The Man with the Golden Gun (1974)
Mess: The Man with the Golden Gun, while not the worst Bond film, is a missed opportunity and a mess. On paper this should be an instant success. Scaramanga, played by the awesome Christopher Lee, is an assassin tasked with killing James Bond. Also Scaramanga has a golden gun, a little person sidekick, and a third nipple. You may be thinking, yes, that sounds awesome. Who wouldn’t love a worldwide cat and mouse game between two pros trying to kill and not be killed? Instead you get a mishmash of Asian stereotypes, bad humour, and a plot about how solar energy can be turned into a weapon.
Race: While reviewing Live and Let Die I talked about the Bond movies having some issues with depictions of race. I need to apologise to Live and Let Die. That movie has some big race depiction issues but nothing like this. This is definitely one of those times when a writer or producer has assumed that Asia is a country instead of a continent. Languages fly around left and right and characters converse with one speaking Chinese, and the other Thai. Everyone seemingly knows martial arts though some are using karate and others judo. The setting is Thailand but no one seems to be Thai. The soundtrack is heavy with oriental strings and gongs, as though with each scene they need to remind us that we are in Asia.
Martial Arts: Much like Live and Let Die cashing in on the Blaxploitation phase, this movie goes for that sweet, sweet Enter the Dragon dollar. There is a whole scene in a dojo that adds nothing to nothing (though the joke of Bond kicking the dude in the face when they bow before the fight is a great bit) and a bunch of martial arts fights that are superfluous. So what’s good? Christopher Lee is obviously immense. He is relishing his role as the anti-Bond, a suave guy who actually enjoys killing for money instead of for Queen and country. It is a shame that he is stuck in this awful movie.
Sexism: Now it wouldn’t be a Bond review without some horrendous piece of misogyny. This time we have Bond break into Scaramanga’s lover’s hotel room, watch her shower, then he slap her around a bit for information. Later on, she breaks into his hotel room and says that if he kills Scaramanga she’ll let him have the solar energy laser device that Scaramanga has, and that Bond can have her too. There is no pretense, no metaphor, this is simply a woman as reward. And then after they’ve slept together she gets murdered. If you’re playing at home that’s pointlessly objectified, physically abused, offers herself as a prize, and gets murdered to inspire hero to act against villain. If we were playing misogyny bingo you would have won by now.
Overall: Moore’s first outing was passable but this one is risible. This movie is boring, overlong, and silly. Lee is wasted in the villain role and the whole thing feels like a missed opportunity for an interesting movie with a great villain and an exciting plot.