Bond evolution – The Man with the Golden Gun (#9)

What is that horrible theme song? It’s like someone took part of a Shirley Bassey song and part of Live and Let Die and stitched them together but somehow losing the best features of both. And I’m sorry Lulu, your voice is not great here. The opening credits are confusing – why are there all these watery images of women? This isn’t a particularly watery film. The images of women caressing the eponymous weapon though, that isn’t subtle at all.

We are introduced to the villain straight up – Scaramanga, the man with the Golden Gun, a crack shot assassin, is also the man with a third nipple. Although he’s intially depicted as creepy, he changes and becomes very social and chatty at the end of the film. He genuinely seems excited to have the chance to spend some time with Bond. He wants approval from his peer. He wants to be like Bond. He wants Bond to like him. Alas, this meeting of minds was never meant to be.

Exotic locations – we visit Beirut (shot in the studio, so no exterior scenes of Beirut), Macau and Hong Kong, before finishing in Thailand. If the last film was blaxploitation, this film is using its locations to try and be a kung fu movie. (That said, one of the best scenes is when two teenage girls kick the hell out of gang of martial arts experts.) Oh, and why not make some Asian name jokes into the bargain? Like the wealthy Thai entrepreneur Hai Fat; the woman in the pool at Hai Fat’s villa, Chiu Mee; the Thai sparkling wine called Phuyuck. How did anyone think this was a good idea?

Joie Vejjajjiva and Yuen Qiu with Roger Moore

Bond balances between two women in this film – Scaramanga’s mistress, Andrea Anders; and his local assistant, Mary Goodnight, at one point pushing Goodnight into a cupboard in order to bed Anders. Anders joins the long trail of women who fall for Bond despite him having overstepped the line (in this case, breaking into her hotel room while she’s in the shower) and then slapped them. (Seriously, the repeated acts of women submitting to Bond after being slapped around is becoming nauseating).

This film has a famous stunt – the corkscrew car jump. This took all kinds of meticulous planning, including rebuilding the car so it was perfectly balanced. However in the film it is spoiled by the inclusion of the vile redneck sheriff from the previous film (what’s he even doing leaving the US?) and the most inappropriate use of a sound effect ever. Instead of appreciating the technical skills required in this jump, you’re left wondering, “Who thought that was a good idea?”

(*spoilers*) The villain’s plot is quite relevant still today. There is a new and highly efficient form of solar power technology that Scaramanga has obtained and intends to sell to the highest bidder. Bond observes that the oil producing nations would pay handsomely to keep this technology hidden. Scaramanga admits this idea had occurred to him too. This film was released at a time when there was an oil/energy crisis, so having access to an alternative source of energy would have been very appealing to many nations who couldn’t afford the high oil prices of the time.

You realise that while Connery and Lazenby had the occasional witty line, they both had the grim physicality that you would expect of a man who has been trained to kill. Moore, I’m afraid, relies more on rapier-like wit than physical strength. You couldn’t imagine him enduring a long big punch up and perhaps his films suffered a bit as a result. The films had to rely more on gadgets and one-liners instead of acts of physical violence (not that I’m advocating films that are heavy on physical violence). Roger Moore is just too pretty for that kind of thing.

Film epilogue: I think Mary Goodnight never quite overcomes her clumsy enthusiasm for her work and after another near miss, it’s made clear she should leave the company. She moves to the country where she keeps horses, and turns her hand to writing, producing a successful series of spy novels featuring a female agent who regularly outwits her male counterparts.

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