The Man with the Golden Gun (Blu-ray)
Directed by Guy Hamilton
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:11080pAVC codec
Running Time: 125 minutes
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English; Dolby Digital 1.0 English, 5.1 Spanish, French
Subtitles: English, Spanish, Korean, others
MSRP: $ 34.98
Release Date: May 12, 2009
Review Date: May 19, 2009
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!