RAMNATH N PAI RAIKAR | NT NETWORK
Once the James Bond fans wholeheartedly accepted Roger Moore as the super British spy in ‘Live and Let Die’ (1973), the producers of the Bond series, Albert R Broccoli and Harry Saltzman decided to take up Ian Fleming’s novel, ‘The Man with the Golden Gun’ as their next project with Moore. Incidentally, ‘The Man…’ was supposed to be produced after ‘You Only Live Twice’ (1967) and shot in Cambodia, however the Samlaut Uprising made its filming impractical, leading to the production being shelved.
Subsequently, Broccoli and Saltzman went on to produce three more Bond films, ‘On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’ (1969), ‘Diamonds are Forever’ (1971) and ‘Live and Let Die’ (1973), before returning to ‘The Man…’ It also became the last Bond film in which Saltzman was involved as producer, before dropping out of the series.
Although experienced ‘Bond scriptwriters’ namely Richard Maibaum and Tom Mankiewicz wrote the screenplay of the film, it turned out to be tepid and filled with inconsistencies as well as absurd situations. The first draft of the script written in 1973 focused on the battle of wills between Bond and Francisco Scaramanga, who was presented as Bond’s alter ego. However, later drafts used the 1973 energy crisis as a backdrop to the film, allowing the MacGuffin of the ‘Solex agitator’ to be introduced; Broccoli’s stepson Michael G Wilson researched solar power to create the Solex.
Guy Hamilton, who had directed three Bond films earlier was signed to direct ‘The Man…’, his fourth and last Bond film.
Title role of Francisco Scaramanga was originally offered to Jack Palance, but he turned it down and the villain was eventually played by Christopher Lee. Lee was incidentally step cousin of Ian Fleming, the author of James Bond novels. When ‘Dr No’ (1962), the first Bond caper began production, Fleming had asked Lee to play the title role. Lee declined the offer much to his regret. Thus, he welcomed the chance eventually to play a Bond villain in ‘The Man…’
Two Swedish models were cast as the Bond girls – Britt Ekland and Maud Adams. Ekland had been interested in playing a Bond girl since she had seen ‘Dr No’, and contacted the producers for a role in the film. She auditioned for the role of Scaramanga’s mistress, Andrea Anders, but Hamilton offered her the role of Mary Goodnight after seeing her in a bikini.
Actor, Clifton James reprised his role from ‘Live and Let Die’, that of J W Pepper, a sheriff from Louisiana. In ‘The Man…’ he meets Bond while holidaying in Thailand. The American, French-born midget actor, Hervé Villechaize was signed to play Nick Nack, a very suitable henchman for Scaramanga.
The original novel is mostly set in Jamaica, a location which had been already used in the earlier Bond films, ‘Dr No’ and ‘Live and Let Die’. Therefore, ‘The Man…’ saw a change in location to put Bond in the Far East. The film featured a number of exotic locations including Macau, Hong Kong and Thailand. Extensive use was made of the sites in Bangkok, while Scaramanga’s hideaway is located on the Thailand’s exotic island of Phuket.
During the reconnaissance of locations in Hong Kong, Broccoli saw the wreckage of the former ocean liner, RMS Queen Elizabeth and came up with the idea of using it as the base for MI6’s Far East operations. Filming commenced on November 6, 1973 at the partly submerged wreck of the RMS Queen Elizabeth, while it wrapped up in Pinewood Studios, in August 1974. Academy Award winner cinematographer, Oswald Morris was hired to finish the job after cinematographer, Ted Moore became ill.
Alice Cooper’s album titled ‘Muscle of Love’ has a song “Man With the Golden Gun” on it. The CD version of this album includes notes claiming it was to be the theme song of the movie, but the producers chickened out. Finally, the theme tune of the movie was performed by Lulu and composed by John Barry, while the lyrics to the song were written by Don Black. John Barry disliked his score on the film in general, having only three weeks to do it. “It’s the one I hate most… it just never happened for me.” He had said.
‘The Man…’ was premiered at the Odeon Leicester Square in London on December19, 1974, with general release in the United Kingdom the same day.
While international box-office grosses for ‘The Man…’ standing at $98 million would have been considered huge by most standards, they reflected a precipitous drop compared with those of previous Bond films. Produced at a budget of $7 million, the film, in US itself grossed a disappointing $21 million, a forty per cent drop on previous Bond caper, ‘Live and Let Die’. It is the fourth lowest-grossing Bond film in the series. Neither critics nor fans were impressed with or enthused by the film – with the exception of praising Lee for enacting the impressive villain – and their reactions left many wondering if Agent 007 had finally met his most lethal enemy – audience apathy.
‘The Man…’ is considered one of the weakest of the Bond films, and a statement by Broccoli made before an interviewer that there are parts of the film which he’d like to redo, confirms this fact.