In the No Time To Die Countdown, Jake Tropila takes a look back at every Bond film – official and unofficial – in anticipation of the release of the latest entry.

I’ll be the first to admit that these Bond revisits have been largely agreeable affairs, bordering on being excessively effusive in praise. Sure, things got a little dicey around Casino Royale ’67, but that’s to be expected, given the trash quality of that film. Other than that dire detour, it’s been thumbs up all around; surely something’s gotta give at some point, right? After all, if I’m unwilling to talk bad about Diamonds Are Forever, how can I expect you, dear reader, to trust my integrity as a critic?

Well, I’m pleased to report that this is where the bad comes out. Or rather, I am greatly displeased. Of all the canonical Bond films, The Man with the Golden Gun, Roger Moore’s second Bond film, is my least favorite one. It has plenty of defenders, to be sure, and I’ll cover why some people think it’s good, but for me, it’s mostly just awful.

source: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Of all the leading actors, I’ve always felt that Moore had the shakiest start to his tenure. Connery, Dalton, Brosnan, and Craig all arrive fully formed with a secure idea of who their Bond should be (with one feature, Lazenby is trickier to judge). But Moore took a few films to find his groove; the playful personality he is best known for and proudly exhibits in later films is almost entirely absent here.

Perhaps I’m being too harsh. The Man with a Golden Gun genuinely has a few great things going for it, and it wasn’t quite the drag to sit through as I previously remembered when I re-watched it for this piece. Plus, “weakest Bond film” is a relative term; I adore this entire franchise, and will happily sit down to any of them at any given point in time. It’s just that this particular film bothers me more than any of the others. Let’s hop into our makeshift plane-car and travel back to 1974 and find out why.

He Has A Powerful Weapon

The Man with the Golden Gun kicks things off with another bizarro, Bond-less prologue that introduces our coterie of heavies, lounging on an island paradise. There’s demure, statuesque mistress Andrea Anders (Maud Adams); diminutive butler Nick Nack (Hervé Villechaize, later of Fantasy Island fame); and at the front and center, the titular Man with the Golden Gun, Francisco Scaramanga (Christopher Lee), seen here brandishing another unusual feature: a curious third nipple.

Trouble arrives in the form of a gangster, hired by Nick Nack to infiate the island dispatch Scaramanga, in hopes of Nick Nack inheriting Scaramanga’s enormous fortune. Soon the tropical scenery devolves into a funhouse manhunt, where the assailant tries and fails to put the gilded assassin down in a room full of warped mirrors, psychedelic colors, and life-like mannequins. This is one of those plot threads that make no logical sense: why does Scaramanga willingly subject himself to these ploys engineered by his loyal manservant? Test of skill? Harbors a death wish? The film literally has the golden opportunity to dive into a villain’s deranged psyche, and it completely squanders it. For shame.

source: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Here’s something I’ll happily commend: the bonkers title track. Sung with zest by Scottish singer Lulu, “The Man with the Golden Gun” is an evocative track loaded with hilariously phallocentric imagery. The images playing over the credits themselves leave a lot to be desired, but the song itself remains a load of fun. It’s not one that is fancied by most but it’s really grown on me over the years. The song itself is almost completely indescribable; I just admire the ballsiness of it and suggest you check it out yourself (and be sure to look up the lyrics for the full effect).

Following the opening credits, Bond is called into M’s office and annoyingly dumps some heavy exposition about Scaramanga, who has mailed MI6 a bullet with 007’s number on it. This is part of my problem with The Man with the Golden Gun: there’s a complete lack of imagination in its storytelling. Granted, Bond films aren’t exactly renowned for their plots, but right off the bat Bond knows everything there is to know about Scaramanga, Scaramanga knows who Bond is (and where he works!), and the film follows a relatively linear path to get them to meet and yet it still never provides a compelling reason to bring them together.

source: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Again, squandered potential. Part of this has everything to do with the casting of Lee as the Villain. Don’t get me wrong, he’s fantastic, and definitely the best thing about the movie. With his suave, cocksure swagger, sharp widow’s peak, and reptilian-like features, Lee is pitch-perfect in the part, and completely credible as Bond’s evil counterpart. Casting him was a stroke of genius, and let’s not forget the golden gun itself: comprised of a pen, a lighter, a cigarette case, and a cufflink, you could hardly ask for a more memorable weapon.

