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Man with the Golden Gun, The (1974)

Main image of Man with the Golden Gun, The (1974)
35mm, colour, 125 mins
DirectorGuy Hamilton
Production CompanyEon Productions
ProducersAlbert R. Broccoli
 Harry Saltzman
ScreenplayRichard Maibaum
 Tom Mankiewicz
Original novelIan Fleming
PhotographyTed Moore
 Oswald Morris
MusicJohn Barry

Cast: Roger Moore (James Bond); Christopher Lee (Francisco Scaramanga); Britt Ekland (Mary Goodnight); Maud Adams (Andrea Anders); Herve Villechaize (Nick Nack); Clifton James (Sheriff J.W. Pepper)

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Bond is sent on an assignment to kill Scaramanga, a professional assassin who kills with a golden gun. The latter has also stolen a device for using the sun's energy.

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Roger Moore's second appearance as Ian Fleming's secret agent is widely regarded as the most disappointing of the 1970s James Bond films. Although originally planned as a follow-up to On Her Majesty's Secret Service (d. Peter Hunt, 1969), it was rushed into production shortly after Live and Let Die (d. Guy Hamilton, 1973) opened, to try to alleviate co-producer Harry Saltzman's unrelated financial problems.

Despite the normally steady hand of veteran Bond director Hamilton, the script featured several ill-advised lurches into comedy (via both Herve Villechaize's diminutive supporting villain Nick-Nack and the return of Clifton James' redneck US Sheriff J.W. Pepper, as seen in the previous Bond film), as well as jumping on fashionable bandwagons - a scene in a martial arts school was clearly inspired by the success of Bruce Lee's Enter the Dragon (US, 1973) as was, presumably, the decision to film much of it in south-east Asia.

The plot, in which Bond attempts to retrieve something called a Solex Agitator, is little more than an excuse to string assorted action scenes together - nothing new for a Bond film, but the joins were clearly visible here. And as Mary Goodnight, Britt Ekland is one of the most insipid of all Bond girls, making it simply not credible that she's also an MI6 agent. (Maud Adams, in the first of three separate Bond roles, is far more convincing).

However, the film did at least feature one of the most memorable villains in the entire Bond cycle, courtesy of Christopher Lee, who was Ian Fleming's first cousin in real life. His professional assassin Francisco Scaramanga, the "man with the golden gun" of the title, is as charming and suave as one might expect from the casting, with an edge of genuine menace that hadn't been seen since Robert Shaw in From Russia With Love (d. Terence Young, 1963). There's also a stunt with a car flipping itself over as it traverses a river that would undoubtedly be CGI-assisted today, but was done for real.

Though hardly a box-office flop, The Man with the Golden Gun was a commercial disappointment relative to its predecessors. That said, the unprecedented three-year gap between it and the next Bond feature, The Spy Who Loved Me (d. Lewis Gilbert, 1977), had as much to do with Saltzman's departure as co-producer and the ensuing rights wrangles as any belief that the series was running out of steam.

Michael Brooke

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Binder, Maurice (1925-1991)
Ekland, Britt (1942-)
Hamilton, Guy (1922-)
Lamont, Peter (1929-)
Lee, Bernard (1908-1981)
Llewelyn, Desmond (1914-1999)
Moore, Roger (1927-)
Morris, Oswald (1915-)
James Bond