Thursday, 1 September 2011

BlogalongaBond #9 - The Man With The Golden Gun (1974)

(Here is a link to a revised version of my IMDb review of The Man With The Golden Gun, May 2003)

The Man With The Golden Gun is totally obsessed with disproportion. At the centre of this is, of course, probably the tallest principal antagonist of the series in 6'5" Christopher Lee's Scaramanga who invariably shares the frame with his diminutive sidekick Nick Nack, played by the 3'11" HervĂ© Villechaize. Similarly, the girls who play opposite these two men, Maud Adams and Britt Ekland (right, with Villechaize), were probably* the tallest and shortest actresses Sweden had to offer at the time. The other episodes within the film go further. For example, Bond has to take on a pair of great big sumo wrestlers alone but later gets help facing the students of a dojo by an unlikely pair of tiny schoolgirls. Even the paymaster generating all these shenanigans, Hai Fat, has a name comprising adjectives for altitude and girth.

It's not just an actor-stature thing though. Scaramanga's eponymous firearm is a modest pistol that collapses into a collection of small discreet components (similarly, his plane is constructed from his car... and then suddenly shrinks to a model in a cunning cut that allows it to actually take off). To make up for having such a poky signature weapon, Scaramanga has taken delivery of a huge great laser cannon. No wonder he's so glad to see Bond in the third act of the film as he gets his one and only chance to actually use it. Indeed the whole megalomania sub-plot involves a power station built into a pair of islands - but, perversely, only run by a single man (the virtually mute Sonny Caldinez) and functionally dependent on a cassette-tape-sized component, the 'Solex agitator'.

There's a theme here. In fact, it's such an obvious one, it has its own theme park. OK, this is a tenuous link as the theme of Scaramanga's domestic fairground is gun-fighting, not extraordinary proportions. There is nonetheless a hall of mirrors, which one associates with the attraction of distorting people's sizes. Crucially, there is the surreal, semi-helical corridor design as well as other projections (right), which are clearly reminiscent of Saul Bass' design for the opening titles of Vertigo. By extension one immediately recalls the stretching and contraction of Hitchcock's famous in-camera vertigo effect. This whole sequence also brings to mind Alice's surreal journey down the rabbit hole, where of course she finds some radical proportion-altering refreshments.

Bond overcomes Scaramanga by looking past the optical illusions and staging - literally, climbing back through the stage scaffold to profitably replace his own waxwork mannequin. The resolution of the thriller is in his assimilation of the dizzying disproportions throughout the film. This is, in fact, the essence of Bond - keeping a grip on reality in the midst of the megalomaniac's altered paradigms as the route to triumph.

*I have no evidence to assert this whatsoever!

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