Soundtrack Review: The Man with the Golden Gun

Composed and Conducted by: John Barry

The Man with the Golden Gun is considered a low-point of the James Bond franchise. Smaller in scale, and full of goofy humor, the 007 movies were veering into B-movie territory. It’s still a pretty fun film, with its most redeeming element being Christopher Lee’s performance as the man with the golden gun, hitman Francisco Scaramanga. Despite his tax problems, John Barry was still able to score The Man with the Golden Gun, albeit on an incredibly tight schedule of under a month. This results in a competent score that falls short of his previous efforts.

Not helping is the main title song, which like the movie is not up to par with its predecessors. It’s a fast, bouncy song with some ridiculous lyrics. Lulu sings a different song with the same tune in “End Title”, which instead of being about how dangerous Scaramanga is, declares James Bond’s victory over him. Since he did not have much time to think up a bunch of melodies and motifs, Barry ends up using both the song’s tune and the James Bond theme quite liberally.

The score proper opens with “Scaramanga’s Fun House”, a stealth track that is interrupted by both a jazzy speakeasy-style and honky-tonk style variation of the song theme. Much of this track is rehashed for “Return to Scaramanga’s Fun House”, but ends on a high note with one of the most suspenseful, nail-biting variations of the James Bond theme.

With the film set in Southeast Asia, Barry brings in Asian instruments for several cues, the first being “Chew Me In Grislyland”. The best of these is “Hip’s Trip”, which also has its own little suspense motif. “Kung Fu Fight” is the most stereotypically Asian, starting off with a bunch of gongs. There is a lot of jazz in this score as well. Track four is just a jazz version of the title theme, and “Goodnight, Goodnight” is a good romantic cue full of saxophone.

“Let’s Go Get ‘Em” is from the car chase scene, and features the most of the James Bond theme. Barry decided to make some changes to the theme to fit the replacement of Sean Connery with Roger Moore. The cool and menacing guitar is replaced by a full orchestra to underscore Moore’s more sophisticated and less gritty take on the character. This track is marred by the inclusion of the goofy sound effect from when Bond’s car spins through the air.

Overall, this is a solid, if underwhelming score. The time constraints can be felt by the heavy use of the James Bond and title song themes, both of which were already there for Barry to use. Otherwise there’s no memorable themes or melodies to speak of. Rumors say that the 2003 re-issue would have included the previously missing music, but this was not allowed due to budget constraints. I’m okay with that, especially since aside from being perhaps Barry’s worst offering for the franchise, the album already runs over forty minutes long.

Rating: 6/10

Tracklisting

  1. The Man with the Golden Gun (sung by Lulu) (2:36)
  2. Scaramanga’s Fun House (4:40)
  3. Chew Me in Grisly Land (4:02)
  4. The Man with the Golden Gun (Jazz Version) (2:33)
  5. Getting the Bullet (2:46)
  6. Goodnight, Goodnight (5:25)
  7. Let’s Go Get ‘Em (3:45)
  8. Hip’s Trip (3:22)
  9. Kung Fu Fight (1:58)
  10. Search for Scaramanga’s Island (2:32)
  11. Return to Scaramanga’s Fun House (6:30)
  12. End Title – The Man with the Golden Gun (sung by Lulu) (3:06)
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