The Man with the Golden Gun (1974)

"You see, Mr. Bond, I always thought I loved animals. Then I discovered that I enjoyed killing people even more.""You see, Mr. Bond, I always thought I loved animals. Then I discovered that I enjoyed killing people even more."

“You see, Mr. Bond, I always thought I loved animals. Then I discovered that I enjoyed killing people even more.”

The Man with the Golden Gun, the 9th installment in the James Bond franchise based on the novel of the same name by author Ian Fleming is the weakest film that has been released up to this point. Even the previous film, Live and Let Die has some shining moments in an overall disappointing film. This film however follows in the footsteps of the last – taking this far less seriously than when Connery or Lazenby portrayed the titular fictional MI6 agent tasked with stopping some of the deadliest villains known to mankind. Where Connery faced villains hellbent on the destruction of society and the world, the Moore era of Bond has focused on stopping a Heroin dealing dictator and now the most expensive hired gun that is obsessed with Bond. 

In his second turn at playing James Bond (Roger Moore) his comfort with the character is showing more than when he was brand new. Moore is making this character his own injecting his own charm and charisma into Bonds stoic yet soft personality. Just as calm and cool under the threat of danger as Connery, the villains are getting more and more outrageously weird when the paths eventually cross. 


The villain of this particular Bond adventure is not as maniacal as Blofeld or Goldfinger but his ego most definitely comes close to some of the legendary villains. Francisco Scaramanga (Christopher Lee) sends a golden bullet etched with ‘007’ to MI6 as a threat that Bond is the hitman’s next target. Having a million-dollar price tag is enough to make anyone arrogant enough to invite gangsters to a private island fun house run by his assistant Nick Nack (Hervé Villechaize) to play the most dangerous game for pure enjoyment. 

For entertainment’s sake, The Man with the Golden Gun doesn’t rely on the plot to make this Bond film worth watching, its serviceable at best for a film in this franchise that hasn’t been what it once was. Lee’s Scaramanga outshines Moore’s Bond in performance and development even though historically, the Bond villain has been equally as important as the hero. Much of Golden Gun relies on the villain while the writing for Bond isn’t as strong as it’s supposed to be. Returning legacy Bond writers Richard Maibaum and Tom Mankiewicz put much of their effort in correcting the poorer villain from Live and Let Die that Bond becomes overshadowed in this film. He’s just there to catch Scaramanga and secure the Solex Agitator – a device poised to catapult a country to the forefront of the energy crisis. 

Just like the films that came before it, The Man with the Golden Gun features the same formulaic approach to how the film is structured. Bond meets with the grumpy M (Bernard Lee), who either gives Bond a mission or releases him from one, this time, releases, Bond gets Miss Moneypenny’s (Lois Maxwell) hopes up for a romantic relationship, but at this point, I’m just surprised she doesn’t give up and move on. It’s been how many years and Bond is still over-promising to spend a lovely evening with her? Following that is Q (Desmond Llewelyn) with the latest tech, though Golden Gun doesn’t feature that much awe-inspiring tech aside from drone wings that attach to a car (but it’s the bad guys tech).  Then comes the collaboration with the CIA agent Felix who is instead replaced for now, with Lieutenant Hip (Soon-Taik Oh). 

It will forever be a mystery as to why the returning character of J.W. Pepper (Clifton James) is necessary to this story. The character is essentially useless that adds zero value to the story being told. If the purpose was to include a stereotypical American southern character to appeal to the audience, it’s a success. Otherwise, exactly like with Live and Let Die, the character is there just to say he was there. 


Another typical Bond franchise trope is the sexualization and misogynistic approach to the dubbed Bond girl. Golden Gun features two girls Bond is smitten with – Mary Goodnight (Britt Ekland) (one of the worst names in the franchise) and Andrea Anders (Maud Adams). The final act of the film Goodnight is wearing a bikini – for what purpose, who knows, it adds nothing to the character’s development or to success of the mission. Goodnight is also the clumsiest of Bond girls to date – making some head scratching decisions during the most crucial of times. 

Where the Connery led films, even Lazenby were more on the serious side, The Man with the Golden Gun embraces the silly more comedic nature of this universe. The entire film feels misplaced when looking at the larger picture that doesn’t quite live up to the standards set by the films that came before it. Hopefully this doesn’t become a trend with future films. 

The Bond franchise tends to be a sponge of the current events that play out during the time they were made. The energy crisis is a major influence on the films plot along with the inclusion of Asian cinema’s budding influence of the western world. Martial arts play a major role in how Bond fights when the signature action scenes call for hand to hand melee combat. 

Aside from Christopher Lee’s show stealing villain, Golden Gun is a missed opportunity. Majority of the film comes across as lazily put together with haphazard uneven pacing. Another boat chase scene that could trigger bad memories from the previous film and a display of martial arts in a dojo that almost never ends, in fact It’s still going on 50 years later. 

The Man with the Golden Gun marks director Guy Hamilton’s final turn at director for this franchise. Should it be watched? Depends on if you’re looking for a mindless film to play in the background and not pay serious attention too then sure. 

Even John Barry’s music is forgettable in this film. 

Written By: Richard Maibaum & Tom Mankiewicz

Directed By: Guy Hamilton

Based on: The Man with the Golden Gun by Ian Fleming

Production Company: Eon Productions

Cinematography: Ted Moore & Oswald Morris

Music: John Barry

Release Date: December 19, 1974

Running Time: 2 Hours 5 Minutes

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 40%

My Score out of 5: 1.5 out of 5

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