If you thought Moore’s first Bond outing, "Live and Let Die" was trippy, prepare to be shocked – "The Man with the Golden Gun" turns it up to 11.
James Bond 09: The Man with the Golden Gun (1974, Blu-ray)
Directors: Guy Hamilton
Writers: Ian Fleming (novel) uncredited Richard Maibaum (screenplay) and Tom Mankiewicz (screenplay)
Features: * Commentaries * Documentaries * Featurettes * Images * Trailers
Roger Moore ... James Bond
Christopher Lee ... Francisco Scaramanga
Britt Ekland ... Mary Goodnight
Maud Adams ... Andrea Anders
Hervé Villechaize ... Nick Nack
Clifton James ... Sheriff J.W. Pepper
By 1974, James Bond was a full blown pop icon, molded and shaped by his surroundings. So it comes as no surprise that -- like most everything around him, Bond fell prey to the camp trends of the late 60s and early 70s. It certainly doesn’t help that Bond star Roger Moore was a fan of pop trends of the era and felt that Bond could use a little more "pizzazz." If you thought Moore’s first Bond outing, "Live and Let Die" was trippy, prepare to be shocked -- this film turns it up to 11.
In "The Man with the Golden Gun," our title hero is nothing more than a candy-and-bubblegum comic hero fighting off a little person, falling in love with a bikini-clad Britt Eckland (easily the dumbest, but one of the prettiest, Bond girls ever) and facing off against Dracula himself, cult legend Christopher Lee, who plays the fiendish Francisco Scaramanga.
The film deviates from the usual Bond formula. Sure, Bond goes head-to-head with a megalomaniacal millionaire villain, but this combatant isn’t out for world domination. Rather, our villain here is Scaramanga, one of the series’ seediest foes trapped in an unfortunately dumb Bond movie. Lee gives the character his usual over-the-top edge and it proves enormously entertaining to watch. It’s a damn shame he’s wasted in a paper-thin Bond entry.
Scaramanga, as it turns out, is an assassin with designs of offing Britain’s most famous secret agent. He’s fashioned a mysterious golden gun and hopes to hunt Bond (a la "The Most Dangerous Game") on a secret, booby-trapped island riddled with German expressionistic art design and glittery Day-Glo lights. It’s sort of cross between "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari" and the finale of "Enter the Dragon," lit like a Dario Argento horror picture.
Bond, not backing down from a fight, basically falls into Scaramanga’s trap -- of course this all transpires after Bond loses one lover (sort of), gets involved in numerous chases scenes (the boat chase in Bangkok is quite awesome), and a cheap, pointless reprisal from J.W. Pepper (ugh) ensue.
"The Man with the Golden Gun" is fatty pop cheese-whiz. This isn’t a good movie, but it is incredibly entertaining, and a surprisingly racy Bond outing (there’s actually nudity in this one). The picture plays with the Bond formula, but it overuses certain key aspects of the formula to an almost embarrassing degree.
Moore is obviously having a lot of fun here, cavorting with sexpot Britt Eckland and the sultry Maud Adams, and indulging in the film’s exciting action and dazzling set pieces. If you can separate this picture from Bond cannon, you’re bound to enjoy this as a campy slice of early 70s exploitative action cinema. In that regard, it’s quite great. But as a Bond film, sadly it’s a bit of a mess.
Film Report Card:
Entertainment Value: A-
Film Value: C-
"The Man with the Golden Gun" is presented in 1.85:1 widescreen using the AVC MPEG-4 codec on a dual-layered BD50 disc. One of the few Bond films in the series to be shot in 1.85 (most were shot in either 1.66 or 2.35), this print is pretty impressive though a touch softer than some of the other titles. It certainly looks better than "The World is Not Enough" with crisper details, better shadows, textures and depth. Color design and fleshtones are spot-on and black levels are clean and inky, never bleeding into one another -- a shock considering how dark this film gets towards the finale.
Dust and dirt specks are pretty much nonexistent throughout, though a few do pop up every now and then. Film grain doesn’t appear to have been tinkered with using DNR as a nice fine haze of natural film grain gives life and weight to the print often aiding in bringing out textures. I’d mark this transfer as reference but I did spot just a touch of edge enhancement from time-to-time. But, these flaws are few and far between making this yet another fine remastered Bond film.
Audio choices are English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 with Spanish, Korean, Mandarin and Cantonese subtitles and English captions for the hearing impaired. I wasn’t really expecting much in terms of an enveloping experience with the older Bond titles, but MGM aims to please, presenting an aggressive 5.1 mix for fans to enjoy. Discrete effects flow back and forth between the front and rear surrounds while the score is evenly balanced between each channel. Even bass elements are aggressive and well mixed.
Some effects, like explosions, wind and gunshots, are a touch hollow at times, not really sounding like fresh, organic effects. Dialogue is also a bit muffled and mono-like which will likely displease some. Compared to last DVD release though, this track is far more realized and significantly better. In fact, this track is probably more aggressive and enveloping than the theatrical experience. Great job, MGM!
MGM ports over the special features from the original two-disc DVD set released back in 2006. I’ll lightly skim over most of these since fans have likely indulged in these goodies before. The only extra missing from this release is the collectible booklet.
• Commentary -- Two tracks are offered on this disc. The first features director Guy Hamilton and members of the cast and crew and the second track features Sir Roger Moore. Both tracks are pretty informative, the first appears to be been culled together using archival interviews. Moore is pretty entertaining, but offers little insight. Still, this guy is sharp as a tack.
• Declassified: MI6 Vault (HD/SD) -- In this segment, you’ll be treated to five features. All five are basically quick archival pieces, other than the short featurette about Guy Hamilton, which is presented in HD.
• Mission Dossier (HD) -- Here, you’ll be treated to two documentaries. Both are pretty explorative running a collective 60 minutes and presented in 1080!
• Mission Control (HD) -- Basically a clip reel with footage from the film helping introduce newcomers to the characters.
• Image Database (HD) -- Finally, there’s an extensive image gallery of all things Bond.
• Ministry of Propaganda -- Cute name. This was missing from "Die Another Day," but it’s packed into this set. Basically, this is a promo section with trailers, teasers, TV spots and radio spots.
Bond doesn’t get any new HD gadgets with this release, other than an updated A/V presentation and a sleek menu. But, methinks this isn’t the last we’ve seen of Bond on Blu-ray. Expect PiP tracks on the next release when Daniel Craig’s third Bond outing reaches theaters in 2010-2011.
MGM knocks this one out of the park in terms of presentation, and the design of the packaging is no different. MGM mixes things up, presenting a quality look to a quality release that’s fresher than any Fox/MGM Blu-ray release yet.
"The Man with the Golden Gun" is probably the trippiest of all the Bond films, with Day-Glo colors, German expressionistic art design, Britt Eckland in a tie-dye bikini and Christopher Lee as the lead villain. It’s not a great Bond outing, but it is quite entertaining. The Blu-ray boasts a solid transfer, a fine lossless mix and a nice assortment of special features making this yet another rock-solid special edition for a Bond "classic."
Blu-ray Report Card:
HD Content: N/A
Recommendation: A camp classic worth owning.
On Blu-ray: May 9, 2009.
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----R. L. Shaffer