00 Saturdays Week #18 – The Man with the Golden Gun Music Review

“Love is required, whenever he’s hired
It comes just before the kill.
No one can catch him, no hitman can match him
For his million dollar skill.”

It’s time for another 00 Saturdays here at Film Seizure.  This week, I’ll be discussing the music to The Man with the Golden Gun and its poor reviews from the conductor himself.

Theme Song

This theme, sung by Scottish singer Lulu is… well, it just is.  I don’t think I particularly like the song when I compare it to any of the other songs from the Moore era, but is it especially bad?  No.

Those opening stings are very Bond.  That’s probably because John Barry is back, and the guitar riffing in the background is following up the rock and roll feel of “Live and Let Die”, but it seems to take a step back to stuff that would have felt more in place in the Connery era of the 60s.  Now, the problem with the song comes from internal sources… yet again.

Producing partners Albert Broccoli and Harry Saltzman rotated back and forth on who were actually the runners of each production.  I feel like this was mostly to keep a 50/50 slant in the terms of the control of the series, but it also probably really helped getting these movies cranked out like they did.  Remember, with “Diamonds Are Forever”, Saltzman felt the song was too suggestive and had a falling out with John Barry.  For Live and Let Die, Saltzman brought in Paul McCartney who he missed the opportunity to work with when he was a Beatle with A Hard Day’s Night.

Well, Saltzman had a music publishing arm of his business and he usually worked with a man named Tony Bramwell.  Bramwell trashed the theme song, John Barry, lyricist Don Black, and Albert Broccoli.  He thought Elton John or Cat Stevens should have done the song, but it wasn’t Saltzman’s turn to make the movie.  Broccoli rejected the suggestions, and Bramwell went real public with his thoughts on the song’s suggestive language about Scaramanga’s sex life before going on a hit.

Surely unrelated, this was the final Bond film that Broccoli and Saltzman produced together.

Score

This score, much like with Diamonds Are Forever, isn’t particularly good.  This was during a time in which Barry was transitioning away from using heavy horn sounds.  Instead, he was opting for a smoother string-based sound.  While I appreciate Barry being back to work on the Bond films, even he admits that he just simply hates this score.  I don’t know if I go that far in how I feel about the music, but Barry would always admit that this was one of the very worst scores he ever did for any movie.  He just couldn’t find what he wanted the score to sound like and had to basically let it just be with what he had due to only having about three weeks to compose and conduct the score.

What makes it especially interesting is that Barry had the opportunity to try something interesting with the music.  Much like with You Only Live Twice, The Man with the Golden Gun takes place in a culturally rich part of the world and he could have probably incorporated some of the area’s sound into the score and feature it heavily.  Instead, he just simply didn’t, and I agree the score is hurt by just not having a distinctive sound.

The Opening Title Sequence

On the other hand, Maurice Binder would have something he could rely on quite heavily with the opening titles – the golden gun.

Considering the locations used in the film, Binder places the golden gun in front of a wavy, watery background connecting the theme of Scaramanga’s island home.  There are Asian women heavily featured (as you probably would hope with a movie taking place in Southeast Asia).  There’s even use of fireworks in the background with a silhouetted nude lady dancing in front of them.  Water lilies are used to cover a naked woman’s bits and bobs.

While not exactly a stand out opening credit sequence, but it is something that helps elevate the not particularly great theme song and is a good follow up to a great opening pre-title sequence with Scaramanga and the assassin brought in for practice.

Join me next week for a look at the tenth Bond film, The Spy Who Loved Me.

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