When The Man with the Golden Gun is good, it’s very, very good. But when it’s bad, it’s still not as bad as Die Another Day. Or A View to a Kill. Or Moonraker. Or Licence to Kill. Or Quantum of Solace. Or…
Telling friends that you’re a fan of James Bond is embarrassing.
Telling friends that you bagsied the middle seat in the front row for a rare cinema screening of 1974’s The Man with the Golden Gun – in which Roger Moore, you’ll remember, squares up to Christopher Lee’s triple-nippled assassin and a sweaty French dwarf who is on his way to Fantasy Island – is right up there with being caught buying a beige cardi in the Croydon branch of British Home Stores.
The least-loved Bond film – until, thankfully, Die Another Day came along – gets an airing this coming Sunday as part of ITV1’s annual showing of the Bond canon.
Rushed out to capitalise on the success of 1973’s Live and Let Die, the ninth entry in the series sees OO7 travel to Macau, Hong Kong and Thailand to investigate the death of a scientist working on a gizmo to harness the sun. Meanwhile, Bond must dodge Scaramanga’s rather lavish ammunition.
The movie gets off to an awful start with a thoroughly dreadful title song that sounds like a pastiche of Bond-themes past (they should have gone with Alice Cooper’s submission). And how Lulu managed to sing Don Black’s downright smutty lyrics, ‘His eye may be on you or me, who will he bang?’, without laughing is a mystery.
The plot is a mess and there’s too much – waaaaaaaay too much – cartoony action, from two teenage girls beating the living daylights out 40-odd karake experts to the unforgivable return of tobacco-chewing redneck Sheriff JW Pepper from Live and Let Die.
There’s also some delightfully shocking Seventies sexism when Bond – who’s been stepping out horizontally with Scaramanga’s girlfriend behind the assassin’s back – reassures Britt Ekland’s disgruntled Agent Goodnight, ‘Don’t worry, darling, your time will come’. Not since Sean Connery ordered Jamaican native Quarrel to fetch his shoes way back in 1962’s Dr No have we seen such a serious ‘ism’ in a Bond flick.
Still, it’s always nice to stick up for the underdog (if that’s not now a criminal offence).
The film boasts the greatest car stunt in movie history – the 360-degree car flip over the river was achieved in one take, after which the cast and crew got leathered on producer Cubby Broccoli’s Möet – and the best movie gadget, with Scaramanga’s cigarette case, lighter, pen and cufflink snapping together to make a customs-friendly firearm.
Add that to the spectacular Asian locations, Scaramanga’s flying car and Britt Ekland in a bikini, this is 125 minutes of pleasure so guilty, you have to draw the curtains so the neighbours can’t see you watching it.