Re-reading these different films, I notice that poor James Brolin seems to be a whipping boy of sorts! Oof I honestly think he’s a great actor.
Re-reading these different films, I notice that poor James Brolin seems to be a whipping boy of sorts! Oof I honestly think he’s a great actor.
Sounds like a decent Bond movie there if perhaps not the greatest given the drama.
Hope Connery was ok and able to return to acting?
Will Edris Alba turn up a Bond sometime please?
That's something I didn't know, ought to find out more about this...
Come to me son of jorel kneel before bondTHE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN (1969)
Terence Stamp IS James Bond
“It changed my life, yes. Suffice to say, I haven’t been able
to forgive the producers. (Pause) And I don’t think I ever will.”
(Sean Connery, interview with the BBC, early 2000s)
In many ways, as he took part in the grueling shoot of Thunderball in the Bahamas, Sean Connery was on top of the world. From virtually unknown to world superstar in a matter of four years, courtesy of three smashing successes playing secret agent James Bond, and a career that promised to blossom and take him to the sky, provided, of course, he eventually got out of having to do one 007 film every year.
In other ways, Connery also felt conflicted about the path he was being forced into. His marriage was in very difficult shape, the public attention he received due to Bond was quickly becoming both asphyxiating and unbearable, and to make matters worse, this movie had been the toughest to film yet, extending itself as the weeks went by with no end in sight. And now, as if he wasn’t doing enough, he had to get inside that pool and film awfully close to those vicious sharks. “Not bloody likely!” he told production designer Ken Adam. They already had had to pay additional hazard pay to a stuntman to jump in, and it had been absurdly dangerous. So Connery demanded Adam give him some protection, and the designer complied by building a series of plastic panels made out of Plexiglas. And so the actor jumped into the pool. Adam, of course, did not inform him that they only had so much Plexiglas, so there was a rather large gap in the panels. And the cameras started rolling.
To his merit, when the first shark got through Connery came close to getting out of the pool unscathed, but his nerves betrayed him. A single slip gave the shark time to throw himself at the actor and bite down, all while other members of production started to take action. By the time they got him out of the pool he was miraculously alive and whole, but profusely bleeding from a few bite marks. An infuriated Connery was rushed to the closest hospital in Nassau, and Thunderball entered into what can only be described as a production hell. For starters, Connery’s recovery took weeks, all while negative publicity and a media frenzy surrounded the film. Then the actor refused to return to the set, and only dragged himself to it with the outmost reluctance under threat of being sued. Not even the firing of Ken Adam – which further compromised the technical aspects of the production – calmed Connery down, who was of the firm opinion that the incident could have cost him his life. In the end, he carried on, filmed the bare minimum of scenes director Young needed to edit something vaguely coherent, and returned to his native Scotland.
Although the publicity – negative or not – still carried the film to a commercial success that was nonetheless a step back from Goldfinger, critics savaged Thunderball by describing it as both unfinished and overly long. To make matters worse, Connery not only steadfastly refused to say another word to Broccoli and Saltzman – let alone discuss returning to the role -, he sued the producers for the accident and started what would eventually become an important public debate on safety and security on film productions both in Britain and America. It was to be a traumatic period for EON the production duo, forced to eventually settle with Connery for a hefty sum, pressured by UA to get back on track, unable to weather the bad publicity, and ultimately forced to suspend their apparently unstoppable winning streak. They had to wait two years for things to settle – all while having to suffer through rival Charles K. Feldman’s successful Casino Royale, starring Laurence Harvey – before being able to resume production.
While initial plans called for an adaptation of You Only Live Twice or On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, they settled on Fleming’s last 007 novel: The Man with the Golden Gun, framing it as a symbolic attempt to show that both Bond (battling the fearsome assassin Scaramanga) and the franchise could rise above their problems and reassert their relevance. Finding a new Bond was difficult, partly due to disagreements on whether they would benefit from an inexperienced “clean slate” actor or whether they needed a better established face. The interview cycle went on and on, until Harry Saltzman dined with English actor Terence Stamp and asked him to audition. Stamp, by then 29, had only debuted on films six years ago, and yet he had already achieved an Academy Award nomination and some significant fame, only tempered by a couple of recent career setbacks. Saltzman took a liking to him quickly, pronouncing Stamp “really fit, really English”. For his part, the actor was thrilled to have the opportunity to bounce back, and while he had some strong opinions about how to best get audiences settled to Connery’s departure, he kept them to himself so as to win the role as painlessly as possible.
