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A view on Blu-ray and DVD video by Leonard Norwitz

The Man With the Golden Gun [Blu-ray]


(Guy Hamilton, 1974)







Review by Leonard Norwitz



Theatrical: MGM Pictures

Blu-ray: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment



Region: A

Runtime: 125 min

Chapters: 32

Size: 50 GB

Case: Standard Blu-ray case w/ slipcover

Release date: May 12, 2009



Aspect ratio: 1.85:1

Resolution: 1080p

Video codec: AVC @ 27.15 MBPS



English 5.1 DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio. Original Audio Mono. Spanish & French 5.1 Dolby Digital.



English SDH, Spanish, Korean, Cantonese & Mandarin



• Audio Commentary with Director Guy Hamilton & Members of the Cast & Crew

• Audio Commentary with Sir Roger Moore

• Inside The Man With the Golden Gun – in HD (31:00)

• Guy Hamilton: The Director Speaks: – in HD (5:22)

• Double-O Stuntmen – in HD (28:39)

• The Russell Harty Show – in SD (3:00)

• On Location – in SD (1:31)

• Girls Fighting – in SD (3:32)

• Amazing Thrill Show Stunt Film – in SD (5:17)

• Theatrical Trailers, TV Spots & Radio Communications



The Film: 4
The Man With the Golden Gun was Guy Hamilton's fourth and final 007 movie. He directed two with Sean Connery: Goldfinger in 1964 and Diamonds Are Forever in 1971, and two with Roger Moore, the first, Live and Let Die, came out in 1973 the year before The Man With the Golden Gun. By this time, the formula was pretty clear - beautiful girls, exotic locations, neat stunts, some fisticuffs and a little science fantasy – the plots are secondary, sometimes they even seem to get in the way. The Man With the Golden Gun is a subset of the latter variety where even the girls are underused (though I admit I'm rather fond of how Maud Adams' character finally works out.)

The plot juggles three strands that tangle themselves into a web: Francisco Scaramanga (Christopher Lee) is a cool, well-dressed and marginally sadistic assassin. He likes to think that he and Bond are a lot alike. Scaramanga's price is one million per hit – with bullets made from a gold alloy. Even though his dossier is fairly well known none of the good guys seems to know what he looks like. His assistant Nick Nack (Herve Villechaize) - the character name being one of the two best things about this movie – enjoys feigning dislike of his employer and contracting other assassins to visit their atoll to try to bump him off. He has great fun in setting up a fun house where the challengers meet.

Sacarmanga enjoys basking in the sun and being serviced by whatever woman he currently holds in his power. In the present case, it's Andrea Anders (Maud Adams) who heads off to pick up some much-needed gold bullets. Meanwhile, M receives a just such a bullet with OO7's name on it, so to speak. Nothing like an obvious trap to whet the appetite and set things in motion. The usual trail of clues and locales (a faux-Beirut, Bangkok, Hong Kong, and the corpse of the luxury liner Queen Elizabeth in Kowloon Bay – the other clever touch in the movie) lead to a Girl Friday in the person of Miss Goodnight (Britt Ekland) and eventually the reason behind all this chasing around: an energy device called the "Solex Agitator" (not, as you might have supposed, a Russian anarchist). Who will get his hands on this world-dominating trinket first, and how will he keep from getting fried in the process?



Image: 7/9
The first number indicates a relative level of excellence compared to other Blu-ray video discs on a ten-point scale. The second number places this image along the full range of DVD and Blu-ray discs.

Fox's Blu-ray for The Man With the Golden Gun has an agreeable image – 1.85:1 this time – most unusual. The close-ups are sharp, with good textural and fabric definition. There's a nice grain throughout, though I felt the image to be slightly oversharpened at times. Color is natural, at least in the outdoor shots, though in the interiors, the color feels oddly leeched, though always maintaining a similar warmth. I noticed no brightening of the shadows, nor any edge enhancement. Overall, better than I expected.













Audio & Music: 6/8
Unlike MGM's DTS HD-MA mix for Live and Let Die, the lossless mix for The Man With the Golden Gun works quite well, especially when you consider that the original mix is mono. The original is offered for purists, though I found it flat and dull, whereas the DTS HD-MA livened things up without seeming unnatural. As we would expect, the information for the surrounds is rather arbitrarily placed. The music does open things up from time to time, but remains more front-directed than is often the case. While the dialogue is clear, the effects are not especially convincing.


Operations: 6
MGM's menu for all the Bond films on Blu-ray, while quick to load, are clumsy and arcane, with vague and arbitrary titles like "Declassified: MI6 Vault" "Mission Control" "Mission Dossier". Why are some features under one category and not another?




Extras: 6
In addition to the commentaries, there are three 1080i pieces (upscaled, I should imagine.) The half-hour Double-O Stuntmen piece is a collage of the stuntwork in Bond movies in general rather than of the feature film on this disc. The documentary on the making of the movie, Inside The Man With the Golden Gun, covers the ground from book to finished product in EPK fashion. Nice to see it in HD, though.

There are also four or five segments in rather poor standard definition, all mercifully short. Ton the other hand, I could listen to Roger Moore endlessly – there's something about that suave sardonic voice that catches me - his appearance on the Russell Harty TV show as he pitches his movie is very brief indeed. There's some footage of the two Asian girls doing their kung-fu that didn't make it into the movie, and some embarrassingly shot material (just over a minute) outside a bar.

I found Sir Roger to be more with it in the present commentary than he was for Moonraker. He's charming and engaging, I only wish there weren't so many spaces between paragraphs. The main commentary here is cobbled together smartly from separate interviews. We have the director Guy Hamilton and various cast and crew including, among others, the D.P, Oswald Morris, who picked up the tab when oldtimer Ted Moore fell ill. I found it to be informative as far as it went, but like so many commentaries of its kind, this one is relatively uncritical. For example, none of the commentators had anything to say about the scene in the hotel room where Bond beats up Andrea in terms of the plot, since it is entirely unnecessary for him to him to reveal himself to her at this point. Bond had already followed her for some hours from Macau to Hong Kong, so why not continue to follow her all the way to Scaramouche? The answer is that it gives him an opportunity to seduce and turn her. And while this is by now a 007 cliché, it is as foolish as it is unnecessary.



Bottom line: 6
Diehard fan of the series should be satisfied with this Blu-ray presentation. I found both picture and sound to be satisfactory if not entirely satisfying. If you are merely curious about the movie in respect to its place in the 007 Eon canon, you should rent rather than purchase.

Leonard Norwitz
May 22nd, 2009








About the Reviewer: I first noticed that some movies were actually "films" back around 1960 when I saw Seven Samurai (in the then popular truncated version), La Strada and The Third Man for the first time. American classics were a later and happy discovery.

My earliest teacher in Aesthetics was Alexander Sesonske, who encouraged the comparison of unlike objects. He opened my mind to the study of art in a broader sense, rather than of technique or the gratification of instantaneous events. My take on video, or audio for that matter – about which I feel more competent – is not particularly technical. Rather it is aesthetic, perceptual, psychological and strongly influenced by temporal considerations in much the same way as music. I hope you will find my musings entertaining and informative, fun, interactive and very much a work in progress.

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