Im sure all eyes were on Roger Moore during the release of The Man with the Golden Gun, which was one of 1974s big Christmas season event films. While his first foray into the world of 007, with the previous years Live and Let Die, was a successful one, Im sure many had considered it a fluke and were waiting for his second outing to be the misstep that would prove no one could really fill the shoes of Sean Connery as James Bond. Fortunately for Moore, the Englishmans charm and wit were enough to lead this sophomore effort and hold off the naysayers one more time, until 1977s The Spy Who Loved Me would finally cement the former Saint TV star as new James Bond for nearly another decade.
Making him look good in the process was the creative team that had ushered Moore into the series the previous year, and to say he was in good hands was a pretty big understatement. Director Guy Hamilton, who already had three Bond films under his belt, including Goldfinger, orchestrated the chaos cooked up by Screenwriters Richard Maibaum and Tom Mankiewicz, who collectively had eight Bond credits before this entry. With this veteran team at the helm, along with ringmasters Cubby Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, The Man with the Golden Gun was almost a success before the cameras even started rolling.
Still, this is far from a perfect Bond picture, and unfortunately the movies biggest problem may actually be with Moore himself. While much of the stars charisma is still up on screen, and his terrific timing in both the areas of comedy and action are very present, his portrayal of Bond seems to test the waters as to whether Moore has the potential for the type of rough behavior that Sean Connery was able to get away with, especially when it comes to his female co-stars. While Connery was always afforded some latitude when it came to this portrayal, Moore seems uncomfortable with taking the character in this direction, and the result is pretty unsatisfying to watch at times.
The stars biggest successes with the character were often when he played Bond much softer than his predecessor, but focused more heavily on how suave Moore could depict the womanizing secret agent; a trend that managed to really separate the two portrayals, and ultimately lead to Moore really finding his feet with 007 after this picture. Still, Bond is not a complete slouch here, and an often times is presented as a man that has to think quickly on his feet instead of just using brute force to get the job done. Whether confronted with karate masters or super assassins, 007 has to outwit his opponents when he is outmatched otherwise, and more often than not he comes out smelling like roses.
Putting his skills to the ultimate test this time around is Christopher Lees Scaramanga; maybe the best of all of the Bond Villains to appear in Moores run as 007, and certainly one of the most memorable because of his use of the movies signature weapon. No one plays a villain quite like Christopher Lee does, and his Scaramanga is a man that brings as much cool menace as any of the actors most famous heavies, from Dracula to his baddies in Star Wars and Lord of the Rings. With his cold demeanor and love for the finer things in life, Scaramanga is presented as a man that lives his life like a dark mirror image of Bond; a man with means, but with no principles as to how he obtains them.
Their test of wills in this picture is seen as a struggle between duty and self-indulgence, as Bond is almost insulted when the assassin remarks how alike the two are, as he never takes a life in cold blood. This leads to some of Moores best moments in the picture, as he was rarely afforded flashes of seriousness in his outings, and to top it off, we even see minor seconds of fear on his face as the climactic duel with Scaramanga looms large. Faced with an adversary so evenly matched, its extraordinary to see a 007 drop his faÃ§ade of superiority, even so slightly as it is seen here.
While the final shootout takes place in an actual fun house constructed by the movies
Bond Villain, the rest of the film is a much larger scale attraction, full of car chases, ridiculous stunts, and fist fights galore. Just as much of Live and Let Die seemed to take the model of putting Bond in the middle of a Blaxploitation movie, film makers seemed to mimic The Man with the Golden Gun after the then-blossoming Martial Arts genre. Traveling all over Southeast Asia in this picture, 007 must contend with Karate masters and Sumo giants on his way to finally coming face to face with his golden gun-toting adversary, and its a lot of fun to see Moore, usually adorned in some formal attire, wear a Karate gi and take on skilled opponents in a Bangkok dojo.
Live and Let Dies featured chase was an epic speedboat sequence that had Bond escaping from villains along the bayou, complete with a redneck sheriff (Clifton James) that seemed like he came right out of a ’70s Burt Reynolds movie. Fans of Sheriff J.W. Pepper were probably happy to see him return in this adventure, as he actually attempts to aid Bond during the pictures elongated car chase, which culminates in the movies featured stunt; a masterpiece by driver “Bumps” Williard, who does an aerial twist of 360 degrees as Bond drives his car across a broke bridge. A stunt that would most assuredly be done with computers these days, the jaw dropping scene is one of many examples where film makers give us an absolutely unbelievable moment during these early Bond adventures that cant be matched with modern CGI.
