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Man With the Golden Gun

The Man With The Golden Gun (1974)

The Man with the Golden Gun (1974) is the ninth spy film in the James Bond series to be produced by Eon Productions, and the second to star Roger Moore as the fictional MI6 agent James Bond. A loose adaptation of Ian Fleming’s novel of the 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. The film also reflects the then popular martial arts film craze, with several kung fu scenes and a predominantly Asian location, being set and shot in Thailand, Hong Kong, and Macau. Part of the film is also set in Beirut, Lebanon, but it was not shot there.

The film was met with mixed reviews, and some critics described it as the lowest point in the canon up to that time. Christopher Lee’s portrayal of Scaramanga as a villain of similar skill and ability to Bond was generally praised, but reviewers criticized the film as a whole, particularly its comedic approach and the performances of Moore and Britt Ekland. Although the film was profitable, it is the fourth lowest grossing 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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My favourite Bond film: The Man with the Golden Gun

Published: Oct 3, 2012

Received wisdom says that Roger Moore was the worst 007, the one who turned James Bond into a caricature. Rubbish, of course. How do you turn a character with no hinterland, no interests beyond bedding women and killing villains – and sometimes killing women – into a caricature? He already is a caricature. Bond is empty: Moore’s treatment of him as a bored playboy, for whom the sex and violence are beads of sensation in a mundane world, is the only filmic reading of the character as written in the screenplays that makes any sense.

Like albums by the Fall, the first Bond film you see is the one that leaves its residue upon you. This was mine: an unimaginably thrilling experience at the time, though less so from a distance of more than 35 years. In truth, The Man with the Golden Gun is rather flat: the jokes are forced and laboured (transplanting Clifton James’s halfwit Louisiana sheriff JW Pepper from Live and Let Die to Thailand for comic effect was particularly lazy); there’s no great gadget from Q; the set pieces are few (though in the corkscrewing car jump, there was one genuine classic); and, for a Bond film, it’s particularly talky, without ever being well-written.

But there’s something in The Man with the Golden Gun that points the way to the darker Bond of Timothy Dalton or Daniel Craig. It’s there in his jousting with Scaramanga (Christopher Lee) – the three-nippled villain of the piece, an assassin who works for $1m a hit and has Bond on his list – who reminds 007 that the pair of them are cut from the same cloth. Indeed, in Tom Mankiewicz’s first draft of the screenplay he posited Scaramanga as Bond’s alter ego, “a super-villain of the stature of Bond himself”.

The darkness is there, too, in the hall of mirrors on Scaramanga’s island, through which the assassin hunts his prey at the start and the end of the film: this is the one place in the film where uncertainty and fear and deception ring true. And it is there in Bond’s unusually certain attitude towards his adversary, a man he admits he wouldn’t mind killing in cold blood. It’s even there in the gleeful cruelty of Scaramanga’s dwarf sidekick, Nick Nack (an effortless assemblage of offensive notions in one sketchy character), who hires killers to take out his boss, with the boss’s full approval. It’s all useful practice, you see.

Like its predecessor, The Man with the Golden Gun borrowed from the cinematic trends of the time. Live and Let Die borrowed from blaxploitation; The Man with the Golden Gun took a couple of kicks at kung fu, though in a distinctly half-hearted fashion. Its most memorable piece of violence, in fact, is never seen: when Bond takes his seat beside Scaramanga’s girlfriend – who is to hand him a “solex agitator”, the McGuffin of the film – it takes him a few moments to realise she’s already been shot dead in her seat.
The sad thing about The Man with the Golden Gun is how great it might have been. South-east Asia in the mid-70s? You’d think even the most inept scriptwriter might have conjured something out of events there – I believe there was some sort of war going on nearby – rather than an implausible assassin with a luxury hideout on a secret island. Instead, the setting is just a background, as if the film were just a Duran Duran video with extra guns and safari suits.

Perhaps, when real people were dying real deaths in a real war just around the corner from the setting, the cartoon anti-Communism of the 60s Bonds didn’t seem entirely appropriate. American audiences might just have been furious at a Bond who sorted out the region’s problems with an unzipped fly, a Walther pistol and some Savile Row tailoring, while their sons were dying thousands of miles from home.

If this doesn’t sound much like an appreciation of a favourite film, I have saved one point till last. Those of us who actually have third nipples are rarely represented on screen. In Scaramanga we got our hero.

Favourite line: (Delivered by Scaramanga) “You see, Mr Bond, I always thought I loved animals. Then I discovered that I enjoyed killing people even more.”

Favourite gadget: The wreck of the liner RMS Queen Elizabeth in Hong Kong harbour, which turns out to be MI6’s regional HQ.

My Review


One of the best villain's in one of the worse movies I'm a bond fan and love watching the adventures of everyones favorite British secret agent, yet this Bond movie (along with the later Moonraker) surely ranks as the absolute worst of the entire series. This only being his second Bond movie Roger Moore had yet to settle into the Bond character, and it really shows, the production design is well, unconvincing and the plot has holes big enough to float shipliners through. Especially annoying here is the sidekick Nick Nack, with his squeeky voice you almost expect him to jump into cries of "The plane, the plane"! Thank goodness they had the good taste to serve up two beauties in Britt Ekland and Maud Adams. The movie is also well served by featuring Christopher Lee (aka Dracula) as the title villain.

Bond girl Appeal

About The Author


Born on the English-Scottish border I emigrated to the US after graduating college in 1995 and became a U.S. citizen in 2007. I have served in the U.S. military and my past positions include as an Assistant Managing Editor of The Washington Post Company, a technical writer working on technical documentation for both a construction company and a large government contractor, a graphic designer creating graphics in support of government contract proposals, and as a public affairs officer for the U.S. Navy. which included being assigned as the official writer for the Navy and DoD on the assumption ceremony of a new Secretary of the Navy. I am currently a Web Services Writer for a large government contractor in the Washington, D.C. metro area.

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