2012 marks the 50th anniversary of James Bond on the big screen. To celebrate, SFX’s Nick Setchfield revisits each and every 007 adventure in a week by week countdown to Skyfall …
MISSION 9: THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN (1974)
Elsewhere the movie flagrantly reheats elements that made Live And Let Die popular: Bond steals a speedboat in a bid to replay the bayou boat chase while redneck sheriff J W Pepper returns, implausibly relocated from Louisiana to Thailand as the ugly-shirted Tourist from Hell. Britt Ekland is even locked in a wardrobe, just like Madeline Smith.
And, once again, a Bond film feels reactive, its martial arts trimmings chasing the Bruce Lee-inspired boom that also brought us Hammer’s Legend Of The Seven Golden Vampires , Marvel’s Master Of Kung Fu comic book and Carl Douglas’ number one single “Kung Fu Fighting”. It’s all deeply 1974. Ironically, the film’s plot revolves around the contemporary energy crisis – despite the redoubtable star wattage of Roger Moore, the Bond franchise looks to be having an energy crisis of its own.
DANSE MACABRE The Man With The Golden Gun is a film saturated with a uniquely queasy sense of the weird and macabre. Soundtracked by honky-tonk piano, Scaramanga’s murderous, kaleidoscopic funhouse feels like something from The Avengers at its most surreal and darkly carnivalesque, its hypnotic iconography of giant eyeballs, swirling circles and doors to nowhere torn straight from The Twilight Zone. Bond’s world has never seemed as treacherously strange – MI6 sets up base within the skewed, tilted remains of the Queen Elizabeth, wax effigies of sumo wrestlers come to life in a night-dark garden and a woman sits in the centre of a cheering crowd, a single bullethole in her chest, frozen in the moment of her murder. The film’s eeriest moment finds Bond staring at shopfront televisions in an empty, neon-lit street, only to see bowler-hatted homunculus Nick Nack smile at him from a screen. As John Barry’s uneasy score reminds us, this secret shadow-world of Bond’s is one of eternal, unshakable danger, only ever one golden bullet away from death.
“EVER HEARD OF EVEL KNIEVEL?” Golden Gun ’s setpiece stunt finds Bond corkscrewing a car across a broken bridge, a spluttering, bacon-faced J W Pepper in tow. Yes, it’s slightly spoilt by a daft swanee whistle sound effect – one of director Guy Hamilton’s least inspired touches – but it remains one of the great showstoppers in the franchise’s history. Stunt co-ordinator WJ Milligan Jr originally created the Astro Spiral stunt for a show at the Houston Aerodrome. He started designing the 360 degree turn in 1971, feeding records of highway accidents into an IBM computer to calculate a formula for a ramp that would provide the optimum angle. The car needed to be perfectly balanced, with the steering wheel placed in the exact centre of the vehicle. “Bumps” Willett performed the stunt, lying beneath a pair of dummies, controlling the car with his feet. He did it in one take, watched by an anxious Roger Moore. Hamilton thought it was too perfect and asked him to do it again. Willett refused. It was the first time he’d ever attempted it.
TRIV AND LET DIE
Ghoul-faced rocker Alice Cooper was in contention for the title song. Listen to his hymn to Scaramanga here .
This was the first Bond film to be screened at the Kremlin.
JAMES BOND WILL RETURN IN THE SPY WHO LOVED ME