Blu-ray Review HTF BLU-RAY REVIEW: The Man with the Golden Gun

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Matt Hough, May 19, 2009.

  1. Matt Hough

    Matt Hough Executive Producer
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    The Man with the Golden Gun (Blu-ray)
    Directed by Guy Hamilton

    Studio: MGM
    Year: 1974
    Aspect Ratio: 1.85:11080pAVC codec
    Running Time: 125 minutes
    Rating: PG
    Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English; Dolby Digital 1.0 English, 5.1 Spanish, French
    Subtitles: English, Spanish, Korean, others
    Region: A
    MSRP: $ 34.98

    Release Date: May 12, 2009
    Review Date: May 19, 2009


    The Film

    3/5

    The ninth film in the James Bond series The Man with the Golden Gun features many of the same features that distinguished themselves in previous adventures of super spy 007: Bondian quips, beautiful women, elaborate chases, and a wily villain who’s more than a match for Bond. The problem is that by the ninth film, the very things that viewers expected to find in a Bond picture were looking a bit tired and somewhat frayed around the edges. Watching it decades after its original release, it seems smaller in scale than many of the previous films (not always a bad thing; at least the film isn‘t overproduced), and it’s easy to understand why it was the lowest grossing Bond picture made by Roger Moore. There’s nothing especially spectacular about anything on display here. It’s professional, competent, but just a bit lacking in oomph.

    After mistakenly believing he is to be the next target of the infamous international hitman Scaramanga (Christopher Lee), secret agent James Bond (Roger Moore) learns that the assassin’s real goal is to steal the solex agitator, a device which can harness the sun’s solar energy thus creating a weapon that can generate mass destruction on a grand scale. A game of cat and mouse with the hitman brings Bond to Scaramanga’s island fortress in the China Sea where abducted British agent Mary Goodnight (Britt Ekland) and Scaramanga’s small but lethal henchman Nick Nack (Hervé Villechaize) cause the super spy additional headaches.

    The film offers a checklist for all of the items one expects in a Bond film. There are two chases, one in a canal and one on the streets of Bangkok (culminating in an admittedly spectacular stunt with a car aerially crossing a dilapidated bridge), but neither enters the annals of the greatest Bond chase scenes. We have a super villain and his insidious second-in-command, but the villain is so laid back through most of the film as to be almost inert leaving the henchman to be more of a diversion for the audience. The exotic settings for the film’s adventures seem to be centered in southeast Asia most of the time, not always the most picturesque of locales. And Roger Moore, in his second Bond outing, still seems less than assured in the fight scenes, and in this one, he has several of them. He handles the quip-laden script by Richard Maibaum and Tom Mankiewicz adroitly, but he’d need another Bond adventure (The Spy Who Loved Me) before coming into his own as a Bond for his generation.

    Aside from Moore, the film casts Britt Ekland as about the most bumbling secret agent this side of Maxwell Smart. Maud Adams has a few gently tortured scenes as Scaramanga’s miserable mistress, while Christopher Lee does what he can with the underwritten role of the suave hitman. Hervé Villechaize steals the picture as the arrogantly sneaky Nick Nack while the producers shamefully bring back the redneck New Orleans sheriff from Live and Let Die J.W. Pepper (enacted by Clifton James) to serve as more comic relief for a film that really didn't need it.


    Video Quality

    4/5

    The film’s 1.85:1 theatrical aspect ratio is replicated here in a 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. Contrast has been dialed in perfectly with this transfer resulting in some marvelous color density and usually very good sharpness (though some close-ups of certain female cast members are sometimes soft, likely deliberately, and some aerial photography is likewise not always first-rate). Flesh tones are very realistic, and Lowry has done an admirable job in cleaning up their source (featurettes using old clips show how bad the film once looked). The film has been divided into 32 chapters.

    Audio Quality

    4/5

    The repurposed DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 is surprisingly robust knowing the mono sources which formed the basis of the film’s original soundtrack. There are quite a few impressive panning effects across and around the various channels, and the LFE also have some body to them. The original mono soundtrack is also retained for purists, but I admit I listened to most of the film with the excellent lossless track engaged.


    Special Features

    4/5

    The disc boasts two audio commentaries. Roger Moore heads one of them solo, and though he sounds aged and slow of speech, he does manage to talk constantly throughout the movie though as much about his career and life than about this particular film. The other commentary excels by editing comments from a wide variety of cast and crew into a seamless track moderated by David Naler.

    “The Russell Harty Show” is a 3-minute set of interview excerpts featuring Roger Moore and Hervé Villechaize. It’s in 480i.

    “On Location with The Man with the Golden Gun is another too brief 1 ½ minutes with producer Michael Wilson narrating some location shooting in Hong Kong. It, too, is in 480i.

    “Girls Fighting” shows in 480i some rehearsal footage of the two girls practicing their martial arts moves in one of the film’s more surprising and entertaining fight scenes. These dailies run 3 ½ minutes and are narrated again by Michael Wilson.

    “American Thrill Show Stunt Film” demonstrates the incredible “astro spin” stunt in an arena. The 5 ¼-minute clips can be watched with or without commentary by W. J. Milligan and is in 480i.

