Take a Drink: when James Bond makes a wry remark
Take a Drink: whenever a golden gun, or golden bullets are shown
Do a Shot: each time Herve Villechaize says “Mr. Scaramanga”
Do a Shot: whenever J.W. Pepper mugs for the camera
By: Oberst Von Berauscht (Five Beers) –
Top secret agent James Bond (Roger Moore) encounters his greatest challenge yet, renowned hit-man Francisco Scaramanga. Scaramanga sees Bond as a near-equal, and wants very much to challenge the super-spy to prove his superiority at the game of death. Called “The Man with the Golden Gun” owing to the unique custom pistol which is his preferred tool of the trade, he’s willing to kill anyone for the steep price of $1,000,000.00, and takes great pride in his work. Bond, on the other hand, kills in the name of his beloved Britain, and does not return the admiration. Meanwhile, in anticipation of acquiring vast riches, Scaramanga has “invested” in a highly efficient solar energy device, which he hopes to sell to the highest-bidder.
One of the Bond films most obviously a piece of its own time, The Man with the Golden Gun (hereafter referred to as TMWTGG for brevity) is a deeply flawed Bond film, but one which contains some quirky and fascinating elements. Little person actor Hervé Villechaize plays the incomparable “Nick Nack”.
Nick is Scaramanga’s right-hand man, who is charged with honing his the employer’s skills. He is bequeathed Scaramanga’s entire estate in return for presenting the killer with a never-ending series of competitors to engage in mortal combat. As a result of this, the life’s goal of Nick Nack is to try and kill his boss. This is so rarely a positive attribute in the workplace.
Scaramanga’s lair is a creative piece of silliness, an Island retreat inside a hollowed out rockface, and featuring a death trap-filled funhouse which is straight out of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari or (more likely) the creative result of the screenwriter’s bad acid trip in geometry class…
The storyline of TMWTGG should have been simple, but the filmmakers decided to beef up the screenplay with padded sequences and a solar power-subplot that do nothing but slow the pacing. The film is over two hours long, and feels it ever step of the way.
Live & Let Die featured a handful of scenes involving Louisiana redneck Sheriff J.W. Pepper (Clifton James). These scenes were comic and ridiculous, but in the southern-fried settings of the movie, were at least not without precedent. In TMWTGG, Pepper returns, encountering Bond while on vacation to Thailand and subsequently teaming-up for a series of hilarious hijinks.
J.W. Pepper is the most stereotypical depiction of a dumb American country bumpkin put to screen. Not only does his mere appearance slam the brakes on the film’s momentum, but it manages to ruin what would otherwise be a seriously amazing car-flipping stunt.
That, and the deeply unfortunate insertion of a slide-whistle sound effect…
The most compelling moment in the film occurs when Scaramanga sits the captive Bond down to a meal, and begins comparing himself with Bond in admiration, as a fellow killer. The discussion which ensues forces Bond to defend his “Queen & Country” moralism, and brings the good and bad sides of his personality into ironic contrast.
Nearly every scene with Christopher Lee as the killer Scaramanga is a highlight, but sadly the schizophrenic script seldom provides Lee with a chance to really open up his performance. A Bond feature is often only as good as its villains, and Lee’s unique theatricality would have undoubtedly benefited the film. Unfortunately, his character is underdeveloped and receives very few meaty scenes.
This film contains what might be the most imbecilic Bond girl ever put to celluloid; Mary Goodnight (Brit Ekland). Her character stumbles through the story enduring embarrassments such as being locked in the trunk of a car, and nearly laser-frying James Bond with her ass…
This kind of sexist, cartoonish writing was the sad norm with Bond films for the majority of the Roger Moore period, but was never more prominent than here.
In a franchise which has featured jet packs, invisible cars, Voodoo demons, and sharpened murder-hats, The Man with the Golden Gun manages to up the silly-quotient to uncomfortable levels. As a 70s retro curiosity, though, it is definitely worth a look.