Christopher Lee finally makes his long overdue appearance in the Bond saga and what an appearance it is. As Francisco Scaramanga, the eponymous man with the golden gun and an extra nipple, Lee dominates every scene he is in, a character who kills for the joy of it, seeing himself and Bond as being cut from the same cloth and harbouring a desire to face the agent in battle one day to prove who is the best of the best.
The plot concerns Scaramanga’s attempt to possess the solex device which he uses to power his solar gun, his plan being to make solar power widely available so that the oil barons will have to pay him to keep it off the market. Bond chases the assassin across the world from London to China and eventually to Scaramanga’s private island where he engages in a duel to the death. Which he wins of course.
It’s fair to say that Christopher Lee is a scene stealer and one of the top rank of Bond villains (does the man EVER give a bad performance?) but the supporting cast is also good. Britt Eckland looks suitably stunning as Mary Goodnight and has an endearing and unusual habit (for a Bond girl) of “getting it wrong” and Maud Adams makes her first appearance in the franchise as Anders (she would later return to play Octopussy) but, aside from Lee’s towering performance, the best remembered character is the murderous midget Nik Nack, played by Herve Villechaize who would later find fame in the TV series “Fantasy Island”.
Guy Hamilton pulls out all the stops on this, his final Bond outing, providing many memorable moments. One of the most impressive stunts ever attempted in a Bond film was the moment where Bond drives his car off a bridge, makes a 360 degree turn in the air and lands it safely on the opposite bank, a stunt performed for real by driver “bumps” Willard (and featuring the reappearance of Sheriff J.W. Pepper). The climactic battle between Bond and Scaramanga is tense and thrilling, stylishly shot in a funhouse of distorting mirrors which Hamilton skilfully uses more than one to misdirect the expectations of the audience.
The humour absent from the Connery series reaches new heights here with Moore being given an increasing number of witty one liners, including the memorable “There’s a useful little four letter word…and you’re full of it” to Scaramanga . And Roger Moore clearly has great fun with the rubber nipple he wears to impersonate the assassin.
With a title song provided by Scottish chanteuse Lulu, critical reception was again mixed although there was universal praise for Christopher Lee’s performance. However, it has aged well and stands out as one of the more enjoyable Bond films, always being mentioned in discussions of the franchise.
It’s worth noting that this was the last film to be produced by the team of Broccoli and Saltzman, with the latter having to sell his stake in the company to alleviate his financial difficulties.