Sunday 14 April 2013

The Man With The Golden Gun

The Brave And The Gold

The Man With The Golden Gun
1974 UK
Directed by Guy Hamilton
EON Blu Ray Region A/B/C

The Man With The Golden Gun is the last of the four James Bond films directed by series regular Guy Hamilton. It was also, to the 6 year old child version of myself who had been sitting in a cinema waiting for the movie to start, my earliest disappointment in the milieu of film.

I’d seen Live And Let Die at the cinema when I was 5 years old, you see, and Bond had immediately become my new hero. Especially as, over the course of the remainder of the year, my parents had taken me out to see a few double bills of the earlier Connery films. It also had Christopher Lee in it, who was Ian Fleming’s cousin, as it happens, and who had been offered the role of Dr. No by Fleming years earlier. Now I think this was the same year (or it may have been a year or two earlier, can’t remember if I was 4 or 5 when I saw my first Hammer horror) that I first saw Taste The Blood Of Dracula when I’d been taken on a visit to my Uncle’s to watch said film on his “colour” television set (which was a big deal to me, since we only ever had a black and white TV until I was well into my late teens) and I was therefore also quite stoked to see how he got on in this movie playing a different character...

And then my disappointment began.

The film starts off with Marc Lawrence playing a similar role, possibly even the same character, as the one he played in Diamonds Are Forever (“I never knew there was a pool down there”). He takes on Scaramanga in his “funhouse” or “assassin’s playground” or whatever you want to call it and, at the end, a wax figure of Roger Moore’s Bond pops up and Scaramanga shoots the fingers off of its right hand before we go into the opening credits... and Lulu’s blisteringly seductive voice, belting out one of the catchier but lyrically challenging songs in the series. And from that pre-credits sequence I was a very glum six year old right until the end of the movie.

Because you can see Scaramanga’s demise so clearly telegraphed from the opening pre-credits sequence that even at that tender age, the assassin’s end was obvious and, frankly, defies credibility. And since I was the kind of kid who would favour the story dynamics over the way the camera works at the time (and I’m not a fan of the shot design and so on in the Bond films directed by Hamilton, as a rule, anyway) I was just humongously disappointed.

As a young ‘un, of course, there were other excitements on offer in Moore’s second stab at Bond. The comical school girls in their mini tribute to the kung fu craze which had exploded at the time was something I found most amusing (although not now) and Clifton James’ reprisal of the role of Sherif Pepper from Live And Let Die was a nice touch (again, at the time). There’s even some rather nice set design in the temporary offices the British Secret Service use in a half sunken boat, which may seem vaguely reminiscent of the set design in the German expressionist masterpiece The Cabinet Of Dr. Caligari, in it’s “crooked house” stylings.

But for my younger self, this all paled in the face of the mantra of “I know how this movie is going to end” and even though I am much more (if not all) these days about the general mise-en-scene of a movie rather than any inherent story value, there is still a sense of outrage following me from my past whenever a movie fails to be less than obvious... which seems to be a constant failing of the majority of modern movies I see (I never did get around to watching James Cameron’s Titanic, ever, for example because, well... it sinks at the end, right?).

Looking at the film today I can say only three pertinent things about it...

1. John Barry’s score is stunning, even at it’s most corniest when a slide whistle is used to “mickey mouse” a much publicised, first time on film corkscrew car jump. I especially like the corny lyrics of the end titles version of the song, where Lulu belts out the following... “Goodnight. Goodnight. Sleep well, my dear. Have no fear! James Bond is heeeeeeere!” This stood me in good stead until I heard the brilliance of the Doc Savage song at the cinema, just a short year later.

2. The film is just as humdrum in many ways as the first time I saw it, but at least Moore’s version of Bond was written with a little more edge to him still than was usually associated with that actor. Moore apparently objected to certain scenes and his character was radically softened for the next installment.

3. The new blu-ray print suffers from none of the problems I had experienced with previous home video versions of this movie and looks pretty amazing in terms of clarity. To be fair, though, even comparing it to the DVD versions released previously... this one really did need some fixing.

And that’s about it for this one I’m afraid. The Man With The Golden Gun is a bit rubbish for a lot of its running time with only an enthusiastic John Barry score to keep someone like me entertained. But even so... not as awful as some of the Roger Moore Bond films went on to become.

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