Roger Moore was never my favorite Bond. In fact, Roger Moore was never Roger Moore’s favorite Bond. But the first Bond movie I ever saw as a kid was The Man with the Golden Gun (1974), Moore’s second Bond movie and arguably his best. It had a reasonably believable plot line, great locations, delicious production design that included a creepy funhouse with a dead-ringer wax dummy of Bond, and the cleverest lighter-to-gun gadget transformation in film history.
Along with the usual suspects (Moore, Bernard Lee as M, Lois Maxwell as Moneypenny and Desmond Llewelyn as Q), the movie starred Maud Adams, Britt Ekland and Hervé Villechaize as “Nick Nack,” the diabolically hilarious sidekick to the villain, Scaramanga, played the inimitable Christopher Lee.
The Bond franchise is full of memorable villains with different flavors of brilliance. Some were quietly creepy and unsettling, like Joseph Wiseman as Dr. No or Javier Bardem as Silva, and some are remembered for grandiose insanity that bordered on the comical, like Gert Fröbe as Goldfinger or Donald Pleasence as Blofeld.
Christopher Lee’s Scaramanga had an evil of a cooler tempo. Unlike other Bond villains who typically had a team of henchmen doing their murderous bidding, Scaramanga did the killing himself. He was, literally, the man with the golden gun – an assassin (second to none, according to the theme song). He had a chiseled face with a callous hardness and cold, dark eyes that could easily belong to a psychopath. In fact, his performance is all about the eyes. They’re unsettling.
People could debate for days about who was the best (or worst) Bond villain. Some were dark, some were clownish. But Christopher Lee was my first. In a very flawed movie, his performance is never short of riveting. While I’ve enjoyed all the villains in varying degrees and for different reasons over the decades, Christopher Lee remains one of my favorite Bond villains of all time.