Review: The Man with the Golden Gun (1974)

The Man with the Golden Gun (1974)

Directed by: Guy Hamilton | 125 minutes | action, thriller, adventure | Actors: Roger Moore, Christopher Lee, Britt Ekland, Maud Adams, Hervé Villechaize, Clifton James, Richard Loo, Soon-Tek Oh, Marc Lawrence, Bernard Lee, Lois Maxwell, Marne Maitland, Desmond Llewelyn, James Cossins, Yiu Lam Chan, Carmen du Sautoy, Gerald James, Michael Osborne, Michael Fleming

Guy Hamilton’s ‘The Man with the Golden Gun’ is a special James Bond film, because for a change it is not humanity, but 007 (Roger Moore) himself that is in mortal danger. Okay, the world is in a bit of danger. After all, it’s 1974, a year after the global oil crisis, and villain Scaramanga (Christopher Lee) misuses solar energy. The otherworldly Lee, however, mainly focuses on a direct duel with our hero 007. Such a different James Bond story is original, but does not lead to a better film.

The unusual apotheosis of ‘The Man with the Golden Gun’ is set on Lee’s remote private island. This villain’s ultimate wish is to kill England’s most famous spy in an old-fashioned duel. Director Hamilton elaborates on the conflict between 007 and Lee in an original way. The two fight each other in Lee’s haunted house, where weird lights, masses of mirrors and dangerous technical gadgets dominate.

Lee’s accomplice is the dwarf Nick Nack (Hervé Villechaize). Villechaize, known from the TV series ‘Fantasy Island’, provides the comical note, but at times comes out coarser than his small stature suggests. Incidentally, the little man turns out to be a real Don Juan on the set of ‘Golden Gun’, who sends the ladies cards and flowers. The tall Christopher Lee is the striking companion of the little Villechaize. Lee’s facial expressions are undeniably grand, but his role as Scaramanga just doesn’t come through.

Roger Moore in turn puts down a good 007 in his second Bond film, striking that he looks meaner than in later performances as the spy par excellence. The proper Brit even dares to slap the beautiful Maud Adams in the face! The fights are also usually rougher: Moore gets rid of villains in Beirut forcibly – and without jokes – and gets short-lived karate lessons in the Far East.

The special character of ‘The Man with the Golden Gun’ is unfortunately insufficient for a high-quality Bond film. The story is mediocre and the climax of the film contrasts sharply with the finales of many other Bond films. The financial problems of producer Saltzman in particular at the time of the recording of ‘The Man with the Golden Gun’ can therefore be felt. Britt Ekland, originally from Sweden, also stands out in a negative way. Ekland is an attractive figure, especially in a bikini, but her role as a simplistic blonde is painfully weak and easily irritating.

For Bond aficionados, however, there remains plenty to enjoy. For example, singer Lulu brings a daring version of the title song. Plus, the scenes in Hong Kong and Thailand are breathtakingly beautiful. The same qualification applies to the Swedish Bond lady Adams, who makes Moore’s head mad for women. Also watch a great stunt at the end of ‘The Man with the Golden Gun’. 007 tries to cut off his opponents by jumping over a river like a true Evil Knievel with his car.

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