It paid off. Broccoli found him acceptable enough, he succeeded on his screen tests, and he was finally announced – alongside the film’s title – to the press in early 1968. Many of the journalists present expressed skepticism that the Bond series could recover. Some even asked Saltzman and Broccoli why they didn’t cast Laurence Harvey, or even further, why they didn’t just sell the rights to Feldman. Still, Stamp now had his chance to make his mark. With other directors also shunning the production duo – including the likes of Lewis Gilbert -, Peter Hunt was promoted to the director’s chair after doing extensive work on the previous films. Hunt, for his part, relied on a script by Richard Maibaum which salvaged what he could from the novel – seen by many as Fleming’s weakest – and combined it with other literary and original elements to craft a new plot, centered around the Bond-Scaramanga rivalry.
Alongside Stamp and returning MI6 cast Lee, Maxwell and Llewellyn, extensive efforts were invested in trying to enlist a heavyweight actor to play the villain. After briefly toying with the concept of changing Scaramanga’s ethnicity to cast veteran Japanese actor Toshiro Mifune, a stroke of luck led them to American actor Jack Palance. As luck would have it, Palace was in England at the time doing a couple of minor films, and although he wasn’t particularly impressed with Maibaum’s script, he eventually signed on to the project. Rounding up the cast were a mixture of British and American actors, including Gayle Hunnicut, Barbara Steele, Charles Gray and Alex Cord. Having enticed John Barry to return again to the franchise – resulting in a dramatic, tense score -, the movie scored a major coup after Cubby Broccoli persuaded Frank Sinatra himself (one of his friends) to sing the film’s main title, “Golden Gun”. Having done extensive preparation to film in Cambodia as the main Far East location, Hunt and the producers’ efforts were derailed by the rising Khmer Rouge insurgency, forcing them to switch locations. In the end, filming took place in late 1968 in England, Hong Kong, Thailand and Jamaica.
The Man with the Golden Gun’s pre-title sequence is set on Hong Kong, on a Fan-Tan parlour. James Bond (Terence Stamp), currently on the hunt for SPECTRE, believes he has successfully seduced Li (Jacqui Chan), an enemy agent. To his surprise, SPECTRE assassins spring an ambush on him, and Bond is seemingly shot dead.
Back in London, several months have passed since 007’s disappearance, leading to the agent being presumed dead. A disheveled Bond makes a sudden appearance at the MI6 HQ demanding to see M (Bernard Lee), and in spite of Moneypenny (Lois Maxwell) and Chief of Staff Tanner’s (Alan Dobie) misgivings, the head of MI6 insists on receiving him. A clearly unsettled Bond unsuccessfully tries to kill M with a poison gun, and is taken into custody. Sometime after, MI6 psychologist Sir James Molony (Charles Gray) has rehabilitated and deprogrammed Bond, who reunites with M at the Blades Club. It is revealed SPECTRE had kidnapped 007 and brainwashed him as punishment from his earlier efforts, a matter which causes Bond great anger and pain. M offers him a chance to prove himself again, pointing out that MI6 has received a golden bullet and a message claiming that the next time, M and Bond will perish for good. The golden bullet is associated with the near mythical assassin Francisco Scaramanga, known as “the Man with the Golden Gun”, and responsible for gunning down a number of Western agents across the world. With Scaramanga now presumed to be working for SPECTRE, Bond is assigned the seemingly impossible mission of taking him out.
Informed that Scaramanga had most recently killed agent 005 in Jamaica and after being supplied by Q (Desmond Llewellyn), Bond flies to Kingston and enters the red light district to meet with an exotic dancer, who was alongside 005 when he died. After romancing her, Bond dispatches a SPECTRE assassin ambushing him and recaptures one of Scaramanga’s golden bullets. 007 traces the bullet all the way back to Hong Kong, where he experiences memories of his brainwashing. Finding the armorer who made the bullets dead, he then finds a single golden bullet engraved with his codename, which Q is able to trace to Thailand. Meanwhile, in a private island near the Chinese cost, Scaramanga (Jack Palance) showcases his innate ability by battling rival gunslinger Hazard (Patrick O’Neal) and successfully killing him on a duel. After winning, Scaramanga’s mistress Maria Freudenstein (Barbara Steele) hands him a package containing a single golden bullet also marked “007” and an invitation to Thailand, which she interprets as a challenge to a duel from James Bond. Scaramanga, well aware of his reputation, accepts said challenge.
