The Man With The Golden Gun – James Bond Series – Guy Hamilton (director)

“Ours is the loneliest profession, Mr. Bond.” – Scaramanga

Following the successful Live and Let Die, Roger Moore continued his James Bond ride. Participating in The Man With The Golden Gun. Second episode co-starring Christopher Lee, legendary theatre/movie actor who worked on important horror films and in the Lord of The Rings and Hobbit trilogies. Playing this time Francisco Scaramanga, a lethal hitman who worked for years in the KGB, then left to become a professional hitman. Living in a remote island close to Hong Kong. And whose next person to kill happens to be James Bond. Which the British Secret Services find out, so they force James to stop his current investigation on a Solar Energy Scientist named Gibson, and instead they order him to retire for a while until things calm down. However, this motivates James in finding that killer once and for all as one of Scaramanga’s former victims in 1969 was the Agent 002.

So here evolves another adventure for James that begins off as clandestine, then into an official mission involving the Hong Kong Secret Services; with his former flame agent Mary Goodnight and lieutenant Hip. And in the case of Mary, this is a much incompetent agent, more talented at getting herself caught by enemies than doing her job right. A version of the character that is, according to what I read online, much different from the novels where she is more astute. So for Mary, I have to admit I did not have much sympathy. I found her annoying and less interesting than Maud Adams’s character, Andrea Anders. Who plays Scaramanga’s secretary and for whom I had much more sympathy. Especially as she is caught in a poisonous relationship with the hitman and when she tries to escape it, her end is all the more tragic and sinister. Amidst a crowd of people who don’t notice what happened.

About Lieutenant Hip, I liked him quite a lot and was glad to see his involvement in much of James’s mission unlike others who were, in other films, more background characters. Kudos to Soon Taik-Oh for his excellent performance.

Regarding the direction, Guy Hamilton kept a good sense of tension and comedy in the story. And as someone who had never seen the film in its entirety until October 2019, I have to say I enjoyed it. Not as much as Live and Let Die. But found it quite good. Especially with Christopher Lee’s performance as Scaramanga. Frightening, unpredictable and lethal, he was the perfect choice for that man who, like a vampire, strikes his victims when they least expect it. And it makes sense since Lee’s most famous horror role is as Dracula in the Hammer horror series.

But what I did not like was how the film stretched a little bit some Bangkok moments. As it lasted 125 minutes, I feel the production could have been trimmed by at least ten minutes. Just to make it more concise. Especially as I did find some fight scenes a bit too long. Nevertheless, The Man With The Golden Gun was certainly much better than Diamonds Are Forever which was, of all the James Bond stories Guy Hamilton did, my least favourite (see my review here).

Other actors I enjoyed much was Maud Adams, who would return in Octopussy, and Herve Villechaise, who was excellent as Nick Nack, assistant to Scaramanga. Funny, cunning, and unpredictable even his final scene with James showed how he could be as dangerous as his master. And as I love to listen to Bond films in French for their dub work is always impeccable, I was glad to hear Guy Pierauld dubbing Nick Nack as he is none other than the voice actor of Bugs Bunny from the 1960s till early 1990s. The best at doing the Looney Tunes Bunny.

Though if there was one moment I adored much was the return of Sherrif Pepper, played by Clifton James. Originally from Live and Let Die, that Louisiana police authority appeared during its boat/car chase and was such a memorable presence that he returned in The Man With the Golden Gun. Where James recognises the man and has to endure him during another car chase. Which includes an incredible stunt moment with a half broken bridge that just gives you goosebumps. Again Sheriff Pepper is a fun character that pokes fun at the American stereotypes of the hillbilly cop and of the loudmouthed/prejudiced tourist.

For John Barry, he does a fine return to the franchise with a great soundtrack; that also includes an instrumental and singing version of the title song. Sang by the singer Lulu alongside a great horn orchestra.

For its production design, Clifton James does a good job in both the Pinewood and Bangkok sets, though I still miss the beauty of Ken Adams’s gorgeous locations. Which is understandable as he was working on Stanley Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon. But knowing that he would be back on The Spy Who Loved Me, this made me all the more impatient to discover that next chapter.

Which I shall review to you all very soon.

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