The Man with the Golden Gun

(1974) ** 1/2 Pg
125 min. United Artists Films. Director: Guy Hamilton. Cast: Roger Moore, Christopher Lee, Britt Ekland, Maud Adams, Herve Villechaize.


Can a little person best James Bond in a brawl? Where does a racist Louisiana State trooper vacation abroad? Can a superfluous nipple be sinister? These and other important questions are answered in The Man with the Golden Gun, a diverting but typically silly Roger Moore entry in the Bond canon.

This time, Agent 007 has twin concerns that—surprise, surprise—dovetail midway through the picture. Of primary concern: triple-nippled assassin Francisco Scaramanga (played by Ian Fleming's cousin Christopher Lee) marks Bond for death. As such, Bond's mission to recover a "solex agitator" (a MacGuffin if ever I saw one) takes a temporary backseat. The solex agitator holds the key to solving—or, in the wrong hands, worsening—the energy crisis, a problem that's even more urgent thirty-five years later. Guy Hamilton's third of four Bond outings features escapades in Beirut, Macau, Hong Kong, and Thailand; witty dialogue by Richard Maibaum and Tom Mankiewicz; and two lovely "Bond girls": Andrea Anders (Maud Adams, in her first of two Bond appearances) and Mary Goodnight (Britt Ekland, who shows off her hot bod by spending the third act clad only in a bikini).

The constellation of characters around Bond includes Hip (Soon-Taik Oh), who fills the story function of Felix Leiter; Scaramanga's "midget" henchman Nick Nack (Hervé Villechaize); and the familiar trio of "M" (Bernard Lee), Miss Moneypenny (Lois Maxwell) and "Q" (Desmond Llewelyn). Unfortunately, we also get a terribly ill-considered return appearance by Clifton James as "ugly American" tourist Sheriff J.W. Pepper of the Louisiana State Police. The character first appeared a year earlier in Moore's debut Bond film, Live and Let Die; here, he returns to witness a boat chase and participate in a car chase.

The Man with the Golden Gun serves us plenty of novelties to keep its two hours moving: the leaning remains of the Queen Elizabeth in Hong Kong Harbor turn out to be an MI6 base, and Bond competes with martial artists before his showdown with Scaramanga on his private island in Red Chinese waters. If it wasn't already apparent, the climax makes explicit that the core inspiration for Scaramanga is less, say, Carlos the Jackal than General Zaroff of Richard Connell's short story "The Most Dangerous Game." "My golden gun against your Walther PPK," Lee purrs, though the modular golden gun isn't his only toy; he also has a deadly funhouse and a fully-stocked Chinese junk. Though The Man with the Golden Gun is essentially junk, it's undeniably sporty, from Bond's famous "astral spiral" car stunt to Scaramanga's bizarre flying-car getaway.

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Aspect ratios: 1.85:1

Number of discs: 1

Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1; Dolby Digital 1.0

Street date: 5/12/2009

Distributor: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

In its Blu debut, The Man with the Golden Gun once more earns high marks for MGM. It's hard to imagine this film looking or sounding better, and it looks and sounds very good indeed. The image is naturally film-like, but with surprising dimensionality and detail for its age, performing especially well with typically troublesome shadows. The DTS-HD Master Audio track can't do much with the rudimentary source material, but it can be considered a definitive presentation nonetheless, especially given the side-by-side original mono audio option.

As always, Bond comes with a bevy of extras. First up: a commentary by Sir Roger Moore and a commentary by director Guy Hamilton and members of the cast and crew, including actors Christopher Lee, Britt Ekland, Maud Adams, Clifton James, and Soon-Taik Oh; continuity supervisor Elaine Schreyeck; co-writer Tom Mankiewicz; stunt coordinator W.J. Milligan; composer John Barry; consultant Michael Wilson; production designer Peter Murton; miniatures supervisor Derek Meddings; and cinematographer Ozzie Morris. The track is hosted by Bond historian David Naylor.

The rest of the features are filed as usual in several sections. Mission Dossier holds the crown jewel, in HD no less: "Inside The Man with the Golden Gun - An Original Documentary" (31:00, HD), narrated by Patrick Macnee and featuring behind-the-scenes footage and interviews with Roger Moore, EON Productions former VP Marketing Charles "Jerry" Juroe, Murton, Mankiewicz, Hamilton, Wilson, Lee, Ekland, Adams, Oh, James, Schreyeck,  co-art director Peter Lamont, production buyer Ron Quelch, Milligan, Morris, and Meddings. Also here is "Double-O Stuntmen" (28:39, HD) profiles the many stuntmen vital to the franchise over the years, and showcases their finest Bond stunts.

Declassified MI6 Vault includes an excerpt from a 1974 episode of The Russell Harty Show with Moore and Hervé Villechaize (3:00, HD); "On Location with The Man with the Golden Gun" (1:31, SD) with Michael Wilson narrating set footage; "Girls Fighting" (3:32, HD), which finds Wilson narrating outtake dailies from the martial arts smackdown; "American Thrill Show Stunt Film" (5:17, SD), which contextualizes "the astral spiral stunt" and comes with optional commentary by JM Productions President W.J. Milligan; audio-only feature "The Road to Bond: stunt coordinator W.J. Milligan" (8:01, HD); and the self-explanatory interview "Guy Hamilton: The Director Speaks" (5:22, HD).

007 Mission Control serves up the customary break-downs for "007," "Women," "Allies," "Villains," "Mission Combat Manual," "Q Branch," and "Exotic Locations."

Ministry of Propaganda includes Theatrical Archive--with the trailers "Coming for Christmas" (1:52, SD) and "A Man Called Scaramanga" (3:23, HD)--Television Broadcasts (with two TV Spots), and Radio Communication, with three Radio Ads. Last up is the Image Database, a photo gallery.

Review gear:
Panasonic Viera TC-P55VT30 55" Plasma 1080p 3D HDTV
Oppo BDP-93 Universal Network 3D Blu-ray Disc Player
Denon AVR2112CI Integrated Network A/V Surround Receiver
Pioneer SP-BS41-LR Bookshelf Speaker (2)
Pioneer SP-C21 Center Speaker
Pioneer SW-8 Subwoofer

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