Friday, June 05, 2015

The Man with the Golden Gun (1974) | Villains

The highlight of The Man with the Golden Gun is Christopher Lee's appearance as Scaramanga. The brings ruthlessness to the role, naturally, but he also seems to be enjoying himself. It's not just that Lee's having fun, but Scaramanga himself loves his job. One of my favorite scenes is when he shoots the cork out of a champagne bottle that Bond's standing next to. It freaks Bond out, but Scaramanga's grinning ear to ear as he jumps out from behind the rock he was hiding behind. He apologizes, but he's totally not sorry.

He not only loves marksmanship and murder, but he's also never lost his flair for performing. I don't think he cares about entertaining other people, but he finds ways to keep himself amused. Hence the deadly fun house. That also could explain why he kidnaps Goodnight at the end, even though he doesn't know she has the Solex. Finding the Solex has nothing to do with that action; it's all about drawing Bond to the island.

Scaramanga's arrogant conviction of his own invulnerability is of course where he goes wrong. He's actually winning the "duel," which makes him even more cocky. But then Bond makes it to his lookalike mannequin and retrieves its gun. I don't think it's stupidity on Scaramanga's part to leave a loaded gun on the Bond mannequin; it's a calculated risk. An extra chance for his victims and an extra reason for him to be careful. The problem is that he's not that careful and doesn't check the mannequin's fingers.

Like in the novel, Scaramanga begins the story as a glorified henchman, but the movie lets him move past that by killing his employer and taking over the scheme. Which leads us to Hai Fat.

Hai Fat is the film's actual villain for most of the story and he's an excellent one... until he isn't.

The first time we meet him, he's very quick. He sees immediately that Bond is trying to impersonate Scaramanga, but he plays it totally cool. He lets Bond think he's fooled, drawing information from Bond and arranging to have him come back when Hai Fat is more prepared to deal with him.

When Bond does return, I understand why Hai Fat doesn't want him killed on the estate. But I don't understand why the dojo is a better place for it. The dojo is connected to Hai Fat, too, and Bond's dying there would be difficult to explain. It's not necessarily a dumb move on Hai Fat's part - I can see why it's at least preferable to having Bond killed at the house - but it is odd.

Where Hai Fat goes wrong is in turning on Scaramanga. I had to process this a bit, because at first it seems like Hai Fat's anger is misdirected. He's frustrated that Bond has escaped and now knows all about Hai Fat's involvement, but Scaramanga had nothing to do with the escape. However, it was Scaramanga who indirectly led Bond to Hai Fat and Hai Fat knows it. After all, Bond showed up at Hai Fat's house disguised as Scaramanga.

But still, it's Hai Fat's other henchmen who failed to kill Bond (and Hai Fat's wanting to have it done at the dojo in the first place), so he's more pissed at Scaramanga than he should be. I don't know if Scaramanga would have eventually murdered Hai Fat and taken over the operation anyway, but it's definitely Hai Fat's hissy fit that makes Scaramanga do it when he does. And it may even be what puts it into Scaramanga's mind.

Nick Nack is awesome. We get no backstory on him, but I imagine that he met Scaramanga in the circus. He jokes about being disloyal, but never is. In fact, he's so loyal that he becomes another in the line of villains who try to kill Bond after his boss is defeated.

That trend started in Diamonds Are Forever where it didn't make any sense and continued in Live and Let Die where it was more believable. It's most right in Golden Gun, but I'm getting tired of the trope. It's just a way to get a cheap sting in at the end, perhaps trying to recreate the ending of On Her Majesty's Secret Service in some lesser way. I'll be glad when the scripts cut that out.

Dojo-favorite Chula is barely a henchman and not that good, but he's cocky and funny and I like him enough to want to mention him. I just wish his fighting was as good as his set up.

This creepy dude is apparently named Kra, though I don't remember its being mentioned in the movie. He's in charge of running Scaramanga's Solex equipment and leering at Goodnight. His leering actually becomes touching and stroking until Goodnight beats him up and throws him into a vat of liquid helium. I like that she gets her own henchman to beat up and quip about, even if I don't like him.

Top Ten Villains

1. Auric Goldfinger (Goldfinger)
2. Ernst Stavro Blofeld (From Russia With Love and Thunderball)
3. Ernst Stavro Blofeld (On Her Majesty's Secret Service)
4. Francisco Scaramanga (The Man with the Golden Gun)
5. Dr. Kananga (Live and Let Die)
6. Doctor No (Dr. No)
7. Emilio Largo (Thunderball)
8. Rosa Klebb (From Russia With Love)
9. Kronsteen (From Russia With Love)
10. Hai Fat (The Man with the Golden Gun)

Top Ten Henchmen

1. Baron Samedi (Live and Let Die)
2. Fiona Volpe (Thunderball)
3. Grant (From Russia with Love)
4. Nick Nack (The Man with the Golden Gun)
5. Oddjob (Goldfinger)
6. Irma Bunt (On Her Majesty's Secret Service)
7. Miss Taro (Dr. No)
8. Tee Hee (Live and Let Die)
9. Professor Dent (Dr. No)
10. Whisper (Live and Let Die)

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