Golden Gun’s 40th anniversary: 007’s sacrificial lamb

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Normally, we’d have waited to do a post about The Man With The Golden Gun’s 40th anniversary. But with this week’s passing of co-director of photography Oswald Morris, this is as good a time to examine the ninth James Bond film.

Let’s face it: Golden Gun doesn’t get a lot of love among James Bond fans or even professionals. It’s exhibit A when the subject comes up about 007 film misfires. Too goofy. Too cheap. Too many of the crew members having a bad day.

Over the years, Bond fans have said it has an average John Barry score (though one supposes Picasso had average paintings). It has too many bad gags (Bond watches as two teenage karate students take out a supposedly deadly school of assassins). And, for a number of first-generation 007 film fans, it has Roger Moore playing Bond, which is bad it and of itself.

Golden Gun is a way for fans to establish “street cred” — a way of establishing, “I’m not a fan boy.” The 1974 film is a way for the makers of 007 films to establish they’re really talking candidly, that not every Bond film has been an unqualified success.

The latter point is true enough. Golden Gun’s worldwide box office plunged 40 percent compared with Live And Let Die ($97.6 million versus $161.8 million, according to THE NUMBERS website). Within a few weeks of its December 1974 U.S. release, United Artists hurriedly paired Golden Gun with Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, which UA released earlier in 1974, to make a double feature.

In terms of long-term importance, Golden Gun was the finale of the Albert R. Broccoli-Harry Saltzman 007 partnership. Saltzman would soon be in financial trouble and have to sell out his share of the franchise to United Artists. In a way, things have never really been the same since.

This is not to argue that Golden Gun is the best offering in the Eon Production series. Rather, in many ways, it’s the runt of the litter that everybody likes to pick on — even among the same people who’d chafe at criticism of their favorite 007 film.

The documentary Inside The Man With The Golden Gun says the movie has all of the 007 “ingredients.” Of course, such a documentary is approved by executives who aren’t exactly demanding candor. But the statement is true. It has not one, but two Oscar winning directors of photography (Morris and Ted Moore); it has a score by a five-time Oscar winner (Barry); it is one of 13 007 movies Richard Maibaum contributed writing.

Then again, movies sometimes are less the sum of their parts. It happens. Not everyone has their best day.

For many, Golden Gun is a convenient piñata. Despite some positives (including a genuinely dangerous driving stunt), it’s never going to get much love in the 007 community.

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9 Responses

  1. Spot on with The Man With The Golden Gun not being the sum of its parts.
    Moore gives an excellent performance. Christopher Lee is charmingly menacing as Scaramanga. The plot was topical for the time (and sadly, today, it is topical again). The locations exotic – islands were even renamed for the movie.
    But there is just something wrong with Gun. Something that alway makes me pass over it when I look at my Bond DVDs … Caroline Munro in The Spy Who Loved Me maybe?
    The lackluster humor is the main hate I have for this movie.
    J.W. Pepper should have been left in that swamp from Live and Let Die. The Karate twins should have stayed home and Britt Eckland should never, ever scream “James!” at all or drive “infernal bedpans.”
    And a whistle on the best car stunt of the 1970s? Dub it out Eon.
    And, mostly, when making a James Bond movie, the production should MAKE A BOND MOVIE.
    Make it – FAR OUT … WAY UP … LARGER THAN LIFE.
    Gun has all the cinema qualities of a CBS Movie of The Week about a cab driver and his drunk wife in Flatbush (but filmed in Burbank). I keep thinking Ed Asner should wander by and share a Shakey’s Pizza coupon with JW’s wife.
    The book was outstanding and could make a good Craig vehicle today. Gun the movie … well, Maud Adams is gorgeous and there’s that ship in Hong Kong Harbor.

