Wednesday, May 9, 2012

50 Years of 007 - The Man with the Golden Gun

Cody can't make his mind up about the 1974 Bond film.

The Man with the Golden Gun was the last Bond novel written by Ian Fleming. He announced that it would be, and his health was failing him as he wrote it. He had finished the first draft of the manuscript and was working on editing it when he passed away from heart disease on August 12, 1964. The publishers went forward with releasing the novel, and it hit store shelves on April 1, 1965.

After the film version of You Only Live Twice and Sean Connery's departure from the role of James Bond in 1967, Eon Productions had given some thought to making The Man with the Golden Gun into their sixth Bond film. There was a short window of time where this might have happened, with Roger Moore as James Bond and filming taking place in Cambodia. But Cambodia was not stable, civil war was brewing and the Vietnam war was crossing its border. It would not have been safe to go ahead with that idea, so Eon moved forward with an adaptation of another Bond novel. Roger Moore's schedule was filled with another project, so the role of James Bond went to George Lazenby for 1969's On Her Majesty's Secret Service.

The role came back around to Moore for 1973's Live and Let Die, which was quite successful, so his second Bond film was put on the fast track, to be released 18 months later. It was decided that the time was right for The Man with the Golden Gun, with filming to take place in China, Thailand, and of course Pinewood Studios in England.

The adaptation was handled by Diamonds Are Forever and Live and Let Die screenwriter Tom Mankiewicz, with rewrites done by Richard Maibaum, who had worked on most of the scripts since the beginning with Dr. No.

Goldfinger director Guy Hamilton returned to direct his fourth Bond film, his third in a row, with cinematographer Ted Moore shooting his seventh, having only missed out on You Only Live Twice and OHMSS.

Like in Live and Let Die, James Bond is not involved with the pre-title sequence. Instead, this PTS is used to introduce us to the villain of the film, a professional assassin named Scaramanga. Business is good and even provides him his own rent-free private island.

While Scaramanga is relaxing on the beach with his companion Andrea Anders (played by stunning Swedish actress Maud Adams), his dwarf butler Nick Nack secretly allows an American gangster into his home. Once Scaramanga goes inside, Nick Nack gleefully watches on monitors from a control room as his employer is stalked by the gangster through rooms that are like something out of a carnival funhouse. Scaramanga's trademark golden gun has been hidden among the rooms, and he has to reach it to be able to defend himself.

It seems that this is something that Nick Nack does regularly, trying to set up Scaramanga to be killed, since he will inherit his boss's riches. Scaramanga doesn't appear to mind so much, he enjoys the surprise action.

The gangster is played by Marc Lawrence, who had previously appeared in the series as a gangster henchman in Diamonds Are Forever. If a fan wanted to, they could even say that Lawrence is playing the same character in both films, since his character survived DAF and there's nothing to say this isn't the same guy. The same character or not, with the way this sequence ends, this gangster will not be able to appear in another film.

In these rooms of Scaramanga's home, there are odes to gunmen of the past, animatronic figures of cowboys and gangsters. They're actually portrayed by actors trying to stay as still as possible, but they're often wobbling and blinking. Appearing as the cowboy figure is Roger Moore's stunt double, Leslie Crawford.

Among these figures is a very lifelike, life-size wax statue of James Bond. Clearly Scaramanga is aware of our favorite spy's reputation.

Scaramanga shoots the fingers off of wax Bond's left hand and the Maurice Binder-designed title sequence begins. The title song is performed by Scottish singer Lulu, who's also known for acting in and providing the title song for the 1967 film To Sir, with Love. This song tells us all about the character of Scaramanga; his gun, his skills, the fact that he charges a million dollars for every hit, even that he has sex before every job - "Love is required whenever he's hired / It comes just before the kill." It's not bad, but it's not one of the more popular songs, and composer John Barry was not happy with it, calling it "the one I hate the most." There is some cool guitar and horns in it.

Alice Cooper's album Muscle of Love was released at the end of 1973 and features a song called "Man with the Golden Gun", which Cooper says was going to be used for the movie before the filmmakers opted for Lulu.

After the titles, we join Bond as he walks into a meeting in M's office, where his boss is accompanied by Chief of Staff Bill Tanner and a man named Colthorpe.

Tanner was a recurring supporting character in the novels, in addition to being M's Chief of Staff he is also one of Bond's best friends. This was his first appearance in the movies, played here by Michael Goodliffe. It's a small role, just a couple lines, and the angle of a friendship with Bond isn't put across.

