Ah, Thursday. Here we are, another Thursday and another 007(x3) Weeks of 007. For what it’s worth, next week we’re looking at a Wednesday release, but this week we’re back with our usual Thursday after last week’s Friday.
Convoluted? Maybe, but let’s face it, “The Man with the Golden Gun” is a little convoluted at times as well (despite having one of the all-time great theme songs… love is required indeed). No, it’s okay, we can admit it, it’s a little convoluted.
First off, you have Herve Villechaize as Nick Nack, Scaramanga’s henchman. Nick Nack, without a doubt rates as the number three henchman in the Bond films, behind only Oddjob and Jaws. At the time “Golden Gun” is made Nick Nack is number two behind Oddjob and the exact opposite of that character. Whereas Oddjob only grunts, Nick Nack talks a lot and where Oddjob is huge and physical, Nick Nack is small and in no way physical. It is another conscious decision to echo what is seen as the franchise’s high water mark, “Goldfinger.”
The convoluted part with Nick Nack comes in with the way he talks about Scaramanga. Does Nick Nack really want Scaramanga dead? He says so more than once, offering the explanation that he gets all of Scaramanga’s stuff when the assassin dies. It is very Cato in “The Pink Panther” series (and, as an aside, Cato is played by Burt Kwouk who appears in “Goldfinger”), and really makes you wonder about the character. After all, let’s remember, it’s Nick Nack who sets up Scaramanga’s funhouse and brings baddies there to try to take out his boss.
Also convoluted—and something that just doesn’t work in this film—the reappearance of J.W. Pepper. We last left J.W. in Louisiana in “Live and Let Die” and now, miraculously, he and his wife happen to be in Thailand and at the right place and the right time to see Bond more than once.
I think while the Clifton James performance works well in the first movie as he’s a sheriff in the area Bond is destroying, he is shoehorned in here due to his success last time out and a disappointment. It really diminishes the character as a whole. We even first see Pepper here as Bond is in the midst of another boat chase, just as we first see Pepper in “Live and Let Die.” It is just too much of a coincidence and too ridiculous.
The Moore Bond films have a tendency towards excess, particularly when it comes to the hokey. It isn’t just the reappearance of Pepper either in “Man with the Golden Gun,” it’s the use of the RMS Elizabeth for M’s office, with everything on a ridiculous slant and Bond doing the corkscrew in the Hornet Sportabout to get from one side of the river to the other. I can accept this last one, the car stunt, is a truly Bondian thing, but there’s a ridiculous slide-whistle sound made when he does the flip. In non-Moore Bond films—heck, even in “Live and Let Die”—the flip would be accompanied by the classic Bond theme, not a whistle.
As we continue watching the Moore Bond films, we’re going to see this tendency to go for a big laugh to continue. Sure, Connery would offer one liners, but they rarely feel as though they’re supposed to be truly funny (“Shocking. Positively shocking.”). They are more moments for you to shake your head and wonder at the mentality of Bond. We will see just how big and broad the humor gets through the years before we get the reset with Dalton, a Bond without a funny bone in his body.
Ridiculous attempts at humor or not, “Man with the Golden Gun” isn’t just a good Bond film, it’s a great one, and it’s great because of the bad guy, Scaramanga. Christopher Lee imparts the character with this incredible anti-Bond sensibility. Scaramanga knows and wants the good things in life, just as Bond does, Bond just has a sense of duty to Queen and country (and of right and wrong), whereas Scaramanga is only loyal to those paying him. He is suave, he is debonair, he is hugely charismatic, he’s just evil.
I would be completely remiss here if I didn’t toss a nod to Maud Adams in her first Bond movie. We will see her again in “Octopussy” and briefly in “A View to a Kill.” She is just one of a number of folks who appear in more than one Bond through the years. We already talked about Charles Gray and, much like Gray, she’s going to go from a supporting role here to lead baddie a few movies down the line. Notably going a different direction is Joe Don Baker, but we’re not there yet.
One more thought before I go – the Solex Agitator, the movie’s maguffin. I think this is the first Bond where the environment/environmental issues are discussed, but it won’t be the last (they most recently came up in “Quantum of Solace”). What is fascinating about the story with the Solex is that it involves being able to convert solar power to electricity on a large scale, and that’s something we’re still looking at doing better 40 years later. It doesn’t really make for the greatest of storylines here and I’m not entirely sure why we need more than Bond taking out the anti-Bond, but it’s thrown in there so that Scaramanga can have more to do than just play a cat-and-mouse game with 007. It would be better as just the cat-and-mouse thing, but that’s not how Bond movies work.
And now, as I head off into the sunset, let me remind you that 007(x3) Weeks of 007 will return with “The Spy Who Loved Me.”
photo credit: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment