The Man with the Golden Gun (1974)

Directed by Guy Hamilton
Cinematography Ted Moore
Oswald Morris

The Man with the Golden Gun is a 1974 British spy film, the ninth entry in the James Bond series and the second to star Roger Moore as the fictional MI6 agent James Bond. A loose adaptation of Ian Fleming‘s novel of same name, the film has Bond sent after the Solex Agitator, a device that can harness the power of the sun, while facing the assassin Francisco Scaramanga, the “Man with the Golden Gun”. The action culminates in a duel between them that settles the fate of the Solex.

The Man with the Golden Gun was the fourth and final film in the series directed by Guy Hamilton. The script was written by Richard Maibaum and Tom Mankiewicz. The film was set in the face of the 1973 energy crisis, a dominant theme in the script. Britain had still not yet fully overcome the crisis when the film was released in December 1974.

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The film also reflects the then popular martial arts film craze, with several kung fu scenes and a predominantly Asian location, being shot in Thailand, Hong Kong, and Macau. Part of the film is also set in Beirut, Lebanon, making it the second Bond film to include a Middle Eastern location – the first being Turkey in “From Russia With Love”.

The film saw mixed reviews. Christopher Lee‘s performance as Scaramanga, intended to be a villain of similar skill and ability to Bond, was praised, but reviewers criticized the film as a whole, particularly the comedic approach, and some critics described it as the lowest point in the canon. Although the film was profitable, it is the fourth lowest grossing Bond film in the series. It was also the last film to be co-produced by Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, with Saltzman selling his 50% stake in Danjaq, LLC, the parent company of Eon Productions, after the release of the film.

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Writing and themes

Tom Mankiewicz wrote a first draft for the script in 1973, delivering a script that was a battle of wills between Bond and Scaramanga, who he saw as Bond’s alter ego, “a super-villain of the stature of Bond himself.” Tensions between Mankiewicz and Guy Hamiltonand Mankiewicz’s growing sense that he was “feeling really tapped out on Bond” led to the re-introduction of Richard Maibaum as the Bond screenwriter.

Maibaum, who had worked on six Bond films previously, delivered his own draft based on Mankiewicz’s work. Much of the plot involving Scaramanga being Bond’s equal was sidelined in later drafts. For one of the two main aspects of the plot, the screenwriters used the 1973 energy crisis as a backdrop to the film,  allowing the MacGuffin of the “Solex agitator” to be introduced; Broccoli’s stepson Michael G. Wilson researched solar power to create the Solex.

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While Live and Let Die had borrowed heavily from the blaxploitation genre, The Man with the Golden Gun borrowed from the martial arts genre that was popular in the 1970s through films such as Fist of Fury (1972) and Enter the Dragon (1973).However, the use of the martial arts for a fight scene in the film “lapses into incredibility” when Lt Hip and his two nieces defeat an entire dojo.

Casting

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