M asks Bond what he knows of a man called Scaramanga and Bond gives him a quick biographical rundown - "the man with the golden gun", raised in the circus, became an assassin for the KGB at age 15, eventually went independent, uses golden bullets and charges $1 million per hit. Distinguishing feature: a third nipple.

M then shows Bond why he asked - a golden bullet with "007" engraved in it was delivered to MI6 with a note, signed "S" and bearing Scaramanga's fingerprints, requesting that the bullet be given to Bond. Bond brushes it off, who would pay $1 million to have him killed? M replies, "Jealous husbands, outraged chefs, humiliated tailors. The list is endless." It's believed that this delivery was meant to give Scaramanga a psychological edge over Bond.

Bond is relieved from his current assignment, which was a search for a man called Gibson and his "solar cell data", something to do with turning around the energy crisis. When this film was being put together and started filming, there was an oil crisis going on in the United States and finding alternate sources of energy was seeming like a good idea. As it still does. It's an important mission, and M can't jeopardize it by keeping Bond on it when there's a possibility that he could be assassinated at any moment. M gives Bond a tough love choice: he can either resign or take a sabbatical until this Scaramanga matter is settled. Bond chooses sabbatical, musing out loud that if he finds Scaramanga first it might change the situation. M agrees, "Dramatically."

So Bond goes on an off-duty mission to track down his potential killer. His first stop is Moneypenny's office, where he does some flirting with her while extracting information. A fellow agent, Bill Fairbanks 002, is thought to have been killed by Scaramanga at a cabaret in Beirut. They couldn't confirm that it was the work of Scaramanga because they couldn't find the bullet.

Roger Moore didn't smoke cigarettes, so neither does his Bond. He did enjoy cigars, his Bond smoked one while hang gliding in the previous film and he smokes a couple in this film. He puffs on the first in the Beirut cabaret, while he watches a belly dancer named Saheeda do her routine. He notices that she has a very interesting trinket in her navel.

After the show, Bond follows Saheeda back to her dressing room, introduces himself - "My name is Bond, James Bond" - and goes to work on her with his charm to confirm that the golden object in her navel is what he thinks it is. Saheeda was in 002's arms when he was killed, the bullet passed through his neck and stuck in the wall. She dug it out, and now it's her lucky charm. She never dances without having it stuck in her belly. Bond goes through the motions of seducing her so that he can steal the bullet... kisses his way across her stomach...

Bond is roughly grabbed from behind, causing him to swallow the bullet. A man in the cabaret had noticed how Bond was staring at Saheeda and didn't like it, and especially didn't like it when he went back to her room, so now he and a couple goons have come to rough him up. During the ensuing scuffle, Saheeda's dresser is bumped, turning it so that we get a quick, accidental glimpse of the cameraman's reflection in the mirror. Bond fends off his attackers and exits the club, catching a taxi and requesting a ride to the nearest pharmacy.

Once the bullet has made its way through Bond's system, he takes it in to Q's lab to be examined by Colthorpe, while Q supervises. There was a goof made concerning the Colthorpe character in the script stage, when the character was given the name Boothroyd. Then it was remembered before they filmed his scenes that Boothroyd is actually Q's real last name.

Colthorpe deduces that the bullet was fired by a 4.2 mm gun, something specially made. The makeup of the gold used would seem to be from the Far East, so it could be the work of a man named Lazar.

This leads Bond to Lazar's shop in Macau, where Bond threatens information out of him by aiming one of the specially made rifles in the shop at the man and a dropping a double entendre, "I'm now aiming precisely at your groin, so speak or forever hold your peace (piece.)"

Lazar has recently made a new order of gold bullets for Francisco Scaramanga, five bullets hidden in a cigarette pack. Lazar has never met Scaramanga in person, exchanges of bullets and money are made at a local casino. In this casino, people on the floor above can make bets on the gaming table on the floor below, their money going between floors in buckets. Money is lowered in a bucket to Lazar, he replaces it with the pack of bullets, the bucket is lifted up...

