Bond-ed for Life ~ The Man with the Golden Gun

The James Bond franchise is celebrating its 50th birthday this year and with the release of Skyfall I wanted to take a look back at the 22 (23 if you count the rogue Never Say Never Again, 24 if you count the 1967 spoof of Casino Royale) films that have come before it.  So sit back, grab your shaken-not-stirred martini and follow me on a trip down Bond memory lane.

The Facts:

Synopsis: Bond is led to believe that he is targeted by the world’s most expensive assassin and must hunt him down to stop him.

Stars: Roger Moore, Christopher Lee, Britt Ekland, Maud Adams, Hervé Villechaize

Director: Guy Hamilton

Rated: PG

Running Length: 125 minutes

TMMM Score: (7.5/10)

Review: Moore’s second feature as Bond was released in Christmas of 1974…just a scant 18 months after Live and Let Die introduced the actor as the new 007.  While Live and Let Die seemed to be catered a bit to the blaxploitation films that were popular in the early 70’s, The Man with the Golden Gun has a style that is less about trying to fit in with other films and more concerned with the calling cards that made Bond the popular character he had become.

It’s all on display here.  A great title track sung by Lulu, beautiful Bond babes (Ekland and Adams are two of the best looking ones Bond ever sized up), a plot concerning global terrorism laid out by an evil mastermind (Lee) attended to by a colorful henchman (Villechaize).  These classic Bond elements stew together nicely thanks to a snappy script by Tom Mankiewicz and Richard Maibaum and unobtrusive direction from longtime Bond director Hamilton.

Moore is improved as well from his first outing…shaking off the introductory jitters and more confident in his assorted tweed jackets, leisure suits, and silky robes.  Moore’s uppercrust take on Bond parallels nicely with Lee’s refined villain Scaramanga and both actors give each other something to work with when they go gun-to-gun in a rousing if anti-climactic frenzied finale.

Over the course of these films the henchman can sometimes steal scenes away from the main villain and that’s no exception for diminutive Villechaize as Nick Nack.  We’re never quite sure what side he’s on – you get the sense he’s the kind of henchman that would turn on his boss should a better opportunity arise.  He’s featured a bit more prominently than other #2’s have been but the character is so oddly weird that you can’t help but enjoy his screen time.  Only a few years later he’d star in TV’s Fantasy Island…and I often forget that this came first.

This ninth James Bond film has always had a soft spot in my heart – I think it was one of the first of these films I saw when I was a child so I naturally have good memories of renting it and watching the action unfold.  I’m fairly certain it was Lee who led me to the film as I was a huge fan of his Dracula films and probably thought he would sink his teeth into Bond at one point.  Even if he doesn’t bare his fangs, a hilariously fake looking third nipple is on display and plays a key role in the plot.

This is one of the lighter Bond films that seems to go by in a flash.  I mentioned it before but it’s worth saying again that the theme song is one of my absolute favorites, as is the Bond girl of glamorous Adams.  While it may not be fully 24 karats good…it’s no fool’s gold.

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