Like a bulbous child engorged on sweets and ice cream, every James Bond outing is bursting at the seams with bastards and bad guys. And like clockwork, James would swoop in and foil their plans left and right, shag their women, and beat them to the tune of a Shirley Bassey song. What a massive party-pooper.
It wasn’t until 1974 when we were introduced to the first badguy who was actually a match for Bond. This reckless dude had no plans of world domination or glory or greed. Just a flat out challenger to the crown.
Let’s find out about Francisco Scaramanga – The Man With The Golden Gun
Up to this point in the canon, Bond had bested a rogue’s gallery of super-villains and their super-strong henchmen. He’d defeated the likes of Goldfinger and Oddjob, Kananga and TeeHee. Blofeld was still knocking about, but he’d never managed to get one over on James (save that time he shot his wife – a narrow escape? You decide).
Yet, it always happened the same way – British Intelligence or someone would get wind of a devilish plot and send in Bond. He’d pick up some hot broad that was somehow related to the scheme in a casino, nail her so much that she’d spill the beans, then go and ruin things for the bad guy.
It doesn’t work like this in The Man With The Golden Gun.
Bond (Roger Moore – The Cannonball Run) is currently on a mission when he’s brought in to speak to M. He’s been sent a golden bullet with his moniker 007 engraved on the side. They deduce that only the man with the golden gun, Francisco Scramanga (Christopher Lee – Dracula) could have sent it. Who, you ask? Well good old Jimbo will tell you.
Obviously the bullet is a snide message from Scaramanga. It’s the 70’s equivalent to a text message telling Bond that he’ll be rocking up to his hood to mess him up with his powerful golden weapon. M orders Bond off his energy crisis mission, and suggests he go hide in a hole somewhere (Birmingham?). Bond, a little vexed someone has stepped up to him, suggests going to find Scaramanga first. That would level the playing field, right?
The problem is that no one knows what TMWTGG looks like. He’s that good of an assassin. But Bond does have a clue. Another agent, Bill Fairbanks, was assassinated a year or so back and Scaramanga was was the suspected gunman. Suspected, you ask? Well, they couldn’t confirm it because they couldn’t find the bullet.
Another agent lothario, Fairbanks died the arms of some saucy belly dancer called Saida (Carmen du Sautoy – Highlander), so maybe she knows something. After sampling some of her jiggly dancing, Bond puts on the moves backstage. Apparently the bullet went through poor Bill. She managed to pry it out of the wall before the authorities arrived to scrape up the body. Now she uses it as a lucky charm for her dancing. Just as Bond manages to kiss it out of her belly-button (I’m not joking), he’s attacked by some heavies. A quick brawl ensues which he wins using his unique brand of stiff-arm karate.
“Oh no!”, cries Saida, “I’ve lost my charm!”.
“Not from where I’m standing darling”.
Classic James Bond.
Q-Branch deduce that the bullet was made in Macau by this master gunsmith called Lazar (Marne Maitland – The Stranglers of Bombay). After Bond threatens to shoot his dick off, Lazar blabs that all he knows is where he delivers the bullets to – a casino in the city. This leads JB to another one of Scaramanga’s lackeys, the beautiful Andrea Anders (Maud Adams – Rollerball). She collects the pack of bullets and buggers off to a hotel room.
Bond interrupts her during a shower, the dog, but she whips out a pistol and tells him to do one. It ain’t a water pistol.
Instead, he disarms her and Jiu Jitsu’s her arm so much that it will break unless she speaks about Scaramanga. She reveals that she doesn’t work for him, per say. That’s right, he’s a lover as much as a killer, but only before he shoots. Spanish bull fighters do the same, as it can improve the eye (apparently), though this philosophy runs inverse to the old boxing adage that banging weakens legs. Who knows which is true? Sounds like a Men’s Health article to me. Either way, I’ll save us from the multitudes of awful similes that could be employed here (like, how he puts his pistol in her before he bangs his target etc etc). We’re a serious movie outlet, after all. Beyond that, she doesn’t know much about what he does, save that Scaramanga “isn’t like other men”, wears badass white men’s fashion, and all-gold jewelry.
