Roger Moore's second Bond movie sees 007 targeted by Christopher Lee's ruthless assassin, the wonderfully named Francisco Scaramanga. Originally intended as the sixth Bond movie and to be shot in Cambodia, the Vietnam war got in the way and so the film had to wait until after On Her Majesty's Secret Service and Live and Let Die were produced before this saw the greenlight, with the action relocated to Hong Kong, Macau and Thailand. The theme song's opening lines, “He has a powerful weapon / He charges a million a shot", was an early indicator of the comedic road Moore's Bonds would travel.
Over Roger Moore's long reign as 007, Live and Let Die is Blaxploitation Bond, The Spy Who Loved Me Blockbuster Bond, Moonraker Blast-Off Bond, For Your Eyes Only Bourne Bond, Octopussy Bonkers Bond, and A View To A Kill Bus Pass Bond.
Sadly The Man with the Golden Gun is Booooooooring Bond.
A great premise (Bond duels his dark mirror image) is wasted as the film lurches from one exotic location to another in what is a bridging movie from the earlier, grittier movies to the tongue in cheek action spectaculars the franchise would become with The Spy Who Loved Me.
Picking only the barest bones from Fleming's source novel (his last book before succumbing to a heart attack aged 56, although some maintain others completed it after his death) The Man with the Golden Gun retains the character of Scaramanga and his third nipple, the titular weapon and little else.
Instead, the plot Macguffin revolves around the 1973 energy crisis Britain was slowly emerging from, with Scaramanga and his partner, Thai mobster Hai Fat, in possession of a much sought after piece of technology that can harness solar energy and transform it into a reliable electricity source.
Unfortunately this subplot pushes Bond and Scaramanga's more intriguing dance of death offstage, with Lee (Ian Fleming's cousin) a villain of mysterious, perhaps sexual motives (he keeps a 007 waxwork in his pop-art shooting gallery), but underused by a script that makes him a third-rate Blofeld (his physical anomaly being a third nipple rather than facial scar).
Cashing-in on the Bruce Lee inspired kung-fu craze that swept the West in the early 70s, that the film reduces its Hong Kong/Macau/Bangkok/Phuket locations to faceless Eastern backdrops so Hai Fat's martial arts school practises karate rather than the (at the time) lesser known Muay Thai fighting style, is indicative of the root-deep laziness.
Throughout are glimpses of a better movie - Scaramanga running the warm golden gun barrel over Anders' (Maud Adams) breast and lips, an Escher style recreation of the wrecked Queen Elizabeth as a secret HQ, and a Bullitt style chase through Bangkok traffic, culminating in the corkscrew car jump over a fallen bridge (achieved on the first take, earning stuntman 'Bumps' Williard a cool £30,000).
Maud Adams makes the first of three Bond appearances as Scaramanga's squeeze, given some depth by a mid-film plot twist, which is more than can be awarded Britt Ekland's Mary Goodnight (Bond's PA in the novels), required only to get things wrong and petulantly stand around waiting for her turn to be bedded by the aged 007.
As Scaramanga's henchman, Villechaize's Nick Nack is a miniature Odd-Job, a gourmet chef handy with a .22, and whose climactic showdown with Bond was lampooned in Goldmember (which also nicked Scaramanga's third nipple).
At 47 Moore was too old for the part on his second movie, but throws himself into the fisticuffs, valiantly busting karate moves without ruining his credibility. But, the one liners sit ill against strong misogyny (Bond threatens to snap Anders arm to get information) and his trysts with the younger Ekland reside south of comfortable.
For this movie 007's license to thrill had definitely been revoked, and The Spy Who Loved Me reboot would simultaneously revive and doom the Moore Bonds.