Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Saturday Is Bond Day #9: The Man With the Golden Gun

I remembered The Man With the Golden Gun fondly, and I wasn't disappointed when I saw it again. (Though I'd forgotten just about everything about it except for Christopher Lee, his desk set-cum-pistol, and the unlikely funhouse atmosphere of his island lair.)

This is Roger Moore's second Bond movie, and one of his best. He'd seemed a bit effete and weak in Live and Let Die -- particularly when contrasted with the variety of Southern/Caribbean stereotypes that he came up against -- but he's more physical, even cruel in this movie. (He twists one young woman's arm to get her to talk to him -- not admirable behavior, but just what to expect from a cold licensed-to-kill operative like Bond.) Moore has more fight scenes in this movie as well, which helps to establish his Bond as physically accomplished as well as debonair.

Lee, of course, is Scaramanga, the million-dollars-a-death international hit man, and the plot is kicked off by the arrival on M's desk of one of Scaramanga's bullets, carved with "007." This is taken to mean that Scaramanga -- whose identity and likeness are unknown, though oddly the entire world knows he has a third nipple -- has taken on a job to kill Bond. So Bond goes after Scaramanga, tracking him through the man who cast the bullet and then, eventually, Scaramanga's young girlfriend Andrea Anders (Maud Adams).

Adams is the False Bond Girl in this movie; there hadn't been many of them in the last couple of films, but they've been around since Dr. No (when Ursula Andress, as the True Bond Girl, only shows up in the last half-hour once Bond reaches the island of the secret lair). The True Bond Girl this time out is another British agent, Mary Goodnight (Britt Ekland), who is not notably efficient or useful at her job. (She's not even as good at what she does as the similar character of Strawberry Fields in Quantum of Solace, who meets a grimmer fate to prove to the audience once again that the Daniel Craig Bond is dark and tormented and that Bond movies are now not allowed to have any fun in them at all. The more of the earlier Bonds I re-watch, the lower the entertainment value of Quantum drops.)

Anyway, you know how it must end: Bond confronts Scaramanga on his isolated island home, with Scaramanga's manservant Nick Nack (Herve Villechaize) kibitzing. Bond wins, as he has to, but he does it well, and the ending of Man With the Golden Gun is more suspense and less action sequence than most Bond movies. Moore's tenure as Bond ended weakly a decade later, but his mid-70s movies were perfect examples of their type.

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