Bond Pretitle Sequences: The Man with the Golden Gun
Simon Pitt |
Sunday 4th August
I’m watching all of the Bond pre-credit teasers one after another.
The Man with the Golden Gun
Roger Moore is looking a lot younger here. But then it’s only his second time as Bond. “He has that privileged, pudgy faced look,” my girlfriend says, “like David Cameron.” This isn’t a good thing. She’s not impressed.
You can’t see this in the gun barrel sequence. You can’t see very much at all. It’s the last film shot in 16:9, and the footage is grainy. It hides Moore’s features. Even worse, he’s wearing a lounge suit not a dinner jacket. Jesus, Bond, you’re practically naked!
Strangely, the opening rings are a blue-purple colour as well. In every film after this they are white, although the gun barrel takes on a purple hue in The Living Daylights.
The opening to The Man with the Golden Gun is the last of an era. More of a prologue, it’s not an action sequence. Bond doesn’t even appear in it. The nearest we get to is a waxwork of him. Although some might say this decreases the woodenness of Moore’s acting.
We open on a desert island. The video quality is noticeably lower grade than later Bond films, but then it was 1974. The fact that this was made nearly forty years ago becomes increasingly apparent as the film progresses. A little person walks on, loaded down with a comically large tray. Is it meant to be funny? Is this politically correct? Later in the film, Bond says, “I’ve never killed a midget before”. That definitely isn’t politically correct. The character is even called Nick Nack. I’m sure that’s not right either.
Guy Hamilton has said that he saw the character as a miniature version of Oddjob from Goldfinger. Oddjob has been influential on Bond villains. His strange way of killing people, abnormal physical shape and gimmicky name have become standard for Bond villains. No mother would ever give their child on of these names: “Oh, he looks just like a little Oddjob” or “Let’s call him little baby Jaws.” These characters are comic book villains; their methods of killing ineffectual if you think about it. Is a hat really a good weapon? I mean, you only get one shot with it. I’m reminded of the sequence in Austin Powers when “Random Task” throws a shoe:
“Who throws a shoe? Honestly! You fight like a woman!”
Sadly, Hervé Villechaize, who played Nick Nack, committed suicide in 1993. After the success of The Man with the Golden Gun, he starred in a TV series called Fantasy Island. It was clearly inspired by the setup in The Man with the Golden Gun. Villechaize played essentially the same character, this time called Tattoo. After the show had been on air for a few years, Villechaize asked to be paid as much as his co-star, Ricardo Montalban. However, the producers refused and after an argument, they fired him. The series continued, but without his character, it was much less popular and ended a year later. Villechaize suffered from depression throughout the rest of his life.
Back on Scaramanger’s island, Nick Nack opens the champagne (very badly – the idea is to keep as much champagne in the bottle as possible). While Scaramanger, with his supernumerary nipple, enjoys his drink, a sinister man arrives on the island. Wearing a hat. Terrifying.
Nick Nack secretly directs him to the house, while he takes out a bottle of Tabasco to Scaramanger on a tray. It must be a real faff, having to take condiments out one at a time.
The assassin chuckles to himself, as Scaramanger makes his way back into the building. I’m not really convinced this guy is a very good assassin. He seems like he’s just playing at it. He’s just looking at himself in the mirror here.
There’s an interesting twist in this sequence. You’re led to think that Scaramanger is going to be killed. But, in fact, he’s the villain of the film, and this set up is to show how impressive an opponent he is for Bond.
I’m reminded of The Pink Panther. Bumbling French detective Jacques Clouseau has instructed his manservant, Cato, to attack him unexpectedly so he can practice his combat skills. Inevitably, Cato jumps him at the most inconvenient moments. If doorbell rings or someone interrupts, Cato stops fighting and resumes his duties as butler. I can’t help thinking that Scaramanger has essentially got Nick Nack doing the same thing.
The assassin, of course, doesn’t manage to shoot Scaramanger, and instead, the lights go red. (For those counting, this is the second film to contain a sequence bathed in red light. It’s a great time to like Bond and be a fan of photography dark rooms).