At this stage it’s quite telling how similar to Bond Scaramanga really is. I mean, Bond regularly uses women to get what he wants. Scaramanga has merely taken this to the next level. He’s reduced it to a science – like some kind of hipster life hack. He uses it purely for the effect it has on his ability to kill, like snipers popping diazepam to calm their hands. Like Bond, the fact he only selects hot babes also elevates him from mere mortals. I’m sure he doesn’t really give a shit about Anders, or any of the other bitches he’s used before (again, like Bond), but he’s still got a sense of class about him when it comes to selecting the best specimens for his needs. He’s all so secretive, fashionable, and deadly. All words we could use to describe 007.
But one thing Anders does know is that he’s going to be at the Bottoms Up club later that night. But he’s not there to kill Bond. Instead, his target is Gibson, a developer of the “Solex Agitator” – basically it allows us to effectively use solar energy as a meaningful energy source. While Bond is eating dirt, Scaramanga’s miniature dogsbody, Nick Nack (Herve Villechaize – Forbidden Zone) swipes the Solex from Gibson’s corpse.
Bond deduces that only Hai Fat, a Thai industrialist billionaire, could have afforded Scaramanga’s $1mil price tag to take out Gibson. I suppose this is 70’s – everyone was still poor I guess. After betting that Hai Fat never actually met The Man With The Golden Gun – the sign of a true badass assassin – Bond has Q fabricate him a stick-on fake nipple. After a casual dip with Hai Fat’s beau, Chew Mi (srsly), the pair discuss business. They agree to meet that night to discuss a new contract.
Of course it’s a ruse. Scaramanga is actually working with Hai Fat, and even after Bond defeats two Sumo’s (by wedgieing one, I shit you not), he’s incapacitated by Nick Nack. Fat demands he be taken to “school”. By that he means his own karate school. It’s a badass, no-holds-barred, Bloodsport type karate school though, where they fight with real swords and stuff. However, Bond still manages to escape after cheapshotting another honorable martial arts dude.
Hai Fat is furious, and blames Scaramanga for bringing the prying eyes of James Bond and the British Secret Service on himself. Scaramanga is hurt, as it’s genuinely not his fault. He only suspects that Anders has set him up at this point. After getting a bollocking from Hai Fat (“Remember, you work for me”), he casually shoots the billionaire and steals the Solex for himself. Obviously, he’d gotten tired of taking orders during his time with the KGB.
Anders visits Bond again and admits that Scaramanga didn’t send him the bullet, she did. She wants out, and 007 is the only person who stands a chance against the Man with the Golden Gun. He agrees to the job, but only if she can get the Solex back. As a weird sort of deposit, she sleeps with him and they agree to meet again in Bangkok, at a Muay Thai stadium.
Bond has roped in another British agent, Mary Goodnight (Britt Eckland – The Wicker Man) to help with the trade. He arrives after Anders who is unusually motionless at ringside. He then notices a tiny bullet wound in her chest. The Solex has fallen out of her bag, and rests at her feet. Before he can retrieve it, a stranger sits down next to him. It’s Scaramanga. Nick Nack has him covered, leaving the two alpha males to enjoy some light conversation.
In actual fact, Scaramanga is happy to meet Jame Bond. While not an idol, he at least recognizes Bond as a potential equal (on a skill level at any rate). He’s perfectly courteous, and explains that killing Anders was necessary because a woman can’t serve two masters. He doesn’t seem at all broken up about it (“The girl is replaceable” – like a watch), and is only pleased with the difficulty of the shot he made to kill her.
Still, he’s happy they got to meet. He feels he knows Bond, and this goes beyond the wax-work model he has of him at home. What? Oh, I forgot to mention, Scaramanga has a life-sized mannequin made to look like Bond at home. It’s used for…training, or something. Anyway, to Scaramanga, this is a meeting of covert legends, and he see’s a kindred spirit in Bond, even if 007 doesn’t see it himself.
