten, but for those who expect light, totally-unbelievable escapism, this movie does its part. Yes, it’s a weak entry in the series, but there’s enough good, totally silly stuff here to keep it from the absolute bottom. The Man with the Golden Gun certainly isn’t worth $1 million, but it’s fine for the price of a video rental.
The Man with the Golden Gun (1974) Credits
The Man with the Golden Gun (1974) Plot
An American gangster, Rodney, visits famed crack shot hitman Francisco Scaramanga to kill him and collect a bounty, but he is directed into a funhouse section of the estate, where Scaramanga eventually retrieves his golden gun and kills him.
In London, a golden bullet etched with ‘007’ is received by MI6; it is believed to have been sent by Scaramanga, but because no one knows of his appearance outside of having a third nipple, M relieves Bond of his current mission involving tracking an energy scientist named Gibson.
At a hint from Moneypenny, Bond sets out unofficially to locate Scaramanga, first by retrieving a spent golden bullet from a belly dancer in Beirut. He traces the bullet to a gun maker in Macau, and forces him to reveal how he ships the bullets. Bond follows the shipment carried to Hong Kong by Andrea Anders, Scaramanga’s mistress. At her Peninsula Hotel room, he coerces her to expose information about Scaramanga, his appearance and his plans.
She directs Bond to the Bottoms Up Club where Scaramanga snipes Gibson when he steps outside, and Scaramanga’s midget assistant Nick Nack steals a small device called the Solex Agitator off his body. Bond, who had pulled out his pistol outside the club, is arrested by Hong Kong police lieutenant Hip. But instead of going to the station, he is transported to the wreck of RMS Queen Elizabeth in the harbour where he meets M and Q, and is assigned to work with Hip to retrieve the Solex.
Bond travels to Bangkok to meet Hai Fat, a wealthy Thai entrepreneur suspected of arranging Gibson’s murder. Posing as Scaramanga by showing off his fake third nipple, Bond is invited to dinner, but his plan backfires because unbeknownst to him, Scaramanga himself is operating at Fat’s estate.
Bond is captured and placed inside Fat’s martial arts academy, where the students duel to the death and then are instructed to kill him. Escaping with the aid of Hip and his nieces, Bond speeds away on a motorised sampan along the river, and reunites with his assistant, Mary Goodnight. Scaramanga subsequently kills Fat with his golden gun and assumes control of his empire and the Solex.
Anders reveals to Bond that she sent the bullet to London. She wants him to kill Scaramanga, and promises to give him the Solex as they spent the night together. At a Muay Thai boxing event the next day, Bond finds Anders sitting and staring silently, dead from a bullet to the heart. Scaramanga arrives and introduces himself to Bond, but Bond is able to smuggle the Solex to Hip, who passes it to Goodnight.
When Goodnight follows Nick Nack to place a homing device on Scaramanga’s car, Scaramanga traps her in the car’s boot. Bond discovers Scaramanga driving off and steals an AMC Hornet from a showroom to give chase, coincidentally with the holidaying J.W. Pepper (the Louisianan sheriff Bond encountered in Live and Let Die) sitting inside. The chase concludes when Scaramanga’s AMC Matador hides in a building and then transforms into a plane that flies off.
Tracking Goodnight’s homing beacon, Bond takes a seaplane and flies to Scaramanga’s island in the Red Chinese waters. Scaramanga welcomes and shows Bond the solar power plant facility that he has taken over, the technology for which he intends to sell to the highest bidder. While demonstrating the equipment, Scaramanga uses the solar-powered energy beam to destroy Bond’s plane, preventing him from escaping.
During lunch, Scaramanga proposes a pistol duel with Bond on the beach. With Nick Nack officiating, the two men take twenty paces, but when Bond turns and fires, Scaramanga has vanished. Nick Nack leads Bond into Scaramanga’s manor and funhouse section. Bond eventually outwits and kills Scaramanga by posing as his mannequin.
Goodnight kills Scaramanga’s security chief Kra, but the latter’s fall into a liquid helium vat causes the plant’s temperature to spiral out of control. Bond retrieves the Solex unit just before the plant is destroyed, and they escape unharmed in Scaramanga’s Chinese junk. After Bond fends off a final attack by Nick Nack, he romances Goodnight.
The Man with the Golden Gun (1974) Box office
The Man with the Golden Gun (1974) Critical Response
The Man with the Golden Gun was premiered at the Odeon Leicester Square in London on 19 December 1974, with general release in the United Kingdom the same day. The film was made with an estimated budget of $7 million; despite initial good returns from the box office, The Man with the Golden Gun grossed a total of $97.6 million at the worldwide box office, with $21 million earned in the US, making it the fourth lowest-grossing Bond film in the series.
