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The Man with the Golden Gun [1974)

Third nipple.  It had to be said.  Nay, not even the great Roger Moore could get away with a strictly biological description.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way…  Indeed, Scaramanga was the most interesting and well-rounded villain yet in this series (by far).  This is Guy Hamilton’s directorial masterpiece.  Any who look down upon action/adventure movies are missing the fun of life.  C’est la vie.  It is an honor to write about a living legend–a true auteur.  I salute you Monsieur Hamilton!

Sure…there are some funny bits.  Coal and oil would soon run out?  Well, 40 years have gone by and we are still burning away.  But let us not dwell upon a minor hitch.  This film is so enjoyable to watch!

The location shoots are immaculate.  Macau, Hong Kong, Thailand…  I must admit I got a bit wistful hearing traditional Thai music (something I was lucky enough to study at university).  Hamilton pushes all the right buttons (rather the opposite of Miss Goodnight’s errant derriere).

I would dare say this is the best Bond film up to this point in the “canon”…without question!

It is not a matter of Connery vs. Moore, but rather of Hamilton vs. cinema.  There were great moments earlier in the series, but this really is the whole package.  It’s a shame Connery and Hamilton didn’t get the opportunity to hit on all cylinders as Moore and Hamilton did with this vehicle.

Bond takes one for the team early on by swallowing a piece of forensic evidence:  a golden bullet which had become the erstwhile navel ornament of a belly-dancer in Beirut.  Not long after we are introduced to an indispensable character:  Nick Nack.  Yes, that’s right…Tatoo from Fantasy Island, but officially the late Hervé Villechaize.  The MI6 base aboard the wreckage of the RMS Queen Elizabeth was a brilliant touch.  Special notice should go to Joie Vejjajiva and Qiu Yuen who are masterfully cute and pugnacious as Hip’s nieces.

There is certainly a hesitant feminism which asserts itself from time to time.  It is rather awkward in such a chauvinistic series, but welcome nonetheless.

Maud Adams is wonderful (if I may say so) particularly when she is playing dead (or, as the film would have it, actually dead).  I am speaking of course about the Thai boxing match scene.  It must have been no small feat to look so icy-cold in such a heated environment.  The whole mise-en-scène is so delicately artful that there is no doubt what we are seeing is thoroughly cinematic (meant in the most superlative sense).

Britt Ekland is wonderful as the bumbling white-hot Bond girl Mary Goodnight.  No wonder she and Peter Sellers had been married.  She’s a right bird!

Guy Hamilton must have really taken to Clifton James as the latter unbelievably reprises his role as Louisiana Sherriff J.W. Pepper.  This really does make the film essential viewing for Cajuns the world-round.  The AMC chase with Moore and “deputy” Pepper is exhilarating and hilarious.  This really shows the European influence of Hamilton, though one might think him Italian rather than French.  Nonetheless, the mélange of emotions warrants mention as particularly “other” from the Anglo-American milieu in which we seem to be racing around.

But there is no missing the recurring reference to The Lady from Shanghai in the funhouse mirrors which bookend this wonderful movie.  Nick Nack, likewise, presages Mini-Me of the Austin Powers franchise.

One final thought…  There is a troublesome moment when Bond pushes a Thai boy into a canal.  For a moment, reality erupts within the spectacle (to more-or-less quote another famous Guy:  Debord).  It reminds us that espionage is not all fun and games.  People get hurt.  People are used.  There are many means to an end.  But I credit the series and even this film with upholding a certain stereotype of the British which I think has some truth to it…in a couple of words:  tact and manners.  Bond doesn’t really hurt the boy, though it is rather cruel seeing as how the boy had just helped him out of a “jam” only to have Bond, moreover, immediately renege on a 20,000 baht reward.  But even Scaramanga seems to appreciate the “sporting” nature of British fairness…offering Bond a chance.  True…Bond kicks a martial arts opponent in the face during the preordained moment for bowing to the sensei of the dojo, but Bond was outnumbered 20 to 1 (or thereabouts).  The final test comes when Nick Nack ends up in a suitcase courtesy of 007.  We assume from Ekland’s response that Bond has thrown the little person overboard, but we see at the end that the devilish manservant ended up in a wicker cage hoisted up the junk’s rigging.  I admire this delicacy.  Keep Bond and carry on!

 

-PD

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