The Man with the Golden Gun (1974)
With Guy Hamilton and Roger Moore breathing new life into the franchise with Live and Let Die, the anticipation was real to see what they would do next with The Man with the Golden Gun. James Bond's (Roger Moore) career and work has been put on halt when he is sent a golden bullet with "007" carved into it. This bullet is the signature of the dangerous assassin Francisco Scaramanga (Christopher Lee) who now appears to be targeting Bond waiting for the perfect moment to take the shot he nearly never misses. Where The Man with the Golden Gun is definitely less charismatic as Live and Let Die it is another fun and memorable outing in the Bond franchise.
So much of that is because of the conflict within this film. This is a perfect example of what a film like Diamonds Are Forever should have been, the conflict between Bond and Scaramanga is not only clear and easy to follow but it is so well built and suspenseful even. Not allowing other side plots to take the focus away from this eventual conflict, the film is able to smartly space out interactions and plot points allowing it to build to the final conflict more than any other Bond film previously. As the runtime goes on the audience gets more and more drawn into the build and by the end, the audience is invested and is excited to see these two forces finally face off. It helps that the performances from each man are quite solid, Roger Moore impressed with his debut as the iconic James Bond in Live and Let Die but there clearly was room to grow. Where on paper, Bond in this movie seems like an even harder performance to give with Bond for the first time being the one who is getting targeted. Bond has to act in response to this killer hunting him, even if at first he is able to laugh it off with the classic Bond charisma and charm it doesn't change the fact that he constantly is in danger more than ever before. Christopher Lee is also the perfect mix of charming and terrifying that gets under your skin with how dangerous he is but also is entertaining and plays off nicely with Bond.
The film also has some really unique production design which stood out even compared to some of the more elaborate and creative sets in the past. From the slanted wreck of the RMS Queen Elizabeth which has been turned into a government base which kept the unique slant and angels to the madhouse which the opening action scene takes place in. More and more, Bond films from this era have been upping their craft and technical ability creating some really memorable pieces whether it is the sets in this film or the costumes in Live and Let Die. I would be lying if I said that The Man with the Golden Gun wasn't one of my favorite Bond films at least at this point in the franchise. With one of the best conflicts at the main focus and with it perfectly tying together camp and almost psychological drama this was a film that engaged me and had me at the edge of my seat by the end. Sure it isn't quite as fun as Live and Let Die but overall it is really well crafted and another huge success for Guy Hamilton who has to be one of the best Bond directors of all time. Other than the incredible miss which was Diamonds Are Forever he gave us some of the best Bond films of the franchise and it is both sad and nervewracking to see him go. Let's just hope the next director can give us even half of the quality that Guy Hamilton did.