The Man with the Golden Gun Review
Roger Moore's second outing as James Bond 007 in 1974 promised us a tougher image for the super spy as the producers, Messrs Broccoli & Saltzman, felt they had to make some changes after 'Live and Let Die'. This was also the movie that pandered to the, then, current interest in Kung Fu which had been made popular by Bruce Lee in the early 1970's. While teenagers (myself included) were learning the Martial Arts of Judo and Karate and trying to perfect their flying kicks, there was a fear that the Bond films might be left out in the cold if Jolly Roger didn't get in on the act. Anything Bruce Lee could do, Bond could do better - because, as we all now know, Nobody does it Better than Jim Bond.
This was also the movie that put Roger Moore's acting skills to the test for he was to be pitted against that rather highly regarded Ac-tor Christopher Lee, in the role of Scaramanga - the million dollar assassin with a penchant for using golden bullets to perforate his victim.
Roger Moore is renowned for his self deprecating humour and, in an attempt to find something to do when he was not 'on set' during the making of the Bonds, he applied for membership of Denham Golf Club (no doubt at the suggestion of another golfing ex-Bond), just along the road from Pinewood Studios.
They sniffily turned him down in a letter that said “Sir, we do not admit actors.”
Roger's response was to send them another letter that said, “Sir, I am no actor and here are my clippings to prove it”.
The critics were often hard on the star's acting ability but there can be no denying that he fares rather well in the face of stiff competition from Mr Lee.
While other Bonds may be considered more accomplished actors, Roger Moore is more than that - he is a Star that still shines brightly (now at the age of 82) and his wit and personal charm that took him to the top remain undiminished. His touch for light comedy is witnessed by his ability to wring a laugh from most of the Bondian one liners.
The movie opens with a pre-credit sequence that introduces Scaramanga on his island hideaway as a hired hit-man (Marc Lawrence) attempts to put him on ice. His diminutive manservant Nick-Nack, played by pint sized ladies man Herve Villechaize (remember him in 'Fantasy Island'), stands to gain a fortune if the hit-man succeeds.
We are led into the title song, performed by Lulu, which is probably the last to sound like a real Bond title song - in the big, brash and brassy tradition. Composer John Barry wrote an atmospheric score that provides an oriental feel, with reverb on most tracks.
The hook for the story is that M (Bernard Lee) has received a golden bullet with 007's number on it, so Bond takes leave of absence to go to Hong Kong to interrogate the maker of the bullet.
The unfortunate gunsmith Lazar (Marne Maitland) gulps nervously as Bond points a loaded rifle at his groin.
“Speak now, or forever hold your piece.” is the line (written by Tom Mankiewicz) that persuades the quivering technician to reveal the pickup point for a consignment of golden bullets.
We are treated to some creative set design as Bond boards the semi-submerged wreck of the Queen Elizabeth in Hong Kong harbour, only to find that it has been converted into M's field office where he meets Lieutenant Hip (Soon-Tek Oh), his local contact.
The plot mixes in a solar power device ( the solex agitator) as a thread that reminds us that a viable alternative power source was on everyone's mind in the early 1970's due to diminishing consumable resources - the scriptwriters having their fingers on the pulse of the real world which had yet to see North Sea Oil flow into the UK.
This is also the Bond film that is famous for the red AMC Hornet doing a corkscrew roll in mid air as it leaps across a wrecked, twisted bridge. There was much ballyhoo about this stunt at the time and the use of a computer was required to work out that the car had to be doing exactly 40mph to achieve the roll - which was performed by uncredited British stuntman 'Bumps' Willard.
At this point in the movie, Bond is re-united with Sheriff J.W. Pepper of Louisiana State Police (from 'Live and Let Die') who just happens to be on holiday in Thailand.
Bond and the rotund Sheriff eye the broken bridge that stands between them and their pursuit of Scaramanga:
Sheriff Pepper: You're not thinkin' of ....
Bond (mimicking the Sheriff's accent): Ah sure am, Boy!
Scaramanga eventually effects his escape in a flying car as the bemused Sheriff is handcuffed by the Thai police.
Strangely for a Bond film, it's the bad guy who has the gadgets this time.
Scaramanga's break apart golden gun - made up of a pen, a cufflink, a cigarette case and a lighter - was made by Colibri and almost caused Christopher Lee to be arrested as he carried it in the street on his way to a TV interview.
So we've got stunts, gadgets - but what of the ladies?
This time round, Roger Moore has to put up with the company of the delectable Maude Adams (who later starred in 'Octopussy') as Scaramanga's girlfriend and Britt Ekland as the rather dim blonde Mary Goodnight.
It was during the making of this movie that the working relationship between Saltzman & Broccoli broke down and it was the last picture made by this legendary producing team, with Saltzman selling his 50% of Eon Productions to United Artists and Broccoli taking over as sole producer on 'The Spy Who Loved Me'.
'The Man with the Golden Gun' is one of the more overlooked Bonds, but it's still great fun and the exotic locations, including the spectacular islands of Phuket look stunning.
It's worth watching all the way through just to see Bond put the irritating Nick-Nack in a suitcase and hoist him up the mast of Scaramanga's executive junk -as Lulu kicks in with the gutsy end title song.