(For Part 2 of this series, click here)
(For Part 3 of this series, click here)
A few years after Ian Fleming wrote 1953’s Casino Royale, he got a letter from fellow author and gun expert Geoffrey Boothroyd. The latter admitted to being a huge fan of the novels but couldn’t understand why James Bond carried a Beretta 418 when weapons experts widely considered it to be a lady’s gun without real stopping power. Fleming had no idea it had such a reputation. So, in a series of letters, he and Boothroyd argued it out and settled on the Walther PPK as the ideal firearm for the secret agent. In 1958’s Dr. No, the switch was complete, and the secret agent’s long-term trajectory was set.
In the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t matter whether Bond carries a Walther PPK or a shotgun. What matters is that every person put in charge of the films has embraced Fleming's ever-evolving ideal. Consequently, 007 has become a collaboration between the fans, the filmmakers, the writers and Fleming’s vision. When we go to the theaters to see Skyfall this weekend, we won’t see the same man our parents and grandparents did in 1962. We’ll see someone fit for this moment in time who shares our collective desires, fears, hopes and ideals. We’ll see a man uniquely similar, uniquely different and every bit as cool as the one who first foiled Dr. No. We’ll see a man capable of delivering his best outing yet.
Over the past fifty years, Eon Productions has released twenty-three Bond movies. There has never been a truly horrendous effort, and there has never been an utterly perfect try. A few of the films, however, come within breathing distance of those two extremes. Some early reviews for Skyfall called it the greatest Bond ever made. After seeing it, I decided to go back and watch all twenty-two of the proceeding films to see whether the claim has any merit.
Throughout the rest of the week, I will present my findings in a four part series that ranks all of the Eon Productions Bond films in descending order, along with a few paragraphs of thoughts on each. So, without further ado, here are movies twenty-three through sixteen…
23) 1974’s The Man With The Golden Gun
You would think a Bond movie’s quality would ultimately be tied to its villain, but in The Man With The Golden Gun, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Christopher Lee is convincing as the extra-nippled assassin Francisco Scaramanga, and Herve Villechaize is delightful as his devious butler/ henchmen Nick Nack. They both would have been at home in one of the series’ better entries, but thanks to some truly dreadful direction and the single most infuriating female character in the history of cinema, these two sink alongside this disappointing ship. They deserved so much better.
Guy Hamilton proved himself capable of the material when he gave us 1964’s Goldfinger, but to put it nicely, his decision making is suspect throughout The Man With The Golden Gun. From wedgie jokes to “comedic” nut kicks to an overly aggressive score, he tries to take a lighter tone but in doing so, undercuts the scariness of Scaramanga. His request of the screenwriters to include redneck Sheriff J.W. Pepper also ruins his best chase sequence and destroys any faint tie to realism the film might have had. And then there’s Mary Goodnight.
The Bond canon is filled with a lot of dumb women who need James to save them, but none are as offensive or as annoying as Goodnight. She’s supposed to assist him, but she behaves and is treated like a pathetic ragdoll throughout. At one point, James actually makes her sit in a closet while he has sex with another woman. It’s stupid, bothersome and unfair. If Hamilton allowed her to even be ten percent smarter, the film would be forty minutes shorter and at least a few spots higher on this list.
It’s important to note, however, that if this movie didn’t exist, none of us would have been able to mow down our friends with the golden gun in multi-player mode on Goldeneye for N64.