It’s been a good long while since the vault kicked off a new series, and this one I’ve been holding onto a for while. Say hello to 007 on the 7th, which is exactly as it sounds; whenever a vault posting date falls on the seventh of the month, everyone’s favorite British Secret Service Agent will make an appearance. Premiering thirty-eight years ago in December of 1974,?The Man With the Golden Gun is a perfect choice to for December’s 007 selection.
MI6 headquarters receives an ominous calling card, prompting ‘M’ (Bernard Lee) to recall James Bond (Roger Moore) from his mission. A single, solid gold bullet etched with ‘007’ names Bond as the next target of the world’s greatest and most elusive assassin,?Francisco Scaramanga (Christopher Lee). Raised in the circus as a trick-shot marksman then recruited and trained by the KGB, he is now a hitman-for-hire with a $1,000,000 fee. Bond’s search for the Solex Agitator and its creator is put on hold, leaving Bond free to find his would-be killer before Scaramanga’s golden bullet finds him.
The Man With the Golden Gun is the fourth and final Bond film directed by Guy Hamilton. Golden Gun, which is based on the Ian Fleming novel of the same name, marks a strong end for Hamilton’s Bond career, although it can’t touch his series-defining Goldfinger, thanks to Hamilton’s decision to have Clifton James reprise his role as Louisiana Sheriff J.W. Pepper.Unlike many Bond films, the pre-credits sequence focuses on the villain and his bout with a hitman who’s arrived at his hidden island to assassinate him. The sequence serves to show the confidence Scaramanga has in his skills as he pits himself in a game of cat and mouse through his own Funhouse of Murder.
The title theme, performed by Scottish singer Lulu, is a grooving 70s tune with suggestive lyrics that pair well with one of the more suggestive title sequences given to a Bond film. The song sets the tone for the string of sexy women Bond will manhandle throughout the film. Britt Ekland portrays Bond’s field assistant, Mary Goodnight, who is perhaps one of the most useless Bond women of all time. Her starry-eyed longing for James, and Bond’s obvious contempt for her make her easily unlikable. That said, Goodnight’s incompetence creates a plausible lead-in for the final Scaramanga versus Bond duel. Second fiddle to Goodnight is Andrea Anders (Maud Adams), Scaramanga’s mistress or property, take your pick. Fun fact: this is the first of three different characters Maud Adams plays in the 007 franchise; the only woman with such a distinction.
As Bond, Moore hits the ground running in The Man With the Golden Gun, jet-setting from Beirut to Macau to Bangkok before squaring off on Scaramanga’s island in Chinese waters. In contrast to Connery’s Bond, I’ve always seen Moore’s Bond as less of a fighter and more of a lover with a silver tongue. However, in The Man With the Golden Gun, Moore sports a harder edge, wasting little time on pleasantries when hunting Scaramanga.
It’s a thrilling story with some spanky set pieces. The MI6 headquarters lodged in the wreckage of the RMS Queen Elizabeth is impressive as is Scaramanga’s twisted maze of mirrors, not to mention his three-piece weapon of choice, his 4.2 mm golden gun. Hervé Villechaize as Scaramanga’s henchman Nick Nack is inspired; he is used to great effect as someone who goes unnoticed, but should not be underestimated. The Man With the Golden Gun is less impressive when? it delves into hokiness. This mainly occurs whenever Goodnight is on screen, but the hijinks with Bond and the aforementioned Pepper character are the hardest to swallow. Bond’s final confrontation with Nick Nack ends the film with a lighter mood than it really deserves.
Even with its silliness, The Man With the Golden Gun is still one of my favorite Bond films. Only Moore’s second turn in the role, he’s got the swagger necessary to make it believable that Bond is feared by a fearless killer such as Scaramanga. Likewise, Scaramanga’s character is so thoroughly developed audiences can understand why Bond is so fiercely determined to find him.