Composer of the month Franchises John Barry month

Soundtrack review: James Bond – The man with the golden gun

The James Bond franchise has known its fair share of controversies. Some movies are universally acclaimed, other are very polarizing. Many of the movies create passionate discussions among fans and critics alike and this is one of the pleasures of being a James Bond fan. And then there are the very few outings which many agree are the low points of the franchise. “The man with the golden gun” is the one movie which has the honor of being considered among the weakest both as a film (Christopher Lee’s performance as the villain Scaramanga is its only saving grace) and as a score. John Barry himself said that this was the first time it happened to him to hate one of his scores.

I haven’t seen the movie, I wasn’t drawn to it. I have listened to the score and I am reviewing it as part of “John Barry month”. I will quickly brush off the main theme sung by Lulu because it is my least favorite from all Bond movies. “Scaramanga’s fun house” the theme for the famous villain is lackluster compared to what John Barry can do. It has the broken piano sound to suggest a mad carnival and suspense which doesn’t go anywhere. It alternates these sounds with cabaret inserts that make this cue seem all over the place.

This being John Barry there are moments of excellences hidden in this score. I enjoy the Bond like start to “Chew Me in Grisly Land”. The shadow of the Bond theme and the Asian inserts make for an enjoyable listen.

The main theme being so forgettable it doesn’t help the score either. It appears in instrumental form and to me it has nothing to do with the emotion and intensity of a James Bond score. Same can be said for the moody brass theme “Getting the bullet”. It would seem more appropriate for a luscious erotic thriller. If we listen to the lyrics of the main theme, it makes some kind of sense.

“Goodnight goodnight” was the most enjoyable cue for me. It was melodic and romantic Barry as usual and I recognized emotions that attract me to scores like these. This are the minutes from “The man with the golden gun” where John Barry brought his best game. This is the kind of quiet and melancholic piece I’ve grown to know and love. This is the reason every score is worth sitting through: there might be a gem hidden there somewhere.

The motif that starts “In search of Scaramanga’s island” is also a nugget of excellence. These scarce but precious moments keep “The man with the golden gun” out of last place in my personal rank of James Bond Scores. It is last among Barry compositions but, as you will see later, there are a couple of other scores that didn’t really do the franchise justice. James Bond fans will know what to do with this one. It’s simple: if some enjoyed the movie, they should listen to it. The others can move right along.

Cue rating: 63 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 0 / 43

Album excellence: 0%

About the author

Mihnea Manduteanu

I have been listening to film music for 25 years and writing about it since 2014. I've written over 1000 reviews and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I am also a member of IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association).

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