Friday, 30 September 2011

BlogalongaBond /
The Man With The Golden Gun:
The Girl With The Forgotten Story

Following Live And Let Die, Roger Moore barely had time to withdraw from Jane Seymour before he was required to begin filming on The Man With The Golden Gun. The rush to shoot and release the new Bond film resulted in a hectic schedule and a slapdash screenplay that's JW Peppered with nonsense, but it also gave us a film that moves so quickly it's impossible to get bored. If you can put aside the uselessness of Mary Goodnight, the clanging cultural ignorance and the nonsensical plot turns required to shoehorn in another set piece, The Man With The Golden Gun is actually the most entertaining Bond film since On Her Majesty's Secret Service.

It's easy to point out the film's faults, for they are legion, and many BlogalongaBonders have done so with some enthusiasm. However it's not without its merits: it's probably Roger Moore's best least worst turn as 007, the action sequences are leagues above the previous two films, there's a refreshing lack of stoopid gadgets and the way Bond and Scaramanga are brought together is surprisingly well thought out.
Perhaps the film's biggest crime, though, is the under-exploration of the surprisingly complex character of Scaramanga's girlfriend / sex object Andrea Anders, played with subtlety and dignity by Maud Adams. It's Andrea who kicks off the whole plot by tricking Bond into thinking that Scaramanga wants him dead in order to get 007 to kill her abusive lover first, and although she only appears in a handful of scenes, she hints at a plot thread far more interesting than any that ended up in the film.

From the very first scene it's clear that Andrea's trapped in a mink-lined prison: she looks bored relaxing on a private beach in Thailand and betrays a hint of repulsion at Scaramanga's deformed body. It's not hard to fill in a likely backstory for her: young girl, easily impressed by charming millionaire, agrees to visit his island for a weekend and ends up staying for years. It's only later we discover the extent of her slavery: Scaramanga uses her for sex, but only before each kill, and unsurprisingly she's had enough.
When Andrea becomes a stop on Bond's hunt for Scaramanga, our noble hero doesn't help matters by whacking her in the chops in order to extract information. Why she doesn't freely give it up is a mystery, especially as she wants Bond to kill Scaramanga, and the obvious answer is that the script is rubbish. But as another depressing chapter in her life story, her violent encounter with Bond could have been a fascinating development in the plot that never happened.

Appearing later in Bond's hotel room, Andrea finally reveals her hatred for Scaramanga and that it was she who set him up, and offers her body to Bond as payment for Scaramanga's assassination. It's here that her desperate situation and pathetic lack of self-worth are most touchingly conveyed by Adams - she hasn't fallen for Bond, she just thinks that's how men work, and sadly the filmmakers agree with her, using it as an excuse for 007 to get his oats rather than a chance for some character development. It's at this point that Bond should probably have stopped thinking with his cock and realised that the manly thing to do would be to put her somewhere safe and get on with sorting out her less-than-sweet sugar daddy.

Inevitably, Andrea pays the ultimate price for crossing paths with Scaramanga and Bond, and that's when 007's mission should have become one of revenge for her miserable life and death as well as a futile attempt to ease his own conscience after getting her killed. Sadly nobody involved with The Man With The Golden Gun had the balls to pull it off, and instead we get midgets, flying cars and comedy racist sheriffs.

Still, it's not all bad...

The locations
The Man With The Golden Gun is one of those Bond films where the story was written around the locations, which is reflected in the weakness of the former and the strength of the latter. With filming taking place in, among other places, an actual Macau casino, an actual floating market in Thailand and an actual Muay Thai boxing arena, it's a veritable travelogue of South East Asia, and every inch of the region is squeezed for lovingly-shot detail by the second unit.

The lining of this jacket
Rodge wears six or seven different suits during the course of this film, and considering it's 1974 it's a minor miracle that, by and large, they're not all hideously dated. However it's the lining on this number that, thanks to an unpredictable Bangkok breeze, gets an ill-advised airing. No wonder his reputation precedes him everywhere he goes, he's the only man in the world wearing his grandparents' wallpaper on the inside of his schmutter.

The bridge jump
Without a doubt one of the greatest movie stunts of all time, and certainly the greatest Bond stunt so far, the "astro spiral jump", as it was ridiculously known, was performed in one take by a stunt driver who'd never done it before. It's utterly ludicrous, of course, but that doesn't detract from its genius. What does detract from its genius is John Barry playing a comedy whistle over it as if Bond's trousers have fallen down. BAD BARRY.

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7 comments :

  1. Calumbabalumba if The Incredible Suit wanted intelligent dialogue, complex characters and credible plots he should stick with Ingmar Bergman films. A James Bond film is Tom & Jerry for adults. The films have never been pretentious. They are a bit of a laugh from start to finish. The Incredible Suit may see Roger Moore as a Saville Row dummy and worry about his jacket linings, but for most people a Bond film is pure escapism and adventure. That is what gets bums on seats.

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  2. That fucking comedy noise over the car-jump pretty much sums up Roger Moore's Bond years for me.

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  3. I love how you point out that there's an unexplored story here that lends the film a probably unintentional emotional resonance, that being the sad tale of Andrea Anders in the same way that Thunderball is kind of a story about the disastrous love affair between Bond and Fiona Volpe. Anders' death actually hurts me and makes me angry at Bond for not taking her seriously. Bond's anger at Scaramanga is justified but because Lee is just so damned charismatic and he and Moore obviously like each other, there's no cathartic pay off. In fact, I end up feeling sorry for Anders *and* Scaramanga.

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  4. holy shit...i laughed. well done review.

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  5. You forgot the subversion on "HE MEANS HIS ..."

    BOND: I am now aiming directly at your groin, so speak now ... or forever hold your peace (/piece).

    AMAZING

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  6. Loving these reviews! The "Bangkok" breeze is Hong Kong breeze!!

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  7. I actually have no problem with the aforementioned midgets (Nick Nack is in my Top Ten henchmen list), flying cars and racist sheriffs, though the plot with Anders could have made this one a bit better.

    Also, they could have done better with the climax at the fun house.

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