Monday, February 11, 2013

Double Oh...9: The Man With The Golden Gun

The Man With The Golden Gun preamble: This is the infamous film that features a superfluous third nipple, a defining character trait of Christopher Lee assassin-for-hire Scaramanga.  As well it features famous Little Person actor Herve Villechaize as Scaramanga's right-hand man.  These are the two most notable things about this film, and since I couldn't recall either,  I was fairly certain I had not seen this one before.  From the numerous "Best of Bond" lists I read, this was not among the favourites of the Moore era, but then, most of those lists ranked all of Connery's movies quite high and I didn't respond to those all that well.

Villains:  Christopher Lee as Scaramanga is a mysterious ex-super spy, now gun-for hire.  Nobody knows what he looks like though his aforementioned third nipple is widely known, as is being the titular "man with the golden gun"... (Double Affectation!).  We're introduced to him emerging from the water (no trace of a Honey Ryder homage, unlike Die Another Day or Casino Royale), and after a long pan up, and a pause on his triple teets, he's toweled down dutifuly by his woman, Miss Anders (Maud Adams).   Scaramanga grew up in a carnival and keeps an odd funhouse in his home... more of a trap for unsuspecting assassins (because that has to happen so often).  His Golden Gun can be disassembled to resemble smoking attaches, and it only holds one bullet... but for a killer of his caliber, one bullet is all he needs.  He stacks up well against Bond, much like Javier Bardem in Skyfall... men of similar capabilities, intelligence and background. 
   Herve Villechaize plays Nick Nack, because he's small and the Bond writers are real assholes.  Nick Nack is Scaramanga's accomplice as well as a master chef.  It's hard to truly suss out their relationship, but he seems a lot more than hired help.  Nick Nack is actually written as quite a capable character, so it's frequently at odds with the film's more insulting attitude towards Little People.  As a threat, Nick Nack doesn't really stand up (no pun intended, seriously) to Oddjob, Jaws or Tee Hee, but he's equally as memorable an henchmen as there ever was.
   Hai Fat is a wealthy Thai businessman who has paid Scaramanga to kill a scientist and steal his newly developed solar energy technology.  He's not really a major part of the film, or a major villain, more a necessary plot device.

Bond Girls:  Andrea Anders is a chilly mistress, and her role in the plot of the film is crucial, as she's the instigator for Bond and Scaramanga's tete-a-tete.  She's in such utter disgust with her life as Scramanga's woman that she essentially dupes Bond into being his assassin.  Of course, she meets a cruel end for her betrayal at a Thai boxing match, which is one of the more memorable deaths in a Bond movie.
   Anders proves a bit of a foil for Goodnight, Bond's contact and station agent in Hong Kong.  Goodnight has been carrying a bit of a torch for James, perhaps not as long as Moneypenny, but certainly more desperately.  Goodnight isn't an outright ditz, but she's also meant somewhat as comic relief.  Her character isn't really given many strong moments, but Britt Ekland plays her with such buoyant life that she's utterly likeable and she sells the comedy very well, from being stashed in the closet while Bond sexes up Miss Anders, to being stashed in Scaramanga's car boot.  It's a lot of cramped-space comedy I guess.
   There's a handful of minor Bond girls as well, with Cha and Nara, the giggling nieces to Bond's Thai associate, Hip.  Cha and Nara turn out to be quite useful, being daughters of a karate master, as they help Bond square off against a school of martial artists.  Early in the film Bond meets a belly dancer, a former flame of the recently killed-by-Scaramanga 002, from whom he tries to retrieve the golden bullet which she now uses as a lucky charm in her navel.  She's a saucy woman, good to go, as they say, and Bond seems to be thinking only business.  Finally there's Chew Mee, notable only as the naked swimmer in Hai Fat's pool and for her ridiculously suggestive name. 

Theme/Credits:  The title sequence is terribly dull, with lingering shots on nude women (or silhouettes thereof) beneath a rippling water effect (why the water effect?) and frequent screen penetration from the barrel of the titular golden gun.
The title theme, as sung by Lulu, is awful.  Just terribly written lyrics and sung with far too much gusto.  I hate it so... and yet, I kind of like it by the end.  The underlying composition is actually really really good, which carries it a long way from being a total disaster.

Bond: Roger Moore seemed settled into the role within minutes of his first outing.  Here he seems completely content, and has the charm meter set to 11.  He's an effortless Bond, not cocky or brash.  He's not as dangerous as Connery was, but he seems a bit more capable.  Here his libido seems oddly in check.  Whereas in Live and Let Die it seemed Bond was driven quite solely by his trousers, this film it seems like every woman has to coax him out of his pants, and if they do, he plays it as if it were a service he performs for his country, somewhat tongue in cheek, but with equal earnestness.  Goodnight seems to have the good manner to resist his casual overtures, holding out for something more from him, but she ultimately cant resist him.  But then he honestly doesn't have the time of day for her. James seems a lot more focused on the job, slapping Anders around for intel not even trying to seduce her.   I truly like Bond and Goodnight's dynamic though, there's a great awkward chemistry occurring between them that really takes its time in aligning.

Movie:   Scaramanga is on the hunt for Bond so Bond is pulled off assignment from tracking down the film's maguffin, the Solex agitator.  Forced into a holiday, Bond redirects his efforts to finding Scaramanga first.  Along the way, Bond meets Lazar, the weaponsmith who makes custom guns and bullets, including a triggerless gun for a 3 fingered man, and, of course, Scaramanga's unique ammunition.   I don't think Lazar became a recurring character, but he should have.  His gadgets were far more interesting than most of Q's.   This film features a truly great set in the half-sunken ship RMS Queen Elizabeth, which doubles as a secret MI6 base of the coast of then British occupied Hong Kong.
  Though the film starts off as a seeming cat-and-mouse game of death between Bond and Scaramanga, it actually weaves back nicely into Bond's dropped case on solar energy (apparently there was an energy crisis early in the 1970's which this film was reacting to.
   Oddly, this film features yet another boat chase sequence (as"Live and Let Die" did, but not nearly as high-octane), and also, for some unfathomable reason, also features another J.W. Pepper cameo.  Because there's never enough time for racist comic relief, although this film portrays Pepper as a truly ugly America abroad.  Yes, Moore's Bond seems to have a greater focus on comic relief, but far too much screen time is spent on J.W. Pepper and the Dukes of Hazzard-style antics that result when he's on screen (there's one particularly pained moment where Bond's car does a spinning jump over the river, and they use a slide whistle to punctuate the moment.. A FUCKING SLIDE WHISTLE).  I'm just surprised they didn't spin J.W. off into his own film.
   Scaramanga has a great trick with an airborne rocket car which takes him to a private island off the coast of China.   There the island is powered by the solar generator Hai Fat had installed, which also, naturally has a weaponized component.  Scaramanga plans to Show the science to Countries that can afford it, then sell to the highest bidders, so they can monopolize the market.   Bond naturally duels with Scaramanga in his fun house and comes out the victor.  The film ends with a big explosion... or should have ended anyway.  Bond winds up on the water with Goodnight, only Nick Nack has stowed away and he decides to fight James in a very indignant fight sequence.
   Honestly, despite a few over-the-top gags, I quite liked this one.

Q-gadgets: none, really, but Q actually proves to be somewhat useful as a scientist in this one.

Classification (out of 01.0): 00.6