The Man with the Golden Gun was really just another stepping stone for Roger Moore, as he seems to still be feeling the character out before The Spy who Loved Me had him fully realizing his potential as 007. Still, even though this isnt a Goldfinger-level classic, theres still a lot to enjoy here, as the movie features one of the series best Bond Villains, gives us incredible stunt sequences and just as Enter the Dragon‘s formula had mimicked the Bond pictures to some extent, its fun to see the 007 crew return the favor a bit. While this film doesnt amaze as consistently as the best of the Bond outings often do, it nevertheless never ceases to entertain.
Just as theyve done with the rest of the 007 series, MGM/20th Century Fox have given us another absolutely stunning restoration with this Blu-ray disc. Its difficult to see how this movie could be 35 years old from the look of this print, as this gorgeous transfer looks and sounds as good as this movie ever has. Colors are bright and image clarity is outstanding on this disc, as the work done here makes this almost look like a new movie.
The soundtrack as well gets equal treatment, as the audio mix here is wonderful all the way through from one end of the movie to the other, letting us here every pithy quip, explosion, and Karate chop with excellent clarity.
The Bond discs are some of the best examples of the superiority of the Blu-ray format, and this edition of The Man with the Golden Gun is just further proof of that trend.
Audio Commentary with Director Guy Hamilton and Members of the Cast and Crew – Quite common on these Bond discs, this group track seems to feature several different interviews concerning the production of the film, and a moderator guides you through them one by one. The track really gives you an inkling as to how mammoth this production really is, as we get insightful comments from many of the crew members, my favorite being a section where the continuity director talks about how difficult it was to keep up with so many different elements, especially when the production would go away from a location and then have to return later, all the while having to keep variables from clothing to how tan many of the cast were in order for everything to be perfect.
Audio Commentary from Sir Roger Moore – This is a real treat for Moore fans, as even after all this time, hes still very charming and engaging throughout this track. Full of little anecdotes and tidbits about the production, my favorite moment comes when he talks about this wonderful blue suit that he planned to take home after being in a scene with it, but being the last scene filmed on the production, Producer Cubby Broccoli thought it would be funnier to throw a bucket of urine on Moore after the production completed. He still seems upset about it to this day.
Inside The Man with the Golden Gun– Taken from the original DVD release of the movie, this 30 minute documentary has been given the HD treatment for this release and still remains immensely entertaining, as do all of these 007 docs. Featuring interviews with a ton of the cast and crew from Moore to Screenwriter Tom Mankiewicz, this half hour is wall to wall info, from how the production was originally set to begin production right after You Only Live Twice, but was delayed after the start of the Vietnam war to the movies reception after it premiered. Wonderful stuff for fans of the movie.
Double-O Stuntmen – Also running half an hour, this doc is like a highlight reel of the best stunts from the entire series and how each were constructed. Awesome stuff here, from the earliest feats of stuntman Bob Simmons during the Connery-era to the some of the spectacular work of the Brosnan period. If youre a lover of classic Bond action, then this is the extra for you.
The Russell Harty Show – Clips from this talkshow come out to about three minutes of footage with Moore talking about the production and then later being joined by HervÃ© Villechaize.
On Location with The Man with the Golden Gun – This is some behind the scenes footage of The Bottoms Up Club, which is featured in the movie. The place is a famous night spot in Hong Kong, and while the interiors for the movie were actually filmed on a soundstage, all the exteriors were filmed on location.
Girls Fighting – A few minutes of some behind the scenes footage of a Martial Arts fight that happens mid-film.
American Thrill Show Stunt Film – This is a five minute promo reel for the Stunt Show founded by W.J. Milligan, the driver who does the crazy 360 degree stunt in the movie.
The Road to Bond: Stunt Coordinator W.J. Milligan – Milligan talks about his long career in this five minute audio interview, which is fairly interesting.
Guy Hamilton: The Director Speaks – Another audio interview, this segment has Hamilton speaking about his career and his hopes regarding what kind of legacy he will leave.
007 Mission Control – This is a feature on all the Bond Blu-rays, which allows you to go to certain highlighted scenes, such as introductions of various characters or important action sequences.
Not the best of the Bond films by any means, The Man with the Golden Gun still entertains on many of the same levels that were able to work for Live and Let Die a year earlier. With a great villain and a ton of action and stunts, this one keeps you entertained, even if Roger Moore hadnt quite work all the kinks out of his portrayal of 007 quite yet. The Blu-ray disc on the other hand, is outstanding both in its presentation of the movie, as well as its extras, which are fun and plentiful. For Bond completists, this is a no-brainer, for casual Bond fans, this is still really fun.
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment and MGM present The Man With The Golden Gun. Directed by: Guy Hamilton. Starring: Roger Moore, Christopher Lee, Herve Villechaize, Maud Adams and Britt Ekland. Written by: Tom Mankiewicz and Richard Maibaum. Running time: 125. Rating: PG. Released on DVD: May 12, 2009. Available at Amazon.com