Saturday, June 06, 2015

The Man with the Golden Gun (1974) | Music

For the Man with the Golden Gun title sequence, Maurice Binder took inspiration from the Southeast Asian setting as well as the gold accouterments of the title character. You Only Live Twice was also set in Asia and Binder used volcano imagery from SPECTRE's headquarters. This time, the motif is water: gently rippling, sprinkled with rain, or with strategically placed lilies over submerged, naked women. The water doesn't evoke anything specific from the movie (not like it will in, say, The Spy Who Loved Me); it looks like Binder just chose it as generally evocative of the setting. Into this calmness, he inserts images of the Golden Gun, but also the cigarette box that Lazar uses to deliver bullets to Scaramanga. And of course, silhouettes of naked women.

There's a funny story about shooting the silhouettes that Steven Jay Rubin tells in his book The Complete James Bond Movie Encyclopedia. Binder was filming that bit on the movie stage and Rubin writes:
Conscious of ratings codes and censors, he noted that from a certain angle the woman's privates were a little too noticeable on camera. When the model refused to shave, Binder realized that the only way to make the shot work was to brush her pubic hair into place and use Vaseline to hold it there. "You do it," she said, and Binder dutifully got down on his knees and put things right. At that exact moment, Roger Moore and Cubby Broccoli walked onto the stage. Roger turned to Cubby and said, "I thought you were the producer on this picture." And Cubby replied, "It doesn't seem right, does it?"
By the time The Man with the Golden Gun was made, Harry Saltzman had worn out his welcome as one of the series' producers. He'd always been a voice of dissent, but where that had once spurred people to new, creative solutions, it was now just irritating. He and Broccoli weren't even getting along and had started taking turns producing the films. Saltzman had done Live and Let Die, which partially explains John Barry's absence from that movie. For The Man with the Golden Gun, Broccoli produced and Barry came back.

Barry brought with him Don Black, who'd written the theme songs for Thunderball and Diamonds Are Forever. Saltzman had taken issue with the Diamonds Are Forever theme, saying that it's lyrics were too raunchy. He would have had an even bigger issue with The Man with the Golden Gun. For this song, Black goes back to the Goldfinger/Thunderball approach of just describing the movie's villain, but with lots of innuendo around the gun and how love "comes just before the kill."

Barry brought in Scot singer Lulu (who'd become famous singing Black's theme song from To Sir with Love) to record it. It's a catchy song, but no one's favorite. It feels like it's trying too hard. It's oomph isn't cool; it's desperate. And that goes for Lulu's performance as well as the orchestration.

In general, Barry wasn't happy with the Golden Gun soundtrack. He only had three weeks to do it and he would later say in an interview that it never came together for him. That explains why one musical cue completely ruins an otherwise awesome moment. When Bond jumps his car over a ruined bridge in a perfect spiral, Barry interrupts the Bond Theme with a stupid, comical slide whistle.

One great use of the Bond Theme though is when Sheriff Pepper recognizes Bond in Thailand. It's a great way to show that Pepper knows who Bond is and is remembering their previous encounter in Louisiana.

The Bond Theme also comes up when Bond and Hip are spying on Hai Fat's compound and when Bond is just tooling around the river after losing his pursuers in a boat chase.

Top Ten Theme Songs

1. On Her Majesty's Secret Service
2. Diamonds Are Forever
3. You Only Live Twice
4. From Russia With Love (John Barry instrumental version)
5. Live and Let Die
6. Dr No
7. Thunderball
8. Goldfinger
9. From Russia With Love (Matt Monro vocal version)
10. The Man with the Golden Gun

Top Ten Title Sequences

1. On Her Majesty's Secret Service
2. Dr No
3. Thunderball
4. Goldfinger
5. From Russia With Love
6. Diamonds Are Forever
7. Live and Let Die
8. The Man with the Golden Gun
9. You Only Live Twice
10. TBD


Erik Johnson Illustrator said...

I've always referred to this theme song as "irritatingly catchy". Kind of in the same vein as pop songs by the child stars on Disney Channel. The tune is fun and upbeat but you wouldn't be caught dead listening to these vocals in public.

I'd argue that slidewistle is even deadlier than Scaramaga's golden gun!

Michael May said...

The Man with the Golden Slidewhistle. Now there's a villain to make me shudder!


Related Posts with Thumbnails