Andrea is the person who makes the exchange. She takes the bullets and Bond follows her out of the casino and on a ride over to Hong Kong on the Flying Sandpiper hydrofoil. Along the way, the Sandpiper passes the tipped-over wreckage of the ocean liner RMS Queen Elizabeth, which caught fire and partially sank in the Hong Kong harbor on January 9, 1972. In the film, the man talking over the Sandpiper P.A. system mistakenly says that it sank in '71. The sunken ship was nearing the end of its days in the harbor when this movie was made, it was dismantled over the course of '74 and '75.

When they reach Hong Kong, Andrea catches a ride in a green Rolls Royce. Bond attempts to follow her in a taxi, but is cut off by a woman in a convertible. He grumpily gets out to tell the woman to move out of the way, but she reveals herself to be an ally - fellow MI6 employee Mary Goodnight, played by stunning Swedish actress (that description seems familiar) Britt Ekland.

In the novels, Mary Goodnight was Bond's secretary in On Her Majesty's Secret Service and You Only Live Twice before meeting up with him in the field on this adventure. Bond's previous secretary in the series was Loelia Ponsonby, a character/name that has still yet to turn up in the movies, maybe because it's not the easiest name to say. I'm not even sure I know how to pronounce Loelia.

Bond and Goodnight are former acquaintances, they haven't seen each other since she was posted to Staff Intelligence in Hong Kong two years ago. She lets Bond know that all green Rolls Royces in the city belong to the Peninsula Hotel.

At the Peninsula Hotel, Bond finds out what room Andrea is in - 602 - and gets a bellboy to open her door for him because his hands are full with a bucket of ice, champagne and glasses. Looks like Bond is going to use some smooth moves on her.

Andrea is in the shower when Bond enters the room and gets the drop on him because she happens to have a gun in the shower with her. She doesn't keep the advantage for long, and Bond is not smooth with her, he's actually very rough. In his attempt to get information out of her, he slaps her, twists her arm and threatens to break it, jerks her around by the front of her robe, threatens more slaps. He's taken it easier on women who were bigger threats to his safety in previous films, even Quarrel offering to break the photographer henchwoman's arm in Dr. No came off better than this. This scene was Guy Hamilton's attempt to give Roger Moore's Bond a harder edge, despite Moore being uncomfortable with it, and it doesn't work. Bond just comes off like a total ass.

Andrea doesn't work for Scaramanga, she's his "kept woman", and obviously isn't very happy with her situation. She mentions that Scaramanga only makes love before he kills and Bond notes that bullfighters do the same, claiming it improves the eye. Andrea gives a description of Scaramanga and tells Bond that he'll be at the Bottoms Up club that night.

Bond stakes out the Bottoms Up club, and when we get a look inside the place there's an appearance by Wei Wei Wong as a topless waitress, her long hair strategically hanging across her chest to hide her breasts. She was also featured in the title sequence.

Bond walks toward the Bottoms Up, and two men exit the club as he nears the door. Scaramanga fires a shot from a hidden spot across the street and the bullet strikes one of the men in the forehead. The other man identifies himself as a police officer, and while he arrests Bond, Nick Nack walks up and kneels beside the corpse... A black car pulls up and the cop loads Bond into the backseat as a police car speeds up with sirens blaring.

Suspense builds as Bond is taken off through the dark night and begins to question the legitimacy of this "cop"'s authority. He's driven to the harbor and put on a boat, told that they're going to a police station in Kowloon... then the boat heads off in the wrong direction for that. The boat rides right up alongside the RMS Queen Elizabeth wreckage, so Bond makes his move and jumps off onto the half-sunken ship.

As Bond nears an entryway on the ship, a voice comes over a P.A. system, "Welcome aboard, Commander Bond." The Royal Navy has set up a secret base on the slanted ship, and its interiors are the hightlight of production designer Peter Murton's work on the film. Bond is taken through rooms that are tilted at a 45 degree angle, with the floors having been built up and leveled off.

Set up in one of the ship's rooms are familiar faces from MI6 - M and Q, along with a man called Professor Frazier. The man who arrested Bond enters the room and is introduced as a local ally, Lieutenant Hip. Bond has stumbled right back into the middle of the assignment he was relieved of - the man who was shot outside the Bottoms Up was Gibson, the missing solar energy expert. He had been preparing to bargain with Hip to be brought in to MI6.

Gibson was in possession of a small device called the Solex Agitator, which may be able solve the energy crisis, an essential unit to convert solar power into electricity on an industrial basis. It was in his pocket while he was in the club, but was missing when Hip checked after he was shot. Nick Nack must've taken it, but we weren't shown Hip checking the body after the little man left. Hip is briefly offscreen when the police car pulls up, that would've been the only opportunity.