If the assassin had just shot Scaramanger, rather than making such a song and dance of it, he would have got away. Perhaps this is the one lesson to learn from Bond films: if you want to kill someone, just get on and do it. In the final “boss fight” of the film, when Bond fights Scaramanger in this shooting gallery, he should have just turned round right at the start and shot him in the back. Interestingly, I think that wouldn’t have been acceptable in 1974. We liked our heroes noble. Or perhaps it was the influence of Roger Moore. He took issue with his Bond hitting women, in a way that Connery’s didn’t. Nowadays, we take much more kindly to ruthless behaviour, “well, that was the pragmatic thing to do,” we say, “it was a bit cold hearted, but it’s kill or be killed.” The Bourne series and later Bond films feature heroes that are more ruthless. Perhaps the world has become accepting of the idea that the end justifies the means.
It’s funny how bad this assassin is. At one point, he falls for a disembodied head floating in mid-air with purple rings floating about it. Later, he seems confused by a skeleton, and just stares at it unbelievingly. He trips down a short flight of stairs. Who is this buffoon?
This whole sequence feels like the most average haunted house you’ve ever been to. Like the beginning of For Your Eyes Only, in the real world, people pay good money to go to this sort of thing.
We finally see the golden gun. It looks a bit rubbish. In later Bond tie ins, such as the N64 game Goldeneye, the “golden gun” stands for one shot kills. I’m not sure this flimsy little thing could do that.
Scaramanger seems to be confused by the concept of mirrors. He walks into one and doesn’t seem to believe it. He keeps pressing on it, eventually with both hands, as if he thinks it’s going to give way and he’ll be able to grab the “mirror” gun. That’s just weird. I mean, the place is filled with mirrors. You think he would understand the concept by now. Also, he’s a grown adult. He must have come across mirrors before.
Eventually, he slides down the ramp, grabs the golden gun and shoots the assassin in the head. The slide bit seems a strange idea, and surely more effort than it’s worth. For no particularly good reason, there’s a waxwork of Bond here, which he proceeds to shoot four fingers off. He’s just showing off now.
This is quite a different pre-title sequence from the later Bond films. It has a different purpose. The whole set piece is a foreshadowing of the final show down between Bond and Scaramanger. We see here how deadly Scaramanger is, and so the tension is heightened for when Bond eventually meets him. It gives us all the elements we need for Bond’s eventual victory – he poses as the waxwork of himself. Roger Moore’s easiest acting job to date.
In some ways, the plot of The Man with the Golden Gun is acted out, in miniature, in the opening sequences of many subsequence Bond films. Scaramanger has been hired to kill Bond, and presumably the man and woman in the beginning of Moonraker were hired to kill Bond. As was the woman at the beginning of The Spy Who Loved Me. And the vicar and helicopter pilot in the beginning of For Your Eyes Only. And the assassin in the beginning of The Living Daylights. The list of people hired to kill Bond is endless.
This sequence is the opposite of almost every Bond film since. Here, the danger for Bond is set up. As the titles begin, we know that at some point in the film, Bond will face the same gauntlet we’ve just seen, and we wonder how he’ll escape. In some ways, Bond pre-title sequences become less sophisticated as the series progresses. They’ve become less about tension and more about spectacle. This Bond pre-title sequence is the last of an era.
Name Rank and Number
I think he got the Point
- Bond isn’t mentioned at all in this sequence. The only reference to him is the waxwork that Scaramanger shoots the fingers. If you think about it, that’s a needless expense he’s incurred there. He’s only going to have to pay to get the waxwork repaired. To be honest, he probably doesn’t need a waxwork at all. I bet he puts it down as an expense to his clients as well. No wonder he charges “a million a shot”, as the theme tune says, if he spends it on things like this
Do all those vodka martinis silence the screams of all the men you've killed?
- ”You'll be the death of me yet, Nick Nack.” Scaramanger says. In the end, of course, Bond kills Scaramanger, and I assume that’s a contract he agrees himself. Although this sounds like it’s foreshadowing something, it isn’t really.
Listen Carefully 007
- Bond doesn’t kill anyone. But then he doesn’t even appear, so it’s a bit unfair to expect him to sort anyone out. This film has the lowest body count of any Bond film so far (and probably ever). Bond only kills one person in the whole film: Scaramanger.
Perfect for relaxing after a hard day at the office
- We learn that Scaramanger has a thing about Bond, enough to get a wax work of him made. Although exactly what’s going on, we don’t find out until much later.
SP will return…
- There are no gadgets. Scaramanger, of course, has his golden gun, which we find out later can be assembled from secret parts.