    “Guy Hamilton: The Director Speaks” is 5 ¼ minutes of the director describing the various tribulations of directing the film. It’s in 1080p.

    “007 Mission Control” is an interactive index finder to all of the characters and important objects in the movie. Choose the item/name from the index, and the viewer is taken immediately to that spot in the film where it first occurs.

    “Inside The Man with the Golden Gun is the 31-minute documentary on the making of the film. Presented in 1080i, the featurette covers the search for proper locations, the casting of the major roles, the hot weather conditions the cast and crew endured, the stunt work, and various problems encountered during production.

    “Double-O Stuntmen” is a 28 ½-minute paean to the cadre of stunt people used in all of the Bond movies featuring interviews with the various stuntmen and clips of the stunts they performed. It’s in 1080i.

    The disc offers two theatrical trailers, the first running 2 minutes in 480p and the second running 3 ¼ minutes in 1080p.

    There are two TV spots each running one minute and both in 480p.

    Three radio ads for the movie may be listened to. The first runs 1 minute while the other two are ½-minute each.

    An extensive stills and portrait gallery divided into eleven classifications may be stepped through. There are both black and white and color photographs and poster art to be found here.


    In Conclusion

    3.5/5 (not an average)

    Not the best nor the worst of the Roger Moore Bond films, The Man with the Golden Gun arrives on Blu-ray in a spiffy package featuring outstanding video and audio and a raft of worthwhile bonus features amid some filler and fluff. Recommended!


    Matt Hough
    Charlotte, NC
     
  2. Adam Gregorich

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    Thanks for the great review. Like all the other Bonds this is an automatic upgrade from the first gen DVD which was an upgrade from teh second gen LD, which was an upgrade from the first gen LD, etc, etc. I have always had a soft spot for this Bond title. Maybe because of Maud Adams? Bring on Octopussy!
     
  3. Gary Seven

    Gary Seven Grand Poo Pah

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    Just a minor correction... it is Britt Ekland, not Brett.

    It's interesting you say that Moore would need another film before coming into his own as a Bond for HIS generation, when in actuality, he is older than Sean Connery.

    I always felt that Live and Let Die was his best Bond movie and it went downhill from there.
     
  4. Josh Steinberg

    Josh Steinberg Producer
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    I'm not a big fan of the Roger Moore era, as his films seem more of a caricature of what Bond is supposed to be rather than an actual portrayal of a serious character in a serious action picture. (When I rewatched all of the films in 2006 when those DVDs came out, I actually couldn't even make it through "For Your Eyes Only" and fast forwarded through the last forty-five minutes just so I could feel like it counted as watching it...and I never do that.)

    That said, The Man With The Golden Gun is easily my favorite of the Roger Moore Bond films, and probably the only one I'd recommend to anyone. I think it's actually a lot of fun, without some of the silliness that would fill later Moore entries (though it was still plenty silly).

    To each his own, of course.
     
  5. Paul_Scott

    Paul_Scott Lead Actor

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    To each his own, indeed.

    In deference to Ron, who said in another thread he counts this as one of his favorites, I won't criticize it too harshly.
    I will say that I always liked the Solex Agitator as a Maguffin-if they ever canabilize this movie for a future entry, they would likely change the potential of the device as a WMD to a WMED (weapon of mass economic dislocation...a far more realistic threat which still leaves room for extreme antagonists).
    The climactic car stunt remains one of the series stunt highpoints, imo, but it is criminally undermined by the cartoonish slide whistle which deflates the sense of awe it would otherwise have. It truly is a spectacular stunt that seems pedestrian by the context they put it in.
    This and LALD are the two films I always think back on when other entries like LTK and CR,QoS get slagged for mining whatever trend is/was currently fashionable (Bourne, Miami Vice, etc). The criticism isn't unwarranted, but the trend really started with these two films (Blaxsploitation, Kung fu/asian imports).
    Not one of my favorite Bonds, but I don't find it unbearable either. I did not plan to upgrade it at all, but I ended up getting it with LTK and QoS in the Best Buy package last month and don't regret paying extra for it to get the other two early. I thought PQ looked decent enough- not as processed (and consequently pretty) as LTK, but a little more filmlike.
     
  6. Matt Hough

    Matt Hough Executive Producer
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    I can't believe I made that mistake with Miss Ekland's name. Twice!

    By "his generation," I was, of course, referring to the generation of Bond films he topped. I was not referring to his chronological age.
     
  7. Osato

    Osato Producer

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    I'm a big fan of Golden Gun. I finally checked out the blu ray last night. Bravo MGM. Great video transfer on this one! For an older audio soundtrack as well, I was surprised at how rich the audio was too.

    When is the next wave of films coming?
     
  8. Paul_Scott

    Paul_Scott Lead Actor

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    Finally got around to watching this last night and I have to say I had an complete blast with it! I probably enjoyed the viewing here as much as I can recall ever enjoying any of the older Bond catalog on DVD/Bd. For some reason, maybe low expectations and not a lot of prior repeat viewings of it, so much of it felt fresh and vibrant in a way my more favored entries haven't in a long time.


