cover art for The Man with the Golden Gun



 

The Man with the Golden Gun

1974

LP: United Artists UA-LA358-G
CD: EMI Manhattan CDP 7 90619 2
CD: Capitol 41424
Lyric by Don Black

  1. Main Title (vocal by Lulu)
  2. Scaramanga's Fun House
  3. Chew Me in Crisly Land
  4. The Man with the Golden Gun (instrumental)
  5. Getting the Bullet
  6. Goodnight Goodnight
  7. Let's Go Get 'Em
  8. Hip's Trip
  9. Kung Fu Fight
  10. In Search of Scaramanga's Island
  11. Return to Scaramanga's Fun House
  12. End Title (vocal by Lulu)

 


The Movie

At the beginning of the novel Dr. No, M gets a pretty pessimistic medical evaluation regarding James Bond--he drinks too much, he eats badly, he's beat up--his professional life as a 00 agent isn't going to last a helluva lot longer. M sends him on an impossible mission--a kind of do-or-die operation that will either make him or break him. Bond succeeds. Now advance to the beginning of the book You Only Live Twice. Bond's wife Tracy has been murdered by Blofeld. He's a mess, he's fed up with chasing shadows. His career as a 00 agent is about over and he doesn't care anymore. He's screwed up the last couple of assignments. M sends him on an impossible mission--a kind of do-or-die operation that will either make him or break him. Bond succeeds, but at the end he's conked on the head and thinks he's a japanese fisherman.

At the beginning of the book The Man with the Golden Gun, Bond's recovered from his amnesia but the Russians snatch him, brainwash him and send him back to assassinate M--which fails. The British deprogram him. Now Bond is really a mess--his brain has been scrambled, he's a physical wreck, and his career seems about over. But M decides to send him on a super-duper impossible mission--a kind of do-or-die operation that will either make him or break him.

Now if you took a camera and pointed it at the sky and shot 2-hours of the clouds rolling by in Panavision, the resulting movie would still be better than the book.

I rather like the movie. It's flawed, but it had a lot going for it. Sacramanga, in the book, was a Cuban trick-shot artist who carried a gold-plated revolver. Picture Eli Wallach from The Magnificent Seven running around Jamaica. And I no longer remember the ridiculous plot, except that it ended with a duel in a swamp. The movie began with Bond getting a warning--a bullet with his number carved in it, that he was next on Scaramanga's hit list. Christopher Lee's Scaramanga was the most famous hit man in the world--cold, ruthless and deadly. So began the hunt as JB decided to track Scramanga down and kill him first.

Pretty good idea for a film, I thought. Christopher Lee played him as if he were Bond gone bad--suave, sophisticated and deadly. He had Maud Adams on his arm. And he had something sorely lacking in the modern Bond movies--a great henchman: Hervé Villachaize, before he became famous as Tattoo on Fantasy Island. For his sins Bond had Britt Ekland, whose Mary Goodnight wasn't very bright but at least she was personable.

But somewhere the movie unravels. It turns out that Scramanga didn't really have a motivation to kill Bond--he was being set up by Maud Adams. And then, of course, Scramanga wasn't really on a par with the Goldfingers and Blofelds of the world, so writers Tom Mankeiwicz and Richard Maibaum involved him a stolen McGuffin, which Bond had to get back, give him a private island and the usual gimmickery--and it just did not work. There are a lot of good ingredients in the movie--they just did not gel. I think it was a lot like Scramanga's golden gun--a small, take-down pistol that coverted into ordinary objects. A great idea in theory, but very disappointing on film. It's the sort of thing that would have been a fun surprise for Scaramanga to pull out when you'd thought he was disarmed--but as his primary weapon? Boooring.

Yet the movie still has its moments. The confrontation with Lazar, master gunsmith, is classic. Maud Adams looks great in a terrycloth robe. Hervé Villachaize stole every scene he was in. And I like Sheriff J. W. Pepper ("elephants? Them's democrats, Maybell.") It has a level of fun and humor that many of the other films lack.

The Music

John Barry reportedly dislikes the title song, and I think he's right. It's not good. I don't blame Lulu--she did the best with what she had--it was just a dog of a song regardless. I'd partly blame the insistence on using the movie title, which seems unworkable, but if Paul and Linda McCartney could manage something with the hand they were dealt, Live & Let Die, then all things are possible.

On a John Barry album, iIf you don't like the title song you're screwed. But I think most people agree that the album is lackluster. One of the problems is that the score suffers the same way as the movie--two sequences of "Scaramanga's Fun House" when one would have sufficed. For me the high spots are "Getting the Bullet," which comes from the fight sequence in the belly-dancer's room, and "Let's Go Get 'Em," the car chase sequence with Bond and J. W. Pepper--and that because it nickely integrates the James Bond Theme.


Release Notes

Nothing special about this one. The original CD release follows the original LP release in content, and sadly the recent Capitol remaster does not add any additional music.