It’s now time for not only one of the most famous Bond adventures, but probably one of the most famous films period. No pressure then…
Let’s revisit the ’60s for a moment. The early 1960s to be precise. After the successful novels and two films, Bond was doing pretty well at the box office and Sean Connery was becoming well known. However, when Goldfinger came out in 1964 everything changed. The film was a gigantic hit, smashing records like a Hulk in a china shop. As a result, Bond became massive and Connery became a household name. Whilst the quality of the film was certainly a factor in terms of repeat viewings and hugely popular double-bill showings with Dr.No, there’s another possible reason. Goldfinger was the first Bond film to directly appeal to American audiences. Bond travelled to the States in this one, C.I.A. agent Felix Leiter had a bigger part and the villain’s dastardly scheme revolved around Fort Knox and crippling the American economy. The film also feels glitzier and more brazen than its two predecessors too. I think this element is key to understanding how the films took off from this point, both in terms of popularity and scale.
James Bond (Sean Connery) is drafted in to keep an eye on Auric Goldfinger (Gert Frobe, dubbed by Michael Collins). In doing so, Bond uncovers not only Goldfinger’s huge smuggling operation, but his plan concerning Fort Knox, America’s biggest gold depository. Along the way, Bond is introduced to Goldfinger’s henchman Oddjob (Harold Sakata), a mute, brick shithouse of a man with a razor brimmed hat and his personal pilot, Pussy Galore (Honor Blackman). The story’s awesome and became the cheatsheet for many Bond films after this one. Again, Connery is great, this time giving 007 more of a humourous streak than seen before and a propensity for dry witticisms (something which was taken to the nth degree by Roger Moore). Gert Frobe is the fucking bomb in this film. His performance is so good, many people still don’t know he was dubbed. Honor Blackman’s Pussy Galore is the first of Bond’s women to have a real independent character and even manages to resist Bond’s apparently irresistible charms.
Goldfinger contains so many iconic moments it’s ridiculous. There’s the fatal painting of Jill Masterson (Shirley Eaton), Oddjob cutting off a statue’s head with his hat, Bond’s Aston Martin DB5 with all its gadgets and not forgetting that laser scene. All the aforementioned moments are timeless too. Whilst not as shocking as it was, the sight of a lifeless Shirley Eaton covered head to toe in gold paint is still very striking. It’s also a fantastic way to make Bond’s beef with Goldfinger personal, rather than just professional. The laser scene is still fantastic too. I forgot how well the character of Goldfinger was written. With the laser inching its way to an increasingly worried looking Bond’s groin. His response to Bond’s “Do you expect me to talk?” is one of my favourite Bond moments ever: “No, Mr. Bond. I expect you to die!”. He also gets an amazing speech later about the progress of man surging forward in every area apart from crime.
Goldfinger was the film that set the formula that was to be followed for decades to come. Firstly, the title sequence actually has the title song, famously performed by Shirley “Lungs” Bassey. Whilst taking its cue from From Russia with Love‘s fun with projecting stuff on other stuff, it’s still visually interesting. Also, for the first time in the series we have Q (Desmond “Thug Life” Llewelyn) grumpily showing 007 his new toys and his fully loaded Aston Martin. The action’s more accomplished too. There’s a decent car chase where Bond gets to try out his gadgets like the in-built smokescreen and oil slick. The climactic smackdown between Bond and Oddjob is great too, if a bit tame by today’s ultra-violent standards.
Despite what the tiresome old farts in pubs tell you, Goldfinger is not a perfect film. Plot wise, the addition of Tilly Masterson (Tania Mallet) doesn’t really add anything. She’s only in the film for about ten minutes before her neck loses a fight with Oddjob’s hat anyway. Yeah, she may be included to give 007 another reason for taking down Goldfinger, but it’s superfluous. He’s already emotionally involved. There’s also a bit where Goldfinger is outlining his plan to knock over Fort Knox using very elaborate means like scale models, retractable floors and furniture that whirs into place at the flick of a switch. Thing is, Goldfinger gasses every last motherfucker in the room. I understand this scene was to explain the plan to Bond (who is hidden underneath the model Fort Knox) and therefore us as the audience, but it still makes no logical sense.
I hate to say it, but Bond comes across like a bit of a wanker in this one. First he attacks my iPod by saying that drinking improperly chilled Dom Perignon is “just as bad as listening to The Beatles without earmuffs!” Secondly, and more importantly, his treatment of women is questionable. I’m not going to make a thing of this as there are plenty of other angry corners of the ‘Net calling Bond a sexist pig. It’s quite noticeable in Goldfinger though. He dismisses Dink, a bikini wearing masseuse, when Felix comes along for reasons of “man talk” but not before slapping her arse. He also forces himself on “Pooshy” Galore. Luckily, Miss Galore is fine with it, but it’s still sexually aggressive. Also (and this is really nit-picky) but the film has a strange tendency to speed the film up. It’s especially obvious in the opening scene where Bond has a decoy seagull on his head whilst infiltrating a depot from the water. We see Bond take off the fake bird in fast-forward. It’s really odd. I can understand using it in the car sequence though. It can be forgiven for that.
Anyway, enough of the post-modern deconstruction stuff that I hate. Goldfinger is a fantastic film. There’s a very good reason why it was used as a template again and again. It gets the balance of humour, action, gadgets and all that fun spy stuff just right. Damn good.