At an island off the coast of mainland China, a hitman (Marc Lawrence) arrives to take care of some business. The target he has been hired to kill is one Francisco Scaramanga (Christopher Lee), who is also a hitman and can be distinguished by his third nipple, but there is a difference between the levels the two assassins operate on. The newcomer to the island is paid half his money by Scaramanga's assistant Nick Nack (Hervé Villechaize), but it is nowhere near the amount that the golden-gun wielding killer receives for every hit: he gets a million dollars for every mission. And as he makes swift work of his would-be murderer, it is clear this is practice for meeting one James Bond (Roger Moore)...
The Man with the Golden was awarded some of the worst reviews for a Bond movie, and is still looked down on as one of Moore's poorest. It certainly took less money than most of the previous entries, and despite concentrating its setting on one exotic location could not be regarded as one of the better looking in the series. As with the other Moore Bonds of the seventies there was a reliance on following a trend, which here was the then current craze for Hong Kong kung fu movies sparked in the West by the popularity of Bruce Lee, but seeing the star go through a few martial arts moves was not going to convince anyone that his heart was in it.
And in truth the whole enterprise has a half-hearted air, as Bond starts out believing he is being set up as Scaramanga's next hit, so heads off to track him down before his new foe does the same to him. Moore had been refreshingly witty in the last instalment, but he struggled to raise a laugh this time around thanks to low rent material, his best line being "Not from where I'm standing" (you'll have to see it), though that arrives barely twenty minutes in. After a trip to Beirut (none of which was filmed there), Bond spends the rest of the film in Hong Kong and on Scaramanga's island, which makes a change but could have been better implemented.
In fact, aside from a number of Chinese faces, the locations remain curiously anonymous, and the reliance on gimmicks grows more apparent. Some of these are pretty impressive for all that, with the corkscrew jump performed over a broken bridge by 007 in his commandeered car standing out as a tremendous feat of ingenuity, but when it adds nothing but spectacle you might be wishing for more meat on the storytelling bones. You know how people go on holiday and meet someone they already know? This happens to Bond as the producers bring back Clifton James' Sheriff J.W. Pepper from Live and Let Die, and he's not any more fitting this time around.
As it stands, Christopher Lee could have been one of the best villains and he works hard at being suave and menacing - he was a past master at such behaviour, after all - but Scaramanga is too much of a cliché. There is some business with Bond forced to reflect on the validity of his profession when faced with a man who also kills for a living, but this is dispensed with in a few short sentences so the flash and tacky sparkle can return. As for the Bond Girls, Maud Adams makes her first appearance in the series (she would be the title character in Octopussy) as Scaramanga's mistress, and Britt Ekland adds to the silliness as Mary Goodnight, Bond's contact in Hong Kong who the film cannot make up its mind about: is she competent or just a dumb blonde? It all resolves itself over a debate about whether solar power can replace dwinding oil supplies and the requisite great big explosion, but this Bond was strictly by the numbers. Music by John Barry, whose title song was one of his few duds.