He explains how he used to work in the circus as a trick-shot artist, and that when his favourite African elephant (his only friend) was killed by an abusive handler, he in-turn killed the handler. Turns out he rather enjoyed killing. But he’s got nothing against James, and hopes that their path’s never cross again. He exits with that friendly, professional warning.
James, of course, follows him. But Bond isn’t the only person with super slick gadgets and cars. Scaramanga’s own sports car can actually fly, and he buggers off out of reach. We’ve got another fly in the ointment, however, as Goodnight, who has recovered the Solex, figured it would be a good idea to hide in boot of Scaramanga’s car. I don’t know why, probably to surprise him, like Samuel L. Jackson explained to Chris Tucker in Jackie Brown.
After a total roasting by his superiors (he did kind of mess up), Bond homes in on Goodnight’s tracking beacon. Apparently she’s on some tiny island, deep inside “Red China Seas”. He has to go in alone to avoid their radar detection via a tiny seaboat (eerily similar to the one used in The Wicker Man – another film where a lawman has to fly to a remote island, and has a scantily clad Britt Eckland running about).
He arrives and is greeted by Nick Nack with a bottle of champagne. Hidden nearby, Scaramanga takes aim with a pistol and shoots…the top off the bottle. He chuckles as Bond shits himself (momentarily). A “harmless toy” he calls the weapon, as he offers Bond a cigarette – from the gold case that comprises the handle of his famous golden gun, no less.
Scaramanga gives Bond a tour of his little island, while Nick Nack goes off to prepare lunch. Their first stop is the huge underground reactor. Manned by Kra (Sonny Caldinez, who played “Mean Mongolian” in Raiders of the Lost Ark) – I bet he’s seen some crazy shit on this island – Scaramanga admits to knowing nothing about science himself. Bond explains that it’s all powered via the Solex. Scaramanga intends to sell the technology to the highest bidder. Which to be fair, isn’t a bad or necessarily evil idea. He’ll benefit considerably of course, but he’s hardly looking to destroy the world, is he?
Another one of his toys is a huge freaking laser gun (also powered by the Solex). To demonstrate, he blows up Bond’s little plane. While it had previously gone unspoken, it’s now obvious there is no escape without someone dying. First, let’s enjoy some lunch though.
Goodnight appears, bikini clad (“I like a woman in a bikini – no concealed weapons”) to join them. Is this how Scaramanga recruits all of his women? Failed assassination attempts and other foiled plots on his life? Even Bond has to admit that Scaramanga lives well. He has the best wines, a cool pad, laser guns, babes, midgets, Kra.
And what does Bond get for all his efforts? A state pension and a hearty well done when it’s all over. But would Scaramanga retire if ever gets all that money from the energy companies? Doubtful. He already has a cushy, easy life. Bond is no different, however. I highly doubt retirement is something he thinks about. No, the inevitable for him and Scaramanga would be to get killed on the job.
Despite this, Scaramanga puts it, “We are the same. We are the best”.
To this Bond takes offense, giving the rationale that he only kills on orders.
So it becomes a discussion on morality and ethics. Bond is doing it a “higher power” – for the good of mankind. Yet he’s still getting paid. He’s still a contractor, just like Scaramanga. So the main difference, as Bond explains, is that he doesn’t (or he says he doesn’t) enjoy killing. He works for the good guys after all. He’s morally clean. This has changed over time with the later Bond Films (Casino Royale, Skyfall etc) questioning the ethics of having killer spies running around the world, but here 007 is the quintessential good guy. But he’s closer to Scaramanga than he realizes. Perhaps that’s why he’s taking it so personally, why he’d “take pleasure in killing” Scaramanga.