    I used to reflexively think the Moore's best performance in the role was in FYEO, but this viewing might have changed that. He does a much better job of balancing the harder edged Bond with his lighter, twinkle in the eye, gentleman spy style he was more known for.


    I also have to say I was wrong about the transfer here. The scenes I kept demoing before weren't very spectacular, but watched from beginning to end, the disc is one of the most honestly film-like out of all of them. It was a joy to watch.
     
  9. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Administrator
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    Paul,


    This is so good to read.


    The Man With The Golden Gun is my absolute

    favorite Bond film tied with The Spy Who

    Loved Me.

    Roger Moore is my favorite Bond, mostly

    for the fact that growing up in the 70s, he

    was the first I became familiar with.

    Always warms my heart to hear someone

    praise TMWTGG because it is a film that

    doesn't generally get kind words from Bond

    fans.
     
  10. Andy_G

    Andy_G Stunt Coordinator

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    I have to give John Barry props for basing a good score on a fairly dreadful title song.


    TMWTGG is a better movie than Live and Let Die (which looks REALLY cheap, even though Lowry scanned it at 4k).
     
  11. Steve Christou

    Steve Christou Long Member

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    "He has a powerful weapon. He charges a million a shot..."


    I'll always have a soft spot for TMWTGG, not one of the best Bond films but it has horror legend Christopher Lee as cold-eyed assassin Scaramanga, Britt Ekland in a bikini, fantastic locations and another great score by John Barry.
     
  12. Sam Favate

    Sam Favate Producer

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    While not my favorite film, there is a lot to like about Golden Gun, and the BD is great (as are the other 007 BDs). If only MGM wasn't in such despair, we could be enjoying Spy and the other titles on BD right now.
     
  13. Paul_Scott

    Paul_Scott Lead Actor

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    I thought the theme was quite kitschy, but also very catchy. I picked up a cd of the series theme songs a few years back and TMWTGG quickly started to grow on me. I usually will skip over Goldfinger or A View To A Kill, but always let this one play.



    I really got into the character of Scaramanga, and Lee's enthusiasm in playing him this time. In the way he views Bond, there's some nice shading and depth in there that you don't see in most of the other confrontations in the series. I also get a kick out of him keeping a pad handy to make notes like "Mounton '34". That's such a sweet little insight into his character -with that whole class envy/resentment sub text that gives the conflict between them some interesting nuance and juice while also grounding the story in more human dimensions than usual. His motivations are unique, consistent, believable, logical- qualities I value much more than something like the flashiness of his master plan.



    Normally I hate 'dumb' characters, but Britt did a great job I thought of making her seem earnest but overwhelmed, rather than simply retarded. And I think she's a knockout. Spending the last act of the movie in a bikini, is a fun conceit. Adams is well utilized too. As is Knick Knack, for that matter. Great contrast there to the usual Oddjob/Jaws style henchman.


    Plenty of good, subtle deadpan humor sprinkled throughout too.


    Definitely a lot to like here- and much more worthy of reflection than I gave it credit for.


    There are points I could criticize (the cliche of yet another exploding villain fortress at the end, the presence of Clifton James, the way Bond's compatriot drives off without him after 'rescuing' him, etc) but the film left me in such good cheer for what worked and what it brought to the table that was fresh, that I don't feel a compulsion to dwell on those the way I might with another film.
     
  14. Mark-P

    Mark-P Producer

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    I'm just curious if anybody knows why the Bond company decided to revert back to spherical photography (1.85:1) on the first two Moore entries after having done the previous four in Panavision (2.35:1).
     
  15. Andy_G

    Andy_G Stunt Coordinator

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    That's a question I've long wondered about. Interestingly, even though (because?) Harry Saltzman had invested substantially in Technicolor, these were the first two Bonds (to my knowledge) not to have Technicolor credits. According to Cubby Broccoli's autobiography, he and Harry were pretty much on the outs at this point (from Cubby's point of view, Harry was not carrying his weight, and at the end risked the financial health of the partnership).
     
  16. ahollis

    ahollis Producer

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    I would also like to know if there was a reason or just a requirement of the director.
     
  17. ian spector

    ian spector Auditioning

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    i seem to remember reading somewhere that they shot the first 2 Moore's to get better closeups of Moore ..can't remember where I read this. Guy Hamilton did Diamonds are Forever in Panavision..so this a mystery why they went to 1.85... beyond what i've written above


    Ian
     
  18. Osato

    Osato Producer

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    I feel like I have asked this question before as well. I can't recall the answer though!!
    If I recall correctly I thought I heard it was done for budget purposes? I'll see if I can find something in writing or a source, because it's now bugging me that I can't remember...
     
  19. Osato

    Osato Producer

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    I found this tidbit:
    Aspect ratio: 1.85 : 1. Both this and the following film do not use the full Panavision format, apparently due to increased film stock costs at the time

    From this site, but no source is given...
    http://www.mjnewton....k/bond/lald.htm
     
  20. BethHarrison

    BethHarrison Second Unit

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    Panavision and 1.85:1 use the same amount of film stock, though Panavision may require the use of faster film stocks due to reduced depth of field.
     

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