After dipping Bond’s manicured pinky into a different exploitation genre with Live And Let Die, the filmmakers at Eon Productions figured that if dumping 007 in a blaxploitation movie worked so well, why not try it with something else; and that something else was Kung Fu. Inspired by the popularity of the genre in the US thanks to the release of Enter The Dragon featuring the peerless Bruce Lee, Bond would come face to face with not only a gun totting assassin who is every inch his equal but scores of henchmen whose very bodies are a lethal weapon… or so the plan went.
Reality, however, is often quite different and despite the majority of the film is set in both Hong Kong and Bangkok, the riffing of actual martial arts last for about, ooh, 10 minutes? But even taking that into consideration, surely having Christopher Lee cast opposite Roger Moore as the eponymous assassin should suitably raise the stakes?
A golden bullet is sent to MI6 with 007’s number etched into it which firstly proves once and for all that James Bond doesn’t really have that good a grasp on the “secret” aspect of being a secret agent and secondly sends his boss into a panic.
You see, this is a trademark of the fabulously named Francisco Scaramanga, also known as the Man With The Golden Gun who is the costliest assasin in the world (a million a hit – if I had to pay that amount of cash, I’d just say screw it and try to push that person under a train myself…) and the trinket suggests that he has set his sights on James Bond.
Put on leave in order to keep his head down, Bond goes looking for the hitman instead, and eventually finds a lead in Hong Kong – whom he naturally has sex with… His conquest is Andrea Anders, Scaramanga’s “girlfriend” who wants out of her creepy relationship with the sinister hitman and thinks Bond is just the man to do it. Finding out that his target is in business with a prominent Chinese entrepreneur Bond eventually catches up with him in Thailand with bumbling MI6 assistant Mary Goodnight tow where a final test of each other’s skills we be ultimately put to the test.
Once Lulu’s done screaming the pornographic lyrics to the latest Bond theme (“Love is required, whenever he’s hired, he comes just before the kill” is a line even Rhiana would balk at as being too obvious) we’re off to the races and immediately things seem off. The film, instead of trading solely on it’s remarkable scenery, tries to flagrantly copy Live And Let Die in many different ways other than simply adopting another sub-genre of movie and the first of many is that it tries to cram yet another (but vastly inferior) boat chase into the film – and who the hell was clamouring for an encore of the painfully racist Deputy J.W. Pepper who somehow is on holiday in Thailand on a Louisiana policeman’s salary for no other reason than to be culturally offence in a brand new time zone.
Moore does his usual thing but seems to be showing his age already (close ups in high definition is NOT his friend) and scenes where he’s required to do more than fight in that punch flailing style that Adam West perfected in the Batman TV show show him up as not exactly a natural action man. The scene where he’s required to hold his own against martial artists in a dojo is, to be kind, fairly laughable but the movie reveals the rather curious fact that Roger Moore has a weirdly shit run. His back is perfectly straight (like a broom is up his backside) while his arms kind of flap around in front of him and when you see it it’s somewhat hard to unsee…
While we’re on the subject of Moore’s habits now’s probably a good time as any to address Bond’s treatment of women in the Roger Moore era of the character; in the plus column he slaps the ladies around far less than Connery did (although he does lay a nasty fresh one on Maude Addams in this film) but by God is he so fucking CONDESCENDING. Plus the way he simply assumes his way into the pants of virtually every woman in the film inevitably gets fairly creepy. This isn’t helped much by the fact that Britt Ekland’s character, that of fellow Agent Goodnight, is nothing short of a fucking moron who is SO ditzy you frequently wonder how she manages to cross the street in one piece let alone pass all the required training to be a MI6 employee.
Thankfully, the towering and dependable form of Christopher Lee, while wielding his vastly impractical weapon, brings some much needed gravitas to the dodgy proceedings, creating a memorable villain loaded with character traits like his infamous extra nipple and the suprisingly salacious use of his glittering firearm on his terrified girlfriend when he’s feeling in the mood. In fact he does so well at being a fairly credible threat that when the plot demands he stops being a straight up killer and has him move in the realms of more traditional super-villainy he kind of loses his edge. Watching him take Bond of a tour of his facility while blatantly admitting he has no clue as to what he’s doing lessens him somewhat, especially when Bond – his proposed victim, remember – starts explaining to him how all his stuff and death rays actually work.
However, teamed with Herve Villachaize as his diminutive butler Knick Knack, the two make a memorable duo for the most part and the final showdown, where Scaramanga and Bond stalk each other through what appears to be a meth addicted fun house, is legitimately tense but ultimately the comedy/action balance is WAY off. In fact the iconic scene in which Bond has to cross a river in a sports car without a working bridge perfectly encapsulates TMWTGG’s problems – why in the name of Connery’s toupee would you ruin that amazing corkscrew bridge jump with a fucking slide whistle sound effect?
The worst Bond to date (although Moore can still chuck out a one liner with the best of them – The Man With The Golden Pun if you will) you’d be hard pressed to believe that the guy who made this also made Goldfinger. This gun’s a misfire no matter what bloody colour it is…