The promotion of the film had “one of the more anaemic advertising campaigns of the series” and there were few products available, apart from the soundtrack and paperback book, although Lone Star Toys produced a “James Bond 007 pistol” in gold; this differed from the weapon used by Scaramanga in the film as it was little more than a Walther P38 with a silencer fitted.
The Man with the Golden Gun met with mixed reviews upon its release. Derek Malcolm in The Guardian savaged the film, saying that “the script is the limpest of the lot and … Roger Moore as 007 is the last man on earth to make it sound better than it is.” There was some praise from Malcolm, although it was muted, saying that “Christopher Lee … makes a goodish villain and Britt Ekland a passable Mary Goodnight … Up to scratch in production values … the film is otherwise merely a potboiler.
Maybe enough’s enough.” Tom Milne, writing in The Observer, was even more caustic, writing that “This series, which has been scraping the bottom of the barrel for some time, is now through the bottom … with depressing borrowings from Hong Kong kung fu movies, not to mention even more depressing echoes of the ‘Carry On’ smut.” He summed up the film by saying it was “sadly lacking in wit or imagination”.
David Robinson, the film critic at The Times, dismissed the film and Moore’s performance, saying that Moore was “substituting non-acting for Connery’s throwaway”, while Britt Ekland was “his beautiful, idiot side-kick … the least appealing of the Bond heroines”.
Robinson was equally damning of the changes in the production crew, observing that Ken Adam, an “attraction of the early Bond films,” had been “replaced by decorators of competence but little of his flair.” The writers “get progressively more naive in their creation of a suburban dream of epicureanism and adventure”.
Writing for The New York Times, Nora Sayre considered the film to suffer from “poverty of invention and excitement”, criticising the writing and Moore’s performance and finding Villechaize and Lee as the only positive points for their “sinister vitality that cuts through the narrative dough.”
The Sunday Mirror critic observed that The Man with the Golden Gun “isn’t the best Bond ever” but found it “remarkable that Messrs. Saltzman and Broccoli can still produce such slick and inventive entertainment”. Arthur Thirkwell, writing in the Sunday Mirror‘s sister paper, the Daily Mirror, concentrated more on lead actor Roger Moore than the film itself: “What Sean Connery used to achieve with a touch of sardonic sadism, Roger Moore conveys with roguish schoolboy charm and the odd, dry quip.”
Thirkwell also said that Moore “manages to make even this reduced-voltage Bond a character with plenty of sparkle”. Judith Crist of New York magazine gave a positive review, saying “the scenery’s grand, the lines nice and the gadgetry entertaining”, also describing the production as a film that “capture[s] the free-wheeling, whooshing non-sense of early Fleming’s fairy tale for grown-ups orientation”.
Jay Cocks, writing in Time, focused on the gadgets such as Scaramanga’s flying car, as what was wrong with both The Man with the Golden Gun and the more recent films in the Bond series, calling them “Overtricky, uninspired, these exercises show the strain of stretching fantasy well past wit.” Cocks also criticised the actors, saying that Moore “lacks all Connery’s strengths and has several deep deficiencies”, while Lee was “an unusually unimpressive villain”.
Opinion on The Man with the Golden Gun has for the most part remained the same as it was in 1974. On Rotten Tomatoes 39% out of 51 critical reviews about the film were positive, with an average rating of 5.3/10. The website’s critical consensus states, “A middling Bond film, The Man With the Golden Gun suffers from double entendre-laden dialogue, a noteworthy lack of gadgets, and a villain that overshadows 007.” Metacritic, gave the film a weighted average score of 43 out of 100 based on 11 reviews from critics, which indicates “mixed or average reviews”.
Some critics saw the film as uninspired, tired and boring. Roger Moore was also criticised for playing Bond against type, in a style more reminiscent of Sean Connery, although Lee’s performance received acclaim. Danny Peary wrote that The Man with the Golden Gun “lacks invention … is one of the least interesting Bond films” and “a very laboured movie, with Bond a stiff bore, Adams and Britt Ekland uninspired leading ladies”.
Peary believes that the shootout between Bond and Scaramanga in the funhouse “is the one good scene in the movie, and even it has an unsatisfying finish” and also bemoaned the presence of Clifton James, “unfortunately reprising his unfunny redneck sheriff from Live and Let Die.”
Chris Nashawaty of Entertainment Weekly argues that Scaramanga is the best villain of the Roger Moore James Bond films, while listing Mary Goodnight among the worst Bond girls, saying that “Ekland may have had one of the series’ best bikinis, but her dopey, doltish portrayal was a turnoff as much to filmgoers as to fans of Ian Fleming’s novels”. The Times put Scaramanga as the fifth best Bond villain in their list, and Ekland was the third in their list of the top 10 most fashionable Bond girls.
Maxim listed Goodnight at fourth in their Top Bond Babes list, saying that “Agent Goodnight is the clumsiest spy alive. But who cares as long as she’s using her perfect bikini bottom to muck things up?”
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