After arriving in Bangkok, Bond establishes contact with Mary Goodnight (Gayle Hunnicutt), a fellow MI6 agent operating on the area, and they quickly establish a witty rapport with each other. With help from his old friend and CIA agent Felix Leiter (Alex Cord), Bond follows Scaramanga’s trail all the way to Maria, and after spending the night together, she both confesses to Bond that the assassin has sworn a vow to end Bond’s life. Maria begs him to take Scaramanga out so she can be free, and Bond agrees. Maria takes 007 all the way to the jungle, where she is able to pit the agent and the assassin against each other. Bond is quickly outmatched by his competition, and he is only able to escape with Goodnights’ help after the provokes an elephant stampede. After Leiter unmasks Freudenstein as a SPECTRE operative, it becomes clear the organization has been trying to manipulate both Bond and Scaramanga so the latter can take the former out. However, Goodnight is kidnapped by Scaramanga before they can unveil the conspiracy. Using a homing beacon, Bond reaches Scaramanga’s isle and successfully infiltrates his luxurious fortress, revealing the truth in time.
An irate Scaramanga shoots and kills Freudestein before she can do the same to him, but the assassin insists the matter is not over. Challenging Bond to a duel to the death to prove who is the better killer (and calling Bond a “limey punk”), both men have a tense gunfight in a swamp outside the fortress, in which 007 ultimately prevails by outwitting his rival. With Scaramanga dead, Bond and Goodnight destroy the fortress and escape on a Chinese junk. Feeling that he has proved himself as still capable, Bond leaves his troubles behind as he romances Goodnight.
The Man with the Golden Gun premiered in June 1969 following a marketing campaign which trumpeted “James Bond’s return”, but which was not very successful in building up hype and public interest before the release of the film. Thus, it was initially feared that TMWTGG would underperform at the box office, something which might have dire consequences. As it was, word of mouth praising several elements on the film and Stamp’s performance as a worthy – if not comparable – heir to Connery soon encouraged audiences, helping the film become a clear commercial success which, while no Goldfinger, still outpaced other predecessors and suggested the franchise was very much alive. Critics were generally complimentary of Stamp, of Palance’s Scaramanga and of the film’s more serious and grounded tone, but described the film as “convoluted” and felt it was not cohesive enough. Others felt Stamp’s youth wasn’t quite coherent with the story of a brainwashed Bond having to put himself back again, while others felt his tortured demeanor made up for it. In spite of the flaws, it seemed as if the franchise was saved from disaster.
Broccoli, Saltzman and Stamp all basked in the glory – or at least in the success – in different manners, the producers by having proved they could still succeed with their flagship, and the actor giving himself a second chance after fearing his relevance was slipping away. Although the Saltzman-Broccoli partnership would eventually collapse, Stamp surpassed Connery’s four outings by staying on the role all the way to 1977, delivering five entries on the franchise that, although showing increasing signs of commercial fatigue – leading to a strong push for a campier tone in the later part of his tenure -, still cemented the Englishman as a popular Bond. To this day, The Man with the Golden Gun is seen as an unconventional yet strong Bond film, though fans continue to debate about the film’s perceived shortcomings and whether it being far more modest than Goldfinger and Thunderball works in its favor. Palance is also consistently favored as one of the better earlier Bond villains, with a vocal minority also believing Steele’s Maria Freudenstein to be underused.
Highlights of the film include the pre-title sequence, the assassination attempt on M, Bond’s Hong Kong sequences, Jack Palance’s performance, and the final Bond-Scaramanga duel.
Author’s Notes: This was going to be Roger Moore’s TMWTGG before I decided him being on a serious Casino Royale was too good to resist. Indeed, I wasn’t expecting to make this entry, until I found out about Terence Stamp (who allegedly botched a dinner with Saltzman with some unconventional ideas) and decided to mix it up with the Connery shark incident in Thunderball, another noteworthy What If? The result is a more serious and grounded TMWTGG which saves the franchise from bad publicity, but which is still a flawed film (so not one of the truly great ones). All we know about this project is that it would have been filmed on Cambodia, but that wasn’t going to happen. Thus, the plot is made up by mixing the novel, film, some of Mankiewicz and Maibaum’s unused ideas for the 1974 film, and a couple of extra ideas.
THE DEATH COLLECTORS will return in
“QUANTUM OF SOLACE”
"I win. I always win. Is there no one on this planet to even challenge me?"--James Bond (Terence Stamp), The Man with the Golden Gun.