Friday, August 31, 2012

Brandon Peters dissects the 007 series part 09: The Man With the Golden Gun

With Skyfall dropping in theaters in just a few months, along with the 50th anniversary of the James Bond series, a close friend and fellow film nerd, Brandon Peters, has generously offered to do a comprehensive review of the entire 007 film franchise. Today is the eigth entry, with a full review of one of the very worst films in the franchise, The Man With the Golden Gun. I hope you enjoy what is a pretty massive feature leading up the November 9th release of Skyfall. I'll do my best to leave my two-cents out of it, give or take a few items I have up my sleeve (including a guest review from my wife as she sings the praises of her favorite 007 film, you won't believe what it is). But just because I'm stepping aside doesn't mean you should, as I can only hope for robust discussions in the comments section. Without further ado...

The Man With The Golden Gun
Director:  Guy Hamilton
Starring:  Roger Moore, Christopher Lee, Maud Adams, Britt Ekland, Herve Villechaize
Rated PG

A duel between titans…my golden gun against your Walther PPK.
                                ~Francisco Scaramanga

It is obvious that this contest cannot be decided by our knowledge of the force, but by our skills with a lightsaber.
                                ~Count Dooku

Kills: 1!
Bond Girls:  Mary Goodnight, Andrea Anders
Car:  AMC Hornet
Locales:  Hong Kong, Bangkok
Odd Villain Trait:  Scaramanga has a 3rd nipple, Nick Nack is a dwarf
Song:  “The Man with the Golden Gun” performed by LuLu

Right on the heels of Live and Let Die and a year later, James Bond returned in The Man With The Golden Gun (MWTGG).   This is the film almost killed the 007 franchise.  I’m sure down the road a reboot or additional film(s) would have eventually been made, but this one almost stopped it dead in its tracks.  A lot of the film’s plot feels very tired and the movie isn’t very colorful regarding its performers and action.  There’s not very much fun to have in this one.

In tired fashion, famed assassin Francisco Scaramanga has a lair on a remote island harnessing energy to power a weaponized solar beam he hopes to sell to the highest bidder.  For thrills he also has a fun house in which he invites known tough guys in to challenge them in a duel to the death.  His next target - James Bond (whom he has a wax figure of).  James Bond is given the warning of the challenge by way of a golden bullet and plans to get to Scaramanga first.  Bond is also in search of the Solex Agitator device which powers Scaramanga’s beam.

Two films in to Roger Moore’s ouvre and I still feel like this one was written for Connery.  Maybe Moore is not as light hearted as I’m remembering.  In this film, he’s much more dark and intimidating than he even was in Live and Let Die.  Moore’s performance is fine, but he doesn’t look to be having the fun he did in Live and Let Die.  While his character doesn’t care for her, it doesn’t look as if Moore cares for Mary Goodnight either.  There’s a hilarious “I can’t believe I’m watching this” moment where Bond is about to show Goodnight his Thunderballs when Anders shows up at his door.  He takes Goodnight, hides her in the closet and sleeps with Anders while Goodnight must sit and listen and watch.  Its hysterical!

Christopher Lee is the only person in the film who seems to be really enjoying it.  He really lights up with his scenes and gives a committed performance.  However, his character is pretty lame and not too engaging.  If he was better on paper combining with the performance, I’d be loving this villain and it would likely be a slightly better film.  Scaramanga, the second villain in a row to end their name with –anga, has a base just like all the other villains and has a destructive beam just like Blofeld did in Diamonds are Forever.  His fun house isn’t at all too thrilling either.  His henchman, Nick Nack is cute for the first time you see him, but he’s not threatening at all and more weird and annoying on screen than anything.

Britt Ekland and her character attempt to destroy the film single handedly.  They introduce us to her like we were supposed to have a past relationship with her.  I had to look up exactly what she is to MI:6 aside from a buffoon.   Her clumsiness isn’t all too funny and assists a weak script in forcing many things in the weak script to happen.  She looks good in a bikini though, and I’m sure that’s why she got the job.  Scaramanga’s creepy, groping control guy apparently agrees.  Maud Adams isn’t as over the top and annoying, but she’s very wooden.  Her character is pretty interesting and gets to have some cool moments, but the performance could have been better.  She’ll get another try in a couple films though, as she’s the title character in Octopussy.

Tom Jones was probably smiling when he heard the title song for this film.  It makes “Thunderball” look like “Hey Jude”.  The score isn’t too much better and there are some really bad choices in it.  During the highlight of the film, Bond doing an aerial twist over a broken bridge in the AMC Hornet, the moment is silenced to enjoy the spectacle and then a clownish stupid penny whistle sound goes off as the care crosses the bridge.  Even the best moment in the film can’t get it completely right.

Since the Blaxploitation experiment worked last time, they went for a different genre on the rise.  This time the choice was to borrow from the kung fu genre.  This awkwardly shoehorned Bond waking up from being knocked out in a martial arts school.  This scene doesn’t have any purpose and is just holding up an already boring film.  It leads to a boat chase.  I’m not saying we can’t have multiple boat chases, but we just had a long one in the last film and it was done so much better.

The film grossed well, but was one of the lowest grossing of the series.  It was a possible sign of waning and the loss of interest.  Longtime producer Harry Saltzman sold his share after this film due to money issues.  Also, more court trouble with Kevin McClory held up any production that was to happen on the next film.  The producers were thinking it might be time to pack up the 007 franchise.  On top of it all, the film was not well received, and many a fan and critic seemed to be getting stale on the Bond movies.

Truth be told, I fell asleep during this one.  I had to back track it and watch the second half again.  It’s a pretty uneventful film.  I like the car jump, the MI:6 ship headquarters is cool and Andrea Anders death scene, but those aren’t much.  Nothing here in this one is really fresh or the same old schtick done well.  The Man With the Golden Gun isn’t a poorly made film, it’s just a stale, tired and lazy film.  This was Guy Hamilton’s third film in a row for the 007 franchise (he did four total) and last.  He didn’t come back for Thunderball in 1965 because Goldfinger wore him out.  Now we have him doing three straight films.  It definitely shows.  He was out of gas.  Someone new or not burned out needed to step in and take the reins.  I would only tell the hardcore Bond fan to see this one.  You can easily skip it and be just fine.  If you has insomnia, pop it in.  You’ll probably be cured by about the time Bond poses as Scaramanga. 

Brandon Peters will return in The Spy Who Loved Me

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