• U.S.

Cinema: Water Pistols

3 minute read
Jay Cocks


Directed by GUY HAMILTON


This is a James Bond caper and, as in the previous eight, there are plenty of fancy gadgets. Two are worthy of special note. One is a car that converts into an airplane (a bit of a bore; flying autos have already shown up in Popular Mechanics). The other, also a car, is less flashy. It merely moves in the air between the banks of a river and spins three times like a huge eggbeater before coming to rest, upright, on the far side. Now that is not as elaborate as the ability to take wing, but there is something elegant in the simplicity and unexpectedness of the spin.

The flying car, in fact, is much like what is wrong with The Man with the Golden Gun and what has been wrong with the whole Bond series for a while. Overtricky, uninspired, these exercises show the strain of stretching fantasy well past wit. The best Bonds, like the car that twirls, were sly without quite getting silly. The best Bonds also had Sean Connery, whose absence is sorely felt here. An actor of considerable resource, Connery played 007 with just the right combination of conviction and detachment. He also had a self-mocking aplomb that would be hard to duplicate. His Bond is definitive. Roger Moore, who first played 007 in Live and Let Die (1973), lacks all Connery’s strengths and has several deep deficiencies. He has all the worldliness of a floorwalker, and looks as if his last adventure were spending two weeks in a Swiss clinic getting a facelift.

For the record, The Man with the Golden Gun finds Bond chasing around Southeast Asia in pursuit of an assassin named Scaramanga who gets $1 million per contract for the use of his gold weapon. There is the usual action (fights, pursuits, assignations), the usual bantamweight grotesqueries. Scaramanga’s evil henchman is a dwarf, and Scaramanga himself (Christopher Lee), an unusually unimpressive villain, would be a dead cinch to spot on a beach since he has three nipples. Nothing much happens to any of these characters that has not happened before, and better. Maud Adams and Britt Ekland do, however, make a couple of mildly decorative, active heroines in a series notably short on them (Diana Rigg, in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, being the sole other exception).

Although the final screen credits promise that Bond will return in The Spy Who Loved Me, it is time to retire him. He should be packed off to a sanitarium, where he can give his liver a rest and wait in leisure for his moment to come again. Right now, Bond has been around too long to be fresh, but not long enough to qualify as a genuine antique.

∎Jay Cocks

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