James Bond
The Man with the Golden Gun
Ultimate Edition 2-Disc DVD Set

Starring: Roger Moore
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
RRP: £16.99
Certificate: PG
Available 17 July 2006

The British secret service receives a golden bullet with 007's number on it. This is the calling card of Scaramanga, "the man with the golden gun", renowned as the deadliest assassin in the world. James Bond has been marked for death, and he'll need all his lethal instincts and seductive charm if he is to survive...

Released only a year after Live and Let Die, Roger Moore's second Bond film was perhaps rushed into production a little too quickly.

The Bond series has, of course, repeated itself to varying degrees ever since its second movie, but on this occasion the absence of new ideas becomes particularly noticeable. For example, Scaramanga (Christopher Lee) possesses a powerful laser, just as Goldfinger did, but he admits that "science was never my strong point", a line transplanted almost verbatim from Charles Gray's Blofeld in Diamonds Are Forever. Also lifted from Goldfinger is Bond's announcement that something has come up (a double entendre that would be repeated yet again in The Spy Who Loved Me).

Most obviously of all, Sheriff JW Pepper (Clifton James) from Live and Let Die makes a return appearance, though this is actually a plus point, as Pepper provides some of the film's funniest comic moments, particularly during the movie's signature stunt sequence, the famous 360-degree bridge jump. (This stunt is explored in the new-to-DVD television programme American Thrill Show, while Bond stunts in general are the subject of this DVD's thematic documentary, Double-0-Stuntmen.)

The main reason for watching this movie is the character of Scaramanga himself, who is transformed by writers Richard Maibaum and Tom Mankiewicz, and by actor Lee, into a far more memorable foe than the thug depicted in Fleming's novel. The statuesque Lee presents a villain who is a believable threat to James Bond, who is almost a darker incarnation of him. Scaramanga's disarming respect for 007 dramatically offsets the villain's other guise, that of a cold-blooded killer.

Apart from the name Francisco Scaramanga, his nickname "the man with the golden gun", and the presence of Mary Goodnight (Britt Ekland), the movie has little in common with Fleming's book. It could, therefore, quite easily have been novelised as part of the literary canon, as subsequent films have been. (Indeed, as with Diamonds Are Forever, Vic Davis penned a prose adaptation for the Daily Express, which appeared during December 1974.) Goodnight is a recurring character in the books anyway, so there would be no problem with keeping her in my imaginary novelisation - let's call it A Million a Shot or Silvershot. The only major changes that would be necessary would be to the villain's names. He could use silver bullets and/or a silver-plated gun - hence the nickname "Silvershot" suggested by my alternative title - or some other gimmick instead of gold. The villain's personal history would also require slight alteration to avoid duplicating that of Fleming's Scaramanga.

The movie Scaramanga's "funhouse" training ground provides visual excitement at the opening and closing of the film. The first instance acquaints the audience with the danger inherent in this setting, before Bond is placed there later on. This is a similar dramatic device to the one used in Live and Let Die's funeral processions and sacrifice sequences. Production designer Peter Murton and his team also provide ingenious sloping sets for the interior of the capsized cruise liner, Queen Elizabeth.

New special features include an additional commentary by Roger Moore, unedited footage of the fight sequence involving the karate kids Cha (Joie Pacharintraporn) and Nara (Qiu Yuen), and excerpts from a Russell Harty interview with Moore and Hervé Villechaize (Nick Nack) - though for some reason Harty's questions are edited out and we only get the actors' responses.

The Man with the Golden Gun has its moments, but in terms of overall quality it's easy to see why this was the lowest grossing film in the series. Hardly a golden age.

Richard McGinlay

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