Saturday, 7 July 2012

Roger, Pepper And Three Nipples

Two films in sees Roger Moore settling into his role as Bond and the franchise is slowly removing itself from it's own history.  Moore's debut was a blaxploitation flick. The Man With The Golden Gun is a kung fu jolly.  Enter The Dragon this is not. It's as if the producers saw David Niven in Casino Royale, thought it was a good idea and then went zeitgeist shopping.  Playing Bond for laughs is not a good look.  Eight films ago we had the tension and suspense of Crab Key, now we have Thailand and bad white wine.

The Man With The Golden Gun is a film that could have delivered so much more but all the promise is lost under the sound of a penny whistle.  The whole thing is as crooked as M's office on the part submerged Queen Elizabeth.  

Only one thing could improve this stunt.....a comedy sound effect!

We begin with Dracula playing a game of cat and mouse with a gangster from Diamonds Are Forever in a fun house in the Far East. Yes, it's as daft as it sounds. Dracula, now reincarnated as trick shot making Fransisco Scaramanga is said to be the world's best assassin and charges $1 million a job. Dr Evil would be proud. He even has a midget as a butler/companion. The 70s were so ridiculously un-PC.  The pre credit sequence ends with Scaramanga shooting the fingers off a wax work of 007. Such attention to detail of your supposed foe borders on fetish.  To stop us dwelling on these thoughts we have Lulu caterwauling the worst Bond theme so far.  Presumably Don Black had been watching Carry On films as lyrical inspiration.

Lulu's theme sets the tone for the film as we now see Bond abandon wit and charm in favour of smut.  M summons Bond to his office and confronts him with a golden bullet with 007 etched on it. Apparently Bond is now a target for Scaramanga. The background is rife with mumbles of an energy crisis and a missing scientist who has a Solex device that will create free energy and yet Bond is dispatched to Beirut where an encounter with a stripper is his first clue on the hunt for Scaramanga. I say 'stripper' with a shudder.  Her (only) charm is the golden bullet she keeps as a memento of one of Bond's colleagues. In tawdry fashion Bond recovers the bullet and returns to Q whose analysis identifies the bullet's manufacturer. This screams the question 'why not use the bullet sent to M, why go to Beirut at all?'  Q snootily and rather brilliantly identifies Lazar as the bullet's maker and Bond is off for a snoop around Macao as he gets a step closer to Scaramanga.  The missing link is Octopussy Andrea Anders. Anders is Scaramanga's resentful bit of stuff and is the real sender of the bullet to M.  Later we find out that she wants to be rid of Scaramanga and wants Bond to facilitate this.  In the meantime she's just a courier.

The story begins to come together as we see missing solar scientist Gibson get his outside a strip club. Scaramanga, it seems, is quite a good shot.  Scaramanga has been hired by the Chinese businessman Hai Fat to remove Gibson and keep the Solex agitator off the market.  Handily Hai Fat is believed to have never clapped eyes on Scaramanga by Bond. Quite how this logic works is beyond me. If I was splashing out a million I'd want to meet the bloke doing my dirty work.  The twisted logic allows Bond to attempt to impersonate Scaramanga in a meeting with Hai Fat. He just needs Q Branch to rustle him up a fake third nipple. Don't ask.

It turns out that Hai Fat has, in fact, met Scaramanga and is positively in cahoots with him. This results in Bond's disguise being rumbled. Hai Fat decides the best form of execution is to send Bond to a martial arts school and let him get roughed up by some kids. We scan the background the hidden lasers, poisoned darts, anything to no avail. Hai Fat seriously thinks a bit of kung fu will do the job.  The pathetic nature of this scheme is compounded by Bond's escape. He jumps out of a window and into a boat. The marine based chase echoes Live And Let Die right up to it's inclusion of Sherriff J W Pepper. Oh yes, he's back.  Is it just a cameo? Is it balls.

More realistic than the flying car
Bond tumbles into Anders again and agrees to lose Scaramanga in exchange for the Solex agitator.  Unfortunately, this leads to Miss Anders death and Britt Ekland's incompetence as her character, Mary Goodnight, gets locked in Scaramanga's boot.  Cue car chase. Oh, great. Pepper's back and this time he's going to be Bond's comedy sidekick.  Your heart rises and then crashes as Bond corkscrews over the river with THAT sound effect.  It's all a waste as Scaramanga flies away in his car. Yes, he flies away.

Wherever could Scaramanga have escaped too? Have no fear, Goodnight had a tracking device about her person. Naturally Bond homes in on this signal and follows it to the film's conclusion.  Scaramanga's private island has been converted into a solar power generator and he wants to sell the technology to the highest bidder. Oil companies will buy it to keep it off the market whilst governments will want it to provide free energy for their countries. Apparently.  Not content with completely renewable energy the solar technology also comes with a massive laser gun as a bonus.  Before he cashes in on the Solex he decides to challenge Bond to a duel.

The original premise that Scaramanga was Bond's criminal opposite and equal is used as The Man With The Golden Gun's conclusion.  Bond emerges victorious from this tension with a bit of speed dressing in the dark. Bond has to suffer a spot of dry ice and some more Goodnight incompetence en route to his escape back to normality.  The journey home is interrupted by an appalling fight with a midget and an excessive waste of wine before Bond can use Goodnight's name in vain.

It's telling that The Man With The Golden Gun is the lowest grossing film of the franchise and it's easy to see why. It rivals Moonraker in terms of appalling-ness and cements the 70s as Bond's lost decade.  You begin to wonder how much better Tom Mankiewicz's script was and how much strife was really caused off camera.  The film has it's good points and they all belong to Christopher Lee. Lee is great as the villain and you wish that Fleming had remembered to recommend him for the role of Dr No. His weapon of choice is also more than memorable.  A gun in several innocent parts. The next time you're in an office and fiddling with your pen and cufflinks you'll wish they were golden.

I want one, you know you do too

James Bond will return as Roger Moore attempts to better Connery's Jacques Cousteau impression.