  2. […] Spot on with The Man With The Golden Gun not being the sum of its parts. Moore gives an excellent performance. Christopher Lee is charmingly menacing as Scaramanga. The plot was topical for the time (and sadly, today, it is topical again). The locations exotic – islands were even renamed for the movie. But there is just something wrong with Gun.  Something that alway makes me pass over it when I look at my Bond DVDs … Caroline Munro in The Spy Who Loved Me maybe? The lackluster humor is the main hate I have for this movie. J.W. Pepper should have been left in that swamp from Live and Let Die. The Karate twins should have stayed home and Britt Eckland should never, ever scream “James!” at all or drive “infernal bedpans.” And a whistle on the best car stunt of the 1970s? Dub it out Eon. And, mostly, when making a James Bond movie, the production should MAKE A BOND MOVIE. Make it – FAR OUT … WAY UP … LARGER THAN LIFE. Gun has all the cinema qualities of a CBS Movie of The Week about a cab driver and his drunk wife in Flatbush (but filmed in Burbank). I keep thinking Ed Asner should wander by and share a Shakey’s Pizza coupon with JW’s wife.   The book was outstanding and could make a good Craig vehicle today. Gun the movie … well, Maud Adams is gorgeous and there’s that ship in Hong Kong Harbor. https://hmssweblog.wordpress.com/2014/03/20/golden-guns-40th-anniversary-007s-sacrificial-lamb/ […]

  3. Rather than “the plane, the plane” Tattoo, I mean Nic Nac, should have yelled, “the Matador, the Matador.” Come to think of it, AMC became part of Chrysler, for which Ricardo Montelbon was the 70’s spokesman, and Herve went on from his flying Matador to star with Ricardo in Fantasy Island. Coincidence or too much coffee this morning? You decide.

  4. Can’t understand why TMWTGG gets so much stick these days? Surely, after 40 years of discussion of it’s pros and cons, it has earned some level of affection. I first saw this as a 14 year old – the target market for the movie (with the mums and dads in tow, of course). At the time, I considered it to be more sombre and Bondian than LALD – although my opinion here has changed over the years. John Barry’s score is underrated. There are some great atmospheric tracks in the album. Just a shame it’s never been expanded.

  5. congratulations to ‘the man with the golden gun’ on it’s 40th anniversary. as I had said before. in other comment’s I was only 15 years old when this movie came out. so forgive me if I said I was a great roger moore fan.

    again the producers try to keep pace with what was trendy and popular in the cinema’s during the middle 70s era.
    and would you believe it. yes martial art films. the late bruce lee was riding-high on his smash hit (1973) ‘enter the dragon’ so the bond producers follow suit with a little kun-fu in this movie.

    sir Christopher lee was awesome as the sinister evil scaramanga he out shined roger moore’s bond. however thing’s have changed in the world of james bond but I still love ‘the man with the golden gun’

  6. I actually prefer TMWTGG to Live and Let Die. Maybe it’s because I’m younger and wasn’t around when Roger began his 007 tenure, but I think TMWTGG established that the Moore era was going to go for humor and camp and that fans of the franchise would need to suspend disbelief and just be entertained and have more of a sense of humor. Moore would go on to do better 007 films but TMWTGG isn’t as bad as people say. You just have to appreciate the campiness and let yourself be entertained.

  7. Do not agree at all . First ’cause it was the third Bond movie I saw on its first run in cinemas . Second because it has the greatest weapon gadget of the whole series ( and it was a tough act to get it right – see foreword of my 3rd Bond book by Peter Lamont himself ) , third because it has one of the greatest actor portraying the main villain and fourth , because it features of John Barry’s most atmospheric music .
    You simply must not compare it with any of the previous Sean Connery entries … :)

  8. @Kevin: do the following:
    1. Go the Facebook group Facebook alt.fan.james-bond.
    2. Write a post in that group that you like The Man With the Golden Gun.
    3. Read various posts criticizing you for even suggesting that you liked the movie. People you thought you knew will go nuts that you ever thought the movie was decent.
    4. After the abuse you receive, ask yourself, “Why did I disagree with the notion that some Bond fans hate the movie?”

  9. You missed the point , Bill . Important thing to remember in my answer was ” First ’cause it was the third Bond movie I saw on its first run in cinemas ” . It’s rather obvious that , getting older ( and , uh , wiser ) my opinion changed about MWTGG . But it will always remind me of younger days and , as such , I’ll never be able to completely dismiss it as a terrible film …

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