This is not a film I’ve watched very many times. It was always low on the totem pole, but I found I rather liked the first half this go-round. It wasn’t nearly as corny or dated, and the score by John Barry, of course, helps step it up a notch. Unfortunately this movie suffers from confusion over what it’s going to be about. It starts out with a highly paid assassin (Scaramanga, our lead villain, played by Christopher lee), supposedly after Bond. There’s a brief early mention of the energy crisis, solar power, but Bond is pulled off that to pursue his pursuer. I think if this movie had stayed a cat and mouse between Bond and Scaramanga, it would have been quite magnificent. But the solar thingy (solex agitator) comes back into play, almost like an after-thought. And so Scaramanga has this crazy big solar energy playset on his island... that really has nothing to do with anything other than to give us a big set-piece and something we can blow up later. It’s mostly a MacGuffin. Scaramanga intends to sell it to the highest bidder, but because the solex isn’t really worked into the story very well... who cares? The far more interesting story here is Christopher Lee and Roger Moore as adversaries. Alas, Bond movies weren’t yet ready to break the mold and go a bit more intimate and personal with their storylines.
There’s a lot to like here, but the elements just aren’t pulled together very well. And we’re hampered with Mary Goodnight (Britt Ekland), who seems to just keep messing things up. I mean, she’s an agent... really? I rather like her too, or I like Britt Ekland, but this script gives her nothing but a habit of innocently lousing things up. Even when she finally gets to act and takes out a guard at the end, her actions end up blowing up the island. Really?? Typical of this film, though. A lot of promise, not much follow through.
Christopher Lee is much more interesting as Scaramanga than I used to think when I was a kid. He’s rather charming, cold, vain, and a bit bored with life until Bond comes along. He lives on a lovely private island, gets paid a million dollars per assassination, and, of course, he carries the titular golden gun – complete with golden bullet. The gun is a nifty little piece that he can build very quickly from ordinary-seeming objects he carries with him. It only holds one bullet, but that’s all he needs. The scenes with him and Bond, verbally sparring (and yet remaining gentlemen), and then finally squaring off in a duel are the best scenes in the movie. The two actors have good chemistry.
And unfortunately, our most annoying loud-mouth sheriff from Live and Let Die is back. Sigh. I guess he apparently was popular enough at the time for a return appearance.
Also back is Marc Lawrence, as a gangster hired to try to kill Scaramanga in the pre-credit sequence. I’m not sure if he’s supposed to be the same character he played in Diamonds are Forever, but I like to think he is. Both characters dress just about the same, talk the same... why not?
This movie has one of the most amazing, real car stunts I’ve ever seen in a film. A crazy mid-air roll right over a river, from one curving ramp to another. It’s flawless and apparently was done in one take. It’s quite spectacular.
Favorite parts: Scaramanga’s funhouse. The end duel, particularly the start, with Bond and Scaramanga back to back. The two nieces trained in martial arts. The car stunt. M telling Q to shut up twice in one conversation.
Music: good, not great
Theme song: I quite like the melody but not the sung rendition.
Credit sequence: Okay
Bond girl: Goodnight is unfortunately too inept at her job, Maud Adams as Scaramanga’s mistress who helps Bond, is much more interesting, walking a fine line between two dangerous men.
Bad guys: Well, when can you ever go wrong with Christopher Lee?? He’s great. Herve Villechaize as Scaramanga’s servant, Nick Nack, is a perfect match for him, and together they are a great pair.
Overall personal rating: 2 out of 5 stars