It’s set. A duel. It’s not at dawn, but it’s still at twenty paces. James Bond’s Walther PPK versus Francisco Scaramanga’s golden gun. Six bullets for Bond and one for Scaramanga. But he only needs one.
Scaramanga see’s this as a historical clash of titans. Like two sharks, they’ve been circling each other, unknowingly, for years. Or the top two athletes in their sport. We’re finally gonna find out who is best. Like Pacquiao vs. Mayweather. Just less boring.
Of course, it’s not going to be that easy. Scaramanga has turned a large part of his island into a training ground slash homage to brutal gun slingers. He’s got working animatronics of cowboys, gangsters and all kinds of weird carnival shit like fake mirrors and holograms. He’s either paying tribute to his past at the circus, or he’s played Laser Quest one time too many.
Bond, being Bond, has to spoil things though. By changing clothes with the mannequin at the heart of Scaramanga’s lair, he’s able to fool the master assassin and put’s him away. It’s no Rama vs. Assassin from the Raid 2, but it’s still pretty exciting.
I like how Bond doesn’t pick up the Golden Gun. I mean, that shit would be worth a lot, though I suppose one big difference between 007 and Scaramanga is that James doesn’t take trophies.
So Scaramanga becomes another villain foiled by the suave British badass. Why then should he be honored in the Bastard halls of fame? Well, as I’ve alluded to previously, Scaramanga is a shady reflection of James Bond. He’s the darkside James. The Fallen Bond. He’s certainly as skillful as 007, and a very real danger to the spy. He’s also the inverse to the typical Bond proto-villain. He is the muscle, and his hench-men are all weaklings. Effectively, the good guys pay Bond to do their deeds. The bad guys pay Scaramanga to do theirs. He has his own gadgets, his own special weapon, his own cool car.
The them0vieblog.com has an interesting post on Scaramanga, and details how the previous Bond baddies of that era were all upstarts trying to carve their own path on the political or international map. Scaramanga isn’t. He unusually doesn’t have an evil plot or a scheme – he takes advantage of someone else’s. Like Bond, he normally moves from one job to the next. The people who he works for may have some devilish plan, but he doesn’t. In fact, if it hadn’t been for Anders sending the bullet to MI6, would The Man With The Golden Gun ever have been under the scrutiny of British Intelligence? Stupid bitch ruining things.
As we’ve explained, Scaramanga enjoys his women. Whereas Bond typically woo’s the girls to get information, Scaramanga does it to improve his killing skills. Their sexuality is linked to their respective professions. He also enjoys the trappings of success and style. He’s a match for Bond on all fronts.
Remember that Scaramanga knows exactly who James Bond is as well. He even has a perfect wax dummy of him in his basement! Beyond that being a bit weird, you can’t be the best spy in the world if someone can sculpt a replica of you. No one knows anything about Scaramanga, let alone what he looks like, and that’s the mark of a true badass assassin.
Moving beyond this theme, Scaramanga fundamentally likes James Bond. How many villains can say that? I bet Goldfinger proper hated him after he crashed his Astin Martin through that wall. Instead, Scaramanga appreciates the skill, the ability, and the thrill of their work. Is this hero worship? Or just professional respect? The m0vieblog.com suspects that there is something more to his adoration of Bond. I suggest it’s because he’s bored, and lacks interaction with people on his level. And who is on their level? Not many I’d guess.
Plus, Scaramanga lives alone on an island with a woman who hates him and a French waiter. Not so for old James. Bond has M and Q, and has regular good natured attempts to fingerblast Miss Moneypenny as well. Scaramanga only has Nik Nak – a nasally midget who is trying to kill him. So what if he is a cordon bleau?
That brings up a prominent element of Bastards – isolation. Do you really see Darth Vader going bowling with the night shift every weekend? No you don’t. I guess after all that time alone you start to rationalize all the crazy stuff you do.