Hip is under the impression that Gibson was living in Bangkok and working for a man named Hai Fat, the multimillionaire head of Hai Fat Enterprises. A man who could afford to pay Scaramanga's fee. Bond doesn't think that Scaramanga and Hai Fat would've met in person, so he suggests that he introduce himself to the man as the assassin. M sends Bond off to Bangkok with Hip and Goodnight as backup.

Hip and Bond are scoping out Hai Fat's mountainside home, Bond puffing on another cigar, when Bond hops the privacy wall and takes a walk around the property, apparently not concerned about the armed guards on patrol. He comes across a girl named Chew Mee skinnydipping in the swimming pool and is about to accept her invitation to join her when Hai Fat catches sight of him.

Hai Fat orders Bond to leave immediately, but changes his tune when he notices the one thing that Q provides Bond with in this film - a fake third nipple. If he has a third nipple, he must be Scaramanga. This "abnormality" of Scaramanga's is legendary, and there's mention that some cults believe that a third nipple is a sign of invulnerability and great sexual prowess... They're actually not that rare, although in real life they don't tend to be as fully formed as shown in this film. Bond places his fake one wrong, they're not in a line across with the two regular nipples, they show up above or below them. Like some other mammals have multiple in rows running down their bodies, not across.

Hai Fat asks "Scaramanga" why he's there, they were never supposed to meet. Bond replies that his reason is "Bond. James Bond." His angle is that the British secret service agent has been snooping around and may be getting close to Hai Fat. Hai Fat might want to give him another million to take care of this problem. Hai Fat says he'll think about it, and invites "Scaramanga" back for dinner that night.

After Bond leaves, the real Scaramanga is shown to be at Hai Fat's home. Bond's assumption that they would never have met was wrong, but he has successfully convinced Hai Fat that he's a menace to be taken care of.

Lieutenant Hip has family in Bangkok, and when he picks Bond up to drive him back to Hai Fat's estate that night, he's also giving his two teenage nieces a ride. He drops Bond off and continues on to his nieces' destination.

Bond takes another stroll through Hai Fat's property, looking over the strange lawn decorations depicting people engaged in bloody battle and declairing the place "Grislyland." Some of these decorations turn out to be alive. Bond is attacked by two sumo wrestlers and knocked out by a trident-wielding, masked Nick Nack in one of the most bizarre moments of the series. Nick Nack is prepared to impale the unconscious Bond when Hai Fat stops him. He doesn't want him killed at his home, he tells them to take Bond "to school."

Bond wakes up in the morning at Hai Fat's karate school. It is a bit odd, the Far East elements that they include in back-to-back scenes in this movie set in China and Thailand - sumo wrestlers, karate - are actually Japanese elements that were already used, more appropriately, in You Only Live Twice.

It does make sense that there would be some martial arts in the film. Like they went blaxploitation with Live and Let Die, they were tapping into another popular genre with this one, as martial arts films were huge at the time, thanks to Bruce Lee. Lee's most famous movie, Enter the Dragon, had just been released in 1973, the same year that he suddenly and tragically passed away. At the time of his death, Lee had been planning to co-star in a movie with former Bond George Lazenby. Some of the actors from Live and Let Die appeared in the awesome blaxploitation martial arts movie Blackbelt Jones in 1974, the same year as The Man with the Golden Gun.

Bond witnesses a couple men swordfight to the death, then it's his turn to participate in a fight to the death. He chooses instead to make an escape from the school, and when he's out of the building he's assisted by Lieutenant Hip and the teenage nieces. Luckily, the girls' father also runs a karate school, so they're able to help fend off Hai Fat's men.

Hip and the girls make their way back to Hip's car, jump in the vehicle and speed off... leaving Bond behind. Bond has to steal a boat with a motor and speed off through the river canals (khlongs) of Bangkok, with henchmen in pursuit.

The speedboat sequence in Live and Let Die featured the comedic exploits of redneck caricature Sheriff J.W. Pepper. This boat sequence features cutaways to the comedic exploits of... redneck caricature J.W. Pepper. I don't know if the character's return was due to popular demand at the time - I enjoy him, but the general reaction to him these days seems to be negative - or if the filmmakers just liked Clifton James' performance so much that they decided to shoehorn him in, but it makes no sense for J.W. Pepper to be in this movie. Pepper doesn't seem to take too kindly to anyone who isn't a fellow white Southern U.S. Republican, yet here he is, on vacation in Thailand with his wife Maybelle.

