I intended this to be a review of The Man With the Golden Gun, a Bond movie I’ve never been able to watch all the way through, but, it seems, I cannot as it is the Bond movie I cannot watch all the way through.
As point of example, Die Another Day is a despicable film, from awful Madonna song to uninspired ending. It features Halle Barry in a Torgo of a performance as she clearly believes Bond is a guest star in her feature film. Pierce Brosnan, in his final 007 outing, is clearly over it and the script gives him no reason to be engaged what with the ice lasers, diamond faces, and the bizarre North Korea it creates to sub in for MI6’s old cold war enemies. The only thing it has to offer is an early glimpse of Rosamond Pike in the first of many, “oh yeah, her!” roles.
And, still, I have finished that film. I cannot say the same for The Man With Golden Gun.
It may have something to do with director Guy Hamilton. I find his entries in the series to be less enjoyable than the movies directed by Terence Young, Lewis Gilbert, or even John Glen. They tend to have flabby sequences that motivate me for sleep. Yes, I am speaking heresy as Hamilton directed Goldfinger, but I think the shortcomings that only slightly mare my appreciation of that classic Bond film render Golden Gun damn near unwatchable. The fact both films have “Gold” in the title is no accent. The producers were hoping to recapture the gold lighting of the Connery Era, instead …
Did I mention this flick features Christopher Lee as the villain? Saruman himself plays the titular character, who has perfectly happy Fleming picadillos like using golden bullets and a superfluous nipple. Lee himself is pretty damned close to being Bond in real life. He worked in British Intelligence during World War Two. According to Peter Jackson, he instructed him on what a man sounds like after being stabbed in the back. Dude is the perfect choice for a villain in this series. And yet …
In the early part of the movie, Moore’s Bond is all business. He even slaps Maude Adams around before opening the champagne. It’s a little ugly, but perhaps just the sort of thing we needed to see from the actor every once and awhile to justify his cartoonish composure and quips.
Have you seen The Wicker Man? Besides a wonderful performance from Lee, it also features Britt Ekland who is just … yowsa! Golden Gun also features her, but it often forgets that she’s part of the cast for the first half of the film.
So what went wrong with this one? I’m just not sure. I always fall asleep after Bond meets the Macao agent. When I wake up, 007 is being rescued by the agent’s kung fu nieces, because, y’know, every Asian knows the kung fu. Around this point, I usually give up and dread what might happen afterword. I vaguely recall something about a laser and I think I came in late once when it was TBS and the laser proved to be Lee’s downfall or something.
Apparently, the production was troubled with the director of photography quitting and the relationship between producers Albert R. “Cubby” Broccoli and Harry Saltzman disintegrating as cameras rolled. Saltzman would leave the series entirely and production on the subsequent film was delayed.
Occasionally, poor filmmaking is properly rewarded and The Man with the Golden Gun has never been popular.
The slow pace, jumble of plot, and mismanagement of really great assets torpedoes this particular flick and makes it a far worse crime than the low-watt ambitions of the last Brosnan era film.
But enough of that, let’s talk Moonraker.
I have a special love for that film. It is the most flippant of Moore’s movies and emblematic of all the excesses fans level at the Bond series. But in that excess, it has a special charm. The quips are at their quipiest, the featured gadgets are just too perfect for the situations. The girl is named Holly Goodhead. The henchman: Jaws. The outer space battle recalls the undersea ending of Thunderball. It’s formula perfect Bond, all cranked up to 11 and it’s just too much. It’s also an impulse the producers fought with every subsequent Moore outing.
When I rented Golden Gun, I picked up For Your Eyes Only and Octopussy. I hadn’t seen either in many years and the later never all the way straight through. Both stay away from Moonraker levels of crazy to varied success. For Your Eyes Only is a calculated reaction to the gadgets and just happens to be damned entertaining for the effort. Bond only beds one woman and the principle Bond girl is on a mission of revenge. She only gets with Bond as the end credits role. It still features a scene at Q branch, but just so Q and Bond can spar, as is the custom. The plot moves at a happy pace and it features some great action scenes, such as the ski chase. So good was the flick that I stayed up late to finish it. It was just that well put together; the yin to Moonraker‘s yang.
On the other hand, Octopussy starts strong by adhering to much of the same ethos as its low-tech predecessor. The problem comes when the movie itself tries to be Bond and starts playing at visual quips and even adding the famous Tarzan yell when 007 swings over a river. To me, this is absolute mistake in Bond films. The character can make jokes, the movie, outside of Q Branch, cannot. This tendency seems stronger to me in Octopussy than even Moonraker, but that could be my affection for it blinding me to places where director Lewis Gilbert was, to use a British expression, taking the piss.
Oh, good god, I forgot that the J.W. Pepper character is in The Man with the Golden Gun. I’m not sure where this bigoted sheriff came from, but I prefer when Americans in this film series come in the form of suave Jack Lord or even the clumsy Felix Leiter from Thunderball. Pepper is just … another thing that went wrong with this flick.
I suppose what all of this is getting at is that, later in life, I’ve come appreciate the Moore Bond in a way I couldn’t in my youth. His manner drove me nuts and the jokieness was too much for me to endure … but I now understand how much that’s an effect of the filmmaking and not Moore himself. His manner, the one thing is responsible for, makes much more sense to me these days. I suppose I’d like to be as unflappable, urbane, and well-dressed.
But a true look back at Moore requires I consider his first and last films. And while I’m at it, giving The Spy Who Loved Me another look with eyes more appreciative of the actor. Next week, I suppose.
“I Like Moonraker“
I will return in “From a Verdict to a Kill”.