And Scaramanga does have some serious issues (beyond having a third nipple). He’s obviously lonely (“ours is the loneliest profession, Mr Bond”), and is actually excited to see 007 in each of their encounters. As sad as it sounds, he wants a friend. Obviously, he’s mental, and the qualities he reveres in himself and seeks in another are ones not to be applauded. He’s a strange mix of admirable, loathsome, arrogant, even pitiable. Can you attach so many different emotions or motivations to many other villains? Somehow, I doubt that King Koopa in Super Mario Bro’s is such a shit because his fave elephant got murdered long ago. Scaramanga, on the otherhand, he’s got depth.
From a behind-the-scenes-perspective, Scaramanga is played on screen by the legendary Christopher Lee (The Wicker Man). Coming from a background in the Hammer Horror films, Lee was the Dracula of his era (and probably forevermore). James Bond creator Ian Fleming was also Lee’s cousin, and he was originally considered for the role of the evil claw doctor in Doctor No (that role went to Joseph Wiseman instead).
Scaramanga from the novel was also a lot different-looking to Lee. As per Fleming’s description:
“Age about 35. Height 6 ft. 3 in. Slim and fit. Eyes. Light brown. Hair reddish in a crew cut. Long sideburns. Gaunt, sombre face with thin “pencil” moustache, brownish. Ears very flat to the head.”
The books make a bigger deal of the third nipple thing too.
In fact, the whole character is different. He doesn’t even use a special gun! He’s just a brutal heavy, that’s apparently a repressed homosexual (according to M). Yet he meet’s Bond at a brothel, where he goes to “pick up weed and a bit of black tail”. No, I can’t see Saruman saying that either.
Lee was pivotal in changing the role from such a cheap gang-banger into the suave badass. He explains, “when I first read the script I visualized Scaramanga as a straight down the middle heavy. So Guy (Hamilton) and I, after a lot of talk, decided to make Scaramanga a little like Bond himself, a counter-Bond if you like, instead of the unappetizing thug of the novel. He goes on further in his autobiography:
“…it was much to their credit that they radically altered the figure Ian visualized, and replaced this lurid thug with a more diverse character, some ambivalence about his own compulsive sexuality (mysteriously linked to his third nipple, which my doctor surprised me by saying it was not uncommon), an edge of humor and a sense that he is indulging himself in a great game. This was Guy Hamilton’s insight, directing me to play his encounter with Bond as an exuberant child.”
Consider all of the above, and it’s weird to note that he doesn’t have much screen time. But I like the fact that he’s absent from most of the film. Like the shark in Jaws, the threat of Scaramanga is everywhere, but his true self isn’t shown until the last act or so. It works to the credit of the movie. Always leave them wanting more, right?
He also doesn’t kill too many people on screen. His body count is only three, which is nothing compared to likes of Christopher Walken in A View To A Kill. He guns down literally millions of people. But Scaramanga has that badass opening scene. Usually reserved for Bond banging girls and killing baddies, this pre-credits scene shows Scaramanga doing the same, and then shooting the fingers off his fake 007 mannequin!
To close, not only is Scaramanga one of the best James Bond villains, but he’s a great Movie Bastard. The Man With The Golden Gun isn’t a film about Bond foiling some complicated plot that puts the world at risk. Instead he’s tracking down a dangerous killer. Scaramanga appears infrequently, and usually gets the best of each situation. He’s only beaten after Bond tricks him.
Despite all this, he’s a layered and interesting character. He’s not after conquering the world. He just likes being the best at what he does. And killing people. Yes, he likes killing people more than anything.
What a bastard.
Name: Francisco Scaramanga
Alias: The Man With The Golden Gun
Age: Unknown (30-45)
Background: Circus Trick-Shot artist, KGB assassin
On-Screen Kills: 3
Favorite Method: Gunshot (via The Golden Gun)
Best Bastard Moment: Killing his boss (Hai Fat) whilst sat at his desk, in his chair. He then command’s Hai Fat’s people to bury him.
Death/Defeat: James Bond shoots him
Behind the Scenes: He is named after a kid \\\Fleming hated in school