Scaramanga goes in for a meeting with Hai Fat, who is planning to go into hiding since Bond escaped. He doesn't want to jeopardize the project he's working on, which is about to yield billions. He gives Scaramanga the Solex Agitator device, telling him to take it to "the plant." We learn that Scaramanga is a junior partner in Hai Fat Enterprises. While Hai Fat talks, Scaramanga surreptitiously assembles his golden gun from items he has in his pockets and on his clothing. A cigarette case and a cigarette lighter form the grip and loading port, a pen is the barrel, and a cufflink the trigger. With one shot, Hai Fat is dead and Scaramanga has taken over his company.

With Hai Fat having disappeared, Bond and Goodnight find their mission at a standstill. Over dinner and disappointing complimentary wine Phuyuck '74, he manages to talk her into spending the night with him. They get in bed together and are about to get down to business when the door of his hotel room begins to open.

Like the Miss Caruso scene in Live and Let Die, Bond again paves the way for Three's Company here. He tosses the blankets over Goodnight and finds that his unexpected visitor is Andrea. They sit down on the bed to have a chat, Andrea buying that the human-shaped lump Bond is leaning an arm on is "the old three pillow trick."

Beneath the covers, Goodnight is privy to Bond and Andrea's confession-filled conversation. Andrea confirms that Bond was never a target of Scaramanga's and reveals that it was she who sent the engraved bullet to MI6. She had heard of Bond through Scaramanga's admiration of him as a peer. Andrea hates Scaramanga, if she left him he would just hunt her down, so orchestrating his death at the hands of Bond was the only way she could think of to be free of him. Bond is the only man who can kill him. She'll give Bond anything if he'll do it, she even offers herself. Bond accepts at least half of that deal, and as they kiss he also puts in a request for the Solex Agitator. "Perhaps you can have that, too."

As Andrea goes to the restroom, Bond quickly hustles Goodnight into a closet. There she stays while Bond and Andrea use the bed. Bond lets her out two hours later, when Andrea has returned to Scaramanga's junk ship in the harbor.

Andrea steals the Solex Agitator from Scaramanga's safe and arranges to meet with Bond at a kickboxing match. Goodnight and Hip observe as Bond goes in to make contact. He sits down beside Andrea but finds that she's unresponsive, staring straight ahead... and he realizes that she's dead, having been shot in the chest.

Bond is searching around the body for the Solex Agitator when Scaramanga sits down beside him and introduces himself. Nick Nack holds a gun on him from behind. Scaramanga tells Bond some of his backstory, a story that's almost straight out of the book, detailing his final night as a circus performer, the first night he killed a man. During this monologue, Bond manages to locate the Solex Agitator and pass it along to Hip, who gives it to Goodnight.

Unfortunately, Goodnight follows Nick Nack when he leaves the building and ends up shoved into the trunk of Scaramanga's car while trying to plant a tracking device, so the Solex ends up right back in his possession. She has a walkie talkie with her, so she manages to inform Bond of her situation and Bond "borrows" an AMC Hornet from the dealer showroom floor to chase Scaramanga through the streets of Bangkok.

And who was checking this car out and sitting in it when Bond borrowed it? None other than the vacationing J.W. Pepper, who recognizes Bond as "that English secret agent from England" and is quite happy to find himself involved in a car chase.

The chase is capped off by the film's most famous stunt. Bond finds himself driving on the opposite side of a river from Scaramanga and has the choice of turning around and going back two miles to the nearest operational bridge, or to do something insane. He's right by what looks to be the twisted remains of an old bridge, which he decides to use as a ramp to jump the river. He speeds up the ramp and the angle of it causes his car to do a 360 spin in the air before coming down safely on the other side. This very impressive feat was accomplished by stunt driver Loren "Bumps" Willard. The effectiveness of this stunt is hampered for some by the fact that composer John Barry added a slide whistle sound effect over it. Many fans are not happy with that, producer Albert R. "Cubby" Broccoli wasn't sure about it and Barry later regretted it, but it's in there. It's goofy, but it doesn't ruin the moment for me.

