James Bond
The Man with the Golden Gun
Starring: Roger Moore
16197DVD Z1
Certificate: PG
Available Now

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...

Roger Moore's second Bond movie was perhaps rushed into production a tad too swiftly. The Bond series has, of course, repeated itself to varying degrees since its second movie, but on this occasion the absence of new ideas becomes particularly apparent. 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 word for word 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 J W Pepper (Clifton James) from Live and Let Die makes a return appearance, although this is actually a plus point, as Pepper provides some of the funniest comic moments, particularly during the movie's signature stunt sequence - the 360-degree bridge jump. (Bond stunts are also 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 the actor Christopher Lee, into a far more memorable foe than the thug featured in Fleming's novel. The statuesque Lee presents a villain who is a believable threat to James Bond, almost a darker version of him, and Scaramanga's disarming respect for 007 dramatically offsets the villain's other guise - that of a dangerous and cold-blooded killer.

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 (a similar dramatic device was used with Live and Let Die's funeral processions and sacrifice sequences). Production designer Peter Murton and his team also provide the ingenious sloping sets representing the interior of the capsized cruise liner, the Queen Elizabeth.

Once more, we find an unfortunate photographic blunder on the DVD package. In this case, the back cover includes a publicity still from Live and Let Die. You can tell because it shows Madeline Smith, who played Miss Caruso in that film.

Not quite worthy of a gold star, then.

Richard McGinlay