If only the rest of the film rose to his level; proof that a strong villain alone cannot sustain a Bond film. Nick Nack has his moments – I particularly adore the scene where he adjusts his tie in the electronics store TV display, right after Bond had done so – but the rest of the supporting cast really brings this the rest of the feature down, including one inexcusable holdover from Live and Let Die.

Who Will He Bang? We Shall See!

Another major thorn in The Man with the Golden Gun’s side is Bond himself. More than any other film, Moore has a harder edge here, generally being a dick to everyone to the point of unpleasantness. This could very well be chalked up to remnants of the Connery era, which haven’t been flushed out of the system, but Moore is not suited for his brute-like behavior on display here. Watching him twist Anders’ arm behind her back until she submits information to him is uncomfortable to sit through.

Speaking of Anders, the film sets her up as the potential Bond Girl, one who initially has ties to the villain but shifts allegiances to Bond. A novel approach (and one that is explored in a later film), but Anders is instead killed off halfway through and we are left saddled with Mary Goodnight (Britt Ekland). With all due to respect to Ekland, who can be fantastic (see: The Wicker Man, also starring Lee), she is completely wasted here as the incompetent MI6 desk clerk turned field agent. The film shares no objections with portraying her as a nitwit, and this doubled with Bond’s constant berating of her makes for a horrible dynamic.

source: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

I mentioned in my Live and Let Die piece that Bond begins to draw from what’s popular on film. If that film drew heavily from Blaxploitation, then The Man with the Golden Gun draws heavily from Kung Fu movies. Bond travels to Hong Kong, where his contact is Lieutenant Hip (Soon-Tek Oh), a solid but largely unmemorable ally. Hip is also occasionally accompanied by his nieces, who are quite skilled in karate and have no trouble decimating a school full of grown men, despite neither looking to be older than fifteen years of age.

Everything wrong with The Man with the Golden Gun can be summed up in the film’s greatest centerpiece. Bond eventually tracks Scaramanga down in Thailand, and gives chase in a sports car. Trouble is, Bond is stuck with Sheriff J.W. Pepper (Clifton James) riding shotgun, and what could have been a riveting chase briefly turns into a Smokey and the Bandit prequel. Why, why would director Guy Hamilton bring him back? That guy was screen death in Live and Let Die, and it’s even more incredulous that he should happen to be on holiday in Thailand.

source: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

To make matters worse, one of the series’ finest stunts is on display in this car chase, and it is completely undermined by a silly sound effect. Bond, having been separated from Scarmanga by a river, decides to use a broken bridge to jump across it. He nails the jump, and it looks quite magnificent onscreen as he lands it one unbroken wide angle (kudos to the stuntman for actually pulling it off), but there is goofy slide whistle dropped into the soundtrack over the jump. One step forward, two steps back. C’est la vie.

Not content with having The Man with a Golden Gun be a simple “spy vs. spy” adventure, there is some social commentary thrown in with the energy crisis of the early 70’s, where Scaramanga’s ultimate plot is to design a Solex Agitator to harness energy from the sun and sell it to the highest bidder (in reality it’s just used to blow things up). Bond tracks Scaramanga to his island and stops him via a duel, finally putting the madman down in the carnivalesque room established in the pre-title sequence (this is also the film with Bond’s lowest kill count, with Scaramanga being the only person he dispatches).


With Scaramanga gone and the Agitator destroyed, Bond and Goodnight escape on a Chinese junk, but must contend with a fearsome Nick Nack before they can sail off to safety. It’s an underwhelming conclusion, but this is an underwhelming Bond film. I honestly went into it with the hopes that I’d come around, and while I’ll concede there are a few things to admire, it just doesn’t totally work for me. As it stands, The Man with the Golden Gun boasts one of the greatest villains in the series; if only the rest of the film lived up to his level.

What’s next for Roger Moore? Something good, I hope! The No Time To Die countdown will return with The Spy Who Loved Me.

What do you think? Is The Man with the Golden Gun one of the weaker Bond films? Let us know in the comments below!

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