We’re now over a third of the way along this epic journey through all cinematic Bondage, and many people will be preparing themselves for the fact that we’re going to be in the company of Sir Roger Moore until well into next year. As I’ve said before, I don’t necessarily see that as a bad thing, being the Bond I grew up on, but even I will admit that The Man With The Golden Gun is somewhat uneven, and rough around the edges. It’s a shame, because it had one of the best bad guys of the whole series, not just of the Moore era, in Francisco Scaramanga.
One thing that the Bond series has never really had is a true nemesis. Sure, Blofeld crops up a lot, but let’s face it, he’s the head of an international conglomerate of evil – Bond, when it comes down to it, is basically a minion with a giant ego who shoots well. (I hope I’m not going to come to regret that last sentence.) But many literary works have their evil doppelgänger – for Holmes, his Moriarty, for The Doctor his Master; someone who operates on a level playing field but who has the polar opposite in terms of ethos, and Scaramanga could, and probably should, have been that for Bond. There’s a fantastically tense dinner scene, which upholds fine British traditions of never letting anything like a war or a lethal grudge get in the way of a civilised meal, but other than that, it never feels like The Man With The Golden Gun fully grasps that opportunity with both hands. The lesson for anyone else coming up with a new literary or cinematic icon: if you’re going to have a nemesis, do give him as many scenes with your protagonist as possible.
Anyway, after we’ve got over that disappointment, and glossed over Lulu’s shouty opening song, there are still plenty of points of reference being created for both the rest of the Bond series and for movies in general.
1. Waxworks are really impressive – apparently
I remember watching this for the first time and being really impressed with the quality of the waxwork that Scaramanga had of Bond. When money is no object, it’s amazing what you can afford. When, some years later, I went to Madame Tussauds (sic) for the first time, as good as the waxworks there were, they didn’t have quite the same lifelike quality as Scaramanga’s. (Nor, for that matter, did they wobble about for that extra dose of realism, as if they were actually a man standing still and pretending to be a waxwork. Badly.)
2. Killing people is fun, but as long as it’s environmentally friendly
By the Seventies, people had begun to realise that it took a lot longer to make coal than it did to use it, and it was all grubby and inefficient and you had to dig large holes in the ground, so it might be a good idea to come with some alternatives before our children have to live out their lives in the second Dark Age when all of the natural resources run out. Always keen to tag along to a popular theme, the Bond producers picked up the idea of solar energy, and ran with it. As recently as Quantum Of Solace, Bond was still on a bit of an environmental kick – good to know he’s saving the world from disaster in every possible way.
3. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier… Tanner?
Who actually works at MI6? Based on the evidence of the previous films, it’s a grand total of a man and his gun, his grumpy boss, his grumpy boss’s flirty secretary and a madman in the basement who invents lethal tin-openers. So it’s nice to finally see some evidence of other employees, and particularly other employees who will figure regularly. The character in the middle has appeared in five Bond films, but you’d have to be eagle-eyed to have spotted them all. Bill Tanner is now the most regular MI6 figure after M, Q and Moneypenny, and M’s chief-of-staff has returned in For Your Eyes Only, Goldeneye, The World Is Not Enough and Quantum Of Solace, and Rory Kinnear is due to portray him again in Skyfall. (I know that’s not the official title yet, but I thought it would be fun to look back next November and go either “Oh God, we were right” or “Thank God, we were wrong”.)
4. Goodnight, Goodnight
But Tanner’s not the only other MI6 staffer from the books to make an appearance. Oh no, siree, you get two for the price of one with a golden gun, because Mary Goodnight also makes an appearance. In the books, she’s the secretary to the 00 Section, and this bunch of over-sexed misogynists are all battling over which one can get her in the sack first. In the film, she’s an over-eager puppy with a strange accent who’s so keen to be Rogered that sitting in a wardrobe while Bond shags someone else doesn’t put her off wanting to get her end away. Which may be why we’ve never seen the character again in the films, and that could be one of the most damaging legacies we’ve seen so far.
5. White man no good without black belt
Yes, it’s a rule of actions movies, well established here, that kung fu fighting is the most powerful kind, so much so that apparently everyone in the Seventies in Thailand who wasn’t into Thai boxing was doing that most Thai of martial arts, karate. Don’t forget, good guys, if you get into a fight with a man who knows his katas from his kittens, you will lose.
Next time: Time to feel sad for the rest. It’s The Spy Who Loved Me.