Our review of James Bond Ultimate Edition (Volume 1), published May 14th, 2007, is also available.
The world's greatest villains have tried to kill James Bond. Now it's Scaramanga's turn to try!
My favorite Bond film of the Roger Moore era, The Man with the Golden Gun is, I think, also one of the better Bond films of all. Populated with memorable characters played by gifted actors, the film is both familiar and unique. Based on Ian Fleming's final Bond novel, the film tells the story of Bond facing off against the finest hit man of his era, and living to tell the tale.
It is hard for me to determine whether the plot or the acting is the strongest part of this film. I find the characters so memorable and the plot line so unique among Bond films that the combination of the two is nearly overwhelming, no doubt accounting for my singular love for this among the Bond stable of offerings. Let's try to handle the two together.
In The Man with the Golden Gun, Bond faces off against Francisco Scaramanga, the most notorious hit man in the world, who is so good at his craft, he charges (and receives) one million dollars per shot. Played wonderfully by Christopher Lee (Horror of Dracula, Lord of the Rings Trilogy, Sleepy Hollow) Scaramanga is Bonds equal in nearly every way, save for the fact that he kills for money rather than for King and Country. He is suave, sophisticated and savvy, Scaramanga is developed as a journeyman, gleefully plying his trade without a care in the world. We are even treated, during the opening scene, to the fact that Scaramanga hires hit men to test his own skill against. We are clearly led to believe that Scaramanga is a darker variation on the James Bond theme.
Bond is almost thrown together with Scaramanga out of happenstance. In typical Bond franchise fashion, several plot points and threads come together leading Bond to the inevitable face off against the ruthless man-for-hire. In between, we are treated to many stunts, action, twists, turns, women and guns.
Roger Moore (ffolkes, TVs The Saint) plays bond in the installment of the series and by this time (1974) he has settled into the role nicely. Not quite as rough and tumble as Sean Connery, his version of Bond is a bit softer and classier. Moore's Bond is more of a Jaguar, as opposed to Connery's version, which resembles more of a Corvette. Perhaps that is why we Yanks, on the whole, prefer Connery to Moore. But The Man with the Golden Gun represents, for me, a bit of an exception to this rule.
The Bond girls present in this incarnation have to be considered a weak point of the film when compared with the legendary appearances of the best of their kind. But, Maud Adams (Rollerball, Octopussy) and Britt Ekland (The Wicker Man, Asylum) hardly fall to the level of Denise Richards and Lynn Holly Johnson. Actually, I thought Maud Adams' performance had quite a decent amount of depth while Ekland's portrayal of Goodnight suffered from the weakness of the part.
The crew behind the Bond franchise comes up with yet another plot device, which drives Bond into his action. This time out, Bond is in search of a wonderful chip which will allow the governments of the world to capture the energy of the Sun, making solar energy ruthlessly efficient and the savior of the world. Being filmed during the energy crisis of the early '70s this device clearly resonated with the audience of the day.
Filled with wonderful extras, this disc from MGM is part of the James Bond Box Set Part II. The disc includes a 35-minute documentary called Inside The Man with the Golden Gun, which gives a detailed look at the making of the film. This particular featurette is a wonderful example of what a featurette SHOULD be. Replete with excellent little known facts and filled with nearly every living actor and crewmember, this is what a featurette should look and sound like. Also included on the disc is a 29-minute featurette called Double-O Stuntmen, which is a behind the scenes look at the stuntmen of the 007 franchise throughout the years. This is a fast moving, highly charged look at many of the very famous stunts performed throughout the years, and the men who made them possible. It really was a treat watching these men get their chance to "play" James Bond, if even for a few moments on screen. Several trailers, TV spots and radio spots round out the basics of the extras, but the crowning achievement in this area is clearly the commentary track. It is very nice to see MGM pick up on the best way to do a commentary track—lots of people with lots to say about lots of different issues. This makes the track wonderfully interesting and highly entertaining. It is more in line with a true Criterion-like commentary track and it is wonderful to see this level of production going into the disc. Kudos MGM!!!
Watching films of this vintage makes me pine for better days in one certain area—stunts. Nearly all of these stunts, including one of the most famous car jumps of all time are actually performed by stunt men. Imagine that jump in a modern day film. Can you say CGI? And probably bad CGI at that! Not so, for The Man with the Golden Gun. No sir. Tons of authentic stunts and effects. Granted, there is some mediocre model work during the final half-hour or so of the film, but I can overlook that given the authenticity of the stunt work. Truly amazing.
The video on this disc is generally top-notch. Colors are deep and rich for a film this old. The anamorphic transfer shows the best of what DVD is capable of. This 1974 film looks to be easily 20 years younger. Black level is a bit light at times, but hardly worth criticizing. Flesh tones vary at times, but are generally within a range I would call acceptable. The best part of the video is the distinct lack of softness or film grain, without appearing overly sharp. Line detail and depth is really quite accurate, even in the crazy world of Scaramanga's fun house.
Meanwhile, the audio track is a pure gem penned by John Barry, which moves the story along through it's languid pace. The audio is presented in Dolby Surround 2.0 which is entirely adequate and appropriate given the age of the film. Surrounds are used to good effect and the track does sound a bit thin and compressed at times. Still, not a bad effort given the age of the film.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
I really have nothing bad to say about this disc. As stated above, this is a personal favorite of mine among the Bond films and MGM has really done this disc justice with a top-notch video transfer, a decent audio track and a plethora of outstanding extras.
If you like the Bond series, then you should really enjoy this, the best of the Moore era. The Man with the Golden Gun will not disappoint unless you are just not a fan at all of Moore's smoother version of Bond. This disc comes highly recommended by this judge.
Kudos to MGM for the level of effort they have put into this Box Set, and this disc especially. Christopher Lee is thanked for creating one of the best Bond Villains of all time.
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