This is one of the Bond films I know least well. It’s very much a join-the-dots plot, Bond following clue to lead to informer, and exposition is poorly handled. There’s a big info-dump 40 minutes in that gives us the context of a struggle over a new energy source, then further inelegant scenes after 60 and 90 minutes where Scaramanga spells out his plan. Not that this is unique in a Bond movie, but it all feels a bit mechanical. There’s fun to be had with Scaramanga, though: Christopher Lee plays up his suave charm, highlighting that he and Bond are two sides of the same coin. It’s entertaining enough stuff, but on the whole, the sparkle of the previous few films is missing. The best thing about the whole movie may be the tremendous studio sets of the half-sunken RMS Queen Elizabeth – all the walls and floors on a slant. Seven superfluous papillae out of 10.
Bond: He’s so Roger Moore. I can’t think of anyone who’s more Roger Moore-ish, frankly. (Having said that, there’s a terrifically cruel Connery-esque scene when he twists a girl’s arm to get information.) His habit of smoking big fat cigars continues.
Villains: Scaramanga keeps the film afloat. He has a third nipple, he treats Bond like his best mate, he potters around his secluded hideaway in a tracksuit, he strokes his phallic golden gun all over Maud Adams… Christopher Lee has some CV: Dracula, Frankenstein’s monster, both Sherlock and Mycroft Holmes, Fu Manchu, Rasputin, Lord Summerisle, Count Dooku, Saruman, Police Academy: Mission to Moscow’s Commandant Alexandrei Nikolaivich Rakov, and an entertaining Bond villain. Not bad going. Scaramanga’s bodyguard is the 3’11” Nick Nack, who Bond defeats in the closing moments of the film by locking him in a suitcase.
Girls: The most interesting woman in the film is Andrea Anders, Scaramanga’s mistress, played by icy cool Scandi-strumpet Maud Adams. There’s also Saida, a Beirut belly dancer with a spent golden bullet in her belly button; Chew Mee (geddit?!), a cute girl swimming naked in a villain’s swimming pool; and the two martial-art-savvy schoolgirl nieces of Lieutenant Hip. The main Bond girl is Mary Goodnight (Britt Ekland). Apparently an MI6 operative, she’s essentially the film’s comic relief. Inexperienced and inept, she’s there to get into trouble and show off her figure. It’s a refreshing change when – over drinks and with John Barry’s score swelling – she knocks back Bond’s presumptive advances. However, in the very next scene, she turns up in his bedroom with a wide-on.
Regulars: M, Q (back after one film off) and Moneypenny go out to the Far East to brief Bond. M has a Chief of Staff – though unnamed, he’s presumably meant to be book character Tanner, who will be in later movies. Sheriff Pepper returns from Live and Let Die. He’s on holiday with his wife and gets caught up in the action: a back-by-public-demand cameo, one assumes.
Action: Bond has a brawl in the belly dancer’s dressing room, which knocks a mirror and reveals the camera crew! In short order, 007 has a fight with two sumo wrestlers, is tended to by geisha girls, has to take part in a scene from Enter the Dragon, and gets helped in a mass punch-up by two schoolgirl-uniformed ass-kicking karate experts. (They weren’t worried about cliché in 1974, were they?) There’s a good car chase – both Bond and Scaramanga in AMCs for product-placement reasons – which ends with a famous and fantastic 360-degree car twist.
Comedy: Lots of quips, mostly successful. “Who’d pay $1 million to have me killed?” asks Bond. “Jealous husbands, outraged chefs, humiliated tailors…” suggests M. Scaramanga’s melodramatic story about his favourite elephant is a hoot. And we get another classic ‘Bond shows up M’ scene. I’ll quote it in full:
M: “What do you know about a man called Scaramanga, 007?”
Bond: “Scaramanga? Oh, yes! The man with the golden gun. Born in a circus. Father, the ringmaster, possibly Cuban. Mother, English, a snake charmer. He was a spectacular trick-shot artist by the time he was 10 and a local Rio gunman at 15. The KGB recruited him there and trained him in Europe, where he became an overworked, underpaid assassin. He went independent in the late 50s. Current price: $1 million a hit. No photograph on file. But he does have one distinguishing feature, however. A superfluous papilla.”
M: “A what?”
Bond: “A mammary gland. A third nipple, sir. He always uses a golden bullet, hence ‘’man with the golden gun’. Present domicile unknown. l think that’s all. Why, sir?”
Music: The title song – a bouncy, poppy, boring effort from Lulu – is quoted comically in the score during the pre-titles scene. The incidental music itself is classic John Barry.