It was a marked feature of the early Roger Moore 007 flicks that, to avoid appearing anachronistic, they imported trace elements from the big hits of the period, be it Shaft (Live And Let Die), Star Wars (Moonraker) and Raiders Of The Lost Ark (Octopussy). Made at the height of Bruce Lee mania, The Man With The Golden Gun, Moore’s second outing as Bond, transplants the atmosphere and kung fu licks of Enter The Dragon on the set in stone James Bond formula and delivers an entertaining 007 adventure, something that tonally, if not qualitatively, could happily sit within the Connery era.
Kicking off with that Bond rarity — a bad John Barry song belted out by Lulu — Golden Gun ticks all the boxes, some more squarely than others. As always there is some terrific action — on top of the kung fu, there is a terrific car chase that sees Bond’s car cork screw in mid-air jumping across a river and ends when Scaramanga’s car turns into a plane — and Christopher Lee (actually Ian Fleming’s cousin) imbues Scaramanga with a cold weirdness — this is a Bond villiain with interesting quirks (three nipples, he caresses women with his gun and a cardboard cut out of 007 for starters), who could easily be the pervy flipside of Bond himself. Also, amidst the bad innuendos, there is some genuine wit: “Who’d pay a million dollars to kill me?” Bond asks M. “Jealous husbands, outraged chefs, humiliated tailors — the list is endless.”
On the debit side, there is too much of an emphasis on knockabout comedy — the midget henchman Nick Nack (played by Harve “The Plane! The Plane, boss!” Villechaize), the reprise of redneck cop JW Pepper from Live and Let Die, conveniently on holiday in the Orient — and the women are flimsy creations; Britt Ekland, as secret agent Mary Goodnight (a name that allows Moore the immortal line “Goodnight, Goodnight”) could simper for Sweden and Maude Adams,(who would later play a more fully developed Bond in Octopussy) is wasted in the potentially interesting role as Scaramanga’s treacherous assistant.
Yet the real surprise revisting the movie is Moore. For all Moore’s reputation for lightness of touch and suave urbanity, there are flashes of genuine brutality (not to mention mysogyny) here. Watch him bitch slap Adams Andrea in order to get his own way. Next up for Moore was the gadget laden campery of The Spy Who Loved Me but, if he’d stuck closer to some of the spirit of Golden Gun, his tenure as Bond might have been coloured in a completely different, less cosy hue.