Patrick Brennan takes careful aim at 1974’s ‘The Man with the Golden Gun’
Both the novel and the film The Man with the Golden Gun are considered low points of Bond. The novel, released after Ian Fleming’s death, had clearly been a work in progress.
The reasons for the lacklustre film, Roger Moore’s second as Bond and the fourth and final to be directed by Guy Hamilton, include the deteriorating relationship between producers Harry Saltzman and Cubby Broccoli (Saltzman sold his 50% stake in Bond after this film), the weak script which fails to play to the strengths of Roger Moore, the low stakes plot involving a ‘Solex Agitator’ device that would solve the energy crisis of the time, the ditzy, silly Bond girl, Mary Goodnight, played by Britt Ekland, and the limp martial arts scenes which are nowhere near as good as the films they’re ripping off.
So what about the good parts?
The eponymous villain Francisco Scaramanga, played by Christopher Lee with evident relish, is the first villain meant as a ‘dark mirror’ of Bond, living the snobbish high life while engaging in acts of assassination. His little henchman Nick Nack, played by Hervé Villechaize, is a very memorable character with some good lines. John Barry’s score is entertaining, though he considered it his weakest. Maud Adams plays a convincing, ill-fated mistress named Andrea Anders, and the actress would return to play the title role in 1983’s Octopussy.
The film begins with a demonstration of Scaramanga’s prowess. An American gangster journeys to the villain’s strange island near Thailand, seemingly hired by Scaramanga’s henchman Nick Nack. The island holds a funhouse filled with many trick walls, mirrors, and decoy dummies, including one of Roger Moore’s Bond. Scaramanga easily dispatches the gangster with his golden gun, and it’s clear this is all part of a game he and Nick Nack play to keep the villain trained.
Meanwhile in London, MI6 receive a bullet engraved with ‘007’, seemingly a threat on Bond’s life from Scaramanga. Though the villain’s reputation is well known, no-one knows what he looks like. Another agent was killed by Scaramanga in Beirut, and Bond is able to retrieve the bullet which killed him. Q traces this bullet to an arms dealer, who in turn leads Bond to Scaramanga’s mistress Ms. Anders.