Unfortunately, the car jump delayed Bond long enough for Scaramanga to pull into a barn/his own makeshift hangar, where he attaches an engine and wings to his AMC Matador Coupe, turning the vehicle into a flying car. The idea for this was inspired by the AVE Mizar, a flying car prototype that had been unveiled by the Advanced Vehicle Engineers of Van Nuys in 1973.

A homing signal from Goodnight shows Scaramanga's location to be among a cluster of islands off the coast of China. It's in Red Chinese waters and official action in this area would not be approved, so Bond has to go on an unsanctioned rescue mission. He flies a seaplane in under radar, so low that treetops skim the bottom of the plane.

The islands used for the setting of Scaramanga's hideout are actually on the coast of Thailand. Officially called Khao Phing Kan, the island on which Scaramanga lived is now also known as James Bond Island and because of this film it has become a popular tourist destination.

Bond lands on the island and is warmly welcomed by Scaramanga, who requests that they spend "a few pleasant hours" together. They have much in common and theirs is "the loneliest profession", so Scaramanga wants to talk with Bond for a while. He promises that he's unarmed, though we know that he has the disassembled parts of his gun on him and can be armed at any moment. Scaramanga gives Bond a tour of the island and reveals his grand plan.

On the island is a solar energy station, thanks to Hai Fat's company, where the Solex Agitator has been put in place. A man named Kra handles maintenance and security. Scaramanga's plan is to sell off the secret of the Solex Agitator to the highest bidder, who will then have a monopoly on solar power. They can use the information to build stations and sell franchises, or he's even willing to sell to oil sheikhs who want to keep solar energy off the market.

Or there's another use. This solar set-up can also generate enough power to be focused as a weapon. There's a bonus at the top of the station in the form of a large solar power gun, with Scaramanga demonstrates to Bond by using it to blow up his seaplane. Then it's time for lunch.

Some things in here are reminiscent of Diamonds Are Forever. While showing Bond around the solar station, Scaramanga says that "Science was never my strong point", echoing a line spoken by Blofeld in DAF. Bond also finds that Goodnight is hanging around Scaramanga's place in a bikini, just like Tiffany Case on Blofeld's oil rig.

Bond, Scaramanga, and Goodnight have lunch together (shades of Bond and Honey dining with Dr. No), during which golden items gradually end up on the table in front of the villain. He sets his cigarette case and lighter down, pulls out his pen to write something... Soon Bond finds the golden gun pointed at him. Scaramanga has an idea for how to end the day - a good, old fashioned duel. Bond's Walther PPK against Scaramanga's golden gun. Each with a 50% chance.

And so it's up to Bond to duel to the death with Scaramanga, overcome Goodnight's bumbling to retrieve the Solex Agitator and avoid getting blasted with a ray of concentrated solar power, deal with how upset Nick Nack gets over the fact that the island home he coveted ends up getting blown sky high, then finally get Goodnight into bed.

My opinion on The Man with the Golden Gun has changed over the years, probably more than any other entry in the series. When I was first watching the movies in 1995, I found Sean Connery to be too much of a cad for my taste, so Roger Moore was my favorite Bond. And for a while, TMWTGG was my favorite of the movies. These days, I can't imagine why that would've been the case, but for a brief period, this movie was #1 in my book. As time went on, I liked it less and less and it plummeted down my rankings, maybe even reaching the bottom of the list.

That seems to be how it's generally perceived, as one of the worst. But I don't think it's as bad as it's made out to be. It's got a good set-up and is surprisingly low-key for the time in the series when it was made, and Christopher Lee gives a fantastic performance as Scaramanga.

At this point, I wouldn't call it my favorite or my least favorite, just somewhere in between.

The film might have been better off if it had been even more scaled down to a simple assassin vs. assassin story instead of bringing in the solar power technobabble, but that addition does add a certain amount of '70s Bondian charm. As you might expect, the Solex Agitator business was not a part of the novel. When a film introduces satellite lazers or solar powered guns, you can be pretty sure that they've strayed from the source material. But The Man with the Golden Gun did need to be expanded on to fill out a film, as the literary version of Bond's mission to eliminate the infamous assassin "Pistols" Scaramanga was a bit too simple and straightforward for direct adaptation.

The most important element of the novel that was lost in the transition to film was the beginning. TMWTGG directly followed You Only Live Twice, and at the end of that novel Bond had sustained a head injury that caused him to develop amnesia. He settled into the life of a Japanese fisherman with Kissy Suzuki, until one day he spotted a Russian word in the news and it stirred up something in his mind, he knew his past life was somehow connected to Russia. Between books, Bond reaches Russia and is captured. He's released from captivity as TMWTGG begins, and we find that he has regained his memory, but he's also been brainwashed into making an assassination attempt on M. It's a brilliant idea that would make for a great sequence in a movie, they should've already used it at some point. Now they should probably keep it on the shelf for a while longer, since the Bourne series is already doing the amnesiac/brainwashed assassins thing. Some fans speculate that the end of YOLT/beginning of TMWTGG may have even been the inspiration for Robert Ludlum to create Jason Bourne, thus why Ludlum's character even has the same initials as James Bond. People already make too many negative Bourne comparisons to recent Bond movies due to their more down-to-earth, psychological approach, but once Bourne is back out of the picture, I still want to see a brainwashed Bond taking a shot at M.

As the novel was Fleming's last, the film also ended up being the last Bond project for several series regulars.

This was the last film in the series to be directed by Guy Hamilton. He was set to direct the next film, but left during pre-production to work on the Superman film. Hamilton ultimately didn't end up directing Superman, either. Interestingly, the man who did direct Superman, Richard Donner, brought Hamilton's Bond collaborator Tom Mankiewicz onto the project to rework the script.

This was also the last Bond for cinematographer Ted Moore, who took ill during filming. Moore handled all of the location shooting in China and Thailand, then Oswald Morris took over to shoot the stage work at Pinewood.

The biggest behind-the-scenes change came the following year, when producer Harry Saltzman, partner with "Cubby" Broccoli on the series since the beginning, found himself in personal financial trouble and had to sell off his 50% of the Bond rights to United Artists. That deal was one of the reasons why there would be a longer wait than usual for the next film.


  1. As you must have guessed by now - I am a Bond fanatic above all else. That said - you're right - this is a dizzying mix of the good and bad - for me, probably the worst EON Bond film. That it was the last contribution by Harry Saltzman (and it's all his - Cubby pretty much sat this out) makes me glad he did team up with Cubby - especially when Mr. B returns with his response to this movie - and it's The Spy Who Loved Me!

    And once again, in this Bond fans not all that humble opinion - the car flip is the single greatest stunt in the series. Bar none. And it is COMPLETELY UNDONE by that stupid %&#@* slide whistle. My GOD what were they thinking?!?!

    So, way back around the time of the release of Octopussy, I'm still trying to track down all of the Bonds to watch, as home video is a relatively new thing - and it tells you how far back this was that I was renting some on Beta and some on VHS - anyway, there was a TV special celebrating "21 Years of Bond." Various celebrities wax eloquent on 007 - pretty good stuff. Well, there are clips from the movies in between each celebrity's monologue - and they stick in JW and Bond as they get ready to jump - I haven't at this point seen TMWTGG - anyway, here's this clip (with JW's GD comment intact on broadcast TV, somehow!) and when the jump occurs - it has this revving car engine sound over that is PERFECT for the scene and makes the stunt 2000% more effective. Now, at this pointI haven't seen the whole movie - so I don't know that the TV special people have altered this clip for the show - imagine my jawdropping disgust and surprise when that stupid whistle went off when I finally did see the whole movie! For the record, my trained ear can now tell you that the gunning motor sound that replaced the whistle in the clip was taken from the moon buggy chase in Diamonds are Forever. The special is on YouTube - here is a link:

    Go watch that - check out the clip around the 7:30 mark - you'll finish up a bit from Diamonds, then British racing driver Stirling Moss will make a quick comment - then you can see the scene as it was meant to be seen (heard). I hope you do check it out - and please let me know what you think if you do!

    1. Thanks for the link. I haven't seen that special before, but a couple sort of like that were very helpful to getting my fandom started in 1995.

      It's cool to see the stunt without the slide whistle, I agree that's how it should've been. I don't think adding the whistle was a good idea at all, but I'm not bothered by it.

      - Cody

  2. I hope I'm not the only one who noticed that Bond didn't need to go to Beirut to retrieve the bullet fragment in Beirut since MI6 already has a pristine bullet with Bond's number on it. Heck everyone seems to forget about that bullet since Q Branch is examining the fragment to determine the maker.

  3. Holy crap - Maud Adams was hot (H-O-T-!!!) back then.

  4. Christopher Lee and an underdressed Britt Ekland can't prevent this from being one of Moore's weaker films.